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Text by MARTIN WINDROW, Color plates by MICHAEL ROFFE. YEAR 1972
The name 'Tiger' became a symbol of terror to the crews of lighter Allied tanks. Despite its many drawbacks on the open battlefields of Russia, the PzKpfw. VI was so potent as a defensive weapon in the close countryside of north-west Europe that an image of crushing strength and invulnerability still clings to its name. (Imperial War Museum)
The shirt was very similar to the field-grey shirt worn in Europe, but as it was intended for frequent use on formal occasions in 'shirt-sleeve order' it was of superior finish and manufacture, with a reinforced yoke. The colour varied between a dark sandy shade and sage-green, and frequent washing soon faded it to an indeterminate tone. The shorts were frequently worn rolled up. The long woollen socks were often discarded in favour of ankle socks when in the field. The footwear illustrated is a type of 'sneaker' very similar in appearance and manufacture to the foot of the long desert boot, and perhaps cut down from it.
The only insignia worn with shirt-sleeve order are the shoulder-straps, looped and buttoned on in the usual way. Note that the silver Tresse is replaced by a washed-out sandy-yellow braiding on a brown ground. The normal grey metal pips are applied, however; the outer piping is in cavalry yellow.
An unappreciated but vital part of the armoured division - the divisional military police, responsible for keeping the thousands of vehicles moving on often poor and always crowded roads, sometimes under fire. Their other duties - disciplinary, and under front-line conditions harshly enforced - made them hated by the rank and file, but that would be inevitable in any army.
The Feldgendarmerie senior sergeant illustrated wears the service uniform commonly seen in 1944. The tunic is of 1943 pattern - similar in cut to the earlier style, but with various economy measures incorporated. The pockets have straight flaps, and are unpleated. The collar is no longer of dark green, but of field-grey like the rest of the tunic, and so are the shoulder-straps. The tunic is made from a poorer-quality cloth, with a high 'shoddy' content and an increased use of rayon rather than wool. It gave poor protection against heat and cold, and tore easily when wet.
The trousers are tucked into webbing anklets over laced ankle boots - another obvious economy measure in the hard-pressed Reich was the withdrawal of the high marching boot, which used up such vast quantities of leather.
Company of 'Tiger II' ('King Tiger') heavy tanks on manoeuvres. The basic buff-yellow factory scheme was camouflaged at unit level with dark green and brown. These vehicles served in independent heavy tank battalions under direct Army command, rather than as integral units of the individual divisions. (Imperial War Museum)
Conventional insignia include the grey-on-sage-green breast-eagle, the silver Tresse round the collar, the collar-patches, and the shoulder-straps indicating rank, the latter piped in Feldgendarmerie orange Waffenfarbe. The special badge of this branch of service is sewn to the left upper arm - an eagle and swastika in a wreath, in the usual police style; the eagle and wreath are in Waffenfarbe orange, the swastika in black, and the patch is field-grey. Officers wore an identical badge in silver thread throughout. A cuff-title of brown cloth, edged with grey and bearing the word 'Feldgendarmerie' in grey Gothic script, is worn on the left forearm.
To indicate their function when on duty the military police wore the gorget or Ringkragen. This was of dull silver on a chain of masked links; two bosses and an eagle motif were picked out in yellowish luminous paint, as was the word 'Feldgendarmerie' on a grey scroll. It was this 'chain collar' which gave rise to one of the more printable soldiers' nicknames for the M.P.s вЂ” 'Kettenhund' ('Chained Dog').
One of the young leaders who came to prominence as a result of direct battlefield experience in Africa and Russia, this Major-General wears the slightly more casual dress of the last few months of the war. The Schirmmütze was frequently replaced by the Einheitsmütze, even among General Officers; it is of superior material and finish, and has General's distinctions in the form of gilt buttons on the flap, gold piping round the crown, and a gold-on-dark- green woven badge.
The tunic is a high-quality modification of the troops' 1944 Feldbluse, the two-pocket waist-length garment introduced in place of the long-skirted tunic for economy reasons; cf. Plate H3. The more elaborate features of the General's pattern include pleated pockets with scooped flaps, and a fly front. The collar-patches of his rank are worn on the open collar, and the shoulder-straps are conventional; pocket and shoulder-buttons are gilt. He wears the national emblem above the right breastpocket, woven in gilt thread on a green background, and a row of campaign and service ribbons opposite. His Knight's Cross is visible at the throat, its ribbon passing under the shirt collar. On his left pocket are his Iron Cross 1st Class and a high grade of Panzer Sturmabzeichen; as the war progressed the tank arm began to see so much action that the 'three separate combats' qualification for this Assault Badge became meaningless. Versions with small plaques at the base were awarded for the appropriate number of actions - 25, 50, 75 and 100. The bronze version awarded to armoured car personnel appeared in the same variations.
The last throw - a 'King Tiger' passes a dejected column of American prisoners in the Ardennes, December 1944. (Imperial War Museum)
The red-striped breeches and jackboots are conventional. He carries over his arm the General's special pattern of greatcoat; this was of fine quality, field-grey in colour, with a dark-green collar, bright red lapel facings usually worn open and visible, and twelve large gilt buttons.
Two items mark specific areas of past service, one official and the other unofficial but characteristic. The 'Africa with Palms' cuff-title, worn on the left sleeve and bearing the word 'AFRIKA' between two palm heads, was instituted in January 1943 as a campaign decoration awarded to all ranks who completed six months' service in that theatre, or who were wounded. The script and edges are silver-grey, the band a soft brown. The carved stick is a souvenir much favoured by the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front - the famous 'Wolchowstock'. Carved with designs indicative of the unit's role and service, and with traditional Germanic decorations, it was sometimes presented to popular commanders when leaving a unit.
The sight which greeted the Tommies and G.I.s at the end - the last remnants of the Panzer Division trudging west to seek British or American captivity rather than Russian revenge.
Incredibly resilient for so long, the Wehrmacht had scraped the bottom of the barrel for manpower; boys, old men and medical rejects filled the ranks of the few veteran survivors. The distinction between a Panzergrenadier and an infantryman was now academic; the half-tracks had no fuel, and dared not move by day anyway. There was so much frantic, and pointless, redesignation of scratch units going on that the distinction was not even valid from an official point of view - hence this soldier's infantry white Waffenfarbe piping at the shoulders.
Brutally sculptured by flame and explosive, the gutted hulk of a late-model PzKpfw. IV in the Ardennes marks the graveyard of the last great Panzer assault wave. (Imperial War Museum)
He wears a poor-quality Einheitsmütze, and a wool-shoddy sweater under his Feldbluse. This economy garment carries a late-pattern national emblem above the right pocket, the eagle and swastika on a triangular patch. The collar-patches are also of a late, utility pattern - simple motifs in dull grey, without any branch or rank embellishments. (The silver collar-braid of senior N.C.O.s was seldom worn with the Feldbluse.)
He has abandoned all equipment not directly necessary to personal survival - assuming that he was ever issued with anything else. His bread bag, and a roll made from his weatherproof camouflaged shelter-quarter, contain his personal effects and what food he has managed to forage. His canteen and mess tin complete his simple needs. He will need nothing else in the P.O.W. cage.