PRUSSIA – TUNIC – MAJOR’S – REGIMENT der GARDES du CORPS.
This is a consignment item. The Regiment der Gardes du Corps (GdC) was the most elite of all of the Prussian cavalry regiments. It was garrisoned in Potsdam which is today considered a suburb of Berlin. Back in the day by horse or carriage it was a good half day’s ride. Most of the very elite Garde Regiments were based in Potsdam rather than Berlin. Like all Garde Regiments, it was a part of the Garde Korps and was assigned to the 1. Garde Division. It should also be noted that it was founded in 1740 during the reign of the Great Prussian King, Frederick the Great.
The GdC was a Küraßier Regiment. This type of regiment was considered heavy cavalry as they wore a küraß (breastplate). The latter protected the wearer from sword and (to a lesser extent) lance slashes. However, they offered little protection against the rifle and pistol shots that rapidly became more common AFTER the regiment’s foundation. In addition, the men of the regiment wore a metal helmet that also offered greater protection against sword slashes. The GdC’s helmet also offered an extended rear visor (called a “lobster tail”) that afforded the neck extra protection.
After 1815’s conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, it was realized that the role of heavy cavalry was changing and lighter, nimbler cavalry units were in order. After 1815, no further Küraßier Regiments were formed. Indeed, with the exception of one Prussian Husaren Regiment that was raised in 1866, no expansions of the cavalry occurred after 1815. [Dragoner, Ulanen, and Jäger zu Pferde Regiments were formed instead]. After the 1870 1871 Franco Prussian War’s conclusion, the powers-that-be realized that the days of cavalry charges were nearing an end. WW I’s early days saw the Kavallerie perform some limited scouting, but as trench warfare set in, their horses were either sent home or used by artillery transport units. Most military supplies were moved by wagon rather than trucks once they arrived by train from Germany.
Before and during WW I, the GdC was the most visible among the troops surrounding Kaiser Wilhelm II during parades at home and in the field. This was primarily due to the gold toned helmets topped by massive Hohenzollern Eagles that they wore during parades. It was common to see the Kaiser reviewing his troops while a GdC member (adorned with his eagle topped helmet) stood behind him brandishing the Kaiser Standarte (Standard/Banner).
The tunics worn by the GdC (known as Kollers) were just as impressive as their parade helmets. Since the GdC was a Küraßier Regiment, these tunics sported totally different collars that were shared only by Jäger zu Pferde Regiments. [PLEASE NOTE: Jäger zu Pferde Regiments also wore the same helmet style. The reason for this remains unknown to me, since all of these regiments were created in the early 20th Century. I imagine it was a matter of style and appearance].
The white tunic is constructed from the highest quality wool available. Its rounded silver bullion collar (with some red highlights) extends further down the center of both tunic halves. One of the tunic’s most interesting features is that it displays NO exposed buttons or buttonholes. Instead, the tunic is secured with a system of hooks and eyes alternating down its interior’s two halves. When these are secured, a very clean and smooth appearance is presented. The tunic’s cuffs display a combination of the silver bullion tape AND two silver bullion litzen, again with red highlights. A large silver button adorns the silver bullion litzen.
The Major’s shoulder boards are of the slip on variety and display a series of silver bullion “ropes” adorned with the black chevrons that confirm them as Prussian. They sport dual layers of trim directly below the obverse. The layer closest to the obverse is red, with another white layer extending out a bit directly beneath it. A small silver toned button secures each shoulder board to the tunic’s shoulders. Since this officer was a Major, we know him to be a senior regiment member, either a Bataillon Kommandeur (one of three), or serving on the Regimental Kommandeur’s staff as his deputy. [In such a prestigious regiment, this chap was a big deal]!
His status as a senior officer is further confirmed by the tunic’s sewn in award loops. A massive set of five different horizontal loops appears on its upper left breast. The latter extend from the bullion tape near the tunic’s center almost to the red trim near the armpit and measure a whopping 6 ½” in width. Clearly, this officer had been awarded a significant number of decorations. Based on the loops’ size, I would not be surprised if he had nearly ten ribbons on his bar! The tunic also boasts a total of three significant, vertically sewn in loop sets. Two sets of loops are about 3 ½” in apart on a horizontal plane. Below and centered between those first two pairs is another that measures 1 ¼” in length. Again, since the officer was a Major with a substantial number of awards on his ribbon bar, it is quite probable that at least two of the loop sets are for breast stars. I estimate that the tunic dates from 1895 to around 1910. If so, one of the pairs could have been for an 1870 Iron Cross 1st Class. [Again, this is a leap on my part. If he was NOT awarded the 1870 EK 1, then possibly all the loop sets were for breast stars. If any of you good readers see other possibilities, I would appreciate hearing from you]!
The tunic’s reverse sports red piping that extends from its shoulders down to its skirt. A vent on the skirt’s reverse provides an opening for more comfortable seating when riding a horse. Each skirt flap displays three large, silver toned buttons. The tunic’s exterior exhibits several areas with moth nips and moth blooms, which are scattered on about the obverse, reverse, arms, and so on.
The tunic’s interior presents a fine, white, silk liner. It is complete, although it shows some minor separation at the top near its wool collar. A number, “557 2,” has been penned onto the collar. I am going to make an assumption that this is either a museum’s or a private collection’s catalog number.
Here is an opportunity to obtain a high quality, rare tunic from what is arguably Germany’s most elite regiment. You can be sure that the original owner of the tunic was of either royal or noble birth. One did NOT get to be a Major of any Imperial German Regiment without being from Germany’s elite, particularly a regiment that had so much exposure to Kaiser Wilhelm II! If you have a GdC helmet or visor cap, this would help create an unbelievable display on a mannequin.