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Swallows’ Nests or Musicians’ Wings

Musicians’ Wings (Schwalbennester) were a traditional item of uniform decoration worn by German military musicians that also showed the wearer’s branch of service by the use of various colors. They represented a matching pair of detachable cloth semicircular patches with a slightly curved lower edge sewn or fixed by hooks on both upper arms of tunic. They were worn with all types of dress but not during the battle. The lower edge remained horizontal to the tunic. The width from tip to tip was 24 cm while the height in the middle was 10 cm. The badge cloth was made of branch color, base cloth was field-grey.

At the top edge between the cloth and the lining five to six hooks were sewn in, which were hooked on directly above the sleeve seam in corresponding grey thread loops.

Before 1930 nearly all musicians’ wings were removable but were usually sewn on to walking out dress and privately purchased tunics.

The first model of Weimar-era musicians’ wings (Schwalbennester M1920) was instituted by a decree of December 12, 1920. 

Schwalbennester 1920

The trimming consisted of seven vertical field-grey or matt silver 2,1 cm braids and one horizontal 3 mm braid above the lower edge covering the end of the vertical braid and the start of the fringes. Swallows’ nests without fringes had the badge cloth visible on the lower edge as ending. Above-mentioned field-grey or matt silver braid was patterned with small squares made of two zigzag lines. This pattern was made after NCOs’ braid of Guard regiments of the Imperial Army. In the case of matt silver braid double zigzag lines in the middle were present.

Fringes were made of 3 cm-long thin or 7 cm-long thick matt silver threads.

Types of swallows’ nests depended on the specialization of the musician and differed in braid color and presence of fringes.

1. Drum and fife musicians (Spielmann und Spielleute). Vertical field-grey subdued braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid. That was the most simple type of musicians’ wings.

2. Regimental bandsmen (Musiker) and trumpeters (Trompeter). Vertical matt silver braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid with thin 3-cm-long matt silver fringes at the bottom.

3. Battalion buglers (Bataillonshornist). Vertical matt silver braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid with thick 7 cm-long matt silver fringes at the bottom.

The second model of Weimar-era musicians’ wings (Schwalbennester M1923) was introduced by a decree of October 17, 1923. 

Schwalbennester 1923

It changed the color of vertical braid and regulated the wear of fringes. Thus, the patterned braid had to be either field-grey or matt white (instead of M1920 matt silver) woven of aluminium over cotton thread. The fringe for regimental bandsmen and trumpeters was eliminated. Nevertheless already issued M1920 swallows’ nests were allowed to be worn.

Three types of Schwalbennester M1923 were as follows.

1. Drum and fife musicians (Spielmann und Spielleute). Vertical field-grey subdued braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid. That was the most simple type of musicians’ wings.

2. Regimental bandsmen (Musiker) and trumpeters (Trompeter). Vertical matt white braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid.

3. Battalion buglers (Bataillonshornist). Vertical matt white braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid with thick 7 cm-long matt silver fringes at the bottom.

The third model of Weimar-era musicians’ wings (Schwalbennester M1927) was instituted by a decree of July 22, 1927. In fact it authorized bright silver braid and fringes for the swallows’ nests of privately purchased tunics of  battalion buglers, regimental bandsmen and trumpeters thus returning short 3 cm-long thin fringes to the latter group of military musicians. 

Three types of Schwalbennester M1927 for high quality privately purchased tunics were as follows.

1. Drum and fife musicians (Spielmann und Spielleute). Vertical field-grey subdued braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid. That was the most simple type of musicians’ wings.

2. Regimental bandsmen (Musiker) and trumpeters (Trompeter). Vertical bright silver braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid with thin 3-cm-long bright silver fringes at the bottom.

3. Battalion buglers (Bataillonshornist). Vertical bright silver braid on a cloth of a branch color and a horizontal braid with thick 7 cm-long bright silver fringes at the bottom.

The final model of musicians’ wings (Schwalbennester M1930) came out according to the decree of July 04, 1930. It prescribed aluminium for the braid and fringes because of its durability and more presentable surface. At the same it allowed all previous models made of matt silver and matt white braid (М1920, М1923 и М1927) to be worn. According to the same decree swallows’ nests were to be sewn on to walking out tunics and fixed by hooks and loops to other types of service tunics.

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