The things one may have carried

Author: Markus Brunner

I will begin this article by stating that I do not claim to be an expert or authority on German personal items of the second world war. I consider myself to be a guy with fairly decent attention to detail, and someone who is passionate about the material culture of the period. In this article I would like to give the reenactor a bit of a cerebral experience. Personal items are just that, personal. In this article I will share my own approach to personal kit. I invite you to comb through your things the next time you pack, and question what you are bringing, and why.

For the sake of simplicity I will restrict this article to the most common denominator- the German infantry soldier from Germany. I portray a second line infantryman. I began my service as a light towed artillery soldier whose battery was destroyed by rocket counter fire in Russia, 1942. As a disclaimer: the static nature of my impression allows more creature comforts than should be carried by a regular line infantryman. I am not going into captured items or items picked up on the battlefield. Each reenactor is the master of his own impression and may agree or disagree with my approach and conclusions.

Below is an exploded view of the contents of my trouser pockets. Among them, you will find a variety of identity documents and tags that have been issued to me, and a small field post paper chess game that has seen better days. A few Marks in pocket money, a few photos of friends from the past. Handkerchief, my pipe, tobacco pouch, a small tool for cleaning it, and a lighter.

Everything packed up in its configuration to go into my pockets. I use a handkerchief from back home, and keep the army ones with my rucksack. The army issued ones are scratchy and I don’t like using them, but I will remain accountable for everything in my clothing issue.
The contents of my Feldbluse pockets. These things are items I feel important enough to have with me all the time. I have my sewing kit, some ammunition, a battery. A small flashlight that is handy for finding things in the dark, some earplugs to retain what is left of my hearing after the Russian artillery took most of it. Ointment, a comb, my knife, keys, and some writing instruments.
Rucksack contents. Everything in here is only useful to me when I am bedding down for the night or when I am need to do some maintenance/hygiene. In here you will find my hygiene kit, some bathing soap, my leather care gear, spare socks, some extra food and tobacco, my Esbit stove and some candles.

All of these items have been chosen by me to best represent a German soldier utilizing German items. There are some items that are not present. Handy civilian items that have been picked up in foreign lands are obviously a real thing, this is impression/scenario based and, if used correctly, can greatly enhance an impression. For captured/ acquired items, I focus on consumables- things that you use and throw away. Cigarettes, tobacco, matches, and food are small items that can broaden your vignette portrayal of a German soldier in foreign lands. But you can never go wrong with the German standard.

I choose not to go overboard with carrying around food. You received your rations, you ate them, and continued with your day. Why carry around something that you could have enjoyed and not lugged around? How long will you carry that chocolate bar?