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Uniforms and Insignia

Any historical sketch of the uniforms of the armies of Germany previous to the formation of the Empire in 1870 would be exceedingly complex. Each king and ruler of petty states maintained his own army, uniforming and equipping it according to his own or his government's ideas. The army of Prussia, under Frederick the Great, waź brought to a splendid standard of efficiency, and its styles of uniforms soon after began to show themselves in the armies of the smaller German states.

With the unity of Germany in 1871 the army was reorganized as an Imperial one and the Prussian uniform was adopted throughout the Empire except in Bavaria, where a lighter blue was used instead of the dark blue worn by the army in general. By the time of the Great War German uniforms may be described as follows: Infantry - blue tunics, black trousers; facings according to regiments, scarlet, white, or light blue. Black leather helmets with metal spikes. Rifle regiments wear dark green instead of blue, and leather shakos. Cuirassiers - tunics of white. Dragoons and uhlans - blue, the former wearing helmets of metal, the two latter of leather. The hussars' tunics are of various colors according to regiments - their headdress busbies of brown fur. Artillery and engineers wear uniforms of. blue throughout, with trimmings of black and scarlet.

Experiments with a field-service uniform were begun immediately after England's war with South Africa, but it was not until 1908 that a definite uniform was decided upon. The army had since then been gradually equipped with these: field uniforms of brownish gray, the cut and color of trimmings as prescribed for the ordinary uniforms retained, as well as the helmet, busbies, and shakos. These are concealed for service by a covering of the same color as the uniform. Military critics of the Great War agreed that it was the most practical of the uniforms in the field as far as adaptability for concealment was concerned, though the tight-fitting tunics and heavy helmets were unsuited for modern warfare.

The new German field uniform had a preeminently German appearance and is very popular. The pocket was set diagonally in the skirt of the blouse or tunic and is placed inside, so that even if bulging full the appearance was good. The collar was a falling collar which can be turned up for warmth. The color is of field-gray and field-green, so as to promote invisibility. The American system of insignia was unknown to the Germans, who secured the differentiation by the color of the buttons, style of caps, color of the facings and the pipings, etc. The colored pipings and facings do not destroy the invisibility, as might be surmised. On the contrary, the colors retained adapt themselves to the terrain where the vegetation is never of an entirely uniform color. Cap bands are often gray colored. Staff officers wear a carmine band to cap and broad carmine trouser stripe.

  • Infantry. The uniform of the infantry is as given above, with an edging according to corps, the cap band is red or gray colored.
  • Jager and Schatzen (Rifles). These troops are dressed in gray green, with a green strap edging, and wear a shako instead of a helmet. The cap band is red or gray covered.
  • Cavalry. Stand-up collars are worn. Lancers (Uhlans) and Hussars wear special cut tunics and special headdress. The edging of shoulder-strap varies in color, but the dragoons have a single and the cuirassiers a double edging. The cap bands are of various colors.
  • Field Artillery. The field artillery wears a black piping to the collar; red grenade on shoulder-strap, brass buttons (white metal in guard corps), and a black cap band.
  • Engineers. The engineers wear a black piping to the collar, no grenade; white metal buttons and a cap band of black.
  • Train. For the train the edging to the collar and tunic is of blue. In the supply department it is crimson. The cap band is of blue.
  • Medical. The medical corps wears a red edging to a blue collar patch and a cap band of black.
  • Guard regiments wear two four-inch tabs of braid on either side of the collar and white buttons. The shank of sidearm tassel shows the number of battalion. On the top and bottom the number of the Company: 1, white; 2, red; 3, yellow; 4, blue; 5, green. Thus, red shank and yellow remainder signifies the 2d battalion, 3d company.
  • Landwehr. The Landwehr wear a cross on the headdress; caps are now mostly all gray.

    The cockade on the soft front of cap is of red, white, and black, while the cockade on the cap band shows the state. Thus, Prussia is black and white; Bavaria, blue and white; Saxony, green and white; Wurttem- berg, red and black; Hesse, red and white; Mecklenburg, red, yellow, and blue, etc.

    Insignia of rank of commissioned officers is on the shoulder-strap.

    • Field Marshal General. Shoulder-strap of twisted gold and silver cord, with two crossed batons.
    • General. Shoulder-strap of twisted gold and silver cord with two stars.
    • Lieutenant General in Command of a Division. Shoulder-strap of twisted gold and silver cord with one star.
    • Major General. Shoulder-strap of twisted gold and silver cord without star.
    • Lieutenant Colonel. Shoulder-strap of twisted silver cord with one star.
    • Major. Shoulder-strap of twisted silver cord.
    • Captain. Flat shoulder-strap of straight silver cord with two stars.
    • Lieutenant. Flat shoulder-strap of straight silver cord with one star.
    • Second Lieutenant. Flat shoulder-strap of straight silver cord.
    • Sergeant Major. Gold or silver stripe on collar, double stripes on sleeves, officers' sword cord.
    • Sergeant. Gold or silver stripe on collar, two stripes on sleeves, large button on collar.
    • Noncommissioned Officer. Gold or silver stripe on collar and sleeve.
    • First Soldier. Small button on collar.

    With a few exceptions all armies are dressed in gray (feldgrau), a cap or covered helmet, a tunic, a greatcoat, trousers or pants, long boots (worn over or under trousers) and shoulder-straps with regimental number or monogram edged with various colors or state colors (one-year volunteers). The greatcoats are sometimes of dark blue.

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    Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:37 ZULU