15th Division (German Empire)
The 15th Division was a unit of the Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

. It was formed as the 16th Division on September 5, 1818 in Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 from the 4th Brigade of the Army Corps in France. It became the 15th Division on December 14, 1818. The division was subordinated in peacetime to the VIII Army Corps (VIII. Armeekorps). The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I. It was recruited in the densely populated Prussian Rhine Province
Rhine Province
The Rhine Province , also known as Rhenish Prussia or synonymous to the Rhineland , was the westernmost province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia, within the German Reich, from 1822-1946. It was created from the provinces of the Lower Rhine and Jülich-Cleves-Berg...

, mainly in the Lower Rhine region.

Combat chronicle

The 15th Division fought in the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

 in 1866, seeing action in the Battle of Königgrätz
Battle of Königgrätz
The Battle of Königgrätz , also known as the Battle of Sadowa, Sadová, or Hradec Králové, was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War, in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire...

. In the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 of 1870-71, the division fought in the Battle of Gravelotte
Battle of Gravelotte
The Battle of Gravelotte was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War named after Gravelotte, a village in Lorraine between Metz and the former French–German frontier.-Terrain and armies:...

 (also called the Battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat) and the Siege of Metz
Siege of Metz
The Siege of Metz lasting from 19 August – 27 October 1870 was fought during the Franco-Prussian War and ended in a decisive Prussian victory.-History:...

, and then in the battles of Amiens
Battle of Amiens (1870)
Battle of Amiens on November 27, 1870 was fought during the Franco-Prussian War, ending in a Prussian victory.The French under General Faure fought the Prussians under Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel in Amiens, France. Having already capitulated at Metz, the French were compelled to leave the city of...

, Hallue
Battle of Hallue
The Battle of Hallue was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War on December 23 and 24, 1870.The battle was fought between 40,000 French under General Louis Faidherbe and 22,500 Prussian troops under Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel. The French lost heavily in the village lying in front of their position....

, Bapaume
Battle of Bapaume (1871)
The Battle of Bapaume was a battle during the Franco-Prussian War which defeated French attempts to relieve the besieged city of Péronne. The battle was fought on January 3, 1871 near the town of Bapaume....

, and St. Quentin
Battle of St. Quentin (1871)
The Battle of St. Quentin was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War in which Prussian forces defeated French attempts to relieve the besieged city of Paris....


During World War I, the division marched through Luxembourg, Belgium and France, in what became known to the Allies as the Great Retreat
Great Retreat
The Great Retreat, also known as the Retreat from Mons, is the name given to the long, fighting retreat by Allied forces to the River Marne, on the Western Front early in World War I, after their holding action against the Imperial German Armies at the Battle of Mons on 23 August 1914...

, culminating in the First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

. In 1916, it fought in the Battle of the Somme. It was briefly sent to the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

 in late 1916. It participated in the 1918 German Spring Offensive
Spring Offensive
The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht , also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during World War I, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914...

, and defended against the Allied counteroffensives, including the battles of Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne. Allied intelligence rated it as a good but second class division.

Order of battle in the Franco-Prussian War

During wartime, the 15th Division, like other regular German divisions, was redesignated an infantry division. The organization of the 15th Infantry Division in 1870 at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War was as follows:
  • 29. Infanterie-Brigade
    • Füsilier-Regiment Nr. 33
    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 65
  • 30. Infanterie-Brigade
    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 28
    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 67
  • Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 8
  • Königs-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 7

Pre-World War I organization

German divisions underwent various organizational changes after the Franco-Prussian War. The 15th Division's 30th Infantry Brigade went to the 16th Division in exchange for the 80th Infantry Brigade, formed in 1897. The organization of the 15th Division in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I, was as follows:
  • 29. Infanterie Brigade
    • Infanterie-Regiment von Lützow (1. Rheinisches) Nr. 25
    • 10. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 161
  • 80. Infanterie Brigade
    • 5. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 65
    • 9. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 160
  • 15. Kavallerie-Brigade
    • Kürassier-Regiment Graf Geßler (Rheinisches) Nr. 8
    • Husaren-Regiment König Wilhelm I. (1. Rheinisches) Nr. 7
  • 15. Feldartillerie-Brigade
    • Bergisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 59
    • 3. Rheinisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 83
  • Landwehr-Inspektion Cöln

Order of battle on mobilization

On mobilization in August 1914 at the beginning of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, most divisional cavalry, including brigade headquarters, was withdrawn to form cavalry divisions or split up among divisions as reconnaissance units. Divisions received engineer companies and other support units from their higher headquarters. The 15th Division was again renamed the 15th Infantry Division. Its initial wartime organization was as follows:
  • 29. Infanterie-Brigade:
    • Infanterie-Regiment von Lützow (1. Rheinisches) Nr. 25
    • 10. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 161
  • 80.Infanterie-Brigade:
    • 5. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 65
    • 9. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 160
  • Kürassier-Regiment Graf Geßler (Rheinisches) Nr. 8
  • 15. Feldartillerie-Brigade:
    • Bergisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 59
    • 3. Rheinisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 83
  • 1./1. Rheinisches Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 8

Late World War I organization

Divisions underwent many changes during the war, with regiments moving from division to division, and some being destroyed and rebuilt. During the war, most divisions became triangular
Triangular division
A triangular division is a designation given to the way divisions are organized. In a triangular organization, the division's main body is composed of three regimental maneuver elements. These regiments may be controlled by a brigade headquarters or directly subordinated to the division commander...

 - one infantry brigade with three infantry regiments rather than two infantry brigades of two regiments (a "square division
Square division
A square division is a designation given to the way military divisions are organized. In a square organization, the division's main body is composed of four regimental elements. Since a regiment could be split into separate battalions for tactical purposes, the natural division within a division...

"). An artillery commander replaced the artillery brigade headquarters, the cavalry was further reduced, the engineer contingent was increased, and a divisional signals command was created. The 15th Infantry Division's order of battle on April 7, 1918 was as follows:
  • 80. Infanterie-Brigade:
    • 7. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 69
    • 9. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 160
    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 389
  • 2.Eskadron/Husaren-Regiment König Wilhelm I (1. Rheinisches) Nr. 7
  • Artillerie-Kommandeur 15:
    • Bergisches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 59
    • Fußartillerie-Bataillon Nr. 135 (from 22.04.1918)
  • Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 125
    • 1./1. Rheinisches Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 8
    • 5./1. Rheinisches Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 8
    • Minenwerfer-Kompanie Nr. 15
  • Divisions-Nachrichten-Kommandeur 15
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