Forestry rank insignia
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Forestry service and its uniforms has a very long tradition in Germany, from ancient feudal states to modern democratic Germany. For collectors one of the main interests is in those worn during the Third Reich period – but many collectors only know a small part of the forestry uniforms and insigni-as actually worn from 1933 to 1945.
During the relatively short period of 12 years, 4 different dress regulations for the forestry services were issued, giving the forestry officials a guide to dress orders, headgear, tunics, leg wear and – rank insignia.
As at this time, the Deutsche Reich still had several, partly “independent”, States, I will use the regu-lations for the State of Prussia as example. Other German States had different insignia and rank names.
1929 Dress Regulation
The first regulation, which was valid in the first 2-3 years of the Third Reich, was issued on April, 1st 1929 – still from democratic Weimar Republic. It was the first forestry dress regulation, which tried to introduce a more modern uniform compared to the old imperial uniform cut. But there remained a link, looking slightly like the WW1 military field tunics.
The only real change was made in the rank insignia.
The shoulder boards consisted of green woolen or silky lace, higher ranks (administration officials) had a woven-in thin golden lace. The base was made of dark green cloth for lower ranks, rank of “Revierfoerster” and up had the base made of dark green velvet. “Revierfoerster” and “Forstverwalter” spotted an additional golden lace between (or around) the green lace and the base.
Pips and acorns (only for “General´s”) were used to distinguish the ranks.
These shoulder boards were worn on both tunic types (called A- and B-Rock) and the greatcoat.
Beside the shoulder boards, embroidered collar tabs were worn on the B-Rock (B-Tunic) for special occasions, but were also allowed for daily dress (A-Rock).
They featured green silk embroidery of 4 oak leaves and 3 acorns for ranks from “Unterfoerster” to “Revierfoerster” (the trainees for normal service wore the same style of collar tabs but no shoulder boards) on green cloth (velvet for “Revierfoerster”), the ranks above had the same style of embroi-dery but executed in golden metal thread and always based on dark green velvet. (trainees for admin-istration had those too, but no shoulder boards). General´s rank of “Landforstmeister” and “Oberlandforstmeister” had the collar tabs of the administration officials but with an additional edge of golden embroidery.
Copy of the original rank insignia as pictured in the 1929 dress regulation.
Ranks were as follows:
Forstschutzgehilfen, Forstaufseher, Forstlehrlinge, Forstbeflissene: no shoulderboards
Unterfoerster: 3 laces on green cloth base
Forstgehilfen: 5 laces on green cloth base
Hilfsfoerster: knotted lace on green cloth base
Foerster: knotted lace and one golden pip on green cloth base
Revierfoerster: knotted lace surrounded by golden lace on green velvet base
Forstverwalter: as Revierfoerster but with one additional golden pip
Forstreferendare: 5 laces with interwoven thin gold lace on green velvet base
Forstassessoren: knotted lace with interwoven thin gold lace on green velvet base
Oberfoerster/ Forstmeister: as Forstassesoren but with one additional golden pip
Forstraete: as Forstassesoren but with two additional golden pips
Oberforstmeister: as Forstassesoren but with three additional golden pips
Landforstmeister: as Forstassesoren but with two additional silver acorns
Oberlandforstmeister: as Forstassesoren but with three additional silver acorns
Shoulder board Forstraete 1929, Prussia, State Forest Collar tab “Betriebsbeamte” 1929, Prussia
The school/ university personal (Professoren) had the shoulder boards of the Forstassesoren with two additional silver stars.
The community forestry service had the same rank system but their color was a grey-greenish lace on green cloth/ velvet.
Forstrat 1929, Prussia, Community Forestry
Private forestry service had no general dress regulation, neither the rank insignia nor the uniform was pre-scribed.
1934 Dress Regulation
After the national socialist takeover in January 1933 a new forestry uniform regulation was issued on January, 30th 1934. This was the start of the modern cut uniform for forestry service.
The old rank insignia were altered in parts. The green lace was still used but the administration officials loose the woven-in gold lace. Instead, the golden lace around the green lace (which was before only used for two ranks) was introduced for all ranks of the forestry administration up to “Landforstmeister”.
The “old style” (1929 pattern) knotted shoulder boards with interwoven gold lace were now only issued to the Generals.
All ranks now had velvet bases.
Pips and acorns were still used for distinguishing the ranks.
The most notable change was the introduction of a new type of collar insignia. They were now directly em-broidered onto the velvet collar of the B-Rock and only used on this tunic for special occasions. The style of the oak leafs was also changed and a bit simplified.
From rank of “Revierfoerster” to “Forstamtmann” the embroidery consisted of two large oak leaves in light green silk and three (smaller) acorns in gold embroidery, “Forstmeister” and “Oberforstmeister” same style of embroidery but all in gold metal thread.
“Landforstmeister” to “Generalforstmeister” got a different, more elaborate design, consisting of three large oakleafs and two large acorns in gold metal thread.
The lower ranks (“Forstaufseher” to “Forester”) and trainees did not wear collar embroidery.
Around the collar of both tunics various cords were worn. For “Betriebsbeamte” it was of twisted green/gold cord and all gold cord for administration officials. It reached only around the collar edges.
“Landforstmeister” to “Generalforstmeister” had a golden cord around the complete collar.
Ranks were as follows:
Forstanwärter: no shoulder boards
Forstaufseher: two laces on velvet base
Unterfoerster: 5 laces and one golden pip
Hilfsfoerster: 5 laces
Foerster: knotted lace
Revierfoerster: knotted lace and one additional golden pip
Oberfoerster: knotted lace and two golden pips
Forstamtmann: knotted lace and three golden pips
Forstreferendar: 5 laces surrounded by a thin golden lace
Forstassesor: knotted lace surrounded by a thin golden lace
Forstmeister: knotted lace surrounded by golden lace and one golden pip
Oberforstmeister: like Forstmeister but with two golden pips
Landforstmeister: like Forstmeister with three golden pips
Oberlandforstmeister: knotted lace with interwoven thin gold lace, two silver acorns
Generalforstmeister: like Oberlandforstmeister but with three silver acorns
Collar embroidery for rank of Revierfoerster, Oberfoerster and Forstamtmann 1934 regulation
Shoulder boards for Unterfoerster, Revierfoerster and Oberforstmeister of State forestry service 1934 regulation
Forestry school/university teachers wore knotted lace with golden lace around and two silver colored pips.
Original rank insignia chart of the 1934 dress regulation.
Revierfoerster, community service 1934 regulation
Community forestry had the same rank system, but lace and base were of grey color.
Private forestry still had no general regulation, though, for example in Thuringia, some States tried to give a regulation on rank insignia. The shoulder boards still followed the old imperial style and were made of (all shades of) brown lace with green “cuts”. Base was green cloth or velvet.
Military forestry service wore the insignia of the state forestry service.
Oberfoerster, Forstmeister, Oberforstmeister – Private forestry service 20´s until 1938.
1938 Dress Regulation
Only 4 years later, on April, 22nd 1938, the most notable and unusual change in rank insignia was issued. The so far traditional use of green lace for shoulder boards was dropped ( only lower ranks had them partly) and replaced by a lace of mixed silver metal (aluminum) and green thread, called “aluminium-gruen” (aluminium-green). The golden lace which surrounded the administration official´s lace was changed in colour – to silver.
General´s shoulder boards were now made after the military generals pattern. Three laces, the outer ones in gold metal, the inner one of aluminum-green color, forming 4 knots.
The whole appearance was now more military than ever before.
The base material on the other hand remained unchanged – green velvet.
For A-tunic the shoulder boards were made in a dull aluminum-green (in reality it was a more greenish color) lace, while for B-tunic a bright aluminum version was used.
For all ranks pips were used – the acorns disappeared.
Another big change was made regarding the collar insignia. Collar tabs were now worn on both tunics and em-broidery consisted of oak leafs and acorns, but in a completely new design.
Lower ranks (“Forstanwaerter” to “Unterfoerster”) had the oak leafs struck in aluminum, though in the first months embroidered examples appeared, but they were strictly forbidden by an additional issue of the Reichsforstmeister. The base material was either green cloth for A-tunic or green velvet for B-tunic.
Ranks from “Foerster” to “Landforstmeister” had silver embroidered oak leafs.
The so called “Betriebsbeamte” (forestry officials doing the jobs in the forests) had silver aluminum stitching in the lower corners and 1-3 embroidered oak leafs in the middle of the collar tab.
The “Forstverwaltungsbeamte” (administration officials) collar tabs had additional aluminum embroidery in the upper two corners (so in all for corners) and 1 -3 oak leafs in the center of the collar tab.
The General´s (called “Forstdirektoren” (forestry directors) collar tabs followed the administration official´s pattern, but the whole embroidery was executed in gold metal thread.
A-Tunic and B-Tunic shoulder boards side by side for rank of Forstaufseher, Foerster and Oberforstmeister, 1938
The collar tabs for ranks “Foerster” and above were edged by a silver cord, gold cord for generals, and a silver/ gold cord bordered the whole collar.
1938 original dress regulations.
A special rank was introduced by Hermann Goering for himself – “Reichsforstmeister”.
His shoulder boards were made in the same style like that for the Generals and had two crossed oak leafs ap-plied.
His collar tabs were even much more special. Basic color was white instead of the usual green, grey, brown or black color and showed a gold embroidered swastika surrounded by a golden aureole with oak leafs in all four corners.
In 1938 for the first time all four forestry branches got a specific base color each.
Green was as before used for the State Forestry,
Grey for the Community Forestry,
Brown for Private Forestry, and finally
Black for the Forestry Service of the Army and Air Force (in 1939).
Branch Colors: Green, Grey, Brown, Black
Ranks were as followed:
Forstanwaerter: 4 green laces; 1 metal oak leaf on collar tab.
Forstaufseher: 2 aluminum-green and 2 green laces, 2 metal oak leafs on collar tab.
Hilfsfoerster: as Forstaufseher but with 1 golden pip; 3 oak leafs on collar tab.
Unterfoerster: as Forstaufseher but with 2 golden pips; 4 oak leafs on collar tab.
Foerster: 4 aluminum-green laces; oak leafs in the lower corners and 1 oak leaf in the center, silver cord around the collar tab.
Revierfoerster: as Foerster but with 1 golden pip; collar embroidery as Foerster with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Oberfoerster: as Foerster but with 2 golden pips; collar embroidery as Foerster with 3 oak leafs in the center.
Forstamtmann: 2 knotted aluminum-green lace; oak leafs in all 4 corners and 1 in the center.
Forstmeister: as Forstamtmann with additional thin silver lace around; collar embroidery as Forstamtmann.
Oberforstmeister: as Forstmeister with 1 golden pip; collar embroidery as Forstmeister with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Landforstmeister: as Forstmeister with 2 golden pips; collar embroidery as Forstmeister with 3 oak leafs in the center
Oberlandforstmeister: 3 knotted laces, gold –alum.-green –gold; golden oak leafs in all 4 corners, one oak leaf in the center.
Ministerialdirigent: as Oberlandforstmeister with 1 silver pip; as Oberlandforstmeister with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Generalforstmeister: as Oberlandforstmeister with 2 silver pips; as Oberlandforstmeister with 3 oak leafs in the center.
Reichsforstmeister: as Oberlandforstmeister with 2 crossed oak leafs; gold embroidered swastika with aureole on white cloth/velvet.
Shoulder boards and the matching collar tabs for ranks.
“Forstanwärter” to “Landforstmeister”
Forstanwaerter, Anwaerter, Forstreferendar and Forstassessor wore the shoulder boards of the “Betriebsbeamte”, but, as they were in training for the administration, with additional thin silver lace around.
Teachers/ Professors had the same boards as the State Forestry but with silver pips.
The Army (December, 16th 1938) and the Air Force (July, 1st 1938) took over the rank system for their forestry personnel and got a new branch color: black.
Insignia set for Heeresoberfoerster/ Oberfoerster der Luftwaffe, 1938 regulation.
1942 Dress Regulation
In 1941 for some reason a new design for the forestry shoulder boards was chosen, but due to “delivery diffi-culties”, the old shoulder boards were allowed for wear until November 1942.
This regulation marked the return to the traditional green lace. The shoulder boards now had all green lace for all ranks, with the administration officials having an additional thin silver lace around and the generals the same thin lace but in gold.
The lower ranks got also a new design for the collar tabs, having now embroidered oak leafs and silver cord around the tab. Only the lowest rank still retained the two oak leafs struck from aluminum. The pattern for the higher and administrative service remained unchanged, but two additional ranks with new design were intro-duced: “Forstlehrling” (Forestry Trainee) and “Anwaerter fuer den hoeheren Forstdienst” (Aspirant for forest-ry administration). Those two ranks wore collar tabs only.
The rank devices now consisted of silver colored acorns for the “normal” forestry personal, gilt acorns for generals.
Original ranks charts for shoulder boards and collar tabs, 1942
Again Hermann Goering created his own rank insignia. The shoulder boards followed military pattern with two gold metal thread laces and one inner silver metal thread lace. The rank device was two crossed silver oak leafs.
The collar tabs remained like his 1938 pattern.
Ranks were as follows:
Forstaufseher: 2 laces; 2 oak leafs struck from aluminum.
Forstwartanwaerter: 3 laces; 1 silver embroidered oak leaf.
Supernumerary Forstwart: 4 laces; 2 embroidered oak leafs.
Forstwart: 4 laces with one silver acorn; 2 embroidered oak leafs.
Oberforstwart: 4 laces with two silver acorns; 3 embroidered oak leafs.
Forstlehrling: no shoulder boards; oak leafs in the lower two corners.
Revierfoersteranwaerter: 5 laces; like Forstlehrling with 1 oak leaf in the center.
Supernumerary Revierfoerster: knotted laces; like Forstlehrling with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Revierfoerster: knotted laces with one silver acorn; like supernum. Revierfoerster.
Oberfoerster: knotted laces with 2 silver acorns; like Forstlehrling with 3 oak leafs in the center.
Forstamtmann: knotted laces with 3 silver acorns; like Oberfoerster.
Anwaerter fuer den hoeheren Forstdienst: no shoulder boards, oak leaf embroidery in all 4 corners.
Forstreferendar: 5 laces with silver edge; like Anwaerter f.d. Hoeheren Forstdienst with 1 oak leaf in the center.
Forstassessor: knotted laces, silver edge; like Anwaerter with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Forstmeister: knotted lace, silver edge and 1 silver acorn; like Forstassessor.
Oberforstmeister: knotted laces, silver edge and 2 silver acorns; like Anwaerter with 3 oak leafs in the center
Landforstmeister: knotted laces, silver edge and 3 silver acorns; like Oberforstmeister.
Oberlandforstmeister: 3 knotted laces (4 knots), gold edge; gold embroidery in all 4 corners 1 embroi-dered golden oak leaf in the center.
Ministerialdirigent: like Oberlandforstmeister plus 1 golden acorn; like Oberlandforstmeister but with 2 oak leafs in the center.
Ministerialdirektor: like Oberlandforstmeister plus 2 golden acorn; like Oberlandforstmeister.
Generalforstmeister: like Oberlandforstmeister plus 3 golden acorns; like Oberlandforstmeister but with 3 oak leafs in the center.
Reichsforstmeister: 3 knotted laces with two crossed silver oak leafs; golden embroidered swastika with aureole on white cloth/velvet, oak leafs in all 4 corners.
Rank shoulder boards and their collar tabs, 1942 . The Generals ranks shoulder boards are originals, but are from West Germany and date from 1950`s and 1990´s. Collar tab is a copy – and only shown to give an impression on how they looked.
After May 1945 a time of “chaos” in forestry insignia followed, as the Allies changed the regulations several times within a short period. Collar tabs seems to have been abolished, but photos give evidence of ignorance by forestry personnel. Shoulder boards were part of the uniform in most occupation zones.
From 1949 to 1955 collar tabs again were officially part of the uniform in West Germany. But after 1955 they were abolished forever. The 1942 shoulder boards remained in use until 2004/05.
In the GDR (DDR) the Soviet occupation forces introduced a new uniform in 1946 with no rank insignia, but until 1955 many foresters wore what was still available with or without rank insignia.
The 1955dress regulation introduced shoulder boards again to show the rank, but were different from those of pre 45.
Special thanks to Stefany Z. for writing this article and take photos from her collection!