Raised from the pre-war paramilitary
SS militia, the Waffen-SS evolved during the war years into what was almost a "parallel army," many hundreds of thousands strong and organized into more than 30 divisions--some of them the largest, best equipped, and most formidable combat formations in the Wehrmacht. From a low initial reputation
among the professionals Of the Heer, they rose to become the ever-reliable "fire brigade'" committed as the spearhead of attack or the last line of hopeless defense. Their field grey uniforms were generally identical to those of the Army apart from their special insignia; and their personal equipment and weapons - although initially drawn from obsolete stocks were by 1941 standard current Wehrmacht issue.
1 - M.1935 Stahlhelm (steel helmet).
The characteristic W-SS camouflage cover, which was worn from
the first days of World War II, was made from no less than 14
separate pieces of cloth; and fixed by an 'envelope' which slipped
under the front brim, and three spring hooks which engaged at
sides and rear. Like all the many patterns of camouflage smock,
the helmet covers were reversible, the colors being predominantly
brown on one side for autumn and winter, and predominantly green
on the other for spring and summer. This is an early cover, lacking
the later external loops for foliage.
2 - Only the collar of the tunic
is seen above the camouflage smock. It bears the black collar
patches of the W-SS: on the right, bearing the SS runes badge
of the whole organization, and on the left bearing a system of
rank insignia peculiar to the SS, here the two stripes of a corporal;
both collar insignia were embroidered in white or silver-grey
for enlisted ranks.
3 - Tarnjäcke
(Camouflage smock), first tested by the W-SS as early
as 1938, and later issued universally to all combat personnel.
It was copied by the rest of the Wehrmacht in various
ways; and, since World War II, by almost every army in the world
- it was a genuinely important innovation in military dress.
Of loose cut, gathered at wrist, waist and neck by elastics or
laces, it was worn over the woolen uniform but under the equipment.
This is a model manufactured in 1942-44, with two skirt pockets;
earlier smocks had only vertical slits through which the uniform
pockets could be reached. Another sign of a late-pattern smock
is the series of loops sewn onto the shoulders and arms, for
attaching foliage. There were about seven variations of camouflage
pattern, in light and dark greens, light and dark browns, even
orange and violet shades; all featured small, basically rounded
patches of superimposed colors in patterns resembling leaves.
Here both smock and helmet cover displays the 'spring/summer'
4 - M.1939 Koppelträgestell
für Infanterie (infantry
equipment suspenders) in
black leather .
5 - M.1911 Patronentasche
cartridge pouches) Standard issue black "pebbled" leather, two sets of three, holding a total of 12 five round clips of 7.92x57mm Mauser ammunition.
6 - M.1924 Stiehlhandgrenate
7 - Koppel u. Koppelschloß
(belt and buckle) Standard issue black leather, the Koppelschloß
(buckle) of grey-painted metal bearing a design
peculiar to the SS: an eagle with outstretched wings, clutching
a swastika, the wings breaking a riband bearing the motto "Meine Ehre Heißt Treue" (My
Honor Is Loyalty).
8 - M.1884/98 Seitengewehr
(bayonet) in old-pattern black Seitengewehrtasche
frog; old style lacks a hilt strap).
9 - Klappspaten
shovel), in its metal-reinforced
leather carrier, which included a loop to hold steady the bayonet
10 - M.1938 Gasmaske und
in its fluted scwarzgrün metal canister).
11 - Gasplane (anti-gas cape),
here in a late type of satchel made in ordinary (i.e. non-proofed) cloth.
12 - Zeltbahn (shelter quarter) reversible camouflage in W-SS pattern,
here simply strapped to the belt--a common practice when in lightened
13 - M.1931 Feldflasche
mit Trinkbecher (canteen
with cup) with tinned, olive-painted
14 -M.1931 Brotbeutel (breadbag) used as a "haversack" to carry the soldiers personal items.
15 - M.1942 Hosen
(trousers) in feldgrau (field grey)
cloth. These had belt-loops; and tightening laces and instep
straps at the bottom of each leg, introduced for use with ankle
boots and web anklets, which replaced the old high Knobelbecher
("dice shakers") in the middle war years.
16 - Gamaschen
(canvas anklets), with leather buckle straps.
17 - Schnürschue
(ankle boots) in natural leather, first issued to
some troops in 1937, replaced the high boots during the war years
for economy reasons. Usually blacked in use, they sometimes appeared
in natural tan.
18 - Karabiner 98k
(Mauser 98k 7.92mm
rifle) in caliber 7.92x57mm.