Reenactment display – Verpflegungstross

Reenactment display – Verpflegungstross

Author: Markus Brunner

This post is meant to illustrate some things that I believe were common, that are functional, attainable, and scalable.

Below I have included some pictures of a reenactment display I put together, with some items I have collected for this purpose. The scenario being recreated here, is that of the Verpflegungstroß of an Infanterie-Kompanie establishing an Ausgabestelle for the platoons to rotate through before heading out to their forward positions.

This Ausgabestelle (issue point) remains established behind the lines, as a point of centralized issue for food, ammunition, lubricants, and water. It is common that reenactors will use their cars as a “supply point” to obtain more water or other needed supplies. This is a representation of what that imaginary supply point might have looked like, in reality.

In my opinion the soldier can not soldier without things to soldier with.

Step one: Water, Water is very obviously a critical supply that a unit or human being can not live without. Here at this “station” the soldiers can centralize their canteens and refill. Pictured are some common means of carrying water, the 20 liter Einheitskanister, and the 5 liter aluminum drinking water container. The exact purpose of the 5 liter aluminum container is unknown, but they show up in photographs every now and again. A typical enameled funnel of the time helps to avoid spilling such a precious commodity.

Step two: Ammunition. Wehrmacht rifle ammunition was issued in cardboard boxes, unlike most allied forces who issued it in cans. These cardboard boxes were packed into cardboard sleeves of 300 rounds each, and then into a variety of different wooden boxes that changed throughout the war. The most common variations of those are listed below.
Patronenkasten 88
Patronenkasten 88B
Luftdichter Patronenkasten
Luftdichter Patronenkasten B
Patronenkasten 900
Also pictured are some common types of grenades with the associated detonators, fuses, and metal carrying case.

Step 3: Lubricants and fuels. Pictured here are some fairly common cans meant to store oil, or fuels. The commercial product Ballistol for protecting leather and cleaning weapons, some replacement cleaning wicks and some common replacement parts. Also pictured are some examples of German lanterns of the time period.

Step 4: Food. Here are some examples of some crates of food made to Wehrmacht specification. Inside of these boxes are “Schwarzblech” (black tin) cans of meat. On top of this is a common food product “Erbswurst” or pea sausage. This popular food staple was a series of pressed tablets of pea soup that could be prepared into a hearty ham and pea soup, in a mess kit with a cup of water and only a few minutes. Behind the crates you can see larger bags used for larger bulk items such as loaves of bread or vegetables.

Step 5: First aid: Here is a civilian first aid kid which is filled with modern relabeled first aid items to handle basic trauma or boo-boos.

Step 6: Lastly, morale/comfort items. Pictured here is the Feldofen 42 field oven, made by Quint in Trier, with its associated coal shovel, and hooked poker. There are also a few enamelware pots and pans, and a few cooking knives, all of which were common styles in use at that time. A metal box of maintenance supplies for uniforms and equipment, and some other period type German tools and rope round out the display.

Original WWII German Esbit stoves and fuel, and postwar substitutes

Original WWII German Esbit stoves and fuel, and postwar substitutes

     “Esbit” is a type of hexamine-based solid fuel invented in Germany in 1936. The name is an acronym for the initials of the inventor, Erich Schumm, and “Brenstoff in Tablettform” (Fuel in Tablet Form). The Erich Schumm company (later the Esbit company) also made small, portable stoves for use with this fuel. They were advertised as a way to warm food and beverages for sport and hiking, for travel, and for workers to use on their breaks. Prior to 1945 there were a few different types of these stoves offered, of which the most commonly encountered today is the Model 9. Esbit stoves were issued to German soldiers in WWII and were also available for soldiers to buy. They are mentioned in memoirs written by Wehrmacht soldiers and also in memoirs of American troops who served in Europe and use these as captured items. It’s reasonable to conclude that they must have been fairly common among Wehrmacht troops, and they are very handy and practical items to use for living history.
     The wartime Model 9 Esbit stove is made of zinc-coated steel. With use, the zinc coating is worn away or possibly burned off by the heat of the burning fuel. The bare steel is extremely susceptible to rust, and black residue from the burned fuel will build up on the inside of the stove. These are not things that were intended to be used forever, they were cheap and have a limited lifespan with extensive use. The original wartime Model 9 is now collectible and not extremely common. From a living history perspective, I think it is better to preserve the originals than to consume them and further reduce the finite number of surviving original examples. Production of the Model 9 continued after the war, with some design updates. Other nations and armies also made different types of similar stoves for their own troops, after the war. Here is a comparison showing the wartime Model 9 Esbit, and various postwar types that can be found today.

     The postwar Esbit stove shown, is very similar to the wartime one. The biggest difference on the top of the folded stove, is that the wartime one has straight edges on the central closure, while the postwar one has “teeth.”

     The bottom of the pre-1945 Model 9 is solid, and the postwar one has vents.

     For reenactment, I personally have always carried this postwar Model 9 version, as I use my Esbit a lot and do not want to destroy collectible originals. You will notice that the “Esbit” script logo on both is identical. In the 1980s the company switched to a different logo.
     The Esbit fuel was packaged in a cardboard box that fit inside the stove. Reproductions of this box are available from some reenactment vendors.

     The box claims to contain 20 fuel tablets, but that isn’t really true. It contains 4 large tablets, that are scored so that you could break each tablet into 5 parts. I opened this wartime box, which probably had never been open. The tablets in the box are broken, perhaps due to inherent instability of the fuel tablets over time.

     Each of the 5 sections of the original tabs is marked “ESBIT.”

     Esbit currently offers fuel in two sizes, neither of which are the same as the 75 mm x 32 mm x 8 mm wartime slabs. They make a small 4 gram size, and a larger 14 gram cube. The smaller, 4 gram tablets are similar to the sections of the original tablet, and 20 will fit in the wartime box. 6 of the larger tablets fit perfectly in the wartime box. Other types of hexamine fuel are available today and may function more or less the same as the Esbit product. I once ordered “Esbit” fuel from a seller on Amazon but got a generic, made in China product that did not function as well, in my opinion. Generally, I prefer to purchase Esbit fuel at a local shop where I can see exactly what I am buying. The modern Esbit fuel cubes come individually blister packed and when you open them, there is a smell that is quite strong. I unpack the cubes and load them into a reproduction box, the smell vanishes after a day or so.

     In my opinion, the Esbit is best at heating prepared food, rather than actually cooking. Esbit stoves and fuel are great at warming soup or other canned foods. For reenactment, if you plan to eat out of cans, you can consult this list of Wehrmacht steel ration can contents for some meal ideas.
     It is also possible to actually cook meals with the Esbit as well. With enough fuel and time, you can boil water and keep it boiling. One recipe I like to prepare with my Esbit stove is “Ölsoldaten” (Oil Soldiers), from the wartime Wehrmacht cookbook “Östliche Speisen nach deutscher Art.” The recipe in the book: “Fry sardines in their own oil while adding finely chopped onions. Drizzle with lemon juice as a dressing.” It is further noted that “Tuna fish in oil can be prepared just as the canned sardines.” I find the tuna version of this to be delicious.

How to measure a reproduction Wehrmacht field blouse to create correct size stamps

Every German field blouse was stamped inside with 5 different size measurements as follows:

-Back length
-Collar size
-Chest size
-Overall length
-Sleeve length

 Not every reproduction field blouse has correct size markings- many are unmarked. I make size stamps for my uniforms because I think it is a detail that adds realism. To find out how the actual measurements of a garment corresponded with the stamped sizes, I measured 5 different unaltered original Heer enlisted issue wool field blouses. I then took this small sample and looked at the numbers. There was no exact ratio that always held true. This may be because the garments were worn and may have stretched or shrunk with use or over time. Or, it could be a result of manufacture variation. Based on this quick survey, I came to make size stamps for my uniforms based on the following formula. Note that all sizes are in centimeters.

-Back length: Measure from the base of the collar straight down the back to the level of the bottom of the bottom belt hook hole, and add 1 to this measurement.
-Collar size: Measure the inside of the collar from the hook to the eyelet, and use this exact number.
-Chest size: Button the field blouse, measure from armpit to armpit across the front, double this number, then subtract 8.
-Overall length: Measure from the base of the collar to the bottom edge of the skirt in the back, and add 3.
-Sleeve: Measure from the seam at the top of the soldier straight down to the bottom sleeve edge, and add 1.

There exists a chart that purports to show the original range of sizes for each measurement based on chest size. For making the stamps on my own uniforms I have not referred to this chart, preferring to stamp these according to the sizes that they actually are.

For reference, here are the measured and stamped sizes for each of the 5 tunics.

Tunic 1 (M43)
Back length: Measured 41, stamped 43
Collar: Measured 42, stamped 42
Chest: Measured 98, stamped 92
Length: Measured 69, stamped 72
Sleeve: Measured 64, stamped 64

Tunic 2 (M40)
Back length: Measured 40, stamped 41
Collar: Measured 40, stamped 41
Chest: Measured 98, stamped 90
Length: Measured 65, stamped 68
Sleeve: This tunic has repaired sleeve ends.

Tunic 3 (M40)
Back length: Measured 40, stamped 41
Collar: Measured 41, stamped 41
Chest: Measured 98, stamped 90
Length: Measured 65, stamped 68
Sleeve: Measured 58, stamped 61

Tunic 4 (M43)
Back length: Measured 45, stamped 43
Collar: Measured 39, stamped 40
Chest: Measured 88, stamped 88
Length: Measured 71, stamped 72
Sleeve: Measured 63, stamped 64

Tunic 5 (M43)
Back length: Measured 43, stamped 43
Collar: Measured 43, stamped 43
Chest: Measured 105, stamped 96
Length: Measured 71, stamped 72
Sleeve: Measured 61, stamped 62

Soviet “Kotelok” cook-pot mess kits

Pictured above are three types of Soviet “Kotelok” military issue cook-pot mess kits. Soldiers on both sides of the Eastern Front made use of this piece of Soviet gear. They are handy cooking pots for reenacting, a good size for preparing a quick meal for a few people.

On the left is a pre-war model from 1927, made of aluminum, unpainted. This was a battlefield relic that was extensively restored, using argon welding and epoxy on the outside, with a new wire handle.

At center is a wartime model, made of steel. The exterior has green paint, while the inside retains traces of a bright finish. A variety of tinned and enameled steel pots were manufactured during WWII.

On the right is one from 1951, made of tinned steel, painted green, darkened with soot from use.

Aluminum melts at 1200 degrees F. It is possible to melt a pot like this with an extremely hot campfire. When I cook with this, I suspend it above the coals, and I always make sure there is food or water inside before I start cooking with it.

Steel has a higher melting point – but tin melts at only around 400 degrees F. It’s very easy to reach this temperature with a wood fire, the heat of which is hard to control. When using the tinned steel version for cooking, you have to be very aware of this. The last time I cooked with the tinned steel kit, I had it 3/4 full of water, suspended well above the coals of my fire, and I still melted a very small amount of tin from the pot’s rim. I have seen tin flowing inside these when placed directly on a heat source and used for roasting or frying.

Any style of Kotelok is handy for eating out of but for actual cooking, in my opinion, the aluminum version is clearly superior.

Mess Kits- Wehrmacht and Postwar Comparison

I took some photos to compare an original pre-war aluminum Wehrmacht mess kits, with some postwar versions. The most important thing to understand is that there are postwar mess kits that are identical to real ones, as well as some that are very close, and some that are more different.

In the above picture, in the top row, the one on the left is an original pre-war German Wehrmacht mess kit. The one on the right is a postwar Austrian mess kit. It has a postwar maker and date stamp, and the lid of the mess kit is perhaps a fraction of a centimeter taller than the original (although this varies somewhat from maker to maker on originals). Visually, without inspecting the markings, the mess kit itself is indistinguishable from the pre-war Wehrmacht model. The paint is the wrong color. Stripped and repainted, in my opinion, this is perfect for use.

There are two other postwar styles that are identical to the pre-war Wehrmacht kits, that I do not have to show: some 50s dated German ones, some of which were made by some of the same factories that made them for the Wehrmacht; and postwar Romanian issue mess kits.

Back to the group picture, the second row: on the left is a Soviet mess kit from the 50s. This is very nearly identical to the first Wehrmacht model, with two exceptions. I have included photos that show these differences in detail. Firstly, it has three rivets instead of two, holding the handle on to the top part. It also lacks the three small impressed measuring lines that were on the front of the bottom half of the kit. The most common wartime Wehrmacht model also lacked these measuring lines, but these had a steel handle on the top part, instead of the prewar aluminum handle. Original used and issued kits are very often found mismatched, even when they appear to have been used that way during the war; it’s not at all implausible that a soldier in the war could have used a wartime “bowl” and a pre-war “lid.” There were no Wehrmacht kits with three rivets on the handle; whether or not this difference renders this type unsuitable for reenactment is subjective.

On the right in the group photo, in the second row, is a “Frankenstein” kit put together with a postwar East German NVA bottom, and a postwar West German police lid. The East German kit had a lid with no strap retaining loop, which in my opinion is visually and functionally so different from the Wehrmacht kit to render it unsuitable for reenactment use. The bottom, on the other hand, is very close to the Wehrmacht type. The difference is on the cast attachment fittings for the wire bale. The Wehrmacht type is riveted on with two small rivets. These rivets are not visible on the East German one. The exact size and appearance of the rivets varies on Wehrmacht kits, but they are always there. The top of this “Frankenstein” kit is a from a postwar West German kit. The bottom is in my opinion not suitable for use, and I will show it later, but the top is identical to pre-war Wehrmacht issue, except for the markings. I used to use this “Frankenstein” kit myself, before I found a postwar Austrian one to use.

Of the four types of mess kits previously described, we would allow any of them to be used in Sicherungs-Regiment 195, though we discourage use of original kits as they are historical objects with a collectible value, and we cook with ours over fires and use them at every event; I would cringe to subject an original war relic to that kind of abuse. The mess kits on the bottom row in the group photo have parts that I would not allow to be used in my unit. On the left is a Russian one, a type used from the 50s into at least the 80s (probably even later). This has the aforementioned three rivets on the handle, on the top. On the bottom part of this kit, the attachment fittings for the wire bale are totally different from the Wehrmacht versions. This difference on the bottom part is too obvious for me to regard it as usable. On the right in the bottom row, is the postwar West German police kit lower half. This also has the Russian style bale attachment fittings.

Where to find these? Quantities of postwar Romanian and Austrian mess kits pop up on eBay from time to time. I keep an eye on the various Facebook sales groups where reenactors sell items that are no longer needed, as there are many of these mess kits in circulation. I also look at Soviet buy/sell/trade pages where the Russian ones that I regard as usable (with the German type bale fittings) come up every so often.

WWII German straight entrenching tools and similar postwar and foreign variants

by Gregor Fleischer and Chris Pittman

Entrenching tools have been a general issue item for almost every army since the First World War. The German army of the Second World War was no exception. Pre-war the Wehrmacht adopted a flat blade, square head shovel with a short handle that could easily be carried by every soldier. This was essentially the same pattern as the shovels used by the German Army during WWI. This pattern of shovel was produced and used until the end of the war.

Up until 1938 the carrier for this pattern of shovel was made completely of leather. These carriers were made in both black and brown leather. Post-1938, the carriers were a mix of leather and a pressed paper product known as Presstoff or Ersatzleder. These leather/Presstoff carriers came in a variety of mixed shades. Often, these carriers were produced with leather belt loops and closure strap. The body of the carrier would be Presstoff. The leather fittings could be brown or black. The presstoff could be black, tan, or a blue/grey color.

Around 1940 a more modern entrenching tool known as the Klappspaten, or folding spade. The Klappspaten had the ability to be used as a traditional spade or a mattock. This allowed for easier digging with such a small shovel. The Klappspaten and flat blade spade served side by side in the Wehrmacht until 1945. The carrier for this pattern of shovel was produced in both leather and Presstoff.

The following photos illustrate differences between original WWII German shovels and similar looking foreign made shovels that are sometimes confused for Wehrmacht issue.

In the above photo, the example at far left is a German made one from 1934. It features a riveted blade and riveted “ears” at the top of the blade.

Second from left is the standard Wehrmacht type that appeared before the war. This example is dated 1945. It features a welded blade and folded over “ears.” Some shovels in this pattern were also made with a riveted blade.

At center is a Swiss shovel. The “ears” at the top of the blade are curved and bent but not folded over as with the Wehrmacht type. This shovel is almost identical to the WWI French type.

Second from right is a postwar Dutch shovel. With its folded over “ears” and welded blade, it is nearly identical to Wehrmacht issue.

At far right is a postwar East German army shovel. The “ears” are slight and the blade is neatly welded with no flange. There were other East German models including a riveted type.

The most immediately noticeable diagnostic difference among these various shovel types is the top of the blade. The following pictures show the different forms and indicate the origin of each. Some forms were used by different armies at different times and this may not be a comprehensive list as it does not take into account less commonly encountered types or manufacturer variations.


Razors used by German soldiers in WWII, and current production equivalents

     What kind of razors were German soldiers issued in WWII? It’s a trick question. Soldiers had to supply their own razors. They could bring them or have them sent from home, or they could buy razors- but the razors made available to them to buy were the same commercial products available to civilians. Many dealers will offer “Wehrmacht issue” razors, this is an inaccurate sales pitch as there simply never was any such thing. Purportedly original razor packaging that says “Wehrmacht Rasierapparat” or “Einheitsrasierapparate für Heereslazarette” is, simply, fake. Shaving soap was issued; razors were not. Soldiers in Germany and in occupied countries, civilians, even concentration camp inmates all used the same razors.
    Here are three razors that were actually used by German soldiers during WWII. All three were excavated from remains of former German positions. Two are brass that once had a silver-colored plating, now mostly gone after decades underground. The Bakelite razor is marked “Made in France.” None are marked with a brand name.

      Here are some other period type Bakelite razors. One is also made in France, as was the excavated example; the others are German. None of the German ones are marked.

     Razors like these were available complete with Bakelite cases, but most were sold in simple cardboard boxes which would presumably be discarded.

     The “Apollo” brand razor shown is still marked with the original price- 1.50 Reichsmarks. That’s about ten US dollars today.
     An interesting type of wartime-era German Bakelite razor is the “slant.” The top part of the razor was not exactly perpendicular to the handle, but was set as an angle. This was advertised as a feature that supposedly yielded better results than the usual type. The degree of slant varied, as you can see. The example at left was made by Merkur.

     Just as with standard Bakelite razors, these were sold with matching Bakelite cases, or in cardboard boxes.

     I have seen it stated elsewhere that all WWII German produced razors were Bakelite as metal was reserved exclusively for strategic purposes. That’s not true. Here is a selection of wartime type metal razors. Most are made from a zinc alloy sometimes referred to as “Kriegsmetall”- war metal.

     A plated zinc razor in its original box.

     Razors were also available in various types of travel kits. Shown here, a leatherette case, circa 1930s, and a collapsible razor in a tiny metal box, exact vintage unknown.


     One particular type of razor that seems to have been widely used by soldiers and civilians alike during and before WWII was the Mond-Extra, made by Rotbart. This razor was made of plated brass.

     Rotbart advertised heavily in publications intended for soldiers. Here is an ad for razor blades in a 1940 issue of the German armed forces magazine “Die Wehrmacht.”

     The Rotbart Mond-Extra razor was available in a cardboard box, an enameled tin box, or a Bakelite case.

     Rotbart also made various types of travel kits for razors including the Mond-Extra.

     The leather case opens to reveal a razor, Bakelite tubes for a shaving brush and shaving soap, and a booklet about how to shave. There is even a mirror inside the lid. This kit is vintage 1930s.

     A German soldier could have used any of these types of razors depending on personal preference or availability. Double edged safety razors in the same style are still made in Germany today by Merkur, one of the companies that was making razors before and during the war. Here are two current Merkur products: the Merkur 45, made of Bakelite, and the Merkur 33c, made of plated brass.

     The similarity between the Merkur 33c and the Rotbart Mond-Extra is remarkable and certainly not a coincidence. This is a classic, useful design.

     The Merkur 45 Bakelite razor also fits in nicely with its WWII-period counterparts.

     These modern Merkur razors are still in production and widely available as of this writing. Both retail for around $30 or less and hey both are fine razors for shaving.
     Of course, a decent shave requires more than a razor alone. German soldiers were issued soap to shave with. The shaving soap sticks were rectangular and each bar was stamped with a code assigned by the “Reichsstelle für industrielle Fettversorgung.” Here is an original package of 10 bars of issue type shaving soap.

     These ceramic hones were used to sharpen razor blades to prolong their life. These were excavated from former German positions on what was once the Eastern Front. These would have been private purchase rather than issue items.

     Soldiers also had to fend for themselves when it came to shaving mirrors. Here, a soldier shaves with a small, round pocket mirror.

     A selection of wartime era pocket mirrors with military themes.
     With some creativity, it is not hard to put together a convincing representation of a WWII German soldier’s shaving kit using modern items, that can actually be used today. Shown below is a careful recreation of a kit that could have been used by a soldier in the field. The razor is a modern Merkur 33c, everything else is reproduction- the shaving mirror and leatherette case, the RIF-marked soap bar, the razor blade packaging. All fits inside a wooden box with a reproduction Camembert cheese label.

Field expedient stove for Zeltbahn tent

Article by Willi Graf.

Staying warm in cold weather, especially during winter nights, is a problem as old as mankind. For winter deployments, we often struggled with ways to heat our 8-panel Zelt (in a period-correct way). A short clip in a wartime German Wochenschau newsreel film provided an answer. In this clip, a Wehrmacht-issue “Jerry can” fuel container was shown inside a Kübelwagen. The can had been modified into a stove, to provide warmth. Here are screen captures from the film.

Here, the stove’s exhaust pipe, emitting smoke, can be seen sticking out of the side of the vehicle. The next photos show a soldier removing ash from the modified “Jerry can.”

This was something we knew we could replicate for our 8-man zelt tent. The photos below provide a detailed explanation of our project.
-The first step was turning a Jerry can into the main body of a stove. The font of the can had to be cut out, and replaced with a fabricated hinged door. A latch was also included to keep the door shut.

-Internally, a “grill” had to be made, to allow for ash to fall away from the fire itself.  This can also be seen in the first photo above.
-On the rear side, another smaller door had to be created to allow for both ventilation/air circulation, and to provide a means of removing smaller ash that fell to the bottom. A latch was also included on this door.

-Next was creating sectional exhaust pipes, with a flue, that exited the mouth of the Jerry can.
-An obvious concern was burning the zelt where the pipe exited the tent. The pipe can get very hot, and we needed a way to prevent contact between the zelt panels, and the pipe itself. Creating a fiberglass insulator and support panel solved this problem. No part of the zelt comes in contact with the hot exhaust pipe. We needed to tie up the sides of the zelt, because we could not button it together anymore (e.g. where the pipe exited the tent).

-At the top of the pipe we added a spark arrestor (to prevent sparks from flying out), and support cables to keep the whole thing from falling over. The cables are staked into the ground. 

-The stove has to be elevated off the ground to keep any ground surface from burning. A few bricks solve that problem (as can be seen in above photos).
-Because the stove, and stove door, is small, wood must be cut up into small pieces to fit inside it. Sawing wood with our period saw provides for a great, and essential, period activity to any immersion event we do; there is indeed much more to being a field solider than just combat.
The stove is amazingly effective. Using straw and wool blankets as bedding, we have spent nights sleeping quite comfortably when outside temperatures plunged down to 20 degrees (-7 Celsius). The only down side is that because the stove is small, it very frequently requires fuel to keep it going.   

WWII German Wehrmacht unit designations and abbreviations- a basic primer for reenactment

     WWII German unit designations can be hard for reenactors and reenactment units to fully understand. They are very different from the American military designations that many are familiar with. They are in a foreign language, and many references use English translations instead of the original German terms. Many different abbreviations were sometimes used for the same term, making it challenging to identify which form is most common or typical. It is possible to be an experienced reenactor and amateur historian and still not really have a grip on the correct designation of the unit one is portraying. To that end, I hope that this basic primer will be of some use. 
    Why is this important? Nearly every reenactment group uses a military unit designation to identify itself. This designation is part of the “brand” of a reenactment unit. Facebook pages and web sites will bear these designations, as will camp or barracks signage at reenactment events. An incorrectly rendered designation not only can be embarrassing to a unit trying its best, but it is an authenticity issue, as well.
     The good news is that identifying the correct unit designation, and abbreviating it correctly, is not terribly difficult. The Wehrmacht was a force of millions of men, in thousands and thousands of different units, so possible unit designations and abbreviations are nearly infinite. But nearly all reenactment groups portray the same types of units (largely ground combat units, mostly Heer and Waffen-SS) and the designations for these typical units are easy to identify and describe.
     Let’s start at the beginning, at the most basic level. One soldier. In most units, he is in a squad- a Gruppe. Squads are grouped usually into a platoon- a Zug. These are generally really not important from a unit designation perspective. The next level, though, is important. A number of platoons would form a Kompanie (in Artillerie units, a Batterie; in Kavellerie units, a Schwadron). The Kompanie is extremely important for the reenactor. In nearly all units, this Kompanie designation would be in every soldier’s Soldbuch, the identity document every soldier carried. The soldier would know what Kompanie he was in. The Kompanie is designated by an Arabic numeral, for example: 3. Kompanie, abbreviated 3. Kp. 
    The Kompanien (plural of Kompanie) would be grouped into a Bataillon. This is designated by a Roman numeral: I. Bataillon, abbreviated I. Btl. For nearly all unit designations, the Bataillon designation is not only unnecessary, but altogether superfluous and would not be used. The reason for this is that the Kompanien were numbered sequentially in a Regiment and assigned in a regular way to a Bataillon. In a regular Infanterie-Regiment, generally speaking, 1.-4. Kp. would be I. Bataillon, 5.-8. Kp. would be II. Bataillon, 9.-12. Kp. would be III. Bataillon. So if you are in 1. Kompanie you would never need to indicate that you were in I. Bataillon because 1. Kp. is always in I. Btl. and there is no 1. Kp. in any other Bataillon in the Regiment. In general, the only time Bataillon needs to be included in a unit designation is when the unit being portrayed is a Bataillon staff. Reenactors get this wrong very often. 
      With Bataillon being superfluous, the next thing that is important after Kompanie is the designation of the Regiment, Abteilung, or, sometimes, independent Bataillon (depending on unit type). This is usually a numbered unit and the number comes after the unit type: always Artillerie-Regiment 3 or Pionier-Bataillon 3, never 3. Artillerie-Regiment or 3. Pionier-Bataillon. This part of the designation is crucial. It is most important. This part of the designation is, in virtually all cases, what determines what unit insignia a reenactor wears. The Waffenfarbe branch color worn on insignia is determined by the Regiment or Abteilung. Before the use of unit numbers on insignia was abolished, the number of the Regiment or Abteilung is what would be worn on the shoulder straps.     
     The next level up from that is the Division. This aspect of structure is of almost no importance at all unless you are portraying a Divisional staff. The reason for this is that the number of the Regiment or Abteilung is unique and only used once in the entire armed forces. There was only one Panzer-Regiment 6, for example. There would be no need to say “3. Panzer-Division, Regiment 6” because there was only one Panzer-Regiment 6 in the whole Army and it happened to be in 3. Panzer-Division. In any other Panzer-Division, each Regiment also had its own unique number, used only once. The designation of the Regiment or Abteilung makes the use of the Division designation totally superfluous. It would not be included because it didn’t matter. A designation like “3. Panzer Div. Nachrichten-Abteilung” for a signals unit in a Panzer division is totally wrong. It is missing the important unique number designation (39, in this particular case) and it is including the Division which is superfluous and shouldn’t be included. The correct designation for this unit is, simply: Nachrichten-Abteilung 39. The fact that it happens to be attached to a Panzer-Division, not some other kind of Division, is unimportant and has no impact on the unit designation.
     With that out of the way, we can get down to the nitty-gritty of what the unit designation looks like and how it can be abbreviated. The designation of the unit we portray is:

3. Kompanie, Sicherungs-Regiment 195 
abbreviated as: 
3. Kp., Sich.-Rgt. 195 
or more simply- and more typically:
 3./Sich. Rgt. 195

     Do you see the slash in that second abbreviation? That is something that seems to trip people up all the time. It’s not the Division, not the Regiment. The number before the slash is the Kompanie, or the Bataillon. How to know which is which? Kompanie is Arabic numeral, Bataillon is Roman numeral. 3./Sich.-Rgt. 195 was one Kompanie in I./Sich.-Rgt. 195. Please note also that if you are using the abbreviation “Kp.” for Kompanie, you don’t also use the slash. 3. Kp./Sich.-Rgt. 195 would not be correct, even if it is not inconceivable that even some wartime Germans might have made that mistake. And don’t use the slash in any other way.     That’s basically it. A Kompanie in a Pionier unit might be 2./Pionier-Bataillon 22, a Schwadron in an Aufklärung unit could be 2./Aufklärungs-Abteilung 207. Note that the umlaut is a really important part of spelling, it’s not Aufklarung, or Jager. If you can’t type the umlaut you have to put an “e” after the vowel that is supposed to have the umlaut: Jaeger. 

     Lastly, a note about Waffen-SS designations. These will always have “SS” as part of the unit designation to differentiate from Heer units, for example, SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 25, or 3./SS-Flak-Abteilung 17. And as much as reenactors love the Divisional identifier worn on the cuff title, it really doesn’t belong in the unit designation. Some SS units had their own special names, for example SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 6 “Theodor Eicke” or SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 3 “Deutschland.” But most units did not have these names as part of the designation. A soldier in the 5. SS-Panzer-Division “Wiking” might have worn a “Wiking”cuff title if he was not in one of the units in the division with a special name, but it would not have been part of the unit designation- the Panzer unit of “Wiking” was just plain old SS-Panzer-Regiment 5. And a designation like “1. SS” simply makes no sense.