You are here:

Military History/German military uniform


Uncle Ed
Uncle Ed  
Hi, I'm doing family research and would like info on the picture attached.  It is suppose to be of a relative born in Germany in 1877.  Can you tell me any info on this.  

Thank you so much.


The Germans during their Imperial period up to WWI had a variety of uniforms is so far as the arm (cavalry, infantry, artillery, and guards) regiments went.  There were variations between cities.  This might sound strange, but in those days there was no universal conscription.  Each regiment had a recruiting battalion stationed in its home city or district which received volunteers, trained them and sent them off to join the battalions of the regiment in the field.

Large cities like Berlin might have a host of regiments from different areas, and each one would have slightly different collar and cuff patterns to distinguish them one from the other.

Do you have any idea where your relative hailed from in the Fatherland?  One of my ancestors was from the Rhineland.

Now a few caveats about colors. Old black and white photos could some times present yellows that look like white.  So I am assuming that the whites are white, since I do not know any different.  BUT looking at the white plumage on his helmet, it is a shade different than the "white" braid on his uniform. Some of it might indeed be silver.

This we know: The tunic and pants were dark blue.  

The Lintzen (trans.: wire) the linear braid on the collar were gold or silver depending on whether you were enlisted or an officer and it sometimes varied by regiment if it was a special regiment. Behind it the thin dark line would be a color, say red. Same for the cuff Lintzen.  There is a button in the middle, of the cuff Lintzen that is likely to be gold in this case. The cuff Lintzen terminate with a slight flair on each end if you look close.

A short note:  The cuff braid and buttons are on the front top of the cuff for a reason.  Fredrick the Great was first to give his troops fancy uniforms and he was distressed to watch his troops use the cuffs of their nice colorful uniforms to wipe their runny noses.  So he had buttons and braid added to keep them from doing it. They then had to use the back of the cuff or not at all.  At least on parade, the King, didn't have to see all the snot trails on the front of their cuffs.  True story.  Eventually the button migrated to the side and back of men's suits jackets.  They are still just decoration.

The officers wore gilded Lintzen and buttons

Now the two Litzen appear to be linear or Glatte Litze or smooth wire, as opposed to being very fancy or embroidered.

The Prussian Guard (Preuzische Garde) wore Smooth Wire on their collars.
Your relative is wearing a sword, which is reserved for non-commissioned officers or officers.
The plumed helmet shows the eagle crest on the front, and it is hard to see much detail, but what the eagle is clutching can be made out.  The one on the left looks like a sword and the one on the right might be one two.  It looks like a "marshall's" star on the eagles chest.
If so that would make it a Garde-Adler Offizier bei Mannschaft Stern ganz Neusilber translated as a Guard-Eagle Officer with Team Star of Nickel Silver.

The helmet, the gold buttons and silver Lintzen, and sword tells me he was probably an officer in a Guards Regiment. The cuff terminations look to be Grenadier rather than Guard. The collar looks to be Prussian Guard, the shoulder eppauletts say officer as well.  Now, we are talking infantry, not cavalry. Since he is wearing an infantry sword.

The buckle on is belt looks to be silver on gold too. We cannot see his shoulder board emblems but they too look white or silver.

If you know the town or city or region he came from, we might be able to nail it down a bit.  I got this information from this site.

Click the various links for Litzen and Helmet Wappen on the top.  The black column labels tell you what the various images are for.

You might like to try using Gimp  its free, or photo shop if you have it, to colorize the image.  First, correct the image tint to black and white, then using the color tool, with the transparency set to about 50% you can add a bit of color to the cuff and color bands, make the uniform blue, and see just what great great grand dad looked like when he was in his prime.

Military History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Keith H. Patton


I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.


I was a history major, and had done extensive research in the subject area. I have designed and tested numerous computer games for various
historical periods.

B.A History M.S. Science
I have had the opportunity to live abroad and walk numerous battlefields both in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific.

©2016 All rights reserved.