Uniforms and ranks of the Peacetime Army
The new German government agreed to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories according to the Armistice at Compiègne signed on November 11, 1918. The withdrawal from the Western front began next day, on November 12 and by January 17, 1919 all the areas left of the Rhine were clear of the German military personnel. The next herculean task was to demobilize nearly two millions of soldiers and 100,000 officers who were returning home. These operations took place in special demobilization centers that were usually organized in home barracks. In December 1918 the old once unconquerable Imperial army was completely disintegrated and the military power was presented by loyal officers without troops.
Nevertheless reliable Armed forces were still needed to protect Provisional government from the attempts of left-wing radical organizations to seize power. On the other hand eastern borders of the Weimar Republic had to be safeguarded from various incursions. Thus the Council of the People’s Deputies (Rat der Volksbeauftragten) and the Supreme Army Command (Oberste Heeresleitung) decided to use experienced cadres to form so-called “Peacetime Army” (Friedensheer).
The government issued “Temporary Provisions for Uniforms of the Peacetime Army” on January, 19 1919 that were published in the army gazette “Armeeverordnungsblatt” (1919, Nr.85).
The following NCOs’ and officers’ ranks were mentioned in the “Temporary Provisions for Uniforms of the Peacetime Army”.
- General der Infanterie, General der Kavallerie, General der Artillerie
The ranks of the Imperial army remained unchanged for officers, those of medical and veterinary officers were similarly adopted. It’s worth mentioning though that the rank of Rittmeister, i.e. Hauptmann in cavalry units was not mentioned in the decree. Ranks of Vizewachtmeister and Wachtmeister, i.e. Feldwebels in Cavalry and Artillery units were not mentioned as well.
Although the rank designations of enlisted personnel were not listed, traditional designations, e.g. Kanonier, Schütze, Gefreiter, etc. were still used.
The uniform largely adopted field-grey clothing of the Imperial army but most other items of clothing were worn provided with new insignia. It’s safe to say that the Peacetime Army had no standard uniform and military personnel wore nearly everything left from the Great war era. Nevertheless all items from the parade uniform and peace-time Imperial tunics, i.e. Waffenrock M1895 were dispensed with.
All military personnel with the consent of their superiors were allowed to wear civilian clothing off duty. Moreover those working in offices were even allowed to do so while on duty.
On January 28, 1919 Bavarian War Ministry (Bayerisches Kriegsministerium) issued a decree that recommended officers to wear civilian clothing off duty. It also dispensed with the need to seek permission for off-duty wear and for office staff on duty.
An attempt to break imperial traditions led to prohibition of several items of uniform one of the most notorious being imperial cockade. As a result caps of the Peacetime Army had only one cockade in the state colors centered on the cap band. Two more regulations concerning headgear were introduced for the same reason: peaked caps as well as cockades with raised centre and serrated edge worn by officers and senior NCOs only were allowed to enlisted personnel regardless of rank.
Steel helmets M1916 worn by other ranks lacked uniformity as traditional emblems, e.g. death’s head of the Leib-Husaren Regiment Nr.1 were painted to stress military continuity.
The short infantry bayonet Seitengewehr 84/98 worn on the belt over tunic and greatcoat replaced all other types of side arms.
The honorary right to wear old-style Imperial sabers and swords was granted to two groups of military personnel: officers and NCOs with at least 25 years of active service and those who were awarded with such items for the exceptional bravery on the battlefield and other merits.
Side arms were not carried in a garrison when off-duty or while on leave. However the belt had always to be worn.
Wearing of medals and decorations
Medals and decorations awarded during the Great War, service decorations and life saving medals could be worn on and off duty. However, peacetime decorations were not permissible on the uniform when on duty.
“Temporary Provisions for Uniforms of the Peacetime Army” introduced first type of temporary simplified system of insignia in form of cloth stripes sewn on sleeves of tunics.
Officers’ shoulder boards and NCOs’ braid had to be removed unconditionally while shoulder straps of NCOs and other ranks were to be removed upon receipt of new insignia and enlistment. Nevertheless the latter wasn’t followed as strictly as the former. In the case of frontier troops old insignia was allowed to be worn temporary. A special regulation was intended to be announced for mobile units but it never happened.
According to a decree of a Bavarian War Ministry issued on January 28, 1919 officers’ shoulder boards as well as NCOs’ braid were to be replaced by the new insignia in garrisons as of March 01, 1919 and on border duty as of August 01, 1919.
Another regulation was intended for the peace time uniforms of the Imperial army but it hasn’t been announced.
Thus first type rank insignia represents dark blue cloth stripes to be sewn round the left sleeves of the tunic, blouse and overcoat. Due to the lack of fabric or economy reasons sometimes these stripes were sewn only on the front portion of sleeve and not around it.
1 – Soldat (Schütze, Kanonier, etc.); 2 – Gefreiter.
3 – Unteroffizier; 4 – Sergeant and Fähnrich; 5 – Vizefeldwebel; 6 – Feldwebel and Offizierstellvertreter; 7 – Unteroffizier (2nd type rank insignia introduced on February 04, 1919).
8 – Feldwebelleutnant and Leutnant; 9 – Oberleutnant; 10 – Hauptmann; 11 – Hauptmann (non-regulated rank insignia).
12 – Major; 13 – Oberstleutnant; 14 – Obesrt.
15 – Generalmajor; 16 – Generalleutnant; 17 – General der Infanterie, General der Kavallerie, General der Artillerie.
The main difference between insignia for NCOs, officers and generals was in the width of stripes and the part of the sleeves those stripes were sewn to.
1. Other ranks
Gefreiters retained their old collar buttons as the new decree hadn’t stated anything about the insignia of enlisted personnel’s ranks.
NCOs wore one to four
Imperial NCOs’ rank insignia – braid and chevrons – were allowed to be worn on drill tunics.
Officers wore dark blue cloth stripes sewn on the lower left arm 6-
Gilt metal numerals denoting unit number as earlier used on the shoulder boards were stitched to the middle of the lowest stripe.
Collar tabs with Litzen and embroidery remained unchanged.
Generals wore 6 and
They also retained their traditional uniform insignia, i.e. field-grey collar tabs with gold embroidery, red trouser cloth stripes and red-lined lapels on the greatcoat.
5. Military officials
Military officials wore dark blue cloth stripes that corresponded with the classification of their previous ranks. Officials with the ranks of officers, i.e. “senior officials” of the Imperial Army also had gilt metal numerals stitched to the lowest cloth stripe.
Collar tabs with Litzen and embroidery remained unchanged.
The decree of February 04, 1919 introduced the 2nd type of cloth insignia that differed from the above described only in color – light blue fabric was used for the stripes. In case of lack of light blue fabric dark blue stripes had to be re-dyed. Already sewn stripes of dark blue color were still widely worn.
On March 06, 1919 “Peacetime Army” was transformed into “Provisional Reichswehr” (Vorläufige Reichswehr) and new rank insignia was introduced by the decree of May 05, 1919.