Heer Panzer Crew Headgear
By Willi Schumacher
The Black Panzer Beret (Schutzmütze)
This headgear consisted of the soft padded crash helmet, which served to protect the heads of the panzer crew from injuries sustained when the vehicle was motoring over rough terrain, and the black cover. The helmet was circular in shape and manufactured with 1.5cm thick felt or red rubber sponge. The exterior was covered in black cloth and the interior was covered in black oilcloth and a leather sweatband. Additionally there was a 3.5cm cloth covered rubber sponge around the circumference of the helmet with a groove to hold the elastic band of the cover in place. There were six ventilation holes in a circular pattern and one center hole. The cover was an oversized black wool beret with an elastic band to hold it in place on the helmet. The cover contained the insignia on the front. Early insignia included a woven wreath with a stamped metal cockade and no national emblem. By order HV 35, No. 646, dated 30 October 1935, a standard had been established for the wearing of insignia on the black panzer beret. It consisted of a woven wreath and cockade using white cotton, later changed to silver-gray, on a black backing. The national emblem was also woven with white cotton, later changed to silver-gray, or aluminum wire for officers, on a black backing. By order HM 41, No. 64, dated 15 January 1941, the black panzer beret was abolished and replaced, however, it was maintained for crews of the Panzer type 38(t), of Czech manufacture, for drivers and co-drivers of armored personnel carriers, and according to order HM 41, No. 277 dated 7 March 1941, for drivers and co-drivers of armored tractors of the type Sd.Kfz.251. Although out of production in 1941, it continued to be worn after this date.
Black Panzer Field Caps
By order HM 40, No. 429, dated 27 March 1940, two new field caps for panzer troops were introduced, the gray-green field caps being expressly forbidden to be worn by panzer crews in their black panzer uniforms. For NCOs and other ranks was a black wool cap in the same style as the M1934 field cap and for officers one in the style of the M1938. Enlisted men were also issued black panzer field caps in the M1942 style, however, the vast majority were in the M1934 style. The M1934 styled cap had a center seam which opened the top of the cap to resemble an M1943 field cap without a visor. It was not permitted to tack the two sides of the top together. The cap tapered down on the back. The turn up was designed to be pulled down over the ears during cold weather. The top front had a tendency to billow out above the front of the turn up. There were two metal grommet ventilation holes, one on each side. The officers wore the M1938 model field cap which had only minor differences from that of the M1934, the primary being the cap didn't open up on the top. Officers wore aluminum wire piping around the crown of the cap and along the top edge of the scalloped front of the turn up. General officers wore gilt aluminum wire piping. Insignia for NCOs and other ranks consisted of a woven national emblem using white thread (later changed to silver-gray) on black backing. Both officers and enlisted wore the cockade in woven tri-color thread (the white being changed later to silver-gray) on a black diamond backing. Some officers preferred the cockade manufactured in aluminum wire or silver bullion. Officer's national emblems were woven in aluminum wire and general's in gilt aluminum wire. Officers and generals had the option of wearing all bullion insignia; officers in silver and generals in gold. Soutaches, piping material formed in an inverted "V", in pink were generally worn over the cockade, however, other colors, such as golden-yellow for panzer reconnaissanceI 1, lemon-yellow for panzer signals, and alternating black and white (black and silver for officers) for Panzer Pioniere companies.
Black Panzer M1943 Field Cap (Einheitsfeldmütze)
By order HV 43B, No. 352 dated 11 June 1943, a new cap for the Panzertruppen was introduced. This was the M1943 field cap in black wool with one piece woven insignia on a black trapezoid backing. This cap replaced the service caps (sometimes with the wire removed and referred to as "crushers"), old-style field caps, or service caps with the standard gray-green covers, which some officers and NCOs continued to wear regardless of orders. The black panzer M1943 field cap was made to the same specifications as the gray-green model, the only difference being the color. Officer caps were piped in silver aluminum wire piping and general officers in gilt aluminum wire piping. Officers and generals typically wore the insignia executed in silver or gilt aluminum wire thread respectively. Also the two pebbled metal buttons on the front of the cap were silver for officers and gold for generals. The buttons were usually painted black for NCOs and other ranks. The long bill on this model cap was disadvantageous in tank operations when sighting the guns, etc. and was often worn backwards.
- I.The 24. Panzer Division, who commemorated the fact that they used to be the 1. Kavallerie Division and the only one to convert to a panzer division also wore the distinctive golden-yellow piping on their cap soutache, around their tunic collars and around their Totenkopf collar tabs. Back