Some very difficult lessons were learned by
during the harsh winter of 1941-42 on the Eastern
The tragic failings
of their cold weather preparedness became evident with
the considerable losses suffered due to exposure to
the elements that year.
Developed in response
to the German Army’s urgent need for a more effective
cold weather combat uniform, the
was a “Kriegskind”
(child of war) ultimately intended to replace the
(overcoat) in front-line
combat units from mid-November through mid-April.
of an idea...
initial design is credited to a military clothing
contractor named Josef Neckermann of
in early 1942.
immediately and by the Autumn of that year the initial
saw limited issuance to frontline troops fighting in
the East. It
of a Winterjacke
(trousers) made of a plain colored wool exterior shell
and white cotton canvas interior, with the intention
that it could be reversed for snow camouflage.
The set also included
(mittens) of similar construction.
Both interior and
exterior was treated with a chemical called
to increase water resistance.
into its production run the
was modified to include a cotton canvas exterior and
interior with a wool blanket lining.
These were still
being produced with a white interior and a monotone
exterior ranging from a “mouse gray” to various shades
of green similar to the earlier wool production model.
This was the most
common version of the
seen during the Winter of 1942-43 among both Heer and SS combat units.
adaptations were featured with the introduction of the
The exterior shell of this incarnation was constructed
using various camouflage patterns including versions
shortages and acquisition difficulties the fabric
itself varied in quality from cotton canvas to rayon
to cotton poplin, and many later war examples were
constructed from imperfectly matched scraps and
The padding also
varied from blanket wool to a batting-type stuffing to
no padding at all.
Some versions were
also made with a colored rayon lining that could not
be reversed, an increasingly common variant late-war.
The following are some images of original garments to
give you an idea of their overall construction:
How they were issued...
was issued as a set consisting of at least the
do not appear to have seen as wide or complete an
issue as the parka and trousers. Gerd Hörner, a veteran of
during the Winter of 44 recalled “[We had] complete
padded suits that were white on one side and
camouflaged on the other. Very warm.” and added, “In
the 272 VGD we all had winter equipment”.
suggests the camouflage pattern in this case was
and though not every member of the Division received
his second statement is worth further consideration.
Herr Hörner is
pointing out is that his immediate comrades were
similarly equipped with matching
The sets were issued to
entire units at the same time, not to individual
Though the individual
was responsible for the care and maintenance of the
garment, it was not often recorded as a piece of personal
equipment in the Soldbuch as it was considered “unit property”. On the Westfront in 1944,
these sets most likely arrived to the troops from
distribution points in bundles received directly from
the factories that produced them.
were to be returned at the end of a season (April) on
a unit-wide scale to
Sammelstellen für Winterbekleidung
(collection points for
Winter equipment) where they were inspected and, when
in need of extensive repair, sent back to factories to
be made ready for future service.
was issued as parka and trouser set, typically in
matching patterns, can be further substantiated by
period photographs of the uniform in use. In many
situations where only the parka or trousers are worn
it is likely that the other half is either being
carried with the soldier’s equipment or temporarily
placed in a nearby location for quick access.
patterns worn by individual soldiers top to bottom
seems to be a less or uncommon.
patterns among groups of soldiers photographed
together appears equally uncommon. On some occasions,
almost certainly dictated by terrain, one side
(usually the bottoms) is worn white side out with the
tops being worn camouflage side out. Here are
several original images showing the Winteranzug
being worn in the field:
generalizations (not hard and fast rules, exceptions
can always be found and specific patterns are often
difficult to positively identify) can be made from
photos and documentary evidence to suggest that a
matching, cotton-shelled, solid color, reversible
was the predominant style issued to all soldiers on
the Eastern Front in 1942/43, a matching, reversible
was the predominant style issued to Heer soldiers in 1943/44,
and a matching,
was the predominant style issued to Heer soldiers on both fronts
in the winter of 44/45, with sets in
still being seen particularly in the East.
Instances of the
in solid colors appear to be extremely rare on the
certain is that the
was an effective answer to the German Army’s acute
cold weather uniform deficiencies during the early
part of the war.
Though it never fully
replaced the traditional
for many front line units facing brutal environmental
conditions it was a much appreciated
- Camoflage Uniforms of the
by Werner Palincky
- Winter Uniforms of the
Germany Army and Luftwaffe in WWII
by Vincent Slegers
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