kesselring copy



The Luftwaffe

















GFM Albert Kesselring

Luft_baton_cropped sized 800


In the German Luftwaffe of World War Two there were only six men promoted to the highest rank of Generalfeldmarschall (for a brief overview and mini biographies of the Luft GFM, go to the Luft GFM Bios page).  When you consider that one of them, GFM von Greim, was only promoted in the last 12 days of the war and another, Hermann Goring, was early in the war promoted up to Reichsmarschall, it is a very rare rank indeed.  As such, original examples are extremely difficult to find.  Many thanks are owed to Kai Winkler and the private collecting arena all of whom have provided many fine examples of these rare pieces.  Of particular interest, note all the different variations in manufacture of the shoulderboards, batons and collar tabs that Milch alone possessed.  For such a rare rank it is amazing how diverse the variation.  Yet considering the exclusivity of the rank, the elite status  and the fact that Hermann Goring may have been involved in some of the design and manufacturing decisions, in the end it is probably not that unusual at all.






Regulation Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall shoulderboard from the uniform of GFM Milch.  All three cords in gold bullion over white underlay with “800” marked, stamped silver batons in the correct Luftwaffe pattern of alternating wehrmacht eagle, Balkan cross and Iron cross.  These are the smaller pattern baton devices, similar in size to the Heer examples.  Baton length, from end to end is approximately 48mm.

(Holzauge collection)



Milch board single

A standard size tunic shoulderboard belonging to GFM Milch on matte gold bullion with the larger pattern set of aluminum batons, which contrast quite brightly against the aged gold bullion.  Note the difference in size of batons between this set and the smaller silver batons on the tunic above. Baton length, from end to end is approximately 62mm.

 (private collection)


milch big board single

Another example of the large pattern, oversized batons with these examples being cast in silver, and fastened to a pair of equally oversized shoulderboards in gold bullion cord.  Baton length, from end to end is approximately 62mm.

 (Costello collection)


dave boards

Yet another interesting variant from GFM Milch in that the inner gold cord is rendered in the soutache pattern typically used for the silver inner braid of standard General officer pattern shoulderboard construction.  Most all GFM boards observed (of regulation three gold cord design) have the inner cord being a duplicate of the two outer gold cords and manufactured in the ‘basketweave’ pattern.

(private collection)



The first pattern 1936-1939 Heer GFM baton devices were also allegedly utilized according to the Angolia/Schlicht research, though I have yet to see any period photos supporting this.  The example above on what is probably an overcoat size shoulderboard in standard General officer gold/silver cord.  Baton length from end to end is approximately 58mm.

 (private collection)


luft gfm board Bill

Aluminum style Luftwaffe GFM batons, this example attached to standard pattern General officer shoulderboards of interwoven gold and silver cords.

(Holzauge Historical)


Luft GFM single - resized

Yet another example of standard pattern General officer shoulderboards of interwoven gold and silver cords, with a pair of the smaller 800 marked silver frosted batons.  While, unlike the Heer, the original Luftwaffe regulations for GFM specified all three cords in gold. Yet there are many period photos showing that the standard pattern General’s shoulderboards were also utilized such as in this example and the examples above.

(private collection)




Aluminum Baton Examples & Detail-



aluminum cu

Close-up views of the large size, Luftwaffe pattern highly detailed solid cast aluminum batons.  It’s possible this size may have been manufactured for use on the large overcoat boards though there is photographic evidence that some of the Luftwaffe GFM used them on tunic boards as well, more than likely to correspond with the inherent oversize ego of their personalities, quite befitting of this rank.  One might even assume that Hermann Goring had a hand in the design of this larger style of batons.

 (private collection)


milch period photo

goring big boards

Period photos of Milch and Goring both wearing the oversize batons on their tunic shoulderboards.




Goring wearing the oversize batons on overcoat shoulderboards.

(photos courtesy of Humberto Corado collection)




GFM Kesselring with the larger sized batons on his tunic shoulderboards.




Silver Baton Examples and Detail-


dave boardsbatons

These batons are standard Luftwaffe pattern in silver.  Note the construction detail of the inner gold soutache braiding normally found on the silver inner cord of General officer shoulderboards. Another interesting note about this board is that it appears to have previously had the larger set of batons attached, which were replaced by this smaller version.

(private collection)


baton detail

Close up of the fine detail in the of stamping of these batons….note that even the chest feathers of the Wehrmacht eagle are visible in the stamping.  In contrast, the Heer baton devices typically have much softer and less crisp detail. Tiny detail like this is what set the German’s apart from other nations in the quality of their military uniforms, and what keeps them at the forefront value-wise in the militaria field of collecting today.  When you consider how few men held this rank, it is almost unbelievable in today’s world that such attention to detail would be observed for a rank that only a handful of men would realize. 


luft silver2 resized

This set of silver batons have a silver frosting applied.

(private collection)


800 mark1

Silver batons are sometimes marked with silver content, in this case “800”, which is typically stamped on one of the end caps.

(private collection)


baton detail close up

This particular set of silver batons have been hollow cast and are the larger size (similar in size to the aluminum large batons).  The smaller baton examples however, are more typically found to be stamped in silver and hollow but according to regulations may also be hollow cast.  Most all modern reproductions are of the smaller batons and usually solid cast, sometimes very well detailed.  Stamping or casting of silver and aluminum both seem to have been utilized, though the opinion is that any of the smaller batons that are solid cast are likely post-war reproductions. 

 (Costello collection)



A comparison of the larger Luftwaffe baton devices in both aluminum (on the left), and silver (on the right).



milch big board pair

A set of the larger boards with bright gold cords and large silver batons.  They were likely designed for use on the greatcoat and for more formal, dress occasions, though photographic evidence shows that these were also worn on tunics by Milch and Kesselring. Note that this is not a ‘matched’ pair in that the button loops are both for the same side.  If you study period photographs you will notice that it is not unusual at all for field grade and General officers to have a mismatched set of boards like this on their uniforms. 

(Costello collection)



GFM Kesselring wearing a pair of the large, oversized shoulderboards on his tropical tunic.  It appears by the faint outline of the batons that these boards have the oversized batons as well.  Note the GFM interim staff tucked under his arm and the white cap top with removable eagle.




Another somewhat common tailor’s error was to put the boards on the wrong sides (or backwards), thereby tilting the face of the boards to the back of the tunic rather than the front, as seen here on GFM Sperrle’s tunic.  Evidence like this is a good thing for collectors to keep in mind when adhering too tightly to ‘absolutes’.  Even at the Generalfeldmarschall level the simplest regulations were not always followed and their choice in tailors may not have always been aware of regulations, nor been given a matched set to work with.





Another ‘absolute’ often bantered about by collectors is that the retaining prongs of GFM boards should not protrude through the backing.  This is not always the case, as the reverse of the above GFM Milch boards shows.  Most do not protrude, but some do.  Materials used for the prongs can also vary.

(Costello Collection)


AH & 4 Marshalls with Batons

Luftwaffe GFM’s Milch, Sperrle and (to the right of Hitler and Goring), Kesselring.  This is an interesting photo in that it shows the variance in size of GFM shoulderboards that were worn amongst these three men, with each wearing a different size of boards.  The largest man, Sperrle, is wearing the smallest boards.  Milch is wearing a very large, fat set of boards (possibly overcoat size) and Kesselring appears to be wearing a larger, or longer set as well.



Milch single silverboard

Another GFM Milch shoulderboard in matte gold bullion, with “800” stamped, silver batons. These are the slip-on style with screw post buttons, which also could be worn on the overcoat, leather coat, shirt or field tunic.

(private collection)


Milch silver batons

Close-up view of the highly detailed Luftwaffe pattern batons stamped in 800 silver.

 (private collection)



Milch single silver board back

Back of the slip-on shoulderboards showing the tongue and reverse of a screw-on button.

(private collection)


Milch Goring pic

Period photograph of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring and Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch.  Milch is wearing tunic size slip-on shoulderboards on his leather coat, very similar to the example pictured above with matching characteristics in wear.  However, notice that Goring’s slip-on shoulderboards are put on backwards!  This would’ve been quite noticeable in person as the eagles on his shoulderboard devices were manufactured in separate left/right detail so that the eagles would always face forward.  If this photograph had better detail, we would probably see that the Wehrmacht eagles would both be facing backwards.  Yes, even the highest rank of World War Two was sometimes not displayed correctly according to regulations!






Collar Tabs


gfm tab luft

Regulation Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall collar tab, beautifully hand embroidered in gold bullion, gold wire and silver thread. The design reflects a Luftwaffe eagle overlaying wreath of oakleaves and clutching two crossed, highly detailed batons on a white cloth backing.  Gold bullion piping edges the tab.  A stunning, textbook example with excellent tightly woven detail.

 (private collection)


detail crop

Detail view of the three basic design elements; wreath, eagle and batons.

(private collection)



tab batons

Notice the amount of detail present in the rendering of the batons, a feature the reproductions routinely fail to accomplish.  As these tabs age they all exhibit differing amounts of deterioration in both the silver and the ability of the threads to retain placement and shape.  This tab, overall, is one of the finest examples you’ll see.

(private collection)


tab eagle

A view of some of the very fine embroidery detail executed in gold bullion.

(private collection)



Regulation Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall collar tab from the uniform of GFM Milch.  Another beautifully executed tab. This one again has gold bullion piping edging the tab.

 (Holzauge collection)


milch tab batons

Close-up view of the batons on the Milch tunic collar tab.

 (Holzauge collection)




A matching set of GFM collartabs for the left and right collars.  Notice that this particular set is edged and highlighted in celleon while the rest of the tab is embroidered in gold bullion/wire and aluminum.  Edging General’s tabs in celleon while the basic design was in bullion seemed to be a common practice in the Luftwaffe.

 (private collection)



Close up photo of one of the above pair of tabs.

 (private collection)



single luftGFM tab

Another example from the Generalfeldmarschall Milch collections, this one in all gold bullion with a gold wire swastika.  Unfortunately, what cannot be seen through these pictures is the depth of the embroidery on original GFM tabs.  They are truly stunning examples to handle in person.

 (private collection)


tab batons cu

Notice how the silver thread verdigree from the batons has bled onto the gold and tarnished the bullion.   Also observe how consistent the manufacture of this tab is to all of the above examples.

 (private collection)



milch black tab

Here is a rather interesting photograph of Erhard Milch wearing Generaloberst tabs with a black backing, which was believed to be a short term practice for General officers when working with the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Air Ministry).  Pictures also exist of Goring wearing GFM tabs embroidered on a black background. The date of this photo is unknown, but most likely sometime during the late 1930’s.  It is not clear whether the underlay on the shoulderboards were also black during this brief period.



milch portrait

Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch.  Note the bright gold cords and larger size shoulderboards.  The collar tabs have shorter wing extensions beyond the piped edges of the tabs and are probably from the same manufacturer as the bullion/celleon highlited examples shown above.  Collectors of this rank should take note that in period photos (and most known surviving examples) that the ‘wings’ which overlap the tabs do not appear to have a white backing.  The length of the wings in their overlap of the tabs do, however, appear to vary.



Luft GFM Collar Tab Variants



Here is a variant pattern Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall tab that is recognized as being of period construction and is also shown as an original example in one of the reference books.  A clear photo of this example in wear has yet to be uncovered by the site author.  Notice how small the batons are, that they are somewhat “buried” within the wreath, and how the baton embroidery pattern differs from the other original examples shown above.  All of the period photos that offer a clear view of Luft GFM collar tabs show the batons having more relief, being much larger and longer, crossed at a more narrow angle and extending out beyond the wreath.  This tab exhibits none of those characteristics, yet certainly appears to be period made.




Notice the differences between the variant on the left, and the known original on the right.  The batons are much larger and more pronounced on the right tab.  Notice also how the overall shape of the tab on the left is at a much less severe angle than the tab on the right.



Sperrle tab

Kesselring tab


Period photos of Luftwaffe GFM collar tabs in wear.  Notice how consistent and well defined the crossed batons are on all of the photos.