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Waffenmeister

In the Wehrmacht weapons were issued to individual soldiers, with each weapon having a unique serial number assigned to it. These serial numbers were recorded in each soldier's soldbuch, allowing ownership of each weapon to be tracked. In the field each soldier was responsible for their own basic weapon maintenance such as storage and cleaning. Higher levels of maintenance such as the replacement of damaged parts were reffered to a Waffenmeister who would inspect and repair the weapon.

The Waffenmeister was an Arms-Master or Armourer, operating alongside a team of armourers under the Wehrmacht. They were responsible for the organisation of weapons and ammunition. This included the duties of cataloguing, inspecting, servicing and distributing weaponary on a daily basis. Waffenmeisters predominantly worked from forward repair shops set up along each front.

 

Forward machine/repair shops were often in the form of Opel Blitz trucks that were converted to accomodate a workshop in the rear cab with heavy equipment such as a lathe, drilling, cutting and milling equipment. In addition to these hand tools and specialist equipment such as stocks of weapon parts were carried. Weapons which were damaged beyond repair were salvaged for spare parts. Heavily damaged weapons which couldn't be salvaged for parts were sent to service centres for a complete refurbishment or in some cases back to the original manufacturer if the weapon was withdrawn from service.

 

Similar to the system of medical triage, weapons which could be reapired quickly and easily by replacing broken parts such as firing pins were prioritised and returned to soldiers, with more complex repairs being delayed. This system allowed for a steady stream of much needed weapons being repaired and put back into service to reduce the shortage of weapons on the frontline.

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With the shortage of vehicles and even more so the shortage of fuel in theatres such as North Africa, where supplies where stretched thin, the presence of forward machine and repair shops operating from adapted trucks became a rare sight. Additionaly transportation for heavy machinery to conduct reapirs was dwindling in North Africa and Waffenmeister setups became less mobile in comparison to those located on the Western Front.

 

Aswell as working in front repair and maintenance shops, waffenmeister's were also assigned to armament factories, tasked with the role of inspecting quality control to ensure all manufactured parts met the required standards. Each waffenmeister tasked with inspections had their own unique acceptance stamp which was used on all inspected parts if deemed to meet the required standards. All of these inspection stamps or Waffenampt stamps bear the iconic 'WaA' lettering and a unique number matched to the waffenmeister inspecting, once again this allowed the weapon parts to be traced back to the inspector that passed them in the factory.

 

Besides German weapons, waffenmeisters also dealt with repairs and conversions to weapons from other axis countries and captured allied weapons. Captured weapons such as the Soviet PPSh- 41 were rechambered from 7.62 x 25mm calibre to the more common German 9 x 19mm Parabellum catridge calibre allowing stocks of German ammunition to be used. Waffenmeisters were responsible for conducting these conversions to allow captured weapons to be utilised. This became more and more crucial as the war progressed with the destruction of Germany armaments industry from heavy allied bombing campaigns.

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