Forum: Uniforms/Field Gear
Topic: German Impression:  A How to for Beginners
started by: Aldrich

Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 01 2013,00:06
Achtung!  Are you ready to fight off the Russian hordes, brave freezing winters, and claim final victory for the fatherland?  Then perhaps a German impression is for you!

German impressions are, perhaps, one of the most difficult and confusing impressions to put together.  The massive variety of German gear used throughout the war means there are many combinations for one to choose from.  While the correct combination of said gear will give you the perfect German look, a wrong combination can make you stand out like a sore thumb.  Given the price of German items, it is good to get things right the first time!  What follows is in no way an exhaustive report on German gear, but rather a basic guide for beginners.  It revolves around the typical combat load seen on German troops in WWII on the Russian front.   In this case, since we portray a Wehrmacht Heer or army unit, the uniform will be that of a 3rd Panzergrenadier soldier.  Each category is divided into two categories:  Schütze (basic impression)  and Grenadier (main impression).


The massive losses the German army sustained in the invasion of Russia meant that they were forced to quickly supplement their forces with replacements.  The German Schütze, while not as well trained as the Veteran forces that had invaded France and Poland, still provided a useful service to fill the growing gaps in the German lines.  
 The uniform here is the field grey wool tunic and pants that were the mainstay of the German army in WWII.  This particular tunic is the m42.  (German uniforms are labeled according to the year they start to be widely seen in photos:  m42 means it starts appearing from 1942 and onwards.  Still, it was common to see troops wearing previous versions of tunics throughout the war.)  The German tunics of WWII range from the M36 to the M44.  However, it is not recommended that one buy the m44 due to its very limited use in the very last parts of the war.  The pants here are m36, also wool.  The tunic is Gavin Militaria and can be found for 80 dollars.  Gavin Militaria also has wool pants for 55 dollars.  Another good site to look on is Hessen Antique.  Uniform pieces there tend to sell for around 90 dollars.  However, shipping is much faster and they also offer an insignia sewing service.  Since wool can be itchy, it is recommended you get a service shirt to wear under your uniform.  These can be found for around 40 dollars online.  Plain grey or green button downs can be used as well as a temporary substitute.  These must have no chest pockets or dual pockets with flaps.  Avoid patterns or anything with a sheen.  Mixing uniforms (m42 tunic with m36 pants) and shades of fabric is fine.  Soldiers were issued whatever was on the shelves.

Gear:  Basic gear can be found in the form of a belt with a Heer (army)  buckle.  Appropriate pouches (in this case K98 rifle pouches)  and Y straps.  Belts can also be held up with belt hooks instead of the Y straps.  Prices range for gear depending on the quality or what you are looking for.  Usually they can be found for around 40 dollars a piece.  Good places to look are IMA USA, Hessen Antique, and At the Front.  Tropical (cotton webbing)  Y straps are also acceptable but leather is recommended.  

Footwear:  German footwear can be tricky.  The type depicted here are lowboots.  Reproduction boots can be found for around 150 dollars, but it is not recommended that you buy these low cost ones due to the quality.  East German postwar lowboots (pictured above) and jackboots can be found for around $30-90 and are a great stand in for jackboots and are highly reccomended.  The only difference from the originals being the sole.  

Headwear:  Headwear comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The best choice would be a German helmet.  These come in a variety of models, all of which are fine.  Avoid incorrectly labeled Spanish helmets with the tab/holes on the forehead!  Good reproductions can be had for around 80 dollars from IMA USA, Kelley's Militaria, or Hessen Antique.  Be careful of other offerings as they may be lacking in quality.  The best choice would be to get an original refurbished helmet for 200 dollars.  Though expensive, they are far better than any reproduction and their value will only go up in time!  Soft caps come in two forms, the overseas cap and the baseball cap like m43.  However, there is little evidence troops used the overseas cap in combat.  The m43 comes in three forms, wool (most common and highly recommended)  HBT (summer only)  and Tropical/DAK (Italy/southern Russia summer only).  Camouflage ones also exist, but were private purchase by soldiers and thus not common in the army. Therefore they are ok but not recommended.  Camouflage items must be the "splinter A" pattern.  

A Few Grey Areas: German items may be listed as "feldgrau" or field-grey.  However, this can be far from grey.  The only true grey German item was their mouse-grey parka.  Otherwise German wool was died using a combination of grey, green, and brown dies.  This created a wide variety of possible colors. Do not worry if your tunic arrives and is actually green.  (the depicted uniform is actually green despite the photo.)  Also, the more shades of field grey the better.  Since there was a wide variety of shades, it wasn't uncommon to see that a soldiers pants did not match his tunic.  If you buy something from a different supplier and it doesn't match what you have perfectly, that's good!

Insignia:  Appropriate insignia for the 3rd Panzergrenadier are collar tabs with the grenadier green piping, and the BeVo Wehrmacht or army style chest eagle sewn over the right hand chest pocket.  Tutorials for sewing on these items can be found online. Shoulder boards must have the white piping, or green Panzergrenadier piping.  Avoid the "Jager green" as this is for light troops.

Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 01 2013,12:16
Grenadier:  1942-45

The panzer grenadiers were the cutting edge of the WWII German infantry forces.  Equipped with armored vehicles, they were able to keep up with the rapid pace of the Panzer divisions and provide much needed infantry support.  On their own, they were able to use their extensive training to quickly respond to any Russian threat.  

Beat the Heat:  Wool can be very warm in the summer and Russian summers were hot!  The German Panzergrenadier, therefore, had few options to help keep cool in the summer months.  Troops with just wool would simply take off their wool tunic and go with just the service shirt.  After doing this wear all your gear like one normally would.  This was commonly seen during the hot summer months in Russia.  Additionally, once you buy a wool uniform, you can invest in a HBT uniform. (pictured above)  While the same pattern as the wool, these are made of a much lighter material and are good for keeping cool.  Another option can be a reed green drillich drill uniform.  These are like HBT, and were worn before the HBT uniforms for work duties like digging trenches. Troops wearing these actually are what inspired the Germans to make uniforms out of HBT material.  Tropical items, such as the pants pictured above, are good for a southern Russia look.

Gear:  The main add on here is in the gear.  These items, while not necessary for a base line impression, can be found to be very useful in the field.  The zeltbahn, or camouflage shelter quarter, can act as both a rain poncho or a great piece of camouflage.   They must be the army splinter A pattern.  These can be found for around 70 dollars.  Another option is the bread bag (lower right).  These are useful for storing food or as a drop bag.  Reproductions of these can be found for around 30 dollars.  The gas mask can, shown on the left,  is useful for storing things as well.  Reproductions can be had for around 80 dollars but can be found on sale for less.  It is also recommended that one get a real gas mask canister.  These are of a better quality than the reproductions and are made with a thicker steel that will not dent or cave in, prices may vary.  Additional items not shown are the messtin and canteen.  These are attached to the two leather straps and rings on the breadbag.  Other items can be either the A frame or a rucksack.  Both are good for carrying items onto the field.  Once again, good places to look are IMA USA, Hessen Antique, and At the Front.

boots  When leather became scarce during the mid to late war period, the Germans adopted the lowboot over the jackboot.  These were worn with ankle gaiters called gamaschen.  While reproduction lowboots can be found for 130 dollars, their quality is often very suspect.  Good quality reproductions can be found from HG Berger, Civil War Boots, and SM Wholesale, but are very expensive.  Therefore, plain as can be leather boots can be used as stand in.  Such boots are used above.  Look up what the German Low Boot looked like as a reference.  While many vendors sell gamaschen, the best looking/quality come from At The Front. (pictured above) Other vendors include Hessen Antique, and Man The Line.  Postwar ones can also be converted to make convincing WWII gaiters.

Haircut:  The German haircut was short, like a buzz cut on the sides, while being long on top and combed back.  The modern term for this is a "undercut".  Plenty of advice can be found on reenacting websites on how to get this look.  There should be no facial hair outside mustaches for German soldiers.  Even then, mustaches were  unpopular among the troops.  A five o'clock shadow is acceptable to create a grizzled combat look.

Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 02 2013,13:53

Unfortunately for the German soldiers, the German high command drastically underestimated the harsh capabilities of a Russian winter.  While German troops were initially lacking in proper winter clothing, they soon developed their own to cope with the freezing temperatures.  

Grenadier:  The soldier in the image above is wearing the greatcoat commonly given to troops in WWII.  These were the original winter coats issued to German troops, and while the German army developed a series of winter parkas, the greatcoat remained far more common even until the end of the war.   Unlike the Russian greatcoats, these leaked a tremendous amount of heat and were ill suited for the freezing winters in Russia.  Greatcoats come in four forms: m36, m40, m42, and the "wachmantel".  It is highly recommended that one chose the m40/42 model, though each is acceptable.  

Parkas  To cope with the freezing Russian winters, the Germans developed a series of winter parkas.  The parkas come in two forms, the mouse grey version, which was the first version issued in large quantities, and a splinter A camouflage variation that was issued in the winter of 1944.   Since the grey parkas were issued longer and were much more common, they are recommended over the camouflage ones.  However, both are acceptable at an event.   Both are reversible to white on the other side.  These can be found for around 130-150 dollars.  Parka pants and gloves are also available, however, these are optional.  (Since parka pants may prove too warm with a parka top, one can achieve the look of parka pants by using thin white snowcamo pants, winterwhite camo sets can be found as surplus for around 20 dollars. Avoid ones with camo print)

Headwear: Headwear is the same as in the summer only with a few variations.  One such variation is the "toque"  or head scarf.  This is a grey tube of fabric worn around the neck and tucked under the helmet leaving the face exposed.  Otherwise, the standard wool caps should keep you plenty warm.  Helmets can either be painted white, or covered with a white cloth cover.  However, this is not necessary.  For painting a helmet white, use water soluble paint, or use chalk.  To get a battle worn look, use water soluble paint, and then rub off the paint on top of the helmet.  Use period pictures for reference.  

Gear: Gear is the same as it was in the summer.  Use grey to green finger gloves or reproduction gloves, as well as a grey to olive drab scarf or reproduction scarf.

Footwear:  Footwear is mostly the same as the summer.  However, East German or reproduction winter jackboots are acceptable as well.  These can be found for around 30 dollars (East German).

Schutze:  A good winter impression can be had for any beginner on a budget.  The best way to do this is to go with a pair of surplus white snowcamo.  These can be found for around 20 dollars.  Stick to plain white camo sets and avoid anything with camo print.

Tips:  Get white items dirty!  Crawling around in the trenches caused all white items to become brown quickly.  Thick parkas meant they could not be easily washed and German winter uniforms were notorious for turning brown.  Soldiers were known to even use vehicle paint to return them to white.  So get down and dirty with your items!  Have some fun.

Posted by Rekkon on Aug. 02 2013,14:31
A couple notes:

In this case, since we portray a Wehrmacht or army unit, the uniform will be that of a 3rd Panzergrenadier.

This should be "Heer or army unit."  Wehrmacht was the entire armed forces.

Tropical Y straps are also acceptable but leather are recommended.

Since this is intended as a beginner's guide, I would change this to:
"Tropical (cotton webbing) Y-straps are also acceptable, but leather is recommended."

Shoulder boards must have the white piping.

I believe green or white is acceptable for us.  I seem to recall that the 3rd began as an infantry unit (hence white), but those that were assigned after we became "armored" got green.

The modern term for this is a "undercut".

I have also seen it called "high and tight."

Posted by Ersatzjack on Aug. 02 2013,18:47
White piping was special for 3rd Pz Grenadier.  Though other Pz Gren units went to the Light Green for motorized, you would not be wrong to continue to wear white as we had special dispensation I believe just like we were allowed to wear the pewter kreuz on the cap.

Right about Heer vs Wehrmacht terms.

"High and tight" is a term used to describe the modern US haircut style and I think Matt's term "undercut" is even more contemporary describing a new style popular in the Twin Cities among the college set that parallels the German haircut style more closely.  All I know for sure is girls like it.  :)

I think though that your primer is very useful for a new interested player.  You need a weapon.  You should have it for McCoy and then I expect you will redo all the pictures.   :p

Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 03 2013,00:19
Thanks for the input!  You are right on the Wehrmacht vs Heer, wrong term.   :p   While high and tight haircuts are very similar to the German style, they are slightly different.  The hair on top is too short, and sits higher than the WWII style.  Undercut is a 1930's style and term that usually only older barbers know.  However, as this is becoming a popular style,  barbers are now more familiar with the term.  Or they will have a book with directions on how to cut the style.  Both styles are more or less acceptable.  I would just say that if you get a high and tight, try to keep the top long enough to comb back.  Otherwise it should be fine.  

Anyone with any more helpful information on impressions,  please feel free to post to this thread!  Photos of you in your kit are welcome!  If you do post a photo, please give a brief description of what you are trying to depict and the items you are wearing.

Posted by wellnitz on Aug. 04 2013,00:43
Helmet Reference.

M-40, which is a collectors terminology and not an original designation, by the way.

For those who want to portray early war to late war I would recommend the M40 model. I refurbished this one myself...
Grey with a textured finish. Single decal.

Mid to late war: M42.
I added sand to my custom blended grey paint and used a regular paint brush. Then I spray-painted on the tan-yellow paint. Note the scratched off decal impression on the left side...

Posted by wellnitz on Aug. 04 2013,16:31
So here is the basic Drillichanzug, or Drilljacke. This was the first cotton tunic produced and was initially designed as a work jacket but early in the war, during hot summer months, it was worn in combat. The first models were off-white but in 1940 they started to dye them green.
They did not come with shoulder boards but many soldiers added them and some even added the breast eagle.
In 1942 they were replaced with the HBT four pocket tunic fashioned after the wool fieldbluse.


Inside view, with waist draw string and white cotton internal pockets.

Posted by wellnitz on Aug. 04 2013,23:57
The German Wool "Trench coat" They are designed from the old Imperial Prussian over coats from the 19th Century. They were obsolete by WWII, but were still issued and in various models up to the final years of the war.

This Particular model is the M36, designated by collectors by the first year of production, 1936. It features a dark bottle green collar, with standard two rows of buttons.
This example features original over coat buttons which were larger than the standard wool tunic buttons. Even though this was an early design, its use was seen up to the end of WWII.

Front view:

Back view:

Upturned collar with strap and buttons:

Posted by wellnitz on Aug. 09 2013,12:38
Since we portray the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a Mediterranean impression. The Division saw action in Italy during the invasion by Allied forces. 1943 to 1944


This impression represents a basic kit worn by the German Heer in Southern Russia, Kuban, Greece, Italy, and the Balkans.  

Basic headgear:
Soft caps: Wool side cap, wool field cap, tropical field cap, or HBT.
( No camo hats for this Division)

Helmets: M35,M40,M42.

Basic Tunic: Tropical M40 tunic with standard service shirt. The tunic can be a Tropical version, HBT, or the Drillichjacke.

Basic Trousers: HBT in reed green, Tropical tan version, and wool trousers. Luftwaffe and Italian camo versions for the Italian front only.

Basic Footwear: Jack boots and low boots (with or without gamaschen).

Basic Field gear: This can be a mixture of leather and cotton/canvas belt straps, Y-straps, etc.  The metal components such as the mess kit, gas mask canister, and bayonet sheath can be painted standard Field gray or Tan paint.

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