“The German soldiers were poor fellows…” Veteran interview excerpt

Author: Chris Schreiber

Several years ago I interviewed Gefr. Fritz Schweigler, a member of Infanterie-Lehr-Regiment who was badly wounded and captured at Anzio.

FS: As a soldier, the only thing you have is your uniform, your weapon, and nothing else. Nothing else! You get your food from a kitchen, it will be the same way in every army. You are supplied by the army, but you don’t need anything. You need your handkerchief, you need your knife, you need your razor equipment, but nothing else. Nothing else.

CS: Where did you sleep when you were on the front line?

FS: In holes! In holes. You know, the so called… The battlefield was in the area of the so-called Pontinischen Sumpfen. The Pontinischen Sumpfen was, a, you know when you dig your hole, you could dig about 60 or 80… No, you say a yard. About 2/3 of a yard or a yard and you had all water, you know, you came to water, you didn’t dig deeper, your hole. So, it was very primitive. We spent most of our time in open holes, about 2 yards or 1-1/2 yard long and 2/3 of a yard broad. Just place to sit in, not even to lie in. And some had the chance that they found some wood somewhere, or from trees, and you covered your hole as far as was possible, just in order to have a little bit more against rain or so. But I tell you, when you dig your hole, you couldn’t even dig one yard, you were underwater.

CS: Did you have a blanket with you?

FS: Ja! Every soldier. Not a blanket, but stuff like a tent, you know?

CS: A Zeltbahn?

FS: Ja, a Zeltbahn, ja. No blanket.

CS: No blanket???

FS: No, you just had your weapons, and you had… I don’t know the name in English, in German it’s Kochgeschirr. Das Kochgeschirr, ja. And we always said the soldier must have the Kochgeschirr and a spoon and a knife and a fork, so that when there is a possibility to get something to eat, you must have it! (Laughs) That’s a tool you needed! That was all, and then you had a so-called Iron Ration, that was, I think it was a small tin, with meat and a few biscuits, and you were not allowed to eat it. That was for the situation when you really couldn’t get any food from anywhere, then you are allowed to eat it, but not before. And you had a bottle for tea, or water or whatever, and then you had, in case you would be wounded. I don’t know the expression in English, but you need a bandage or, what’s the German name for it? Verbandszeug. That was the outfit of an Infantry man.

CS: What did you carry in your Feldflasche? Water, or…?

FS: No, mostly tea. Mostly tea, ja.

CS: Did you have an Esbit stove?

FS: No, we didn’t have that. You know, when you were in front line, the so-called Tross- that part of the Kompanie or Regiment that was behind the front line- there was the cook, there was the ammunition which you had to bring to the front at nighttime, and at night time also the so-called Essenträger, the special 2 or 3 men- they came at nighttime with containers with tea and other food, the Gulasch and noodles or something like that what you got to eat, they came at nighttime to a certain point, that infantrymen knew what point it would be, and got mostly one man or two men from a group of 9 or 12, got there and got the rations for their fellows and then they went back to the front line.

CS: What did you keep in your Brotbeutel?

FS: In the Brotbeutel nearly nothing. Nearly nothing! We just got the rations, cold and warm, and we were always hungry, we didn’t get so much you know, so you didn’t have the chance to have some other things, in your Brotbeutel.

Field expedient lamps, from the “Tornister-Lexikon”

Field expedient lamps, from the “Tornister-Lexikon”

Translated from “Tornister-Lexikon für den Frontsoldaten” by Gerhard Bönicke, Tornisterschrift des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, 1943.

“The simplest, most expedient light source is a flat bowl (a cup, small food cans or shoe polish tins) filled with rapeseed oil, poppyseed oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil or olive oil, with a cotton wick hanging in it that is fixed to the edge of the bowl using wire (but without wrapping the wire tightly around the wick).

Candles can be made using absorbent, absolutely dry cotton threads, that are dipped in melted beeswax, stearin, parrafin or ceresin wax, or melted remains of candles, or a mix of these materials, and allowed to cool between each dip, until a candle of sufficient strength is formed. To make an adequately thick wick, if need be, multiple cotton threads can be wound together.

An expedient petroleum lamp can be made out of an empty food can, with the cut-off lid soldered back on, as shown in figure 18.

To refill the can, a penny-sized hole is cut into the lid on one side, that can be closed with a fitting cork or wood plug. To pass the wick through, use part of another food can to make a rectangular sleeve, corresponding to the width and thickness of the wick, about 2 cm high, and solder it to the center of the top of the can, after cutting a corresponding slit in the lid. On the sides of the wick sleeve, solder a few angle-shaped pieces of wire as cylinder supports. For the cylinder, you could use a medicine bottle, with the bottom and neck portion removed. In the absence of a mechanism to advance the wick, you can use pliers or wire hooks to pull the wick out as needed. For a wick, you could quilt together multiple layers of muslin, cotton, flannel or similar.

Another simple lamp is shown in figure 19, made out of a food can, with the lid cleanly cut away.

At the top, the opening of the can is pressed together flat, and soldered. At both of the corners that are formed when the top is pressed together, are pressed in or soldered in rifle cartridge casings, that have had the bottoms removed using wire cutters, and have a wick (rifle cleaning patches) pulled through. For refilling the can, cut a penny-sized hole in the side and close it with a wood plug or cork. Intended for petroleum, diesel oil, fuel oil (not for gasoline or benzene!). The brightness of diesel oil can be improved by adding some table salt. Burning leaded fuels in enclosed spaces is harmful to health!

The next possibility, to make a lamp in the simplest way, is shown in figure 20a.

It requires 2 food cans, of which one is widened, so that it can be put over the other like a cap. In the widened can, 3 holes are cut, into which 3 rifle cartridge casings are pressed, each with the bottom snipped off with wire cutters. As a wick, rifle cleaning patches are again used. Through these three burners, this lamp produces a nearly shadow-free light- however, it uses an extremely high amount of fuel.

The last suggestion, shown in figure 20b, is again made of two food cans, one fit over the other.

Here, a flat sleeve for the wick, made of sheet metal, is soldered on, equipped with a slit for easily repositioning the wick. In the lid is placed a 2 cm thick piece of wood, fitted as tightly as possible, that protects from heat and greatly reduces the danger of explosion.

In place of a needle to reposition the wick, a thin piece of wire can successfully be inserted along with the wick, ideally intertwined with the wick.”

WWII German board games – “Melder Vor!” and “Stosstrupp greift an!”

WWII German board games – “Melder Vor!” and “Stosstrupp greift an!”

“Spiel mit!” (Play along!) was a set of games introduced during WWII and packaged in a small, flat box that was well-suited to being mailed. It was available for anyone to buy, soldiers could have bought it, or people could have bought it and mailed it to soldiers in the field using the military mail system. It was a set of 5 games: chess, checkers, Nine Men’s Morris, and two military-themed games, “Melder vor!” (Messenger forward!) and “Stosstrupp greift an!” (Assault troop attacks!). The game board were packaged together with cardboard and wood or plastic game pieces.

Here are the instructions for the games in “Spiel mit!” The instructions are printed on one double-sided sheet, folded in the middle.

The two military-themed games are played on one double-sided game board, with one game printed on each side. The board is made of lightweight card stock, folded in the middle. These games were intended to be played with the game pieces that came in the box, but they can be played with any kind of small tokens or markers- four different pieces for “Melder vor!” and 25 pieces for “Stosstrupp greift an!” (23 of one type and two of another).

“Melder vor!” is a game for up to four players.

The game is played as follows:

“As game pieces, use 4 different colored pieces. If no die is available, you can use the spintop, which is made complete with a little piece of wood (like a match stick).

Whoever rolls the highest number, begins his trip as messenger. He advances the number of spaces that he rolled. If the player lands on an occupied field, he sends the other player back to the start. For the red spaces, the following rules apply:

Wire entanglement: The messenger remains where he is and his turn is skipped twice.

Blocking fire: The messenger must take cover. He stays where he is, until he has rolled a 6.

Swamp: The messenger goes back to the start.

Fence: The messenger jumps over the fence and advances 6 spaces.

Trench: The messenger is stuck in the trench and his turn is skipped three times.

Intermediate bunker: The messenger takes a break to catch his breath, and his turn is skipped once.

Whoever is the first to reach the bunker in the center, is the winner.”

“Stosstrupp greift an!” is a game for two players.

Translated rules:

Defender = 2 chess pieces
Assault troop = 23 pieces = red underside of the chess pieces

The assault troop occupies the 23 spaces in the foreground with his pieces. The opponent defends his fortified field position and occupies machine gun positions 1 and 2.

The assault troop attacks and moves one piece. In the course of the attack he can only move straight ahead and diagonally, in the direction of the field fortification. The defender can move in any direction. He can take the attacker out of the battle, meaning taking a game piece from him, by jumping over him, when the space behind him is unoccupied. The defender cannot be jumped over and cannot lose a piece. Within the field fortification the attacker may also move his pieces in any direction. The defender must move, if he is forced to by the attacker. The defender is the winner, if he is able to take 15 of the attacker’s pieces out of action. The assault troop is the winner, if he occupies all nine spaces in the field fortification.”

I scanned the original board and edited the graphics to remove the folded crease at center. It is very easy to make a reproduction of this board, and coins, buttons, stones or any kind of small objects can serve as expedient game pieces. To make the game board, print out the files in the links below on 11″ x 17″ paper. I went to a local office supply store and had them print the graphics on their color copier, so the ink is waterproof. Then, glue the prints to either side of a 9 inch square piece of card stock. Trim the card leaving a narrow border around the printed black border on one side or the other, and fold it in half, horizontally, with “Melder vor!” on the outside when it is folded. Here are the .pdf files:

Melder vor!

Stosstrupp greift an!

Wartime German songbook “Sing mit, Kamerad!”

Wartime German songbook “Sing mit, Kamerad!”

This is a wartime German songbook that was distributed as a promotional item by an insurance company in Stuttgart. It’s about 50 pages long. The stamp and notation on the title page of this book indicates it was property of a German Army unit during the war.

PDF Download

 There are 72 songs in this book. Of interest here is the fact that only the lyrics are included, there is no musical notation. Whoever compiled these songs assumed that soldiers would be familiar with them and know the melodies. Perhaps this may offer some insight into songs that were common and well-known to Wehrmacht soldiers.

The book includes the lyrics to the following songs:
A list of the 72 songs:

Als wir nach Frankreich zogen
Als wir jüngst in Regensburg waren
Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
An der Nordsee, an der Donau (Jawoll – das stimmt – Jawoll)
Auf dem Berg so hoch da droben
Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein (Erika)
Auf der Lüneburger Heide
Auf die schwäb’sche Eisenbahne
Auf, hebt unsre Fahnen
Auf Wiederseh’n, mein Schätzelein (Heut’ stechen wir ins blaue Meer)
Burschen heraus
Das ist nun einmal so (Wenn ein Soldat ein Mädel liebt)
Das schönste Blümelein, das ich kenn
Der Gott, der Eisen wachsen liess
Des morgens, wenn ich früh erwach’
Die blauen Dragoner
Die Ganze Kompanie (Stolz marschieren wir zu drei’n)
Drei Lilien, drei Lilien
Drunten im Unterland
Ein Heller und ein Batzen
Ein Schifflein sah ich fahren
Ein Tiroler wollte jagen
Engelland (Heute wollen wir ein Liedlein singen)
Es ist so schön, Soldat zu sein (Rosemarie)
Es steh’n drei Birken auf der Heide
Es war ein Edelweiss, ein kleines Edelweiss
Es wollte sich einschleichen
Flieg’, deutsche Fahne, flieg’!
Frühmorgens wenn die Hähne kräh’n
Frühmorgens wenn die Sonn aufgeht (Tschingta, tschingta Bummtara!)
Hab mein Wage voll gelade
Heiss ist die Liebe
Heute geht’s an Bord
Heute wollen wir’s probieren (Westerwald-Lied)
Hoch auf em gelben Wagen
Ich bin ein freier Wildbretschütz
I bin Soldat
Ich sing mir ein Lied
Ich trag in meinem Ranzen…
Jetzt gang I ans Brünnele
In Sanssouci am Muhlenberg (Veronika)
Im Feldquartier auf hartem Stein
Im schönsten Wiesengrunde
Kennt ihr das Land
Liebchen ade! (Annemarie)
Liebling, wenn ich traurig bin
Lippe-Detmold, eine wunderschöne Stadt
Märkische Heide, märkische Sand
Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland
Morgen marschieren wir in Feindesland
Muss i den zum Städtele naus
Nur der Freiheit gehört unser Leben
Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss
Soldat sein, heist true sein
Soldaten sind immer Soldaten
Steh’ ich in finst’rer Mitternacht
Tirol, du bist mein Heimatland
Und die Morgenfrühr, das ist unsere Zeit
Von den Bergen rauscht ein Wasser
Was glänzt dort vom Walde
Weit last die Fahnen wehen
Wenn alles grunt und blüht
Wenn alle Brünnlein fliessen
Wenn all untreu warden
Wenn die bunten Fahnen wehen
Wenn wir marschieren
Wilde Gesellen, vom Sturmwind durchweht
Wir marschieren alle in gleichem Schritt
Wo e’ Klein’s Hütt’le steht
Wohlan, die Zeit ist kommen
Wohlauf, Kameraden, aufs Pferd

Songbook “Lied der Front” (Song of the Front) 1940

Songbook “Lied der Front” (Song of the Front) 1940


Anyone who has ever worn the gray tunic knows the power of the soldiers’ song. He knows, what mysterious power is hidden in such a song that can, for a whole Kompanie, a Bataillon, after great exertions, lift them back up again and prepare them for new achievements. But he also knows how the soldiers’ song, powerful and yearning, funny and serious, can improve so many nice evenings in barracks or in quarters, in the field or in the training area. The whole many-sided life of a soldier is reflected back in these songs. And then he might grab paper and sheet music and forge lyrics and melody together, that arise from soldierly experience. Many such songs have been carried over into the body of songs of the German people, and become collective property. We remember the many soldiers’ songs of the World War, when often nobody knew who wrote them or who gave them melody. They were sung and carried on from one end of the front to the other. This one or that one would add something to them, set them to one or another tone, and in this way such songs became true communal products of the front.

It is for this reason that, a few weeks after the beginning of this war, I made the decision to request soldiers to submit the songs and melodies of this war to the greater German broadcast agency, so that they wouldn’t be lost, and over the etherial waves could very quickly become communal property of all German soldiers and the homeland. This request was met with surprising success, and once again showed how much musical power is in the German people. There are again great composers, and great poets, who nevertheless understand how to sing in the spirit of the people.

The continually surprising success of this request proved me right. There were not thousands, rather tens of thousands of submissions, all of which were seen and checked by the editors and our coworkers. And the results, that were added to German song in this way, has contributed some very valuable achievements to the treasury of songs of the German people.

Volume 1 of this song book has already achieved record sales of more than a million copies. Volume 2 is not far behind, and the publishers and printers have their hands full trying to fill all the requests. Now volume 3 and others in the series will be sent out, so that the new soldiers’ songs can be carried in every bunker and trench, every airfield and patrol boat, and so that you, Kameraden, can truly take part in these songs.

On behalf of the greater German broadcast agency:

Alfred-Ingemar Berndt
Principal and Leader of the Broadcast Department of the Reich Propaganda Ministry
currently a Leutnant in a schweren Panzerjägerabteilung”

Three volumes total were produced, the link is to a PDF of all 3 volumes.

Lied der Front

Verpflegung des Soldaten (Rations of Wehrmacht Soldiers)

“Verpflegung des Soldaten” (Rations of the Soldiers)
Translated by Nadine Wichmann

A) Rations in Peacetime 

Sample menu- 1936

Monday- Lunch: 20 grams rice soup, 130 grams beef goulash (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, 200 grams of salad with oil and vinegar. Dinner: 10 grams coffee, 50 grams Schmalz (from pig fat), 100 grams leberwurst.

Tuesday- Lunch: 20 grams “Griesssuppe”, 140 grams roasted veal (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, 200 grams peas and carrots. Dinner: 2 grams of tea with 50 grams of sugar, 50 grams butter, 100 grams cheese.

Wednesday- Lunch: 20 grams noodle soup, 140 grams of meatballs (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, 200 grams spinach with bacon. Dinner: 10 grams of coffee, 50 grams of margarine, 3 eggs.

Thursday- Lunch: 20 grams rice soup, 140 grams of roasted pork (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, one pickle. Dinner: 10 grams of coffee, 50 grams Schmalz (from pig fat), 100 grams bacon sausage.

Friday- Lunch: 30 grams dried vegetable soup, 140 grams roasted beef (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, 200 grams Kohlrabi. Dinner: 2 grams of tea with 50 grams sugar, 50 grams of butter, 100 grams Edamer cheese.

Saturday- Lunch: 170 grams bean soup, 800 grams potatoes, 120 grams lean smoked bacon. Dinner: 10 grams coffee, 50 grams margarine, 1 tin sardines in oil.

Sunday- Lunch: 20 grams milk soup, 140 grams pork cutlets (and 20 grams of fat), 1500 grams boiled potatoes, 200 grams applesauce. Dinner: 20 grams hot chocolate (with 50 grams sugar), 50 grams butter, 100 grams sausage.

For breakfast, each soldier had 10 grams of coffee. The amount of coffee, tea, etc. is the amount of the raw product, not the prepared food. The amount of soup- rice, etc.- is the amount of ingredient put in the soup; additional meat, broth or spices could be added. In addition, each soldier got 750 grams of bread daily with breakfast and dinner, as well as butter, marmalade or other spreads.

The rations for the whole day cost 1.35- 1.50 RM.

Remarkable by today’s nutrition standards is the lack of fresh fruit, and the low amount of salad and dairy products.

B) Rations in War

Daily Ration: Verpflegungssatz der Wehrmacht- Feldration

a) Cold Rations

-750g bread
-150g fat (separated into 60-80 grams butter, Schmalz, or margarine for spreading and 70-90 grams lard or vegetable oil for preparing a warm meal)
-120g sausage (fresh or in cans) or tinned fish or cheese
-up to 200g marmalade or artificial honey
-7 cigarettes or 2 cigars

b) Prepared as Warm Rations

-1000g potatoes or partially substituted with
up to 250g fresh vegetables or
up to 150 grams dried vegetables
125g bread or pastry, rice, “Gries”, barley etc.
– up to 250g fresh meat
– 15g ingredients (salt, spices etc.)
– 8g bean coffee and 10g ersatz coffee (or tea)

And depending on availability eggs, fruit, chocolate etc.

For Comparison:

The rations for the civilian population at the end of 1939:

Bread: 340 grams (average user) 685 grams (heavy worker)
Meat: 70 grams (average user) 170 grams (heavy worker)
Fat: 50 grams (average user) 110 grams (heavy worker)

Converted to Calories per Day:

Average user 2570 cal.
Heavy worker 4652 cal.

Wehrmacht average 3600 cal., field ration about 4500 cal. Same today for the Bundeswehr.

The numbers for the average user according to the ration card sank in Winter 1942/43 to 2078 cal. Winter 1943/44 1980 cal., Winter 1944/45 1670 cal., and finally 1945/46 1412 cal. daily. The ever-increasing malnutrition had negative effects on the results of military physicals starting at the end of 1942, for people born in the year 1924.

The daily calorie values for normal users in the occupied territories at the end of 1943 were:

Baltic region 1305 cal.
Belgium 1320 cal.
France 1080 cal.
Netherlands 1765 cal.
Poland 855 cal.

Eiserne Portion:

Two full sets of these rations, which were secured by special packaging so as not to spoil or be damaged, were carried with the field kitchen for every soldier. The full iron ration was:

250g hard Zwieback (bag)
200g preserved meat (tin)
150g canned soup (either concentrated soup or vegetable sausage)
20g coffee, ground and packaged

Every soldier in action on the front was given a small iron ration from this stock, which could only be eaten when ordered- however, this was soon found to be an impossible order. The shortened iron ration consisted of 250g hard zwieback and 200g tinned meat and was kept in the bread bag or Tornister.

Rations in the Reality of War

For those on the front line in combat, the ration was usually issued 24 hours in advance, under cover of darkness.

“At dusk, the men in their positions awoke from their mole-like lifestyle. Carrier troops went to the rear, to pick up food and mail. The latter was generally at least 2 weeks old. For warm rations, there was mostly a canteen of coffee and a mess kit of thick soup. The cold rations were a half loaf of bread, a few spoonfuls of margarine and artificial honey, as well as 150g of meat and cheese. Everyone had to decide for himself how to use the rations over the next 24 hours.” -W. Felten, 65. Infanteriedivision

The aforementioned rations were mostly the same for front-line soldiers even to the end of the war, except in special circumstances (i.e. when surrounded). With the exception of the 6. Armee at Stalingrad, no Soldat who was with his unit starved to death.

However, with the Ersatzheer, starting in 1944, there was a clear decrease in the quality of the rations. The amount was the same, but meat and fat were being replaced with more potatoes and dried vegetables.

In contrast with all other armies of WWII except the Red Army, the Wehrmacht had the same rations for officers and enlisted men. This rule was, almost without exception, obeyed in all units up to the level of Korps staffs. Although there were some exceptions, especially during the retreats of 1944.

Wehrmacht unit structure, assigned weapons and vehicles according to K.St.N.

Every type of wartime Wehrmacht unit was organized according to specific guidelines that were laid out in a special chart. The chart laid out exactly how many men were to be assigned to the unit type, what their roles would be, what ranks these soldiers were to hold, and what weapon each was to carry. The chart also specified exactly what kinds of vehicles each unit type was to be equipped with. This chart was called the K.St.N., an abbreviation for Kriegsstärkenachweisung – War Strength Certificate.

Weapons were assigned to soldiers based on their roles, not their ranks. The issued weapon did not become the personal property of the soldier; it was owned by the German Reich, and units had to hold soldiers accountable for the weapons issued to them. To identify what sort of weapon was issued to a soldier, one need only look at the K.St.N. chart for the corresponding unit type.

As of this writing, there are some great resources online for looking up the K.St.N. charts. One of these is Christoph Awender’s WWII Day by Day, which contains many of the K.St.N. charts neatly laid out in a way that makes it easy to visualize the manpower and equipment of each unit type. Sturmpanzer.com has a download section that allows one to download lots of K.St.N. as scans of the original wartime German documents.

To illustrate the information contained in the K.St.N., let’s look at the original German K.St.N. number 4033, for a Landesschützen-Kompanie stationed in the occupied Western territories. The K.St.N charts were changed and updated until the end of the war, so it is important to note the date; this one is dated February 1, 1941.

From this document we can see that a Landesschützen-Kompanie in the West was to be commanded by an officer, armed with a pistol or machine pistol, and assigned a horse for his use (later this was removed). To the commander was attached a Kompanietrupp consisting of a Hauptfeldwebel armed with a pistol or machine pistol, 5 enlisted messengers on bicycles armed with rifles, 2 enlisted clerks armed with rifles, an enlisted caretaker for the horse armed with a rifle, and one car, with an enlisted driver armed with a rifle.

Within the Landesschützen-Kompanie were 4 Züge (platoons). Each Zug had an officer, armed with a pistol or machine pistol and assigned a bicycle, as a platoon leader. To this leader was attached a Zugtrupp consisting of an NCO armed with a rifle, and 4 enlisted messengers armed with rifles, of which two were on bicycles, and one was equipped with a signal horn.

Each Zug had 4 Gruppen (squads). Each Gruppe was led by an NCO, armed with a rifle. One Gruppe had a light machine gun, and a cart to go with it. The MG gunner and his assistant (enlisted men) were armed with pistols. This Gruppe also had 7 enlisted men armed with rifles. The other 3 Gruppen simply had 9 enlisted riflemen.

The unit also had a Tross, which was the logistical and administrative part of the Kompanie. The Tross had 5 NCOs, armed with pistols or machine pistols, each with his own specific duties. Two of these NCOs had bicycles. The Tross also had 5 enlisted men armed with rifles: three horse drivers, a cook, and a vehicle driver. The Tross had two carts with two horses each- one for rations, and one for baggage. It also had a field kitchen, with two horses to tow it, and a light open truck.

This K.St.N was different from the K.St.N for a Landesschützen-Kompanie in the Ost, which had 4 machine guns per Zug. It was also different from the K.St.N. for a Landesschützen unit located within Germany.

WWII German Wehrmacht trenches, shelters, field fortifications

Some illustrations taken from wartime German manuals on constructing field fortifications.

A schematic drawing of a trench line. In the illustration at top, the camouflage has been removed.

Trench features. 1: A trench in which one must crawl. 2: A connecting trench. 3: A niche for a rifleman. 4: A niche for ammunition.

Shelter made of wooden boards, for 6 men sitting or 3 men lying down.

Observation position, also made of boards.

Simple field shelters. 1: Simple dirt hole for one man. 2: “Heinrich” position made of corrugated sheet metal, for 3-6 men. 3: “Siegfried” position made from sheet metal.
More simple shelters. 4: Position made of 8 cm diameter logs, for 2-3 men. 5: Position made of flat corrugated sheet metal or logs, showing 3 stages of construction. The work had to begin at night, the later stages could be worked on also during the day.
Shelter made of wood with a corrugated metal roof, for 3 men lying down, or 6 men sitting.
A larger version of the “Siegfried” shelter made from sheet metal frames.
“Heinrich” shelter.
A larger “Heinrich” using two corrugated metal sheets.
A Schützenloch (what in the US military might have been called a “foxhole”) for two riflemen.
Schützenloch for a light machine gun, such as an MG34 or MG42.
Another diagram showing an MG position, also for a gunner in a standing position.
A more sophisticated machine gun position, a “Ringstand” built from logs.
A log machine gun bunker.
Details of the above bunker.
Holes for riflemen and for shelter from tanks. 1: For firm ground. Riflemen positions on the left, machine gun positions on the right. 2: For softer ground.
This table lists 12 kinds of field fortifications. For each type, it is indicated how many cubic meters of earth had to be moved, how many men each would take to build, how many hours each would take, and what tools were needed. For the more complicated positions, it also lists what building materials were required. The chart at upper right indicates how many cubic meters of earth one man could move in an hour, depending on how hard or soft the ground was. A man could move more earth in one hour than what he could move per hour if working for hours.
An illustration of dummy positions that were to act as decoys. I have added a translation to this original illustration.

The story of the “Westwall ring”

How the Westwall ring came into being

(From “Wir von der Westfront,” 1940.)

They sat together in the rooms, the men of the Westwall. All day, they had dug trenches, fortified bunkers and covered the border against the enemy with a net of iron wire. Now it was a free evening. Some wrote, some sang, some whispered, some dreamed.

Among the men was also a goldsmith. Gottfried Grau, he was called. He came from Pforzheim. This Gottfried Grau had brought a piece of “warrior’s gold” into his room with him: a piece of iron wire. Like a toy, he wound the shorter end of this wire into a ring, and bent the longer end with a file into a spiral, which soon lay like a rosette on the narrow ring. Then he put the ring on his finger and regarded it with scrutiny, like a piece of jewelry from his old workshop.

The other men started to notice this. They looked over the shoulder of the goldsmith.

“It is beautiful, this ring,” a young man said dreamily. “It suits us.”

After Gottfried Grau finished his duty on the Westwall, he returned to his home city. As he bid his comrades farewell, he thought about the iron ring he had made. He took it out of his pocket and gave it to the young man. “In memory!” he said seriously.

When a year was over, Gottfried Grau came back to the Westwall, but this time not as a trench worker, rather in the gray jacket of a soldier. When he greeted his new comrades, he noticed that some of them wore an iron ring with a wound spiral. Such a ring as he had once made and given as a gift. He asked the soldiers about the origin of this jewelry. They couldn’t say. Someone had seen someone else wearing it, and one got the feeling that this ring had a deep meaning and tried to make one. So arose many such rings, “Westwall rings” as they were simply called by the soldiers.

Gottfried Grau knew that his trained fingers could do good work here. From now on he spent his free time in the weapions maintenance room, making Westwall rings. The soldiers helped him with it.
And when today, when they put a self-made ring on the finger of their comrades, the officers and the men, they say then: “In memory!”

And it sounds as a promise to cameraderie for all time.

Original equipment photo

This is an unattributed photo that I refer to, to help inform my equipment setup at events where I march in/out with my gear. The M34 Tornister by regulation was supposed to have the mess kit in the pouch inside, this worked great for gear kept in a barracks locker but obviously in the field it was impractical. The curled-under strap ends shown here were regulation. I use equipment straps rather than bits of string for my blanket roll.