On course

Checking hits in a silhouette figure at the shooting range, a Leutnant rates the marksmanship of an NCO taking the Offizieranwärter-Lehrgang (OAL, officer candidate course). The photo is probably from 1943 or 1944, at the training grounds by the quaint northern German town Celle. The men in the photo might belong to Infanterie-Regiment 17, part of the 31. Infanterie-Division, which was destroyed on the Eastern Front in June 1944, the survivors used as a cadre for the rebuilt division (renamed 31. Grenadier-Division, and later in 1944 31. Volks-Grenadier-Division).

To become an officer during the war, the candidate (preferably already an NCO) was to be unmarried (except for professional NCOs), not older than 25 years (those older entered a somewhat different track for promotion to officer), and with proven racial purity. No higher education necessary.

An officer candidate got some training at his front unit before being sent to the OAL. There, he received 4-6 months of weapons training at the replacement formation of the regiment. Then followed 3-4 months of officers’ school, and if he passed the exam, the candidate was promoted to Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel (ensign). He then served in his frontline unit for 15 months before his promotion to officer (usually Leutnant – second lieutenant). In total, it could take a couple of years to become an officer.

The loss of officers in the first years of the war depleted the traditional pool of officers, who were usually from the nobility and upper classes. Gottlob Bidermann, a soldier who rose through the ranks, wrote in his memoir “In Deadly Combat” that there was some deep-seated resentment at how the Wehrmacht accepted non-gentry officers into its ranks. Officers from the working classes were sometimes given the derogatory name of VOMAG (Volksoffizier mit Arbeiter Gesicht, “Peoples’ officer with the face of a laborer”). The Army couldn’t afford to be snobbish or choosy, though, and promoted anyone who proved his mettle.

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Wargames

At first I thought this photo was an aerial photo, but I soon realized that it was wargame terrain for the training of officers. It shows a small airfield, biplanes (Heinkel He 51?) hidden away under trees. Wargaming has been around since the 1800’s, invented by German officers as a means of training officers. Tactical problems are presented to the officers, who control one side each, and under the leadership of an umpire they are to try to win the fight. The umpire might throw in unexpected events as a way of making the officers adapt to changed circumstances. The German General Staff also played through scenarios on a strategic level, testing their war plans and trying to foresee complications and how to deal with them. Today, wargaming is a hobby and still used as a way of training officers in the art of war.

Planned change

Instead of using my private Facebook page for announcements of new World War 2 in Photos posts, I will use the official WW2 in Photos Facebook page instead (it isn’t public yet). I plan to launch it this weekend. As stated in the previous post, I hope this will increase traffic as well as comments. That way those of my FB friends who don’t have an interest in WW2 (yes, there are actually people like that!) won’t get updates cluttering their feed, while those with an actual interest will have a dedicated FB page to follow.