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Kochgeschirr 31 - The German Mess Kit
By Pat Oehler, revised by Jonathan Bocek


 
Introduction:

The mess kit consisted of two halves, the bottom or the "pot" & the handled lid or the "pan".  These were initially made of aluminum, but as the war progressed steel was utilized more & more in their manufacture.  The Kochgeschirr is approximately 14cm tall & can hold about 1.7 liters. The container has a slight kidney shape look to it from the top. The bottom or "pot" has a rolled rim & a wire bail attached to the sides with a small bend in the center for hanging. 

The lid has a rim that is rolled outwards in the early models.  Later on they began manufacturing lids with just a raw stamped edge. The handle for both examples is hinged & riveted.  At the upper part near the rivets there is a slit & toward the bottom of the handle there is a loop.  By passing a leather strap through the slit, loop, & around the body of the container, the lid would then be firmly secured to the kochgeschirr when the soldier finally buckles it to his equipment.

Early models were painted a dark matte grey also known as Feldgrau (see below).  This color was common for kits from around 1935 to 1941.  At the end of April 1941, order HM 41, No.435 was issued.  This stated that the color was to be changed to an olive-drab color known as Graugrün (see below). One should note that the paint would normally wear off rather easily with normal wear & use.

Feldgrau
RAL 6006
      
Graugrün
RAL 7008

 
Wartime Variants:

Essentially there were four variations of the Kochgeschirr 31. The following is a brief description of each.

1. Pre- early war production 
This version was made entirely of aluminum.  The lid had a rolled edged & the handle was made of aluminum as well.  Large vertical aluminum lugs are used for the attachments of a steel bale. There is also notches present on the inside of the kit's bottom denoting measurements.

2. War time production
These were made with a steel handle for the kit's lid. The rest is unchanged.

3. Mid to late war production
These mess kits developed a simplified lug for attaching the bale. This was a small piece of folded steel riveted to the kit's side. The rim on the lid was often stamped and not rolled like the earlier models & enameled steel began to replace the aluminum bodies. This version also started phasing out the measurement notches on the kit's bottom. 

4. Late war production
The "last ditch" kits were made in late '44 and early '45. These were made of a thinner aluminum or steel & lacked the handle for the kit's top. The rim on the lid was stamped & left raw as in the previous model.

 
Post War Models
:
There are a variety of post war mess kits that are similar to the wartime examples above, but be careful!  While they may resemble a period kochgeschirr, they may have details that are incorrect or missing.  The following is a crash course in how to determine if the mess kit is original or a post war.  While this just offers the most basic of overviews on this topic, you will at least have the knowledge to be able to sort out the general types that should be avoided. 

1. East German Mess kit
This post war model is the type most commonly found on the market today. While it is the correct size, you will note that both the top & bottom strap loops on the lid's handle are missing. This makes the lid incorrect for WWII use. The bail lugs are acceptable in pattern.
2. West German Mess kit
This post war model is taller than that of wartime originals. You can easily identify the main fault in this model by looking for the large space between the top of the lid & the top of the handle loop. Wartime mess kits would have the top strap loop flush with the top of the lid. This model is approximately 1/4 inch taller than the originals. The bail lugs are of a post war pattern & thus unacceptable for use.
3. West German Police Mess kit
This post war model is the closest in comparison to wartime examples. While the handle configuration & size match, the only thing that makes it incorrect is the bail lugs. As you can see, they are different than the wartime models shown above. Examples like these, but of Russian manufacture are also found from time to time.

  
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