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Basic Combat Equipment

Unlike the uniforms of the German Army, there was a high degree of standardization of the combat equipment worn by the ordinary infantryman, whether he was in Das Heer, SS, or Luftwaffe. The basic individual field equipment with which German infantry riflemen and other combat troops were equipped was composed of an integrated system of items designed to complement each other in their wear and practical use. Though specialists were issued a wide variety of unique items, the basic system served as a foundation for all individual equipment. Ammunition pouches for weapons other than carbines (machine pistols, assault rifles, etc.) were issued with the weapon.

Most of the items used throughout the European and Russian campaigns will be referred to hereafter as the Continental equipment. Items manufactured for use in North Africa from late 1940 to 1942 were made to withstand the rigours of a hot, dry climate. Referred to as tropical equipment, they were fabricated principally of canvas and webbing in lieu of leather wherever possible. For almost all items of the basic Continental equipment there was a tropical counterpart. Most of this was reed green, though sand colour, tan and light brown were used to lesser degrees. Painted metal components were also usually of these colours. The few leather items and components used were generally painted tan or light brown. Black and dark brown leather Continental equipment was sometimes painted sand or tan. Not all troops serving in Africa were issued tropical equipment; by 1942 a large number of units had been rapidly transferred to the theatre along with their Continental equipment. Due to the deteriorating supply situation little tropical equipment was issued after early 1942. Tropical items were also worn mixed with Continental equipment.

The manufacture of canvas/web equipment was increased from 1943, and though generally of various green shades, it was also made in reed green and tan. The purpose of its issue was to conserve leather and provide more durable and lighter weight equipment, and as such it was widely issued to units in Europe and Russia.

The Waffen-SS used basically the same equipment as Das Heer. A wide range of special ammunition pouches were issued to accommodate the many "odd" models of captured and impounded weapons they used alongside standard issue.

The Luftwaffe's equipment was also similar to Das Heer's, but was generally made of light brown leather and blue/grey canvas webbing. As well, some special canvas/webbing items were also issued. As the war progressed the parachute troops, now fighting in a purely ground role, were issued principally Wehrmacht equipment. This also applied to the Luftwaffe field divisions when transferred to Army control in late 1943, and the Kriegsmarine units fighting as infantry towards the end of the war.

Belt and support straps
Koppeltraggestell für infanterie

The heavy black leather belt worn by all enlisted personnel was 1 3/4 inches (45 mm) wide. It was worn with all classes of soldiers' and NCOs' uniforms including field-service, walking-out and parade. It was also worn with the greatcoat on garrison duty. The belt buckle, of dull white metal or painted greenish grey, was 2 1/2 inches (63 mm) wide by just over 1 3/4 (45 mm) deep.

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EM Heer belt & buckle EM SS belt & buckle EM Luftwaffe belt & buckle
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EM Heer tropical belt and buckle EM Luftwaffer tropical belt and buckle

The basis for all field equipment was a set of black leather "Y"-straps. These consisted of two front straps which were hooked to a "D" ring on the back of the cartridge pouches; their length was adjusted by a set of square steel frame buckles fixed midway up the straps. If the pouches were not worn, a set of supplementary loops consisting of a simple belt-width loop fitted with a "D" or rectangular ring were used to attach the straps to the belt. (The loop was slipped over the belt, and the "D" rings slipped into the hooks on the"Y" straps.)

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Continental leather Y-straps

The front straps tapered outwards to become relatively broader at about breast level. At this point, a steel stud could be fixed through a hole in the centre of each; this was for the attachment of a pair of smaller auxiliary straps, which could be attached to either the M1939 pack, combat pack frame or some rucksacks. Like the front strap, these were adjusted by a set of buckles. When the pack was not worn, these straps were tucked into the belt.

The front straps passed over the shoulders, tapering sharply inwards again to wrap around a large steel "O"94 ring. Just behind each shoulder a short length of leather strap was sewn to each "Y" brace, bearing a steel "D"-ring. From the bottom of the "O" ring ran a single vertical back strap which hooked to the back centre of the belt with flat metal hooks, the rounded ends of which protruded upwards in front of the bottom part of the belt for about half its depth. The rear central "Y"-brace was adjustable for length by means of a row of holes and a metal stud.

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Tropical or late war webbing Y-straps

There were two versions of belt and supports: the standard-issue black leather version, and later reed green and olive green webbing versions, which were initially issued for use in North Africa, but became increasingly common on the continent as the war progressed. (The leather belt and straps were often seen painted tan brown for desert service.) The web version differed from the leather in that the straps were adjusted by sliders, rather than buckles and studs. Photos occasionally show leather belts combined with web support straps In the rear areas it was common for the front straps to be worn under the tunic shoulder straps. but this was seldom done under combat conditions.


The breadbag was a simple, single-compartment haversack, its flap covering the entire outside of the bag for additional weather protection. At the top corners were buttoned cloth loops to fasten it to the belt. At the base of these loops were leather tabs which held "D" rings for the attachment of the field flask and cook pot. About two-thirds of the flap's length below the"D" rings were two leather loops to secure those items' straps and prevent bouncing In the top centre of the bag was a single cloth support tab, fastened to the belt by a hook. In November 1944 the buttoned loops and centre hook were replaced with ordinary cloth loops. This arrangement meant that the bag had to be slipped onto the belt. All leather fittings were replaced by webbing.

On the breadbag's back surface, behind the corner loops, were small "D" rings for a shoulder strap; this adjustable cloth strap was fitted with carbine hooks at both ends. It was seldom that the breadbag was carried in this manner (except by some officers), and the straps used for other purposes or discarded. These "D" rings were deleted from bags made after 1942-43.

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Continental breadbag with leather straps

Early bags were field grey. In 1941-42 they began to be produced in olive green. Late in the war they were also made to various shaded of grey, brown and tan. An all-canvas reed green tropical version was developed with webbing replacing the leather components. Non-military versions in shades of brown and tan can also be seen.

The breadbag was worn over the right hip, often with the field flask attached to a corner "D" ring, and sometimes the cook pot as well.

Field flask
feldflasche und trinkbecher

Though a standard design was common, there were perhaps more distinct variants of this item found than with any other piece of equipment. The standard M1931 field flask and drinking cup was an unpainted aluminum .8 litre (roughly 28 ounce) bottle; earlier models had no cup. A brown felt insulating cover was provided, both to prevent freezing and to cool the water when wet. It was removable, for cleaning or replacement, by the incorporation of a slit secured by three snaps on the left upper edge. Leather loops were sewn on the front and back for the black leather securing strap, which was attached by a stud rivet to the bottom of the cover. The securing strap served to retain the cup, and to attach the canteen to the bread bag or elsewhere by a carbine hook attached to it. The strap was fitted with a buckle to adjust fit. In North Africa two canteens were sometimes issued.

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Continental flask with leather straps and felt cover Tropical flask with webbing straps and rezin cover

The oval-shaped drinking cup was made of aluminum and originally painted black, though ordered painted olive green in April 1941. A bracket was riveted to one side through which the securing strap passed. On the other side was a two-piece folding wire handle, held in place by the securing strap. The cup was stored upside down with the handle toward the body.

Variants were many. Late war field flasks were made of painted and unpainted steel, and different coloured felts were used including greens and greys. Enameled steel bottles were also made, as well as bottles covered with a dark brown or brown speckled resin used in tropical environment (which served to prevent heating) with a cap of the same material. Web side loops and securing straps, with slide buckles, were fitted to tropical covers and on many late war versions. This flask possessed an additional web strap around the circumference. Black Bakelite and steel cups were also issued.

Cook pot

The kidney-shaped M1931 cook pot was composed of two parts, a shallow pan and pot. The pan could be used for eating or cooking, and served as a lid for the pot; it was fitted with a folding steel handle that also held it to the pot when stowed.

The 1.7 litre (about 57 ounce) pot was fitted with a wire bail handle, and used for eating soups and stews. the M1931 cook pot was made of aluminum until about 1943 when most began to be made of steel. A metal bracket was fitted to pan's handle through which a black leather securing strap was passed, holding the two sections together and securing it for carrying. The outer surfaces were painted dark grey until April 1941, when it was ordered that new cook pots be olive green. A limited number of reed green pots with green securing straps were issued for use in North Africa.

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The cook pot was carried attached to the outside of earlier model packs and rucksacks and inside later models, strapped to the bread bag beside the canteen, or secured to the combat pack frame or the back of the support straps.

Entrenching tools

There were two versions commonly used. The first was a simple spade with a square steel blade and short wood handle. The blade was painted black (sometimes sand or tan colour in North Africa) and the handle left unpainted to prevent the hands from blistering, though they were varnished when manufactured. The carrier was composed of a blade-shaped leather back panel with a leather rim on the front and two leather belt loops attached to the top. Two leather securing straps were fitted to each side of the rim: a long strap on the right, and a shorter strap with buckle on the left. The carrier slid over the blade of the tool, the strap wrapped around the handle where it joined the blade. Variants were made without the solid back panel, but with a rim similar to that on the front. From 1938 most carriers were made of black artificial leather, though the straps were real leather. Late war carriers were made of black or light tan Press-Stoff but still with real leather loops and straps. Limited issue was made of a reed green canvas and web closed-back model in North Africa.

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The second version was a folding spade, introduced in November 1938, though it did not come into common use until after the outbreak of the war. Its purpose was to provide the infantryman with a longer handle without increasing the overall carrying length. The blade was black-painted (tan or sand in North Africa), with a nut made of black resin with a steel ring. Early carriers consisted of a "pocket" with solid back, wide rim around the sides, narrow rim on the bottom (into which fitted the blade tip), and wide leather strap across the top. A thin securing strap was attached to the top strap; this fastened to a stud affixed to a thin cross-strap attached to the rim. Later wartime versions had a solid back panel, but leather retaining side strips were fitted, rather than a full rim; the bottom was open, rather than closed. Early carriers were made of either real or artificial black leather back and rim, but later ones consisted of light tan Press-Stoff back panel and real leather outer rim and retaining straps. Both types had a wide leather belt loop riveted to the back panel.

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The entrenching tool and carrier were worn on the left side of the belt.

Feldgendarmerie service duty gorget

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The use of gorgets can be traced as far back as the ancient use of armor by the Roman Legions, circa 350BC evolving into protective armored collar bone and neck plates during the 14TH century. The word Gorget also evolved from the ancient French gorget, meaning throat. By the 17TH century the full suits of armor were seldom utilized anymore but the gorget remained, in an altered form, as a sign of rank or position and continued in use, as such, through-out the Napoleonic wars, the German wars of liberation and on into World War I and World War II.

The Feldgendarmerie, (Military Field Police), units were established on mobilization of the Wehrmacht, (Armed Forces) in August 1939 and drew the majority of their personnel from the civil Ordnungspolizei, (Order Police), as they were already familiar with policing regulations and tasks. The Feldgendarmerie were assigned a wide variety of tasks that included, military traffic control, maintaining discipline and compliance of orders of the troops, the apprehension of stragglers and deserters, escorting POW’s, (Prisoners Of War), control of the civilian population, securing communication and supply lines, anti-partisan suppression and control of any disorder in the occupied rear areas of battle, among other duties.

The Feldgendarmerie were also empowered with the authority to perform location and personal searches and could demand required assistance from any military or civilian personnel. The Feldgendarmerie’s authority extended to the point that Feldgendarmerie’s ranks out-ranked similar military personnel’s ranks. As an expedient measure the Feldgendarmerie personnel originally wore police uniforms with army insignia added but by late 1939 or early 1940 they were issued army uniforms with distinct identifying insignia including a duty Gorget, a cufftitle and a police sleeve badge for wear by all ranks.

The Feldgendarmerie gorget was first introduced in late 1938, as identification insignia for Military Field Police personnel and was only worn when the individual was performing policing duties. The gorget remained in usage through-out the war. Due to the way the gorget was worn, suspended from a chain around the neck, allegedly the Feldgendarmerie, were superciliously referred to as Kettenhunde, (Chain Dogs).

T completed pilot training.

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