Officer's and Specialist Equipment
A wide range of specialized equipment was issued to selected individuals because of their duty requirements, the environment they operated in, or their transportation.
Officer and NCO's equipment
Troop leaders – both NCOs and officers – required several items designed to
accommodate their duties. Officers were required to purchase many of these items, for which a small allowance was given.
At the start of the war,
officers were required to
wear the M1934 belt with
shoulder strap with all
classes of uniform. It was
composed of a 50mm wide
waist belt (55mm versions
were also seen) and a "Sam
Browne" -type shoulder
strap. The buckle was an
open-faced frame and prong
style made of matt
aluminum. The two-piece
adjustable shoulder strap
was 25mm wide and fitted
with a carbine hook on both
ends; these attached to two stud-secured belt loops with "D" rings positioned on the belt at the left front and the right rear, with the strap running over the right shoulder. Though principally ornamental, it did serve to support any equipment, usually a sidearm. The belt and shoulder strap were a light reddish brown, with a thin line or groove pressed round the edge of the belt and shoulder strap on most versions. Armored officers were ordered to wear a black version with the black Panzer uniform, but most retained the brown version.
In September 1939 it was forbidden for regimental field commanders and below (usually from the rank of Oberst down) to wear the shoulder strap, in an effort to
prevent them from being identified at a distance; in November 1939 it was forbidden for any officer to wear it. Furthermore, it was directed that officers from the rank of Hauptmann and above were to wear the standard enlisted men's black belt and buckle,
usually with either the support straps for cartridge pouches, or cavalry supports (see below). The "cavalry" support straps were straight, while the "support straps for cartridges" were wider at the shoulders and tapered to the same width as the cavalry
straps. Infantry Leutnants were authorised to wear the standard enlisted man's belt and
support straps (see Basic Equipment). This arrangement was seldom worn, however,
because of the status German officers placed on the traditional brown belt as a sign of
In May 1943 the width of the officers' belt was reduced to 45mm, and in July 1943, it
was ordered that all brown belts be dyed black, and all new ones be manufactured in
black. The brown belt, however, continued to be seen throughout the war.
A tropical version of the officers' belt saw limited issue in North Africa. It consisted
of a reed green or tan waist belt fitted with an olive-green-painted circular officer's
parade belt buckle. However, most officers in North Africa continued to wear their
Report and map cases The M1935 report/map case (Meldekartentasche 35, usually called a map or dispatch
case by collectors) was widely issued to officers and senior NCOs, artillery observers,
selected signalmen, military police, messengers and others. Made of smooth or
pebbled black or brown leather, there were a number of variants (including those
made in the officer's reddish brown color). They were occasionally painted field grey
or green (or sand color in the desert), and late war versions were made of artificial
The case commonly consisted of a flat case closed by a flap; under the flap were
seven pencil pockets alongside one or two ruler pockets. The case
was divided inside into two compartments by a leather divider.
Most has a flap covering the upper third to half of the case, though
there were some that covered the entire case. The flap was secured
either by a strap and buckle, or a strap and inverted "U" and slotted
metal plate fastener. On the upper back were two leather belt loops,
and most had a detachable or fixed adjustable shoulder strap; they
could either be attached directly to the belt, or slung over the
shoulder. In both cases, the case was worn on the left side or front. A map protection cover, composed of two clear celluloid panels joined by a leather
frame, was included in which to place a folded map. Besided issue cases, similar
commercially-made cases were purchased privately by officers. Captured map cases
were also used, and considered something of a status symbol.
A report pouch (Meldetasche) was carried by the reporting NCO
(colloquially, Der Spiess, equivalent to a Regimental Sergeant-Major or US First Sergeant). It was a small black leather case
secured by a snap-closed flap. In it were stored blank unit daily
strength reports, unit rosters, and a pen or pencil. It had no belt
attachments, and was traditionally tucked in between the front of
the tunic between the secont and third buttons.
Service binoculars (Doppelfernrohr-also called Dienstglas or Doppelglas) were
issued to officers, some NCOs, artillery observers, aircraft spotters, etc. The standard
issue binoculars were 6x30 (6 power, 30 degree field of vision), and made by a
number of different well-known optics manufacturers and in a number of variations.
Early versions had the metal parts lacquered black, the bodies being covered with thin
black artificial leather or synthetic rubber. From 1943 they were also painted dark
yellow without any form of body covering. A thin black real or artificial leather
carrying strap was also attached. To protect the eyepieces, an oval protector of black
leather, synthetic rubber or Bakelite was provided; this attached to the carrying strap
by small loops. A black leather button hanger was also provided; this fastned around
the rear of the connecting arm of the binoculars and fastened to an upper tunic button.
The eyepiece protector and button flap were used when the binoculars were carried
around the neck.
The binocular container (Doppelfernrohr Behalter) was of the ususal kidney-shaped
cross-section and made of either real or artificial leather, black or light tan Press-Stoff
or black Bakelite. An adjustable, detachable black leather carrying strap was attached
to "D" rings on the container's sides, one narrow or two wide belt loops were fixed to
the back surface.
Signal pouch and flare pistol
Officers and NCOs sometimes carried the small version of the
signal cartridge pouch (Signalpatronentasche). The pouch was made of leather (late-war versions in Press-Stoff), and held 12 rounds in two rows of loops; it closed with two straps and studs
and had a detachable carrying strap, and was additionally fitted with two belt loops.
Flare pistols were available in short-barreled and long-barreled versions, both of
which had a black leather holster similar to those issued for pistols (see below.)
Mounted troops Mounted troops included cavalry, mounted rifles, horse-mounted artillery, cavalry
reconnaissance units and some mounted officers (though this practice was eliminated
early in the war).
German equipment for troop service horses
(Ausrustung des Truppendienstpferdes) or simply "horse tack" or "horse equipment" (Pferdeausrustung)
included the lightweight M1925 Army Saddle
(Armeesattel 25) with open steel stirrups, double reins
and bit and single-snaffle bridle. The saddle, reins and
bridle were dark brown for enlisted men and light
reddish brown for officers. The saddle blanket
(Satteldecke) was of dark grey wool and was used to
cover the horse in inclement weather; it was about
225cm x 195 cm (7'7" x 6'4") and folded in quarters
when placed under the saddle.
The M1934 saddle bags or back cases (Packtaschen 34) were issued to mounted enlisted men in lieu of backpacks. (These packs were also used by motorcycle riders
in a modified form.) These were composed of two differently designed brown leather
bags; the right or rider's baggage (Reitergepack) contained the rider's clothing, kit, tent line and iron rations; the left or the horse's baggage (Satteluberwurf) contained
cook pot, grooming brush and curry comb and blanket strap. On the front of the horse
pack was a semcircular pocket closed by the pack lid, which contained horseshoes,
nails, studs, a wrench-like took
called a stud calk, and
teathering ring. The pack lids
were closed by a buckled strap.
The back of the pack protruded
slightly above the lids, on which were a slotted metal plate and metal-tipped leather strap. These secured the
bags to the leather saddle connector. The saddle connector was fitted with two metal
plates riveted to both ends; one plate had an inverted "U" bracket that fitted through
the slotted plates on the pack to be secured by the packs' metal-tipped strap; the other
plate had three metal slots-one was selected to give the rider sufficient knee clearance.
Straps on the connector, fitted with carbine hooks, were passed through the brackets
to secure the entire assembly to the front of the saddle.
On the back of the saddle was strapped the rear baggage (Hintergepack): a greatcoat
and/or blanket and tent quarter, plus a canvas corn bag and collapsible canvas water
bucket packed in a tubular grey canvas case. It was secured to the saddle by two side
and one middle pack straps made of brown leather with two buckles. These attached
to three rings on the saddle's cantle.
The rider wore the cavalry version of the enlisted man's belt and support straps: a set
of black leather "Y"-straps
consisting of two front straps
which were hooked to a "D" ring
on the back of the cartridge
pouches; their length was
adjusted by a set of square steel
frame buckles fixed midway up
the straps. If the pouches were not
worn (such as by officers), a set
of supplementary loops consisting
of a simple belt-width loop fitted
with a "D" or rectangular ring
were used to attach the straps to
the belt. (The loop was slipped
over the belt, and the "D" rings
slipped into the hooks on the"Y"
The front straps passed over the shoulders, tapering sharply inwards again to wrap
around a large steel "O" ring. Just behind each shoulder a short length of leather strap
was sewn to each "Y" brace, bearing a steel "D"-ring. From the bottom of the "O" ring
ran a single vertical back strap which hooked to the back centre of the belt with flat
metal hooks, the rounded ends of which protruded upwards in front of the bottom part
of the belt for about half its depth. The rear central "Y"-brace was adjustable for
length by means of a row of holes and a metal stud.
The heavy black leather belt was 1 3/4 inches (45 mm) wide, and was worn with all
classes of soldiers' and NCOs' uniforms including field-service, walking-out and
parade. It was also worn with the greatcoat on garrison duty. The belt buckle, of dull
white metal or painted greenish grey, was 2 1/2 inches (63 mm) wide by just over 1
3/4 (45 mm) deep.
The rider's pack could be worn as a backpack
when operating dismounted. It was fitted with
two leather shoulder straps that attached to "D"
rings on the pack's bottom; when attached to the
saddle these straps were tightened down to keep
out of the way. This pack was also fitted with
three leather loops, one on each side and one on
the top, to which the greatcoat was secured when
It was very common for the cook pot to be
attached to the outside of the saddle bag or to the
saddle, rather than inside, and for the field flask to be attached to the saddle or saddle bags rather than be carried by the rider.
In February 1940 new saddle bags were introduced, though the M1934 remained in
use. It's purpose was to allow
more items to be carried both
mounted and dismounted. Unlike
all previous saddle bags, this
model was carried behind the
saddle and the bags were of
different sizes. The small pack
(klene Packtachse) was attached
on the right side and contained the rider's baggage. It comprised a rectangular brown leather box closed by a strap and
buckle-secured flap that covered the uper half of the front. Leather loops were sewn to
the sided to attach the greatcoat roll, and two loops on the flaps front allowed the
attachment of the cook pot when the bag was worn as a dismounted backpack. To
permit this, two adjustable leather shoulder straps were fitted to the pack's back and
attached to hooked "D" rings on its bottom. Other "D" rings were fitted to attach the
auxiliary straps. A leather extension of the pack's back (folded down when worn as a
backpack) protruded above, and was fitted with three slotted metal plates and short
straps, which was fitted with three slotted metal plates and short straps, which served
to fasten it to the saddle. An exterior pocket was fitted to the lower half of the pack's
front and was just covered by the pack flap. Inside were carried rations, reserve
ammunition, kit and tent line.
The large pack (grosse Packtasche), carried on the left side, contained the horse
baggage. It was the same depth as the horse baggage, but wider, and the interior was
divided into three compartments; there was no pocket on the front. The lid was
secured by three buckled straps, one on the front and one on each side. The back
extension had only one slotted metal saddle attachment plate. When mounted, the
cook pot was carried in the large compartment and the horseshoes and accessories in
the two smaller compartments.
In general, artillery troops carried the same personal equipment as infantrymen at the
start of the war (see Basic Equipment). However, in February 1940 a new rucksack
for artillery was introduced for dismounted artillery personnel, replacing the standard
M1934 pack (members of horse-drawn artillery used the saddle bags described above).
This pack also saw limited issue to infantry and other units from 1941, especially on
the Eastern Front and in North Africa, and to cyclist units from
The rucksack was a simple one-compartment rectangular canvas
bag, usually olive green in color, but later ones were made in
grey, brown and (initially for North Africa) tan shades. The top
opening was secured by a drawstring; a canvas flap, fastned by a
leather strap and buckle, further closed the rucksack. Web
shoulder straps were fixed to the upper back center. The left strap
attached to a buckle fitted on the lower left corner while the right
had a carbine snap that fastened to a "D" ring on the lower right
corner for quick-release. Most were fitted with two buckled leather straps on the front just below the top opening to attach a rolled tent quarter.
In about 1943 a version was issued without shoulder straps, designed to be attached to
the belt support straps like the later M1939 and combat pack (see basic equipment)
Two hooked "D" rings were fixed at the uper corners for attachment to the support
straps' shoulder-mounted "D" rings; two more were placed at the lower corners for the
Artillery troops also employed all sorts of cases and pouches to carry sights, aiming
circles, quadrants, range finders, etc., most of them specific to the type of artillery or
anti-tank weapon used. As such, they are beyond the scope of this article.
In March 1941 a special pioneer assault pack (Pioniersturmgepack) was introduced. It
was composed of an assault pack, two different side pouches, all of which attached to
the standard belt supports for infantry. It was issued on the basis of one per five
pioneers in divisional pioneer battalions. The pouches were made of olive green or
light brown canvas, and all straps were web.
The upper one
was for the
placed in the
with the cook
pot on its side,
and secured by a strap to a buckle fitted on the center compartment; a tie string secured the cook pot inside the compartment. The two lower compartments had side-opening flaps on the right side, secured by straps passed through inverted flaps on the right side, secured by straps passed throught inverted "U" shaped brackets and rectangular metal eyelets. The center compartment was designed to hold two NbK 39 smoke pots and the lower one a 3kg demolition charge. On the pouch's upper corners were fixed hooked "D" rings to attach it to the belt support straps. The side pouches were of different designs, but both possessed a top opening flap secured by two web straps fastened by inverted "U" shaped brackets and rectangular metal eyelets. The two pouches were connected by an adjustable web strap worn behind the small of the back. Both also had four snap-fastened cartridge pockets on the front edges (the edges facing woward the wearer's mid-section), each holding a single five-round carbine loading clip. The left pouch was divided into two compartments for stick and "egg" hand grenades and other items as required. The right pouch had a single rubber-lined compartment for small demolition charges (M1928 100g boring cartridges, M1928 200g and M1924 1kg demolition charges). On it's front was a pocket for the standard gas mask, closed by a flap and one strap and also secured by a drawstring. On the pouches' backs were web belt loops and suport strap attachment rings.
(It must have been harrowing for individuals issued with these packs, however. A single hot piece of shrapnel could ignite the entire contents of a bag, with catastrophic results.)
Several carriers were designed to accommodate pioneer tools, made of real or artificial leather or canvas. Most of these tools had detachable handles for ease of carrying. Long-handled pioneer spades and pickaxes were provided with a carrying case for their handles. The short wire cutters and hatchet were both provided with leather belt pouches. The long wire cutters had a leather-reinforced canvas belt pouch. The pioneer hand saw used a leather belt scabbard fitted with a bayonet scabbard retaining loop, the bayonet frog being attached to the belt beside the saw scabbard; it was worn in place of the entrenching tool. Several types of leather or canvas cases were provided to carry demolition accessories and charges.
Between the assault pouth and the side pouches, there was little space left on the waist
belt to attach other equipment, such as the bread bag and entreching tool, though the
field flask and bayonet could be accommodated. Production of the poineer assault
pack ceased in 1944, but was used to the end of the war.
Mountain troops were issued a variety of specialized items, including climbing pitons,
carabiners, hard-lay rope, and avalanche marker cords and flags. High mountain
troops were issued ice axes, and ten-point crampons for attachment to boots when ice-
climbing. Besides contents similar to the standard packs, mountain troops carried the
necessary cold weather clothing and additional rations, since they often could not be
resupplied daily by unit field kitchens.
While a number rucksacks were used in the
course of the war, the standard model was the
M1931 rucksack for high mountain troops. This
was a ruggedly-constructed Bergen-type
rucksack made of olive green canvas with black
or brown leather straps, fittings and edge
bindings. It had a single large compartment
closed by a drawstring and a flap secured by
three straps and buckles. Inside, on the back, was
a large pocket closed by a flap with three
buttoned straps; this was for small personal items
(washing, shaving, sewing kits, etc). On the
underside of the main compartment flap was a
small accessory pocket secured by three small
buckled straps. On the outside of the flap were
four small leather equipment attachment loops.
Three greatcoat roll retaining loops were fitted to the flap at top center and both sides near the bottom. An external pocket was sewn to
both sides and closed by a buckled strap and flap. On the front centre was a larger
pocket secured by two buckled straps and a flap. All of the flaps were edged with
leather binding. Two large "D" rings were fastened to a leather patch at the rucksack's
upper center back, to which were attached leather shoulder straps fitted with belt
hooks for attachment to the cartridge pouches or supplementary loops. Auxiliary
straps were fastned by carbine hooks to "D" rings fixed on the shoulder strap; they
were fastened in turn to buckles on the rucksack's lower corners.
Four accessory and two shoe bags, all of linen and closed by drawstrings, were issued
with the rucksack; these sometimes bore colored cloth triangles (light green, light blue,
gold-yellow and red) as a coding system to identify contents.
Wartime versions of the M1931 rucksack were simplified, with only two flap straps,
differently arranged interior pockets, canvas shoulder straps, no side pockets, or only
two pockets on the front. From late 1941 it was ordered that battle rucksacks be issued
to infantry units on the Eastern Front instead of the M1934/M1939 packs; it was
realized that, like mountain troops, infantry units in the East also needed to carry
additional clothing and rations. No single standard design was developed, but rather a
number of different Bergen-type rucksacks were issued. Outwardly there were similar
to the M1931, but usually less robust in construction and lacking some of the design
features; those of late war production were often rather crude. They were usually
made of olive green, reed green, grey brown or tan canvas. Flap securing straps were
usually of black or brown leather, as were the other fittings. Most had two pockets
with flaps secured by buckled straps on the front. Tne main compartment flap was
secured by one ot two buckled straps, the opening being further closed by a
drawstring. Most had flaps with canvas edge binding, but leather binding was also
used. Many had equipment and greatcoat roll attaching loops on the sides and main
compartment flap. Some were fitted with leather or canvas shoulder straps attached by
various arrangements of hooked "D" rings, carbine hooks, and buckles, some with
quick-release buckles. Others were issued without shoulder straps and were fitted with
hooked "D" rings at the upper back center and lower corners for attachment to the
infantry support straps.
In late 1942, a white snow camouflage rucksack cover was issued, to be used along
with the new winter suit (see Wehrmacht 43-45)
Some mountain troops were issued a special flask, though many used the standard
M1931 field flask. It held 1 litre (about 34 ounces), and was similar in design to the
standard flask. A carbine hook was fastnedd to a buckled vertical front and back to
secure the cup in place. The screw cap was secured to this by an extension of the
vertical securing strap. The round cup, with two small securing strap brackets, and
strap buckles wer painted black. Production of the large flask was halted in about
1943, and the standard flask was issued instead. However, it continued to be a highly-
prized item for the rest of the war.
Signal troops werre issued specially designed radio packs (Fernsprechtornister) as
unit equipment to carry signals equipment and tools. They were similar in look to the
M1934, and were available in three models, which all appeared the
same externally except for a brown leather square sewn near the
bottom of the unshaven calfskin-covered lower flap section. Cut
out of this in a stencil-like pattern was a "1", "2"
or "3" to indicate the specific model. The
interiors had different arrangements of
compartments and securing loops to
accommodate their contents. The bodies of the packs were made of brown canvas. The flap was a two-part design
with the upper and lower sections opening outward to allow
unrestricted access to the contents. The flaps were secured by two
adjustable leather straps fastened by smaller straps passed through
inverted metal "U" shaped brackes that fitted through slots cut in
the large straps. Leather shoulder straps were fixed to the pack's
back. Several leather equipment retaining loops were fixed to the lower flap section
and pack sides.
Signallers in the front lines (or those acting as signallers) sometimes carried the large
version of the signal cartridge pouch (Signalpatronentasche). This was a rectangular
box holding 18 rounds of 27mm pyrotechnic rounds in three rows of loops. The bag
closed by a lid secured by two straps and studs; a narrow detachable leather carrying
strap was attached to the ends. The boxes were made of black leather, Press-Stoff, and
later olive green canvas. Two versions of signal pistol (short-barrelled and long-
barrelled) were also available, each with their own holster. Similar to those issued for
pistols, they closed by a flaps secured by a strap and inverted "U" ring. A belt loop
was fitted on the back, and a thin detachable leather shoulder carrying strap was also
provided. A cleaning rod was attached to the holster by a carbine hook. (Carrying
these pouches was often a hazardous enterprise, however. A single hot piece of
shrapnel could ignite the entire contents of the bag, turning the wearer into a human
Medical troops were issued a wide range of pouches and cases in which to carry
medical supplies and materials. Medical orderlies at company level (Sanitater) were
infantrymen with additional basic medical training. Fully trained medical personnel
were found only at regimental level and in dedicated medical units at division and
Unit medical orderlies were issued two identical medical pouches
(Sanitatstaschen). These were comprised of a rigid brown or black leather rectangular box closed by a lid secured by a tab on both ends
that fastened to a stud. The lid was fatsented to the front by a sewn
leather hinge permitting it to be opened away from the wearer's body.
On the back were two leather belt loops and a rectangular ring for
fastenening belt support straps. Inside were field dressings, gauze pads
and rolls, tape, tourniquets, antiseptics and other simple medical
supplies. A packing diagram and contents list was attached to the inside of the lid.
There was also a little-used larger version of the pouches, which were about a quarter
larger and lacked the belt supports attachment ring.
The M1934 medical pack (Sanitatstornister 34) was issued on the
basis of one per company-sized unit to carry additional and
reserve medical supplies. Externally it was the same as the M1934
pack, with the addition of a white leather disc embroidered with a
red cross, sewn the the center of the ponyhide flap. It had fixed
shoulder straps for attachment to the belt. The interior was divided
into compartments to hold medical supplies and basic instruments.
A rucksack version (Sanitatsrucksack) was issued in about 1942.
Similar to the M1931 rucksack, but with leather red cross on a
white disc sewn to the flap and several internal compartments.