German Rural Police Rottwachtmeister Type II Shoulder Boards
Image courtesy of Hermann Historica Auctioneers, Munich
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During the Third Reich, an effort was made to unite all of Germany’s disparate provincial police forces and agencies into a single cohesive national unit. To attain this goal, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was named Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior in June 1936. That same month, Himmler implemented new standardized uniforms, headgear, and insignia. The uniforms worn prior to Himmler’s appointment were often navy blue, particularly in what had been Prussia. The new uniforms were green, in a shade that was then dubbed “Police green”.
The German Police were divided into two main units, the Ordnungspolizei (Orps or Regular Police) and the Sicherheitspolizei (Secret Police); the Ordnungspolizei were unofficially called the green police (Grüne Polizei) as a result of their uniform colour. The Sicherheitspolizei were made up of two main organizations, the Gestapo and the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Investigation Police). At the beginning of the Second World War, the Sicherheitspolizei were brought under the auspices of the Reich Main Security Office.
The Ordnungspolizei was also divided into smaller branches of service, and each branch was associated with a branch of service/troop colour (Truppenfarbe). The troop colours include:
Schutzpolizei des Reichs (National Protection Police): Green
Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden (Municipal Police) pre-1942: Red
Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden (Municipal Police) post-1942: Green
Gendarmerie (Gendarmes/Rural Police): Orange
Verwaltungspolizei (Administrative Personnel) pre-1942: Red over grey
Verwaltungspolizei (Administrative Personnel) post-1942: Light grey
(Administrative Police members included ranks equivalent to Generalmajor down to and including Revieroberwachtmeister)
Feuerschutzpolizei (Fire Protection Police): Carmine
Wasserschutzpolizei (Water Protection Police): Yellow
Motorisierte Polizei (Motorised Police): White
Verkehrspolizei (Traffic Police): Bright red
Medical Police members: Cornflower blue
Veterinary Police members: Black
Shoulder boards of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Enlisted Men (EMs) have a centre soutache colour that depends on their troop affiliation. For most, it is brown, but Fire Protection Police wore black, Fire Protection Police Reserve wore carmine, Water Protection Police wore yellow, and Mounted Police (before 1937) wore white. The chevrons along the outside of certain shoulder boards would be in the same colour. On September 3, 1942, all colours were changed to brown, except for Water Protection Police members.
The shoulder boards and shoulder straps of the German Police were used to identify the wearer’s rank and branch of service.
The first standardised series of Police shoulder boards was introduced on June 25, 1936 and replaced the multitude of regional shoulder boards worn until then.
The underlay colour for all Police members of General ranks was green, with the exception of the boards for the Administrative Generalmajor rank, which had grey underlay.
Revierleutnant, Revieroberleutnant, and Revierhauptmann (precinct) shoulder boards, as well as Bezirksleutnant, Bezirksoberleutnant, and Bezirkshauptmann (district) shoudler boards had a secondary underlay in brown between the soutaches and the regular branch coloured underlay.
Shoulder boards could be worn with or without branch colour underlay, depending on if they were sewn on or slipped on. Slip-on shoulder boards are usually with underlay, while sewn-in shoulder boards usually aren’t.
Shoulder boards could have additional elements, such as rank pips and cyphers.
The rank pips are made of light metal in the form of a four-sided star. Those for NCOs were silver-coloured, while those for Officers were gilt.
Cyphers include symbols, letters, and numerals. Like the rank pips, they were made of metal, silver-coloured for General and NCO ranks, and gilt for Officer ranks. The following list includes known cyphers used by the Police:
A: Pharmacist (Apotheker), replaced by a sleeve insignia in 1941.
F: worn by Fire Protection Police Generals; discontinued during the war.
L: for members of NCO training battalions (Unterführer-Lehrbataillon), introduced in November of 1940.
Z: Dentist (Zahnarzt).
Aesculapius Rod: worn by medical officers; replaced by a sleeve insignia in August of 1937.
Snake: worn by veterinary officers.
Lyre: worn by musicians, introduced in November of 1940.
Arabic numerals: to identify police regiments; introduced in December of 1942; in metal for officers, but in silver-grey thread for NCOs and EMs.
The appearance of the shoulder boards for the different General and Officer ranks is as follows:
Generaloberst shoulder boards feature two interwoven braids in the “Russian Braid” style with four bends, with each braid in silver with golden borders, and an additional three pips. General shoulder boards are the same, but with two pips, Generalleutnant with one pip, and Generalmajor without pips.
Oberst shoulder boards feature two interwoven silver braids in the “Russian Braid” style with five bends and an additional two pips. Oberstleutnant shoulder boards are the same, but with only one pip, and Major shoulder boards feature no pips.
Hauptmann shoulder boards feature two double laid silver soutaches with two additional pips, while Oberleutnant shoulder boards feature only one pip, and Leutnant shoulder boards feature no pips.
NCO and EM shoulder straps come in two different types, the first having been instituted in 1936, the second presenting a change in rank structure that was conducted in 1941.
The 1936 ranks are as follows:
Oberinspektor/Inspektor shoulder straps feature one outer double laid soutache in silver and with chevrons in troop colour, with a brown and a silver braid interwoven in the centre, forming eight bends, and an additional two pips. This rank was discontinued on December 30, 1939. Obermeister shoulder straps are the same, except that they only feature one additional pip. This rank was discontinued on December 30, 1939 as well. Meister shoulder straps are the same, except that they don’t feature any pips.
Hauptwachtmeister shoulder straps feature two double laid soutaches, the inner one in troop colour, the outer one in silver and with chevrons in troop colour, as well as an additional two pips. Revieroberwachtmeister shoulder straps are the same, but with only one additional pip, and Oberwachtmeister shoulder straps feature no pips at all.
The shoulder straps for a Wachtmeister with more than four years of service feature two double laid dark brown soutaches, the outer one with silver chevrons, with a silver tresse across the base. Those for a Wachtmeister with less than four years of service are the same minus the bottom silver tresse.
Anwärter (candidate) shoulder straps feature two double laid dark brown soutaches.
In 1941, this system was changed to the following:
Meister shoulder straps remained the same, one outer double laid soutache in silver and with chevrons in troop colour, with a brown and a silver braid interwoven in the centre, forming eight bends, without any pips.
Hauptwachtmeister shoulder straps feature two double laid soutaches, the inner one in troop colour, the outer one in silver and with chevrons in troop colour, the outer one closed at the bottom, with two additional pips. Revieroberwachtmeister shoulder straps were the same, but with only one additional pip, and Oberwachtmeister shoulder straps didn’t feature any pips.
The 1936 Oberwachtmeister rank was renamed Wachtmeister in 1941. The shoulder straps feature two double laid soutaches, the inner one in troop colour, the outer one in silver and with chevrons in troop colour.
The 1936 Wachtmeister with more than four years of service was renamed to Rottwachtmeister in 1941. The shoulder straps feature two double laid dark brown soutaches, the outer one with silver chevrons, and an additional silver tresse across the base. The 1936 Wachtmeister with less than four years of service was renamed to Unterwachtmeister in 1941. The shoulder straps were the same as those for Rottwachtmeister, except without the bottom silver tresse.
The Anwärter shoulder straps remained the same.
Branch colour: orange
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