Collar Insignia - AFV Uniforms


German collar patches traditionally showed the soldier's rank as well as the branch of service.  When the black AFV uniform was introduced, however, all ranks wore the same special pattern of collar patch.  In keeping with the traditional aspects of the black AFV uniform, and the desired link to the Hussar units of old, the new collar patches had a death's head emblem on a black patch, piped in waffenfarbe.  The skull was a white metal addition, and did not come in left and rights, though the collar patches themselves were indeed issued in pairs conforming to the shape of the collar of the new uniform.

It was originally intended that AFV crews would only wear the AFV uniform for field duty, and that the standard Field Blouse or Waffenrock would be worn for other duties, or when off duty.  The special collar patches were not worn on these uniforms, but rather standard collar patches appropriate to the wearer's rank were worn instead.

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At right, Joseph Rettermaier receives the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross from the Hitler personally.  Period photos like this clearly show that as the war went on, the black AFV uniform was not used only for field wear!  Being an attractive uniform, it was very popular as a walking out uniform also.
As men in other trades began assuming the wear of the AFV uniform, patches in their waffenfarbe were created.  The 24th Panzer Division, the only panzer division to be created directly from a former cavalry unit, retained their golden yellow piping, but reconaissance troops in other divisions who wore the AFV uniform also wore this waffenfarbe.  Armoured signal troops and artillery troops began to wear the AFV uniform, and in May 1940, armoured pioneer troops adopted a black and white "twist piping" for use on uniform accoutrements.  The introduction of the field grey AFV uniform alleviated the need for twist piping, as the traditional black waffenfarbe stood out against the field grey collar patches and shoulder straps. cavtabs.jpg (13815 bytes)
Michael Pruett, author of FIELD UNIFORMS OF GERMAN ARMY PANZER FORCES IN WORLD WAR TWO and co-author of FIELD UNIFORMS OF GERMANY'S PANZER ELITE provides the following information on the various collar patches worn on the black AFV uniform::

Totenkopf Collar Patches
Black AFV Uniform

Colours mentioned includes piping on the collars, collar tabs, and shoulderstraps/boards.

1934 - 1937
Panzertruppen Armoured troops
Stab and Panzerspähkompanien in Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.) Headquarters and Armoured Car companies in Motorized Reconnaissance Units
Panzernachrichten Armoured Signals troops
Changes and Additions
Panzernachrichten (Armoured Signals) changed to Lemon Yellow in 1937

Stab and Panzerspähkompanien in Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.) changed to Golden Yellow (except for Motorized Reconnaissance Units in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Panzer Divisions, who continued to wear pink)

Beobachtungsbatterie in Artillerie-Regimenter (mot.) (Oberservation Batteries in Motorized Artillery Regiments) adopted pink patches etc. in 1938 as did crews of Sd Kfz 265 Kleiner Panzerbefelswagen.

Panzerabwehrkompanien. Equipped with 4.7cm Pak (t) (Sf) auf Pz Kpfw I Ausf. B. Anti Tank Units using the PzKpfw I ausf B
Schwere Infanteriegeschützkompanien (mot.) 701 - 706 Heavy Infantry Gun Company (Motorized), numbers 701 to 706
Panzerjägerkompanien. Renaming of the Panzerabwehr Eisenbahnpanzerzüge. Literally (tank hunting companies), this was a renaming of anti-tank units (or "tank defence" units).


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Rose Pink

Artillerie Lehr Regiment Jüterbog Artillery Training Regiment Jüterbog

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Rose Pink
sans skull

Panzernachrichten Armoured Signals troops

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Lemon Yellow

Panzerspähkompanien in Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.)* Headquarters and Armoured Car companies in Motorized Reconnaissance Units*
* Except those in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Panzer Divisions
Aufklärungs-Regimenter in the Leichte Divisions. Reconnaissance Regiments in Light Divisions
Panzer Regiment 24 of the 24th Panzer Division retained Golden Yellow piping; the division was a redesignation of the 1st Cavalry Division who had worn golden yellow.

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Golden Yellow

Stab and Panzerspähkompanien in Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.) Headquarters and Armoured Car companies in Motorized Reconnaissance Units
Some units continued to wear rose pink and golden yellow, however

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Copper Brown

Black & white twist piping 3rd or 2nd Kompanie (depending on unit) in Panzerpionier-Bataillon 2nd or 3rd Company of Armoured Engineer Battalion
Black and white "twist" piping was used.  In 1941, black & silver twist piping was worn by the Stab (headquarers) of Panzerpionier battalions as well as (unofficially) by individuals in some the 3rd Company of some Panzerpionier-Bataillonen.

In 1943 black & white "fleck" piping was factory produced as an intended replacement for black & white twist
piping worn by Stab (headquarters) and tank crews in the Panzerpionier-Bataillone - who were by now receiving their own tanks.

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Black & White

2./(gp) Führer-Begleit-Bataillon 2nd (Armoured) Company, Führer Guard Battalion
This unit reformed into 5./(Pz.) Führer-Begleit-Bataillon sometime in late 1941, early 1942.  The FBB drew its personnel from Infantry Regiment "Grossdeutschland"

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Beobachtungsbatterie (Sf) (Selbstfahrlafette) Motorized Artillery Observation Battery

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Other Notes:

Reconnaissance Units:

In 1942 the Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.) and Kradschützen-Bataillone were officially merged into Kradschützen (Motorcycle)- Bataillone. With the exception of units serving in Africa the term "Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (mot.)" was no longer officially used.   Headquarters and the First (Armoured Car) company of the new Kradschützen Battalions wore, depending on unit, either rose pink, golden yellow or copper brown!

In 1943, the Kradschützen- Bataillone were abolished and reformed into Panzersufklärungs-Abteilungen. Officially the unpopular color copper brown was discontinued at this time and all Panzersufklärungs-Abteilungen were to convert to rose pink. Unofficially, golden yellow continued to be worn in the Panzersufklärungs-Abteilungen.

In 1944, Golden Yellow offiicially replaced rose pink in the headquarters and armoured car companies of Armoured Reconnaissance Units.  A few units continued to wear the pink in defiance of regulations.

Collar Piping: Beginning in 1939 black Panzer jackets began to be manufactured without collar piping.

Black and White Piping (either twist or fleck): continued to be worn (as well as black and silver) on the black Panzer uniforms of certain Panzerpionier-Bataillone until the end of the war.

Sturmartillerie (Assault Artillery): Many individuals in Sturmartillerie and Panzerartillerie chose to wear the black Panzer uniform with red piped Totenkopf collar tabs.

Piped Collar Tabs: Beginning in 1943 soutache (previously used as an inverted "V" on the Feldmütze) began to be used as a intended replacement for the Totenkopf collar tabs. The soutache was  machine sewn in a rhomboid shape directed to the collar of the jacket. The Totenkopf was then pinned into the center of the rhomboid. It should be noted that the Totenkopf collar tabs continued to be manufactured until the end of the war.


panzerleft.gif (2071 bytes) The metal skull devices were made of thin white metal and attached by prongs.  It seems individual discretion may have been used as to their placement; the photo above of the rose piped tabs show the skulls angled on the patch so has be vertical when viewed on the jacket; the yellow piped tabs in the photo above have been attached so as to be vertical to the tab itself. panzerleftvar.gif (2049 bytes)


While there was no tropical version of the AFV uniform, panzer troops still sought to distinguish themselves by wearing the death's head pins directly on the lapels of their tropical uniforms, in conjunction with the standard collar patches. tropskul.gif (1432 bytes)

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Oberstleutnant Mildebrath, commander of Panzer Regiment 5, wears the tropical tunic with skulls on the lapels.


THE FIELD GREY AFV UNIFORM - Stumgeschütz and Sturmartillerie units

The introduction of the field grey version of the AFV uniform, after May 1940, and the introduction of a wider array of troops mounted in armoured fighting vehicles led to a bewildering array of insignia designed specifically for this uniform.

Originally, this field grey AFV uniform had a dark green collar, and standard collar patches were intended to be worn.  The dark green collar didn't make it past the prototype phase, however, and the issued collar patches were field grey with red piping.  The troops to whom this uniform were issued were collectively known as "Assault Gun Battalions" (Sturmgeschütz Abteilung), later renamed Assault Gun Brigades, and later yet Assault Artillery Brigades (Sturmartillerie Brigade).  Early versions of this patch may have been in dark green, but it appears all issue types were in field grey matching the uniform.

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Some time in 1941, the skulls were ordered removed from the field grey patches.  According to Martin Windrow in the revised edition of The Panzer Divisions by Osprey, photos of troops wearing the field grey AFV uniform early on in the invasion of Russia are shown wearing plain patches.   Other photos, according to Windrow, however, show that in some units the skulls were retained until much later, in some cases as late as 1944. 

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One source gives a January 1943 date for the absolute removal of all skulls and patches, to be replaced by conventional collar patches.   Officers were to wear standard patches, Enlisted Men were to back their patches with green, and the green patch itself was to be bordered with waffenfarbe. Sometimes the patches, as on the standard field blouse, were sewn without a backing (and consequently, without the waffenfarbe border).

In March of 1943, crews of assault guns serving in infantry and panzer-grenadier units were ordered to wear white and grass green waffenfarbe (and thus collar patches bordered in those colours) instead of red waffenfarbe.  All others retained the red.

The illustrations at right show the prewar waffenfarbe style litzen, though the later universal patterns (both dark green and field grey) were also worn with the waffenfarbe borders.

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It does not appear that assault artillery crews wore the field grey AFV uniform exclusively; there is photographic evidence of troops wearing the black AFV uniform with rose piping, and in some cases, rose piped black collar patches without skulls.  This may have been the result of a shortage of field grey uniforms.

By 1944, there was a very large mix of uniforms and insignia combinations in most self-propelled gun units, despite "official" orders prescribing the adoption of newer insignia.  As with most items of dress in the German military, shortages of newer patterns, reluctance to change, and official permission to "wear out" older patterns resulted in this apparent confusion and disorder.

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At right, Field Grey AFV uniform worn by German prisoner arriving in the United States after the fall of Tunisia; summer 1943.  The litzen type collar patches are apparent sewn to a dark green backing, and edge in waffenfarbe.  Also of note is the lack of devices on the shoulder boards (which are either dark green or black rather than field grey).  US ARMY Signal Corps photo 

Below - the me at left and right wear the third pattern field grey collar patches on their jackets while the officer at centre wears standard officer's pattern collar patches.

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THE FIELD GREY AFV UNIFORM - Panzerjäger units


The anti tank units at first wore standard black AFV uniforms with standard rose piped collar patches and skulls.  The only visible uniform distinction they had from tank crews were a "P" cypher on their shoulder straps.  Some anti-tank gun crews seem to have worn the field grey uniform with the same distinctions - ie rose piping on shoulder straps and collar patches, with a "P" cypher on the shoulder strap.

In February 1942, the adoption of the field grey AFV uniform was made official, as was the use of rose piped shoulder straps (either dark green or field grey) and black collar patches with skulls, as well as continuation of the use of "P" cyphers.

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In May 1944, a comprehensive list of changes to the uniforms of panzerjäger units ordered that panzerjäger units in

  • Panzer Division
  • Panzergrenadier Division
  • Army or Corps level units equipped with the Elefant

were to wear the black AFV uniform, with rose piped black collar patches and skulls, and "P" cyphers on shoulder straps.

Panzerjäger units in

  • Army or Corps command (but not equipped with the Elefant)
  • Infantry Divisions
  • Jäger Divisons
  • Mountain Divisions

were to wear the field grey uniform, with the rose piped black collar patches and skulls and "P" cyphers.

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Panzerjäger units in
  • Infantry Regiments
  • Jäger or Mountain Regiments

were to wear the field grey AFV uniform, with rose piped shoulder straps and "p" cyphers, but with white or green waffenfarbe litzen worn the collar.

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panoff.jpg (12319 bytes) At left, an officer showing the wear of standard collar patches on the field grey AFV uniform.

At right, Hauptmann Rolf Düe, Kompanie-Chef of 1st Company, Panzerjäger Abteilung 19 (19 Panzer Division), wearing the black collar patches with skulls on the field grey AFV uniform, as well as "P" devices designating an anti-tank unit on his shoulder straps.  He was awarded the RK on March 23, 1945. Thanks again to Michael Pruett for identifying this man.  Photos also show him wearing a black AFV uniform. though his unit was equipped with Jagdpanzer IVs.

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