A soldier's personal effects often covers a collection of items. This can range from those issued by the Wehrmacht to non-issued items such as homemade luxuries mailed to the troops using feldpost. The tradition of soldier's carrying items to remind them of home, spans throughout warfare dating as far back as Ancient times. This tradition was no different for soldiers serving in the Wehrmacht during WW2.
Our personal effects display covers a large range of areas including:
- Issued uniform and equipment
- Smoking paraphernalia
- Shaving and wash paraphernalia
- Feldpost letters and parcels
- Rations (Food and Drink)
- Soldier's souvenirs (Homemade, locally sourced and/or items sent from home)
- Official documentation and identification items (Soldbuch, Ausweiss and Identity Disk)
- Currency from Germany and Occupied countries
- Breifmarken (Postage Stamps)
- Portable games (Chess, skat cards, dominos and dice etc)
Issued uniform and equipment
Wehrmacht soldiers were issued a range of uniform and equipment. This often depended upon factors such as: their branch of service, theatre of war and an individual's rank in regards to insignia.
Uniform and equipment when not in use were generally stored in rucksacks or tonisters. Information and diagrams were issued to individual soldiers demonstrating the most effective way to pack their tornister alongside a list of kit assigned to them. Personal kit or clothing bags were also seen in use by Wehrmacht soldiers, used to store spare uniform in for transportation whilst on deployment. It wasn't uncommon to see private purchase clothing bags in use by troops as with many tailored items of clothing.
Soldiers were required to carry a 'housewife' or 'housemaid' kit consisting of sewing needles, cotton reels, bobbins, buttons and thimbles, enabling field repairs to be made to uniforms. With the responsibility of maintenance and ownership of equipment and uniform falling to each soldier, a common practice involved marking items with clothing labels to prevent loss at laundry. Later in the war, luxuries such as personalised labels and tags to mark uniform and equipment were in a shortage resulting in soldiers resorting to alternative methods to identify kit. Crude techniques such as the use of pencil, fountain pens and even knives to carve and mark the soldiers name into personal items.
Uniform buttons were issued to tailors on cardboard sheets, making it easier to paint them ready for issue. Buttons were stamped or cast with a granulated finish 'peddle-dashed' to reduce shine and reflection in the field. Shortage of materials for the war effort led to buttons being made from a range of materials such as: aluminimum, zinc and other alloys, bakelite, celluloid, bone, glass, clay and wood.
Equipment issued to all wehrmacht troops includes that for basic weapons maintenance for example cleaning and spare part kits anything beyond basic weapon maintenance was referred to the unit waffenmeister. Please visit the waffenmeister page for more information:
For a full uniform and equipment list please visit our unit page:
Despite Anti-tobacco movements in Germany during the 1930's and 1940's with efforts to ban smoking and decrease tobacco consumption, cigarettes were still issued through Wehrmacht rations. Smoking was a popular method for passing time spent on the frontline and behind the lines, acting as a distraction from the pressures of war.
Cigarettes and tobacco along with items such as stationery could be purcahsed by soldiers at military canteens. Alongside this items such as matches, cigarettes, cigarette papers, and tobacco for pipes were commonly sent from home via feldpost to soldiers. This increased the vast array of smoking paraphernalia found amoungst the average soldier's personal effects. Soldiers who didn't smoke would also collect their cigarette rations from the Wehrmacht using them to trade for other items such as food, beer, chocolate and biscuits. Smoking paraphernalia was also readily available for soldiers to purcahse from local shops while stationed in occupied countires with cigarette cases often being purchased as souvenirs.
Popular cigarette and tobacco brands seen by Wehrmacht soldiers included the likes of: Memphis, Juno, Eckstein and Efka.
Shaving and wash paraphernalia
Shaving and washing form a soldiers basic hygeine in the field. Regardless of strict uniform and dress regulations in the Wehrmacht, similar to most armed forces involved in combat these regulations become relaxed and decrease in priority in comparison to taks such as weapon maintenance and other duties.
Portraying soldiers serving in the North Africa theatre where supplies were very limited, resources such as fuel were extremely scarce and water even scarcer. The lack of water resulted in strict regulations being imposed upon German forces banning them from using water to wash and shave due to the amount of wasted water and it was priotised for drinking only. Regualtions were then further imposed banning German troops in the North African desert from drinking water during daylight hours as it would become lost through sweating in such hot temperatures.
Wehrmacht troops were then only allowed to drink water on an evening when it was cooler and they didn't feel as thirsty pschologically. To replace the body's need for water during the day, soldiers were instructed to suck on a pebble or button to draw saliva which could then be reswallowed to lubricate the mouth and throat and imitate the intake of fluids.In addition to this water shortage, soldiers wishing to shave and wash were forced to do so using petrol which as can be pictured caused a large range of hygeine problems and discomfort for soliders.
In comparison British troops serving in North Africa were also instructed to ration water and numerous veteran accounts recall how they saved the both third of their cups of tea to shave with. Tea also offered benefits from neutralising and healing any cuts due to the properties of tannic acid, which it contains.
Despite these restrictions soldiers still carried wash and shaving items in their personal kit in preparation of service for another front if redployed.
Wash and shaving items often included:
- Soap (Seife)
- Razor and spare razor blades
- Razor blade sharpener
- Shaving Brush
Feldpost (Field Post)
Wehrmacht soldiers were entitled to a free feldpost system, being able to send and receive letters on a regular basis. Each soldier was assigned a unique feldpost number consisting of one letter of the alphabet for the branch of service (M= Kreigsmarine, L= Luftwaffe) followed by a 5 digit number and another letter (A= 1st regiment, B = 2nd regiment, C = 3rd regiment, D = 4th regiment, E = 5th regiment, N = Nachricten/Singals Troops and R = Rittmeister/Administrative Staff).
For Example: L 25087 N = A luftwaffe nachrichten soldier with the 5 digit number corresponding to a particular unit formation when checked against a list of feldpost numbers.
For more information please visit our Feldpost display page: