Field equipment of the German soldier
A chance to look in detail at some of the basic field equipment issued to every German soldier of WW2.
Developed from the First World War M-16 & M-18 helmets - one of the most iconic peices of kit is the steel helmet or Stahlhelm.
The helmets were designed to protect the skull, neck, ears and eyes.
During the course of the war 3 types were produced (M-36, M-40 & M-42) each with modifications to speed up the process of manufacturing and to cut down on materials used. German helmets differed from those produced by other nations in that they were manufactured in 5 different sizes to suit the head size of the wearer.
The model shown is the M-36 which featured a rolled edge and grommet inserts for the air vents, Internally you can see the model 31 helmet liner which was made from soft leather or pig skin. This was fitted to an aluminium band and all held in place to the shell by 3 split pins.
Also attached to the liner by 2 square rings is the chinstrap.
There were three different versions of the gas mask tin, the 1930 tin, the 1936 tin and the 1938 tin. The only differences between these tins is the size and the sprung fastening clasp. The reason for the difference in size is the model of gas mask being carried. Straps were attached to the tin and it was slung over the soulder and another smaller strap with a metal hook was attatched to the back of the belt to stop it from banging when walking or running.
In the top of the tin there was a compartment to store replacement lenses.
Gas mask (Gasmaske)
Shown is the M-30 model mask with an FE-41 filter. The masks came in 3 sizes - 1 being the largest. The masks were produced from a rubberized canvas and held tight to the face by adjustable elasticated straps.
A specially treated sheet that could be thrown over the body
should a gas attack occur. It was kept in a cloth or rubberised pouch
and either fixed to the tin or worn attached to the tins straps across
Find out the German gas masks of WW2 in more detail by clicking this link.
Every rifleman was issued with two ammunition pouches to carry rounds for the K98 rifle.
Made of leather, each pouch had three compartments held together by a curved back piece made from the same material. Each compartment held two clips of five 7.92mm rounds - thus, each pouch could carry 30 rounds.
As shown in the inset picture, they had two straps on the back for the belt to go through and a metal d-ring for the Y straps to attatch to.
The belt was worn by privates and NCO’s. Made from a black leather strap 4.5 - 5 cm wide, the buckle would be fitted to the belt by pushing the 2 prongs through holes at one end of the belt (pictured). At the other end was a hook which clipped onto the back of the buckle. The wearer could then adjust the belt length to suit his waist.
Belt Buckle (Koppelschloss)
Shown is the most common buckle bearing the ‘Gott Mit Uns’ motif made from stamped steel and measuring 6.4cm long and 4.9cm wide. Another version made from pebbled Aluminium was also produced for NCO's and parade dress.
They were sometimes painted over in Feldgrau to help with camoflague.
Initialy called ‘cartridge holder braces’ they were introduced to Infantry units from April 1939.
The braces were Y shaped hence the more common name of Y-straps.
One end had a metal hook which was adjustable to the back of the belt -the other two ends also had metal hooks which were adjustable and fastened to the back of the ammunition pouches.
They also featured two 'D' rings on the shoulders and auxillery straps, to which could be attached rucksacks or 'Assault frames' (A-Frames).
Introduced in 1939, the Assault Pack was a means of carrying around bulkier items of kit, and dispensed with the need for the Tornister.
Made from a strong synthetic cotton, items such a mess tins, Zeltbahns and greatcoat's were attached using leather straps. A small rectangular bag was also attached to the frame into which the Landser could put other items that he might need during his daily routine.
The frame then hooked onto the Y-straps via the 2 shoulder 'D' rings (shown) and the auxillery straps.
The mess tin was made of aluminium and had two parts, the pan or plate and the pot. The first part was used to warm up the food or as a plate. The pot which had a capacity of 1.7 litres had a wire handle and could be used to boil water or to warm food.
The outside was painted dark or olive green as from 1941. It was either secured to the left hand ring on the outer flap of the bread bag or at the top of the A-Frame.
In some photos you will see them carried upright on the A-frame and in some horizontally - this shows if the Landser had a full tin of soup to look forward to or not!
The version of bread bag used in WW2 was introduced in 1931 and thus known as the 'Brotbeutel 31'.
It was a canvas bag with a single compartment and a large overlapping flap. The flap has two rings and leather straps to secure the mess tin and canteen. The flap was secured by means of three leather straps inside the bag. The bag was usually secured to the belt as shown in the inset picture, but could be carried with an auxillery strap which was fastened to two rings on the back of the bag.
The canteen was an alluminium flask with a screw top which had a litre capacity.
It was covered in a removable brown felt cover which served to insulate the flask and prevent freezing in cold temperatures or could be soaked in water to keep the contents cool in warm temperatures.
There were 2 kinds of cup attached to the bottles, a Bakelite one as seen in the picture and an aluminium one with a greater capacity of 0.27 litres which was painted black on the outside. In 1941 this colour was changed to olive green.
The canteen and pot were held together by means of a leather or canvas strap, this strap also had a metal hook for securing the canteen and cup to the right hand ring of the bread bag.
There were two main versions of the spade or entrenching tool issued to the enlisted man. The first version (pictured) had a square blade and a wooden handle. The handle was varnished to protect it from the elements and the blade was painted black.
The spades edges were often sharpened in readiness for use as a close combat weapon and were also sometimes tucked into the belt in an effort to protect the wearers heart during combat.
Regulation dictated however that the be spade carried in a black leather carrier which was hung from the left hand side of the belt alongside the bayonet (see inset).
A newer folding version was introduced in 1938 but did not see widespread service until later in the war due to cost and production time. This time the blade was pointed, made of steel and painted black. The handle was again wooden but was longer than the older version.
The standard issue bayonet came in two main versions, both of which were the standard sidearm of the Landser and were designed for use with the Kar-98.
The early version had a wooden handle and a tempered steel blade, as the war progressed a later model was introduced with a Bakelite handle.
The bayonet was carried in a leather frog which was carried on the left hand side of the belt between the straps of the entrenching tool.
The Zeltbahn or shelter quarter was triangular in shape and was made from two layers of waterproofed cotton which were stamped with the splinter pattern camouflage scheme with one side being darker than the other.
A very versatile item which could either be worn as a 'Poncho' (see inset) or joined with others to make up simple tents.
The base of the triangle was 240cm long and the sides were 203cm long. On the base were six buttons and the sides have twelve buttons, on each corner was a metal eyelet for the string to go through when erecting the tent.