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"1916 French Battalion Strength" Topic

12 Posts

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World War One

470 hits since 13 May 2018
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whitejamest13 May 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

Hi folks. Would someone be able to point me in the direction of information on the strength of a French infantry battalion in early to mid 1916? My Google-fu, sad to say, is weak.

I'd like to know how many riflemen as well as how many support weapons like machine guns and others such a formation might be able to draw on.

Any help would be much appreciated!

- James

Ferozopore13 May 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

Per a 1916 French manual a platoon was organized as follows, 4 platoons to a company:
First half-section (under grenadier or fusilier sergeant) :
No. 1squad (grenadiers): 1corporal and-7 grenadiers.
No. 2 squad (fusiliers): 1corporal and 6 fusiliers.s

Second halfsection (under voltigeur sergeant):
No. 3squad (voltigeurs):1corporal, 8 voltigeurs,2V.B.1 grenade gunners, 1carrier.
No. 4 squad (voltigeurs): 1 corporal, 9 voltigeurs, 2 V. B.-1 grenade gunners, 1carrier.
So 144 privates, 16 corporals and 8 sergeants per company as sell as 26 assorted supernumeraries attached to company HQ. There were 3 companies per battalion with a machine gun company with 8 MG's. The manual states that each battalion had one 37mm infantry gun but these were often grouped into a 3 gun battery.
Hope this helps.

whitejamest13 May 2018 6:27 p.m. PST

That's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Thanks very much Ferozopore.

monk2002uk15 May 2018 9:50 a.m. PST

There is a great website, with the following links to the regiment (including battalion) and company TO&Es respectively:




whitejamest15 May 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

Robert, that is very helpful, especially seeing how the organization evolved over time. Much appreciated!

Now, if I can be really greedy, no one would happen to have similar information for equivalent German formations of the time…would they?

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2018 2:00 a.m. PST

Remember that in trenches, it can be that not all companies or bns of a rgt are in line. First line.
They might leave many heavy weapons to stiffen that line, so density of mg etc. might be higher. No need of them in 2n 3rd or resting area.

monk2002uk17 May 2018 1:17 a.m. PST

Here is a reasonable starting point for the changes in German formations:



whitejamest17 May 2018 5:55 a.m. PST

Greatly appreciated again Robert! What a fantastic site.

Ferozopore17 May 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

Whoops…. A couple of additions to the material on the French. The 'fusiliers' manned 2 of the infamous Chauchat automatic rifles per squad. The 'voltigeurs' were riflemen.
It was common to converge the rifle grenadiers perhaps in dead ground into a what amounted to a battery of light mortars. As early as 1916 European armies developed imaginative small unit infantry tactics.

monk2002uk18 May 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

Yes, Chris has done a great job with his web site. There is an eclectic mix of content but lots of unique insights and photographs.


whitejamest19 May 2018 7:58 a.m. PST

Thanks again Ferozopore. Yes, on the tabletop the rifle grenadiers usually prove themselves to be a great asset.

The rules I've been using, TFL's Through the Mud and the Blood, claim that the German army didn't really take to rifle grenades, and production was discontinued. Does that ring true to those with deeper knowledge than mine?

My questions about unit strengths are in preparation for a campaign that I'd like to get going at my local club. Using TtMatB, and my small collection of figures, players will never control more than about 50 figures at a time, but I wanted to set a cap on the total resources that could be employed over the course of the campaign. I think I'm going to say that if they have burned through an entire battalion the unit is withdrawn from the line and their campaign is over just to punish those who spend their men's lives too recklessly. Though if they take terrible casualties but quickly accomplish their objectives they'll come out on top. It's an arbitrary cap, but hopefully one that is scaled well to the size of the games and the campaign duration I am looking for.

And having a limited number of specific resources like machine guns will hopefully encourage some night raids to recover captured pieces.

Anyone with the slightest interest in this period who has not clicked on the link Robert posted above should take a look, you'll thank yourself!

monk2002uk19 May 2018 11:54 p.m. PST

Imaginative small unit tactics were developed before the war. The introduction of rifle grenades, etc enabled the fire component of fire and manoeuvre tactics to be augmented.

The Germans transitioned from rifle grenades (early 1915) to a combination of Granatwerfer (early 1917) and loads of stick grenades, augmented by Minenwerfer and infantry guns. Rifle grenades were available for at least two years.

If a battalion was involved in a major assault then a cadre of men would be held back. The battalion would then be rotated out very quickly, within a day or so of going in. A commander had to count on a 3:1 advantage in manpower, plus effective artillery support, to stand a high chance of success. This is a good litmus test for WW1 skirmish games, where you will often seen equal numbers of attackers and defenders going up against each other. Many AARs then go on to describe the attackers winning.


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