General Freiherr von Lyncker, Paul Mauser and the Gewehr98

Gewehr98

Recently Jon Speed decided to share one of his most prized documents from his collection, this one a personal letter from Paul Mauser to General Freiherr von Lyncker, Chief of the Military Cabinet, a personal aide to Kaiser Wilhelm II since 1908. By all accounts a man of impeccable character, from a family with a long and distinguished military tradition. The story of the General is a story unto itself; he was intimately involved with the path to war in 1914, entirely loyal to the German Army and Kaiser. Although like most German Generals of this period, he shied away from politics, he was one of the leading proponents of war, especially with France and Russia, the thinking being that it was an eventuality and best to get it done and over with, – that and it would relieve some of the domestic pressures (strength among the “liberal” political elements in Germany – typical of leaders then and today, they often look to war as a distraction for the public). He was a realist though, his loyalty was to the Kaiser and the Army above all and he had no political ambitions. Once the war began, his “hawkish” nature was extinguished with the death of his two sons, one in September 1914 and the second in February 1917 (a collision with a French aircraft in battle, killing both pilots), the consequence being that he began to side with the civilians in government (Bethmann and Lyncker’s Naval counterpart Georg von Müller) against OHL (Army Supreme Command, – Hindenburg and Ludendorff), seeking a more moderate course with peace in mind. He was never active in this pursuit though, the deaths of his two sons broke his spirit and he largely left official matters to others.

A prewar picture of the Kaiser’s entourage, Lyncker is number 6; Georg von Müller is number 13. Georg von Müller was an important figure during the war, possibly one of the most rational men around the Kaiser at the time, though apparently not well liked.

The letter itself is quite interesting, very courteous as you would expect from a man of Paul Mauser’s character and upbringing, but we lack the earlier correspondence from Lyncker that precipitated this letter. It discusses the delivery of the G98a, that the delivery date could be met after all, due to the material supply improving over previous months. I am uncertain what Paul Mauser means by the G98a, but he refers to parts for the rifles, which is probably the clue to meaning.

The research I have conducted dealing with pre-war rifle (Gewehr98) production suggests that Mauser was making very few rifles for the German Army by 1908. By 1911 the numbers seem to be trivial, and the only meaningful production being done by the Prussian Arsenal at Spandau, all the other Arsenals were engaged with Kar.98a production, and DWM was entirely off line making rifles for the German military. As far as can be determined, only Spandau and Mauser were making Gewehr98’s in 1911, and Mauser’s production was meager. So my interpretation of the letter is referring to component production, probably delivered to Spandau, or possibly the ordnance system.

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The only question that remains is why would this situation demand the attention of such important men? It seems like a rather insignificant problem for such a high ranking General to be involved in, and one can only imagine Paul Mauser’s reply was only due to such an important inquirer.

Note the quality of the paper, Paul’s name embossed at the top, the signature using a quill pen, which Jon said was typical of Paul Mauser’s correspondence, but I am sure the importance of the recipient is also a factor.