German Army ranks

Discussion in 'Weapons, Equipment & Rations' started by Bugsy, Sep 24, 2005.

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  1. Not sure if this is the right forum for this, but anyway.
    I'm a bit mystified by some Bundeswehr ranks. Some of them have mit/ohne Portepee on the end, i.e "Unteroffizier mit Portepee", or "Unteroffizier ohne Portepee".
    I've found out that this "Portepee" thingy is a silver or gold tassel attached to the handle of a sword. It was originally a leather strap or thong that could be tied around the wrist to prevent loss of the sword in battle.
    What I couldn't find out is what it actually signifies and why some "Unteroffiziere" have one and some don't. Is it some sort of special privilege?
    Anybody got any ideas?

  2. cpunk

    cpunk LE Moderator

    Mit and Ohne Portepee refers to senior and junior NCOs. The German rank structure is slightly different to ours. The ranks of Gefreiter, Obergefreiter etc are not regarded as NCO ranks but senior grades of soldier, with Obergefreiter being roughly equivalent to our Lance Corporal. Then come the grades of Unteroffizier ohne Portepee which are, IIRC, Unteroffizier (roughly equivalent to a Corporal) and Unterfeldwebel; then above that are Unteroffizier mit Portepee - Feldwebel and above - which roughly correspond with our SNCO and WO ranks. I think that you are confused because Unteroffizier is both a rank in itself and also the generic word for NCOs.
  3. That's pretty much it:


    Schutze/Pionier/Funker etc OR-1/2
    Gefreiter OR-3
    Obergefreiter OR-3
    Hauptgefreiter OR-3
    Stabsgefreiter OR-4
    Oberstabsgefreiter OR-4

    Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee

    Unteroffizier OR-5
    *Fahnenjunker OR-5
    Stabsunteroffizier OR-5
    - nb Unterfelwebel was a Wehrmacht thing, perpetuated in the NVA, not BW

    Unteroffiziere mit Portepee

    Feldwebel OR-6
    *Faehnrich OR-6
    Oberfeldwebel OR-6
    *Oberfaenrich OR-7
    Hautpfeldwebel OR-7
    Stabsfeldwebel OR-8
    Oberstabsfeldwebel OR-9

    * = OCdts on active service with troops - which they do as part of training - will be Uffz, FW or HFW equivalent, but called different things.
  4. Where does Fuhrer fit in?
  5. Gefreiter. Then a sudden promotion to the most senior level. An experiment in the German rank system, for some reason they decided it hadn't worked, so they won't do it again.

    Actually, it's interesting to look at this:

    Name WWI Highest Rank Reached

    Hitler Gefreiter
    Goering Captain
    Himmler Officer Cadet

    ...Which suggests to me that where they went wrong was in not recruiting enough senior NCOs to the higher echelon.
  6. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    I thought the ranks went vaguely like this:

    German Rank - - - - - - - - British Rank or title

    Oberstgruppen-Führer - - - Gen
    Obergruppenführer - - - - - Lt Gen
    Gruppenführer - - - - - - - - Maj Gen
    Brigadeführer - - - - - - - - - Brig
    Oberführer - - - - - - - - - - no equivalent
    Standartenführer - - - - - - Col
    Obersturmbannführer - - - - Lt Col
    Sturmbannführer - - - - - - - Maj
    Hauptsturmführer - - - - - - Capt
    Obersturmführer - - - - - - - Lt
    Untersturmführer - - - - - - - 2Lt

    Sturmscharführer - - - - - - - RSM
    Standarten-Oberjunker - - - no equivalent
    Hauptscharführer - - - - - - - WO1 (Bn Sgt Maj)
    Oberscharführer - - - - - - - CSM
    Standartenjunker - - - - - - - no equivalent
    Scharführer - - - - - - - - - - Plt Sgt
    Unterscharführer - - - - - - - - Sgt
    Rottenführer - - - - - - - - - - Cpl
    Sturmmann - - - - - - - - - - - LCpl
    Oberschütze - - - - - - - - - - - No equivalent
    Schütze - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Pte

    Maybe the list posted by Glad_its_all_over is the latest one.
  7. A lot of typing to get a bite Cuts. You must know those ranks were not and are not German Army ranks. They were all prefixed with 'SS' which is why they haven't been around for about sixty years.
  8. @ Cutaway:
    The list posted by Glad_its_all_over is the one for the Bundeswehr - Federal Armed Forces while your list contains the ranks of the SS only. Those rank names were even different from Wehrmacht again.

    Best Regards

    Stabsunteroffizier d.R. - no Portepee for me.
  9. As I understand it, the Unteroffizieranwaerter program has already been renamed to Feldwebelanwaerter program; although the Feldwebel+ ranks are still known as Uffze mit Portepee, more recognition is now given that to become Fw is a proper career progession, as separate from the Wehrdiensters who are in for their 9 months, Freiwilliges who tack on an extra year or so, and perhaps even the Z-Saus who seem to do at least two years but don't necessarily make a 12 year career out of it.

    Unterfeldwebel isn't a rank that exists anymore, and Unteroffizier and Stabsunteroffizier are the ranks for Uffze o. Portepee.
  10. I just read 'storm of steel' by Ernst Junger (utter hero b t w) and this was something I was going to come on here and ask - all those WW1 ranks; are they abolished now? Did they translate to British ranks? Lieutenant as CO of a company, Kapitan CO of a battalion? And what was all this officer-cadet/Vice Sergeant-Major?

    V confusing.
  11. WTF????

    In 'storm of steel' there's a scene where Junger commiserates with an 'officer cadet' over the deterioration of his 'brand new sword knot' from silvery to green under the effects of British gas. Is that thing on Firestarter's link a sword knot?

    (BTW, if it was me, being gassed would have given me a really, really big list of things to worry about before getting to the state of my sword knot unless 'sword knot' is a euphemism for 'penis'. And even then I would be just as concerned about a silver one as a green one)
  12. Troddeln/Portepeen are on daggers "Degen/Seitengewehr".Sword-knots are "Faustrimemen".Ernst Junger's "Stahlgewitter" refers to the action of Chlorine gas on gilt (which turns the item green) God knows what colour it turns the inside of your lungs
  13. German WW1 ranks were a wee bit different. Hazily, from memory:


    Schutze etc

    Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee


    Unteroffiziere mit Portepee

    (Etatmaessiger) Feldwebel




    General (der Infanterie, der Kavallerie, der Artillerie etc)
    Generaloberst mit dem Range eines Generalfeldmarschalls

    Not unusual to have Captains or even First Lieutenants commanding battalions, with 2Lts or WO equivalents commanding companies, certainly by 1918.
  14. These Germans are crazy. 2Lt as co of a company? I thought our MoD would go to any lengths to keep the wages bill down... no wonder they lost.