Feldgendarmerie / Military Police

Uniform of a Feldgendarm during World War II, including the distinctive gorget.
Uniform of a Feldgendarm during World War II, including the distinctive gorget.

The Feldgendarmerie were the uniformed military police units of the armies of the Kingdom of Saxony (from 1810), the German Empire and the Third Reich until the conclusion of World War II.

Pre-Empire and German Empire

From 1810 to 1812 Saxony, Württemberg, Prussia and Bavaria founded a rural police force after the model of the Napoleonic French Gendarmerie.

Prussian Gendarmerie staff were well-proven infantry and cavalry NCOs after serving their standard service time at the army and some COs. Officially they were still military personnel, equipped and paid by the Ministry of War, but in peacetime attached to the Ministry of the Interior, serving as normal or as mounted police. In case of a maneuver, mobilization or war 50% of the Gendarmerie formed the core of military police of the army, called Feldgendarmerie. Should more manpower be needed, regular infantry and cavalry corporals and some COs were seconded to the Fieldgendarmerie under supervision of the former Gendarmerie NCOs/COs.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the Feldgendarmerie comprised 33 companies. They each had 60 men and two NCOs. By 1918, the number of companies had been expanded to 115 units.

After World War I, all military police units were disbanded and no police units existed in the inter-war Weimar Republic era. Garrisons were patrolled by regular soldiers performing the duties of the military police.

Nazi Germany

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Feldgendarmerie were reintroduced into the Wehrmacht. The new units received full infantry training and were given extensive police powers. A military police school was set up at Potsdam, near Berlin to train Feldgendarmerie personnel. Subjects included criminal code, general and special police powers, reporting duties, passport and identification law, weapons drill, self-defense techniques, criminal police methodology, and general administration.

All prospective candidates served at a Feldgendarmerie command after the first term of examinations. Courses lasted one year and failure rates were high: in 1935 only 89 soldiers graduated from an initial intake of 219 candidates. Feldgendarmerie were employed within army divisions and as self-contained units under the command of an army corps. They often worked in close cooperation with the Geheime Feldpolizei (English: Secret Field Police), district commanders and SS and Police Leaders.

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