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Text by MARTIN WINDROW, Color plates by MICHAEL ROFFE. YEAR 1972
In June 1943 the new field service cap (Einheitsfeldmütze) was authorized, and from that date it became the most widely used form of headgear in the German forces, apart from the steel helmet. Many versions appeared, differing in details. This tank troop commander wears the black Panzer pattern. As an officer he has the crown seam and the front arch of the 'turn-up' flap piped in silver; other caps observed had the crown piping only. The two small silver buttons on the flap were largely decorative, as although in theory the flap could be pulled down and worn round the face, it was more often sewn in place, for reasons of smartness.
He wears the reversible white/camouflage hooded winter smock, a bulky garment with a thick inner lining of blanket material, introduced the previous winter. Its double-breasted cut and overlapping flaps formed a windproof closure, and it was a very serviceable, comfortable, and popular garment. The 'water pattern' camouflage is visible on the reverse of the lapels and inside the hood. The stylized rank badge of a Leutnant - a single pair of oak leaves over a single bar, in green on a black patch - is worn on the left upper arm; this type of rank patch was widely used in place of all other forms of insignia on protective and camouflage clothing of all types. The heavy reversible over-trousers are fastened by drawstrings rather high on the ankle, over special felt-and-leather combination winter boots. The shapeless grey woollen toque was standard issue.
This first-class mechanic, taking a cigarette break during a round-the-clock engine job, wears the 'Other Ranks' version of the black Einheitsmütze. He is dressed in the reed-green Panzer denim suit (Schilfgrüner Drillichschutzanzug) issued to Army armoured formations as working dress. It was worn sometimes over the black uniform, and sometimes by itself as a warm-weather uniform. This soldier wears it in the latter way, over the field-grey late-issue shirt. The black leather belt and lace-up ankle boots are standard; these boots, in use since 1941, had by this stage completely superseded the marching boots for wear in the vehicle.
The denim jacket was issued with a breast- eagle in the usual Army colours of grey on sage-green. Armoured personnel usually added special insignia: the normal pink-piped black shoulder-straps, the death's-head collar-patches, and any other insignia they wished. On his right forearm this man wears the qualification badge of his trade - a field-grey circular patch with the pink cord edging of first-class grade, and the pink Zahnrad or cogwheel design.
Gunner (left) and loader in action in a PzKpfw. III tank.
As mentioned in the commentary on Plate C3, the self-propelled artillery branch became increasingly important as the war progressed. By the close of 1944 two or three companies of self- propelled 'tank destroyers', usually Jagdpanzer IVs or Jagdpanthers, were a potent weapon in the armoury of the Panzer Division. The duplication of effort involved in the manning and organization of the S.P. units by the artillery, rather than the armoured branch, caused endless frustrations, and the overlapping of command is perhaps reflected in the apparently pointless changes of insignia to which these troops were subject. As stated previously, the final form (in theory) was for these troops to wear normal Army collar-bars with red Waffenfarbe edging for non-commissioned personnel, but uniformity was never really achieved.
This corporal wears a popular variation which emphasized the marginal difference between the crew of a Panther tank and the crew of a Jagdpanther of the same division, perhaps operating within half a mile of each other. He wears the field-grey uniform of the artillery vehicle crews, of identical cut with the Panzer suit. His collar- patches are the black, pink-piped tank crew pattern. His shoulder-straps are likewise of Panzer pattern, distinguished only by the pink Gothic 'P' (for Panzerjäger). His breast-eagle and rank chevrons are of standard Army pattern.
Congratulations for the crew of a PzKpfw. IV tank in Russia. (Imperial War Museum)
On the left side of his field-grey Einheitsmütze appears a small black and white enamel badge bearing the greyhound insignia of the 116th Division. In the closing months of the war such divisional emblems, while not common, were increasingly adopted by a few elite formations. On the peaked service cap they were worn beneath the eagle badge and above the oak spray.