Uniforms of the German Army 1939-45

Part Ten: Naval artillery

By Jay Moffatt

As in all navies, the Kriegsmarine of World War II had a number of units which were permanently shore-based. However, unlike other navies, these personnel were issued field grey, army-style uniforms.

At the beginning of the war, there were seven active Navy Artillery Battalions, consisting of two to six companies each (though three or four was the norm). These battalions were charged initially with protecting the coasts and harbours of Germany. With the fall of Norway, France and the Low Countries, these units were expanded to include four large-calibre navy batteries between Calais and Boulogne. These were to be used during the planned invasion of Britain to provide the initial shore bombardment of the Dover area, and prevent the Royal Navy from interfering with the invasion fleet. These batteries engaged in a few artillery duels with their British counterparts between 1942 and 1944.

When the invasion was scrubbed in late 1940 in favour of starving Britain into submission, additional Navy Artillery and Flak companies were formed to protect the many new U-boat bases being built on the Atlantic coast. As well, in mid-1941, battalions were formed to fortify the Channel islands and the coast of Norway.

In March 1942, Fuhrer Directive 40 provided detailed instructions for the construction and defense of what was to become known as the Atlantic Wall. This meant a massive expansion of the Navy Artillery, with some 100 battalions being created by the end of the war. (In 1941/42, the companies within each battalion were redesigned as Batterien, or batteries, to place them in line with other artillery unit designations.)

Navy units were primarily deployed to defend ports, harbours, river estuaries and other points critical to naval operations; Wehrmacht Coast Artillery (Heeres-Kusten-Artillerie) were responsible for "filling-in" the coastal areas between these points by covering possible landing sites. The Navy Artillery units were normally situated directly on the coast, and used a direct-fire control procedure similar to that used on ships. (This also exposed them to direct fire from enemy ships.) Wehrmacht Coastal Artillery was positioned further inland, which protected them from air and naval attack, but limited their ability to track and engage enemy ships and landing craft. Most of the Navy Artillery battalions were separate from the Wehrmacht, and under the control of the Commandant of Sea Defences responsible for given coastal sectors.

The batteries themselves generally had no fixed organization or assignment of weapons. Their internal organization varied greatly, even between batteries within the same battalion. Just about any type, calibre, number and mix of weapons could be found; often weapons of the occupied country in which the battery was located were employed.

Air Defense Units

A large number of Navy Air Defense Artillery companies were created after the start of the war. While these units were already an integral part of the Navy Artillery, in the winter of 1939/40 these companies (later redesigned as Batterien in 1941/42) were detached to form their own battalions. Though there was no standard organization, most of the battalions had four to six batteries: some would be Heavy Batteries (using the 88mm AA gun), some would be light (using 2cm and 3.7cm AA guns), and one would usually be a searchlight battery. Most Marine-Flak-Regimenten were under navy control, but would occasionally be put under army or Luftwaffe control.

Flight Reporting Battalions and Navy Radar Battalions, as the name implies, were used to provide early warning of enemy aircraft along the coast of Germany (but no where else).

NCO Instruction and Sailor Pool Battalions

Three NCO Instruction Battalions provided instruction in advanced seamanship and NCO duties, while the Sailor Pool Battalions provided basic training for new sailors. The reason both these Battalions were issued a field grey uniform was that besides their seamanship instruction, they were instructed in infantry-type tactics to prepare them for possible landing-party duties.

Other units, such as Navy Smoke Battalions and transport battalions were also formed or expanded after the beginning of the war.

Service dress

The beginning of the war saw shore-based members of the Kriegsmarine dressed in two types of uniform. The first was the M1936 Feldbluse described in Part One; all buttons, however, were gold-coloured, rather than the silver of the Wehrmacht. However, photos also exist showing members of the Navy Artillery dressed in the pre-war Reichsheere tunic. This jacket dates back to 1919, and appears to have been worn for the first few months of the war. Like the M1936, the tunic was thigh-length, with two pleated patch breast pockets and three-point flaps. However, unlike the M1936, it had two internal skirt pockets, closed by plain flaps set on a slight angle. The tunic also had six gold-coloured buttons, rather than five, and appears to have been somewhat looser in cut than the M1936. A white shirt with black tie was worn under both versions of the tunic; stone-grey trousers and high marching boots completed both uniforms. Officers wore flared breeches and black riding boots, or straight trousers and black laced-top shoes.

Headgear consisted of the Schiffchen, or little boat, and was worn by both officers and enlisted men. It was of the same cut as the Feldmutze, but with gold yellow embroidered national emblem and a gold inverted-V (^) on the front, rather than the branch colour (Waffenfarbe) of the Wehrmacht. All ranks also wore the Dienstmutze, which was the same as the Wehrmachtís Schirrmutze, but with dark green piping round the upper and lower edges of the cap band and edge of the crown, rather than the branch colour. The national emblem and oak leaf wreath were also gold-coloured. The enlisted manís version had a black leather chin strap, with silver cords for officers; both were held in place with gold buttons. The steel combat helmet (Stahlhelm) was the same as that of the Wehrmacht, except that the eagle-and-swastika decal was in yellow rather than white. Like other branches, these were ordered removed in 1940, though this order was more widely ignored in the Kriegsmarine than in the other branches.

As the war progressed, the same economies that changed the Wehrmacht uniform also changed the Kriegsmarine uniform. Field grey trousers and breeches began to replace the stone grey ones in 1940. The M1936 tunic was gradually replaced by the M1943 and M1944 tunics. In 1941, the ankle boots began to replace the high marching boot (though this process would have been slower than in the Wehrmacht).


Insignia for shore-based units was something of a hybrid between Heer and Kriegsmarine insignia. As in the Kriegsmarine, insignia was generally in gold thread, rather than silver. The eagle-and-swastika on the right breast was in gold thread on a dark green backing. The Litzen on the collar was the same as in the Wehrmacht, but with a gold-coloured centre stripe.

One major difference between Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine was the shoulder strap: whereas the shoulder strap on army tunics was rounded at the top, the Kriegsmarine version was pointed for all enlisted ranks. As well, unlike the Wehrmacht, no Waffenfarbe or arm-of service piping was worn around the outer edge of the shoulder strap; instead, the Kriegsmarine used a variety of badges to denote branch of service (or department). For shore-based artillery, the following badges were the most common:

coastal artillery -- winged grenade;

Aircraft Flight Reporting units -- four lightning bolts with wing superimposed;

Sailorís pool -- crossed anchors;

PO instructors -- fouled anchor.

All seamen below NCO rank (or rating) wore a plain shoulder strap with embroidered badge in the center. Navy NCOs had silver pips and gold or golden-yellow Tresse around the edge of the shoulder strap to denote rating, with gold-coloured badges in the center of the strap denoting their department. As well, golden-yellow Tresse was worn around the edge of the collar, in the same manner as in the Wehrmacht. The Chief Warrant Officer (equivalent to the Hauptfeldwebel) also wore two stripes of golden-yellow Tresse around each forearm 3 15/16 inches above the bottom of the sleeve.

A second series of badges denoted the various trades within each department. For shore-based units, some of the badges worn were:

grenade ball with three flames, and with two chevrons below -- Coast Artillery Gun Leader, apprentice and specialist respectively;

grenade ball with three flames and wings -- AA Coast Artillery Gun Leader (Prior to 1939/40. After 1939/40, badge changed to winged grenade, with one and two chevrons denoting 2nd and 1st Gun Leader respectively.)

Rangefinder, with one and two chevrons below -- Range Taker, with one chevron for AA qualification, two chevrons for petty officerís rate

These were in golden-yellow thread on dark green backing cloth (field-grey after mid-war) with small gold chevrons underneath denoting grade (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd class). Trade badges were worn centered on the upper left arm, below any rank chevrons.

Officersí shoulder insignia was virtually identical to those of the army for all grades. Lieutnants to Commodores used silver-coloured braid with gold-coloured pips. The colour underlay cloth was dark green for officers on active duty, black for reserve officers. Gold-coloured metal devices were worn in the center of the shoulder strap to denote the officerís department.

As well, various numbers and letters were worn on the shoulder straps to identify the wearerís unit. These were golden-yellow embroidery for other ranks and junior NCOs, and gold-coloured metal for officers and senior NCOs. After the beginning of the war, the wearing of these devices was generally restricted for security reasons, but compliance varied.

Tropical uniforms

Shore-based naval personnel in tropical areas were initially issued the same warm-weather uniforms as the Wehrmacht -- either the desert uniform or the reed-green denims, depending on where the unit was serving. However, in 1943 a special sand-coloured cotton uniform was introduced. It consisted of a field blouse of the same basic cut at the field grey version exempt that it had an open collar. It could have internal slanted or pleated patch skirt pockets. No Litzen were worn, and the anchor buttons were painted sand colour for all personnel. Sand colored long and short-sleeve shirts with pleated patch pockets were issued with it. A black tie was worn when required (which was seldom). Matching tropical trousers, breeches and shorts were also provided. Normal black leather or standard army tropical footwear was worn with this uniform.

The tropical version of both the Feldmutze and tropical field cap were issued to all ranks. As well, a sand-coloured version of the Schirmmutze, with and-coloured crown, cap band and cloth-covered peak, was issued for officers.

Either gold yellow or cornflower blue insignia on a sand-coloured backing were used to denote insignia. However, I have also seen an NCO shoulder strap with the Tresse in navy blue. The shoulder straps were often a slightly darker shade than the rest of the uniform. Trade badges appear to have been done in red embroidery on an off-white background.

It should be noted that both the Wehrmacht reed-green and desert uniforms continued to be worn after the introduction of the navy tropical uniform.

Protective clothing

Shore-based naval personnel wore the same greatcoat as the Wehrmacht, but with gold buttons. Members of the coastal artillery were also issued the two-piece reversible winter outfit, in Wehrmacht colours.

Next: Naval Infantry