Basic kit issue to one soldier, as recorded in the Soldbuch

The items that a soldier was issued are listed in the Soldbuch. Generally speaking, basic clothing and equipment items are recorded on pages 6 and 7 and special equipment such as weapons and gas protection equipment are recorded on pages 8a-8d.

Scans of Soldbücher for nearly any unit (or at least unit type) can be readily found online, including on this very web site. If you can read these words, you can find this documentation online. There is no need to speculate about what a soldier was issued, what kind of boots he might have had or how many of each item, etc. The documentation for this is readily available and may be surprising as it often contradicts reenactor myth. The Soldbuch will not list what exact model of tunic or field cap was issued but educated guesses can be made based on other extant documentation.

One of the units that we portray for living history is Sicherungs-Regiment 195. An entry in a Soldbuch from this Regiment shows the following issue of basic clothing and equipment on pages 6-7, dated June 1943:

1 helmet
1 field cap
1 field blouse
1 sweater
1 pair of trousers
2 collar binds
2 pairs of underwear
2 shirts
3 pairs of socks
2 pairs of low boots
1 clothing bag
3 greatcoat straps
2 ammunition pouches
1 ID disk
2 hand towels
3 handkerchiefs
1 folding fork/spoon
1 pair suspenders
1 wool blanket
1 pair of gloves
1 toque
1 sewing bag
2 mess kit accessories (illegible)
1 greatcoat
1 Tornister
1 mess kit
1 Zeltbahn with accessories
1 belt
1 bread bag with strap
1 canteen
1 HBT uniform
1 pair gaiters

This photo shows this full scale of issue (minus the illegible entry). I’m not sure what an issue sewing bag might have looked like so I included a private purchase type “Kameradenhilfe” sewing kit. The relevant Soldbuch pages are also shown. This soldier also had a gas mask, and a French rifle and bayonet, recorded on pages 8a-8d. He had a Soldbuch too, of course, which is the source for this information.

Reproduction First and Second Pattern German Army HBT Uniforms

The German Army introduced a new model of HBT uniform in 1933. This uniform was called the “Drillichanzug,” literally HBT uniform (“Drillich” is the German word for herringbone twill fabric). It was made of undyed fabric, and was a two-piece uniform, with a simple unlined jacket with 2 lower patch pockets, and straight-legged trousers. In 1940, this uniform was replaced with a green dyed uniform in the same style. In 1942, this uniform was again updated. The two-pocket jacket was replaced with a four-pocket version, made very similar to the wool field blouse, and issued with insignia. The straight-leg pants were replaced with a new pattern that had a fastener at the cuffs. There was also a work uniform, called the Arbeitsanzug, in a different cut, made of blue fabric.

There are many misconceptions about the issue and use of German Army HBT uniforms. These are outside the scope of this article and we will publish something on this uniform, from a historical perspective, at a different time. This article is about reproductions of the first and second pattern (white and green two-pocket) HBT uniforms, from a reenactment perspective.

Original Uniform Color and Material

Looking at original photos showing the first pattern, undyed unifoms, and also at surviving original examples, a huge variety of shades and tones can be seen. It’s likely that some of this is a result of soiling and laundering. It’s possible that when new, the undyed fabric all had an off-white “oatmeal” tone, and that through repeated cleanings, was bleached white, perhaps to then become off-white again, from soiling. This is speculation. The fact is that in reality, these things, were, and are, in a range of shades. This photo of Reichsarbeitsdienst men wearing their version of this uniform in this undyed fabric illustrates this fact.

The green HBT material also varied. German fabric manufacturers were not able to standardize color shades for the millions of wartime uniform and equipment items manufactured, it was no different with the HBT. This photo shows original wartime wool uniforms with scraps of the green HBT material used as reinforcement under the collar. This is a protected place, and while some of the visible differences could be due to wear and laundering, I believe most of the evident differences are a product of manufacturer variation. Some is more smooth and fine, some more rough and coarse, the relative size and appearance of the “stripes” woven in the fabric is different from one to the next. As one would expect, there is a wide range of variation in this fabric.

I have no way to determine the fiber composition of original uniforms. Wehrmacht HBT fabric was purportedly made of linen, but I have no wartime or prewar source that states this explicitly. Whether any may have been made from blended fiber, or cotton, I can’t say. Manufacturers of reproductions make various claims about the fiber content of their fabrics but I have no way to verify this. I also have no insight on the extent to which modern Asian linen fiber may vary from wartime or prewar European flax-derived linen, if these are the same or not. I can say that it is possible to find wartime fabric with more or less sheen, or that feels more soft or rough, etc.

Issues with reproductions

Reproductions will always differ from originals in some way. It is the same with these uniforms. Some of these issues are easily remedied and some are not.

One pattern error that exists with two-pocket HBT jackets from various manufacturers is an issue with the front placket. On originals, the front edge, on the buttonhole side, is cut straight, with the edge parallel to the buttonholes, so that the front edge when worn is straight and in line with the row of buttons. Many reproductions use a placket like that on the wool field blouse, which is slanted, with the edge getting closer to the button row as it moves from the collar to the skirt. This photo illustrates this issue. On the left, an original jacket with straight, vertical placket, and on the right, a reenactor wearing a reproduction jacket, with a slanted, diagonal placket edge. Look how close the edge is to the lowest button and how far it is from the top button; that’s the problem. This can be fixed with a sewing machine by carefully unstitching the edge, folding it to be straight (trimming near the top as needed), ironing or tacking the edge in place and stitching it with a sewing machine.

Another common issue with many reproductions is the use of overlock stitching. Overlock stitching existed in WWII and was used by Wehrmacht suppliers mostly on knit items. It is unlikely this stitching was ever used on these HBT uniforms. Most manufacturers of reproductions use this stitching style on parts of the inside of the uniforms. It is not visible on the exterior. This photos shows overlock stitching inside a jacket and a pair of trousers from two different suppliers of reproductions.

For a reason I cannot explain, some makers of reproductions include two internal lower pockets. I have never seen an original two-pocket HBT tunic with internal pockets.

Original uniforms that I have seen, had hooks and eyes at the collars, for fastening the collar, in the style of the wool field blouse. Some makers omit these details.

A perspective on reproduction HBT uniforms

In the reality of the Wehrmacht, the HBT uniform was not a glamorous thing. It was worn for training, for work details, and in the field. Generally speaking, it was not adorned with fancy insignia or awards. A reenactor, who is using this thing in the manner in which it was intended, may not particularly care about small details, that may not be visible when the garment is worn, on a uniform that is likely to become heavily soiled, stained, damaged, repaired, and perhaps, eventually, replaced. Small details may not affect how realistic the uniform feels when it is worn. Other reenactors may hold every item they use, regardless of how it is used, or how soldiers viewed the item, to the highest possible standard, and may seek out custom manufacturers who can manufacture bespoke items in fabrics as close as possible to the original, using exclusively period correct construction techniques. It is my hope that the information offered here may be of use to any reenactor interested in purchasing one of these uniforms, from any supplier and at any price point, regardless of their personal, subjective perspective.

Because these uniforms are perhaps not as evocative of the WWII Wehrmacht soldier as other uniform types in the minds of collectors, and perhaps because of their often simple and plain nature, they are less sought-after by collectors, and therefore less expensive. It is my personal opinion that wearing originals in the way in which they were originally intended, will inevitably cause damage to these collectible historic objects, and that this is at odds with a desire to preserve history. I would only ever wear a reproduction and would only allow reproductions to be used in my reenactment group.

Challenges of evaluating reproductions, and a disclaimer

A challenge of evaluating reproduction items is the fact that suppliers will have items made in different runs and possibly from different manufacturers at different times. These uniforms have been reproduced by various suppliers for perhaps 15 years, maybe more. A uniform purchased from one supplier today may be totally different from one sold by the same vendor a year ago. In fact, depending on the vendor, you may order a uniform in one size, and the same uniform in a different size, and get items made by different manufacturers at different times. The information in this article is the information that I have. It is the information I would give to members of my reenactment group looking to buy one of these, and if possible, I will update it, if things change. It should not be regarded as a final, authoritative word. I have not exhaustively studied every variant of original that might possibly exist.

Comparisons of original fabric with reproduction fabric used for uniforms from various suppliers

This is the part of the article where I will finally discuss who actually makes and sells these uniforms and where one can get them.

Here are some photos I took in 2019 showing reproduction uniform parts compared to original fabric. The uniforms sold by these vendors in 2019 and before may or may not use the same fabric as uniforms sold by these vendors today. My camera may capture colors differently from how I see them, and colors may look different on different monitors. It’s my opinion that, generally speaking, the available reproduction fabrics, visually, appear to fall within the original range.

This photo compares a fragment of an original Wehrmacht HBT uniform, to fabrics used by At the Front, Hikishop, Gavin Militaria, and Hessen Antique.

All of these images show reproduction fabric compared to two original samples: the uniform fragment shown above, and an original undyed first pattern jacket (click to enlarge).

Where to buy these?

Note: I am not evaluating the buttons as these are easily changed. The pebbled buttons on the original jackets were removable for laundering, affixed with S-rings.

At the Front offer only the green, second pattern tunic. At the time of writing, the size availability is limited. It’s my opinion that these are as good or better as any reproduction of these that has been made. I strongly recommend these to members of my group if they are available in a suitable size. The rear inside seam uses the selvedge edge of the fabric which is correct (most other makers use overlock stitching here). The attention to detail with these is superb.

Hessen Antique stocks both the green and white tunic and trousers. These are quality reproductions, made of a durable, sturdy fabric that wears beautifully over time. The colors of the items are within the original range, the green will fade nicely from sun exposure. The jackets do have the (fixable) placket error, and overlock stitching is used inside. I regard these as very usable if the placket is fixed.

Hiki also sells white and green pants and tops. The green uniforms are in a grayish shade that I do not believe is incorrect. The jackets have the placket issue, and internal pockets. I bought a pair of green pants from them and a small hanging loop that is supposed to be on the inside waist in the rear was sewn to the outside. It was an easy fix. They do have the oveerlock stitching. The white trousers shown on their web site are a fantasy item, a later pattern, not correct.

Gavin sells the white and green tunic and trousers. The second pattern items use a bright green material that does not fade. I do not believe the color is incorrect. The fabric is linen or a blend, with a nice sheen when new. The jacket in the photo on their site has the correct front placket, and no internal pockets. It does have the overlock stitching, as do the trousers. The fabric is fairly thin and, in my opinion and experience, not as durable as that used by ATF, Hessen or Hiki, but it is thicker than that used by Epic.

Epic Militaria sells the first pattern jacket and trousers, mislabeled as a “workers” uniform. This same product was also previously sold by Zib Militaria. The jacket has a correct placket, but is missing the collar hook and eye (easily added). The material is very thin, almost shirt weight, and not likely to stand up to extended, heavy use.

Military Harbor is the newest maker of these, as far as I am aware. The white and green tunic and trousers are offered. A friend bought the white set and raved about the quality of the material, which he regards as fantastic. The jacket uses modern overlock stitching inside, and has internal pockets, as well as provisions for shoulder boards, which should not be there. I have not handled the HBT uniforms from this maker myself.

My personal, subjective buying recommendations

White tunic: if you can fix the placket, or know someone who can, or if you don’t care about this, get it from Hessen. It’s a sturdy fabric, a nice reproduction, cheaper than Military Harbor. Otherwise, if you can’t fix the placket, order from Gavin.

White trousers: Hessen, Gavin or Military Harbor

Green tunic: ATF if possible, otherwise Hessen or Gavin.

Green trousers: Hessen, otherwise Hiki if you want a grayish-green, Gavin for bright green. I haven’t handled the green HBT from Military Harbor.

Shoe care during the rainy season

From “Taschenbuch für den Winterkrieg,” 1942

  1. The troops are to be instructed that well-maintained and well-cared-for footwear in the wet period is important for good health.
    Boot inspections are to be conducted as often as possible, as far as the battle situation allows, to check that expert shoe care is being carried out.
  2. Water from melted snow soaks quickly through shoe leather and attacks the leather and particularly the thread at the seams of the footwear. Because leather is not quite waterproof, it needs to be treated in such a way that a level of water resistance can be achieved. For this reason, thorough care of footwear is particularly important during the snow melt. The following guidelines are to be observed.

I. Leather footwear

  1. Small damages are to be fixed as soon as possible, as damages in leather soaked with snow melt water will soon become bigger.
  2. Worn-out hobnails should not be removed, because the resulting holes will make the soles water-permeable. Nail new hobnails next to the old ones.
  3. Soles are not to be worn so much, that the long sole is damaged.
  4. Wet footwear is to be changed as soon as possible (put on low boots!), wipe out the interior of footwear with rags, stuff with paper, straw or other moisture-absorbent materials. Footwear is to be allowed to gently dry in a slightly warm place only. The wetter the shoe, the greater the danger of making the leather brittle by drying it out quickly in a hot place, by an oven or open fire.
  5. Clean footwear of dirt daily with brushes or rags. Lightly grease the upper to the ankle level, then vigorously rub in the leather fat with a rag or, even better, with the heel of your hand. Warmed fat soaks better into the leather. But never use too much fat, so that it soaks through the leather and soils your socks and feet. However, you need to generously spread fat into the crease between the upper and the sole, to make this waterproof. (See illustration)
  6. Once a week thoroughly clean footwear of dirt and any adhered dried leather fat or other shoe care product, by washing it with lukewarm water, allowing it to dry and treating the upper as described above. Greasing the shaft of the boot once a week is sufficient.
  7. Using leather fat keeps shoe leather soft. Shoe cream alone makes upper leather hard and brittle, and clogs the pores of the leather, trapping the moisture created by the feet inside the boot, promoting frostbite.
  8. Material for impregnating the soles, as long as it can be delivered, makes the soles waterproof and more durable.
    How to use: clean the soles, then apply the substance and let dry. Repeat this process until the sole will not absorb any more of the substance. Do this once or twice per month. This sole impregnation material is only for leather soles, never for rubber soles or upper leather.

II. Rubber boots

  1. Rubber boots and rubber overboots have to be treated particularly well, in light of the raw material situation. They are not to be worn on road marches.
  2. Clean with a soft rag and with cold or lukewarm water, never with hot water, oil or gasoline. Don’t use anything sharp to scrape off dirt! To dry, hang somewhere with slight heat, never on or over a stove.
  3. Fix damaged areas by gluing on rubber patches with rubber cement.

III. Felt boots

  1. Felt boots can no longer be worn, when the snow becomes watery. Wet felt boots no longer offer any insulation to the feet. The evaporation of the moisture in the felt in the upper part of the boot will strip the feet of their warmth many times, which can cause frostbite even in mildly cold temperatures.
    In consideration of the leather parts and leather or rubber soles, dry felt boots only in a slightly warm place!

207. Sicherungs-Division, 1943: Order of battle, tasks, weapons

In the fall of 1943, the 207. Sicherungs-Division was occupying a very broad area of northwest Russia, crossing over the border into Estonia. This document, from the divisional war diary, dated 27. September 1943, lists every sub-unit assigned to this Division, and the exact location to which each unit was deployed at that time. Of particular interest is that for many of these subunits, the specific task assigned to each unit is listed. Grenadier-Regiment 374 was at that time on the front. The various parts of Sicherungs-Regiment 94 were assigned tasks including railway protection, area security, coastal protection, and anti-partisan activity. Parts of Landesschützen-Bataillon were assigned to be static guards, prisoner of war guards, and also railway protection duty.

This is part of a Divisional report dated September 1, 1943. It lists the German and captured small arms of the Division at that time, as follows:

I. German Weapons
2,411 rifles
143 rifle grenade launchers
610 pistols
18 submachine guns
59 light machine guns
6 heavy machine guns
2 medium mortars

II. Captured Weapons
4 medium mortars (Russian)
41 light mortars (Russian)
131 light machine guns (Russian)
10 heavy machine guns (Russian)
100 submachine guns (Russian)
1,748 rifles (Russian)
33 semi-automatic rifles (Russian)

The reliance on Russian weapons in many subunits of this Division created problems with ammunition supply. This report from Sicherungs-Regiment 94, dated December 8, indicated that the amount of ammunition for the Russian submachine guns was 10,000 rounds short of where it was supposed to be. There was only one magazine per submachine gun. One Kompanie of the Regiment had no ammunition at all.

Uniform guidelines for Eastern volunteers in “Unternehmen Maikäfer,” May 1943

For a long while in the first part of 1943, partisan bands controlled the southern part of the area of Slavkovichi, in north-west Russia. Owing to a shortage of manpower, intimidation of local civilians, and partisan blockades, the Germans were not able to learn details about the composition of these bands, or the location of their headquarters. “Unternehmen Maikäfer” (Operation June Beetle) was an operation tasked with seeking out, attacking, and destroying these bands. The German units involved in this operation were “Gruppe Hofmann” and “Gruppe Spemann.” These formations were composed of a wide range of German security units, including many Eastern volunteer units. The operation began on May 12, 1943, and was regarded as a success, as it led to high enemy losses and the destruction of some partisan units. The enemy losses from this operation combined with other German offensive operations in that area at that time totaled 513 killed and 110 taken prisoner, with correspondingly high numbers of wounded and a large amount of weapons being captured.

The Korps order for “Unternehmen Maikäfer” stipulated that the participants in the operation be uniformed as follows:

Estonian units: Partially in Wehrmacht uniforms, partially in German Polizei uniforms with German helmets
Ostreiter units: Wehrmacht uniforms with red collar tabs and German helmets
Ost-Freijäger units: Latvian uniforms
Lithuanian units: Lithuanian uniforms
Armenian units: Wehrmacht uniforms, or captured uniforms similar to the German cut, with German helmets
Cossacks: Cossack uniforms, white fur caps
German units assigned to Gruppe Hofmann were to wear a white armband on the right upper arm, and those assigned to Gruppe Spemann were to wear a red armband on the left upper arm.

Resized and reissued M36 field blouse

This original German Army M36 field blouse has many interesting features. Most notably, this has been depot or factory resized.

The original factory applied size stamps are in the usual place, behind the placket on the buttonhole side. This was originally made for a chest size of 128 cm (about 50 inches)- a huge size. The tunic is dated 1939.

On the opposite side of the placket is a new set of size stamps with the new measurements. The new chest size is lightly stamped, but it’s about 90 centimeters (35 inches). This drastic resizing has resulted in some unusual features, including oversized pockets and a seam on the rear of the collar. The new size stamps are also maker stamped with “Brago,” a marking also seen on other surviving reworked and reissued garments.

This tunic boasts a very fine quality, private purchase breast eagle. It is machine embroidered on a backing of dark green wool badge cloth, and has been hand sewn to the tunic.

A few of the stitches used to apply the eagle have separated along the bottom edge. Careful inspection reveals that the private purchase eagle is sewn directly on top of the original Bevo machine woven eagle. This eagle is also hand sewn and may have been applied at the factory when the tunic was originally made.

The collar of this tunic features backed Litzen. The Litzen are a very early pattern, with a light green central stripe and pink Waffenfarbe for Panzer or Panzerjäger units. These Litzen are machine applied, and though the application is plausible for a factory style, it’s likely these were changed at some point during the course of the war. The NCO Tresse is an interesting variant that appears to be made of celleon, and shows age toning.

The previous owner of this field blouse told me that when he got it, it had light blue piped shoulder straps, for Nachschub units. Because these did not match the color of the Waffenfarbe on the collar tabs, he removed and sold them. I think it is possible that these were original to the tunic, as wartime photos do show these mismatches in some cases. I added the straps currently on the tunic, prewar Panzerjäger straps with rayon piping.

This pocket shows original loops for a ribbon bar and two badges.

The interior of this tunic shows indications of the extensive rework process this garment underwent. The top pockets have been reapplied, sewn through the original prewar style twill lining, making it impossible to use the internal suspenders intended to be used with this tunic model. Belt hook support tabs of the sort used in uniforms after 1942 have been added, but only in the rear. The lower pockets have been moved up, and the skirt shortened, reducing the height of the small internal bandage pocket and the rear vent opening. Presumably this uniform was reworked for reissue no earlier than 1942.

Dutch field blouse, converted and reissued by the Wehrmacht

This is an original Dutch enlisted issue tunic that was converted and reissued by the Wehrmacht. The collar and the pocket bellows are made of German wool. The insignia are factory applied; these photos give a good sense of the neat stitching that is typical of factory hand sewn breast eagles, and also the collar Litzen application (a mix of hand stitching and straight machine stitching) which is one of several common period techniques.

In this set of things, the tunic, breeches and field cap are all of Dutch origin, modified and reissued for use by the German Army.

These converted Dutch uniforms saw limited use in many kinds of units. Photos show them in wear in training, on surrendered/surrendering combat units, and everything in between.

Cleaned/Repaired/Reissued Equipment in One Division, in One Year

These lists are from the war diary of the 285. Sicherungs-Division.

The first list is all of the unusable clothing and equipment that was cleaned/repaired by the workshops of the Divisional supply depot and reissued to the troops in the one year period between October 1, 1942 and September 30, 1943.

887 field caps
2010 field blouses
635 wool trousers
268 breeches
1299 greatcoats
1854 HBT jackets
1470 HBT trousers
101 work jackets
4970 shirts
3533 underpants
141 helmets
615 belts
514 belt buckles
195 bayonet frogs
757 ammo pouches
906 canteens
1419 mess kits
139 rucksacks
620 Tornister
165 A-frames
132 Y-straps
1180 hand towels
463 handkerchiefs
160 sweaters
634 various armbands
381 collar binds
135 belt loops
1225 equipment straps
210 rain capes
4297 mosquito nets
760 pair jackboots
1315 pair low boots
376 pair Gamaschen
4613 pair wool socks
1395 pair foot wraps
638 Zeltbahnen
505 bread bag straps
159 sport trousers
180 sport shirts
260 night shirts

The second list is winter gear issued for the winter of 1942/43 that was collected, repaired, cleaned, washed, deloused and made ready for reissue.

2146 fur caps
19160 toques
5208 hoods for the padded winter set
4980 wool scarves
6199 ear protectors
4632 surcoats
1651 fur coats
1758 fur jackets
3813 jackets for the padded winter set
4677 trousers for the padded winter set
4107 sweaters
4016 fur vests
1483 motorcyclists pullovers
5386 chest and back warmers
2161 lung protectors
3076 wrist warmers
11469 belly bands
461 muffs of all kinds
1600 trouser liners
394 foot sacks
670 snow shirts
1302 snow overcoats
830 snow trousers
950 snow jackets
4423 shirts
4758 underpants
12934 wool blankets
100 fur chest protectors
26 fur pants
135 camo cover for Tornister
190 camo cover for helmets
8500 pair gloves
4850 pair mittens
6271 pair wool mittens
735 motorcyclists gauntlets
2471 oversocks
7754 knee warmers
3362 knit leg warmers
6500 felt boots
919 sentry boots
7417 wool socks
470 overgloves for the padded winter set

Props and supplies for a reenactment weekend – some individual and unit-level considerations

My reenactment group attended an event in Haydenville, Massachusetts, in October 2021. I took some photos to illustrate some of the items that we brought to the event, to facilitate a weekend of immersive and realistic activities.

This is my Tornister in the configuration in which I bring it to most events. In the reality of war, in most field situations, the Tornister was kept in the rear with the Kompanie supply train, and was used to contain items that weren’t needed. But there were of course also very many cases where soldiers marched with their packs and had them with them in the field, even in combat settings in some cases. This Tornister is loaded with two blankets- a reproduction of the wartime issue German style, and a surplus WW2 type Italian blanket. There is also, inside, a flashlight, and a Soviet shelter half that I use as a ground sheet (this was an event with an Eastern Front scenario). Inside the pocket under the flap, there is a spare pair of long underwear, a pair of foot wraps and a spare pair of warm knit socks, so important for sleeping in cold temperatures (overnight temperatures at this event were down in the 30s). After arrival at the event, I set up the blankets and ground sheet in our tent where I will sleep, and then use the pack to hold and organize gear that I am not using.

I also brought a lantern and lantern fuel. The lantern is a new made Feuerhand 276. This is a German brand, this model of lantern was introduced in 1934 and the manufacturer did make some lanterns for the Wehrmacht. In the wartime German Army, lanterns like this were not widely used; most issue lanterns were a carbide type rather than these liquid fuel kerosene lanterns. An advantage that these lanterns have today is that the new made ones are widely available and common. I bought this lantern last year, and it was my first; for almost 20 years I re-enacted without one of these, but I can’t imagine going back to not using one. In cold weather, running a lantern like this in a tent all night generates a few degrees of warmth. For gathering firewood at night, for finding one’s way in the dark, these things are ideal and, in my opinion, more practical than period type flashlights. Obviously, a soldier who is marching with only what he can carry is not going to be able to carry a bulky lantern and fuel for it. But in a semi-permanent position, something like this could have been utilized and eventually left behind when it was time to go. I chose this bright green color to be representative of a civilian commercial product rather than a military thing. A collapsed barn is within sight of this camp; the idea that something like this could have been found on a farm is, to me, reasonable. The fuel can is an old brake fluid can that I painted gray with a red cap. This is basically a fantasy thing, but it blends into the background in a camp nicely, and it is certainly a handy thing to have, as we often have more than one lantern going and invariably someone shows up with an empty lantern. Perhaps someday I will buy an actual period kerosene or lamp oil container that I can recreate. In the nighttime photo we are playing the board game “Mensch ärgere Dich nicht” by the light of the moon, a fire, and three lanterns. The advertisement is a wartime era one, showing the same type of lantern I use.

Our unit rations for the event were procured and repackaged by one of our members, Markus Brunner, currently in Germany, and were very generously shipped by him to the US for us to consume at an event. The rations consist of a carefully recreated crate, within which are a mix of reproduced military rations goods and procured/sent from home civil items. These items included canned and dry soup, canned sausages, spreads for bread, as well as liquor, cigarettes and sweets. Normally in our group we prepare meals from fresh bulk foods. This recreation of durable canned and dry rations added a different aspect to our meals, and the attention to detail with regard to the packaging enhanced the realism of the event as well. This supply yielded 2 hearty warm meals for our 8-man team, plus snacks.

This is what we used to cook the unit meals. The big aluminum pot is a type often seen in wartime photos. The smaller blue pot with loop for hanging is also a common style from that era. Blue is one of the enamel colors that I have been able to document being used in prewar Germany for this kind of cookware. The ladle and knife are old civilian things. The grate is from a 100-year-old wood stove. I don’t bring the grate to most events but for this specific setting, a semi-permanent outpost adjacent to a farm, I regarded it as plausible; ordinarily I cook over rocks, or a hole in the ground, but the grate certainly makes it easier. I’ve included some photos of this stuff in use and also a wartime photo from a Sicherung unit showing a cooking pot that is almost identical to the modern aluminum one we use.

We also brought this ZB30. This is a non-firing dummy gun that we use as a prop for immersive scenarios and also (as in this case) for training. In addition to the dummy gun there are also the necessary accessories for those assigned to be the machine gun team: a pistol, Czech MG tool pouch, spare barrel in barrel bag, and the German made box for ZB magazines. Most of our members arrived at the event on Friday, we were able to use Friday afternoon for training on our tactics.

As I mentioned above, temperatures at the reenactment dropped into the low 30s at night. To make sleeping more comfortable, we brought this reproduction field stove. The German manual on winter combat stressed the importance of heated accommodations in cold temperatures, and there are many wartime photos showing various types of stove pipes emerging from tents. This is a sheet metal replica of an issue type stove. We use lump charcoal as fuel, and it throws heat through the night with only minimal need for refueling. There are two key things that reduce the chance of burning down the tent. The first is the insulator and shield where the pipe passes through the opening in the tent. It’s a double wall pipe, with ceramic insulation in the gap, so the metal that touches the tent doesn’t get hot. The other thing is the spark arrestor in the “T” at the top. The smoke exiting the pipe has to flow around a restrictive plate riveted inside this “T.” Sparks hit the plate and fall back into the stove. Saturday night it was nice and cozy in the tent even as a hard frost covered everything outside with a coating of ice.

We also brought these printed training aids. The “Merkblatt” is a something that I made up for our group. It is in English inside, and contains the core of our field tactics and doctrine: how to set up a listening/observation post, information on security patrols, hand and flashlight signals, German language commands and terms we use in the field. The flashlight signals are unique to us, something we made up; most of the rest of what is in there is edited translations from Wehrmacht manuals. The folded green card stock item contains the lyrics to three songs we are working on being able to sing: “Lied der Landesschützen,” “Eine Kompanie Soldaten” and “Wenn Wir Marschieren.” The text is simply printed from my computer, in a period type font, but the cover illustration is a hand done block print.

We also brought our tent, of course. This tent is made of eight reproduction Zeltbahn shelter panels. The zelts are made by different manufacturers (different SMW runs, ATF, different Sturm runs, Trident) to replicate the variation found in originals. The tent pegs are either reproductions of the wartime type or near-identical postwar ones. The poles are reproductions or are similar postwar French and Norwegian surplus. At this event we had people showing up at various times from Friday morning to Saturday morning, leaving Saturday night or Sunday. We had 8 members in attendance but only 6 in the tent. In the reality of war, a unit was in transport together, and they could stop and make tents from each man’s personal shelter quarter/poncho (perhaps supplemented with extra shelter quarters if the situation allowed for it, if the goal was to construct semi-permanent lodging). In reenactment, it doesn’t really work that way. Somebody arriving after dark, to an event in progress, is going to want to have a pre-made, dry, sheltered place to stow his blankets and gear, and for sleeping. There are immersion events where when you arrive at the event you are directed to a fighting position and you man it for the duration regardless of weather. But most events are not like that, and even some events that claim to be that aren’t really that. For most events, having a unit tent for lodging is absolutely crucial.

Every reenactment event is different, with countless variables that need to be taken into account when planning. The items shown here, from personal sleeping gear to the unit tent, are largely applicable to most events. From a logistical standpoint, you need something to sleep on, something to sleep in, and something to sleep under; it’s nice to have illumination at night, and meals to eat, when the event is not providing them. Training aids provide opportunity for realistic activity, and prevent people from getting restless and bored. Heated accommodations make a tremendous difference for modern humans who are not acclimated to sleeping outdoors. Being a member of a reenactment group means being part of a team who can share these logistical burdens.

Pebbled field blouse buttons – pebbling variations

Our previous post on Wehrmacht pebbled field blouse buttons included a photo of the backs of some pre-war and early war pebbled buttons, recovered from the Stalingrad battlefield. Here is a photo of the fronts of some of these buttons. This pattern of button was standard on Wehrmacht tunics and overcoats, and was used on some other uniform items as well.

These buttons show varying degrees of wear, and also spent many years on or under the ground. The mostly bare metal surfaces reveal details of the pebbled texture- large or small, more or less “pebbles,” arranged in an orderly or chaotic pattern, with more or less defined pebbling.

These are all pre-war or early war buttons, made of zinc or aluminum. They are from a tiny sample of original buttons and do not reflect the full range of pebbling patterns used by all of the manufacturers that made Wehrmacht tunic buttons out of various materials from 1935 to 1945.