After World War I all military police units were disbanded and no police units
existed in the post-war Reichswehr. Only garrison areas were patrolled by
regular soldiers which was a function normally carried out by military police.
The start of W.W.II opened the floodgates for numerous police formations to
form and characterised the sometimes chaotic hierarchy of the German armed
forces. Civilian police units would form the basis for the Fallschirmtruppen as
well as a number of Waffen SS divisions with at least two well known commanders
Sepp Dietrich and Kurt Meyer of the 12th SS, both of whom served as policemen
prior to joining the military.
Within the German Army of the Third Reich, the "Feldgendarmerie" (also known as
"Kettenhunde" or "Chain Dogs") was a military organisation that had received
full infantry training and yet had extensive police powers. These military
police units were employed with army divisions and higher formations.
"Feldgendarmerie" establishments provided various different detachments which
were self-contained units under the command of an army division. They worked in
close cooperation with the Secret Field Police ("Geheime Feldpolizei") and with
district commanders and town majors.
In Potsdam there was a military police school set up for the purpose of
training military police and the subjects taught in these schools were as
follows: Criminal code, general and special police powers, forestry, fishery
and waterway codes, traffic codes, industrial codes, reporting duties, passport
and identification duties, folk culture, first aid, weapons drill and
instruction, shooting, defence techniques, criminal police methodology,
identification service and general correspondence training. As well as all this
there were also lessons in air defence, animal protection, and typewriter /
After the first term of examinations, a provisional spell at a police station
followed. All courses lasted one year and after completion many of the
candidates who failed to make the grade were dropped. It was no mean feat
passing out of these schools and becoming police officers-for example of one
batch of trainees numbering 219 only 89 remained to take the final examination.
German Feldgendarmerie served right from the outbreak of war and after the
occupation of Czechoslovakia and Poland training schools were set up in Prague
and Litzmannstadt-Görnau as well as a Technical Police School in Berlin. After
the war, it was at these schools that most prospective police candidates
received their instruction. They served on every front in the war and towards
the end were more often employed as regular troops on the front-line and were
involved in many desperate counter attacks and defences. Many were decorated
for bravery. During the last days of the war all Feldgendarmerie caught by the
Soviets (who had offered a bounty for their capture) could expect to be shot on
the spot and many were issued with a second Soldbuch (paybook) and matching ID
dog tags. In an area where it was fairly likely that prisoners would be taken
the Feldgendarme would hand their real paybook into the Feldgendarmerie
redirection Centre and would receive the false book and tags, which would state
the soldiers as a regular soldier. After the hostilities their real paybook and
tags would be returned to them.
The organisation of the Feldgendarmerie began at the German High Command O.K.H
(Oberkommando Des Heeres). Here a Feldgendarmerie officer of the rank of
General Major was directly sub-ordinate to the Quartermaster General. He held
ultimate jurisdiction over the Feldgendarmerie units in the Wehrmacht, and was
responsible for postings and personal administration, monitoring the
performance of the police, allocation of tasks, laying down traffic regulations
as well as devising training procedures. His immediate subordinates were the
staff officers of each Oberkommando Army who was in charge of the
Feldgendarmerie Battalion, one or more of which would be attached to each Army.
The staff officer was responsible for maintaining order and discipline, traffic
control during large scale troop movements and maintaining traffic routes.
Below the Battalion were platoons ("Truppen") which were attached to each
Division or Corps. Fg Groups ("Gruppe") were assigned to a field or local
command, and separate units or sections could be assigned temporarily to
specific duties for support. A typical "Feldgendarmerie" "trupp" attached to an
Infantry or Panzer Division would probably comprise:
6 solo MC.
4 MC combinations.
These battalions were equipped with motorcycles and motorcycle combinations
which were armed with MG34 machine guns, Kubelwagens, Field cars such as the
Horch 4x4 and 3 ton Opel Blitz lorries and a small number of armoured vehicles
as a means of transport. Besides this the Battalion also had a support group
consisting of cooks, clerks, a cobbler and armourer. Personal weapons consisted
of small arms such as the excellent Walther PP which was designed as a civilian
police pistol (PP-Police Pistole) or the Walther PPK which was favoured by
officers whereas the Luger PO8 and Walther P38 were used by other ranks.
Automatic machine pistols were carried by NCOs and the Kar 98 rifle was issued
but was not widely used. The MG34 and 42 were used as vehicle mounted armament
for defending road blocks etc.
The rank and file Feldgendarme had tasks as follows:
Maintaining order and discipline.
Disarming, searching, collection and escort of POWs and stragglers.
Supervision of civilian population in occupied areas.
Checking papers of soldiers on leave and in transit.
Prevention of the distribution of air-dropped enemy propaganda leaflets.
Carrying out street patrols in occupied areas.
Control of evacuees and refugees during retreats.
Border control and anti-partisan duties.
They also had the authority to pass through road blocks, check points, and
secured areas and were allowed to conduct body and property searches and
obtain the assistance of any other military or civilian personnel. They
also had seniority over every other soldier up to their own rank whatever
their branch of service.
Within the occupied areas, the "Feldgendarmerie" had the following
Control duties at ports and airfields.
Administrative control of aliens and cattle diseases.
Hunting, fishing, business, agricultural and forestry police duties.
Police patrol duties.
When their parent divisions were advancing the "Feldgendarmerie" followed
the combat troops closely and:
Acted as and established temporary town majors and army straggler's
Rounded up enemy stragglers and guerrilla's.
Collecting refugees and prisoners of war (POW).
Guarded captured booty.
Ensured that civilian weapons were surrendered.
Were responsible for the organisation of civilian labour
Erected military and civil signs
In the home areas of the German Reich they were responsible for:
Discipline amongst troops
The rounding up of deserters
Military traffic control
The evacuation of prisoners
At the wars end many Feldgendarmerie, specifically those who had not fallen
into Soviet hands, found themselves assigned to police roles by the Allies.
This happened on a few occasions and an officer of the 101st Airborne Division
recalls assigning Feldgendarmerie to guard German officers who had been ordered
to take charge of German prisoners of war. Another account goes one further and
recalls the British 8th Corps based in Schleswig-Holstein forming an entire
regiment of Feldgendarmerie to maintain discipline and order in the
Demobilisation Centre at Meldorf. Four battalions and a regimental staff
battalion, this Feldgendarmerie-Regiment Korps contained all volunteers, some
of whom were ex-police personnel. They wore an armband as identification which
bore the legend "Wehrmactordnungstruppe" (Armed Forces Order Troop) and below
this read "Military Police". They were all armed and payment for their services
came in the form of increased rations.
Members of the "Feldgendarmerie" wore the standard German Army uniform with
unique distinctive insignia that served to differentiate the "police" from the
Other Ranks collar patches”Waffenfarbe". Every arm-of-service/corps of the
German Army was allocated a specific colour as an indication of their
arm-of-service/corps. In German this was called "Waffengattungsfarben", usually
abbreviated to "Waffenfarbe" (Arm colour). Waffenfarbe were utilised on the
collar patches worn on tunics and also as an inverted "V"
on the field caps.
Gorget. When performing police duties the "Feldgendarmerie" wore a metal Gorget
("Ringkragen") on a chain around their necks. Because of their unpopularity
amongst the German rank and file, the "Feldgendarmerie" were often known as
"kettenhunde" ("chained dogs") in reference to their duty "Ringkragen".
Ringkragen were worn as a distinguishing mark, indicating to an observer that
the wearer held a special position within the military framework of his
particular unit. The shield and chain was of a dull matt silver finish, the
bosses and eagle and swastika emblem had a luminous paint finish, and the
scroll was coloured a dark field-grey with lettering picked out in luminous
paint. The Feldgendarmerie Ringkragen was intended for wear with Service Dress,
Field Service dress, Uniform Tunic, Winter
Tunic, Tropical Uniform, Greatcoat as well as the Motorcycle Coat. The Army
Feldgendarmerie duty Gorget was also worn by the Feldgendarmerie of the
Cuff Titles. On the cuff of the left sleeve all ranks of the "Feldgendarmerie"
wore a 30mm wide brown cuff-title with grey cotton edging and inscribed with
the word "FELDGENDARMERIE" in silver-grey machine-woven gothic lettering.
There were even cuff-titles made for the Secret Field Police ("Geheime
Feldpolizei") for wear on the left arm but these were rarely if ever seen.