Waffen-SS Zeltbahn camouflage

The SS started development of their own patterns in 1935 and the first regular designs appeared in 1936. Reversible camouflage smocks, helmet covers and shelter quarters were the first items to be issued. These early patterns were screen printed by hand, which did not allow large quantities of material to be produced efficiently. With the huge increase in demand as the war progressed, roller-printed versions of these and other patterns were introduced in 1940. They evolved during the war and were often combined to create new variants. Completely new patterns were introduced in 1944 and 1945, referred to as "pea" or "dot" pattern and "Leibermuster", respectively. The dot pattern was not used on shelter quarters. Leibermuster was intended to replace all others and to be used by all branches of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. Only small quantities of this final pattern were produced before the war ended.

The first two patterns shown here saw widespread use on shelter quarters, smocks and helmet covers. The second two patterns were used for all camouflaged garments and shelter quarters.

Plane Tree

This design was produced from approximately 1940 to 1944 and takes its name from the obvious similarity with plane tree bark. There are six basic variants of this pattern numbered 1 to 6. They were printed in pairs on the same screen. The right half of Plane Tree no. 1 was on the same printing screen as the right half of no. 2, for example. The same applies to the left halves, also for patterns 3 and 4, and 5 and 6, respectively. Similar designs can be found on each combination of numbers. The patterns were designed in such a way that the colours and designs matched when Zeltbahnen were joined together.

Plane Tree number 1 summer side camouflagePlane Tree number 1 autumn side camouflage

The numbers usually appeared on each section near the reinforcing panel in the lower centre of the triangle. The number 1 can be clearly seen on the summer and autumn sides of this early section.

Plane Tree numbers 5 and 5 camouflagePlane Tree number 6 summer side camouflage

The similarity in the shared screen design is demonstrated by this early Zeltbahn which is made of no. 5 and 6 panels.

Oak Leaf pattern

This roller-printed design appeared in two distinct styles which are today known as Oak Leaf A and Oak Leaf B. The basic Oak Leaf pattern was also used as a base design for later Plane Tree designs. Oak Leaf type A was introduced in 1941; dated examples indicate that the B design was certainly in use by 1943. It has less distinct edges than the A type and features thin ringed outlined designs. Both patterns continued in use until 1945.

Oak Leaf type A summer and autumn camouflageOak Leaf type B summer and autumn camouflage

The type A shown above is a mid-war shelter quarter. The type B, which has only one small grommet next to the large one on the lower left corner, is a late-war item. Increasing material shortages resulted in simplified production methods. Some very late shelter quarters have no grommets, buttons or button holes at all.

Copyright © 2002 David Gregory

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