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The Other Ranks "Contract" Service Cap...............a brief history

Article about: Hi and season’s greetings to all, These caps are the unsung heroes of the cap world in my opinion and too often fade into the category of just another "other ranks " cap when we di

  1. #1

    Default The Other Ranks "Contract" Service Cap...............a brief history

    Hi and season’s greetings to all,

    These caps are the unsung heroes of the cap world in my opinion and too often fade into the category of just another "other ranks " cap when we discuss the more exotic and rarer caps of the Third Reich period.

    Also lets face it, on the whole these caps can be seen as plain and asthestically not very attractive when compared to the saddle shaped private purchase example.

    So I reckon it's time to reddress the balance and give them a thread all of their own - please feel free to add your caps, lets see if we can get as many saved for posterity as possible.

    From a collectors perspective they are also very important, especially to the novice and the new entrant, as they are by definition, in TR caps terms, cheap. They are what I would call the ulitmate "starter cap " as they are found in reasonable numbers, at good prices are by and large if you follow some basic guidlines it's very hard to be stitched up with a fake........

    This thread will layout the basic history and development of the other ranks service cap as worn by the soldiers 1936 – 1945 and hopefully furnish the reader with the basic requirements of what to look for when buying one of these beautiful beasts !

    The thread only deals with what is known in collector’s circles as the Government Contract Cap or in layman’s terms, the standard issue service cap given to every soldier as part of their basic uniform.

    These caps are different from private purchase examples of the service cap as they follow a prescribed format to their manufacture (as laid down by the Army Regulations) and consequently have a uniformity in shape, material and appearance that is not found with private purchase caps.

    These caps were issued primarily for parade and walking out use only and were not intended for wear in the field or combat conditions. The soft cap was issued to the other ranks for these purposes. (side cap: m34,42 then einheitsfeldmütze m43).

    ************************************************** *******************

    So, to put the other ranks service cap’s development in the correct historical context we need to to go back to the Imperial Army and look at the basic headdress the soldier was issued. As a private he would have been given the field cap to wear, which was a peakless cloth made cap which is often described as the “pork pie”.

    Only NCO’s were officially allowed to wear peaked caps and from 1873 these were issued to them by their Regiment as an official item of clothing. The Regiments bought these from their own funds but as they were sourced locally and the Armed Forces was made of four different armies then there was no real standardisation in production although they followed the basic army regulations and took account of regimental tradition.

    This format remained until 1915 when the regulations changed to allow other ranks to wear the peaked service cap for walking out and parade wear only. The soldiers had to buy these caps themselves and they were not issued by the Regiments.

    It was only in 1919 that the service cap became an item of uniform issued from Government stocks.

    The cap followed certain guidelines alongside the introduction of the new uniform in 1919 and these would remain unchanged right through till 1945 and beyond. This Service Cap was adopted officially in 1920.

    The manufacture was strictly controlled with preferred material to be used and exact cap measurements given to companies awarded the contracts.

    Also for cap collectors excitment was the introduction of branch piping or waffenfabre to distinguish unit and speciality.
    The second important specification was the shape, tellermütze or saucer, which remained through to 1945.

    This example is for Infantry and was made in 1921. The crown is made from wool material and the inside has a cotton lining which was standard but usually made from the smae material used to line tunics.

    Attachment 611999Attachment 612000

    In 1928 the cap material changed from wool (as used to make tunics) to the use of the material known as tricot.
    Another Infantry example showing the new material.

    Attachment 612008

    The cap also was given a new interior that contained a brown, rust coloured lining and a celluloid diamond in the middle.
    As shown inside the above example.

    Attachment 612007

    1934 onwards saw a bit of tweeking of design including the introduction of the cork board in the front to ease the pressure on the forehead from the cap.

    Attachment 612015

    This example is for the transport troops as it was piped pink but has been utilised post 1936 for ant-tank troops as old stock were used up.

    Attachment 612009Attachment 612010

    1936 saw the cap band change from field grey badge cloth to the dark green cloth and this was the last change of style for these caps.

    Here is a signals example, Infantry example, artillery example.

    Attachment 611987Attachment 612003Attachment 612004Attachment 612005Attachment 612002Attachment 612001Attachment 611997Attachment 611998

    The caps were often stamped under the sweatband with not only maker marks and a date but also the unit stamp and if you are lucky the owners details may also be still attached either in a hand written card under the celluloid or on a label sown in.

    These two caps have the owners name on a tag inside the celluloid,

    Attachment 612004Attachment 612006

    Issued to anti tank battalion 16..........

    Attachment 612011Attachment 612013Attachment 612014

    Hope this helps........................



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  3. #2


    Here is my Pz contract cap featuring a pretty high crown and saddle shape. I have a question: did the Germans actually use the term "other ranks" to refer to non officer ranks?

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    "Unsung heroes" well put! This thread made my day and thanks for posting, I never tire of seeing them.

  5. #4


    Infantry, signals and artillery

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    Hi Tony,

    Nice cap !

    The soldiers were referred to by the terms like, schütze, grenadier, and also generically with soldat. I am sure the German speakers can furnish us with the technically correct term for "other ranks"...................

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    Excellent work, Tony (as usual!)

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    This contract cap has it all, the manufacturer stamp in situ, the owners name tag stitched onto the sweatband that corresponds with the unit markings next to it.

    This is also a very early 1930's manufactured cap.



  8. #7


    Notable too is the fact that if a soldier had the money he could get a pretty fine product at this time too. Nice trikot fabric and a real leather sweatband by its looks.

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