Painting German figures in WW2
The uniform (non-Panzer)

by Rob Haelterman

1. Tunic and trousers

The German army had a large variety of types of tunics and these all differed somewhat during the war. The best known is the Feldbluse, which was worn in combat. For a modeler it can be important to tell the variations apart, so that – for instance – you do not put a figure with a uniform that appeared only in 1943 in a "battle of France" diorama.

1.1. Feldbluse and trousers

This is the tunic that most troops would wear on combat duties.

  1. 1936
    The Feldgrau (FG) Feldbluse first appeared in 1936 (M1936) and at that time it had 5 buttons, 4 pleated pockets with pointed flaps and a Dark Blue Green (DBG – a deep green color; there was little blue about it) collar and sholder straps. It was worn with stone gray trousers
  2. 1940
    The first variation appeared in May 1940 when the DBG collar and shoulder straps were changed to FG. Higher ranks tended to retain the DBG version. The FG collared version was not in widespread use until 1941-42. (Note that Waffen-SS troops never had the DBG collar in the first place.)
    At the same time the trousers were changed to FG.
  3. 1941
    In May 1941 the number of buttons was increased to 6 (if you really want to pay attention to this).
  4. 1942
    In 1942 the pockets lost their pleats. This only became common sight in 1943.
  5. 1943
    In 1943 the flaps of the pockets were made straight. From this time on the tunic was often worn with the collar open.
  6. 1944
    In September 1944 a new model appeared, that I have not seen often on figures. It was a lot shorter, had 6 buttons and only 2 plain breast pockets. By that time the FG was a lot browner as well. This uniform was only to be worn with ankle boots. Apart from Panzer Lehr, which received it in the Summer of 1944, other troops only received it at war's end, with newly formed units issued first.


    1. As the German authorities allowed older items to be worn after a model was changed, you have some liberty. The pleated pockets, for instance, could still be seen in 1943.
    2. Normally the pre-1944 models were worn with the collar closed, although many pictures show the troops with open collars during long marches. From December 1943, staff Officers and Generals could officially wear their tunic with open collars to show their decorations (e.g. Ritterkreuz). Although, as the war progressed, it could be seen more often with the collar open.
    3. The breast eagle was aluminum thread on a DBG background (the latter is not visible in these scales), except for generals where it was golden (or yellow from 1938 onwards).
    4. An officer’s tunic would be slightly different from the other ranks tunic. Most noticeable might be the turned back cuffs.
    5. The tunic could be worn over a multitude of shirts in subdued colors (FG, green, gray, …).
    6. During the course of the war the FG color varied a lot, the trend being from green towards browner shades. The M1944 uniform was close to British kaki.
    7. While most troops wore the tunic over plain trousers, mounted troops wore breeches (in stone gray or FG, according to the period), with leather reinforcements. Officers were allowed to wear riding breeches (more often than not without the reinforcements). Some senior NCO’s wore them too. 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.


1.2. Rock, Ausgehrock, Waffenrock and matching trousers

These were for the more sociable occasions, and are perhaps of less interest to the modeler. We won't go into too much detail.
If you ever come across a figure wearing them, the Rock and Ausgehrock could best be identified by having hidden lower pockets (only the flap being visible), turned back cuffs (for all ranks) and pleated top pockets.

The Waffenrock (used for ceremonies) had no pockets on the front, only two false ones at the back. The turned back cuffs with Doppellitze were DBG. It was often worn without a belt.
What is important, is that it was abolished after March 1940. In some cases it was either modified to a Rock or to a Feldjacke and would, in this guise, be worn by officers close to the front line. Sometimes it retained part of the original piping (especially at the front closure). The higher the rank, the more piping tended to be retained.

The trousers for these uniforms would be stone gray and have piping at the sides in Waffenfarbe, and could be either straight or riding breeches.

1.3. Fatigue uniform (Drillichrock)

The fatigue uniform only existed for men below the rank of officer. It only had 2 hip pockets without flaps and no collar or shoulder insignia. It was worn unbuttoned at the throat and used with the black belt.
At first it was a cream/off white color. In February 1940 a dark green version appeared, which was used as a makeshift summer uniform in 1941 - vide infra.
In 1942 a completely new reed or dark green version appeared. It was cut like the Feldbluse and followed its variations. The best way to tell it apart from a regular Feldbluse is by the wrinkling; the fabric was much lighter and thus wrinkled more easily.

1.4. Summer tunic

While in the summer of 1941 the green fatigue uniform was already worn as a makeshift summer tunic, a true summer tunic was introduced in 1942 (but only became widespread in 1943), and was basically the same reed green fatigue uniform with rank insignia. It became common in the summer of 1943 when reed green trousers also became available. This item resembles the 1942 or 1943 field tunic a lot. (I am unsure if it was ever issued with pointed pocket flaps).
Incidentally, this reed green was about the same shade as the very early FG, although a bit paler. It could also be seen in light gray (although rarely).


1.5. Winter dress

The first expedient solution for winter camouflage were blankets cut to size, or the cream/off white fatigue uniform. Some standardization occurred towards a calf or waist length M1942 thin white cotton snow shirt with matching trousers or a three-quarter length thin white coverall.

Apparently, in 1942 a reversible white / Zeltbahn splinter pattern collarless smock appeared. It had a chord at the chest, much like the earlier Waffen SS smocks. Matching overtrousers existed. (I must admit I have not seen them in pictures yet.)

In the autumn of 1942 the M1942 white/FG (or mouse gray) reversible padded winter overcoat was introduced, which existed in a quilted version. It was quite high in length and had a hood. Some had a Zeltbahn camouflage pattern on the inside instead of the FG and some were non-reversible. The only insignia worn on this dress was the colored sleeve band, which could be red or black, on the left or right upper arm, or both, depending on regulations. The purpose of this band was to be able to tell German troops from their Russian adversaries, who also would be wearing white camouflage.
A M1938 or M1942 mountain troop snow uniform also existed, which was available in limited quantities for regular troops. It was reversible in white and FG, and was recognizable by its 3 breast pockets.
Matching trousers existed for the above.

The higher ranks also wore ankle length sheepskin overcoats. Some standard greatcoats were lined with sheepskin.

1.6. Camouflage dress

(Some of this equipment is already mentioned under "winter dress".)

In the later stages of the war, camouflaged equipment became more and more available, although some already existed by cutting Zeltbahn (ZB) tent quarters to size, or wearing it as a poncho. This ZB has a dark and lighter side.
Some of the padded reversible M1942 winter tunics had a ZB pattern on the inside, and some existed in the same cut, but non-reversible in ZB splinter or blotch pattern.
In 1943 a new smock appeared in splinter or blotch pattern (1944) which was non reversible.
In 1944 a sleeveless apron in ZB splinter (Splittermuster) or soft blotch pattern (aka Marsh pattern or Sumpfmuster) appeared.
Occasionally Italian or Waffen SS camouflage items were worn.

Matching trousers existed for the above, although used less often.


2. Headgear

2.1. Schirmmütze

The peaked cap (Schirmmütze) was FG with a black peak, and was piped in the Waffenfarbe (WF) as shown on the left for an artillery officer (cf. A). The central band was DBG, piped in WF. For generals the piping was gold (figure on the right).
Note that at the start of the war, even for generals, the eagle on the cap was aluminum, although some ignored this rule and replaced it with a golden version. The latter became official only in January 1943.
Chin straps (cf. B) were worn, these were black for ranks below officer (almost invisible in small scale), aluminum for officers and gold for generals.

While normally associated with the walking out uniform, officers tended to retain the peaked field cap, even at the front line. Even though this cap was to be replaced by the Feldmütze in January 1941 and abolished in April 1942, it never became rare. Most modelers of my generations have grown up believing that all German officers always wore this type of headgear and were always shooting with their Luger.
An older version (M1934) of this cap existed, which, confusingly, was called ‘Feldmütze alter Art’. it could perhaps best be described as a ‘soft Schirmmütze’, i.e. without the stiffened crown. It had no chinstrap. In the field, many officers and NCO modified their Schirmmütze to resemble this one, by removing the stiffening at the crown.

2.2. Stahlhelm

On the frontline the helmet was of course something very useful. Its design changed during the war, but not to such an extent that it is visible in small scale. At the beginning of the war it was painted glossy dark green with a decal on the right in the national colors and an eagle on the left. (See poor drawings below. Yes, I know, you need some imagination, but hey, in 1/72 you won’t tell the difference anyway, and as such you are sure I am not infringing any copyrights.) At the start of the war many troops covered the helmet with mud to eliminate the sheen, or just covered the decals.
In March 1940 the helmets appeared in matt slate/dark gray and in March 1940 the right decal was eliminated. The eagle decal also disappeared at the end of August 1943.
Helmet covers in ZB pattern became more frequent as the war progressed.

2.3. Feldmütze

When there was less risk, a field cap without peak could be worn (Feldmütze). It existed in different versions (M1934,M1935,M1938,M1942), that in small scale all look similar (the M1942, for instance, had 2 buttons at the front).
It was made in FG cloth and was piped in aluminum for officers, or gold (yellow) for generals (drawing on the right). A chevron in WF was present at the front. Again the eagle was aluminum, even for generals until January 1943. The chevron was to be removed in July 1942 (with the appearance of the M1942 sidecap), but it could be seen afterwards.
The M1942 variant of this field cap appeared with foldable flaps that could be drawn over the ears and had 2 buttons at the front.
It also existed in black for panzer crews.

2.4. Einheitsfeldmütze

In June 1943 a new M1943 peaked field cap (Einheitsfeldmütze) was introduced, based on the Bergmütze of the mountain troops. The major difference with respect to the latter is a longer peak. (The tropical version had an even longer peak.)
It was basically the M1935 field cap, with a peak added. The color was FG.
Piping would be applied at the crown for officers and generals, as for the previous model.
It also existed in black for panzer crews.

2.5. Other headgear
In the winter, privately purchased fur (lined) cap could be found in brown, black or gray. Another common sight was a FG toque.

"Artistic" overview

  1936-39 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944-45
(Low boots with gaiters)
(Low boots with gaiters)
Low boots with gaiters
Low boots with gaiters


3. Boots and shoes

The high boots were black. Those of officers wearing riding breeches were a bit higher.
From November 1939 all boots were shortened by 5 cm (0.7 mm in 1/72).
Normally the trousers were tucked into these boots, although as the war progressed this tended to change.
In the winter of 1940-1941 ankle boots with gaiters (in FG or greenish brown) were gradually introduced, and were common from 1943 onwards. The shoes were black, although at the very end of the war brown shoes could be found as well. The gaiters were not always worn.

Mountain troops had ankle boots from the outset with FG bandages to cover the lower legs.

Winter boots existed of a heavier cut with a felt covered shaft.

4. Greatcoat

A typical German garment was the greatcoat. It was made in FG with a DBG collar and had turned back cuffs. The collars didn't carry any Litzen or other insignia (in contrast with Waffen SS greatcoats that carried SS Runen and rank insignia on the lapels between October 1940 and June 1942 - some sources claim until February 1943).

For guard duties a slightly different version existed with 4 instead of 2 pockets. It had a hood and no turn back cuffs like the standard greatcoat.

Lapels on a general’s greatcoat were normally in red. Higher ranking officers sometimes wore leather versions of the greatcoat, which, for generals, did not have the red lapels.
The general’s greatcoat also had a "half belt" and a central rear vent hidden by a pleat at the rear.

The DBG collar was to be replaced with a FG collar from May 1940 onwards, although this was widely ignored.
In 1942/43 a new design was introduced with a wider collar. This version was not seen with the DBG collar.

A rubberized greatcoat existed for motorcycle troops. It was quite popular with other troops as well. It had one large round thigh pocket on the left.

Some greatcoats were modified with fur lining.


5. Belt

In general, the belt was black with an aluminum or gray buckle (hard to distinguish in 1/72). Early in the war officers were often seen with a dark brown leather belt with an open aluminum claw (gold for generals). Up until the Polish campaign the latter could be worn with an optional diagonal "suspender" strap.

When fully equipped the belt also had shoulder straps, which converged in a "Y"-shape at the back. These were rather rare up until the end of the French campaign.


6. Breast eagle

The breast eagle started the war in silver gray or aluminum (gold or yellow for generals), but this was changed to mouse gray in June 1940. Depending on the frequency an individual saw combat, the earlier version was sometimes retained.
In principle it was only worn on the Feldjacke, i.e. not on greatcoats, padded winter clothing, camo smocks, fatigue uniforms, etc. but sometimes troops added them regardless, an example in case being the use of the fatigue uniform as a summer tunic.


7. Shoulder insignia

On most types of uniform, rank was indicated on the shoulders. Officers had stiffer "boards" (not nearly the size of their Russian equivalents however), and the other ranks had simpler straps. Apart from the design that indicated the rank, it was in DBG with WF piping at the start of the war. It changed to FG in May 1940, but the DBG versions were widely used thereafter.
Rank insignia on camouflaged tunics were worn on the upper arm (if any), and are of a completely different type. Why the Germans developed a completely different type of rank insignia is a mystery to me. (The Waffen SS used the same insignia on their camouflaged tunics, but had yet another type of ranking system for their regular tunics...)


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:
29 June 2014
10 July 2019