mannstein bending over copy

 

 

The German Army (Heer)

 

Generalfeldmarschall

Insignia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GFM von Manstein

 

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Since the early days of organized warfare there have always been leaders on the battlefield and in the war room whom have utilized some form of ultimate authority over the direction of their armies during wartime.  The ranking system evolved out of the need to direct and manage varying numbers of men and equipment and as the armies expanded, so did the need for higher authority.  In modern warfare, the highest military rank recognized is that of Field Marshal or its equivalent of General of the Army (Fleet Admiral or Grand Admiral in the Navy).  The German Army of World War Two arguably created the most fame and notoriety of the position of Field Marshal as any army throughout time having a total of 19 different men attaining this rank.  As such, the crossed batons insignia of the German Generalfeldmarschall is symbolic of great military power and might.

 

 

Army GFM Shoulderboards

 

 

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1st Pattern (1936-39)

Generalfeldmarschall shoulderboards in gold and silver bullion with early style crossed batons. This particular example is an early Reichsheer board with a red underlay that is not visible from above.  Baton length from end to end is approximately 58mm.

(private collection)

 

gfm left

2nd Pattern, 1940 style (Sept. 27, 1940).

The first of two changes to what is referred to as the 2nd pattern of Generalfeldmarschall shoulderboards.  This first step altered the design of the crossed baton devices so that they now resembled the actual Third Reich GFM Heer batons and were highly detailed.  The shoulderboard remained the basic pattern used for all General officer ranks of gold and silver cords. This is one of the reasons why GFM’s are commonly seen wearing the standard pattern General’s boards of intertwined gold and silver cords as this ‘style’ remained regulation until April of 1941.  This particular example is manufactured in celleon gold outer cords with an aluminum inner silver color braid in the soutache design.  Baton length, end to end, is approximately 47mm.

(Costello collection)

 

                                                                                                                                                

gfm gold-board

2nd Pattern 1941 style (April 3, 1941 - 1945).

This second pattern incorporated yet another change; the shoulderboard itself was now altered in that the inner silver cord was now replaced by a gold cord. This beautiful example with all three cords in bright Gold bullion surmounted by silver, frosted batons is from the piped service uniform of GFM Fedor von Bock.

(Holzauge Historical collection)

 

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Milch silver batons

Army style batons

Close-up view of the 1940 pattern Generalfeldmarschall batons for the Army (Heer).  The Army pattern alternates between the iron cross, wehrmacht eagle and a repeat of the iron cross.  This example is from the uniform of GFM von Manstein and is age darkened silver.

Luftwaffe style batons

Close up view of the Luftwaffe pattern batons, which is similar to the army except that the pattern alternates between the iron cross, wehrmacht eagle and a Balkan cross.  This example is attributed to GFM Milch and is stamped in silver and marked “800”.

 

grandad batons

Kriegsmarine style batons

In contrast to the Heer and Luftwaffe pattern are these Kriegsmarine batons for the rank of Grossadmiral.  The pattern on these baton devices alternate between iron cross and fouled anchor, with an intertwining anchor chain separating the two for the length of the baton.  These are also quite a bit larger than Heer and Luft baton devices.

 

 

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Detail of the 1st pattern, silver frosted GFM batons.

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Detail of the 2nd pattern, silver frosted Heer batons.

 

 

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Another example of 1940 style: 2nd pattern Generalfeldmarschall batons on standard pattern General’s shoulder boards belonging to GFM von Rundstedt.  Note that these are Army GFM boards, yet exhibit the Luftwaffe pattern batons which alternate between the iron cross, wehrmacht eagle and balkan cross.  This particular specimen was featured on page 421 in Angolia’s “Uniforms and Traditions of The German Army 1939 – 1945, Volume I”.  It was not uncommon for the Luftwaffe pattern batons to be used on Army boards.  One note of interest; Rommel allegedly received his first set of shoulderboard batons from Luftwaffe GFM Kesselring during a visit to his command in Afrika.  Kesselring gave Rommel an extra set of his insignia as Rommel’s promotion had gone into effect while he was in the desert in Afrika and he had not yet received his new insignia of rank (on July 23rd, 1942, a month after his promotion, a package would arrive from Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler’s adjutant, containing the silver crossed baton devices). More than likely, Rommel’s first boards reflected this Luftwaffe pattern as a result of the gift from Kesselring.  Stories like this are a good thing to keep in mind when adhering too closely to the ‘absolutes’ so strongly professed by many collectors.  Even Generalfeldmarschall experienced a variation beyond regulation!

 

On another interesting note, von Rundstedt most famously preferred wearing his Colonel in Chief of a Regiment uniform which had some distinct variations to an Army General or Generalfeldmarschall.  With this honorary title he was permitted to wear the insignia of his honorary branch, in his case being his old infantry regiment 18.  This entitlement found him wearing General’s boards with a white underlay (for infantry designation) and the “18” number (for his old regiment) positioned between the batons and the shoulder button.  While this seemed to be his preferred manner of dress he also wore a wide array of variations and combinations of boards, underlay colors and batons with or without the regimental number cyphers.

Learn more about von Rundstedt at my special page on GFM von Rundstedt.

(private collection)

 

 

 

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Shown here are September 1940 invoices from the jeweler J. Godet & Sohn for an order of GFM shoulderboard baton devices, made in silver.  This order is for 6 pair of devices for each Field Marshal, likely corresponding to the July 1940 promotion of 12 Generaloberst to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (9 Heer and 3 Luftwaffe).  We can assume that this was an initial provision made upon promotion to each GFM, the six pair likely being to account for wear on the shoulderboards adorning the Greatcoat, leather overcoat, dress, service and field tunics and perhaps a shirt.  One can also assume that each GFM likely ordered more devices as needed.  There is no indication of an order for specific pattern, ie; Heer or Luftwaffe.  batons_order_doc2 resized

 

 

vonkleistboard

2nd Pattern (1941 style) Generalfeldmarschall boards with all three gold cords as per the April 1941 regulation change.  This example shows all three cords in matte celleon. 

 (Courtesy Kai Winkler collection)

 

 

singleboard

Another example of GFM von Bock boards that have been removed from a uniform.  These 1941 style boards show quite a bit of ageing and dark toning to both the gold bullion cords and the 800 silver batons.

(Holzauge Historical collection)

 

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A close up of the silver hallmark of ‘800’ stamped in the end cap of the batons.

(Holzauge Historical)

 

The “800” Silver Batons Controversy

There are some in the hobby, both collectors and dealers alike, who have little faith in 800 silver markings on GFM shoulderboard devices, and believe them to be modern reproductions.  Like many other aspects of this hobby, sometimes conclusions are drawn based solely on the examples people have owned or seen.  As we can see from the document depicted above, at least the batons delivered by Godet were indeed silver.  In batons encountered by the author, there have been a mixture of pairs in which both devices on the boards were 800 marked, pairs with only one board 800 marked, and pairs with no markings.  Furthermore, in an attempt to add some validity one way or the other to the argument, the author asked the family of one of the Field Marshals to examine the uniforms and insignia still in their possession.  It was reported that ALL of this particular Generalfeldmarschall’s shoulder boards exhibited 800 silver markings.  So, why are some marked 800 and some not?  We can only speculate, but one theory is that perhaps when issued in pairs only one of the two pair was 800 marked, and if a GFM was given an assortment of these (as we know they did, based on the issue invoice), they were mixed up so that some odd combinations would ensue when affixed to the shoulder boards.  It is also likely possible that some devices were made of stamped silver colored metals instead of silver.  German law did require jewelers to mark silver content on anything they produced and it is documented that GFM baton shoulder devices were produced in silver by the jeweler Godet (see above photos of Godet invoices).

 

 

manstein coat board

An all gold cord bullion example from GFM von Manstein’s overcoat.  Notice the batons are the Luftwaffe pattern and are silver frosted.

(private collection)

 

manstein tunic board

Another example of GFM von Manstein’s shoulderboard insignia from his tunic, also constructed in three cord gold bullion but with the standard army pattern batons in dark silver.  Both tunic and overcoat were sold and mailed directly to a collector by GFM Manstein himself.

(private collection)

 

gfmwhiteboard

Second pattern Generalfeldmarschall batons, with a silver frosting applied, on standard General officer slip-on style shoulderboards (1940 style) attached to a  white summer tunic.

 

Heer GFM single - resized

Another example of 1940 style boards with silver frosted batons.

gfm board restored

Here is a nice set of original army batons that have been ‘restored’ to an early bullion/silver set of sew-in general officer shoulderboards.  These original batons had been found affixed to a reproduction set of shoulderboards and as a result, obtained for a bargain price by a collector.

(private collection)

 

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1st pattern Generalfeldmarschall batons on the white summer tunic of GFM List.

(Mike Peters collection)

 

 

gfmleebboards

Generalfeldmarshcall Ritter von Leeb’s 1st Pattern Generalfeldmarschall shoulderboards in gold and silver bullion with early style, silver crossed batons.

(Holzauge Historical)

 

gfm1stpatCH

1st pattern silver Generalfeldmarschall batons on early gold bullion and silver shoulderboards of the rare five loop variant.  These are slip-ons and considering the size of the boards are likely for use on the greatcoat.

(private collection)

 

 

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Another example of 1st pattern batons from a greatcoat belonging to Generalfeldmarschall von Leeb. (Peter Whamond/The Collector’s Guild)

 

 

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Two photographs of GFM von Paulus in captivity.  The earlier picture, on the left, shows him shortly after surrendering his army at Stalingrad.  Notice he is wearing the insignia of Generaloberst on his shoulderboards, though Hitler had already promoted him to Generalfeldmarschall.  Hitler awarded the promotion while Paulus was surrounded by the Russians in hopes that Paulus would not surrender.  The later picture, on the right, shows Paulus in captivity.  Notice his breast eagle is removed, yet he now exhibits the proper Field Marshal insignia on his shoulderboards.  This is due to the Red Cross delivering the crossed baton shoulderboard devices to him while in captivity.  The Russians enjoyed showing off their captured Field Marshal prize, a gloating that lasted well beyond the end of the war.

 

gfm coats

Here is another interesting photograph, for the merit of collectors who attempt to authenticate everything according to ‘textbook’ beliefs, regulations and period of issue.  These two overcoats hanging on this coat rack belong to GFM’s Reichenau and Brauchitsch, both promoted to GFM on the same day, July 19, 1940.  However, note that Reichenau’s coat (left) displays shoulderboards with the larger size 1936 – 1938 1st pattern crossed batons, while Brauchitsch’s coat (right) has the smaller, 1940 2nd pattern crossed baton devices on his shoulderboards.  One would surmise that since they were both promoted in 1940, they should by regulation both be wearing the later pattern small batons…but they are not.  You will see many mixtures of insignia that are contrary to regulation or period of issue, when you study photographs of Generalfeldmarschalls.  Note also on the right coat, how high the small batons are positioned on the shoulderboards, having been affixed closer to the button, rather than being centered between the button and than the base of the board.  In another glaring example of lack of symmetry in attachment, the batons on the Reichenau shoulderboard are also offset with the device protruding over the right side cords.

 

 

Army GFM Collar Tabs

 

GeneralsParadeTunicrightcollartabcl

1939 – 1940 pattern.

From the 1930’s until April of 1941 Generalfeldmarschall wore the same standard pattern collar tabs as all other General Officers, which exhibit two ‘prongs’, resembling leaves, in the middle of the tab design and protrude above and below an oval opening.

(Ron Richter collection)

 

 

Bock-tab

1941 pattern.

In April of 1941 an order was issued to create a separate collar tab design specifically for Generalfeldmarschall, adding a third “prong” or “leaf” in the middle of the design.  This example is rendered in all gold wire and is from the uniform of GFM Fedor von Bock.

(Courtesy Holzauge Historical Collection)

 

 

manstein tab

Generalfeldmarschall pattern collar tab in fine gold wire from the uniform of GFM von Manstein.

(private collection)

 

gfmtab wvb front a

Another 1941 Generalfeldmarschall standard pattern collar tab embroidered in two tone gold wire, very similar in manufacture to the von Manstein example above. 

(private collection)

 

 

vonkleisttab

1941 Generalfeldmarschall standard pattern collar tab embroidered in celleon. 

(Courtesy Kai Winkler collection)

 

 

gfmleebtabs

Generalfeldmarschall Ritter von Leeb’s 1941 Pattern Generalfeldmarschall collar tabs rendered in celleon with yarn highlights.

(Holzauge Historical)

 

gfmtabstained

Generalfeldmarschall collar tabs rendered in celleon with yarn highlights. Almost a match to the Leeb tabs (probably same manufacturer) showing heavy staining to the celleon area’s of the embroidery with the yarn highlights not showing any affects.

(private collection)

 

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Generalfeldmarschall standard pattern collar tab produced in a mixture of celleon thread and bullion highlights.  (Holzauge Historical)

 

 

g1

Generalfeldmarschall variant pattern collar tab.  Notice how the prongs are more rigid and have less curl than the other examples shown above.  This example is of period construction and materials, but period photos of it in wear have yet to be found.  It is very similar in design to a pair of standard Heer General collar tabs that were part of a grouping attributed to GFM von Bock, and may have been made by the same firm.

(private collection)

 

 

 

Generalfeldmarschall Collar Tabs – Variations

In present day collecting, there is an over-enthusiastic effort to try and establish a “textbook” example to every piece of militaria.  To anyone who has collected for a length of time, it is no surprise that establishing a textbook for militaria is often a lost cause.  Various firms were contracted to produce pieces, which in turn create various individual characteristics as a result of the number of different makers.  It is true in badges and awards, and it is also true in hand embroidered insignia.  In the area of GFM collar tabs, there exists a belief that only one kind of GFM tab can be original, or as they say is “textbook”.  Usually beliefs like this result from the fact that one particular maker produced the vast majority of items…in other words, they got the biggest contract to produce the largest volume.  This is where period photos become so important in collecting, as evidence shows there could be many variations, some even rather radical in design.  The same can be said of GFM collar tabs, as there is evidence that there may have been as many as 4 or 5 different makers.

 

 

In the photos below of GFM List (left) and Bock (right), we see what is commonly viewed as a “textbook” GFM tab.  It is very ornate with a lot of very tiny, accentuated curls from the stems, or prongs that protrude upward.  This is the tab you will most commonly see in many of the official portraits when the GFM’s are wearing their best uniforms.  As a result, these could possibly be considered their “dress” versions of insignia, as we do know that there existed higher quality, bright insignia for parade and formal dress.

 

List

Bock

 

 

Shown below, are a set of Rommel’s collar tabs which were presented to British Field Marshal Montgomery, and now reside in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London.  These tabs are certainly not ‘textbook’ in terms of what is considered to be correct on Generalfelmarschall collar tabs, with a very odd pointed leading edge and tail that lets the backing show through.  Yet if you look at the period photo of Rommel shown on the right, you will see that Rommel is wearing these EXACT tabs.  Without this period photo to support originality, many in the collecting community would consider these to be fake.  Note also how the curled prongs in the middle point in different directions, which is a variation you will notice on many other GFM collar tabs, however on Rommel’s the rear prong faces forward, which is very unusual.

(Museum photo courtesy Samlersforumet.net)

rommel tabs alone

Rommel

 

 

Another example of variation on GFM tabs being worn by GFM Manstein (left).  Notice how crowded the embroidery is on GFM Witzleben’s tab in the right photograph, in comparison to the Manstein tabs in the left photograph.  We know from evidence in period photos as well as one of his surviving uniforms that Manstein also wore the very curly, more ornate tabs such as in the Witzleben example.  Photos also exist showing Manstein wearing in the field what appear to be celleon examples.  Also notice how the center oval on Witzlebens tab is closed, unlike the more “textbook” examples shown above being worn by List and Bock, which have open ovals.  It is good to keep in mind that even in Generalfeldmarschall insignia, there is quite a bit of variation.

 

manstein

witzleben

 

 

Army GFM Sleeve Grade Insignia

 

gfm sleeve rank

Generalfeldmarschall sleeve rank insignia for use on all uniform garments without shoulderboards, effective August 1942.

(Pieter Verbruggen collection)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Generalfeldmarschall’s Dagger

 

FIELDMARSHAL 2

A copy of the 1941 Model Field Marshal’s Dagger. About six such original examples were produced, but general production of these was shelved due to the war.  This is one of only a half dozen replicas that were produced from the original specifications and images.

(private collection, photography by F.J. Stephens)

 

 

 

Pre-WW2 Generalfeldmarschall Insignia

 

 

Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

These shoulder boards belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II and indicate the rank of Generalfeldmarschall and honorary chief of the Garde Uhlan Regiment   (Boward Collection)

 

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Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

These shoulder boards belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II and indicate the rank of Generalfeldmarschall as honorary chief of a Jaeger Regiment.  (Boward Collection)

 

Copy of Img2223

 

 

 

 

 

Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

These shoulder boards belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II and indicate the rank of Generalfeldmarschall and Chief of the Cuirassier Regiment “Von Seidlitz”.  (Boward Collection)

 

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King Friedrich August III Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

This pair of General Field Marshall boards were the personal property of King Friedrich August III (1865-1932) of Saxony.  These very rare boards were worn by the King (r.1902-1918) while serving as the regimental chef of Kgl. Sachsen 2. Grenadier-Regiment “Kaiser Wilhelm, Konig von Preussen” Nr. 101.  He was promoted to GFM in 1912.  The regiment was founded in 1670 and garrisoned at Dresden. The boards have the green chevrons of Saxony on the silver rope, the cypher of Kaiser Wilhelm and the crossed batons for a Generalfeldmarschall. (Mike Kelso collection, Alabama)

 

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Grand Duke Friedrich II of Baden Generaloberst Shoulderboards

This pair of Generaloberst in the rank of Generalfeldmarschall boards were the personal property of Grand Duke Friedrich (1857-1928) of the Grand Duchy Baden, a grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm I.  These very rare boards were worn by the Grand Duke (r.1907-1918) while serving as the regimental chief of 8. Wurttembergisches Infanterie-Regiment “Grossherzog Friedrich von Baden” Nr. 126.  The regiment was founded in 1817 and garrisoned at Strassburg.  In 1875 Friedrich was promoted to Leutant in the most elite Erstes Garde-Regiment zu Fuss (1st Guard Foot Regiment).  He was promoted Generaloberst in the rank of GFM in 1905.  The boards have the red chevrons of Wurttemburg, the three pips of a Generaloberst, the crossed batons of a Generalfeldmarschall and the regimental number. (Mike Kelso collection, Alabama)

 

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Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

These shoulder boards belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II.  They are for Royal Saxon 2nd Grenadier Regiment number 101 “Kaiser Wilhelm King of Prussia”, garrisoned in Dresden, post 1915 configuration.  Special features are the frosted batons.  (Courtesy the Scott McCaleb collection, Dahlonega, GA, USA)

 

Kaiser front pair

kaiser back pair

 

 

 

Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Generalfeldmarschall Shoulderboards

These large boards belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II as Chief of the King’s 1st Bavarian Uhlan Regiment 1915 in the rank of Generalfeldmarschall.  They are the ultra-rare feldgrau pattern displaying crossed batons, royal cipher and Imperial crown. (Courtesy the Scott McCaleb collection, Dahlonega, GA, USA)

 

Boards pair

Board single

 

 

 

 

Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Shoulderboards

These boards are from the 1800’s and are courtesy the Thomas Suter collection.

 

GFM1

GFM4

 

 

 

GFM2

GFM3

 

 

 

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Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Franz II,

Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

 

 

 

For a study of Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall items, go to the Luft GFM page here;

 

Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall

 

 

 

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