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Tradition Badges
1842 - 1918
Selected units within the Imperial German Army were authorized to wear tradition badges on the Krätzchen (round visorless field cap) worn by Mannschaften (Other Ranks) or on the Schirmmütze (visor caps) worn by all ranks.
The Leib Husaren Totenkopf

The famous Totenkopf "death head" insignia first appeared in the Preußen (Prussian) army with Husaren-Regiment Nr.5 (von Ruesch) during the reign of Frederick the Great. Husaren-Regiment Nr.5 were fitted with black Kollet (a waist length jacket with tails) with rows of ornamental braiding on the chest and a tall, cylindrical "Tschako" which carried a large Totenkopf. In 1808, when the regiment was reformed into Leib-Husaren Regiments Nr.1 and Nr.2, the Totenkopf remained a part of the uniform.
The first documented wearing of a Totenkopf on a cap was with the Lützowsches Freikorps who wore a silver Totenkopf on a black beret. It is not clear when Leib-Husaren Regiments Nr.1 and Nr.2 were granted permission to wear the Leib Husaren pattern Totenkopf on the cloth headgear, but photographs from the 1860s show it being worn. It may have been authorized as early as 1815. For all ranks, it was worn centered between the upper band piping and the piping along the crown of the black cap.

The silver Leib Husaren pattern Totenkopf was identical for all ranks, from Husar (Private) to Field-Marshall and royalty.
After 1897 when the Reich's Kokarde was introduced, it was worn centered between the upper and lower Kokarden, directly over the band piping as show here being worn by a Husar from one of the two Leib Husaren Regiments.

The identical silver Totenkopf is worn here by Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst (6 May 1882 – 20 July 1951) of the House of Hohenzollern. Wilhelm was the last Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire.
The Braunschweig Totenkopf

On 17 September 1883, the Braunschweig pattern Totenkopf was authorized to be worn by Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regt. Nr.17. In 1912, this honor was also authorized for Braunschweigisches Infanterie-Regt. Nr.92. Unlike the Preußen Leib-Husaren pattern Totenkopf which was identical for all ranks, the Braunschweig pattern Totenkopf came in two distinct patterns: a flat issued pattern and a three dimensional private purchase pattern.
The Braunschweig Issued Totenkopf

The Braunschweig pattern issued Totenkopf was flat with very little profile. It was worn on all issued Krätzchen (round visorless field cap) or on the Schirmmütze (visor caps) worn by Mannschaften (Other Ranks).

The Braunschweig Private Purchase Totenkopf

The Braunschweig pattern private purchase Totenkopf was three dimensional and considerably different in appearance from the issued pattern above. It was worn by officers and Mannschaften (Other Ranks) on private-purchase Schirmmütze (visor caps). In this photo it is being worn by a Unteroffizier (junior NCO) in Braunschweigisches Infanterie-Regt. Nr.92 (Braunschweig) X Armee Korps.

A Braunschweig pattern private purchase Totenkopf is worn in this photo by a Husar (Private) in Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regt. Nr.17 (Braunschweig) X Armee Korps. His Schirmmütze would have been black with red band and yellow piping.
The photos below are particularly interesting, as the only infantry Regiment authorized to wear the Totenkopf was Braunschweigisches Infantry-Regt. Nr.92, however, the two men below are not from Infantry-Regt. Nr.92. The Unteroffizier (Corporal) on the left with Infanterie-Regt. Hessen-Homburg Nr.166 (Bitsch) XXI Armee Korps is wearing an issued pattern Totenkopf, and the Gefreiter (Senior Private) on the right with 1. Großherzoglich Mecklenburgisches Füsilier-Regt. Kaiser Wilhelm Nr.90 (Rostock; II Bn Wismar) VIII Armee Korps is wearing a private purchase Totenkopf. Neither of these two regiments were authorized to wear the Totenkopf, so it can only be assumed that both of these soldiers were transferred in from Infantry-Regt. Nr.92 and retained their Totenkopfs.
Garde-Reserve Pionier-Bataillon (Flammenwerfer) or Minenwerfer (Trench Mortar) Forgeries

The only units ever entitled to wear a Totenkopf on their headgear, were the two Preußen Leib Husaren Regiments, and Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regt. Nr.17 and Infanterie-Regt. Nr.92 as discussed above.

However, occasionally a Pickelhaube or Schirmmütze will appear on the market that is being sold as an "ultra rare Garde-Reserve Pionier-Bataillon (Flammenwerfer)" or Minenwerfer (Trench Mortar) and naturally, it will carry a Totenkopf, often with a convenient paper or cloth label "proving" it to be Garde-Reserve Pionier-Bataillon or Minenwerfer . Historically, only one new unit in the Great War was awarded the honor of wearing a Totenkopf, and that was in fact the flame thrower unit of the Garde-Reserve Pionier-Bataillon (Flammenwerfer). It was awarded the honor of wearing the Death's Head (Totenkopf) on their lower left jacket sleeve by decree of the Kaiser in 1916, however, permission was not granted to wear the Totenkopf on headgear of any sort. The Garde-Reserve Pionier-Bataillon (Flammenwerfer) wore the standard Pionier Mützen with Kokadren only. No Minenwerfer (Trench Mortar) unit was ever authorized to wear a Totenkopf. Typically the Schirmmütze that appear on the market being sold as one of these units are original Pionier (or Artillery etc) Schirmmützen with some sort of Totenkopf stuck on the front. Usually the Totenkopfs are Third Reich 17 Inf regt or 41st Cavalry regt pattern, or outright fakes.
The Dragoner Adler

A unique Dragoner pattern eagle tradition badge was worn only by 1. Brandenburgisches Dragoner-Regt. Nr.2 (Schwedt a.O.) III Armee Korps. According to Ulrich, Herr, U. & Nguyen, J (2006) The German Cavalry from 1871 to 1914 Verlag Militaria, Vienna Austria, the tradition badge was given to the Regiment after an incident during the 1812 war of liberation against France, when a group of Dragoons from this regiment were riding their horses bareback to water, but still managed to repel a French cavalry attack.
A photo of a Feldwebel (Warrant-Officer) from 1. Brandenburgisches Dragoner-Regt. Nr.2. He is wearing a light blue Schirmmütze with black visor and piping.
A scarce photo of a young Dragon from 1. Brandenburgisches Dragoner-Regt. Nr.2 wearing a Model 1915 pattern Schirmmütze with a grey visor.
The Edelweißabzeichen

After the entrance of Italy into the war, in May 1915 in order to support Austria-Hungary an Alpenkorps (alpine corps) was stood-up, which was actually a Jäger-Divison. Immediately the k.u.k. Landesverteidigungs-Kommando (Austrian national defense command) Tirol sent the new Alpenkorps 20.000 Edelweißabzeichen (Edelweiß insignia) which were already being worn by k.u.k. Troops. The Alpenkorps instruction of 20 June 1915 allowed the distribution of the Edelweißabzeichen immediately to the troops. Only later was permission requested with the Preußen War Ministry.
The Kaiser decided not to reject this gift from the Erzherzog Eugen von Österreich (commander of the front) and announced approval on 5 September 1915. The king of Bayern gave his approval on 11 September 1915 and the king of Württemberg on 20 September 1915. The Alpenkorps wished to present the Edelweißabzeichen to replacement troops allocated to the Korps, but the Preußen war ministry insisted on a restriction to the original units.
An Edelwieß in my garden in
New Brunswick Canada.
Click Once To Enlarge
In accordance with Bavarian. instruction of 21 March 1916 only those troops which had fought from July to October 1915 in the theater of war in Tirol and had received the badge there, were authorized to wear it. Other Gebirgstruppen (mountain units) not in the Alpenkorps were not authorized to wear the Edelweiß.
Photo used with the kind permission of
Rick Lundström
The most commonly seen pattern of Edelwieß in photos, is the pattern with just the head of the flower. In this photo it is being worn by Leutnant der Reserve Erich Kohler, stellv. Kompagnieführer 11./ k.b. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 12, killed in action 7 June 1918 in the Logeastwalde near Bucquoy.

The Edelwieß was worn on the left side of the Krätzchen or Schirmmütze. In this photo, a Bayern soldier wears an Edelweiß on his Krätzchen where the Reich's Kokarde was, which indicates that he was almost certainly in a Freikorps unit and the photo was taken after 1918.
This photo of an NCO in the Infanterie-Leib-Regt. (München) I Bayer. Armee-Korps shows another pattern of Edelweiß occasionally seen in photos. This pattern has an entire flower.

The Karpathenabzeichen

For the battles in Karpathen under extreme winter conditions in mountainous terrain, on 17 December 1916 the Austrian Kaiser Karl von Österreich approved a special insignia for the k.u.k. (Austrian) 7. Armee. On 01 February 1917 a commemorative insignia called the Karpathenabzeichen was approved by Bayern (Bavarian) König Ludwig III for the Bayern 1. and 200. Inf Divisions who were under the command of the k.u.k. (Austrian)7. Armee. For the design of the insignia, a competition was run in the Korps, and the Kaiser approved the draft. The official Karpathenabzeichen was introduced on 11 July 1917 and consisted of stag's antlers surrounded by oak leaves, with a Bandeau "KARPATHENKORPS" in the center with a sword behind it. The Karpathenabzeichen was worn centered between the Reich's Kokarde and the contingent Kokarde on all cloth headgear.
Feldgeistliche (Field clergyman)

Prior to AKO 3 July 1913, Feldgeistliche wore a traditional German black felt clergy hat. A Schirmmütze was not authorized until the AKO of 1913. A white enameled cross was worn by Catholic and Lutheran clergymen. Jewish Rabies wore the same cap without the cross. This photo shows the large version of the cross.
Photo used with the kind permission of
Chris Liontas
Photo used with the kind permission of
Chris Liontas
This Catholic Feldgeistliche wears the smaller version of the white enameled cross.
This Bayern (Bavarian) Catholic Feldgeistliche wears the cross above the Kokarden, which is not in accordance with regulations.
Photo used with the kind permission of
Chris Liontas

Militärebeamte (Military employed officials) wore small silver or gilt contingent Wappens (see image below) on the cap.
Kaiserliche Deutsche Feldpost (Post Office)

The Kaiserliche Deutsche Feldpost (Post Office) in wartime was mobilized to support the Army. The insignia worn on the Kaiserliche Deutsche Feldpost was a small gilt Imperial eagle clutching the traditional postal signal horn in its talons.
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