Waffenfarbe

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Blue edging around the shoulder strap on this uniform indicate that its wearer is serving in a logistics unit (Bundeswehr).

Waffenfarbe (German: "corps [or troop-function] colour") is a means the German military uses to distinguish between different corps or troop functions in its armed services. The waffenfarbe is the colour of the collar patch, of the piping (coloured edging) around the shoulder boards or shoulder straps and — for enlisted ranks — of the piping around the collar and the garrison cap (Schiffchen). (In the latter places, NCO's[clarification needed] wear cords of dark gold, officers silver, and generals gold.)[1]

Army[edit]

The Bundeswehr uses a waffenfarben scheme of colours to indicate troop types. The colours appear on the collar patch and as piping around the shoulder boards or straps showing a soldier’s rank.

Although soldiers’ berets are also coloured, the colours are slightly less differentiated than the waffenfarben, and corps or troop function is indicated by a beret badge rather than beret colour.

Waffenfarben of the Heer[edit]

Air force[edit]

Luftwaffe Schiffchen with golden yellow piping (Bundeswehr)

The German Air Force (Bundeswehr) only uses a small spectrum of colours for the purpose. While the normal colour for the air force is a golden yellow, officers in the general staff service (today there is no general staff as such) wear wine-red and generals, bright red. Generals’ and general staff service officers' collar patches (Kragenspiegel) also differ from the normal air force design, being the same the army wears.

1935-45, the air force used a larger number of colours, including bi-coloured (see below).


Navy[edit]

The German Navy does not use function-specific colours to distinguish between corps. This is done instead by various emblems above the rank stripes on the sleeves.

Historical examples[edit]

Some Waffenfarben used by the Reichsheer 1921 to 1935[edit]

Regiment or Battalion type Colour[2]
General Officers

Artillery
Ordnance troops

Scarlet
(Hochrot)
Staff Corps of the Reichswehr

Veterinary service

Carmine
(Karmesin)
Infantry White
Motor transport Rose-pink
(Rosa)
Signals Light brown
Cavalry Golden yellow
Jäger (light infantry) Dark green
Transport (horse-drawn) Light blue
Medical service Dark blue
Pioniere (Engineers) Black
Heer officers' collar patches: 1, Field Marshal from 3 Apr 1941; 2, General, and Field Marshal to 3 Apr 1941; 3, OKW/OKH (dress); 4, Motorcycle Rifles or Panzergrenadiers (dress); 5, Light Infantry (service, backing cloth is collar colour, only innermost stripes are in Waffenfarbe)
Heer collar patches: 6, Artillery NCO (dress);[3] 7, Enlisted (service) ; 8, Panzers
Wehrmacht officers' shoulderboards (the outermost colours — the underlay — are the Waffenfarbe indicating function): 7, Oberst (Panzergrenadier); 8, Oberfeldveterinär (lieutenant colonel veterinarian); 9, Major (artillery); 10, Hauptmann (antitank); 11, Oberleutnant (6th Infantry); 12, Leutnant (engineer).
Shoulder straps of non-commissioned officers: 13, Stabswachtmeister, 12th Artillery; 14, Oberfeldwebel, infantry; 15, Feldwebel, Panzer-Lehr; 16, Unterwachtmeister, cavalry or recon; 17, Sanitäts-unteroffizier, medical
Shoulder straps of other ranks: A, Co. 4, 67th Artillery; B, 20th Panzer; C, Grossdeutschland Infantry Rgt.

Some Waffenfarben used by the Wehrmacht Heer 1935 to 1945[edit]

Regiment, Battalion or Staff Corps type Colour
General Officers

Artillery
Assault guns (Sturmgeschütze)
Heavy Flak
Mapping and Surveying troops

Scarlet
(Hochrot)
General Staff Corps Officers

War Academy
Veterinary service

Carmine
(Karmesin)
Infantry

Motorized infantry (to 7/43) [4]
Panzergrenadier-Rgt. Grossdeutschland [4]
Fusilier regiments
Machine gun battalions
Mortar battalions
Infantry guns
Light Flak

White
Jäger (light infantry troops (hunters))

Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops (mountain hunters))
Skijäger (ski troops (ski hunters))

Light green
(lit. Hellgrün,
actually a medium green)[5]
Panzergrenadiers (armored infantry)(from 10/42)[4]

Motorcycle battalions (1939–41)
Reconnaissance Battalion Grossdeutschland (1942–43)[6]

Meadow green
(Wiesengrün)[5]
Panzers

Panzerjäger (tank destroyers)
Panzerschützen (armored rifles) (to 7/43)[4]
Armored reconnaissance (1934–37; 1943–44)
Armored recon battalions, Pz.Div 1-3 and 5
Armored signals (1934–37)
Motorized artillery observers (1938–41)
Vehicle maintenance battalions

Rose-pink
(Rosa) [7]
Cavalry

24th Panzer Div (ex- 1st Cavalry)
Armored reconnaissance units with cavalry traditions
Reconnaissance
Armored reconnaissance (1937–1939; 1944–45)
Motorized reconnaissance (1937–41; 1943–45)
Motorcycle battalions (1937–39)
Fusilier (scout) battalions

Golden yellow
Armored reconnaissance (1939–43)

Motorized reconnaissance (1941–43)
Motorcycle battalions (1941–43)

Copper-brown
Signals

Armored signals (1937–45)

Lemon yellow
Pioniere (Combat engineers)

Assault engineers
Armored engineers
Fortress engineers
Railway engineers

Black
Bautruppen (Construction engineers) Light brown
Chemical troops

Smoke troops
Rocket artillery [8]
Judicial service

Bordeaux red
Military Police Orange-yellow
Transport Light blue
Medical service Cornflower blue
Recruiting (to 1942)

Ordnance troops
Engineer officers' academy

Orange
War correspondents

Propaganda troops

Light Grey
Army administration (Heeresbeamten) Dark green
with a secondary colour according

to the different services

Lead Specialists (Sonderführer) Grey-blue
Special Troop Services (Truppensonderdienst) (from 1944) Bright blue
Chaplains Purple

Some Waffenfarben used by the Luftwaffe 1935 to 1945[edit]

Corps or troop function Colour[9]
Generals (if not mentioned below)

Surgeons general

White
Reich Air Ministry (to 30 June 1939)

Luftwaffe construction units
Luftschutz motorized units

Black
General staff officers

Veterinary units (NCOs and enlisted)[10]

Carmine
(Karmesin)
Flying and Paratroopers

Schools (if not mentioned below)
Military personnel of the weather service

Golden yellow
Flak

Flak schools
Military personnel of the Reichsanstalt für Luftschutz

Bright red
Signals

Signals school and training units

Light brown[11] (to 30 Sept 1936)
Golden brown[11] (from 1 Oct 1936)
Medical

Medical academy

Dark blue[12]
Luftwaffe administration Dark green

with a secondary colour[13] according
to the different services

Air traffic control

Air traffic control school

Light green[12]
Luftwaffe reserve (1 Sept 1936 to 1 Aug 1937) Light blue[12]
Engineer officers and generals Rose-pink
(Rosa)
Judicial incl. generals Wine red[14]
Ground troops:
Division Hermann Göring
incl. predecessors
White

with a secondary colour[15] like the
respective Army troop function
except for signals
(brown instead of yellow)

Ground troops:
Luftwaffe Field Divisions
Green[12]

with a secondary colour as above

Some Waffenfarben used by the SS 1938 to 1945[edit]

See also
⇒ Main article: Corps colours (Waffen-SS)

Waffenfarbe worn by the National People's Army 1956 to 1990[edit]

East German (DDR) Nationale Volksarmee uniforms initially wore the waffenfarbe as worn by the Wehrmacht, i.e. as base and filling of the collar and sleeve patches and as a piping around the shoulder boards/shoulder straps. Between 1974 and 1979, along with the introduction of uniforms with open collar and tie, the patches of the ground force uniforms were unified with a dark grey base and a white filling, along with a white collar piping; the piping of the shoulder boards/shoulder straps remained the only part carrying a Waffenfarbe. However, air and air defence forces, paratroopers and generals as well as the navy continued to wear their specially designed and coloured patches.[16]

The uniform of the Border Troops was distinguished from that of the NVA ground force and Air Force/Air Defense Force by a green armband with large silver letters identifying the wearer's affiliation, and a green cap band.

See also
⇒ main article Corps colours (NPA)

Similarities in other armies[edit]

The use of colours to distinguish between troop functions was not unique to the German Army during the Second World War. The Soviet Army also used coloured shoulder boards after 1942 to distinguish troop functions: ground forces general officers and infantry used crimson, cavalry used blue, artillery and tank troops used red, and the rest of the ground forces used black, while the air force and airborne troops used sky blue. Likewise the British Army utilized coloured strips of cloth on the sleeves to likewise identify troop functions.

Today, waffenfarbe schemes are also used in Austria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Romania, and Switzerland. For a full list of troop function colours currently in use in the US Army, see United States Army branch insignia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Official brochure on Bundeswehr uniforms (in German) (Waffenfarben of the army p. 14, of the air force p. 17)
  2. ^ In addition to the colours, monograms and symbols were used to denominate services or units.
  3. ^ The illustration erroneously depicts the NCO braid running around the lower edge of the collar, as on field uniforms. On actual dress uniforms the Tresse encircled the upper edge.
  4. ^ a b c d Between October 1942 and July 1943 all motorized infantry (Grenadier (mot.)) and armored-rifle (Panzerschütze) regiments were reorganized and redesignated Panzergrenadier regiments, and assigned meadow-green Waffenfarbe. In practice this Waffenfarbe changeover was not consistently observed due both to the supply problems that plagued the Army as the war went on, and resistance from the troops. Veteran Panzerschützen in particular tended to hang onto their rose-pink insignia as a way to distinguish themselves from newer men. By special dispensation, however, the motorized infantry regiments of the Panzergrenadier-division Grossdeutschland were permitted to keep their white piping.
  5. ^ a b Due to an error in U.S. War Department TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces, many English-language sources have Jäger Hellgrün and the Wiesengrün of the Panzergrenadiers reversed. The Jäger colour was the darker, bluer one.
  6. ^ Except for the 1st (armored car) Company, which as a converted cavalry unit wore golden-yellow
  7. ^ This colour derived from the Reichswehr motor-transport branch, which was used to camouflage Weimar's clandestine tank program
  8. ^ The development of rocket artillery under the name Nebelwerfer (fog projector) began as a delivery system for chemical agents and smoke
  9. ^ Adolf Schlicht und John R. Angolia: Die deutsche Wehrmacht. Uniformierung und Ausrüstung 1935-1945. Vol.3: Die Luftwaffe. Motorbuch Verlag 1999, ISBN 3-613-02001-7
  10. ^ Veterinary (surgeon) officers were provided by the Army
  11. ^ a b Colours named in this forum article dated 26.08.2008, 23:59; colour representation of these colours taken from relevant items in internet shops
  12. ^ a b c d Exact colour representation to be researched
  13. ^ The secondary colour (Nebenfarbe) was shown as a piping around the collar patches and as the upper cloth underlay of the shoulder boards (the lower cloth underlay being in Waffenfarbe "dark green").
  14. ^ www.afrikakorps.org page hacked? try Internet Archive instead but hit "stop loading" as soon as you see the page because it will quickly be overwritten by the said "hacked" page
  15. ^ The secondary colour (Nebenfarbe) was shown as a piping around the collar patches.
  16. ^ Klaus-Ulrich Keubke, Manfred Kunz: Uniformen der Nationalen Volksarmee der DDR 1956-1986. Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1990, p. 159, 175
  • Glossary of German military terms
  • Adolf Schlicht, John R. Angolia: Die deutsche Wehrmacht, Uniformierung und Ausrüstung 1933-1945
    Vol. 1: Das Heer (ISBN 3613013908), Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1992
    Vol. 3: Die Luftwaffe (ISBN 3-613-02001-7), Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1999
    (very detailed information and discussion but no coloured images)

External links[edit]