Shoulder or Cloth Insignia (Patches) > Foreign / International

German Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia - Bundeswehr Verbandsabzeichen

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Since someone asked for it...

In 1962, 7 years after the formation of the new German armed forces (Bundeswehr), colored shoulder sleeve insignia were introduced for wear on army uniforms. Obviously influenced by the U.S. Army patches these new "Verbandsabzeichen" were released for wear on the left shoulder of the grey army dress uniform (Dienstanzug).

While colored and subdued shoulder sleeve insignia and pocket patches are worn on  field uniforms of all military branches since the 1980's latest, the wear of SSI on dress uniforms is limited to army uniforms strictly. As mentioned before these SSI are worn on grey dress uniforms and the grey/blue coats (latest pattern with double button row). They are not worn on shirts, blouson, gala dress and  grey/blue coats with covered button row.

In general Verbandsabzeichen are made of woven cotton. These woven variants are officially issued and are worn by all ranks. Officers and NCOs can purchase hand embroidered (bullion) variants for their uniforms. A third variant does exist as well: Machine embroidered SSI were made in small quantities since the early 1960's. They do not exist for all units but can be found occasionally.
Hand and machine embroidered SSI can be found as "Lurex" variants as well. Lurex is a british brand name. In this case used by collectors for SSI with glittering golden or silver surface/heraldic elements.
A total of 162 different Verbandsabzeichen was released since 1962. A large amount of manufacturer's errors and color variants exists as well but I'll focus on the standard SSI first and foremost.

Some examples: SSI of the Joint Fire Support Training Center (Former Artillery School):
Left: Woven SSI
Center: Machine embroidered SSI
Right: Hand embroidered SSI

Appearance of the SSI on a soldiers uniform
Left: Subdued unit SSI (Artillerieschule) on field dress (Feldanzug)
Center: Hand embroidered SSI on dress uniform (Dienstanzug)
Right: Woven SSI on coat (Mantel)

A woven SSI of Heimatschutzbrigade 54 on a officialy issued Oberleutnant der Reserve uniform in the background compared to a privat purchased Oberstabsfeldwebel uniform with hand embroidered SSI of "Amt für Heeresentwicklung".

to be continued

Phill Lockett:
Hi Lars

Thanks for putting together a thread on German SSI and on what uniforms they are worn on.

What is Lurex , a type of woven cloth and why was it discontinued?

Please add more.


Hi Phill,

thanks for your feedback and your question! I used a vague term in my first post but corrected it right now. "Lurex" is the collector's term for SSI with golden or silver "glittering" surface or heraldic elements. These patches can be found still today. Machine embroidered insignia were discontinued for unknown reasons. They are still produced/offered by some manufacturers but no longer for sale at the Kleiderkasse/LHBw.

Verbandsabzeichen can be identified rather easily. The heraldic shield of the insignia of the Ministry of Defense and other higher commands is generally divided into 3 parts, the national colors black, red and gold (actually a metal). This shield is superimposed by another (golden) shield with federal eagle or other symbols e.g. the iron cross. Commands differ from each other by various border colors. The federal eagle is the highest heraldic element and reserved for higher commands down to Corps level.

Please find attached another picture of my collection (displayed is always a pair of machine woven and hand embroidered SSI).

First and second row: Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (BMVg - Ministry of Defense) and various higher commands including: Territorialkommandos Schleswig-Holstein (SH), Nord, Süd, Ost.
Third row: Wehrbereichskommando (Military District Command) I - VIII
Fourth row: Heeresführungskommando, I., II., III., IV. Korps including Panzerregiment 100, 200, 300 (Corps insignia with pink border).
Fifth row: NATO, EU, Multi-national Commands.


Two close-ups:

Close-up of a so called "Lurex" insignia with glittering golden color (red encircled - WBK V):

to be continued

Referring to the existing SSI one could categorize the German army (Heer = ground forces) easily into two parts. First the higher commands like the army department and the army training command with subordinated schools, training centers and (former) training units. Secondly the field army with it's corps, divisions and brigades etc.

Members of the first-mentioned commands, schools and training units wear a red shield with the symbol of the German ground forces, the crossed swords. School's and traning center's SSI show the letter "S" in addition and a colored border, in most cases the branch insignia's color. The school's training mission is supported be special training units "Lehrverbände". Depending on the branch and their mission the training unit's size varies from company to brigade level. These units wore the branch color bordered insignia of the school they supported with the letter "L" (Lehr- = training). Today all training units are under opcon of field army units so all of the "L" letter training unit patches are obsolete.

Once again, you'll find the different unit's designations here:

Some close-ups, as usual woven SSI on the left, hand embroidered ones on the right:

Until German unification the German Bundeswehr ground forces were structured into 3 army corps with 12 divisions and 36 combat brigades. In most cases the army division's insignia consits of heraldic elements related to the mission (airborne, mountain) or the coat of arms of the state or region the division was deployed. 

Members of the division HQ and divisional units are wearing the division SSI with black/white border. Members of the division's 1st brigade are wearing the same patch with white border, 2nd brigade with red border and 3rd brigade with yellow border. These borders do of course NOT indicate a branch but are part of the "Prussian color sequence" (Preussische Farbfolge). The prussians introduced a  6 colors sequence to distinguish different sub-units of a regiment, brigade, division etc. The color sequence is:
1. = white
2. = red
3. = yellow
4. = blue
5. = green
6. = brown/black

For example the patches of the 4. Panzergrenadierdivision (Armored Infantry Division) with the 3 brigades (Panzergrenadierbrigade 10 & 11, Panzerbrigade 12)

Pictures of divisions 1-10 and their brigades 1-30.

The close-ups. Machine woven patches on the left, hand embroidered variants on the right.

Top row of the next picture: 11. Panzergrenadierdivision and 12. Panzerdivision with brigades 31 - 36. So far the Bw cold war structure.

to be continued


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