Army (Heer) General’s Larisch Style Collar Tabs

 

All General’s collar tabs were hand embroidered, which makes each tab a unique and individual piece of art and accounts for a wide degree of variation in the rendering of the design.  You will notice when viewing all of the examples shown below that no two tabs are exactly alike!  Careful study of these images will reveal a very high quality of workmanship and a certain style that just cannot seem to be captured by modern replicators.  The embroidery was rendered in several different materials depending upon time of construction during the war, available materials and individual manufacturers.  Most commonly they were made of gold wire, bullion, or celleon (nylon) with a yarn like material also occasionally seen for highlighting.

 

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Here’s an example of an absolute mint condition pair of Heer General’s collar tabs from a tailor-shop horde that was discovered in 2016.  In this photo you can see the tabs preserved in the rice paper envelope the manufacturer enclosed them in prior to distribution.  The next eight images below are a close up study of these pristine examples.

 

 

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The collar tabs removed from the envelope.

 

 

 

 

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A closer view of one of the tabs.  Notice how bright the gold bullion wire is, a result of careful preservation in the envelope over 70 plus years of storage.

 

 

 

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A reverse view showing how the tab was assembled and finished.  The edges were cut, folded over the buckram stiffener and stitched down (sometimes these were also glued).

 

 

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A closer view of the finished ends on the underside of the tab.  This is only one example of how the backs of tabs were finished, as each manufacturer (and embroiderer) had their own preferred method of assembly.

 

 

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A closer overall view of the embroidery of the larisch design pattern.

 

 

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Notice how straight the bottom edge of the tail of the tab embroidery is.

 

 

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Notice the oval twist cord spine in the middle of the design and how well executed that is…the join is nearly invisible.  Also notice how you can see bits of the unterlagen (cardboard design template) showing through in various spots.

 

 

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Our last image of study is the front or nose of the tab.  When viewing prospective tabs to add to your collection, always carefully study the embroidery and look for near perfect symmetry that conforms to the overall design of the tabs.  Most of the reproductions and replicas never get these tiny details perfect and some can be quickly dismissed because the final rendering of the design isn’t symmetrical.  Another thing to look for is the very tight embroidery.

 

 

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As an interesting summary, take a close look at these three different examples that all came from the horde and were manufactured by the same embroidery firm (and probably the same hands).  Since collar tabs are all hand-made, there will be subtle differences from piece to piece even when made by the same person.  This can be even more evident when comparing the design to the mirror image tab that would go on the other collar (in example, these are all “right” side collar tabs).

 

 

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Here’s a side by side example of a pair of matched collar tabs and the mirror image embroidery.  If you study each tab very carefully, the minute differences will become more apparent. In particular, the nose on the tab on the right side is larger than the nose on the tab on the left side. The center oval spine is also a bit wider on the right tab. This is why there is not really such a thing as a perfectly matched pair. If you look closely enough you can always find the differences and in some cases it can even be quite noticeable.  One would have to assume that it was not easy to perfectly repeat a pattern when embroidering in a reverse order.

 

Many thanks to Todd Newill and John Donovan for providing access to their wonderful examples of these great finds so that we can all study them!

 

 

 

Now, let’s look at a nice variety of original Heer General collar tabs.  When viewing these tabs make note of the consistency in the quality level of the embroidery.  The overall pattern is very consistent, yet many of the details can vary considerably depending on the person doing the embroidery and the materials used.

 

 

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Standard pattern, very early General officer tab rendered in fine gold wire.  This particular example is part of an insignia grouping attributed to Generaloberst von Blomberg, later Hitler’s first Generalfeldmarschall.  Note the ‘closed center’ oval in the middle of the tab.  This tab is a work of art and very tightly woven.  Craftsmanship like this no longer exists, and cannot be replicated in modern times.

(private collection)

 

 

 

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General tab rendered in fine gold wire.  This particular example is part of a pair that belonged to Generalmajor Ebling.  Notice the open center oval surrounded by a gold rope bullion.

(private collection)

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If there ever was an example that you could say is absolutely textbook and flawless, this is it.  The hands that made this tab obviously had been at it a long, long time and were very good.  Almost perfect execution in embroidery.  By the very fact that all Generals tabs were hand embroidered, each tab is practically a work of art and tend to take on the personality of the person that embroidered them.  Notice how the center oval is open and surrounded by the ‘rope’ gold bullion cord.

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Another finely produced example, this one using a highlight material of a different color to accentuate the inner leaves of the pattern.  This could be done in bullion, wire, yarn or celleon.

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An example from the tailor-shop horde, this particular piece having the base of the tab produced in celleon with gold bullion wire interior highlights.

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Yet another example from the tailor-shop horde, in beautiful gold bullion wire.

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This is probably one of the least favorite designs as it takes on a bit ‘fatter’ look than some of the other tabs.  The ‘points’ or prongs on tabs can vary from the most tiny, intricate curved swirls to the almost regimented, stiff fat look of these (many collectors wrongly think this is evidence of a fake).  If you slowly scan from the delicate features of the Ebling tab at the top of the page down through the other three tabs to this one, you’ll notice a subtle progression of a less ‘curved’ look to the prongs on the tabs.  In spite of the ‘fat’ look, when seen in person this tab is absolutely gorgeous and has taken on a very stunning blackish hue from age.  This is part of a grouping belonging to Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock. 

(Holzauge Historical Collection)

 

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Here is another very interesting example in that it is most likely made by the same embroidery firm of the above von Bock tab, as the construction is almost identical.  This particular example is the three prong Generalfeldmarschall rank collar tab instituted in 1941.  Most GFM collar tabs exhibit very tall, curly ‘prongs’ with much better definition, and this variant has yet to be documented by the author in period photos (you can see further examples of original and variant Heer Generalfeldmarschall collar tabs here). This example was most likely this particular manufacturers sample of this rank.  From period photos of Generalfeldmarschall, so far only about three different variations can be documented as being regularly used.  In the competition to get business we have to assume that many makers made their own examples of this rank to show off their talent and this is probably representative of a display piece.

 

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A finely embroidered celleon example with bullion inner highlights.  Celleon is celleophane based thread and these tabs have some of the finest embroidery and often have some of the best detail.  Because they don’t have the rich look of the gold bullion or gold wire they are not quite as popular with the casual collectors.  The order to use celleon in place of gold bullion or wire was initiated in 1938 though it never seems to have totally replaced use of the gold and bullion as both continued to be used to manufacture insignia throughout the remainder of the war.  This particular example has gold wire highlights, which is visibly noticeable in the darker areas as the metallic thread has darkened with age.

(Ron Richter collection)

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Another example of a finely embroidered celleon example with bullion inner highlights.  Note this example has the closed center cord and less defined tail cluster.

(private collection) 

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An interesting celleon example…in this case the ‘tail’ of the unterlagen became detached during the embroidery process, so it was embroidered as being detached from the base.  Surviving loose examples of the unterlagen are often encountered with loose or broken tails.

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Another nice, tightly woven celleon examples from a panzer wrap.

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In this example, the inner oval rope is a highlighted by the use of gold bullion twist wire.

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This particular example, from an un-named Generals tunic, is another mix of bullion/celleon only in this case the main embroidery design uses bullion wire with celleon being used as highlight on the inner leaves.  Note that celleon always remains a very bright yellow-gold color, as it is a nylon material and does not age.  In contrast gold bullion and gold wire will almost always show a darker hue from ageing.  Later in the war there was a brite celleon material produced that looks exactly like bullion and will still have a brite finish to it.

(private collection) 

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Yet another very tightly embroidered, flawless collar tab.  Original tabs have a level of quality in the tightness and depth of the embroidery that just cannot be matched by modern reproductions.

(Ron Richter collection)

 

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From the uniform of General Kurt Angers, a nice two tone bullion and gold wire example.

(Ron Richter collection)

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The precision of the tight wire embroidery in this two-tone gold bullion wire example is another great look at some of the finest hand-embroidery that ever existed.  It is a skill that seems sadly lost to time….

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Another fine example of a variant design often seen, rendered in gold wire and gold bullion.

(Ron Richter collection)

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From the uniform of Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt.

(Wolfe-Hardin Collection)

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A gold wire collar tab from the uniform of General Friedrich Fanghohr.

(private collection)

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From the uniform of General Dr. Hans-Joachim Barnewitz, Chief Medical Officer of the Afrika Korps.  Note how large the oval in the center of the tab is.

(private collection)

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From the uniform of Generalmajor Johannes Klatt.  The embroidery on this example is quite delicate in comparison to the Barnewitz tab in the example above.

(private collection)

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This example of a uniform removed tab has the outer details executed in finely embroidered celleon with bullion inner highlights.

(Ken R. Johnson collection) 

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Typical gold wire embroidered General officer tab.

(Ken R. Johnson collection) 

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Another example of tab removed from a tunic, this example in a thicker bullion wire over a darker red badge cloth.

(Ken R. Johnson collection) 

 

 

 

 

A quick note on wearing collar tabs; When viewing period photos or surviving examples of tunics, sometimes you’ll encounter collar tabs that look rather unusual in the method of attachment to the collar.  Tailors had quite a bit of difference in talent, technique and liberty in the methods they used to attach insignia.  None of it was done by machines in a factory so there is NO textbook as to collar tab attachment.  There was hand sewing and machine sewing and both methods were used and produced different results depending on the person doing the sewing.  Sometimes the officers themselves would also have preferences on how they wanted things.  For example, sometimes you’ll encounter tabs that had the buckram stiffener removed so that the collar would be more comfortable in wear, as a rigid tab affixed to a collar could be quite bulky.  In other cases, like the extreme example shown below, we have to assume the General was trying to make some kind of fashion statement!

 

 

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This General had the tailor remove the buckram backing and spread out and utilize as much of the remaining red underlay fabric as possible to “fill” the collar and shape the tab to the point of the collar.

 

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Heer General Collar Tab Variations

 

There is no “textbook” in Heer General Officer collar tabs in regards to execution of the design, as they were all hand embroidered and there were numerous different suppliers.  As a result, when studying original examples and period photos it becomes clear that there were many variations when it came to following the template of the General’s collar tab.  One collector myth you may hear is that the prongs must always be very curly and ornate.  The following photos show that prongs without a pronounced curl were certainly worn with some regularity, with even Field Marshal Keitel owning a pair.

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Another common collector myths is that there must be “balls” embroidered at the stem of the brush-like tail.  The example on the left, shows the pronounced balls that are typically, but not always, present in the basic design.  The photo on the right, of Field Marshal von Witzleben, shows the tab design without any balls, but instead a small stub.  Also notice that von Witzleben’s tabs have the prongs that do not curl.

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Below are two examples from the same manufacturer (in fact, these tabs were issued as a pair). They are the exact same construction, exact same materials, and yet notice how each tab has different characteristics as a result of the embroiderer.  The left tab has the well shaped “balls” in the tail cluster, and the right tab does not!  It is possible the tabs were produced in a factory style with one person producing ‘left’ tabs and another person producing ‘right’ tabs.  It is also possible the differences are a result of the challenges of producing a reverse image that matches when you are embroidering in a different direction.  As a result, seldom will you ever see a pair of collar tabs that are an “exact” match.

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This particular example, finely executed in celleon thread, is the ‘separated tail’ variant, in which the brush tail at the end is disconnected from the body of the design.  This variant can occasionally be seen in period photographs, and in the period photo above of GFM von Witzleben you will notice that the tail on his tab is slightly separated.

(private collection)

 

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This bullion specimen from a General’s waffenrock. Note the closed inner oval, which is unique to this design.  It was also thought to be a fake by many collectors, yet in 2008 a vet acquired uniform with these type of tabs surfaced out of the woodwork, questioning yet another belief.  This variant has been heavily copied, just as most of the more textbook examples have.  This tab remains somewhat controversial as there is a reproduction collar tab of the same design commonly used on some of the higher end reproduction uniforms made in Europe.  These have not yet been verified clearly in period photos so the utmost critique is still required when encountering this style of tabs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Heer General Collar Tab Examples

 

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Top: Army Generals tabs embroidered in gold bullion.  An odd example not commonly accepted as original, yet obtained directly from a veteran.

 

Middle: Wehrmactbeamte (Official) General of War Administration

 

Bottom: Wehrmactbeamte (Official) General of Administration

 

The Wehrmachtbeamte were officials who did not possess the status of soldiers but were members of the Army.  The officials who held General officer status (like the officials of lower ranks) had distinctive insignia to differentiate them from the ‘true’ soldiers.  This was accomplished by using different color backing and piping on their collar tabs, shoulderboards, uniforms and headgear.

 

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General officer collar tab for a General of Officials.

(private collection)

 

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General officer collar tab for a General in the Truppensonderdienst, or Administrative Services.  This is a very interesting example which uses gold wire for the basic design and celleon for the interior highlights.

(private collection)

 

 

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Bullion and gold wire Generals tab.

(private collection)

 

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Bullion and gold wire General’s tab which shows evidence of having been removed from a uniform tunic.

(Dave Howerdel collection)

 

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Bullion General’s tab from a very rare Generals field gray panzer wrap.

(private collection)

 

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A somewhat typical souvenier of insignia being cut off a tunic, with the tunic collar still present. A bullion and gold wire General’s tab with a closed center.

(private collection)

 

 

 

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Bullion General’s tab still attached to a piece of collar from a tunic.

(private collection)

 

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Another example still attached to a piece of collar.  Note the two tone bullion highlights.

(private collection)

 

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Standard style General’s tab, yet with an interesting twist on the execution of the design towards the front (left) end of the tab.  Variants like this are often the result of the ‘personality’ of the individuals who embroidered this insignia.  Note also the texture of the backing fabric.

(private collection)

 

 

rommel tabs

A set of Rommel’s insignia (pair of collar tabs and a single shoulderboard) which was presented to Field Marshal Montgomery and resides in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London.  These tabs are certainly not ‘textbook’ in terms of what is usually seen on Generalfelmarschall collar tabs, as the gold wire versions were usually very consistent in design.  It is quite possible that these were foreign made.  There is a photograph existing of Rommel wearing these exact tabs.  You can see the photo and further examples of Heer Generalfeldmarschall collar tabs here.

(Courtesy Samlersforumet.net)

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For additional exploration of Heer Collar Tab Variations, please visit the “Exploring the Variations” page.

 

I’m always looking for good photographs of original tabs and other General officer insignia.  If you have something to contribute, please visit the submitting photos page.

 

 

 

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