The 1916 Uniform

With the war dragging on with no foreseeable end in sight, the German Army had to readjust its procurement practices. At the outbreak of the war, German, and by extension Bavarian, uniforms were elaborate in terms of trims, insignia and other style characteristics that indicated what exact regiment or corps that the wearer belonged to.

Even with the introduction of the feldgrau uniform starting in 1907, trims and insignia could still be elaborate. In many instances, it was considered to be excessive yet the German War Ministry allowed it as a concession to the force of tradition. However,by 1915 it had become quite obvious that given the increasing manpower needs of the army combined with growing shortages of various basic materials such as wood, cloth dyes, metals, and the like, it was evident to all that changes were going to have to be made in uniform/clothing production if the ever-expanding army was to be adequately clothed.

In response, the German War Ministry started work on a new set of uniform regulations that were ultimately released in 1916. The most notable reform was the introduction of the 1915 Bluse. Essentially the Bluse was an extremely simplified tunic that used no metal except for the shoulder buttons, side belt hooks, and rear belt ramps. Also, what metal buttons that were used were all of a common pattern and the distinct right and left-facing Bavarian “lion” buttons were no longer to be used. Finally, the buttons were to be dulled with a brown-colored coating or painted over in a feldgrau color. Also, somewhat over-optimistically, a “peacetime” uniform was also provided for that was more elaborate and intended for use solely for parade and formal occasions. From what can be determined, few of these were produced on an official level and what examples that do survive were private purchase items. Interestingly enough, facing colors for many regiments were changed wholesale and this included the 2 Chevauleger Regiment. Whereas before, the regiment’s official facing color was a carmine red, it was now an orange-red or “orange rot” trimmed in a dark green piping (think hunter green). While the facing color was to be used on the formal “parade” uniform, it was also indicated for use on the shoulder boards, the only item remaining that distinguished the wearer’s unit and these were to also be worn with the Bluse. Below is an illustration of the ideal, per the 1916 regulations:

1916 Chev Uniform

Plate illustrating the 1916 uniform regulations for the 2 Chevauleger. On the left is the formal “parade” uniform which was not produced and on the right is the field uniform.

This is quite a difference in contrast with the previous regulations which are illustrated in the 1916 uniform regulations were formally instituted per War Ministry order in March 1915 for the Prussian Army (which pretty much included most of the contingents from the various minor German states making up the German Empire) and March 1916 for the Bavarians (who were always a bit behind either out of stubbornness or in an attempt to economize by not changing). In practical terms, this did not mean that the old uniform was instantly discarded. Rather, like all armies, they used up whatever stock was on hand of older pattern clothing and slowly introduced the new patterns. In fact, one can find many instance of prewar uniform being used all the way up to the end of the war in 1918.

In the case of the 2 Chevauleger, one tends to see them using their 1910 tunics or Ulankas all the way up to 1918; it seemed that the men did not willingly want to let go of them. The 1916 uniform regulations marked a dramatic shift both for the German Army in particular, and armies in general in that it reflected that the First World War was the first modern war where the heraldry of uniforms with their elaborate, often colorful,insignia and trims were to give way to more sober and practical styles based on utility and ease of production.

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