NIGEL THOMAS, colour plates by STEPHEN ANDREW
GERMAN ARMY 1939-1945. BLITZKRIEG
Service uniform consisted of the officers' peaked cap, M1933 field tunic with ribbons, M1935 field greatcoat, leather-belt, breeches and riding-boots, grey suede gloves, standard pistol and holster.
The officers' field tunic was introduced 5 May 1933, replacing the M1920 Reichswehr service-tunic. It was manufactured from superior quality feldgrau cloth with five matt-grey painted pebbled buttons, four patch pockets, turn-back cuffs and a feldgrau cloth collar, replaced by feldgrau facing-cloth on 26 July 1934 and by bluish dark-green facing-cloth in March 1936. All insignia was field-quality: the breast-eagle was in matt aluminium thread on a bluish dark-green facing-cloth backing; the bluish dark-green facing-cloth collar-patches had two matt aluminium 'Guards' braids', each with a branch colour silk-embroidered centre cord. For shoulder-boards see Table 3. Many general-officers retained the M1920 or M1928 service tunic with field-quality insignia and no front piping.
An Oberfeldwebel in M1935 field uniform wearing the M1935 steel helmet, displaying the M1934 Wehrmacht eagle. The M1938 collar-patches and the obsolete M1935 field shoulder-straps do not show branch insignia and he has removed his white metal unit insignia for security reasons. Note the company number (1 Company, 1 Battalion), worn by NCOs and enlisted men on the shoulder-strap button, replaced from September 1939 by a plain pebbled button. Germany, January 1940. (Brian Davis Collection)
The officers' field greatcoat was like the dress greatcoat, but with field-quality shoulder-boards and the back seam left open.
In the 'undress' uniform, officers omitted the belt and could wear standard piped long trousers and lace-up shoes. With the 'Guard' uniform they wore the helmet, the M1934 or M1938 field cap; the field tunic or, if leading a Guard of Honour, the dress tunic; field greatcoat; brown belt; breeches and riding-boots, grey suede gloves, and a pistol and holster.
The M1934 officers' 'old-style' field cap, introduced 24 March 1934, became the M1935 peaked cap with the addition of a bluish dark-green cap band on 10 September 1935, and the omission of the metal crown stiffener, chincords and buttons. The visor was made of soft black patent leather and, from 30 October 1935, the eagle, cockade and wreath were of bright aluminium thread on a bluish dark-green backing.
The visorless flapped M1938 officers' 'new-style' field cap, introduced 6 December 1938, was made of feldgrau cloth, piped along the crown and the front of the flap with 3mm aluminium thread cord. The narrow aluminium cord national cockade was enclosed by a branch colour chevron, point up, in facing-cloth, with a machine-woven or hand-embroidered bright aluminium thread eagle on a bluish dark-green backing above. From 24 October 1939 general-officers wore gold thread crown and flap piping and a gold artificial silk chevron.
In the field all Army officers except platoon leaders wore the standard steel helmet, officers' field tunic, with the field greatcoat if ordered, brown belt, breeches and riding-boots and grey suede gloves. Personal field equipment was usually limited to the P08 Luger or P-38 Walther pistol in a smooth leather holster - general-officers and field officers favoured the smaller Walther 7.65mm PPK - and 6 × 30 black binoculars in a smooth black or tan leather or bakelite case carried on the right front hip. Behind the front line the M1934 or M1938 field caps replaced the helmet.
NCOs of the Army Patrol Service in M1935 service uniform, with other ranks' M1935 field greatcoats and M1935 field caps, parade for duty in a German garrison town in 1940. The obsolete M1920 adjutants' aiguillettes on their right shoulder constitute their badges of office. (ECPA)
In the field the shape and colour of the helmet was often camouflaged by daubing it with mud, or tying chicken-wire or the straps of the M1931 bread-bag and securing foliage to them. On 21 March 1940 the conspicuous national shield was removed and the helmet surface roughened and repainted from matt feldgrau to matt slate-grey.
From 31 October 1939 all officers below general-officer in combat units were ordered to wear the M1935 other ranks field tunic, trousers and marching-boots with the black leather belt and officers' field-quality shoulder-boards. Many officers, however, continued to wear their former uniforms or modified the other ranks' tunic by adding officers' roll-back cuffs, collar-patches and the sharper-pointed, higher officers' collars.
Subalterns acting as infantry platoon leaders wore the standard riflemen's field equipment adding the brown or black leather M1935 dispatch-case on the left front hip, binoculars, compass and signal-whistle. Riflemen's field equipment consisted of the standard smooth or grained black leather M1939 infantry support Y-straps with aluminium fittings (introduced 18 April 1939), supporting two sets of three black leather ammunition pouches for the rifle. The bayonet in a black scabbard with the black leather cavalry bayonet-frog (introduced 25 January 1939) and entrenching-tool were worn on the left back hip. On the right back hip, the M1931 feldgrau canvas bread-bag and M1931 brown felt-covered canteen and black painted aluminium cup. Webbing supported the M1931 mess-kit and M1931 camouflage shelter-quarter on the upper back, and on the lower back the M1930 or M1938 gas mask in the distinctive feldgrau-painted cylindrical corrugated metal canister. The dark greenish-brown gas cape hung on the chest from a thin brown leather strap and a field flashlight was usually carried on the left shoulder. By September 1939 most officers had the MP38 submachine gun, for which two olive-green canvas M1938 magazine pouches were issued to replace the black leather ammunition-pouches.
Germany, April 1940. A private of a newly created War Correspondents' Company in M1935 undress uniform with an M1935 field cap, takes a trip on the Rhine. He wears the lemon-yellow Signals branch colour on his shoulder-straps and cap, as well as the newly introduced Propagandakompanie sleeve-title. (F. Herrmann)
An Oberstleutnant of Panzer troops on the Belgian frontier, May 1940. He wears the M1935 black tank-crew uniform with M1940 officers' field cap, wearing the 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class ribbon with 1939 bar in his button-hole. He is talking to a colleague, who is wearing the M1935 officers' peaked cap with Panzer pink waffenfarbe (branch-colour facing-cloth piping). (Josef Charita)
Parade Uniform for other ranks consisted of the standard M1935 steel helmet; the OR M1935 Waffenrock or M1933 field tunic with medals, and, if ordered, the OR M1935 dress greatcoat; standard M1935 piped or plain trousers and marching-boots; the M1936 marksman's lanyard, M1935 belt, bayonet and bayonet-frog. All NCOs wore grey suede gloves. Technical and senior NCOs carried a sword, while junior NCOs and men wore standard M1939 Y-straps, M1908 ammunition-pouches and carried a rifle.
The other ranks' Waffenrock, adopted 29 June 1935, was identical to the officers' pattern with bright aluminium pebbled buttons, but made of fine quality (rather than superior) feldgrau cloth, with other ranks' dress insignia. The collar had M1935 branch colour facings, collar-patches with two bright aluminium thread 'Guards braids'. The cuffs had two branch colour badge-cloth cuff-patches, each with a bright aluminium pebbled button on a bright aluminium thread braid. The matt silver-grey machine-woven breast eagle had a bluish dark-green facing-cloth backing. The bluish dark-green facing-cloth shoulder-straps had rounded ends and a branch colour piping around the outer edge. For shoulder-strap and sleeve rank insignia see Table 3. NCOs wore 1.5cm wide bright aluminium 'double-diamond' pattern yarn braid introduced 10 September 1935 on the front and top edge of the stand-up collar and on the top and back edge of the cuff to indicate their status. Privately- purchased tunics could be made of officers' tricot cloth with higher collars and tighter waisting.
The crew of an army light antiaircraft unit on the alert for Allied aircraft in France, May 1940. The crewmen are wearing the typically soiled M1933 drill fatigue-uniform to avoid soiling their field uniforms. (Josef Charita)
The other ranks' field tunic in feldgrau cloth with matt-grey painted pebbled buttons was introduced on 5 May 1933 with the colour of the collar changing from feldgrau facing-cloth to bluish dark-green facing-cloth 10 September 1935. It resembled the officers' tunic, but the skirt was longer and cuffs were without the turn-backs. Insignia was of other ranks' field-quality.
The bluish dark-green facing-cloth M1935 collar-patches, introduced 10 September 1935, had two feldgrau braid 'Guards braids' each with branch colour facing-cloth centre stripes. They were replaced on 26 November 1938 by the 'standard braid', bluish dark-green facing-cloth stripes so the collar-patches no longer indicated branch affiliation. From 30 October 1935, the breast-eagle was embroidered in white cotton on a feldgrau backing; from 19 June 1937 it was on a bluish dark-green backing. Embroidery changed to silver-grey on 5 February 1939, and on 4 June 1940 to mouse-grey on feldgrau backing. NCOs wore 9mm wide bright aluminium 'single-diamond' pattern yarn braid introduced 10 September 1935, or silver-grey artificial silk braid, on the front and lower edge of the field tunic collar.
The M1933 pointed feldgrau cloth shoulder-straps without branch colour piping changed to feldgrau facing-cloth on 10 December 1934 and to bluish dark-green facing-cloth on 10 September 1935. They were replaced on 26 November 1938 by rounded bluish dark-green facing-cloth shoulder-straps with branch colour piping around the outer edges as worn on the field greatcoat, and on 18 March 1939 further production of the old model straps was discontinued. For shoulder-strap and sleeve rank insignia see Table 3.
On 25 April 1940 NCO collar and shoulder-strap braid of mouse-grey artificial silk or cellulose-fibre wool was introduced, and in May 1940 the bluish-green facing-cloth collars and shoulder-straps were replaced by feldgrau uniform cloth, but these changes were not implemented until after the fall of France.
The other ranks' dress greatcoat, introduced 10 September 1935, was officer pattern but made of lesser quality feldgrau cloth. The shoulder-straps were of bluish dark-green facing-cloth with branch colour piping around the outer edges. The bluish dark-green facing-cloth collar was always plain.
The stone-grey trousers had 2mm branch colour piping when worn with the Waffenrock. The trousers were plain when worn with the field tunic, and in May 1940 the colour changed to feldgrau cloth. The traditional black leather hobnailed marching-boots, nicknamed Knobelbecher - 'dice-shakers' - were 35-39cm high from heel to ankle. They were shortened to 32-34cm on 9 November 1939 to save material.
The M1936 marksman's lanyard, introduced 29 June 1936 and awarded by the company commander, distinguished 12 levels of marksmanship. Award 1 consisted of a matt aluminium plaited cord with an aluminium Wehrmacht eagle on a shield, replaced in 1939 by an aluminium eagle above crossed swords on a shield all in a small wreath, suspended from the right shoulder-strap, hooked to the second tunic button. One to three aluminium acorns at the lower end designated Awards 2-4. For Awards 5-8 the M1939 badge with a larger wreath replaced the shield, and Awards 9-12 had this same badge in gilt. From 16 December 1936 artillery gunners wore the badge with artillery-shells instead of acorns.
The other ranks' black leather belt had a rectangular dress-quality bright aluminium pebbled buckle with the Wehrmacht eagle in a wreath with the Gott mit uns ('God is with us') motto, introduced 24 January 1936. The 84/98 service bayonet, introduced in 1898, was carried in a blued steel sheath suspended from the belt by a black leather bayonet-frog. The standard ammunition pouches were of smooth or grained black leather with matt-grey aluminium fittings.
An Artillery Wachtmeister acting as a battery sergeant major (Hauptwachtmeisterdiensttuer), wearing the M1935 service uniform with M1935 other ranks' field cap. Note his double cuff braids, indicating his appointment, and the lack of the usual report book stuffed into the front of his tunic. He wears a 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class ribbon and the bronze SA Defence - Badge. France, May 1940. (Friedrich Herrmann)
The Walking-Out Uniform for other ranks was the same as the Parade Uniform, except that the M1935 peaked cap replaced the helmet, standard black lace-up shoes the marching-boots, and ribbons the medals. The sword, Y-straps, ammunition-pouches and rifle were omitted.
The other ranks' peaked cap, in feldgrau tricot, introduced 10 September 1935, preserved the traditional 'plate' style, although privately purchased caps often took the officers' 'saddle' style.
Otherwise it was exactly the same as for the officers' cap, except for the 1.5cm wide patent leather or vulcanised fibre chin-strap with two black metal buckles, fixed to the cap with two 12mm smooth black lacquered buttons.
The Reporting Uniform consisted of the peaked cap, field tunic with ribbons and field-quality insignia, plain trousers and marching-boats, no field greatcoat, black belt with bayonet and bayonet-knot and marksman's lanyard.
The Service Uniform for technical and senior NCOs consisted of the peaked cap, field tunic with ribbons, M1935 field greatcoat, trousers and marching-boots, black belt with pistol and holster and grey suede gloves. Junior NCOs wore the helmet instead or the M1935 other ranks' field cap instead of the service-cap, and Y-straps, ammunition pouches and a bayonet instead of the pistol and holster. Junior NCOs also wore grey suede gloves.
The other ranks' field greatcoat, introduced 10 September 1935, was identical to the officers' version but was of lesser quality and the insignia was other ranks' field-quality.
The M1935 other ranks' field cap, introduced 10 September 1935, resembled the later M1938 officers' field cap, and was developed from the M1934 cap of 24 March 1934. It was made of feldgrau cloth with a feldgrau flap, and the eagle and swastika and national cockade was embroidered in white cotton on a feldgrau backing from 30 October 1935, and on a bluish dark-green backing from 19 June 1937. Embroidery changed to silver-grey on 5 February 1939, and on 4 June 1940 to mouse-grey on feldgrau backing. The cockade was enclosed by a 4mm woollen branch colour chevron, point-up.
For the Undress Uniform NCOs and men wore the peaked cap, the field tunic with ribbons, plain trousers and marching-boots, the field greatcoat if ordered, and the black belt with bayonet. NCOs wore grey suede gloves and technical and senior NCOs the pistol and holster, the only field equipment carried with this uniform.
Major Ebcrhardt Rodt (left) and Hauptmann Finster (right) in the Corn Market, Ghent, 20 May 1940 wearing the M1935 officers' field uniform, confer in a 4 × 2 Wanderer WII staff car. Finster is wearing the M1938 officers' field cap, a 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class button-ribbon with 1939 bar, and the 1939 Iron Cross 1st Class. (Josef Charita)
The Guard Uniform consisted of the helmet or field cap, field tunic with ribbons and plain trousers with marching-boots (Waffenrock with piped trousers for Guards of Honour), field greatcoat if ordered, black belt, bayonet and marksman's lanyard. Technical and senior NCOs had a sword or a pistol and holster, junior NCOs and men Y-straps and ammunition-pouches. All NCOs had grey suede gloves.
The field uniform consisted of the helmet or field cap, field tunic with ribbons, field greatcoat if ordered, plain trousers and marching-boots. All NCOs had grey suede gloves.
Technical and senior NCOs carried a pistol and holster, and other NCOs acting as infantry platoon leaders carried the riflemen's field equipment with the map-case and, if equipped with a submachine gun, two olive-green canvas M1938 magazine pouches. Other infantry NCOs and men carried the standard riflemen's field equipment.
A ten-man rifle-section had an Unteroffizier as section leader, a Gefreiter as deputy, a light machine gun team with three Schützen (gunners), and five riflemen. The section leader wore the platoon leader's equipment, but was not normally issued with a submachine gun until 1941. The First Gunner, the machine gunner, operating the LMG34 light machine gun introduced in 1936, carried a pistol and holster instead of ammunition-pouches on his left front hip; and on his right front hip he had a black-leather spares-pouch. The Second Gunner, also the replacement machine gunner, carried standard riflemen's equipment with a pistol and holster instead of one set of ammunition-pouches; four 50-round ammunition drums, a 300-round ammunition box, and a sheet-metal barrel protector with one or two spare barrels. The deputy section leader, ordinary riflemen and the Third Gunner wore standard riflemen's equipment. Gunner 3 also carried two ammunition-boxes.
Officers in M1935 field uniform hold an impromptu meeting in Lichtervelde, Belgium, May 1940. Note the M1934 field cap worn by three officers and the leather greatcoat worn by the Major (2nd left). The Hauptmann (2nd right) is saluting before shaking the hand of the Major (1st right). (Josef Charita)
The white drill fatigue uniform was usually worn by enlisted men and only rarely by NCOs. It consisted of the M1934 field cap, M1933 fatigue tunic, fatigue-trousers introduced 1 April 1933, black belt and marching-boots. The tunic, made of cream or off-white cotton herringbone twill, had two patch side-pockets and five matt-grey painted pebbled buttons. Badges were confined to the special rank insignia described below. In 1940 the off-white colour was replaced on 12 February 1940 by a more practical mid-green, called 'reed-green'.
The M1934 black uniform was closely associated with the Panzer branch, but initially only tank-crews were authorised to wear it. Later, units of other branches in Panzer divisions were allowed to wear this prestigious uniform: signals battalions from 2 April 1937, artillery regiments from mid-1938, armoured reconnaissance battalions in March 1940, and on 10 May 1940 armoured engineer battalions. However, unauthorised personnel, such as general-officers, staff officers and members of unit staffs such as doctors, paymasters and company sergeant-majors, unofficially adopted the uniform. The colour, the distinctive double-breasted jacket and the collar patch skulls were intended to evoke the prestige of the Imperial German Cavalry.
The black uniform, introduced 12 November 1934, could be worn on all occasions except ceremonial. It consisted of the standard M1934 padded beret, later replaced by the M1940 field cap; a dark-grey tricot pullover shirt and black tie; the M1934 field jacket; M1934 field trousers and black lace-up shoes.
The padded beret was made of thick felt or red rubber sponge covered in black wool. From 30 October 1935 officers wore an eagle and swastika in bright aluminium bullion on the front of the beret, other ranks the badge in matt silver-grey machine-woven cotton thread, above a white cotton thread, later matt silver-grey machine-woven cotton thread, cockade and wreath, all insignia on a black backing. The beret proved too cumbersome in armoured vehicles, and on 27 March 1940 it began to be replaced by the M1940 officers' black field cap and the M1940 other ranks' black field cap. These caps were identical to the M1938 and M1934 feldgrau versions, but were in black cloth, with the eagle and cockade on a black cloth backing. Many officers and NCOs also favoured the feldgrau officers' M1935 peaked cap, M1934 peaked field cap or M1938 field cap, or other ranks' M1935 peaked cap or M1934 field cap.
A motorcycle combination of a Military Police Traffic Control Battalion leads a convoy of trucks in France. Both riders are wearing the M1934 rubberised field greatcoat but with minimal equipment. The driver has slung his Karabiner 98k rifle over his shoulder, and wears the M1938 gas mask canister across his chest. His passenger carries a signal-baton. Note the divisional signs on the sidecar and the WH (Wehrmacht-Heer) number plate. May 1940. (Brian Davis Collection)
The black wool double-breasted hip-length Panzer field jacket had a wide collar, with a 2mm branch colour facing-cloth piping, and wide lapels. The fly-front was closed by four large black horn or plastic buttons, with three smaller buttons left exposed above. Officers wore a matt aluminium thread breast-eagle, other ranks a white cotton, later a matt silver-grey, machine-woven cotton thread breast-eagle, all on a black cloth backing. All ranks wore standard black cloth collar-patches with branch colour piping and a bright aluminium stamped skull. All ranks wore field-quality shoulder and sleeve rank insignia, with black cloth replacing the bluish dark-green facing-cloth for NCOs and men. NCOs did not wear bright aluminium yarn braid collar braid. The M1934 plain black trousers tapered at the bottom to give a bloused effect, and buttoned and tied at the ankle.
When worn as a parade-uniform, officers' jackets had aiguillettes and the M1935 brocade belt, while other ranks wore the marksmen's lanyard and black belt. On 17 October 1938 a distinctive new marksmen's lanyard was introduced for armoured troops. It featured a matt aluminium eagle above a tank in a small ring for awards 1-4, in a large oak-leaf wreath for 5-8, in gold for 9-12, with, from 9 December 1938, aluminium acorns instead of shells. In the field all ranks wore a leather belt with a pistol and holster.
A dispatch-rider in the street of a town in German-occupied Flanders in May 1940. He is wearing the M1934 rubberised field greatcoat with an M1935 dispatch-case and has slung his M1938 gas mask canister on his chest, in order not to constrict . his rear-passenger on his motorcycle. (ECPA)