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33rd Waffen SS Charlemagne

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 7:01 pm
by byely-volk!
I'm trying to put together a french SS tunic, and was wondering if someone could point me in the direction of a good resource website/book or tell me what insignia they wore.

Many Thanks, Ollie

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:09 pm
by Jon Das Reich
Normal run of the mill Waffen-SS runes. On the Waffen-SS world map that shows FV collars patches the one for France shows a sword with oakleaves either side but there is no evidence that this patch was worn or even produced.
A cuff title with the division’s name was authorized and manufactured, but saw only little, if any, actual use.

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:49 pm
by Cookie
Hi Ollie,

What Jon has said is spot on. The French 'Charlemagne' division grew out of a smaller unit called the 'sturmbrigade frankreich' which was formed in 1943 and was equipped with all the standard WSS insignia such as the runes collar patch, SS arm eagle and branch-of-service piped black shoulderboards. Their only thing to identify them as French was the SS pattern Tricolor armshield of blue-white-red. This was of a plain, straight sided design with a thick black border. It was worn on the lower arm in the place normally reserved for a cufftitle and was later moved to the regulation position a fingers width under the arm eagle (c. Jan '45). Sturmann and Gefreiter chevrons were worn under the armshield. Trade badges were worn either above the arm eagle or on the forearm.

Where things get a bit complicated is when the division was formed. this included the men of the SS-Sturmbrigade Frankreich, the Werhmacht sponsored Legion Volontaire Francaise, NSKK, OT, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe and the Milice Francaise. New uniforms and insignia were issued but many of the LVF retained their army pattern armshields (stylised heraldric design withe the word 'france' in white thread above the colours). This was worn in the regulation place under the arm eagle.

Members of the Milice, mostly Catholics, were concerned about wearing the SS runes as they were considered to be pagan and pushed for an acceptable alternative. This is were the 'sword of st joan' collar patch comes in. However, it was NEVER issued and should be considered a fantasy piece. The German Inspection had trouble enough intergrating the various factions into the division and they didn't want this to further divide the men.

The Cufftitle has been the subject of much controversy. According to most historians and substantiated by veterans of the unit (robert Forbes: 'For Europe' Helion & co.) the titles were issued to the Assault Pioneer Company on their return journey from a training course in Bohemia-Moravia. They were to take the consignment of cufftitles to the unit for issue. However, when they got to Neustrelitz the unit had already departed for the Pomeranian front. A small number of Officers and NCO's were issued them by Brigaf. Dr. Kruckenburg when they attended specialist training at Junkerschule Tolz etc.

To wear the cufftitle means you need to get white piped ss shoulder boards and ink the piping with a black pen (black is the colour for Pioneres in the army/wss). The cufftitle was only manufactured in BeVo weave and NOT RZM.

All clothing, equipment and webbing was standard issue W-SS stuff. Clothing would have been M43 and M44 issue with a few M36's for officers and maybe a few M40 and M42 for men who came from the LVF.

The men were also allowed to wear any medals they had previously earnt with the french army in 1939-40 or earlier. The Vichy regime issued medals to men who had taken part in the fighting against Germany with its own medals but republican medals were still acceptable.

Cufftitle from Nick Morigi at
Tricolor armshield from
I hope this is helpful to you.

Check out 'For Europe' at helion books. or


Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:02 pm
by byely-volk!
Damn brilliant guys, to be honest that's everything I could of asked for and more! Thanks

Cookie, just reading another post and you should create a website. with the knowledge you have just shown in the above post, I would imagine if there was a man for the job, you would be that man!


Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:19 pm
by Cookie
I'm good with a needle and thread, but computers? ha! I just recently got my head round photobucket. You never know...

Be careful with selecting what you want for which uniform though Ollie. Read Forbes 'For Europe' before you buy anything. Select which period you want to do (ie Galicia '44, Pomerania '45 or Berlin '45) as they differ a lot from one another!

If you need any help with specifics just ask.

Good luck

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:15 pm
by Jon Das Reich
research, research and more research theres alot of info on the net regarding the 33rd just tweek your google search words. Plus read the books which are on the market some books are better than others, plus when more info comes tolight earlier books seem to be out of date and less accurate.
plus ask via forums. :wink:
good luck with your impression.

Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:02 pm
by Cookie
"research, research and more research" - I'll second that. You should maybe do a bit of background research into Vichy France, the Republic, the pre-war French Army and the rightist Political parties that contributed to the French W-SS and Werhmacht units. A very complicated and interesting subject.

La recherche est tout.

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:21 am
by byely-volk!
Thanks again guys, I've got to save a few pennies before I invest in the new kit. So I have plenty of time to read up on the subject before hand, something I didn't do when I first started!

Cookie, the picture of you is the look I had in mind but with a helmet(camo cover) and kar98k!!!


Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:31 pm
by Cookie
"Cookie, the picture of you is the look I had in mind but with a helmet(camo cover) and kar98k!!!"

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That would be WRONG!


As I said in the post above there are a whole load of different criteria for doing a French SS impression. Each campaign the French WSS participated in represented an almost completely new change in equipment, uniforms and weapons issue. Not to mention the placement, or lack of, of insignia.

The picture of me above is from a reenactment of the battle for Berlin. At this stage in the war the 800 odd men who went to Berlin were newly issued with PEA DOT camo suits. This was the first time camouflage of any kind had been issued to the French SS. The approximate issue was:

600+ men of the 57th Reg - full pea dot suits for every man.
200+ men of the 58th Reg and Pionere plt - incomplete/random issue. Some had none.

Eight men of the Honour company managed to acquire the "old-style, over-the-head camouflage smocks" from sources in the Horst Wessel div they were attached to in Galicia. These men were all Uschar rank or above and most were killed in Pomerania. 3 are believed to have survived until Berlin.

Helmet covers were never issued to the unit in any of its various forms. I'm sure individuals managed to get hold of them but is highly unlikely as they stopped being made in 1943 and the WSS units that the french encountered were all fairly low on the priority list for kit issue. It is part of the 'french' look to have no camo or to have pea dot.

Moving on.
When the men went to Berlin in April '45 they were running very short of both steel helmets and entrenching tools. There were still a number of men who had retained theirs from previous campaigns but absense of these is large enough to have been commented upon in most veterans recollections of the period.
Steel helmets would have been of the M42 pattern (unrolled and uncrimped edges). And without the SS runes decal as these ceased to be applied in 1943. All pictures show plain grey helmets. These are most clear in pictures of Galicia in which the unit was equipped for in 1943.

Weapons issue:
Galicia: K98's, Mp40's (very few),MG42's.
Pomerania: K98's, G43's (very few), Mp40's (very few), MG42's (lots).
Berlin: Every man who was not armed with either an MG42 or a K98 with a grenade launcher attached was armed with an MP44. enlisted men, NCO's and officers. There were at least 1 MG42 per ten men and 1 K98+grenade launcher. Some squads had as many as two each.
The 200 men of the 58 reg who went to berlin were only given 1 MP44 per every 3 men. The rest had k98's and G43's although the G43's were in short supply.

If you have a K98 you must make sure it is of a late war pattern with late war fittings. It is no good carrying a rifle with an early stock, 'H' band and no site hood. Try to get a Rifle grenade pouch and a tan canvas grenade bag. NO HELMET COVER! As there were only 200 men of the 58th and only a third of these had K98's you are not doing a representatve impression. If you want to do a Pomerania impression then you need to cover your french insignia with a greatcoat and white snow shell smock! (therefore eliminating the whole point of doing french ss!)

Galica would be fine. No camo, lots of helmets, lots of mid war K98's.

Try to avoid the cliche of having a helmet cover. Many, many units of the WSS never saw these at all.

Be aware of the many pitfalls of this impression. If you do it wrong people will jump on you.

Speak to me.

All the best

Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 10:22 am
by byely-volk!
Thanks again mate, nothings simple in this hobby is it! Then again part of the fun is learning about everything.

I think as you say I will do a Galica impression, in saying that I might do a later Berlin impression, to be honest I'm not sure now! I will have a think about it and a read up, then make a decision.

With the kit I have, I could do a Galica impression easily, but I prefer the look of the Berlin one, just got way up the pros and cons of each.

Out of interst what made you do a french impression?

Thanks again, Ollie

Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 8:22 pm
by Cookie
Hi Ollie,

My group, Thunder From Heaven, were putting together a battle for berlin photoshoot and my friend ('G43' on this forum) lent me his copy of a 1995 edition of 'militaria' mag in which there was an article about the 'charlemagne'. It had pictures of a guy dressed up in the typical kit of the unit and also pictures of what you'd expect to find in his pockets and breadbag etc. I wanted inspiration for the photoshoot and it just appealed to me, don't know why.

When I started reading about them and what they went through I thought it would be a good impression to do - with lots of unusual subjects attached. Its not a well covered subject and there aren't many people who reenact it (i've never seen anyone do french WSS other than my friend G43). Also reading about the background in Vichy France, the 1939-40 campaign and what made them join up with the SS was fascinating.

Also, on a less intellectual level, I think its a quality impression: Pea dot camo, Mp44's, grimy uniforms and that gallic disregard for danger.

So yeah, don't underestimate this subject. I've had to do a LOT of reading before I moved into the more specialist areas like the combat engineers.

If you stick with Galicia you can't really go wrong. Its a spring/summer impression with all standard mid/late war issue kit - so it is fine for reenacting events (ie wearing a Karkov parka in july is NOT pleasant). Grey m42 helmet, M43 tunic & Trousers, ankle boots, army/SS leather webbing, K98's. The armshield is the only special insignia and it goes down on the forearm where the cufftitle is normally placed. If you really want to wear camo wear an SS zeltbahn - but beware that it was so hot in Galicia when the French were there that they sometimes just wore thier tunics without anything underneath and with the sleeves rolled up!

Bon Chance.

I will post pictures of my newly completed W-Uschar Pionere tunic this week.

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:28 pm
by byely-volk!
I have all the kit to do a Galicia impression, I will need a few little bits but nothing major, I've got a SOF SS M43 somewhere that's not been used.

So should be good to go when I've got a few more pennies, that would be great I've never seen many pictures of the uniforms.

Thanks again, Ollie

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:48 pm
by Cookie

Here's a few of me taken this morning n the garden (excuse the sub-tropcal plants).

Berlin, April '45. Waffen-Unterscharfuhrer, 33rd Pionere Zug der Sturmbattailon 'Charlemagne'.


The tunic I am wearing is one from SoF- I had to change the buttons as they were badly painted brass. The armshield is from SoF but I was speaking to the guys at yesterday and they're now stocking the French SS armshield. Theirs is of a more superior quality, more accurate and is only £3!

Au Revoir

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 1:38 pm
by byely-volk!
Look's wicked mate, which tunic did you get? Mines the cheapest one, I will proberly use it as a stop gap, depends how it comes out. The buttons are not to great either.

I will get some pictures as I put things together, one question my M42 helmet is field grey but finished in very rough texture, does that matter?


Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:01 pm
by LAH650
HermanTheGerman wrote:Look's wicked mate, which tunic did you get? Mines the cheapest one, I will proberly use it as a stop gap, depends how it comes out. The buttons are not to great either.

I will get some pictures as I put things together, one question my M42 helmet is field grey but finished in very rough texture, does that matter?


Don't tell him he looks good we'll never hear the last of it.... :lol: :lol:

Mark as per norm spot on ... Gay :wink: