German World War Two Soldier Equipment Questions

Hey, hey.

As I continue to explore painting techniques and my current batch of models approach completion, I find myself looking to add bags, boxes, rolls, tarps, and other such items to each project. Since I want these things to look reasonably realistic, I am getting into the weeds of soldier kit and equipment stowage practices.

Did German World War II soldiers carry some form of tent as part of their equipment? Online references often show soldiers carrying a Zeltbahn but it took 4 to make a tent and they seem more like poorly designed rain ponchos.

Did such soldiers carry any form of bed roll or sleeping bag? I am not seeing them in photos of standard kit.

Did such soldiers carry a tarp to lay on the ground when resting and sleeping? Again, I am not seeing them in photos of standard kit.

Did German closed top armored vehicles carry tarps as part of their standard equipment? I am not seeing them in photos.

Where did German tank soldiers keep their personal equipment? Unlike American vehicles, German vehicles rarely seem to carry a bunch of junk.

Did German armored vehicles carry camouflage nets or anything similar? I cannot recall seeing many photos of such things.

Was it common practice to carry extra ammunition boxes, ration boxes, or anything similar on a German tank?

Is there an online museum of German World War Two soldier equipment with pictures? Many websites have bits and pieces but I cannot find a website providing a good overview of the subject.

Thanks!

A very broad topic, however, one in which most of your questions have been answered>

for example, the Zeltbahn. German soldiers were trained to construct shelters from even a single Zeltbahn. Yes, four could be fastened together to make an enclosed tent for four soldiers, but there were also ways that numerous numbers of Zeltbahns could be fastened together to make much larger tents for larger numbers of soldiers. Photos exist of many such large tents.

The German soldier was issued blankets and great coats that could be used to provide warm sleeping. Much of this was carried by the unit’s baggage trains. Each soldier had (at various times) a personal kit bag (sometimes two) along with a backpack (that could be attached to the standard Y-straps or which had its own shoulder straps). All of this extra baggage was carried by the unit’s baggage trains to be accessed when the unit was halted for extended periods.

German doctrine called for their troops to carry only what was necessary for combat and subsistence for a specified period of time until the unit’s baggage trains could catch up to them.

The German infantry was also issued what is commonly called an A-frame system which composed of a broad webbed strap system to which there was a small “butt pack” incorporated. The Zeltbahn and mess kit were attached to this “A-frame” which was then attached to the Y-straps using the integral buckles and hooks… A rolled up great coat and / or blanket(s) could also be carried Additionally, the bread bag provided additional carrying capacity. Later versions of the bread bag had a pocket added to the top flap intended to carry the rifle cleaning kit. (The 4-pocket tunic jacket had the cleaning kit and first aid bandage pockets sewn into its liner.)

The Zeltbahn doubled as a ground cloth or poncho, when necessary.

As for storage on German tanks and assault guns, photos abound of them piled high with storage not to mention the stowage boxes built onto most tank turrets. Extra ammunition boxes are quite common, however, most were likely used for additional personal crew stowage and not for extra ammo (unless the tank was making an administrative movement behind the lines).

Photos of German AFVs using camouflage nets are somewhat scare, but such issued nets did exist and were used. (The Germans even manufactured artificial camouflage garnish materials that could be used alone like garlands or incorporated into the net systems).|

So, for your reference, here are a couple of photos of the German infantry “kit.” This shows the A-frame with Zeltbahn, mess kit, and the A-frame bag. The bag strapped to the outside of the gas mask canister held a disposable, gasproof cape (with integral hood). A great coat and or blanket could be added to this load. A sweater and gloves (if not worn) could be carried either in the A-frame bag or bread bag.

Here’s a photo that shows the A-frame with messkit, Zeltbahn and bag attached to one of the later war canvas rucksacks (which could, itself, be attached to and carried by the combat Y-straps). To the right is the “classic” pony fur covered, wood frame backpack with a Zeltbahn and blanket horseshoe rolled around it. This pack could be carried using its integral shoulder straps (which also attached the waist belt like the combat Y-straps), but which was usually carried in the unit’s baggage trains. Below that is the general issued soldiers clothing bag, also normally carried in the trains, but which had a valise-style carrying handle. The black, disk-shaped object is an example of the Bakelite butter or cooking fat container (usually carried in the bread bag). Also shown are various designs of the Zeltbahn poles and tent pegs (metal and Bakelite). Hanging on the right is the standard German helmet camouflage net and, on the left, another example of a water bottle with Bakelite cup and a variation bread bag.

German WWII Field Packs and Items

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Not much to add, SdAufKla has done an excellent job. The Bakelite cup was a late addition, previously the cup was aluminium (a strategic metal, needed elsewhere). Mountain troops got rucksacks which had pockets on the outside. Some of these got issued to other troops. The M44 rucksack which went on general issue was based on a lighter canvas rucksack issued to DAK, supplanting the old fashioned heavy Tornister. For paratroops, the iconic German gas mask container was replaced by a canvas bag. As noted above, German tanks could look like a tinker’s caravan. Stugs in particular had little internal space so frequently had field built racks attached which were then filled with personal gear. More unusual, but not unknown was the storage of jerrycans or in some cases even 200L barrels of fuel on the rear decks, or on DAK vehicles, on top of the turret.

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Thank you very much for taking the time to offer such a detailed explanation. I sincerely appreciate the effort and information provided.

If I may, I would like to seek additional clarification on a few things.

A) Mess Kit
B) Folded Zeltbahn
C) A-frame Bag
D) Gas Mask Cannister
E) Gasproof Cape
F) Lower belt of A-frame
G) Bread Bag
H) Canteen with Bakelite Cup

Is that correct?

Would a soldier on an armored vehicle carry the same equipment as shown here?

Would a soldier serving on an armored vehicle stow backpacks, blankets, greatcoats, and personal effects on the fenders and rear deck? My reference books mostly deal with the automotive aspects of armored vehicles and, with the exception of Afrika Corps units, rarely include pictures of German tanks with significant stowage. My understanding was, as you wrote above, with armored units, most equipment was left with the baggage train.

The Germans used a lot of horses. Would horses ever carry baggage for tank crews?

I apologize for being all over the place here but I do not have any pictures of German tanks resupplying or sitting idle. Unit histories never really deal with this stuff. I am not sure I am even asking the right questions.

Edit: To put this in context with current projects, I am working on a driving school Jagdpanzer IV, a France campaign Panzer II, and a unidentified Bogward. Pictures of this particular Jagdpanzer IV, and Jagdpanzer IVs in general, rarely show anything in the way of extra stowage.

If I recall correctly, the particular Panzer II I am building did include some extra stowage but it has been years and I connot remember the picture.

Bogward pictures sometimes show boxes and rolled up stuff on the fenders.

Did tarps include a camouflage pattern like the Zeltbahns?

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Your annotated picture is correct except for “F” which is the normal leather waist belt.

There were, however, a pair of smaller under-arm straps which were part of the combat Y-straps. These are almost never depicted on injection molded model figures.

These smaller straps were riveted under the front straps and were then passed under the arms to attach to equipment items carried on the back (such as the A-frame or one of the other backpacks). You can see the point where one of these smaller straps is hooked to the bottom corner of the A-frame just above the place where you put your letter “F”.

The shiny dot to the left of the letter “F” is the hook from the center strap of the bread bag. Later versions of the bread bag used a simple canvas cloth loop in place of this short strap and hook.

To the left of that hook is an aluminum, bent wire hook that is actually a removable part of the tunic designed to support the leather waist belt. There were (variously depending on the tunic) 2 or 4 of these hooks that were suspended from cotton straps sewn into the twill lining of the tunic. There were matching round “button” holes sewn in the wool of the tunic for the hooks to pass through. (The entire arrangement was also adjustable for height.) (The bent wire suspension hooks were removable to allow the tunic to be washed or when they weren’t needed, for example in garrison, etc.)

So, this equipment is typical for an infantry, Jaeger, or Panzerjaeger (i.e. mech infantry) troop. Panzerjaeger troops had the advantage of their motorized transport (at least in theory) in which they could have stowed much of their personal kit in, thus lightening their fighting loads. Dismounted infantry and Jaegers would have probably “humped” most of this load. Again, with all units, the excess clothing and other personal items would be carried with the unit’s trains.

Tank crews in armored units were also supported by that unit’s own baggage trains. Generally speaking, though, German armored units were (in theory) completely motorized, so their trains would have been truck and trailer born. However, as the war progressed, the substitution of some horse drawn transportation for armored and mech units cannot be discounted. This would have been on a case-by-case basis, though, and as far as I know there were no official changes in the tables of organization and equipment to make such substitutions.

Tank crews would not be issued the A-frame (Traggestelle or “carrying gear”). That was an infantry-only issued item. They would have been issued the mess kit, water bottle with cup, Zeltbahn and gas mask. There were often designated and designed stowage locations inside many German AFV’s just for these items. They were also issued the same clothing bags to carry excess uniform items in their unit’s baggage train. However, consider that it would have been quite easy for a tanker, for example, to simply stuff his great coat into some convenient nook or cranny to have it available or even to provide a bit of extra padding and a more comfortable ride.

Regular infantry divisions, on the other hand, were very much horse-born, so horse drawn baggage trains would have been common. The same applies to many other types of organizations, such as artillery batteries supporting regular infantry divisions and corps composed of mostly regular infantry divisions.

Something that should be understood is that a unit’s baggage train is also pretty much synonymous with its organic supply / resupply capability. So, when thinking about baggage trains, imagine an area near the company’s higher battalion (Abteilung) service and supply facilities where the company’s personal baggage trailers have been parked while the towing vehicles are being used to move supplies from the brigade or division supply dumps down to the battalions and then on to the forward positioned companies. Companies and platoons that have been rotated out of the front line would be billeted in and around this same general geographic location where they would be able to wash, rest and repair and maintain their own clothing, equipment and weapons.

Baggage trains were not something that were located so far away from the company that they were inaccessible to the individual soldiers. It would have also been possible for a soldier to use his chain of command to request that some particular item or items be brought forward from the trains. Alternatively, a soldier could be sent individually back to the company supply area on a working detail, say, and then also have access to his personal baggage.

Likely, the longer a unit was stationary, the more likely it would have been that more and more personal “comfort” items would accumulate around the individual fighting position. The longer a campaign went on, the more likely it would have been for mechanized troops (to include tankers) to collect and accumulate personal items in and on their vehicle, which served as both their home and primary weapon.

Moving on to your final questions, assault gun and tank hunter units would generally follow the same patterns of personal baggage management as other mechanized or armored units. It should be noted, though, that independent StuG battalions (Abteilung) were corps support units that were task organized and attached to divisions, so they had a pretty robust self-support and transportation capability. (This is an interesting historical study in and of itself.)

Finally, vehicle tarps could be camouflage pattern painted. It’s fairly common to see tarps on vehicles where the camouflage paint on the vehicle was carried onto the tarps (either partially or fully). Prewar tarps were pattern painted according to the regulations applicable. Those early tarps continued in service until consumed by the war. Larger German army prewar tentage was manufactured using camouflage patterned material (sort of like ginormous Zeltbahn patterns). Again, these were used until consumed by the war.

German camouflage uniforms, Zelts and tentage is an entire field of study in its own right.

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Thank you once again, good sir, for offering such a long and detailed reply. Your explanations make it much easier for me to interpret many of the photos I am finding.

The PaK 38 on my desk includes a gun crew, which I built up a few days ago. Although I have never painted a 1/35 scale figure, I now feel much more qualified to make the effort.

Also, between paint sessions today, I tracked down a few wartime photos of Jagdpanzer IVs with some stowage. With those pictures and your explanations, I think I can make a stab at improvising something reasonably realistic.

Onward.

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Thank you for offering this additional information. I have a Sturmgeshutz IV near completion and would like to load it up with a lot of extra stowage.

I just found this wonderful picture in the Bundesarchiv.

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Glad to help.

The WWII German army has been studied in detail for many, many decades. There are quite literally thousands of reference books published on just about any aspect of the subject that you can think of, so in-depth research can be done easily.

The Osprey New Vanguard or Elite book series are all very good and well researched. They are also relatively inexpensive and widely available. They do tend to be somewhat narrow in their scope and coverage (because of their small size), but they can be a good place to start a reference library around. One of their best features is that they almost always include a decent bibliography, so you have some vetted recommendations for follow on and more in depth study.

There are many, many others, though. Pick a topic and ask here for recommendations on references. You’ll get no shortage of suggestions and honest opinions.

I’ll look forward to seeing your project here as you make progress on it.

Just to add to the book recommendations made by Michael- one I found great for painting reference is ‘Deutsche Soldaten’ by Andrea Press. It is pricier than the Osprey series ($55-70 or so) but it is a large, very sturdy hardback and has a fantastic amount of clear, large and close-up color images of war-time kit. Its not exhaustive but it covers the main things in nice detail.

Thank you, SdAufKla. My reference library on military matters comprises four of five bookshelves, but as you rightly point out, the subject is so vast that represents a tiny sample. Until now, I never painted military figures and so never purchased any books dealing with personal equipment. Taking a 12 year break from serious modeling, not purchasing a single book in all that time, did not help matters.

While I own perhaps a couple dozen books from Osprey Publishing, I find they mostly attempt to cover too much ground in too few pages with too few pictures in too small a size. However, when I started researching this subject yesterday morning, one of the first things I went looking for was an Osprey book on the subject.

Which leads me to…

Thank you for that recommendation, Karl187. Last night, while looking for books on German World War Two military equipment, I stumbled upon the very tome you recommend and added it to my ‘Stuff to Purchase’ list. :slight_smile: I’ll try to score a copy on sale somewhere.

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There is a book called “German Infantryman” by Haynes, a companion to their ones on the Tiger and Panther etc, which are in a similar format and size to their car manuals. It is full of pictures of actual kit in great detail and should be available fairly cheap. It doesn’t cover Panzer crews alas.

Thank you for the recommendation! Since no one seems to have written, ‘Junk Piled on German Military Vehicles, a Comprehensive Pictorial History’, books on infantry equipment must serve.