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German Soldier's Sewing Kits
By Vincent Milano

The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

Of all the soldier's equipment, nothing is as inconspicuous and unwarlike as his sewing kit.  Nonetheless, it is still a vital piece of equipment.  With it, the soldier can repair the holes that let the cold and wet seep in through his clothes, he can replace a button and not get into trouble at inspection and he can sew on his new rank or ribbon if he is so lucky.  In emergencies, it can be used to sew up wounds or pin the torn pieces of flesh together.  In many situations, it can be invaluable to the ingenious soldier.

Within the German military inventories, there were several different types of kits, with the main variations arising from the type of container it came in.  The contents -- needles, thread, buttons, and the like were basically the same.  The type in possession of this author is one of black leather that has one end folded back into a pocket containing spare buttons of all types: tunic, shirt, Zeltbahn, and so on.  Even commercial "Hammer-on" buttons for quick repairs.  On the inside of the flap are two loops of cloth that are the same length.  One loop is used to hold a cardboard tube containing needles, and the other loop holds small spools and loops of thread (See illustration "A").  When folded, it is tied by two ties stitched into the middle of the end opposite the pocket end.  Another kit of this exact design in the collection of this author is made of leatherette (imitation leather) edged in black cloth (See illustration "B").  Both of these kits were carried by members of the 916th Grenadier Regiment during World War II.

Another type, (See illustration "C") is made of artificial silk like the material found in M43 tunics as lining and is 5-3/4" long by 4" wide when opened up.  The pocket is 3-3/4" long.  The contents of this kit included: a card of gray darning wool for repairing knitted goods like socks, a cardboard "star" spool of field-gray thread with a needle tucked into it, a small cap eagle that was actually wound up into a card of darning wool, and a single plastic button.

A fourth style, this one sadly plundered from the pockets of a dead army truck driver, consists of a sheet-metal tube with a slip-fit cap.  See illustration "D".  Unfortunately, all of the contents of this kit have been lost.  The vet who brought this example home had used this German one as a replacement for the one he had brought from the States.  In his words, "...the American one was a fold-up cloth gizmo...I carried it in my pocket and when I moved just right, the pins and needles would stick out of it and jab me in the nuts..."

Other types in metal, cloth, and wood have been observed.  All cloth types appear to be of the "pocket-fold" design while the metal and wood types were produced in various models, including both hinged and two piece, top/bottom version.

If a German soldier lost or had his kit "borrowed," many things were improvised to use as a carry-all for his sewing items.  For example, Unterscharführur P. Mailand (SS.Pz.Gren.Rgt. Westland) used a spare goggle pouch for his sewing kit, which I still own and which retains its original contents.  Grenadier A. Meier (Gren.Regt. 916) used an odd sock for his.  A soldier in the Italian campaign named Adolf Bertl (Stab./132.Gren.Regt.) carried his kit in an empty metal container for Bouncing Betty fuses.  It was common practice to sew spare buttons to the underside of the tornister or breadbag flaps.  Leutnant Heinze (Gren.Regt.916) advised all of his men to keep spare buttons, a threaded needle, and extra thread wrapped in a handkerchief and tucked into the wound-dressing pocket of the tunic.  This was incase they lost a button while out on the town, they could stitch another one on quickly to avoid problems with the Feldgendarmerie or others with generally bad dispositions.  And others, like Obergefreiter J. Brass, always had a needle tucked away in the fold of his cap.  Why, you may ask?  You would know why, if you ever had to march for kilometers on end with a blister on your foot.

The sewing kit, regardless of what it came in, was a very important thing to a field soldier.  It should be noted that several foreign versions were used, especially French, Belgian, and Dutch.  Egon Roth, formerly of Artillery Regt. 260, used a captured Soviet kit.  See illustration "E" for diagrams of the French and Russian versions.

- Interviews with P. Mailand (1977) and H. Heinze (1989)
- Letters by J. Brass (June 16, 1988), A. Meier (May 28, 1988), and E. Roth (March 2, 1992)
- The Collections of E. Toby and the author



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