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Text by MARTIN WINDROW, Color plates by MICHAEL ROFFE. YEAR 1972
The pegged breeches, worn by officers of all branches, are field-grey. The leather service belt with plain double-claw buckle, the black top- boots and grey kid gloves are all items common to the uniforms of officers in the Army, Luftwaffe and SS.
Two different styles of tropical helmet issued to the Afrika Korps: left, of greenish drill fabric over cork, and right, of brown felt. The insignia were in the form of pin-back metal shields. (Author's collection)
The Sonderbekleidung, or special black vehicle uniform of the Panzertruppen, was issued to all ranks for wear when in the field, or when working or parading actually in their vehicles. The colour was intended partly to conceal oil stains. The short, double-breasted Feldjacke could be buttoned to the throat, giving extra protection from the elements and the sharp projections inside a tank. The long, loose trousers were gathered at the ankle.
The loose black beret, or Schutzmütze, was worn over a rubber skull-protector. Flat woven badges, in white or silver depending on rank, were sewn to the front - the usual eagle surmounting an oak wreath and the Reichskokarde. The shirt was mouse- grey, the tie black. The tunic was piped around the collar in pink. The breast eagle appeared in white or silver, depending on rank. All ranks wore identical collar-patches - an unusual feature. They were black, outlined in pink piping, and bore small silver-grey metal skulls. Rank was indicated only by the shoulder-straps, of conventional design with Waffenbarbe underlay, and on this uniform normally sewn to the shoulder all the way round, to prevent snagging on equipment inside the vehicle. The trousers were gathered at the ankles of the standard knee-length marching boots.
Special features worn by this officer include the heavy silver cord aiguillettes worn by all commissioned ranks on ceremonial parades; the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class in the tunic buttonhole; and the Four-Year Service Medal. This Leutnant served with the expeditionary tank force in the Spanish Civil War; he wears around the right forearm a red cuff-title with gold edges, bearing on the outside of the arm the words '1936 Spanien 1939'. This was instituted in June 1939. The 1936 version of the Tank Assault Badge, with a large skull motif over a crude representation of a tank within a wreath, is worn in silver on the left breast. The silver brocade belt, with circular silver buckle, was worn by officers on parade occasions.
Until the introduction of special winter combat clothing later in the war, the tank crews had no alternative but to wear the standard Army field-grey greatcoat in cold weather. In the confines of a crowded tank this was a highly impractical garment. This N.C.O.'s rank is indicated by his shoulder-straps, looped and buttoned to the shoulders of the coat. The Schutzmütze is still worn, as are the marching boots. The P.08 pistol was a standard-issue personal weapon for tank crews.
This pattern of greatcoat, with a turn-down collar of dark blue-green badge cloth, was of pre-war issue; as stocks ran down, it was replaced with coats of inferior finish, with plain field-grey collars.
The tropical helmets were often discarded in favour of the practical, comfortable - and stylish - tropical field cap. The eagle insignia are woven in light grey-blue on a tan ground, and the national cockade on a tan patch. (Author's collection)
Considering the importance, in any armoured formation, of recovering and repairing damaged vehicles swiftly, if necessary under fire, it is not surprising that each Panzer Division included a battalion of armoured combat engineers, or Panzer-Pioniere. This junior N.C.O. belongs to such a unit; his rank is indicated by the single white chevron on the left upper arm of his jacket. He wears the standard black vehicle uniform, but his branch of service is differentiated (by an order of 10 May 1940) by the replacement of pink Waffenfarbe with black and white mixed piping. This appears around his shoulder-straps, the collar of his jacket, the collar patches, and in a chevron on the front of his sidecap. This use of the ordinary field-grey Feldmütze with the black uniform was much seen in 1940 - and even as late as 1943 - owing to the black beret being withdrawn in the winter of 1939/40 before stocks of the new black Feldmütze were generally available. The badges on the cap are the usual small eagle surmounting a national cockade; the breast eagle is white.
This company commander wears the usual vehicle uniform, with the twisted silver cord shoulder-straps of his rank. He wears the officer's version of the black Panzer Feldmütze; the crown seam and the front arch of the 'turn-up' are piped in silver, and the national cockade is enclosed by a chevron of pink Waffenfarbe piping. Below the silver breast-eagle is the silver star of the War Order of the German Cross. This decoration was instituted in late summer of 1941, to provide an intermediate decoration for those who already held the Iron Cross 1st Class, but did not qualify for the Knight's Cross. The ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class is worn in the buttonhole, and the Iron Cross 1st Class is pinned below it. Grouped with it are the 1940 Tank Assault Badge - awarded for armoured personnel who took part in three separate actions, on three separate days, while actually in armoured fighting vehicles - and the silver Wound Badge.
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