Painting German figures in WW2
The difference between officers and other ranks

by Rob Haelterman

When confronted with a figure in small scale, knowing whether it represents an officer or other ranks can influence the way it has to be painted. Typical identification marks of an officer (visible in 1/72) are

  1. The use of the peaked field cap was more common with officers, although senior NCOs also liked them and they were part of the walkng out uniform of all ranks. While all ranks below Leutnant had black chin straps, officers had them in silver and generals in gold.
  2. The use of breeches and high riding boots (although on the front line subalterns were advised to wear the other ranks equipment, i.e. plain trousers and lower marching boots). Cavalry troops obviously wore riding breeches and riding boots irrespective of ranks as well, but these had the leather reinforcements on the inside. They needed them, the other users of riding breeches only wanted to show off. This is the reason some senior NCO's also wore riding breeches.
    Staff officers wore a triple crimson stripe (wide-narrow-wide) on the sides of their riding breeches. Generals had similar stripes but in bright red.
  3. The brown leather belt. This can be identified by the double claws of the buckle. The use of the diagonal "suspender" belt was (officially) abolished after the Polish campaign. The brown belt became rare later in the war and was replaced by a black belt.
  4. Shoulder boards with interwoven braids (majors and higher).
  5. The tunic had turned back cuffs, was somewhat shorter and had a more pointed collar. Officers tended to keep uniforms with pleated pockets and DBG collars long after these were phased out for other ranks.
  6. Officers also had more elaborate aluminum "Doppellitzen" on the collar with a center stripe in Waffenfarbe (WF), which was not present for other ranks, but this is difficult to see in small scale.
  7. Officers could also wear a piped version of the tunic. In that case piping was applied to the collar front and cuffs.
  8. The possible use of a leather version of the greatcoat (in Feldgrau, black, brown,…). This is not visible in the sculpting, but influences the painting of the figure.
  9. If gloves were worn, they were gray, according to regulations, although brown or black leather gloves could be seen.
  10. Generals had some more liberty in the choice of their attire, and tended to wear what suited them best. (Sometimes it was not enough, even for the generals, that Hugo Boss made the regular German uniforms.)
    In November 1939 an order was released that all officers below the rank of general on field duty were to wear the other ranks uniform. This was widely ignored, however, as could be expected.
    In practice, less an officer saw combat, the more this rule was ignored. The closer the officer was to the front-line the most likely he was to follow this order. (Soviet snipers were trained to shoot officers first and the officers in the front line learned that rather quickly.)


I am sure this article can be vastly improved upon, so I would invite anyone with superior knowledge to contact me.

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Article Last Updated: 20 May 2014