German Empire

German cockade main
History of the German Cockade

Cockade of Prussia as we have always known it, originates from the distinctive headgear emblem introduced in 1806-1807 for Prussian defenders of Silesia by its Deputy Governor-General Obrist-Lieutenant Friedrich Wilhelm von Götzen der Jüngere (20.01.1767-29.02.1820). Shortly after it moved to headgear of other army units, from Prussia as well as from other German states. As for the prototype of the Prussian cockade, it was that of the Napoleon Bonaparte's French troops, the latter being introduced during the French Revolution. For the sake of justice, it should be said that military fashion of the early 1800s was generally dominated by the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. The tall shako used by the French and their allies was copied by nearly all the armies of Europe, and Prussia was no exception to this tradition as it developed a tall leather and felt shako after the French pattern.


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Signaller Arm Badge Main

Signaller’s Arm Badge

Arm badge of a skilled signaller, or “Abzeichen für die im Gebrauch der Winkerflaggen ausgebildeten Unteroffiziere und Mannschaften” in full, that had to be worn by personnel of signals troops was initially described by the Instruction No.379 of January 27, 1903 (Vorschrift für den Gebrauch der Winkerflaggen). Every signals troop (Signaltrupp) that was raised within ranks of every company consisted of two soldiers under command of a NCO. Their main task was to transmit signals, messages and orders based on Morse code during combat and sentry duty. 

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Landsturm doctors main
Uniform and insignia of Landsturm doctors

Legal status of Prussian doctors in times of warfare was particularly regulated by Section 626 of the Prussian Civil Code. It specifically stipulated that all contract commitments with draft-age doctors after announcement of a general mobilization are declared terminated indefinitely in order to meet the requirements of Field forces in medical officers. Those not liable to conscription but still willing to serve their Fatherland were allowed to enroll on a voluntary basis in Landsturm units raised at the place of their residence.


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Landwehr Kavallerie main
Uniform of Landwehr cavalry officers

Uniform and equipment of Prussian Landwehr cavalry officers (Landwehr-Kavallerie-Offiziere) was regulated by the Supreme Cabinet Order (Allerhöchste Kabinettsorder) of April 11, 1868. The tunic (Waffenrock) of line Infantry was introduced but traditional cuffs were changed to those of Lancers. Upper and front parts of stand-up collar as well as cuffs had a 2,25 cm wide gilt patterned braid bordered with a thin silk crimson cord.


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POW main
Uniform of prisoners of war in German camps

Close to the end of the Great War around 2,4 million prisoners of war from 13 countries were held captive in German camps. Despite unrestrained Allied propaganda German military administration devoted sufficient attention to their fate and establishing of more or less acceptable conditions for officers and soldiers in POW camps was not the least of its concerns. 


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Edelweiss main

Edelweiss badge of the Alpine Corps

Headgear commemorative badges that were extremely popular with Austro-Hungarian military personnel (Kappenabzeichen) were forbidden in the Imperial German army, but two exceptions did exist. Cap badges of the Alpine and Carpathian Corps were the only badges officially authorized for wear by soldiers and officers during the Great War. 

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Braunschweig Totenkopf main
Braunschweiger Totenkopf Traditionsabzeichen

Braunschweig Totenkopf Cockade

Additional metal cockade in the shape of a “death’s head”, i.e. skull with jawbone and crossed long-bones as a traditional symbol of fearlessness in front of death was authorized to be worn by the ranks of the Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regiment Nr.17 on September 17, 1883. As the regiment did not receive their “Landeskokarde” in state colours (i.e. blue with a yellow ring) until 1897, only round Prussian one was worn on a cap band while Totenkopf cockade was attached to a cap top.

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Marksmanship main
Schützenabzeichen Modell 1850/1868

Marksmanship Awards 1850/1868

The earliest distinctions for proficient musketry proven by other ranks and NCOs from Prussian infantry and rifle regiments as well as from Jäger and Pionier battalions were instituted by a Supreme Cabinet Order (Allerhöchste Kabinetts-Order, AKO) from April 25, 1850. Those awards came in three classes only and were sewn on both sleeves. They had a shape of horizontal stripes (Litzen) of the state colour: white 7 mm wide cloth base with central thin 1,5 mm wide black stripe.

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Wurttemberg main
Униформа армии Королевства Вюртемберг в 1864-1871 гг.

Для армии Королевства Вюртемберг 1864-1871 годы ознаменовались учреждением униформы принципиально нового образца, что было во многом мотивировано политическими соображениями пришедшего к власти нового монарха. В данном материале описывается малоизвестная страница истории униформы последних лет существования независимой вюртембергской армии.


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Special ranks
Special designations of ranks of German military personnel

As a rule abbreviations of special designations (Zusätze) were placed after rank titles to distinguish those officers from their colleagues on the active duty list (aktive Offiziere) including three special categories, i.e. medical officers (Sanitätsoffiziere), veterinary officers (Veterinäroffiziere) and ordnance officers (Waffenoffiziere).


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Wurttemberg Rangliste
Table of military, civil and court positions and ranks of the Kingdom of Württemberg instituted on October 18, 1821

Table of ranks being a formal list of positions in government, military and court of the Kingdom of Württemberg divided into 10 grades (Stufen) precisely regulated the seniority within officer corps and officials and offered strict sequence for promotion in rank in the middle of XIX century. Lists of ranks in each grade are supplemented in this material with later additions that were introduced in 1821-1841 (where applicable).

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Scharfschutzen main
MG-Scharfschützen Ärmelabzeichen

Machine gun sniper sleeve badge

Machine gun sniper sleeve badge being not a decoration but a specialists’ insignia was instituted in the kingdom of Prussia on February 08, 1916. Its wear was authorized by separate orders of three other kingdoms, Württemberg (on February 16, 1916), Saxony (on February 17, 1916) and Bavaria (on February 19, 1916).

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Berg 1890
Горняцкая униформа и знаки различия прусских шахтеров образца 1890 г.

Горняцкое дело в немецких государствах имеет многовековые традиции, и в каждом из них, начиная с XVII века, имелись собственные формы одежды и знаки различия рудокопов и чиновников. С учетом того, что основной задачей нашего сайта является помощь в максимально точной идентификации персонажей, запечатленных на фотографиях, мы не будем касаться униформы, сведения о которой дошли лишь в форме гравюр, картин и описаний. 


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Landsturm units main

Landsturm collar insignia and corresponding units



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Landsturm collar tabs
Landsturm collar insignia

Collar insignia consisting of metallic numerals and letters was nearly the only detail of Landsturm uniform that can give a hint in identification of a unit. Nevertheless vague implementation of army orders and various non-regulatory changes sometimes make this task nearly impossible without respective stamps on the reverse of a photo.


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Fahnrich main
Junior officer ensigns insignia

Two ranks corresponded to officer candidates, i.e. Fahnriche in the Imperial German army, that of Portepeefähnrich (later just Fähnrich) and Degenfähnrich. Moreover an article won’t be complete without mentioning junior grade of aspirants – Fahnenjunker.



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Army ranks main
Знаки различия регулярной армии Германской Империи

В данном материале приводится общая информация о знаках различия рядового, унтер-офицерского и офицерского составов регулярных частей германской армии.
Униформа и знаки различия кандидатов в офицеры – фаненюнкеров и фенрихов – здесь не рассматриваются и описаны в отдельном материале. В отличие от униформы, система знаков различия нижних чинов и унтер-офицеров армии Второго рейха была достаточно сложной и в своем роде уникальной, существенно отличаясь от других европейских армий.

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Stahlhelm main
German steel helmets

Fundamentally new headgear aimed to safeguard frontline soldiers from head wounds was badly needed by German military personnel as at the very beginning of the Great War combatants were issued only with spiked helmets designed to protect against saber cuts and small splinters. Those old fashioned Pickelhelms introduced in 1842 were nearly useless in modern especially trench warfare and the number of casualties from shrapnel and gunfire rose drastically.


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Landsturm main
Landsturm headgear

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.


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Gibraltar main


Ärmelband “Gibraltar”

The “Gibraltar” Cuff-Title

The “Gibraltar” cuff-title, the only commemorative Imperial cuff-title was instituted by the German emperor Wilhelm II on January 24, 1901 and was issued to the personnel regardless of rank of three units – Füsilier Regiment General Feldmarschall Prinz Albrecht von Preußen (Hannoversches) Nr.73, Infanterie-Regiment Von Voigts-Rhetz (3.Hannoversches) Nr.79 and Hannoversches Jäger-Bataillon Nr.10.


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Karpathenkorpsabzeichen main

Carpathian Corps Badge

Instituted by the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Karl I as a special decoration for combat bravery of military personnel of the German IV Reserve Corps that fought under the command of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army in Carpathians and Bukovina against Russian forces. Carpathian Corps was its official designation from July 24, 1916 to December 12, 1917.

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