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Wehrmacht Infantry 1943-45

By 1943 the shadows were beginning to close on the Third Reich. Defeats at El Alamein in 1942 and Stalingrad in 1942-43 had shown that the mighty German Army could be beaten. As well, the United States' vast resources and manufacturing capacity were now arrayed against the Third Reich. By the summer of 1944, fighting on three fronts under skies ruled by the Allies, the Wehrmacht was beginning to suffer from serious shortages.

The landser now presented a picture of forced economy and compromise. His uniform was shoddy at best. Leather equipment was increasingly replaced by various ersatz equivalents made of cheaper fabrics. By contrast, his weapons were becoming ever more efficient, and (as the Allies found to their cost) his fighting quality remained high.

Service Dress

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This panzergrenadier has a   M43 tenue, M43 einheitsfeldmützeand a  M39 grenade. His Kar98K Mauser rifle has a Grenadelauncher (gewehrgranatgerät) attached. (pic) (pic2)
Above a  helmet cover in splinter camouflage

As early as 1940 the M1935 uniform had been criticised and modifications ordered, but these took a long time to become general. Usually the original items were worn until they needed replacing, when new items were issued instead. Both economy and the practical requirements of the battlefield played a part in this process. The white-on-green badges worn on the breast and on cloth headgear by enlisted men were ordered to be replaced by the same designs woven in light grey on field-grey. In practice the new backing patches were a dull green. These grey-on-green insignia began to be seen in 1940-41, but the old type were still widely used. In 1942, in order to ease production, the Stahlhelm no longer had it's edge crimped under. However, this necessitated a change in designation. Those helmets with the edges left rough were designated as the M1942 Stahlhelm.

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Although most gear is modell 43 (Gewehr 43, pouch, stickhandgrenade, cap and sumpf "fluffy edge" camo trousers), this feldwebel still wears his M35 jacket. (wartime pic) (pic2)

Heeres Flak feldwebel as gunner with a 88mm Flak 41. The first Flak 41s were not issued to the troops until 1943. (pic1) (pic2) (pic3)

At the beginning of the war, the black marching boots (Marschstiefel) measured 35-39cm from heel to top. However, on 9 november 1939 they were ordered shortened to 32-34cm as an economy measure. In mid-1940, these began to be replaced by ankle-length laced boots (Schnurschuh), worn in conjunction with either short anklets in field-grey or khaki, or captured British canvas anklets in a buff colour. (The anklets were given the rather sardonic nickname of "retreat puttees" or "Timoshenko socks", after a Russian general.) The short boot was initially issued to second-line troops; the front-line soldier retained the high boot. From 1943, however, the ankle boot was issued whenever the high boot needed replacing. By late in the war the latter was generally seen only on officers and rear-echelon troops. Photos show that the anklets/puttees were rarely worn in the front lines; most soldiers either wore the trousers loose over the boots, or tucked into socks.

From 1942 on a modified sidecap began to appear. This had two small buttons on the front of the turn-up. The eagle-and-swastika and cockade were now produced on a single piece of backing. The (^) of Waffenfarbe was not worn on the modified version.

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Schutze (soldier) with M42 sidecap (schiffchen) Schutze with M43 fieldcap (Einheitsfeldmütze)

In June 1943 a new field headgear appeared. The M1943 field cap or Einheitsfeldmütze - variously translated as either "action field cap" or "replacement field cap"- was based on the cap worn by mountain troops, the Bergmütze. It was of "ski-cap" shape, with a slightly longer peak than the mountain cap, and was in field-grey cloth overall. The turn-up had two small buttons at the front (though versions with a single button have been seen), and a combined eagle-and-cockade badge was worn on dull green backing on the front of the crown. Officers wore silver-thread badges, and had silver piping round the crown seam. However, both versions of the sidecap continued to be seen until the end of the war.

Officers' equipment

Changes to officers' equipment were dictated more by experience than any regulation – France 1940 was one thing, but Russia 1942 was quite another! One of the few regulated change came in July 1943, when it was ordered that the M1934 officer's belt was to be dyed black, and new belts be manufactured in black. But most of the changes were dictated by the battlefield. Any front line officer who wished to stay alive quickly made changes that made him look more like his men. This meant the abandonment of the officer's belt for the enlisted man's, adopting the enlisted man's tunic, and wearing the sidecap or M1943 field cap instead of an officer's cap. However, not all officers appear to have made the change.

Protective clothing

The experience of the first Russian winter led to the hasty design and issue of a proper cold-weather field uniform in time for the winter of 1942-43. This was an excellent and popular two-piece reversible suit, very loose and baggy in appearance, with thick blanket inter-lining. The suit appeared in two basic patterns; the first was in "mouse grey" on one side and white on the other, the second was in camouflage pattern and white. This suit was completely reversible (although non-reversable parka's where also produced), all fittings and pocket openings being duplicated. The jacket buttoned down the right side of the chest with six buttons, and had two slanted pockets below the waist with buttoned flaps rounded at the corners. There was an attached hood, and internal drawstrings pulled the waist, hem, hood and cuffs tight.

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Winter reversable parka with the mouse grey site exposed. The handgrenate is carried in the winter feltboots as was often done. He has an MP40 as main weapon and the pouches. (war-time picture)

The trousers were of the same material, with drawstring bottoms; they could be worn inside or outside the boots, and were rather shorter in the leg than conventional trousers. The jacket had a button on both front and rear sleeve seams half way down the upper arm, for the attachment of different-coloured cloth armbands as an identification measure. No other insignia were worn on the suit's white side.

Issue winter caps were to be seen from 1943 onwards. These were of field-grey cloth with fur or pile on the inside of neck, ear and forehead flaps. The flaps could be laced up over the top of the cap when not in use. The eagle and swastika, and sometimes the cockade, were often sewn to the fur side of the front flap in the form of cap or breast insignia, and metal cap badges were sometimes pinned here by NCOs and officers. Large felt and leather winter boots were also issued from 1942.

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