Military Gear & Army Surplus Gear Blog

German Army Armoured Fighting Vehicle Uniforms 1934-1945

German Army Armoured Fighting Vehicle Uniforms 1934-1945


German rearmament in the Wehrmacht era
included the creation of a new branch called the Mobile Troops. By 1935 the
Mobile Troops included tank, motorized infantry, armored train, anti-tank and
reconnaissance units. The branch’s central component was the Panzer units
equipped with fully tracked turreted armored fighting vehicles. In 1934 a special tank crew uniform was
created consisting of black trousers double-breasted jacket and an oversized
beret covering a padded crash helmet. The jackets were dark to conceal stains and
double-breasted for warmth. These jackets were intended to be used only as working
clothing for armoured crews. The beret initially displayed just a white cockade
insignia. Over time various other insignia was used including the metal
cap badges from the visor cap. A machine embroidered eagle, wreath and cockade
were finally introduced, first in white and later in grey. The branch adopted the
rose pink arm of service color first used in 1919 by motorized transport
troops. The first panzer jackets featured branch piping on the collar and a
special rhomboid shaped collar patch worn by all ranks. The black patch featured a
metal skull, the traditional insignia of German cavalry, piped in rose pink branch
color. Rank was displayed on shoulder boards for officers and on the shoulder
straps for NCOs. Enlisted men wore standard sleeve badges
sewn to a black backing NCO braid was not applied to the collar. The soldier’s
company was identified by a numeral embossed on the shoulder strap button. Unit identification was done by the use of ciphers and numbers on the shoulders,
embroidered in branch colour for enlisted men and junior NCOs and
rendered in white metal for senior NCOs and yellow metal for officers. Regiments
were designated by Arabic numerals while specific unit types were identified by
cyphers. Anti-tank regiments wore a “P” cypher, armoured trains wore an “E” cypher
training regiments wore an “L” cypher. Panzer regiments wore only the numeral
of their unit. A number of changes were made to the black AFV uniform before the
war and the uniform continued to be updated during hostilities. The national
insignia or breast eagle was added by order beginning on 11 November 1935
rendered in white on a black background A second pattern jacket emerged in
1936 with various modifications such as functional lapels and a larger collar
which now had a hook and eye closure. Designed to replace the 1934 model both
styles were seen in use simultaneously. in April 1937 use of lemon-yellow branch
piping was approved for the divisional signals battalions of the Panzer
divisions. From 1938 officers privately purchased black versions of the new
style officer’s cap. Similar to the field grey enlisted men’s field cap it had the
addition of silver piping on the crown seam and front scallop. The black crash
helmet beret proved to be unpopular and during the 1939 Polish campaign crews
were seen wearing the field grey cap despite regulations forbidding the
mixture of field grey and black uniforms. On 27 March 1940 a new field cap in black wool was introduced for all ranks. Insignia was originally white on black
with a mouse grey version quickly replacing it. A roundel of national colors
on a black backing was worn on the flap of the cap within a soutache of branch coloured piping. Officers caps were similar with the addition of silver piping and
insignia. Coloured piping began to disappear in 1940 and was officially deleted in
1942 on new jackets, though as always older patterns were worn throughout the
war. Numbered buttons and shoulder numerals also disappeared for security
reasons. Limited use was made of cloth slip-ons bearing unit identifications, though many crewmen sewed the shoulder straps down to prevent snagging, making them
impossible to use. In 1940 the white breast eagle was replaced with a subdued mouse
grey version. The coloured soutache was discontinued on the field cap in July
1942. Shortly after a black version of the new army field cap with buttoned flaps was introduced, bearing a combination insignia in either trapezoid or T shape. Iin
1943 this cap was replaced by a peaked field cap and the Mobile Troops were
renamed the Armoured Troops. These were the final changes to the successful and
popular black panzer uniform which remained in use to the end of the war in 1945. The German Army continued to expand after the beginning of the war. The
assault artillery branch was created to operate the growing inventory of fully
tracked turretless and sometimes open-topped self-propelled guns. Assault
artillery was tasked with providing fire support for the infantry. The black
uniform worn by tank crews were considered too conspicuous for assault
artillery crews who might have to dismount in forward areas and so a copy
of the second pattern panzer jacket was created for them in field grey. Early
jackets had a dark green collar in the same manner as the regular field blouse. Photographic evidence points to the use of standard litzen on the prototype
jacket. It is also believed that some of the earliest jackets with dark green
collars had rhomboid collar tabs in matching dark green material piped in red with metal skull devices. A small number of jackets with these patches apparently
saw field use. The dark green collar was changed to a matching field grey collar
sometime before the campaign in France. The collar tabs followed suit. Shoulder
straps on the field grey assault gun jacket were the same as on the standard
field blouse. The dark green base gave way to field grey in 1940 with other
changes also occurring such as the deletion of company buttons and
regimental numbers. Also in 1940 the breast eagle changed from white on dark
green to grey. The cap badge was also changed from white to grey at the same
time the breast eagles changed. In January 1941 the crash helmet and beret was
officially discontinued and use of the standard field cap, which many had
already been wearing, was made official. In 1942 the soutache- disappeared from the
field grey field cap. The so called M42 cap was issued soon after. In January 1943
the assault artillery branch was ordered not to wear the skull patches on
the collar. At first they wore plain field grey or dark green rhomboid
patches piped in red. Over time assault gun crews began using the standard
second and third pattern litzen collar patches from the regular field blouse,
stitched to the blank rhomboids. Sometimes the litzen was sewn directly to
the callar or mounted on dark-green backings. Officers had begun wearing the
larger Doppel-litzen badges from the service uniform in 1942 though skull
patches were apparently more popular until they were prohibited in January
1943. In the summer of 1943 the popular peaked field cap was introduced. Later in the
war the breast eagle was rendered in mouse grey on field grey backing. There
were many exceptions to the general rules and some units continued to wear
unit insignia on shoulder straps. The Grossdeutschland units wore their
special unit cyphers and artillery instruction units in Germany reportedly
wore black uniforms instead of field grey. When the Field Uniform 44 tunic was
introduced the triangular breast eagle was also added to the assault gun wrapper.
This was the final official change for the assault artillery uniform. Until 1941
the only branch permitted to wear the field grey assault gun uniform was the
assault artillery. As new branches evolved and a wider range of armoured
vehicles were developed, use of the black and field gray AFV jackets was extended
to other types of units and the system of branch colors and insignia was
expanded to accommodate them. Anti-tank units of the various infantry
and armoured divisions began the war with towed anti-tank guns and thus had
no need for special vehicle clothing. In 1940 the introduction of the first
self-propelled anti-tank gun, the Panzerjäger I, brought with it the
issue of the black panzer uniform. Towed gun crews continued to use the standard
field uniform. Both towed and self-propelled anti-tank units were
distinguished by rose pink branch colour piping and the “P” cypher. The use of
unit numbers quickly faded and the “P” cypher was also not often seen on the
uniform of enlisted men though some NCOs and officers retained them. In 1942 and
1943 the number of self-propelled anti-tank guns multiplied and the field
grey assault gun uniform was issued with insignia in rose pink instead of
red. Initially the collar patches were on dark green backings and shortly after
the patches had branch colour piping added. These too were replaced with
death’s-head collar patches on either field grey or black piped in the rose pink
branch colour. At the same time litzen collar tabs with field grey backings and
pink piping was also adopted. During the war the passive term Panzer Abwehr, or tank defence in English, was replaced with the more aggressive
Panzerjäger which meant tank hunter. Towards the end of the war some
anti-tank units were retitled yet again as tank destroyer units. A confusing
number of insignia variations for anti-tank units was addressed by an
order on 7 May 1944. Towed anti-tank guns were to wear the assault gun jacket
with field grey death’s-head patches. Self-propelled anti-tank and tank
destroyer units were to also wear this insignia combination only if they
belonged to Infantry. Light Infantry or Mountain Troop divisions. Units attached directly to Army or Corps headquarters also wore this combination
with the exception of self-propelled anti-tank and tank destroyer units of
the Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions, who were to wear the black
panzer uniform with black death’s-head patches. This uniform was also worn by any anti-tank unit attached directly to Army or Corps
headquarters and equipped with the Panzerjäger Tiger. Armoured car crews in the divisional
reconnaissance units of tank and motorized infantry divisions wore the
black panzer uniform until 1943. They were distinguished from tank units by the Gothic letter “A”. Armoured car crews in reconnaissance battalions of the
light divisions wore golden yellow branch colour reinforcing their lineage
to the cavalry. On 31 July 1938 all reconnaissance units changed to the golden
yellow branch colour. On 6 July 1939 the branch colour of motorized reconnaissance
units changed once more to copper brown. Since this colour was unique the “A” cypher
was ordered removed though senior NCOs and officers often retained the metal
letter insignia. On 25 March 1943 all mobile and armored troops were
reorganized into the Panzertruppen and newly created armored reconnaissance
battalions changed back to rose pink branch color with “A” cyphers. In mid-1943
the field grey assault gun uniform was also issued to armoured reconnaissance
battalions, intended only for those troops fighting from armoured half
tracks, while the armoured car troops retained the black panzer uniform. The term reconnaissance encompasses a variety of units utilizing different
types of vehicles including motorcycles, bicycles, horses, armoured cars and
half-tracks. It was difficult to maintain uniformity of branch colours and uniform
styles even within a single unit. The list of references in the video
description will point the viewer to more detailed information than is
possible here. In March 1943 halftrack crews in panzergrenadier battalions
were ordered into the field grey assault gun uniform. It should be emphasized that
the majority of panzergrenadier battalions used trucks. The most common
insignia was meadow green piping on shoulder and collar insignia. The tabs
had second or third pattern litzen though there was evidence of limited use
of grass-green piped field grey patches with the death’s-head symbol. On the day
Germany invaded France engineers manning armoured vehicles were issued the black
panzer uniform. A number of full and half tracked vehicles were used
throughout the war for engineering purposes. Since the black piping wouldn’t
show up against the uniform a special black-and-white twist piping was used to
differentiate the branch of service. Beginning in 1941 the field grey
assault gun uniforms started to appear in engineer units. Black piping was worn
on the uniform with either death’s-head or litzen patches on the collar. As
noted earlier signals troops were authorized to wear lemon yellow insignia on the black uniform but additionally it seemed a small number of
signals troops wore the field grey uniform late in the war as well with
other litzen or death’s-head collar patches. Separate from the assault
artillery which was intended for direct fire infantry support, the armoured
artillery was equipped with self-propelled guns – armoured, fully-tracked, turretless
vehicles used for indirect fire in the same manner as the standard towed
artillery batteries. Crews of self-propelled guns generally wore a field grey assault gun uniform beginning in 1942 when the Wespe and Hummel
vehicles were first introduced. Finally, crews of armoured artillery
observation vehicles wore the black uniform with red branch of service
piping. The letter “B” was worn on the shoulder straps over the number of their
parent division. This has not been an exhaustive list of
troop and unit categories that wore either the black panzer uniform or the
field grey assault gun uniform. Others included armoured train crews, halftrack
mounted rocket artillery crews, and even propaganda companies of the armoured
forces. A variety of other clothing was worn by AFV crews including denim
jackets modeled after the wool wrappers, other denim work clothing, tropical
uniforms, winter clothing etc. Their insignia was generally modeled after
that worn on the wool jackets. The wool vehicle jackets were popular not just for the functionality but their sharp appearance and a number of deviations
from the regulations can be noted in period photos including use for evening
wear, parades or even wedding attire. The variety of uniform and insignia
combinations worn by German armoured vehicle crews in the Second World War
was staggering. This video can only begin to suggest the enormity of the subject.
The video description has a guide to recommended reading for those interested
in further study.


Reader Comments

  1. Always curious about these! At some point I even learned about one infantry division that for some reason wore feldgrau panzer wrap and splittertarn helmcovers. Crazy hahah! Or the numerous full camouflage panzer wraps and overalls.

  2. yunno honestly im just glad to be part of a growing channel soon to be known to many. Good luck man. i hope your channel grows to 500K and above!
    Climb to the top!

  3. I've seen Jagdpanther crews in all grey panzer uniforms and Jagdtiger crews with the black panzer wrap and field grey trousers. Very confusing

  4. Fantastic video, as always! The artworks make the evolution of uniforms really clear.

    Would you be willing to make videos for other countries?

  5. Awesome video! At this rate you’ll be one of the best ww2 channels. Love the videos regarding uniform regulations 👍👍

  6. I've always wanted a video about this as I've been told they apparently stopped using the black uniform after 1941 and used a regular feldbouse. Anyway keep the good work up

  7. Can you do german military police uniforms at some point, and compare the uniforms of the Feldgendarmerie, Feldjagertruppes, Heerestreifendienst, Marinekustenpolizei, ect.

  8. Great job with the art, really is well done. But could you possibly do a video on the Allies as well,only if you'd like to but I would appreciate it.

  9. It's really interesting to see just how many uniform variations that the Germans went through during the course of the war. They also seemed positively obsessed with making sure that each individual branch within a given service branch had a different uniform from the other branches. That and they seemed to also obsess over being able to identify what regiment or division an individual soldier belonged to, or at least until mid to late war. But then again, I guess the US did do the same thing with their unit patches sewn on to the uniform shoulders, so I guess it's not that odd.

    Seeing how much the German uniforms changed throughout the war, it makes me wonder if the other major powers in WWII did the same. Take the US, aside from the change in helmet design, did US Army uniforms change much from the beginning of the war to war's end?

  10. Some overzealous American soldiers shot German Tanker POWs out of hand just because they saw the skull symbol and the all black uniform.

  11. I could see wearing the deaths head insignia being dangerous post Normandy as allied soldiers often saw it as an SS symbol and the Allies did not consider the SS as official military forces and often did not grant them the same rights and protection as normal POWs.

  12. I'm always amazed at how complicated German uniforms & insignia were! Sometimes I wonder how they even kept up with all the changes!

  13. Hey HandGreandeDivision, I really like your stuff. I'd like to invite you to a historic community with other Youtubers. Could you add your email to your about page?

  14. I love this channels content but by god the neo-nazi and nazi apologists in the comments are nothing short of disgusting

  15. Wow, and all the movies just have one basic uniform that stands in for everyone. It's interesting how, just like the rest of German infrastructure, politics, government, etc. during that time, there was a mess of different things happening and changing constantly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *