Kriegsmarine Admiral Shoulder Boards
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The headgear, uniforms, and insignia worn by members of the Kriegsmarine were based upon the designs utilized by the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) and the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic. The official regulations governing the uniforms of the Reichsmarine were issued on April 5, 1921, and they were embraced, with a few alterations, as the Kriegsmarine uniforms in 1935.
The first regulations concerning the shoulder boards of officers were issued in 1933, but they were altered several times throughout the interim years and during the war.
Shoulder boards or straps were first and foremost used to identify a soldier’s rank. In certain cases they would also identify the soldier’s branch and unit, and potentially his specific role/career.
Shoulder straps were worn by lower ranks, whereas shoulder boards were worn by higher ranks. The difference lies in the quality of the material, the more elaborate look of the shoulder boards, and the fact that shoulder boards were padded and therefore more stiff, while shoulder straps generally were not. For the sake of simplicity, the terms will be used interchangeably.
Shoulder straps differ in size due to varying production methods and materials, the amount of pips and cyphers they have to hold, and even the wearer’s shoulder size.
The Kriegsmarine shoulder boards were manufactured in three distinct styles, sew-in, slip-on, and pass-through. The boards on the tropical uniform were generally button-on.
The Kriegsmarine used four different uniform types, distinguishable by colour. The shoulder boards will differ from each other depending on what type of uniform they were intended for. The main uniform was navy blue in colour and features shoulder boards with a dark blue underlay. Shoulder boards for the white uniform are very similar, except that they have a white underlay. The brown tropical uniform and the field-grey uniform used mostly by Coastal Artillery units came with shoulder boards that somewhat differed from those of the blue and white uniforms, and will be covered towards the end of this description.
In the Kriegsmarine, shoulder boards were used by soldiers of every rank. An exception were the lowest ranks, the Enlisted Men (EMs), known collectively as Matrosen (seamen), who were only issued shoulder boards with the field-grey uniform and, on occasion, the tropical brown uniform.
Shoulder boards for officer ranks were made of silver, grey, or gold-coloured cords. The underlay was the same colour as that of the uniform. The cords of admirals usually had a dark blue underlay. Exceptions have been observed, for example admiral rank shoulder boards with a field-grey underlay for the field-grey uniform, but this is very uncommon.
Shoulder boards of other, lower than admiral officer ranks were influenced by the colour of the uniform. On the blue and white uniforms officers wore bright silver cords, while on the field-grey uniform they wore matte silver or matte grey cords, and on the brown tropical uniform they wore matte grey cords until April of 1942, after which the cords worn on the blue uniform were also allowed.
Shoulder board career insignia cyphers for officers were made of metal. They were silvered for admiral ranks and gold-coloured for all other officers, which is the opposite of what was used on epaulettes.
The shoulder board career insignia cyphers for officers were as follows:
Administration: a mercurian staff
Artillery Ordnance: two crossed gun barrels
Communications: a lightning bolt
Communications Engineering: a lightning bolt with a superimposed cog wheel
Defensive Ordnance: a mine
Engineering: a cog wheel
Line Officers: a star, or no cypher at all
Medical: a caduceus
Naval Artillery: a winged flaming shell
Torpedo Technicians: a cog wheel with a superimposed torpedo
The shoulder boards for admirals consist of two parallel gold-coloured cords with a silver cord in between, intertwined with four bends at the sides and two at the bottom. Instead of pips, the shoulder boards for the rank of Großadmiral show two crossed silver batons. Those for the rank of Generaladmiral have three pips, those for the rank of Admiral have two, those for the rank of Vizeadmiral have one, and those for the rank of Konteradmiral have no pips.
Shoulder boards for the brown tropical uniform were in the style of the field-grey uniform shoulder boards, but with a brown underlay. Officers’ boards were made of matte grey cords. NCO tress is cornflower blue. By April of 1942, the shoulder boards of the blue uniform were prescribed for the brown tropical uniform in order to save material.
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