Fritz von Below was born on 23 September 1853 in Danzig, German Empire (present-day Gdansk, Poland). He joined the Reichswehr in 1873 and in 1912 he was made the commander of the German 21st Corps, seeing action on the Western Front of World War I. In 1915 he fought at the Second Battle of Masurian Lakes, and in 1916 he was appointed as the commander of the German 2nd Army during the Battle of the Somme, one of the most memorable battles of the war. His army bore the brunt of the Allied offensive, but when his army grew too large to manage, he took command of one half, which became the German 1st Army, with Max von Gallwitz taking over the 2nd Army. In June 1918 he took over the German 9th Army, but he fell ill and died of pneumonia on 23 November 1918, twelve days after the end of the war.