SHOULDER STRAP – PRUSSIA – WAFFENMEISTER – ARTILLERIE-REGIMENT – WAR MINISTRY PROTOTYPE TAG.
This is a very important and historically significant shoulder strap. First, it is for a very senior Artillerie Regiment NCO in the rank of Waffenmeister (Master Gunner). The rank itself is uncommon, but what makes this so important is that it has an Imperial German War Ministry prototype tag attached to it. The War Ministry was responsible for a wide range of projects that both organized and kept the German Army running smoothly. One of the Ministry’s functions was to come up with improvements to all types of uniforms, headdress, gear, and so on. Working with various suppliers in Germany, the Ministry decided what new types of items were to be used in the future. They created a prototype that eventually became a standardized Army item.
This particular shoulder strap was the first of its kind. Such examples were stored at the War Ministry in an archive for reference once the item was changed or new one was approved. I have secured several items with the War Ministry tags attached over the years. [Believe me, these items are very special and SCARCE, so I leap at the opportunity to secure them when offered]!
The shoulder strap measures 2 ½” x 5 ½.” It features various shades of gold, blue, black, and green bullion tape along three of its four edges. The strap’s center is made of red felt, as are thin lines of trim on its extreme edges. The red center displays a pair of crossed, gold-toned cannons, each of which measures 2″ in length. A special metal insignia appears below the crossed cannons, shaped into a shield that measures ¾” x 1 ¼.” It features of a gold-toned Hohenzollern Eagle against a dark background and beneath a Hohenzollern Crown. The royal cypher “FW” appears on the Eagle’s chest. It is similar to that found on pickelhauben wappens. The strap’s reverse displays a blue backing. The obverse’s condition is perfect, while its reverse is marked by one moth nip.
The faded white War Ministry tag is attached to a string that is looped through the buttonhole where the strap would be attached to a tunic. It measures 2 ¾” x 5.” One side has the red wax seal of the Kriegsministerium (War Ministry). The string’s other end has a wax seal over it to keep it with the strap. It features some period writing on it that describes the item and its location within the archive. Below that (in English) in a fountain pen’s black ink is the notation “Shoulder strap from the uniform of a German Master Gunner.” Since the notation was made with a fountain pen, it tells us it was written more than seventy-years ago when such pens were commonly used.
The opposite side features the words below in bold lettering (rendered in old German Fraktur).
Schulterslappen für Waffenmeister (Shoulder Strap for a Weapons Master)
Below these two lines is some of the boilerplate for the listing of War Ministry items, as well as dates in April 1907 (some one-hundred-ten years-ago). This may well have been the last update for the pre war shoulder straps. After that, the Imperial German Army began to phase in feldgrau uniforms and updated shoulder boards/straps.
This very special shoulder board was used in the just-released book Under Arms for the Kaiser: Shoulder Insignia of the German Army’s Regiments 1871-1918 by Michael Kelso on pages 381-382. It is one of the rarest shoulder straps that we have ever offered.