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
- 2 Air force
- 3 Navy
- 4 Historical examples
- 5 Similarities in other armies
- 6 References
- 7 External links
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
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).
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.
Some Waffenfarben used by the Reichsheer 1921 to 1935
|Regiment or Battalion type||Colour|
|Staff Corps of the Reichswehr
|Jäger (light infantry)||Dark green|
|Transport (horse-drawn)||Light blue|
|Medical service||Dark blue|
Some Waffenfarben used by the Wehrmacht Heer 1935 to 1945
|Regiment, Battalion or Staff Corps type||Colour|
|General Staff Corps Officers
|Jäger (light infantry troops (hunters))
Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops (mountain hunters))
actually a medium green)
|Panzergrenadiers (armored infantry)(from 10/42)
Motorcycle battalions (1939–41)
Panzerjäger (tank destroyers)
24th Panzer Div (ex- 1st Cavalry)
|Armored reconnaissance (1939–43)
Motorized reconnaissance (1941–43)
Armored signals (1937–45)
|Pioniere (Combat engineers)
|Bautruppen (Construction engineers)||Light brown|
|Medical service||Cornflower blue|
|Recruiting (to 1942)
|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|
Some Waffenfarben used by the Luftwaffe 1935 to 1945
|Corps or troop function||Colour|
|Generals (if not mentioned below)
|Reich Air Ministry (to 30 June 1939)
|General staff officers
|Flying and Paratroopers
Schools (if not mentioned below)
Signals school and training units
|Light brown (to 30 Sept 1936)|
|Golden brown (from 1 Oct 1936)|
|Luftwaffe administration||Dark green
with a secondary colour according
|Air traffic control
Air traffic control school
|Luftwaffe reserve (1 Sept 1936 to 1 Aug 1937)||Light blue|
|Engineer officers and generals||Rose-pink
|Judicial incl. generals||Wine red|
Division Hermann Göring
with a secondary colour like the
Luftwaffe Field Divisions
with a secondary colour as above
Some Waffenfarben used by the SS 1938 to 1945
- See also
- ⇒ Main article: Corps colours (Waffen-SS)
Waffenfarbe worn by the National People's Army 1956 to 1990
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.
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
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.
- Official brochure on Bundeswehr uniforms (in German) (Waffenfarben of the army p. 14, of the air force p. 17)
- In addition to the colours, monograms and symbols were used to denominate services or units.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Except for the 1st (armored car) Company, which as a converted cavalry unit wore golden-yellow
- This colour derived from the Reichswehr motor-transport branch, which was used to camouflage Weimar's clandestine tank program
- The development of rocket artillery under the name Nebelwerfer (fog projector) began as a delivery system for chemical agents and smoke
- 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
- Veterinary (surgeon) officers were provided by the Army
- Colours named in this forum article dated 26.08.2008, 23:59; colour representation of these colours taken from relevant items in internet shops
- Exact colour representation to be researched
- 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").
- 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
- The secondary colour (Nebenfarbe) was shown as a piping around the collar patches.
- 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)