In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles placed severe limitations on the size of the German military, or Reichswehr. It was limited to 100,000 men, and was forbidden to have tanks or heavy artillery. Furthermore, there was to be no General Staff. These restrictions created an army that was wholly defensive in nature.However, one of it's earliest Commanders-in-chief, Hans von Seeckt (1920-1926), sought covert ways to increase the Reichswehr's effectiveness. Since the force was all-volunteer, Von Seeckt hand-picked the men who would lead the Reichswehr. He also established contacts within the Soviet Union, allowing both the German Army and the fledgling Luftwaffe to conduct maneuvers in it's territory.
The situation changed completely on 30 January 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. He immediately called for the removal of the restrictions placed on the German military under the Treaty of Versailles. Two years later, On 15 March 1935, he abolished the Reichwehr and replaced it with the Wehrmacht.By the time Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, the Wehrmacht numbered 3,180,000 men in some fifty-one divisions. (By the end of the war, it was to number well over 700 divisions.) The following ten months were a time of almost total triumph for the Wehrmacht; it defeated virtually every army that took the field against it. Only Great Britain held out.
The appearance of the German soldier in World War II in 1939 represented the final stage in the evolution of the field grey uniform which had first appeared in 1907. Though the design was new, the cut of the uniform did not differ greatly from that of previous models. It was a uniform meant to be both smart-looking and functional.Service Dress
All enlisted ranks of the Wehrmacht began the war wearing the M1935 service uniform: thigh-length field-grey tunic, straight stone-grey trousers with slash side pockets closed by buttons and a right hip pocket, and black leather hobnailed marching boots. When not in action, soldiers wore the field-grey sidecap. Members of the cavalry branch wore flared riding breeches and knee-length black leather riding boots with spurs.
|Schutze is wearing a M36 feldbluse with stonegrey trousers marschstiefels and M40 stahlhelm. He carries a gascape, patronentaschen, and the Kar98/K rifle||On the backside we see clearly the shovel, bajonet with leather frog, gasmaskcannister, breadbag, drinkbottle,mess kit and the Black leather Y-straps with camo shelter. (pic)|
The tunic had a dark green stand-and-fall collar, and four patch pockets with box pleats and three-point flaps. There were five large metal buttons on the front, with two buttons on the shoulders beside the neck for the attachment of shoulder straps. There was a 5 7/8 inch (150 mm) rear central vent in the skirt of the jacket, and the arms were split up the rear seam for about 3 inches (75 mm). On each side of the collar was a patch of dark green cloth bearing double litzen the traditional Prussian "collar bars ", sometimes called "Guards' braid" in light grey cloth with a dark grey line down the center of each, the two bars being divided by an area of dark grey. Above the right breast pocket was sewn the national emblem: a straight-winged eagle with a wreathed swastika in its talons. This was woven in white on a dark green backing slightly larger than the emblem. The shoulder straps, worn by all ranks, were also in dark green cloth, the sides and rounded ends piped in waffenfarbe or the branch-of-service colour. They were:
infantry white; armor pink; cavalry golden yellow; artillery bright red; mountain troops and jägers light green; armoured infantry grass green; engineers black; signals lemon yellow; motorised reconnaissance copper brown
Schutze with M36 feldbluse carrying a werkzeuchtasche for the MG34 (pic)
A broad black leather belt was worn with the tunic at all times, with a rectangular belt plate. Like the dimple-finish buttons, this was made in dull white metal but usually overpainted field-grey. The normal headgear in the field was the sidecap (Feldmütze) M34. This was of field-grey with a turn-up all round, the upper edge of the turn-up being "scooped" at the front. On the front of the crown was a small version of the breast eagle in white on green. Below this was a roundel or cockade in (from the center outwards) red, white and black, woven on a dark green diamond-shaped backing. Usually an inverted-V (^) of piping in the Waffenfarbe was sewn to the turn-up, enclosing the diamond and butting its upper edges; the lower "legs" of the (^) extended down to the bottom edge of the cap.
|Officer M38 feldmütze with soutache||Enlisted Men M34 feldmütze||Enlisted Men M34 feldmütze with soutache||Stahlhelm M40|
The combat headgear for all ranks was the M1935 steel helmet (Stahlhelm) of the familiar "coal-scuttle" shape, with dark leather fittings and strap. The shape originates from the German sallets of the fifteenth century and was revived during the First World War. Initially painted grey-green, in 1939-40 it was worn with two decals on the sides: on the left, a silver-grey ith folded wings and swastika on a black shield; on the right, a tricolor shield of black above white above red, the stripes sloping from top right to bottom left. From 21 March 1940 the helmet was finished in matt dark grey and the tricolor shield removed with the eagle being ordered removed from 29 August 1943 they made convenient aiming points for snipers! Shades of paint, and presence or absence of decals, varied widely throughout the war. Helmets were camouflaged with paint, mud, hessian camouflage netting and with foliage tucked into a cruciform strap harness hooked over the helmet.Officers field uniforms
Officers began the war wearing the M1936 officers field tunic. It was very similar to that of the enlisted mans, though of much finer quality (often of private purchase). The main difference was a set of turned-back cuffs, which reached to mid-forearm. The collar also bore more elaborate litzen than those of the men. These were in heavy silk thread, and the dark green backing showed through between the two bars. On the center of each of the two bars appeared a short strip of narrow piping in the appropriate waffenfarbe(commonly called "lights"). The same national emblem was worn as enlisted men, above the right pocket. The tunic was worn with flared riding breeches and black riding boots. Officers were required to wear the M1934 belt with "Sam Browne"-type shoulder strap. Though principally ornamental, the belt did serve to support any attached equipment, usually a sidearm (pistol) and map case in either black or reddish brown leather.
Apart from the steel helmet, officers had three types of headgear to choose from; they seem to have been worn indiscriminately in the front lines. The most common was the sidecap, similar in cut to the enlisted mens, but with silver piping round the edge of the crown and along the edge of the cut-out "scoop" in front of the turn-up section.
The officers peaked cap (Schirmmütze) was also widely worn. This was a conventional peaked cap with a black leather peak and leather chinstrap. The crown was field-grey, the band dark green. Waffenfarbe piping followed the crown seam and both top and bottom edges of the band. A white metal straight-winged spread eagle and swastika emblem was pinned to the front of the crown; below it on the band was a white metal oak leaf wreath surrounding a raised, painted metal cockade. For officers, the leather chinstrap was replaced by a double cord in heavy plaited silver cord. There was also the" Old style officers cap "(Offizierfeldmütze alterer Art). It was of similar shape to the peaked cap, but noticeably smaller in outline. This soft and battered-looking cap was quite popular. It had no chinstrap or cords, though officers occasionally added the silver cords. The peak was either of unstiffened black leather or less commonly covered in field-grey cloth. NCOs wore the same sidecap and uniforms as the rank and file. Senior NCOs were also sometimes to be seen wearing the peaked cap (Schirmmütze), but with the standard leather chinstrap. Insignia was the same as on both the officer's and NCO's versions.
From 31 October 1939 regimental commanders and below in combat units of the Field Army were ordered to wear the M1935 other ranks' field tunic, trousers and marching boots with black leather belt. This order was seldom obeyed, however, due to the status German officers placed on the traditional uniform as a sign of authority. Many officers continued to wear the M1933 officers tunic, or modified the M1935 tunic by adding officers roll-back cuffs, collar patches and the sharper-pointed, higher officers collar.Summer uniform
When Germany invaded Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, members of the Wehrmacht wore the uniform described above. However, it proved totally unsuitable for year-round occupation duties, particularly during the hot summer months. Initially, other ranks were allowed to wear the M1933 fatigue uniform, consisting of a cream or off-white cotton tunic and trousers. The tunic had two patch hip-pockets and five matt-grey painted buttons. The uniform was worn with black belt and marching boots. In general, no insignia was worn on this uniform.
Though popular, the white drill uniform was hardly suitable. On 12 February 1940, it was replaced by a more practical version in reed green. However, the uniform (designated M1940) did not come into widespread use until the summer of 1941. Officers and enlisted men often added shoulder-strap and sleeve rank insignia and breast eagle. Its popularity led to the manufacture of the M1942 reed green drill tunic. Though it came into service in 1942, it was not in widespread use until 1943.Protective Clothing
The Army greatcoat was worn throughout the war. At the beginning of hostilities it was of field-grey cloth with a dark green falling collar. It was double-breasted, had two rows of six metal buttons, and reached to the mid-calf at least. There was a cloth half-belt with two buttons in the rear of the waist, and a central rear vent, hidden in an inverted pleat, which reached from hem to waist. (Officers coats had the pleat from collar to hem.) There were two slanted slash pockets just below the waist, with rounded flaps. The cuffs had deep turn-backs. Uniform shoulder-straps and rank chevrons were the only insignia worn. Shortly after the beginning of the war a second pattern appeared, with a field-grey instead of green collar. The two were worn indiscriminately.
|Artillery major with greatcoat.
|Spiess (oberfeldwebel with fuction as company sergeant major) with greatcoat, wintergloves and winterboots. (pic)|
The protective raincoat (kradschutzmantel) worn by motorcyclists and other drivers in open vehicles
During the terrible winter of 1941-42, German soldiers pressed into service any civilian or improvised protective clothing they could lay their hands on. Quilted Russian jackets, fur waistcoats, and fur- or pile- lined ear-flap caps were much prized. Thin cotton snow-camouflage capes and over-suits were improvised from sheets, their details varying with the skill or taste of the maker. A wide variety of fur- and fleece-lined and trimmed coats, and civilian fur clothing were also to be seen. Stories abound of soldiers wearing womens fur coats or fox furs, or with their greatcoats being stuffed with paper or straw.