NATIONALE VOLKSARMEE

SERVICE, WALKING OUT, AND PARADE UNIFORMS

(Expanded)

By Lou Brown

Re-Printed from “Die Nationale Volksarmee –

Journal for the Society of East German Militaria Collectors,

# 3, Spring 1994

The following is a distillation of the 1986 clothing regulation (DV 010/0/005—Uniform Types and their Method of Wear). The intent is to provide an overview of the composition of the male version of the Dienst- (Service), Ausgangs- (Walking Out), and Parade-Uniformen for the Ground Forces (excluding parachute troops), Air/Air Defense Forces, Grenztruppen, and Civil Defense during the final years of the regime. (The 1990 regulation is not a true picture of the final uniforms; rather, it was a stop-gap, written to transition the NVA into unification with the Bundeswehr in the face of the realization that "the game was up.") Additionally, the uniforms of the Guards Regiments will be addressed. Because of the complexity of the subject, the uniforms of Army members who served in the Peoples' Navy are not addressed, nor are those of general officers. 

Color Plate Illustrations can be seen on this link to Ausgang Uniforms.

More than any other criteria, the conditions of service of an individual defined the composition of the uniform worn. There were, for practical purposes, two individual groupings. For the purpose of this article only, one will be called the "basic" group, the other the "career" group.

The basic group consisted of:

  • Draftees (Soldaten im Grundwehrdienst—conscripts serving their military obligation of 18 months);

  • Short service privates (Soldaten auf Zeit—individuals serving past the 18 month obligation up to 3 years);

  • NCO candidates (Unteroffizierschiiler);

  • Short service NCOs (Unteroffiziere auf Zeit—serving from 3 up to 10 years);

  • Reservists on active duty (Soldaten im Reservistenwehrdienst—for periods up to 3 months)

The career group (often referred to collectively as Berufssoldaten) consisted of:

  • Career status NCOs (Berufsunteroffiziere)

  • Warrant officers (Fahnriche), and officers (Offiziere)

  • Candidates for career-status NCO (Beruf sunterof fizierschiiler)

  • Warrant officer and officer candidates (Fahnrichschuler and Offizierschiiler)

  • Additionally, short service officers (Offiziere auf Zeit) wore the uniform of this group.

(NOTE: There was a minimum service obligation associated with the status of "career soldier"—10 years for NCOs, 15 for warrant officers, and 25 years for officers. These individuals could serve until they reached the retirement age of 65. Short service officers served at the pleasure of the ministry; they could not be promoted above the rank of Hauptmann (Captain). During the time the 1986 regulation was in force, the terms Unteroffizierschiiler and Berufsunterof fizierschiiler were changed to Gefreiter in der Ausbildung zum Unteroffizier auf Zeit (senior private in training as a short service NCO) and Gefreiter in der Ausbildung zum Berufsunteroffizier (senior private in training as a career NCO)

UNIFORM SEASONS of WEAR

The regulation provided for three uniform "Seasons":

  1. Winter, from 1 December through 28/29 February;

  2. Summer (sommer), from 16 April through 31 October; and

  3. two Transition (übergang) periods, 1 March to 15 April and 1 through 30 November.

The regulation is extremely and, in my opinion, unnecessarily complex in its layout and designation of uniforms.

Rather than designating the basic components of a uniform and listing the "accessories" (e.g., overcoat, gloves, winter hat, etc.) which could be ordered worn with it (the 1990 regulation does this, but by then, there were only three authorized uniforms), each possible variation was given a separate numerical designation which, when coupled with the season, defined the specific uniform to be worn. There were, for example, 5 forms of the service dress prescribed for career personnel - Number 3 Transition and Number 5 Winter are the same except that the winter cap is substituted for the visor cap in the latter. In the following, the Number 1 summer uniform (except as noted below) will provide the vehicle for discussion.

 SERVICE UNIFORM (DIENSTUNIFORM)

 Occasions for wear:

  • Instruction indoors

  • Daily and interior duty

  • For duty at border crossing sites (Grenztruppen)

  • For garrison patrol duty (NCOs and above only)

  • For guard duty (officers only)

  • When ordered by officers for inspections and/or checking training or other activities

 

Basic Group.

(There was no summer version of this uniform for this category of individual—the summer field uniform was worn instead. The uniform described below is the number 1 transition.) The duty uniform worn by members of this group consisted of the service jacket worn with trousers, boots, the field belt (made of grey nylon with a brass buckle painted grey), and the field cap (among the more printable nicknames, the "envelope cap"; NCOs wore the visor cap with a black leather chin strap). All uniform components, including the field and visor cap (the latter piped in the Waffenfarbe - see link), were made of Streichgarn, (the so-called "wooly" material commonly called "enlisted cloth"). The jacket had a 5-button front and was piped with the "Waffenfarbe” ("branch" or "arm" color—white for the land and civil defense forces, light green for the border troops, and light blue for the air and air defense forces) around the tops of the cuff only. The collar was convertible - that is, it could be worn with the top button and collar hook open and the lapels folded back, or closed. With the service uniform, it was worn closed (i.e., the collar hook and top button were fastened) and the collar liner (sometimes referred to as a "collar bind") buttoned in place. The trousers were also made of Streichgarn and were unpiped. They had large belt loops (when the shirt was worn as an outer garment, the black belt was worn through these loops). With this form of dress, they were correctly worn by first pulling the slack in the lower legs tight at the rear crease, then folding the excess material toward the front on the outside of the leg before inserting the leg into the boot. The boots (Halbschaftstiefel - literally "half shaft boots") were roomy at the calf and made of pebbled leather. For duty indoors, the boots could be omitted and black low quarter shoes substituted; they were worn with solid-colored black or grey socks.

 

Career Group.

These individuals wore uniforms made of Kamragarn (what most collectors call "gabardine"—it has a smooth finish and a distinct texture). The service uniform consisted of the visored cap, uniform jacket, silver-grey shirt-jacket (Hemdbluse) and tie, breeches, high boots, and the brown belt with open-face buckle. All career soldiers wore this uniform - even privates joining in a career status to become career NCOs - with the proper insignia of rank. The jacket had a four-button front with permanently pressed-back lapels. Both the collar and cuffs were piped in the Waffenfarbe. The breeches were tight on the lower leg, roomier in the bloused portion across the thighs. The Hemdbluse was of heavy broadcloth in a silver-grey color and, when properly sized, extended well over the waistband of the breeches. The front and cuffs were closed by aluminum buttons, while a clear plastic button closed the neck. The pleated pockets were closed with straight pocket flaps secured by two buttons each. The bottom of the jacket was equipped with adjustable elastic on the sides and loops to secure the belt when the shirt was worn as an outer garment. Additionally, there were tabs on the interior of each upper sleeve; when the sleeves were rolled up, these tabs buttoned to a clear plastic button on the upper outside of the arm to hold the folds of the sleeve in place. There were the usual provisions at the shoulder to accept the Shulterklappen (enlisted shoulder straps) or Schulterstucke (officer/warrant officer shoulder boards). The boots (Schaftstiefel—shaft or high boots) were made of black chrome leather with a polished finish and were higher than the soldiers' Halbschaftstiefel; they fit more tightly in the calf and were popularly worn pushed down, causing them to wrinkle around the ankles. The necktie (Binder) was a dark shade of olive and was pre-tied and attached around the neck with an elastic band. The "summer coat" - which most collectors refer to as a raincoat - could optionally be worn

(but not in formation); it was a belted trenchcoat design made of impregnated fabric in a distinct olive shade. Additionally, a rain cape of similar materials and color could also be worn in lieu of the raincoat. NCO-, warrant officer-, and officer-candidates wore the field cap with this uniform while attending instruction but only within the confines of the instructional institution.

 

Guards.

Career status members of Guards regiments (the "Friedrich Engles" Regiment provided ceremonial troops in the capital, while troops performing similar duties in other locations were members of the "NVA Guards Regiment") wore the uniform specified above. Basic category soldiers wore a special uniform jacket which was exactly like the wooly uniform except that it was made of Kamragarn (gaberdine cloth); i.e., it was piped only around the cuffs (no collar piping) and the collar could be closed to the throat, which it was when worn as the duty uniform. Because of their status as "Show Troops," Guards personnel were issued breeches and high boots (career pattern field boots—they were like Shaftstiefel worn by career soldiers but of pebbled leather like the normal soldier's boot), which were worn with the service uniform. Caps were also the career pattern, being made of gabardine. With the substitution of the boots and breeches (or trousers and low quarters for interior duty - for the trouser description see the walking out uniform for Guards below), the uniform was worn otherwise as for basic group personnel.

STAFF SERVICE UNIFORM (Stabsdienstuniforra)

 

This is a special and distinct category of uniform, not a variant of the service dress. It is included here because of its relation to the service dress. Career personnel only were permitted to wear it when employed on interior duties. It differs from the service dress in that trousers and low quarter shoes were substituted for boots and breeches and the belt was left off. Career pattern trousers were made of Kammgarn and piped down the outer leg seam in the wearer's Waffenfarbe. They lacked belt loops and were adjusted by elastic tapes on the interior of the waistband. Normal shoes were plain-toe black oxfords with a polished finish worn with black or grey socks. This version of the duty uniform could also be worn at instructional institutions; NCO-, warrant officer- and officer-candidates could be ordered to wear the field cap with it within the confines of the institution. The summer coat or cape was also optional with this uniform style.

 

 

WALKING OUT UNIFORM (Ausgangsuniform—literally, "Going Out Uniform")

 

Occasions for wear:

  • Walking out (i.e., leaving the barracks for pass/privileges) and leave

  • When attending festivals and cultural expositions

  • Receptions and festive occasions

 

Basic Group.

This uniform was composed of the Streichgarn uniform jacket and trousers worn with the visor cap. The jacket was worn with the collar and first button open (without the collar liner) and the silver-grey dress shirt (Oberhemd) was worn with the dark olive tie, the latter was the same as that issued to careerists. The Oberhemd was made of the same shade silver grey cloth as the careerists' Hemdbluse; however, it was constructed like a normal "tuck-in" shirt with two pleated patch breast pockets with scalloped flaps closed by a single button. There were loops and holes at the shoulder to accept Schulterklappen (they were not worn under the jacket, however) and the buttons were distinct in being only 12 mm in diameter. They were constructed of pebbled bright aluminum without the flat ring found around the rim of most other NVA buttons. The trousers were worn unbloused over black low quarter shoes. With this form of dress, the black leather belt with silver buckle bearing the DDR seal was worn.

 

Career Group.

 For careerists, the service jacket was worn with piped long trousers over low quarters. A white shirt jacket substituted for the grey Hemdbluse; plain shirts like a civilian dress shirt were also optionally available and worn (they were also available in grey). Wear of these shirts was restricted to situations in which the jacket was worn and would not be removed. The normal necktie was worn as was the visor cap. The belt was not worn.

 

Guards.

 For career personnel, as above. Basic group personnel wore the uniform as for those of this group in non-guards units but made of Kammgarn. Trousers for this form of dress for the Guards were made of gabardine, but in the non-career pattern, i.e., they were unpiped and had the large belt loops. In place of the black belt, the brown leather belt with open buckle (career pattern) was worn. The necktie for Guards units was the normal deep olive pattern, not black as claimed by some.

PARADE UNIFORM (Paradeuniform)

 

Occasions for wear:

  • In parades and honor guards

  • In honor formations and wreath-laying delegations

  • To formations on state holidays and NVA Day (1 March), Border Troops Day (1 December), and Civil Defense Day (11 February)

  • When attending military ceremonies

  • By enlisted soldiers when performing duties as part of a garrison patrol or taking part in and official trip

Basic Group.

The parade uniform for the basic group of soldiers consisted of the Streichgarn jacket and trousers, worn with the Oberhemd and tie. The trousers were bloused into the boots as with the service uniform, and the black leather belt was worn. The usual headgear was the steel helmet, though the regulation specifies that the visor cap could be worn on order (as it surely was for official trips and garrison patrol duty).

Career Group.

Careerists wore the gabardine jacket and breeches with high boots. The white Hemdbluse with dark olive tie was worn. The visor cap was specified as the usual headgear, with the steel helmet to be worn on order. The brown leather belt with open buckle was worn by all persons below the rank of Unterleutnant (the lowest officer grade). Officers only added the brocade belt (Feldbinde), aiguillette (Achselschnur), and the dagger (Dolch) to complete their parade uniforms.

 

Guards.

 Career Guards personnel wore the uniform as specified above. Non-careerists wore the gabardine jacket with open collar and the grey shirt and tie. Breeches and pebbled boots, worn with the helmet and brown leather belt completed the uniform. Certain Guards units - the "Engles" regiment for sure—were issued a special "parade helmet" made of plastic for wear during ceremonies or while standing ceremonial guard. Additionally, Guards enlisted personnel only wore the "Representation Lanyard” (Reprasentationsschnur), a braided silver-colored double cord ending in two acorns, from the right shoulder of the jacket. It was worn only during major ceremonies. The garrison commander of the capital, Berlin, was empowered to specify the uniform to be worn in the capital while performing ceremonial duties. As a result, the "Fredrich Engles" Guards Regiment exhibited the following peculiarities during major parades and ceremonies: in place of the grey Oberhemd, a white Hemdbluse was worn; careerist-style chrome leather boots were worn in place of the pebbled field boots, white belts constructed exactly like the brown careerists belt were worn; and all jackets were of the career-pattern (i.e., piped at both collar and cuffs - these were only worn during ceremonies, the normal version of Kammgarn jacket with the unpiped collar being worn on other occasions).

WEARING of AWARDS/INSIGNIA

 Basic soldiers were not allowed to wear awards on the service uniform; they were mandatory on the parade and walking out uniform as they were on all three forms of dress for careerists. On the service and walking out uniforms, medal ribbons (Interimspangen) were worn, while the parade uniform demanded wear of the full medals (Medaille am Band—the "gong on a ribbon") for state awards. Non-state awards, as well as badges, were also worn. On occasions when officers wore the Gesellschaftuniform, personnel below officer rank wore the walking out dress with full medals. (In those forms of dress where the Oberhemd/Hemdbluse was was worn as an outer garment, special considerations applied. Wear of awards on the Oberhemd was not permitted. On the careerists' Hemdbluse, up to the 4-highest awards could be worn as Interimspangen, while officers could also wear their Absolventenabzeichen (Military School Graduate Badge) above the right breast pocket. No other insignia was permitted on the Hemdbluse.) NCOs of either category wore 9mm silver tape ("Tresse") around the jacket collar, while short service soldiers and NCOs wore a broad chevron of 15mm Tresse (point down) on the right sleeve (13cm from the sleeve ending) which denoted their status. Company first sergeants (Hauptfeldwebeln), the ranking NCO in every company or company-sized unit, wore a ring of 15mm Tresse around each sleeve 13cm from the cuff edge to denote his status.

 

(NOTE: Hauptfeldwebel was not a rank but, rather, a position; it could theoretically be held by an NCO of any rank. Additionally, some warrant officers performed the duties associated with company first sergeant; they too wore the cuff rings.)

 

The warrant officer patch was worn centered on the left sleeve, between 12 and 14 cm from the shoulder seam.

 

The Land and Air Forces wore the rank insignia on shoulder boards. The enlisted shoulder boards were of stone gray wool with silver tress for the NCO ranks. Officer shoulder boards were of flat laid silver cord for company grades and of braided silver cord for field grades. General officer shoulder boards were of braided silver and gold cord. Fähnrich (roughly equiva¬lent to warrant officer in the U.S. military) shoulder boards were of flat laid dark gray and silver cord. All shoulder boards were edged with the branch color or waffenfarben.

 

Branch colors (Waffenfarben) were:

White - motorized infantry and reconnaissance

Red - artillery

Pink - armor

Black - engineer, chemical, technical services

Yellow - signal, radar

Orange - parachute

Dark green - rear services, finance, military justice

Light green - border troops

Light blue - air force, aviation units

Dark gray - air defense

Olive green - construction units

 

Gefreiters wore silver metal bars on their shoulder boards, NCOs wore silver pips, and Fähnrichs and officers wore gold pips.

 

In 1986 the NVA introduced a system of patches with bars and pips to designate rank on flight suits and technicians’ coveralls, etc. for identification purposes. The patches were of stone gray background. The bars and pips for enlisted ranks were silver. The vertical narrow bars for warrant officer students were gold. Warrant officer patches had silver bars with gold pips. The wide vertical bars for officer students were gold. Patches for company grade and field grade officers had a combination of silver bars and gold pips. Patches for general officers had a gold bar and silver five-pointed stars. The Marshals patch had a gold bar and one large five-pointed star (apparently this grade was never awarded).

VOLKSMARINE

 

(NOTE – Seasonal Uniform Schedules for the NVA DO NOT apply to the Navy.)

Naval personnel also wore their rank insignia on shoulder boards (technically, they were called shoulder straps for enlisted personnel of all services and shoulder boards for officers of all services). Naval enlisted shoulder boards were of navy blue wool with gold tress and silver pips, depending on the grade, and career status NCOs wore their career specialty insignia (Dienst - laufbahnabzeichen) in gold metal on the shoulder boards. The placement of the silver pips was roughly the same as for the land and Air Forces. All shoulder boards were edged in navy blue with the exception of those for aviation personnel which were edged in Air Force blue (technically ,this edging is called piping).

 

Enlisted naval personnel below the rank of Meister also wore a combined rank and career specialty badge in cloth on the left sleeve of the navy blue and white middy blouses. A gold-on-blue badge was worn on the blue blouse and a blue on white badge was worn on the white blouse.

 

Meisters were the equivalent of the Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. They wore a distinctive uniform, similar to that of officers. They wore their rank and career specialty insignia only on the shoulder board. They did not wear any insignia on the cuff or sleeve of the uniform jacket.

 

Naval warrant officers (Fähnrich) wore shoulder boards that were of the same construction as those of the Land and Air Forces with the exception that the outer rows of flat laid cord were of navy blue. Gold pips were worn on the warrant officer shoulder boards. Naval warrant officer wore a navy blue DDR emblem patch on the left upper sleeve. Naval warrant officers also wore narrow bands of gold braid denoting rank on the cuff of both sleeves of the uniform jacket, which was spaced the same as for officers.

 

Naval officer shoulder boards were constructed in the same manner as those for the Land and Air Forces and were edged in navy blue, with the exception of those for aviation personnel which were edged in Air Force blue. Gold pips were worn on the officer shoulder boards and were spaced in the same manner as those of the Land and Air Forces. Additionally, naval officers wore gold bands of braid denoting rank on both sleeve cuffs with their career specialty insignia worn centered above the rank braid. 

NVA UNIFORM SIZING CODES

The NVA uniform size codes have several components, as shown below, which designate chest and waist size and garment length:

 

LENGTHS - - first letter(s) in the size code

SK = = extra short (sehrklein)

K = = short (klein)

M = = medium

G • t long (grosse)

SG = - extra long (sehrgrosse)

UG = « extra-extra long (ubergrosse)

 

CHEST SIZES - central number in the size code

44 = - small, approximately 34"-36"

48 = = medium , approximately 38"-40"

52 i = large, approximately 42"-44"

56 = = extra large, approximately 46"-48"

60 = = extra- extra large, approximately 50"-52

 

ADDITIONAL CHEST SIZES - secondary number in the size code -0 = approximately one size smaller than the main size •1 = approximately one size larger than the main size -2 = approximately two sizes larger than the main size

 

Some examples: K48 «» medium short

G44-1 = small (36"-37") long

UG60-2 = extra-extra large (54") very long

 

Note that there is some variation in the sizing, especially with trousers and breeches, which obviously are sized by waist and not chest size. However, the conversions remain generally true for all clothing - a 44 is usually a small, a 48 is a medium, etc. Occasionally other odd sizes, such as 50, may be encountered, especially in non-military uniforms.