GORDON WILLIAMSON, Illustrated by STEPHEN ANDREW
GERMAN MOUNTAIN & SKI TROOPS 1939-45
As a German division, this unit wore the SS runes on the collar patch.
Cuff-titles were authorised and worn by the regiments 'Reinhard Heydrich' and 'Michael Gaissmair'. The former was manufactured in a number of forms machine-embroidered silver- grey thread on a black woven band with woven aluminium thread edging (generally known to collectors as the 'RZM' style); machine-woven in aluminium wire thread on a black woven band with woven aluminium thread edging (generally referred to as the 'flat-wire' pattern); and machine-woven in a single operation in grey artificial silk thread on black (universally known as the 'BeVo' pattern). The 'Michael Gaissmair' cuff- title, however, is only known in the 'BeVo' pattern, and this pattern was worn by all ranks.
As a principally ethnic German unit, this division wore the so-called 'Odal Rune' on its collar patch rather than the normal SS runes. Those members who were German nationals, and thus full members of the SS, could wear a set of bullion thread embroidered SS runes on the left breast pocket.
Only a divisional title is known to have been worn. It has appeared in the 'RZM' and 'Flatwire' types but not in 'BeVo'. A machine-woven version is known, but is woven in fine silver-grey silk thread on black with its own characteristic lettering style. This type is known as the 'BeVo like' pattern.
As a non-German volunteer unit, this division was not permitted the SS runic collar patch. Instead the right hand collar patch displayed a hand grasping a scimitar with a small swastika on the lower left side of the patch, under the Scimitar blade. Once again, German cadre personnel could wear the SS runes on the breast pocket. The Croat national arm shield a heraldic shield with a red and white chequered field was worn by many divisional personnel, below the sleeve eagle on the left sleeve.
A special collar patch was designed and manufactured for the members of this predominantly Moslem, Albanian volunteer division but it does not appear to have been issued. German cadre personnel wore the standard SS runes while Albanian volunteers wore a plain blank patch.
A cuff-band in the 'BeVo like' pattern was issued, as was a special arm shield showing a black Albanian double-headed eagle on a red field.
A special collar patch was designed and manufactured for this division, showing a simple stylised sunflower motif, but it does not appear to have been issued. SS runes were worn by German cadre personnel and a plain blank patch by the Croat volunteer personnel.
A special collar patch bearing a so-called Karst flower motif was designed and probably manufactured, but was never issued to the division's personnel. No cuff-band or other special insignia was produced.
In addition to the normal forms of dress worn by all Wehrmacht personnel, mountain troops made wide use of cold-weather clothing, some of which was specific to their branch of the service.
Standard winter clothing included the padded winter suit. This was a heavy padded double-breasted jacket with hood attached. It was reversible, with grey or camouflage pattern on one side and white on the other. It had two large skirt pockets that gave access to the clothing underneath. With this jacket were worn a pair of matching overtrousers.
More specific to the Gebirgsjäger was the wind jacket, a lightweight waterproof cotton jacket intended for wear over the service tunic. It was double-breasted and olive green in colour (nonreversible). It had two skirt pockets, a half-belt at the rear and two slanted 'muff' pockets. The ends of the sleeves had strap adjustments to tighten the fit in cold weather. The Edelweiss arm patch was often worn, and the jacket was fitted with loops at the shoulder seam to take shoulder straps.
In 1942 an anorak with matching trousers was also introduced for Gebirgsjäger. It was in typical pullover style, with attached hood and a large, button-down flap covering to the neck opening. It had a large three-section pocket across the chest and a 'tail' strap attached to the rear of the skirt which could be passed through the wearer's legs and fastened to a button on the skirt front. There were also two rear pockets on the lower skirt. The anorak had a drawstring waist and adjustable tapes on the cuffs. Overtrousers were supplied with the anorak and had a drawstring waist fitting. The anorak and trousers were reversible from grey to white.
Although the standard jackboot and ankle-boot did see service with mountain troop personnel, when operating in mountain terrain the mountain- boot was used. This was an ankle-boot with double thickness sole. As well as the usual hobnails in the sole and heel of the boot, the edges to the sole and heel were also fitted with studs, in pairs spaced around the sole, and all around the heel. It was lace fastened, through five pairs of eyelets, with four pairs of hooks above the eyelets. The boot was usually used in conjunction with mountain trousers and puttees.
The mountain trouser was similar to standard army trousers, but had a fairly wide leg, tapered at the bottom to allow it to be tucked into the mountain-boot. Each leg had a slash at the bottom for adjustment and was fitted with securing tapes. The seat and inside of the legs were reinforced.
The puttee was made from grey-green woollen cloth some 30 inches long, and was pointed at one end, with a small strap-and-buckle fastening. Once fully wound on, the pointed end was visible on the outside of the ankle, with the point towards the rear.
With the standard ankle-boot, greyish brown canvas gaiters could be worn. These were attached by two leather straps which were worn to the outside of the ankle when the gaiters were fitted.
As light infantry, Gebirgsjäger were eligible for the award of the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver, after taking part in three separate engagements with the enemy. They were also eligible for the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze after 15 days of close quarter battle, in Silver after 30 days and Gold after 50 days.
There were no combat badges produced specifically for Gebirgsjäger, but there were a number of campaign and other decorations which, although not specifically intended for Gebirgsjäger, were awarded to mountain troops in considerable numbers.
Instituted on 19 August 1940 to recognise those personnel who had taken part in the battle for Narvik.
The award took the form of a shield with an eagle and swastika with folded wings at the top, over a panel bearing the title 'Narvik'. Below this, on the main field, was the date 1940 and motifs representing the three branches of the services involved - an Edelweiss for the Gebirgsjäger, a propeller for the Luftwaffe and an anchor for the navy. As worn by Gebirgsjäger it was in a silvered finish and attached to a field grey backing cloth to allow it to be stitched to the upper left sleeve.
Of 8577 awarded, 2755 were to Gebirgsjäger.
Authorised by the commander of 20.Gebirgsarmee, General der Gebirgstruppe Böhme, the Lapland Shield was the last German decoration of the Second World War; in fact its issue did not take place until after the war had ended.
The shield showed a relief map of the Lapland region, with the title 'Lappland' above, and at the top of the shield an eagle with folded wings and no swastika. As the shield did not feature this (by then) prohibited emblem, the British forces in Norway, to whom the Germans had surrendered at the end of the war, allowed the manufacture of this shield and its distribution to the troops. (It is unlikely, however, that any would actually have been worn, and that they were simply preserved by their recipients as commemorative pieces.) They were extremely crudely manufactured, usually cast in aluminium, though some were simply etched onto a piece of flat aluminium sheet.
Instituted on 16 October 1942 to reward those who had taken part in the battle for Crete, in which of course the Gebirgsjäger played a significant role, this award consisted of a white cloth band with golden yellow Russia Braid edging. In the centre was the legend 'Kreta', flanked on either side by a spray of acanthus leaves. It was worn on the lower left sleeve.
Not strictly a Gebirgsjäger award, but in view of the role played by mountain divisions, especially those of the Waffen-SS, in the anti-partisan war in the Balkans, it is one for which many Gebirgsjäger would have qualified.
It was instituted by Himmler in January 1944, and consisted of a vertical wreath of oakleaves with a deaths head device at the base. In the centre was a writhing multi-headed serpent into which a sword was plunged. The sword bears a 'sunwheel' swastika on its hilt. It was awarded in bronze finish for 20 days anti-partisan combat service, silver for 50 days and gold for 150 days.
On the back was a vertical hinged pin fitting. Authenticated examples have been encountered with both needle and wide flat pins, and with the reverse face either solid or semi-hollow struck.
Instituted in August 1936 to recognise those personnel who were qualified mountain guides, this badge consists of an enamelled metal oval with white outer border and green central field onto which is mounted a silvered Edelweiss with gilt stamens.
At the base is the title 'Heeresbergführer' in gothic characters. It was to have been worn on the left breast pocket, but seems also to have been commonly worn on the right.
In addition to the various national level military awards that were awarded, many individual divisions, regiments and even companies instituted their own, strictly unofficial, commemorative awards. A number are known which relate specifically to mountain units.
Type 1: The obverse bears a representation of mountain peaks over an Edelweiss flower. Above is the legend 'Kaukasuseinsatz' and below '13/Geb.Jag.Rgt.98'. The reverse bears the names of the battles in which the unit fought - Kluchorpass, Glitschal, Gunailatal and Schemacho, all over the year 1942. The medal is struck in zinc and was produced for 13 Kompanie, Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98, part of 1.Gebirgs-Division.
Type 2: The obverse of this version bears a representation of mountain peaks over which flies a pennant in the design of the Reichskriegsflagge. At the top is the legend 'Kaukasus 1942'. The reverse bears the tactical symbol of the unit over which is superimposed an Edelweiss. This medal was produced for Gebirgs-Nachrichten Abteilung 54, also a part of 1.Gebirgs-Division.
This medal is in blackened zinc. On the obverse is the Edelweiss and on the reverse at the top, the year '1942' followed by the legend 'Eismeerfront' in pseudo-gothic characters, and at the bottom, the year '1943'. It is not known to which specific unit this medal relates.