Tent shelter (Zeltbahn) and accessories
Tent shelters were introduced in Germany in 1892. The reason for its introduction was explained by the War Ministry as follows: "By reason of the increase of the masses which will compose the field armies in the future, the cantonnement will be the exception while the bivouac will become the rule for troops in the theater of operations. The necessity then imposes itself of guaranteeing the health and vigor of the men sheltering them against cold and humidity."44
The tent shelter (Zeltbahn) was a square piece of canvas, 65" x 65" (165 x 165cm). It was furnished with buttons and eyelets of zinc or aluminum. Ground sheets of material identical to the Zeltbahn were also issued of about the same size as the tent shelter but without buttons or grommets. The earlier versions of the Zeltbahn were usually made of the red-brown canvas with later produced models being grey (since 1911). However, an 1897-dated and unit marked tent shelter in grey canvas has been observed as well.
Three tent poles (Zeltstock), three tent pegs (Zeltpflöcke) and tent rope (Zeltleine) were carried in a 14.8" (38cm) long earth brown or later grey bag (Zeltzubehörbeutel) and placed under the cover flap of the backpack. The three tent poles were inserted into each other to form the supporting pole. The bag was attached to the Tornister with two leather straps and closed at one side with two zinc buttons. The two leather straps were either closed with two buckles (standard issue) or with two buttons (variation). Examples have been observed as well where the two leather straps were replaced with two cloth straps closed with buckles.
The wooden tent pegs (Zeltpflock 01) in use during WW1 with the Austrian-Hungarian and German Army very closely resemble each other and deserve further explanation. German tent pegs were 10.2" (26cm) to 10.4" (26.5cm) long, had a rectangular form: 0.74" (1.9cm) x 0.55" (1.4cm) and a 1.6" (4.1cm) long black iron reinforcement (cap) at the end. Through this metal cap, a 0.62" (1.6cm) long iron pin was fixed into the wood to attach the tent rope. The Austrian pegs were almost the same as the German ones with a dimension of 0.74" (1.9cm) by 0.55" (1.4cm). The main difference is the size of the metal cap at the end of the peg. The metal pin goes directly into the wood and the cap was much shorter, i.e. 0.8" (2cm) instead of 1.6" (4.1cm).
It was found that the wooden pegs broke very often and trials were made with a new tent peg, made entirely from steel. In 1915, the steel 'Zeltpflock 15' were introduced with a length of 10" (25.5cm) into the German army.
The tent poles (Zeltstock 01) were 14.4" (37cm) long. Three of these were carried and inserted into each other to make a long supporting pole. A different version appeared in 1918 (Zeltstock 18), which saw a reduction in the use of metal parts of the tent pole.
An ingenious system was developed to allow the backpack, shoes and uniform to be carried across a river without it getting wet, using the tent half. The backpack, tunic, trousers and other equipment were placed on the tent half, which was completely filled with straw, reed or small branches, then strapped together to form a sort of buoyant cushion. The rifle was strapped on top of this cushion and the soldier could swim across the river, pulling this cushion after him. Several cushions could be strapped together to create a small raft. Soldiers who couldn't swim could hold onto the raft or sit on it when crossing the river.
A larger portable raft could be made with 12 tent halves, making six cushions. The cushions were instead filled entirely with a buoyant material like straw. When the tent half was strapped together a second tent half was strapped around it to seal the open side. Two rows of three cushions connected to each other with boards, lances or poles formed the raft.