Armoured Fighting Vehicle Crew Uniform
Officers, NCOs and Men

The Special Uniform for German Armoured Troops

The creation of the German Panzer arm brought with it the need for a purpose built uniform for those men crewing the new array of armoured fighting vehicles.  The new uniform, known as Sonderbekleidung der Deutschen Panzertruppen (Special Uniform for German Armoured Troops), is today referred to universally by collectors as the "panzer uniform."

The AFV Jacket was introduced In November 1934, and made with practicality in mind.  Cut short in the waist, and with no external pockets, there was a minimum of cloth that could get caught on the inner workings of a tank.  Some jackets had the shoulder straps sewn down for this reason as well.  The jacket for the "panzer uniform" was double breasted, for additional warmth, and made from black wool; the dark colour helped conceal oil stains.  The large collar had Waffenfarbe piping, but NCOs did not wear their rank tress on the collar.

panzersuitearly.gif (3628 bytes)
There was a deliberate attempt in the German press from early on to associate modern tank troops with cavalry troops of old; the black coloured uniform was linked to the 7th ("Black") Hussars of Frederick the Great's army, and to later Prussian Leibhusaren and Brunswick Hussar regiments.  The death's head symbol used by ancient Hussar units was adopted as a collar patch for all ranks wearing the new AFV uniform (see the page on AFV uniform collar insignia).

First Pattern

The first pattern jackets are identified by the wide lapels, described as "ornamental" in uniform references, they had no hook and eye to secure the jacket closed, nor did they have buttons and buttonholes.  The collar was smaller than later jackets, and more "square" in shape.

tankers.jpg (35006 bytes)
The early pattern AFV Jacket showing the wide lapels and piped collars.

Second Pattern

The second pattern of AFV uniform incorporated several key changes beginning in 1936.  Buttons and buttonholes were added so that the broad lapels could be secured closed.  A much more prominent gap was then found between the collar and the lapel, and a metal hook and eye were added to secure the collar closed.

While the lapels were no longer as pointed as before, the collar was enlarged and beame more pointed, ensuring the edge of the collar insignia would no long sit flush with both edges of the collar.

panzercollar.gif (2086 bytes)

First and Second Pattern collars.

panzercollar2.gif (2506 bytes)

panzersuit.gif (3766 bytes)
Second Pattern Jacket, showing the hook and eye placement as well as placement of buttons and buttonholes on the jacket and lapels.

The collar of the first pattern jacket is shown in the artist's painting at right, and illustrates nicely the fit of the collar patch in relation to the collar edge piping. Below, Knight's Cross holder Walther Böhm wears the second pattern AFV jacket; note the metal hook and eye just visible, and also the way the collar patches no longer conform to the pink piping on the collar edge.

 boehm.jpg (6283 bytes)

panzercard.jpg (6365 bytes)

Wartime Changes

The original intention for the AFV uniform was that it only be worn when the crewmen were in the vehicle; at all other times the standard Feldbluse was to be worn.  This restriction was ignored frequently, and espececially after the opening of hostilities in 1939.  The black AFV uniform was worn for parades and increasingly as a walking out uniform despite official prohibitions.  The garment was well liked and thought of as especially handsome; it also brought readily to mind the lightning victories of the early years of the war, for which the panzer troops were given much credit.


In September 1939, new orders extended the range of waffenfarben that might be encountered on AFV uniforms; the rapidly expanding number of reconaissance units were granted the copper-brown waffenfarbe and armoured car and halftrack crews were outfitted with the black AFV uniform.  Signalmen serving in the headquarters elements of panzer divisions were also permitted to wear the black AFV uniform, with their distinctive lemon yellow waffenfarbe.
panzeruniform.jpg (41979 bytes) panshir.jpg (66103 bytes)
Since the double breasted design of the jacket exposed the shirt, a mouse grey shirt and black necktie were introduced to be worn with the uniform.  Note the gap between lapel and collar on man at right, and the metal hook and eye visible in the photograph.
In May 1940, Panzerpioniere - armoured engineers - were ordered into the black AFV uniform, and in order to display their waffenfarbe they adopted a black and white twist piping.  This piping was only in use for a year; armoured engineers changed over to the new field grey AFV uniform (see below).

The design of the black AFV jacket did not change much further during the war, though the waffenfarbe collar piping was discontinued in 1942. 

panzerno.gif (3695 bytes)
Reed Green AFV Uniform

A uniform identical in cut to the panzer uniform, constructed of reed green denim, was also introduced in May 1941; originally to armoured car crews only.   It was intended to be worn during the summer months in lieu of the heavy wool uniform, and could also be used as an outer layer overtop of the black wool uniform in winter.

In 1942, reed green jackets cut identically to the AFV uniform began to be issued to tank crews also; these uniforms also had a large patch pocket added to the left front chest.

pandri.gif (3916 bytes)

panzmen.jpg (73023 bytes)

Above - The three styles of field cap can be seen in this photo; the "M42" Feldmütze at far left, the "M43" Einheitsfeldmütze on the man beside him, and the two men at right wear the early pattern Feldmütze (see the page on headdress for further explanations).  Also of note is the mix of piped and unpiped collars, as well as the field grey slip on devices on the shoulder straps, which identify the wearer's unit.  The two field caps at right are lacking the waffenfarbe soutache and the shirts appear to be a lighter colour than the standard issue mouse grey shirt.



Right - this decorated armoured crewman is wearing, oddly, a white ascot rather than a shirt and tie.  Many different forms of clothing were worn underneath the AFV uniform.  He has been decorated with the Wounds Badge and the Iron Cross Second Class, and appears to be wearing a marksmanship lanyard (though it is possible that he is instead wearing a whistle lanyard, though they were not commonly seen on AFV jackets.)

panascot.jpg (63966 bytes)

panwed.jpg (27945 bytes)

Another soldier, apparently wearing a white shirt, posing for his wedding photo while clad in the black AFV uniform.  Note the Schirmmütze dress cap and white gloves being carried.  The dark coloured piping, and lack of a panzer assault badge (despite holding the silver wounds badge and Iron Cross Second Class) seem to suggest this is not a panzer crewman.
Decorations and insignia on the black AFV uniform were worn as on the standard field grey service uniform.  Seperate pages on this site detail the collar tabs and shoulder straps worn on the AFV uniform, as well as the marksmanship lanyard.

Note on this example that the ribbon bar is worn in the same location as it would be on the field grey uniform (ie over the left breast pocket).  Badges and combat decorations were also worn as per regulation for the field grey uniform, on the left chest.

panzerwarap.jpg (10570 bytes)