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Text by MARTIN WINDROW, Color plates by MICHAEL ROFFE. YEAR 1972
A PzKpfw. III of the Afrika Korps (the palm and swastika badge is just visible on the frontal armour by the driver's vision slot) churns up the dust of the Western Desert. (Imperial War Museum)
Main combat units: Panzergrenadier Regt. 'Führer-Grenadier-Brigade' (comprising an armoured fusilier battalion and a motorized Grenadier battalion), Infanterie Bn. 'for Special Duty' 829, Panzer Regt. 'Führer-Grenadier-Brigade', Sturmgeschutz Brigade 'Führer-Grenadier-Brigade'.
Formed at Cottbus in late January 1945, and with personnel bearing 'GD' insignia, this unit fought on the Oder front between February and April. It managed to withdraw in late April and the remnants surrendered to U.S. forces in May. It consisted of a Panzer Regiment, a Panzergrenadier Regiment, a Panzer Artillerie Regiment and the usual divisional reconnaissance, engineer and signals units, all identified by the honour title 'Kurmark'.
Several armoured formations, many of them without practical significance, were formed on paper in the closing months of the war. This period was characterized by decrees from Hitler's headquarters regarding the formation and movements of units whose only existence was in the form of flags on the Führer's maps. Among these twilight formations were the following:
Panzer Division 'Feldherrnhalle 2'. Formed at the turn of 1944/5 from the surviving elements of the 13. Panzer Division and the 60. Panzergrenadier Division 'Feldherrnhalle', both of which were decimated in the defence of Budapest. Much under strength, the division fought in Hungary and Austria until the end of the war.
Panzer Division 'Kurland'. Formed within the encircled German armies in the Kurland area, from elements of the 14. Panzer Division and other motorized 'odds and ends'.
The personnel of various schools, training courses, reserve organizations, and so forth, were to be formed into Panzer divisions named 'Clausewitz', 'Holstein', 'Münchenberg', 'Donau', 'Schlesien', 'Thüringen', and 'Westfalen'; how far these plans proceeded in practice is not known.
This sergeant is presenting arms; he carries the normal Mauser K.98 rifle of 7-92 mm calibre, and six black leather ammunition pouches are slung on his black leather service belt. The rectangular belt-plate, in bright metal, bears an eagle and swastika within a wreath charged with the words Gott Mit Uns - 'God With Us'. His 1935-model steel helmet is painted dark grey, with a black/white/red tricolour decal on the right side. The black leather hobnailed Marschstiefel - marching boots - are standard issue.
The special full-dress tunic, worn for parade, walking out, and other ceremonial occasions, was known as the Waffenrock. It is of field-grey cloth, without external pockets, and the turn-down collar and deep Swedish cuffs are of dark blue-green 'badge cloth'; the shoulder-straps are also made of this material. Introduced in June 1935, it has a much more ornate appearance than the usual service tunic; it is worn with plain grey trousers - giving a contrasting appearance - piped down the outer seam in Waffenfarbe. This is the identifying colour of the branch of service within the Army; in this case, the rose-pink of the Panzertruppen. It appears in several places on the tunic - as piping up the front join, around the bottom and front edges of the collar and around the top and rear edges of the cuffs. The silver collar-bars are woven on patches of this colour, as are the decorative cuff tabs. The 9mm-wide Tresse or silver braid around the top and front of the collar, and the top and rear of the cuffs, is an indication of senior N.C.O. rank. It also appears on the shoulder-straps, within an outer piping of pink. On the shoulder-straps the open-ended silver braid identifies the exact rank, and the numeral the regiment.
The buttons on the front, cuffs and shoulders of the tunic are silver-grey metal. The breast eagle is woven in white on a black background, the appropriate style for the Panzer arm. The only equipment worn on the belt in this uniform order would be the bayonet.
The normal everyday working dress of the German Army officer. The high-fronted peaked service cap, or Schirmmütze, is of field-grey cloth with a dark blue-green band and a glossy black composition peak. The two silver cap cords identify commissioned rank. The crown seam, and the top and bottom of the band, are piped in pink Waffenfarbe, The upper badge is a silver-grey alloy eagle, the lower one a wreath of oak leaves surrounding the national cockade; the wreath was sometimes woven in silver thread, more often pressed in silver-grey alloy.
The tunic is field-grey, with a dark blue-green badge cloth collar, four box-pleated pockets with scalloped flaps, and deep turn-back cuffs (often used, as here, as a handy extra pocket for small items). The shoulder-straps are in silver 'Russia braid' with the single yellow metal pip of Oberleutnant's rank and an underlay of Panzer pink Waffenfarbe. The silver collar-bars are woven on dark blue-green patches sewn to the collar. The breast-eagle is in silver thread on a black background. The Army Four-Year Service Medal ribbon, cornflower blue with a small applied silver eagle, is worn above the left breast-pocket.