Imperial German Army Uniforms
Felduniformen (Field uniforms) development timeline
This is also a general timeline in a way, since I announced it a long time ago. It's not very detailed because it's too complex in my opinion to write it down in a logical way without being boring so I just summarise the most important events and only events that concern Germany or one of the “big” powers of the continent. I only describe the events of my fictional “WWI” more detailed because they are most important for my AT.
-1907 The traditional Prussian blue colour is used with red piping, collar and cuffs as infantry signs. Headgear is the M1895 Pickelhaube with the standard line eagle on it. Buttons are gilt.
1907 because of the needs of modern warfare the new field uniform in Feldgrau is introduced. It's basically the same uniform as the blue one but in fieldgrey and sparse piping etc. The M1895 Pickelhaube received a field grey cover. Boots and belt became brown. The collar was changed into a stand-and-fall collar.
1916 by the end of 1915 Germany and France slipped into a armed conflict. In the first half of 1915 Great Britain slipped out of the Entente because it regarded the alliance as strictly defensive and after the French government demanded more and more aggressively (since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand never happened, there was no escalation in 1914 and France was not willing to change its views towards Germany and still wanted revenge for the war of 1870/71) actions against Germany, the Empire did not want to use the alliance for military expansion in Europe and so only France and the Russian empire stayed in the Entente. The German hostile atmosphere in Great Britain calmed down and the British government falls back into old isolation strategies. Russia however became very active to encourage the Slavic nations to rise against foreign powers. Russia still saw itself as the protector of Slavic people. This led to many riots and rebellions in Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Germany saw only a few riots, mostly demonstrations in and around Poznan and even fewer in upper-Silesia. But this wasn't unusual for this time. In summer 1915 the situation escalated in Bosnia when a crowd of nearly 10.000 people demonstrated in Sarajevo for independence of Austria-Hungary and a unification of Bosnia-Herzegovina with Serbia. After a peaceful beginning troops were send out after 3 days to disperse the crowd because the Austro-Hungarian government feared the demonstration would lead into even more agitation. So the troops were told to calm the crowd at any cost. After day 5 over 2.500 people mostly Serbian demonstrates died. And the state of emergency was announced for Sarajevo. This Massacre incensed many Governments in Europe especially in France, Russia and Serbia. The German Government did not comment on the events. The nationalist movements in Austria-Hungary were pushed by this movements and uprisings throughout the whole country nearly led into a civil war. Mostly German and Hungarian troops were send against the separatist. Russia protested very strong against this proceeding supported by France. Both nations started to threaten the Danube Monarchy heavily and both announced to declare war on Austria-Hungary (The French threatening was aiming mostly onto Germany). Now the German government confirmed its support to Austria-Hungary and proclaimed to declare war on Russia and France if they attack its ally. In October 1915 all for nations prepared for war and stationed troops along the borders. 2 months earlier the German high command dropped the Schlieffen-Plan (to many unpredicted events could appear, so the official statement) and moved nearly all its armies to alsace-lorraine and 2 armies to East-Prussia to slow down the Russian attack until the counter attack could start after the victory over France. In November 13th the French and Russian governments declared War on Germany and Austria-Hungary. A few days later the French attack hit the German borders heavily. Both sides suffered heavy casualties because of old strategies inappropriate for modern weapons. In late November the Russian Armies reached the German border in East-Prussia. By retreating considerably the Russian advance was extremely slow and only reached through high casualties. The Western Front stopped completely in Alsace-Lorraine by the end of December. The French armies could advance only about 30 Kilometres into German territory. German defence and counter attacks stopped most of the French momentum of the first weeks.
After a half year of conflict the situation on the Western Front hardly changed. On the Eastern Front the Russians were forced into retreat because of the extreme bad condition of it's armies compared to the German and sometimes Austro-Hungarian forces. Only in Galicia and the western Ukraine they could advance and held some enemy territory. The Austro-Hungarian situation was difficult because of the continuing inner problems. This caused Italy into war on the French-Russian side in summer 1916. The Situation in Russia wasn't better. Many revolts and uprisings especially by farmers held the country under a permanent state of emergency and this led in autumn of 1916 to extremely revolts throughout the whole Russian empire. This led into heavy instable conditions and by the beginning of 1917 into a communist revolution. (With no British blockade and without the Royal Navy in the War the French, Russian and German Navies were extremely active in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and even sometimes the Atlantic Ocean. The German Navy high command started to enlarge there submarine activities by mid 1916, regarding it as a effective weapon against the French Battleships, but still open battle with battleships and other ship classes took place)
Meanwhile the French and German Armies developed new uniforms and headgear for the demands of modern warfare.
The German M1916 field uniform became very simple in appearance. None of the old red piping and facings survived. the buttons were covered by textile. The colour of boots and belt became black. A new helmet was introduced to protect from shrapnel and other debris.
In the same year the old Emperor Franz-Joseph II. died and his heir Franz Ferdinand became Emperor Franz II. His accession improved the inner situation of the country because he was regarded as a hope for more national independence for the nationalities in Austria-Hungary.
By spring 1917 the situation was horrible on the Russian front. Because of the lack of supply (without British and American relief supplies the empire was not able to fulfil it's own needs during the war) and the continuing farmer revolts food became rare so many soldiers deserted and maraud through the near front provinces. The total collapse was only prevented because the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and now Romanian troops could not advance fast enough. The majority of the German forces were still bound on the Western Front and the Austro-Hungarian troops were heavily bound on the Italian and now Serbian front. The situation for the Russian imperial family became extremely critical. Despite all advices and decrees of the German government Emperor Wilhelm II. pushed through asylum for the Russian imperial family in Germany. Because of the British neutrality and because from his position the British isles were unreachable the Tsar saw no other options and escaped with his family to Germany by mid 1917 and was quartered in Bad Homburg in the Grand Duchy of Hesse the origin of Tsar Nikolaus' wife Alix. This was seen very controversial in both countries. After a few critical voices in the German press and a few frictions in the German government and population the situation changed heavily after the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Romanian victory on the Eastern Front after the now so called Soviet regime demanded peace negotiations. The Russian part of Poland was annexed by Germany as well some parts of the Baltic (Lithuania and Latvia), Austria-Hungary received territories in the western Ukraine. The Ottoman Empire reached out for the Krim and the Caucasus and Romania annexed parts of the south Ukraine. After this a civil war started in Russia between revolutionary forces and forces of the old system (Red against White Army), which the communist Red Army win in 1922.
Polish nationalists saw the chance to restore their land again and started a liberation campaign. The German Government intervened and promised an own state as soon the war with France would come to an end even Emperor Wilhelm II. gave an promise for a Polish state, this was the first time he partake actively in German foreign affairs after his diplomatic affairs before the War. He earned critic in the government and military command for destabilising Germany’s strength in international affairs. Because of this Wilhelm's son Friedrich-Wilhelm gained more power and influence in government and military command. He had more militaristic views than his father. The Austro-Hungarian government was not willing to give such promises, because they sill feared the destruction of the whole land but guaranteed a federal state with extreme liberties within the state.
Short after this Germany was able to throw most of its troops (after Wilhelm's promises the situation in Poland was stable enough) to the French Front and plans for a big offensive started.
After Russia’s defeat France and Italy remained alone in the War. The situation on the French front became worse and worse. Many soldiers were dissatisfied with the general situation and they started to refuse orders. These problems became so large that sometimes a whole regiment refused to fight. This led into rethinking and improved the general situation of the French soldier (before this compared to the German practice the French soldier had hardly no vacations and extremely long stays at the front line). But this came not soon enough. The German offensive in autumn 1917 hit the French armies extremely hard. The Germans were able to move more than 100 kilometres into France in 4 weeks and reached short before Christmas the line Reims-Troyes-Dijon. During the winter the French Army was not able to start a counter Attack on the Germans but started to ship in more and more troops out of the colonies. Those troops were weak in moral, battle experience and mostly have heavy casualties during attacks. The German attack was successful because the German high command renewed its strategy completely. For the first time air crafts were used as an offensive weapon and not only for surveillance. New armoured cars were developed which supported the main attack of the infantry (many of the new "Panzerwagen" get stocked in the mud but the surprise effect on the French soldiers mostly helped the German infantry to prevail in combat). But the strongest impact on the battlefield made the new attack brigades of the German flying corps. They achieved successfully to destroy French supply routes and hinder reserve troops to intervene into battle. Mostly because of this the German advance was quiet fast in the first two months. Only the beginning cold weather in December slowed down the German advance. The German troops fortified the Line Reims-Troyes-Dijon and prepared for the next phase of the attack during the winter.
In March 1918 the German troops started a new offensive. Although the French troops were better prepared this time the German troops managed it to reach Fontainebleau, Meaux and Creil near Paris by the end of March. The southern part of the front remained calm during this offensive. Another progress into French territory was further into the north, by mid-March the German troops reached Amiens. By the end of April they reached the coast at Dieppe and by this France was mostly isolated from natural coal resources in the French north.
By this time the French forces were mostly smashed. The French high command reinforced the remaining troops around Paris to defend the capital and withdraw troops from the southern front and let this part nearly unprotected. The German high command renounced to advance further into French territory on the southern part of the front and let the troops in defensive positions. The majority of German forces were bound near Paris for the final offensive on Paris. In mid-May the offensive began. The attack was performed from the north, east and south on Paris. The first German units reached the suburbs of Paris by the end of May. By that time the German troops managed to surround Paris completely. 4 French armies were captured inside this encircled area. The remaining French troops managed to avoid this but they were cut off of the chain of order and parts of the units started to vanish. By the end of June 1918 the situation became worse and worse in Paris and the French high command recommended the government to surrender to the Germans because they saw no chance for a victory anymore (by that time France have lost many of its supply routes from the colonies because liberation campaigns began in many French colonies, triggered by the weakness of the French state because of the negative course of the war).
The war parties set truce for July 1st. The French capitulation followed on July 3rd. Peace negotiations start on July 15th.
There were strong discussions and controversies about this peace treaty. Military hardliners wanted to make it impossible for France to build an Army again and transform France into an agricultural state. But liberal forces grew in Germany even in nobility (Max von Baden, the Emperor himself etc.) and so as the treaty was signed on October 17th France lost no territory to Germany and because of independence movements France lost nearly all its colonies so Germany refused to annex former French colonies. But the country had to pay high reparations and guaranteed to export groceries, industrial goods and other resources exclusively and inexpensive to the German empire and import for the next 10 years 40% of their goods of any kind only from Germany. France was not allowed to held an Army for 5 years and had to limit his military forces for 10 years for a maximum of 90.000 men (inclusive the navy). Further a demilitarised zone was established alongside the German border. It was 50 kilometres deep into French territory. The most controversial point of the peace treaty was to acknowledge Alsace-Lorraine as German and renounce every further claim.
Austria-Hungary defeated Serbia by the end of October. There were plans to annex the country completely but after intervention of Franz II. Serbia was completely disarmed and the Austro-Hungarian government encouraged the establishment of a puppet regime. Negotiations with Itasly started quickly after the French surrender and ended in status quo ante. Even though the Ottoman Empire was quiet successful in the War the empire began to crush from the inside and by 1923 there were no signs of the Ottoman Empire anymore. Republicans under Atatürk gained control and established the Turkish Republic. The German annexed part of Poland became independent in 1923. Some German citizens of Polish nationality settled over to Poland. It were 30.000 people in maximum. Most of them from the Poznan region and very few from Upper-Silesia. Emperor Wilhelm II. showed himself disappointedabout this during a visit in Kattowitz.
In 1920 women get the right to vote in the German empire. Emperor Wilhelm II. put this achievement as his personal gain. After the war the Emperor became disliked by military command. So he turned into the liberal and civilian fractions in the empire (Wilhelm was always quiet liberal and modern but failed often to fulfil his ideas and thoughts in real life). In 1921 he and the German parliament commissioned Max von Baden and other liberal politicians to reform the empires constitution into a parliamentary monarchy. Prince Friedrich-Wilhelm never hide his dislike of this plans. He, very conservative and military forces in the Empire where the strongest enemies of this reforms. But this conservative movement was the minority in Germany so the liberal forces became stronger and stronger and in 1925 Germany became a parliamentary monarchy with an elected Kanzler (prime minister, the Kanzler was elected by the Bundestag, the people voted only the consistence of the parliament). The Kaiser remained head of state and still hold the supreme command over the military forces but he wasn’t able to declare war on his own. He had to receive the permission of the parliament first. Privileges of the nobility were not abandoned. But their powers were cut.
1922 the field uniform remained basically the same. After experiences in the war breast pockets were added. Buttons became black and made out of synthetic substance. Cuffs were changed into Swedish cuffs.
During the twenties the political daily life were dominated by the British German dualism. But this dualism never escalated because it was held down by the growing danger of the communists in Russia. Both Governments feared the communist/ socialist movement could transfer into their countries. German SPD (Social Democratic Party) distanced itself strictly from the events in Russia and the socialist/ communist movement there.
In 1924 the USSR was proclaimed. Nearly all former Russian Empire territories became a member of it except the parts which felt to other countries after the war (only the Caucasus and the Krim came back to Russia after the fall of the Ottoman Empire). By the end of the twenties in 1929 Soviet Russia decided to proceed the world revolution and attack Poland as the first step to bring the revolution into central Europe. Germany and Great Britain regarded this attack as a possible threat of their security and send out troops together to support the polish defence.
Together they could stop the Soviet attack. Because of internal problems with farmers and other rebellious forces the Soviet government was forced to negotiations and end the war in 1931 and retreated from Polish territory. This was the first conflict were modern tanks were successfully used by the German troops.
Austria-Hungary became quite stable after the war. Emperor Franz II. transformed the state into a Federation. All bigger nationalities became their own state with many rights and privileges. The head of state remained the Emperor. The military stayed a federal organization. And Austria-Hungary still remained a constitutional monarchy. So there were still many problems in the country and not all forces in the country were satisfied.
1935 The colour of the uniform became a darker Feldgrau (official name is Feldgrau 3, in real life too). The colour became warm grey and collar tabs were added. Shoulder straps became also warm grey. In 1932 the Army introduced a new smaller steal helmet. The M1932 helmet was warm grey too (obviously it’s the M1935 in real life). Also the Waffenfarben were introduced. Infantry received white.
In 1941 Emperor Wilhelm II. died. His son Friedrich-Wilhelm became Emperor Friedrich-Wilhelm V. His reign was dominated by the further unification of the Empire and to cut of the power of the state heads and centralise all power in the imperial court. His attempts were not very successful because he underestimated the power of the civil government and the state heads. His only successes were the unification of the military. All smaller states abolished their own troops. Only Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Mecklenburg kept their military. After the reforms in the twenties no sovereign in the German empire could use his troops for internal affairs. During Friedrich-Wilhelm V. reign the state heads lost the supreme command over their troops in peace and the supreme command switched completely to imperial authorities. Another achievement was to establish an imperial police department to coordinate all police activities in the empire.
In 1947 the field uniform was changed into a darker greyish green. The collar became more stiffer an bigger and in the same colour as the uniform. Shoulder straps too. In 1947 a new helmet was introduced too. The M1947 became a completely new shape to protect better from debris.
In 1943 the Soviet Union attacked Poland and Austro-Hungary in a big offensive. This time the British and German Empires could not overcome their differences and no alliance was formed. Germany concentrated in defence and sent no troops to support Poland or its former ally Austria-Hungary. Poland was overrun in 3 weeks by the Red Army. Immediately the transformation of
Poland into a Soviet Republic begun. The communists/ socialists received help from Polish revolutionary forces. Poland remained independent but had to subject to the USSR.
In 1945 the conflict with Austria-Hungary came to an end. Soviet troops conquered Galicia and all Ukrainian territories of the Danube monarchy.
In 1946 a conflict between the German empire and the USSR break out over the Baltic states. Soviet Russia regarded the German territories in the Baltic as belonging to the USSR. After defending successfully a soviet attack German tank units with heavy air support could advance over 200 kilometres into soviet territory and threatened Leningrad (the former St. Petersburg). The soviet high command were completely surprised and unprepared for such an offensive and fast proceeding of the German troops. Most of the soviet troops were stationed southern or in Poland to gain control. The German troops increased their advance and reach Leningrad in less than 2 weeks.
The General Secretary of the CPSU Stalin did not want to surrender but was convinced by his generals to go into negotiations because German troops were threatening Moscow and all its important industrial and military complexes which were completely undefended at that time.
The peace treaty established the status quo ante and German troops withdraw behind the German border in Latvia. After this incident the German Empire started to prepare for a possible Soviet invasion and started to negotiate with Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy Romania, Greece, Turkey, the Benelux states and even for the first time since the war with France. For united defence.
In 1951 Friedrich-Wilhelm V. died by an heart attack and his son Prince Wilhelm became Emperor Wilhelm III. He managed to form a defensive alliance against the USSR with nearly all European states including France in 1953. This was the first step to further European integration.
In 1952 the Army introduced a new camouflage pattern which became obligatory for the field uniform. In 1955 German scientists successfully developed an atomic bomb which was tested in the Antarctic Sea. The military invests many resources to develop that weapon to have a threat against the Red Army. This weapon project was very disliked and criticised in the German public.
In 1958 the German Empire intervened with troops in Syria together with British, French and U.S troops to defend a Russian invasion. This was the first international collaboration of former War enemies and a none European nation.
In 1966 a new camouflage pattern was introduced as well as a new combat suit. This was designed for better protection onto the battlefield. The sixties and seventies remained mostly calm. Only Austria-Hungary had more and more internal problems. Since Emperor Franz II. died in 1942 his nephew Karl became Emperor Karl I. he tried to reform the state and it’s complex administration but failed because of strong conservative and nationalist fractions. He died in 1968 and his son became Emperor Franz-Josef III. He recognised the instability and inability of the Austro-Hungarian state and proceeded a division of the Federation. This was extremely necessary because the Austro-Hungarian economy was extremely dependent on German imports. After a hard internal political fight the Austro-Hungarian federation was abolished in 1971. Suddenly new states rose in the heart of Europe.
Austria-Hungary consisted from this moment only of its core lands Austria and Hungary. Emperor Franz Josef III. recognised together with Wilhelm III. the need of an European cooperation. In the next few years these two spend a lot of energy to bring the European states together. In 1975 their efforts were rewarded. After the EEC in 1960 (between Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Spain and Italy) they established the EC between nearly all European states except the new formed states of the Austro-Hungarian abolishment and the States in the Soviet influence zone. This community unified many international European institutions for better integration and cooperation. In 1980 the so called Schengen Agreement opens inner European borders for travel for the citizens of the Benelux countries. Year by Year another State joined this agreement. Because of mistrust towards France Germany joined the Agreement in 1992.
The 80s were a very uneasy era. The USSR’s economy became more and more insignificant so government tried to hide this through aggressive diplomatic and military behaviour. In 1984 they invaded Afghanistan. Simultaneously they increased their military activities on their European borders. The USSR and the U.S. and some other countries like Great Britain China and Japan developed their own Nuclear Weapons during the sixties and seventies. So the situation was highly explosive. From 1985 the situation became more and harsher in Poland. New anti-communistic movements became stronger. Emperor Wilhelm III. supported this movement from the beginning. The German government saw an opportunity to weaken the big enemy and supplied money, weapons and specialists for the Polish anti-Soviet campaign.
In 1987 a new camouflage pattern was introduced called Flecktarn. Developed for central European terrain in case of a Soviet attack. A new helmet made out of synthetic material with a new shape became the standard helmet of all military branches except the navy. In 1989 the Red Army invaded Poland to stop and suppress the anti-communist and anti-Soviet movements. This cased heavy resistance in Poland with many civilian casualties. The EC states decided together in 1991 to intervene in Poland. The Armies of Germany, Great-Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Romania, Italy and Spain formed a joint army group under German command. From East Prussia and Upper-Silesia they attacked the Russian troops in Poland. In this conflict the backwardness of the Red Army became very clear. In 2 weeks the joint forces fight the Soviet troops out of Poland and were heading directly into Russia. The Russian government considered the use of nuclear weapons but after passionate discussions and verbal fights nobody wanted to take the responsibility for the death of millions of people. So by the end of 1991 peace negotiations started. The new general secretary of the CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev started the Perestroika and led the country out of socialism.
Poland became an independent state again. Through the German support Emperor Wilhelm III. gained high popularity in Poland. He encouraged the provisional government to establish a parliamentary monarchy as well in Poland because he strongly believed in the superiority of this political system. So in 1993 Poland became a monarchy again. Efforts of Wilhelm III. to establish one of his relatives of the Hohenzollern family as Polish King were not successful.
After the fall of the USSR and splitting into different countries the whole nineties were dominated by economical success and further European integration. Wilhelm III. died in 1993 and his son became emperor Friedrich IV. By the end of the 90s the German empire reduced its military expenditure for the first time in its history. Because of the new needs and changed global situation the military was decreased. The tension was to have a smaller more flexible army with long distance range.
In 2001 the camouflage pattern was digitalised.
In 2008 a completely new developed camouflage pattern was introduced with different patterns for different geographical areas. Here are 3 different woodland camouflage patterns shown.
I know it’s a lot to read and probably nobody cares about but its there now J
Special thanks and credits to: Tounushi, Tounushifan and Milosh--Andrich