I’m reading my great grandfather’s WWI war journal/diary. He served on the German side, as an originally unarmed “Armierungssoldat” digging trenches etc.
He writes that on february 7 1917, the order came that everyone who physically could carry a rifle should be armed. Even Armierung, who were all people who failed medical for various reasons and were deemed unfit for use as infantry. He tried to argue that his poor eyesight made it impossible for him to shoot, but a Lieutenant said that if he could see rank insignia well enough to recognize an Lt then he could see well enough to use a rifle. He was at the time stationed at a barracks camp in Ployart, digging trenches and underground shelters in nearby villages/towns: Arrancy, Saint-Thomas, Bouconville, Chermizy and others.
He got issued what he describes as a very old rifle, a “model 71”. It was long, heavy and got in the way when working. It fired large-calibre lead flatnose bullets (I presume this means the ammo issued was meant for the tube-magazine 71/84 model).
In his opinion, issuing these obsolete rifles put the soldiers in a very risky situation; they might get executed if the enemies caught them carrying these “inhumane” weapons, as he believied the lead flatnose bullets would be considered illegal for use in war.
How realistic was that fear? Would the allies really have considered use of such obsolete weapons to be a violation of the rules of war?