Landsturm, or Home guard militia as an additional source of manpower during the war was initially created by a decree of the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm III on April 21, 1813. Thus it didn’t exist during time of peace and its personnel was recruited only after the declaration of war. In fact Landsturm didn’t exist before the Great War with an exception of paper drill.
The most distinctive element of Landsturm uniform worn only by their members was an oilcloth cap that came in various forms. This headgear as well as specific collar emblems make identification of Landsturm military personnel on old photographs quite an easy task.
Two most common types of oilcloth caps were introduced in 1913 and 1914.
Oilcloth cap Model 1913 (Wachstuchmütze M1913)
This basic type of a cap as well as its visor were made of bright black oilcloth, chinstrap was missing.
Oilcloth cap Model 1914 (Wachstuchmütze M1914)
As the war progressed the shortage of black oilcloth led to production of Landsturm headgear from field grey oilcloth. Chinstrap was still missing.
Two types of Wachstuchmütze M1914 existed: with black oilcloth and field grey visors.
Due to the lack of oilcloth of both colors – black and field grey, ordinary field grey cloth was used for production of caps for Landsturm personnel. Some caps had two buttons fixed on both sides of a band that were used to fix chinstrap.
By 1918 cloth caps were eliminated and they were substituted by more sophisticated headgear including steel helmets (Stahlhelm M1916).
Landwehr cross (Landwehrkreuz) made of yellow or white metal was supposed to be worn on top of the oilcloth cap while land’s cockade (Landeskokarde) on band.
Crosses had eight holes (two on each edge) through which they were sewn to caps or two metal prongs for fixing.
Landwehr crosses differed in mottos depending on the state of issuance.
Cross of the Kingdom of Prussia. “Mit Gott” (upper arm), “für König und Vaterland” (in the middle), “
Cross of the Kingdom of Saxony. Crown (upper arm), “Providentiae Memor” (in the middle), three oak leaves (lower arm).
Cross of the Kingdom of Bavaria. “In” (upper arm), “Treue” (left arm), “Fest” (right arm), three oak leaves (lower arm).
Cross of the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. “Furchtlos und treu” (the only inscription in the middle).
Cross of the Grand Duchy of Hessen. “Gott” (upper arm), “Ehre” (left arm), “Vater-” (right arm), “Land” (lower arm).
Crosses of the Hanseatic Cities (Hamburg, Bremen, Lubeck). “Mit Gott” (upper arm), “fürs Vaterland” (in the middle), three oak leaves (lower arm).
Landsturm personnel from other states wore the cross that had inscription “Mit Gott” on its upper arm, “fürs Fürst und Vaterland” in the middle and three oak leaves on its lower arm.
As far as Landsturm personnel were not regarded as frontline soldiers their uniform and equipment varied greatly and lacked any standardization. Even Landwehr crosses and cockades were supplied in numbers that were far fewer than needed. That led to unique combinations according to Landsturm member’s preferences and presence of emblems for headgear.
The following combinations existed.
- Top: Landwehr cross, band: land’s cockade (officially introduced variant).
- Top: Imperial cockade, band: Landwehr cockade (land’s cockade with superimposed miniature Landwehr cross).
- Top: Imperial cockade, band: land’s cockade. Landwehr cross in between.
- Top: Landwehr cross with Imperial cockade superimposed on its center, band: land’s cockade.
- Top: no emblem, band: land’s cockade.
Oilcloth cap cover (Überzug)
Cloth covers worn over oilcloth caps were intended to provide additional protection as they eliminated nighttime glare from relatively bright headgear and metal devices (distinctive crosses and cockades).
Two types of cloth covers are known: those covering the whole cap and those leaving visor open.
Due to the lack of Wachstuchmütze Landsturm personnel wore several other types of headgear as well.
Obsolete shakos were supplied to Landsturm personnel as early as 1914 due to shortage of oilcloth caps. There was no standardization at all as old shakos came from various sources including Landwehr, Train units, Jäger battalions and various German states. Shakos made of leather (M1860, M1888, M1892, M1895, M1897) as well as felt (Ersatz-Tschako M1914) were distributed in considerable quantities.
Traditional oval cloth cockades (Feldzeichen), large Landwehr crosses on oval metal base of characteristic land’s colors, land’s cockades and various types of eagles were the most common emblems that appeared on obsolete shakos. Sometimes those emblems were replaced by above mentioned ordinary Landwehr crosses.
Felt shakos appeared either with Landwehr crosses made of white or yellow metal or just without any emblems.
Cloth covers (Überzug M1892) were worn over shakos as an additional protection against sharpshooters.
It’s worth mentioning here though that unlike oilcloth caps that were worn exclusively by Landsturm personnel, obsolete shakos even leather ones were distributed to other units as well, e.g. Ersatz battalions. Thus it’s not correct to identify Landsturm soldier on a period photo just by mentioning his obsolete shako.
Landsturm units were also equipped by soft visor caps with leather chinstrap that were introduced in 1908 for non-combatant personnel like Train Mannschaften, Sanitäts-Unteroffiziere, Krankenwärter and Krankenträger.
That cap was similar to standard issue soft cap for other ranks (Krätzchen) but visor and leather chinstrap were added providing more comfort for service in windy weather.
Another type of headgear worn by Landsturm personnel was field grey visorless cap for other ranks that was introduced on February 28, 1910 alongside with peace time field tunic (Feldrock M1907/1910). Imperial cockade (Reichskokarde) appeared on top of the cap while its band had cockade of Landwehr (land’s cockade with superimposed miniature Landwehr cross).
Landsturm personnel were officially allowed to wear spiked helmets in 1915 though there’s a photographic evidence of non-regulatory usage of this type of headgear as early as 1914.
All types of available spiked helmets were supplied to Landsturm units including those made of leather (early models) and of felt (late war production).
A decree of March 1915 introduced protective covers for spiked helmets (Pickelhaube Überzug Modell 1892) made of light brown cloth that were used by army personnel since May 18, 1892.
According to the order of April 14, 1915 protective cover had to bear two distinctive elements - green Landwehr cross and battalion number written by Arabic numerals underneath.
These marks were executed either by stencil or by sewing felt or cloth emblems.
Green color instead of previously used red one was introduced for army personnel a bit earlier, on August 15, 1914.
As with all Landsturm regulations this order wasn’t carried out properly. As a result the following combinations sewn or painted on protective covers are known to have existed.
– Landwehr cross and battalion number underneath.
– Landwehr cross.
– Absence of any elements.
– Metal Landwehr cross (50x50 mm) from an oilcloth cap. This non-regulation practice contradicting the very principle of camouflage was seemingly aimed to give its bearer more impressive appearance.
– Metal Landwehr cross (25x25 mm).
– Landwehr cross above, corps number in Roman numerals and battalion number in Arabic numerals underneath.
– Landwehr cross, corps number in Roman numerals, battalion number in Arabic numerals – all sewn or painted vertically.
– Corps number in Roman numerals next to battalion number in Arabic numerals.
– Letter “L” above (which was instituted not for Landsturm but for Landwehr only), corps number in Roman numerals and battalion number in Arabic numerals underneath.
The final type of protective cover for a spiked helmet M1915 was introduced by an order of June 28, 1915. It had a removable spike cover as well as slits on both sides that allowed leather chinstrap to be passed through the cover.
Due to heavy casualties from enemy fire an order of September 21, 1915 required all troops at or near the frontline to remove their spikes.
On October 27, 1916 all troops were ordered to remove unit identifiers (letters, numerals and symbols) from spiked helmets’ protective covers.
Steel helmets (Stahlhelm M1916) aimed to replace obsolete spiked helmets that offered minimum protection were tested in 1915 and distributed to assault units that fought in Verdun area at the end of January 1916.
An order signed by the Chief of the General Staff General der Infanterie Erich Ludendorff on January regulated an order of priority of distribution of steel helmets due t combat necessity: infantry, cavalry, sappers, mortar crews, foot and field artillery. Landsturm units being rear echelon troops were not mentioned.
Nevertheless the first shipment of new protective headgear to Landsturm personnel dates back to 1917. They wore steel helmets without any distinctive insignia.
There’s a photographic evidence of usage of tropic helmets by Landsturm personnel but its obviously appeared due to presence of such an exotic unclaimed headgear in a certain depot where that Landsturm unit operated or was stationed.