Tuesday, February 17, 2015
UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT OF THE VOLKSSTURM
Compiled by: A.M. de Quesada
UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT Uniform and equipment were regulated by the afore-mentioned order No. 318/44 "Every kind of uniforms and weatherproof sports and working clothing" was permitted, with emphasis on durable shoes and greatcoats. The Gauleiter was required to provide "all dispensable stocks" of uniforms, i.e., uniforms of branches, etc., of the Party. The brown (in various shades) Party uniforms were to be re-dyed into a "color usable in the field," i.e., some shade of field-grey. Branch colors or other identifying insignia were not introduced. Common insignia for all Volkssturm soldiers was an armband bearing the inscription "Deutscher Volkssturm-Wehrmacht," which was to be issued by the Reichsfuehrer-SS, to be worn when performing duty as a member of the Volkssturm.
Equipment was restricted to "the most necessary items." As minimum equipment possession of a rucksack or backpack, blanket, field bag, messkit, canteen, cup, knife, fork and spoon was considered essential.
All Volkssturm soldiers, regardless of rank, were compelled to provide for their individual uniforms and equipment. The consequence was a wide variety of Wehrmacht uniforms, worn especially by retired officers, of uniforms of all branches, etc., of the Party, and of civilian garments, but with the armband as the only common identifying insignia. Any variety of clothing was the usual order of the day for training. For battle employment more uniform clothing was issued, usually consisting of re-dyed Party uniforms or of Wehrmacht uniforms - the latter often out-modelled or even no longer serviceable uniforms.
Medical service was regulated by order No. 393/44 of the Party Chancellory, dated 9 November 1944. All members of the medical service had to wear the army-style red cross armband on the left upper sleeves.
A large variety of armbands used to identify members of the Volkssturm have been identified in photographs. A black/white/red armband was the most common pattern, and probably the official one. Many different patterns were placed into actual service, probably due to supply shortages of the official pattern, and were often of local production. The usual manner of the left lower sleeve. Locally produced armbands varied in color and measurements, and were in all cases of the printed variety.
The official pattern armband was a printed black/white/red band measuring 7 cm wide. The basic band was with a 1.2 cm wide red border stripe top and bottom, a 3.5 mm wide black stripe, a 2.5 mm wide white stripe on each outer edge of a 3.4 cm wide black center stripe. On the wide black field was the inscription "Deutscher Volkssturm/Wehrmacht" in Latin capitals measuring 1.3cm high, and in two lines. On either side of the white inscription was a white national emblem of the "Reichsadler" pattern, i.e., with outstretched wings measuring 2.9 cm wide. The heads of the eagles varied, with both looking to the right, to the left, outward or inward - even without eagles. The wing pattern of the eagle also differed, e.g., rounded or straight ends.
Other variations existed. A variety of materials were used such as rayon, silk, cotton, and even linen tablecloth! Even the "Deutsche Wehrmacht" in black on a yellow field (and variants) as prescribed for wear by civilian Wehrmacht employees was also worn.
Rank insignia were introduced by order No. 318/44. Rank insignia of the Wehrmacht pattern were substituted by an entirely different system of rank identification modeled after the rank system utilized by the branches of the Party. The collar insignia, identical to those in use by the SS and NSKK, took the form of a black rhomboid measuring 5x6 cm in size, bearing one to four aluminum-colored pips according to the rank appointment, and sewn onto both corners of the collar of the tunic and greatcoat. For want of collar patches (or collar tabs), the pips were sometimes affixed directly onto the collar in the same pattern as prescribed for the collar patch. Collar patches have been observed piped with a twist aluminum cord or unpiped.
The rank insignia were as follows: Volkssturmmann = no pips; Gruppenfuehrer = one pip centered; Zugfuehrer, Waffenmeister (Ordnance master) and Zahlmeister (Paymaster) = two pips diagonally near the forward lower and rear upper corners; Kompaniefuehrer, Ordonnanceoffizier and Adjutant = 3 pips diagonally as above; Bataillonsfuehrer = four pips positioned in each corner. The collar insignia were worn in a mirror image.
Medical personnel ranks were established in accordance with order No. 393/44 dated 9 November 1944 as follows: Sanitaetsdienstgrad (Medical Sergeant) = 1 pip; Bataillonsarzt (Battalion Medical Officer) = 3 pips and a caduceus of white metal to the rear of the patches.
Gorget "PANZERWARNDIENST" (Tank Warning Service) was a special gorget bearing the inscription "PANZERWARNDIENST" stenciled in luminous paint on a breast plate in the form of the standard Feldgendarmerie (Military Police), and with a political national emblem at the top has been attributed to Warning Organization" during the closing months of the war. The existence of western frontier of the Reich) and a specimen of the gorget found in Prague would tend to verify such an organization.
By order No. 358/44 of the Party Chancellory, dated 30 October 1944, all Volksturm battalions recieved colors. As the colors had to be supplied by the Party, they were of the basic Party form, i.e., black swastika on a white circular field on a red field. "With regard of local traditions" and by decision of the Kreisleiter, colors of the various branches and institutions of the Party were to be bestowed, not only the colors of the local branches.
All battalion colors had to bear the black patch on the lower inner corners, displaying the number of the respective region of the battalion, e.g. "14/115," of the district, with letters measuring 6 cm high, done in machine embroidery. The patches with the name of the local branch and respective number which were positioned at the upper inner corners of all Party colors were retained.
INSIGNIA OF "STANDSCHUETZEN" BATTALIONS
Local rifle associations known as "Standschuetzen" existed in northern and southern Tyrolia and in Vorarlberg, all provinces of the pre-1918 Austrian Empire. According to century old traditional prerogatives, the Standschuetzen were called up for the defense of their home country in case of war, and had the status of a territorial militia. For example, in 1915 after Italy declared war on Austria by attacking Tyrolia, the Standschuetzen were mobilized to defend their mountain frontiers since nearly all the regular Austrian forces were engaged on the East Front fighting the Russians. The Standschuetzen were regarded and organized as rifle clubs or associations during peacetime, and did not have any specific military training. In rememberance of the old traditions, the Volkssturm units of Tyrolia and Vorarlberg were bestowed the name "Standschuetzen," and recieved special identification badges worn on the left upper sleeve. The Edelweiss insignia of the type worn by mountain troops was often worn on the left side of the mountain cap.
The badge was a dark green cloth diamond measuring 10.5 cm high and 7.5 cm wide. A red stylized Tirolian eagle was at the top, below which was the designation in lime green "STANDSCHUETZEN/BATAILLON/(location name)" in three lines. A white or yellow border outlined the diamond shape. The machine embroidered insignia were worn on the upper left sleeve. The following towns thus far have been found bearing the Standschuetzen distinctive - (southern Tyrolia): MERAN, BOZEN, BRIXEN, SILANDER, (northern Tyrolia): INNSBRUCK, SCHWAZ, REUTTE, KUFTSTEIN, IMST, (Vorarlberg): DORNBIRN and BREGENZ. Positive evidence exists that members of the standschuetzen wore unit insignia on the right collar and ranks insignia on the left. The unit designation was machine-embroidered in lime green on a dark green wool rhomboid. In addition to the specimens encountered, yet another has been found bearing the designation "LI/11." It should be noted that, following standard German military practice, the Roman numeral indicates a battalion and the Arabic numeral indicates a company. It is interesting to note that the significance of the collar patches being green rather than black was due to the fact that these units were raised by the Police and not by the Nazi Party.
The Freikorps Sauerland was established by order of the Gauleiter of Gau Westphalia-South even prior to the constitution of the Volkssturm, albeit by preliminary staff work and by selection of suitable cadre personnel. After official constitution of the Volkssturm, it was fully established and incorporated into the Volkssturm, comprising several battalions and, as exception of the general rule, even regimental staffs. For every district, only one battalion was raised. This and the order to accept only volunteers indicate the idea of an elite status within the Volkssturm.
All units of the Freikorps were issued field grey or brown uniforms, the latter presumbly stocks or cloth from the Organization Todt or those from the Reicharbeitdienst ("RAD"). However, other uniform parts were said to have been used. Special insignia were established by the Gauleiting consisting of a white cuff title bearing the inscription (in black?) "Freikorps Sauerland" and a sleeve insignia was sometimes worn as a decal on the left side of the steel helmets.
The sleeve badge was printed on thin white cloth. The bluish-green shield measured 6.3 cm in height and 5.6 cm in width, and was rounded below with straight lateral and upper edges, bordered by black, white and black stripes of 1 mm each. The center displayed a white circle of 4.5 cm in diameter, with a black "mobile" swastika with three blue-green oakleaves (3 x 2.7 cm) shaded in black and with white center ribs. Between the circle and the lower edge was the white, semicircular inscription "Sauerland" in Gothic letters.
The Volkssturm was to strive for unity in headdress; caps in the style of those worn by the army and political visorless garrison caps (Einsatzmuetze der NSDAP) similar to those worn by the SA-Wehrmannschaften and NSKK were most often used. A national emblem was worn on the front of the headdress. According to photographic evidence of Volkssturm personnel, the most common caps in use were the Army Mountain Troops caps that are commonly and loosely referred to as the "M-43" by collectors. Hitler Youth, Luftwaffe, Organization Todt, various Party organizations, and even civilian versions of the Mountain Troop's cap were used as well. A combination of Army and Luftwaffe cloth and metal cap insignia were utilized. Even NSDAP insignia consisting of the Party eagle and cockade were used from the Political Leader's visored dress caps and found on the "M-43" style and overseas caps. Volkssturm officers also used the "M-43" style caps as well as surplus Army officer's visored field (M-34 "crusher style") and dress caps. Pre-, Early-, and Late-war styles of the Army and Luftwaffe overseas cap were found to be extensively used as well. It is also important to note that not all "M-43" style caps and other headdress necessarily have had to have insignia, for many Volkssturm members were photographed without any insignia!
Helmets utilized by the Volkssturm came in all shapes and sizes. The most common were the Wehrmacht steel helmets from the M35 to M42 series, however, those from the Great War were used as well, such as the M1916 and M1918 steel helmets. Helmets from the civilian and civil organizations were used as well. These ranged from the Luftschutz "Gladiator Style" to fire and police helmets. Early on in the War the Luftschutz (Air Raid Warning Service) began utilizing captured enemy helmets, the most common being the French "Adrian" style and the Soviet M1936 and M1940 helmets. By the latter part of 1944 these captured stocks of the Luftschutz were later transferred to the Volkssturm to compensate for the dwindling supply of Wehrmacht steel helmets Many helmets didn't bear any insignia except those previuosly used by another organization, such as the Luftschutz, fire/police, and Wehrmacht. Some Volkssturm formations had their unit designations painted directly onto their helmets. The shortages of war deemed that an enormous variety of headdress was worn by the Volkssturm. It can be literally said that anything was possible regarding what sort of uniform was worn.
Anordnung 277/44. "Ausfuehrungbestimmungen ueber die Bildung des deutschen Volkssturmes," 27 September 1944.
Anordnung 318/44. "2: Ausfuehrungbestimmungen," 12 October 1944.
DUZ. Nr. 12, December 1944.
"Erlass des Fuehrers." 25 September 1944.
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