General’s Shoulder Boards

Army (Heer), Administrative, Special Careers

 

General’s shoulder boards are seen in a wide array of differing construction in regards to size, materials used, and design techniques.  Typically they were constructed of two, gold colored cords surrounding an inner silver colored cord.  The cords formed four bends on each side plus a loop at the top for the button.  There do, however, exist genuine WW2 specimens which have five bends (unfortunately for collectors, post war Germany commonly used these five bend Generals boards which makes vetting WW2 period boards a bit tricky).  Early war boards were gold bullion with silver inner cords, both of which over time take on a dark tone.  The amount of gold and silver content affected the degree to which it darkens with age, which is why some surviving examples still retain a brighter gold appearance.  Later in the war different materials were used including celleon, or nylon in place of the bullion with aluminum taking the place of the silver. Even this celleon was produced in brite and matte versions with some of the later brite celleon looking very close to bullion in appearance. The underlay was typically a long tongue shaped cardboard which was covered with a red felt like badge cloth.  On the top of the round edge of this cardboard (and between the cords and the cardboard) was a “U” shaped wire stiffener which helped the board retain shape and added rigidity.

 

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A mint condition example of a shoulderboard in gold bullion and silver cord.  This is what is referred to as a “sew-in” board and he red cloth extension was placed into the opening in the shoulder and then sewn shut.  A button was then put through the open loop at the top securing it to the shoulder area.

 

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A mint condition example of a shoulderboard in gold celleon (nylon) and aluminum cord.

 

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The reverse of a shoulderboard.  Notice the tiny stitch holes around the outside edge and bottom base of the board which indicate where the cords were sewn down on to the cardboard underlay backing.  The red cloth extension was placed into the opening in the shoulder and then sewn shut.

 

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Here’s a good look at the cardboard underlay backing and the wire stiffener (this example is from a junior officers shoulderboard).  You can see the tiny stitch holes that go through the cardboard and you can also see the positioning of the wire stiffener around the circumference of the board (as well as a couple of stitches holding it in place).

 

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Here’s an example of the back of a General’s board that has suffered severe moth damage, revealing the cardboard underlay and the wire stiffener which has come loose.

 

 

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An example of a high quality brite bullion cord shoulderboard, typically used for parade or more formal walking out or service dress uniforms.

(Ron Richter collection)

Gen-50

A subdued matte bullion example.  Matte bullion was typically used for field dress, though not always.  By now the gold bullion has aged to a dark, matte brown color.  This example has a non-visible red underlay, which indicates that it is an early pre-war example.

(Ron Richter collection)

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Another matte bullion example on a lightweight field tunic.

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A brite bullion example, which shows darkening of the bullion from age.  The difference between brite bullion and matte bullion, is that the brite bullion cord has a ‘shiny’ or reflective appearance to it, even with the darkening of the bullion due to age.

(Wolfe-Hardin collection)

 

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Another example of brite bullion gold cords.

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A mint condition example of brite bullion gold cords which is part of the high ranks tailor-shop horde discovered in 2016.

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A similar example to the one above, this from a surviving tunic.

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The other material that Generals shoulderboards was constructed from was celleon, which is a nylon like material and was substituted for the gold cords.  It was also produced in both a matte and brite finish.  This example, from the uniform of General Friedrich Fangohr, is matte celleon.

 

 

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An example of a matte celleon board on a black panzer wrapper.

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A Generalleutnant example, in matte celleon, this one from a field uniform. This one also has the large, General’s size pip.

(Ron Richter collection)

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Generalleutnant board in brite celleon with a single, large silver pip.  General officer boards typically (but not always) have a larger size “General’s” pip, which can range in size from 28mm to 38mm.  Standard officer size pips were also commonly used. 

(private collection)

 

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Matte bullion gold cords with a single, large Generals rank pip that has a silver wash.

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Matte bullion cords with the large oversized pips designed specifically for General officers.

 

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General der Infanterie board "with the Uniform of Infantry Regiment 12" as worn from 30 September 1931 to 30 June 1942 by Pour le Merite/German Cross in Silver recipient Rudolf Schniewindt (1875-1954).  Note the white underlay to indicate the honorary appointment to an infantry regiment and the “12” cipher indicating the regiment number.  Selected General’s were bestowed with the right to wear the uniform of their traditional regiment and was considered a high honor.  In addition to wearing the underlay of their branch of service and regimental cipher, they also wore the collar tabs of an Oberst and a field grade officers breast eagle.

(Richard Lundstrom collection)

 

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A full General’s board with a numerical “1” device indicating that the former owner likely held the honorary title of General with the Uniform of a Regiment.

(private collection)

 

 

 

 

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General der Infanterie shoulderboard of brite bullion cord, again showing the oversize General officer rank pips.  Notice how the edges of the pips extend so far across the width of the shoulderboard in comparison to the other examples shown on this page.

(private collection)

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General der Infanterie board from the uniform of Kuno-Hans von Both, a well decorated Russian front veteran and Pour le Merite and Knights Cross recipient. Matte gold bullion example.

(private collection)

 

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Generaloberst shoulderboard constructed in celleon gold cords with aluminum inner braid with three, small matte silver colored pips.  Smaller pips, like these, were commonly used though sometimes you also see the larger General’s pips used on Generaloberst boards….which gives the board a very ‘crowded’ appearance and leaves a major overhang of pips on the side.  Sometimes you will also see the single pip placed lower on the board next to the two bottom, side by side pips.  Rarely, you will also see all three pips centered on the board together.  Generaloberst is one of the rarest ranks to find!

(private collection)

 

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Generaloberst shoulderboard in matte gold bullion and silver inner cord.  This example is a smaller board, probably shirt size, with the typical larger Generals pips which as you can see ‘crowd’ the board in comparison to the above example utilizing smaller pips.  The bar at the bottom of the board is for attachment to the loops on a shirt or white summer tunic at the shoulder seam.

(Dave Howerdel collection)

 

 

General Officer Shoulderboard Variants

 

Like most other insignia, Generals shoulderboards were made by a variety of manufacturers and this is reflected in the many different types of shoulder boards that collectors encounter.  The boards were made in different sizes, both to accommodate different uniforms items (larger boards for an overcoat, smaller boards for a shirt or tunic) and to accommodate different sized humans.  The regulation specified that the shoulder boards be attached to the tunic so that they were no more than 2cm from the collar edge.  A man with larger shoulders thus would need bigger and longer shoulderboards.  Sometimes, however, you will see a small General with very large shoulderboards, which we must assume was their preference.  General Eduard Dietel was one who exhibited several odd variants in wear.  In the left photo, we see Dietel wearing an early style (with the non-visible red underlay) pair of very large shoulderboards, which is odd as this was later in the war when he held the rank of Generaloberst.  In the right photo we see Dietel earlier in the war wearing the 5-loop variant Generals shoulderboards.  By regulation, Generals shoulderboards were supposed to have 4 loops of cord at the side, excluding the button loop (he is wearing 4-loop boards in the left photo).

 

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dietl five loop boards

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An example of a five loop Generals shoulderboard, this particular example for the rank of Generalfeldmarschall.

AH & 4 Marshalls with Batons

This photo illustrates very well the difference in sizes of General officer shoulderboards. Each of these Generals flanking Hitler is 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Heer Generals Shoulderboard Examples, Specialist Careers and Administrative;

 

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Top: A General officer in the War/Military Administration Office, designated by a dark green base underlay with a gray secondary underlay.

 

Bottom: An unusually constructed set of Generalmajor boards for the Army in that the inner cord which is typically in aluminum (when celleon is used for the gold cords) appears to be made in a gray shade of celleon in a basketweave pattern.  These boards were vet acquired along with a group of other, original General officer militaria, all un-issued.  While not at all textbook, items like this deserve further study and may have been indicative of prototypes for later war efforts.

(private collection)

 

 

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These boards are for a General officer of the Wehrmachtebeamte (an official who did not possess the status of a soldier, yet was a member of the Army) for the rank of Generalstabsintendant, or Generalleutnant equivalent.  The base underlay is a dark green with a secondary underlay of red.

(Holzauge)

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These boards are for a General officer of the Wehrmachtebeamte, who would have been serving on the staff of the OKW or OKH (High Command) and had the rank of Generalintendant or the equivalent of Generalmajor.  The base underlay is a dark green with a secondary underlay of red.

(Holzauge)

 

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Another Wehrmachtebeamte official with the rank of General, serving on the staff of the High Command.

 (courtesy Thomas Suter collection)

 

 

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A set of boards for a Generalmajor in the Administrative Staff (Truppensonderdienst).

(Holzauge)

 

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The royal blue backing and Mercurian staff indicate that this board was for a General in the Administrative Staff, or Truppensonderdienst.  Many collectors confuse the administrative staff and entwining snakes as being indicative of a medical offers uniform. (the rank of Generalleutnant).

 

 

 

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Board for a special career Generalarzt oin the Medical Services, designated by the Cornflower blue underlay and Caduceus insignia.  Medical officer ranks can be confusing, as often the doctor was brought into the service at a rank based on the merit of his education and abilities.  During WW1, the medical ranks did not correspond at all to an equivalent in the army, though it seems an attempt was made during the second world war.

(Holzauge)

 

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Board for a Heer General officer in the Medical Services, in aged matte bullion.  This rank is for Generalstabsarzt, or Generalleutnant equivalent.  The bright silver finish on the caduceus is due to a silver frosting that was applied, which keeps the silver from turning dark with age.

(Ron Richter collection)

 

 

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Another nice example of a shoulderboard for a Heer General officer, or doctor, in the Medical Services, in a bright bullion cord.  Note the difference in the use of the larger General’s pip, in comparison to the above photo.

(Private collection)

 

 

 

Diplomatic Judicial General

Board for a Diplomatic Judicial General. Gold bullion and silver cord over wine red underlay.

(courtesy Thomas Suter collection)

 

Judicial General

Board for a General in the Judicial Service. Celleon and aluminum cords over wine red underlay.

(courtesy Thomas Suter collection)

 

 

Note;  I’m always looking for high quality photographs of original examples of common and unique General officer boards and insignia.  Please contact me if you have something you wish to contribute.

 

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