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.

Pre-war or early-war portrait of an enlisted panzer crewman in his black panzer uniform and beret.
Pre-war or early-war portrait of an enlisted panzer crewman in his black panzer uniform and beret.
Color painting of an Army panzer crewman in Panzer-Regiment 6 as denoted on the shoulder straps.
Color painting of an Army panzer crewman in Panzer-Regiment 6 as denoted on the shoulder straps.
Early war Army Unteroffizier panzer crewman. Notice the embroidered "A" in Gothic on the shoulder strap for Aufklärungs (Motorized Reconnaissance) and his awards of the Iron Cross 2nd Class and Panzer Assault Badge.
Early war Army Unteroffizier panzer crewman. Notice the embroidered "A" in Gothic on the shoulder strap for Aufklärungs (Motorized Reconnaissance) and his awards of the Iron Cross 2nd Class and Panzer Assault Badge.
Army Black Panzer Beret showing the cover and insignia on the front.
Army Black Panzer Beret showing the cover and insignia on the front.
Close up of the machine-woven insignia on the front of the Army black panzer beret. Notice that the insignia background color is gray-green for regular caps and not black for the panzer beret.
Close up of the machine-woven insignia on the front of the Army black panzer beret. Notice that the insignia background color is gray-green for regular caps and not black for the panzer beret.
The interior is a padded crash helmet lined in leather. The black wool cover fits on top of this crash helmet.
The interior is a padded crash helmet lined in leather. The black wool cover fits on top of this crash helmet.

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.

This is the enlisted black panzer overseas cap being worn with the black Panzer uniform. The cap is the M1942 model and doesn't have the scalloped front.
This is the enlisted black panzer overseas cap being worn with the black Panzer uniform. The cap is the M1942 model and doesn't have the scalloped front.
This decorated panzer officer wears the M1938 officer's model overseas cap for armored personnel. It has the scalloped front which is piped in aluminum twist cord, as well as the crown. The insignia is the standard eagle and cockade but in this case is probably aluminum woven. The pink soutache denotes the panzer branch of service. Also note the pink piped collar.
This decorated panzer officer wears the M1938 officer's model overseas cap for armored personnel. It has the scalloped front which is piped in aluminum twist cord, as well as the crown. The insignia is the standard eagle and cockade but in this case is probably aluminum woven. The pink soutache denotes the panzer branch of service. Also note the pink piped collar.
Army enlisted black Panzer uniform showing the jacket with insignia. Notice the skull collar tabs, which were a standard feature on these uniforms. This enlisted man was in the Army's elite Grossdeutschland Panzer Division as noted by the cuffband in Sütterlin script and the embroidered GD monograms on the shoulder straps.
Army enlisted black Panzer uniform showing the jacket with insignia. Notice the skull collar tabs, which were a standard feature on these uniforms. This enlisted man was in the Army's elite Grossdeutschland Panzer Division as noted by the cuffband in Sütterlin script and the embroidered GD monograms on the shoulder straps.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap with a lemon-yellow soutache representing panzer signals. The M1934 style cap had a seam running down the top center that opened the cap to resemble an M1943 field cap without the visor. Notice that the cockade is on a standard green backing instead of black for the black panzer cap.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap with a lemon-yellow soutache representing panzer signals. The M1934 style cap had a seam running down the top center that opened the cap to resemble an M1943 field cap without the visor. Notice that the cockade is on a standard green backing instead of black for the black panzer cap.
Custom-made officer black panzer M1938 styled cap. The insignia is silver bullion including the cockade which is under a lemon-yellow soutache for panzer signals. The officer cap has aluminum cord piping around the crown as well as the scalloped front.
Custom-made officer black panzer M1938 styled cap. The insignia is silver bullion including the cockade which is under a lemon-yellow soutache for panzer signals. The officer cap has aluminum cord piping around the crown as well as the scalloped front.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap with a pink soutache representing a panzer crew member. Notice the single metal grommet ventilation hole on the side. Also, this cap's cockade patch is on a green backing instead of black to match the black panzer cap.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap with a pink soutache representing a panzer crew member. Notice the single metal grommet ventilation hole on the side. Also, this cap's cockade patch is on a green backing instead of black to match the black panzer cap.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap without the soutache. Notice the ventilation hole and the green backing to the cockade.
An enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap without the soutache. Notice the ventilation hole and the green backing to the cockade.
A close up view of the machine-woven insignia on the front of an enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap.
A close up view of the machine-woven insignia on the front of an enlisted M1934 styled black panzer overseas cap.
Custom- or tailor-made officer black panzer overseas cap in the M1938 pattern showing the aluminum cord piping around the crown and the scalloped front. The insignia is officer high-quality silver bullion with a pink soutache representing panzer troops.
Custom- or tailor-made officer black panzer overseas cap in the M1938 pattern showing the aluminum cord piping around the crown and the scalloped front. The insignia is officer high-quality silver bullion with a pink soutache representing panzer troops.

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.

Notes

  1. 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.