German Uniforms During the Second Great War

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Early War Rank Insignias
Helmets' Insignias
The German States' War Crosses

Early War Uniform

The uniform worn at the beginning of the Second Great War was an evolution of the one worn during the first. The basic colour was still a greenish-grey (refered to as "Felgrau") with collar & shoulder straps made of a darker, thicker fabric. Four pockets had been added to go with the same trend in other european armies.

States' Distinctions

As part of an effort to show that the empire was a collection of sovereign states and not a Prussian hegemony, States distinction were introduced to the field uniform (their ceremonial uniforms being by and large their pre-war version). State affiliation could be seen on 3 items:

  • Helmet: the right side bore the states' "War Cross" (identical to their air force emblems)
  • Rank Insigias: non-officers bore either their state's crown or coat-of-arms on their colars. Officers' cords had at regular interval chevrons in their state's livery colours.
  • Cuffs: they bore the name of the state on a band that went all around the sleeves. Some special units however (such as expeditionary corps) bore a specific title.

As a side note, it should be understood that these distinctions did not equate to true autonomy and were created mainly for propaganda reasons. This is why some "state armies" (such as Oldenburg) were afforded staff and media exposure disproportionate to their size: The Prussian-backed "Oldenburg State Army" numbered roughly 300 men during the entire war (although never more than a 100 at any given time).

Apart from Prussia, Saxony and Hesse, one state's army which enjoyed a large measure of autonomy was Bavaria. Its army had been created around a group of anti-communists officers who had gone into exile after the declaration of the republic. After the Prussian invasion, they returned and recruited amongst deserters, disgruntled prisoners of war and some freed criminals. To give the impression of a grassroot movement, the imperial general-staff allowed this "Bavarian Liberation Army" to readopt some pre-republican symbols. The army however spent the entire war inside Bavaria performing policing and anti-partisans duties.

Other states were allowed armies with even more limited duties. The German sponsored "Jervaine State Army" for example was composed of only a few dozen men who spent the war as a ceremonial guard for the Prussian apointed regent's residence.

Late War Uniform

Late War Rank Insignias

With the war dragging on and no end in sight, the german military forces were forced to adopt various austerity measures. In terms of uniform, this meant a simplification of the cut and decorations:

  • Superfluous buttons were removed
  • the jacket's skirt was shortened
  • the collar & the shoulder straps were now made of the same fabric as the rest of the uniform.
  • units' distinction (such as lanyards) were to be worn only off the battlefield.

It was also decided to simplify the rank insignias so that one single insignia would be used by all states. To that end, all states' heraldic distinctions were replaced by imperial ones. Only the States' Honour Guards were allowed to keep their traditional insignias, and this only when on ceremonial duties.

After the simplification was completed, the only state's distinction seen on the battlefield were the warcrosses on the helmet.