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"How big were Germany's neighbours' armies in the 1920s?" Topic

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redcoat31 Jan 2017 2:36 a.m. PST

Hi all,

May I please pick your brains?

I've been reading that the Treaty of Versailles made Germany unreasonably weak and vulnerable to invasion in the 1920s. The diminutive size of the German army – 100,000 regulars (no conscription) – seems to support this view.

But how big were the armies of its neighbours, both in terms of serving regulars and conscript reserves? By neighbours I principally mean France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia?

And where might I find references to these figures in print?

Many thanks in advance for any help rendered!

Mike Target31 Jan 2017 3:12 a.m. PST

Well according to wiki, belgium maintained 12 Divisions for field ops, reducing this to just 4 in the mid 1920s. so thats what 170k down to about 60k. I gather that doesnt include fortress garrison troops, which in the run up to WW1 had been maintained at around another 65k.
In WW1 they mobolised 350k or therabouts. 600k in ww2 apparently, though as they were overrun in 18 days I doubt most actually had chance to grab a rifle.

dunno if that helps at all.

Martin Rapier31 Jan 2017 4:32 a.m. PST

In the mid 1920s the Rhineland was occupied by roughly 13,000 British troops (two brigades), approx 8,000 US troops and around 30,000 French and a division or so of Belgians

So that is 60,000 soldiers sitting in Germany, never mind the domestic French and Belgian armies.

Grelber31 Jan 2017 5:55 a.m. PST

You might look in the local public library to see if they have old editions of The Statesmen's Yearbook. It is a reference book with just this sort of information, published annually.

The peace treaty with Bulgaria limited them to 25,000 men.


Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 10:32 a.m. PST

The Poles may have been substantial though they were also rebuilding after their invasion of Ukraine and the Soviet invasion of Poland.

KTravlos31 Jan 2017 1:26 p.m. PST

Correlates of War military personnel numbers in 1000s 1923-1933

Country Year Number in 1000s(so 133=133000)
BEL 1923 133
BEL 1924 82
BEL 1925 82
BEL 1926 83
BEL 1927 66
BEL 1928 65
BEL 1929 67
BEL 1930 69
BEL 1931 66
BEL 1932 67
BEL 1933 66
FRN 1923 511
FRN 1924 479
FRN 1925 475
FRN 1926 471
FRN 1927 494
FRN 1928 469
FRN 1929 411
FRN 1930 411
FRN 1931 441
FRN 1932 422
FRN 1933 449
GMY 1923 114
GMY 1924 114
GMY 1925 114
GMY 1926 114
GMY 1927 114
GMY 1928 114
GMY 1929 114
GMY 1930 114
GMY 1931 114
GMY 1932 114
GMY 1933 118
POL 1923 270
POL 1924 278
POL 1925 272
POL 1926 293
POL 1927 265
POL 1928 268
POL 1929 268
POL 1930 263
POL 1931 269
POL 1932 269
POL 1933 269
CZE 1923 150
CZE 1924 150
CZE 1925 125
CZE 1926 120
CZE 1927 127
CZE 1928 130
CZE 1929 130
CZE 1930 130
CZE 1931 129
CZE 1932 118
CZE 1933 122
RUS 1923 2100
RUS 1924 562
RUS 1925 562
RUS 1926 562
RUS 1927 562
RUS 1928 562
RUS 1929 562
RUS 1930 562
RUS 1931 562
RUS 1932 562
RUS 1933 885
LIT 1923 30
LIT 1924 30
LIT 1925 30
LIT 1926 21
LIT 1927 21
LIT 1928 18
LIT 1929 15
LIT 1930 20
LIT 1931 18
LIT 1932 20
LIT 1933 20
DEN 1923 13
DEN 1924 14
DEN 1925 14
DEN 1926 14
DEN 1927 13
DEN 1928 14
DEN 1929 12
DEN 1930 11
DEN 1931 11
DEN 1932 11
DEN 1933 11
NTH 1923 15
NTH 1924 15
NTH 1925 16
NTH 1926 16
NTH 1927 14
NTH 1928 14
NTH 1929 14
NTH 1930 14
NTH 1931 16
NTH 1932 16
NTH 1933 16

KTravlos31 Jan 2017 1:26 p.m. PST

these are peacetime armies, not war potential.

emckinney31 Jan 2017 1:51 p.m. PST

More importantly, the French had thousands upon thousands of artillery pieces of all calibers, over a thousand aircraft, and over a thousand tanks. Since the Germans weren't allowed combat aircraft, their mobility would have been restricted at least as badly as it was in Normandy in 1944.

While the German army was limited to 100,000, there were the "private" Freikorps, which were formally independent local and political militias. In fact, many received support and money from the government as a way to get around some of the Versailles limitations. However, the Freikorps lacked any heavy weapons and the French regular army would have gone through them like the U.S. Army went through the Iraqis.

I suspect that a French invasion of Germany would have looked like the 1870-71 war: an overwhelming conventional victory in the field, followed by partisan warfare and the siege of one or more major cities.

Fat Wally31 Jan 2017 3:28 p.m. PST

About 5' 6".


Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 4:09 p.m. PST

If the Germans were limited to 100,000 men how come the list shows 114,000? And who's counting these men? And what penalty was there for having more then 100,000?

Mike Bunkermeister Creek
Bunker Talk blog

emckinney31 Jan 2017 4:29 p.m. PST

Those are numbers for all military personnel, not just army. Germany was allowed to maintain a small navy.

Enforcement: link

Daniel S31 Jan 2017 4:38 p.m. PST

The army (Reichsheer) was limited to 100K troops, the remaining 14K belong to the navy (Reichsmarine) which was allowed a maximun strenght of 15K

The Reichwehr was under the oversight of the "Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control" until 1927.

Some parts of the original Freikorps had been quite well armed with ample supplies of heavy weapons and even in some cases armoured vehicles and aircraft. The Freikorps adventures in the east were probably to some extent carried out to hide prohibited equipment outside Germany but the allies soon acted to repress the eastern Freikorps.

A "Black Reichswehr" was establish to provide additional troops in case of an invasion but the presence of the "Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control" limited it's equipment to small arms and light support weapons.

As mentioned there were a host of other organisations as well such as Organisation Escherich and the Einwohnerwehr in Bavaria.

emckinney31 Jan 2017 4:44 p.m. PST

"The Inter-Allied Commissions of Control may establish their organisations at the seat of the central German Government.

They shall be entitled as often as they think desirable to proceed to any point whatever in German territory, or to send subcommissions, or to authorise one or more of their members to go, to any such point."

See link for all the details on everything.

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 9:25 p.m. PST

I really enjoy questions and answers about topics like this. A very interesting discussion.

KTravlos01 Feb 2017 2:27 a.m. PST

You can look up codebooks, methodology, and sources at the Correlates of War site.

KTravlos01 Feb 2017 2:35 a.m. PST

A early French invasion scenario and how it plays depends on a lot of factors. Most important why the invasion is happening.

I can contemplate scenarios were you have something ala Czechoslovakia 1968, Hungary 1956, France 1871, even Russia 1918. The Why is important because it would greatly affect the reaction of the other major powers (especially the UK and USSR), as well as the reaction of Czechoslovakia and Poland (Poland's reaction in turn tied to the USSR reaction-as well as Lithuania, and the Czechoslovakian's worrying about Hungary).

It could spark a Mittleeuropa war.

Hmm fun fun scenario: France and its little Entente vs. red USSR and Hungary, and a civil war in Germany. I mean Bela Kuhn partly took power in Hungary by promising to resist the imposition of Trianon, I can see a more cynical "Red" SDP gaining more popularity by presenting itself in a similar light.

hrm hrm. Obliviously a lot of this is fiction, but still.

emckinney01 Feb 2017 5:49 p.m. PST

Well, you have to keep the French mobilization structure in mind. It was the basis for the Soviet Cat A, Cat B, Cat C structure.

Even the "active duty" divisions required mobilizing reserve personnel to function.

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