Albrecht Maria Alexander Philipp Joseph, Duke of Wurttemberg, 1865-1939

Albrecht, duke of Wurttemberg (1865-1939) was one of a number of Royal generals who held high command in the German Army during the First World War. His army was at the hinge of the German line during the initial advance in August 1914, and then played a major part in the German offensives at Ypres in 1914 and 1915, but he was later moved to the quiet southern sector of the front.

Albrecht studied at Tübingen University (1884-1885) before joining the Army of Württemberg in 1885. Over the next ten years he was given command of a number of cavalry regiments and the Württemberg Grenadiers, before in 1896 he was promoted to generalmajor and given command of the 4th Horse Guards Brigade at Potsdam. His rise through the ranks continued over the next few years. In 1906 he was given command of XI Corps at Kassel, then XIII Corps at Stuttgart in 1908. In 1913 he became inspector-general of the Sixth Army Inspection Department, and in the autumn of 1913 he was promoted to generaloberst.

At the start of the First World War Albrecht was given command of the Fourth Army (although active control was generally believed to be held by his Chief of Staff, General Ilse, as happened in several other units with Royal commanders). This army was at the hinge of the German offensive, with orders to advance across the southern Ardennes. This would bring it into contact with the northern end of the original French line, while the First, Second and Third Armies, to his north, were to carry out the massive sweep through Belgium that was meant to outflank the entire French line and end the war in the west. This first Fourth Army contained the 8th, 8th Reserve, 18th and 18th Reserve Corps.

On 21-22 August the Duke's army was the target of a short-lived French offensive into the Ardennes in which he defeated the French Fourth Army and forced them to retreat. He then helped push the French Fourth Army across the Meuse. The Duke was held up by a French counter-attack on 28 August, before the retreat continued.

Albrecht's army advanced as far as the eastern Marne during the period of the German advance, but was forced to pull back after the First Battle of the Marne (4-10 September 1918). During the battle the Duke was unable to force a break in the right of the French line. 

During the Race to the Sea Albrecht's army moved north, and played a major part in the German assaults on Ypres in 1914-1915. Most of the troops he commanded in Flanders in 1914 came from the new XXII, XXIII, XXVI and XXVII Reserve Corps, which moved directly from Germany to Brussels to join the Fourth Army, rather than from the units that had fought in the Ardennes earlier in the war.

The Fourth Army was positioned north of Ypres during the First Battle of Ypres, and for most of the battle his role was to keep up pressure on the line between Ypres and the coast, acting in support of major attacks further south. The Duke was also in command of the attacks on Dixmude and on the Yser at the far northern end of the line. Later in 1915 his army came under attack when the Allies wanted to prevent reinforcements moving south during French offensives.

In August 1916 Albrecht was promoted to Field Marshal. In February 1917 he was given command of Army Group Duke Albrecht, on the quiet southern front. His new HQ was at Strasbourg, and his army group consisted of Army Units A, B and later C.

The Duke retired from the army in 1919. In post-war Germany the various royal families lost their titles and power. The last King of Württemberg, Wilhelm II, lost his title in November 1918. When Wilhelm died in 1921 he left no male heirs. Duke Albrecht became head of the House of Württemberg, although the German royal families were never restored, and so he never became king. He retired from the army in 1919, and died at Altshausen Castle in 1939.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 September 2014), Albrecht Maria Alexander Philipp Joseph, Duke of Wurttemberg, 1865-1939 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_wurttemburg_albrecht.html

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