The uniforms of the Germany Army in World War One from 1914 to 1918.
Uniforms of the infantry 1914/15 and 1916-18, mountain troops and Jaegers, Bavarian soldiers, Landsturm and cavalry, the general staff.
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At the outbreak of World War One in August 1914, the German Army was uniformly dressed in field-gray uniforms, which had been introduced in Prussia by the ‘All Highest’ cabinet orders of 23 February and 18 March 1910.
The color of the first field gray was much lighter, and not as green, as that which became typical during the war. Jaeger (including mounted Jägers) and Rifles (Schützen) received gray-green uniforms. On all uniforms buttons and metal fittings were dull brass or in white (silvered) metal.
In 1915 a simplified version of the M.191O uniform began to be issued. The cut remained basically the same, as did the collar and shoulder straps, but the distinctive cuffs were replaced by plain turn back ones, and the piping on the back pocket flaps was discontinued.
The ‘All Highest’ cabinet order of 21 September 1915 introduced a completely new field uniform consisting of a plain blouse (Bluse), field-gray greatcoat without collar patches, and stone-gray (field gray for Bavarian troops) trousers. Distinctions were again restricted to the collar (and sometimes shoulder straps), and the front buttons were replaced by a fly-front. Buttons were made of matt colored metals, or were painted field gray. The same order also abolished the colored uniforms (which were still being worn with certain orders of dress and by Landsturm and Landwehr personnel), and introduced a field-gray full-dress for wear after the war. Although the opportunity did not arise, considerable numbers of these uniforms were manufactured and stored to be later worn by some officers and Freikorps personnel.
On the M.1910 uniform collar, Litzen, etc. were basically the same as on the peace-time uniform. General officers had their traditional gold embroidery on red collar patches, while non-regimental (staff) officers wore plain collar patches in the color of their peace-time tunic collar.
On the M.1915 uniform collar patches underwent a number of changes. For officers Litzen were embroidered in dull silver or gold (also for generals) on field-gray collar patches. Staff officers now received Litzen of various patterns. The Litzen for other ranks were shortened. Officers in regiments who had previously worn silver Litzen, now received shorter ones, while those in regiments with gold Litzen, had silver Litzen trimmed with gold cord. Officers in regiments which previously had other patterns of collar embroidery, now received an embroidered version of the Litzen.
With the introduction of the M.1915 uniform the principal means of distinguishing a soldier’s unit remained the shoulder straps which underwent certain changes.
The battalion and company (battery or squadron, etc.) were identified by the combination of colors on the side-arm knot, and the company number also appeared on the shoulder strap buttons.
Each German State had its own colors which appeared primarily on the circular cockade worn below the Reich cockade on the front of the peaked and field cap, and on the left side of the helmet.
Those units entitled to wear the Jaeger shako (except Saxony), hussar col back, and lancer czapka, wore an oval cockade on the front of the head-dress.
State colors were also incorporated in the braid used on some officers’ shoulder straps, rank distinction lace on the greatcoat collar patches,
re-enlistment lace, sword knots, trumpet cords, and were painted on some drum hoops. Also, the State coat of arms appeared on the helmet and shako plates, buttons, buckles, and on some sword hilts.
On active service the head-dress was covered with a gray cover, on the front of which were sometimes printed or applied, the following badges, letters and numerals.
Line infantry regiments: Arabic numerals.
Reserve infantry regiments: ‘R’ and Arabic numerals.
Landwehr infantry regiments: ‘L’ and Arabic numerals.
Landsturm: Iron Cross
These badges which were not worn by Guards units, were at first in red, but in August 1914 they were changed to green, before being abolished completely by ‘All Highest Cabinet’ Order of 27 October 1916.
During the first-half of the war, metal fittings on the helmets began to be manufactured in cheaper metals and painted gray. Then the shell of the helmet began to be made of metal, and more commonly, of blocked felt. At the front the spike of ball fitting was often removed.
In place of the distinctive head-dress officers and senior n.c.o.s. (Portepee-Unteroffiziere) wore a peaked cap, with band and piping in arm or regimental colors, and at first black, and then field-gray leather peak. The peaked cap could also be worn by other ranks when off-duty, otherwise they wore the round peak less field cap. On active service the brightly colored cap band was covered by a strip of gray tape to make it less conspicuous. Landsturm’s personnel wore a peaked cap made from black oil cloth with silver or brass Landwehr Cross on the front above the State cockade’.
Just prior to the Battle of Verdun in the summer of 1916 German troops began to receive the new steel helmet (225) which was designed to be worn with an additional front reinforcing plate by look-outs only. It was often worn with a sacking cover or painted with an angular camouflage pattern. In 1918 a new version of the helmet designed for wear by telephonists began to be issued in limited quantities. After the war it was issued to mounted troops.
Rank buttons were at first copper or white metal, but were then painted field gray. From 1915 onward lace was manufactured in a dull gray. Later in the war the lace on the collar was often reduced to ‘angles’ on the points of the collar only. On the M.1915 greatcoat collar patches were not worn, but those n.c.o.s entitled to do so continued to wear the rank distinction lace on the collar. In Mecklenburg senior n.c.o.s had gold or silver rank distinction lace. On collar patches bearing guard Litzen, the lace was placed horizontally above and below the Litzen.
Generals and Field marshals were also entitled to wear the uniform of the regiments of which they were colonel-in-chief. On regimental uniform the shoulder straps were the same but on a base in the regimental color, and with the regimental cipher or number.
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References and literature
Army Uniforms of World War I (Andrew Mollo, Pierre Turner)
World War I Infantry in Colour Photographs (Laurent Mirouze)
The Germany Army 1914-18 (D.S.V. Fosten, R.J. Marrion)