Wehrmacht camouflage patterns

The German armed forces used a range of similar designs that evolved from the early 1930s until 1945. The basic style is referred to as the splinter pattern by most collectors and authors.

Army splinter pattern

Splinter pattern camouflage materialDark and light sides of reversible splinter pattern material

This was the basic pattern developed for the German armed forces in 1932. The original German term for this design was Buntfarbenaufdruck. It was used for the standard camouflaged Zeltbahn 31 issued to all units of the army, navy and airforce until 1945. It consisted of green and brown splintered designs printed on a grey/green or grey/tan base colour with a further disruptive "raindrop" design printed on top. The pattern was roller-applied and repeated approximately every 44 cm. The standard design was printed in lighter colours on one side of the Zeltbahn material, and more subdued colours on the other.

The coloured geometric design was not new, as similar colours and styles had already been used on German helmets during World War One and even earlier on naval vessels.

The pattern was also used on other materials to make padded reversible winter suits, mittens, smocks and helmet covers, among other items. These materials were usually only printed on one side and thinner than the cotton duck used for shelter quarters.

Luftwaffe splinter pattern

The German airforce also developed a slightly smaller version of this design for the camouflaged paratroopers smock introduced in 1941 and the field jacket for Luftwaffe ground troops introduced in 1942. This style is often referred to as splinter B. The only other documented use of the Luftwaffe pattern material was for helmet covers, grenade pouches and ammunition pouches developed for use by paratroopers. With the exception of scraps of material used for small and often hidden reinforcing sections of Zeltbahnen, the Luftwaffe pattern material is not known to have been used for shelter quarters.

Tan water pattern

This modified version of the standard splinter design was introduced in 1943. A red-brown shade was added and the clear-cut edges of the splinter shapes were diffused, although the basic structure of the pattern remained. The pattern changed again in 1944 and the edges between the splinter areas virtually disappeared. The raindrop design was retained throughout.

Tan water pattern camouflageTan water pattern variants

This pattern saw widespread use on smocks, padded winter jackets and trousers, toques, helmet covers, gloves, camouflage aprons and gas protection suits. However, it was not used for Zeltbahn shelter quarters.

Copyright © 2002-2003 David Gregory

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