Typical example – we finally get our hands on another piece of equipment, this time, of higher quality. It could be a better fliegerbluse; or perhaps after a lot of personal convincing, we get ourselves a parade Tuchrock, not because we really need it (once a year is good enough right?), but because its darn classy. One might go the extra mile and have it tailored for the perfect fit – then comes the simple part. Sourcing and attaching the insignia. Simple – yeah right!
If only insignia came pre-attached to the uniforms, with the right detail, shape and stitching (hint hint) …
The Luftwaffe tunic breast eagle
All combat tunics from 1940 onwards carried the Luftwaffe national eagles of the 2nd type, introduced at the beginning of 1937. The threads of the Luftwaffe breast eagle were of a light mouse-gray colour, with backing that would match the fabric of the uniform being worn. In the case of the tan tropical uniforms, the eagles were produced on tan cotton backing and cut into shape after embroidery.
As opposed to BEVO insignia, LW breast eagles for tunics were not folded, and thus the raw edges were subject to easy fraying, which if not controlled creates an ugly and unkempt appearance. To reduce this occurrence all Luftwaffe breast eagles on field uniforms (e.g. Fliegerbluse, HBT tunics, Tropical tunics, Smocks etc) were always attached with a zig-zag stitch.
Zig-zag stitching, as opposed to line stitching, gives extra protection to the raw edges of the eagle from fraying. By keeping the edges sewn, the stitch will lessen the chances of the fabric from unravelling. Since the cotton weave on tropical uniforms was somewhat a loose weave, fraying was very easy to occur. A tight zig-zag stitch would slow down this process during wash and abrasion.
The Luftwaffe tropical shirt breast eagle
In the case of the shirt national eagle, the backing of the embroidery was a shirt cotton fabric. In this case the eagle was not trimmed following the shape of the eagle, but rather embroidered on triangular base, with the edges folded (hemmed) before stitched by machine. Since the edges in this case are protected with a fold, line stitching was the quickest application method. This has always been the most useful method when laundering. As you can expect, shirts were washed much more frequently than tunics.
Breast eagle on the tropical shirt was attached in simpler method, because the edges were protected by folded cloth.
In all cases of factory applied eagles on tropical shirts, this method was predominantly observed
The Luftwaffe tropical cap insignia
The tropical side cap (tropen-fliegermutze) was the most widely issued headgear as part of the tropical outfit. The insignia for the cap, like the continental version, consisted of 2 parts – the cap eagle, and cockade with the national colours (black, white, red). To prevent fraying, all side caps had triangular eagles with folded edges, a miniature version of the shirt insignia (with less detail). The cockade, was also embroidered on tan cotton, with the edges rolled on the inside and stitched in place.
Side-cap insignia was attached by hand, not machine, possibly due to the thickness of overlapping fabric at the front. This was typically done using a cotton thread in tan.
As for LWS tropical uniforms ..
I hope that this has helped you with identifying the right insignia and application for your uniforms. If you also share the pain of apply insignia to your uniforms, it is good to know that our upcoming tropical uniforms will come with pre-attached insignia, in the right method.
Tropical uniforms may not be the most flattering uniforms from the Third Reich era. However, back when I was introduced to re-enactment, the Luftwaffe Tropical uniform was mandatory for my Fallschirm-Brigade Ramcke impression. As you can expect, this is this the uniform I’ve spent most of the time in (and still do) appreciating its practicality, when done right.
Throughout the years, I must have owned and worn at least 25 pieces from vendors all over the globe. I’ve experienced first hand some of the issues with these uniforms, both in terms of practically and authenticity. due to this, paired with my growing passion for German Militaria, this has become one of the uniform I’ve spent time researching the most.
Throughout this series of articles, I intend on sharing with you my findings from these studies and give you pointers of what are common faults in today reproductions and how to avoid them.
Some areas that I will be covering in this series are:
- Why tightening straps don’t work well;
- What does tropical insignia look like, and why;
- The colour of the fabric;
- Incorrect back waist leads to incorrect fit;
- And what makes the trousers perfect for hot climate.
I have studied details and patterns from the original and went back to the drawing board so that I can wear the most authentic Luftwaffe Tropical Uniform. You can say that this quest to create the perfect replica has become personal!
Let's face it, different groups handle their ranking system differently. They range from individuals who may want to be an officer with all the bling bling, or a simple Jäger in well established unit, focusing on the real day-to-day duties of a soldier. Then there are those who dress up as Generalsoberst and make matters worse for themselves in terms of inclusion in the community. There's really no end to the combinations. I personally prefer a system where meritocracy and years of service are taken into consideration, where an enlisted men or NCO rank is somewhat of a time trail of his service and responsabilities.
Additionally, with some of the larger and well established groups, I have noticed and come to appreciate that the true leaders who serve their respective groups through hard-work and infinite amount of patience, seems to settle for less than an officer rank (despite subordinates suggesting that they should take a higher rank out of respect they earned). They are also the guy who have to bear the brunt of the typical unit of 20 to 30, with a full spectrum of different characters and needs. These men typically endorse a Feldwebel or Oberfeldwebel impression, and tend to the needs of their men.
Hauptfeldwebel is an appointment, not a rank. This is identified by a double piston rings on the lower sleeve. (Example from an original Hermann Göring Division fliegerbluse)
In the pre-war Wehrmacht, the sole carer of the Kompanie, was also typically assigned to a Feldwebel or Oberfeldwebel rank (in some cases even Junior NCO ranks). This assignment was called Hauptfeldwebel (also known as Der Spiess) and as it happens with groups I worked with, he is the person in charge of the administration duties and troop leadership.
These men are not focused on making sure they blast their way at event skirmishes or to be in the limelight, but rather want to make sure that all the men in the outfit are kitted out with the necessary gear for a good impression, provide the required training and when necessary, even step back from the fun stuff so that others may gain.
Last year, I had the honour of seeing the results of such leadership in action both here in Europe with the Italian group Feldgrau and in the USA with FJR6. Whether these leaders take up the rank of not, thanks to these, many are those re-enactors who are able to find a group that they feel they belong to.
Whilst writing this blog post, I remembered a quote from The Thin Red Line, Father's (Officer) the head, mother (Seargent) runs it.
Go ahead and read more details about the Hauptfeldwebel position.