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Luftwaffe Musical Bands and Drum Corps

All regiments, independent battalions, and units of an equal size(except for Medical Battalions) had a Band and a Fife and Drum Corps. Battalions within a Regiment did not have a band, unless they were stationed in a garrison, detached from Regimental Headquarters. In the case of a detached Battalion, a small band was allowed. In other words, it was planned that every Garrison have at least one band.

In the unit organization, the Musikkorps were part of the unit's Headquarters Company. There was no standardized billet structure. Each band varied in strength and instruments.

As an illustration, the following are some examples of band and drum corps strengths in 1939, excluding Musikmeisters and Drum Majors-

1. Regiment Hermann Goering- Band- 60(later that year, 70) NCOs and men. Corps - 48 NCOs and men.

2. Reichs Air Ministry(Stabsmusikkorps)- Band- 54 NCOs and men. Corps- 16 NCOs and men.

3. Determined units of Regiment size- Band 40 NCOs and men. Corps- 12 NCOs and med.

4. HQ of Airbases, AntiAir Battalions, Air Signals Battalions, and detached battalions- 30 NCOs and men. Corps 12 NCOs and men.

It is a known fact that there was a shortage of trained musicians, so it is considered possible that not all units had a fully manned band. As a result, it is known that many bands were commanded by a senior NCO, instead of a Musikmeister(officer).

It is written that in case of mobilization, the bands were to be re-distributed. According to my references, these details have not been found. Angolia states(Vol3 of Uniforms and Traditions of the Luftwaffe), "Heer Order dated 25March1944 permitted only one band of 28 NCOs for every DIVISION of the field army. All other bands were to be disbanded and officers were transferred to TO&E positions for Officers. It is probable that this order was also enacted in the Luftwaffe as well.".

Uniforms of the Band leaders(Musikmeister) and Band members were introduced in 1935 with minor insignia changes in 1938. The Musikkorps utilized the standard LW uniforms.

They wore the waffenfarbe of the units to which they were attached. Musikmeisters wore the officer style visor hat, with the difference being that they piping would be that of the branch color of the unit they were assigned to, instead of the standard silver piping, specific to officers. In 1938, the regulations changed for officers, allowing the use of the standard LW Officer's Visor, with the silver piping.

Band Leaders were classified as officials until brought over onto a Soldier status on 12Apr1938.

Rankings are as follow:

Oberfeldwebel- Musikleiter

Leutnant- Musikmeister

Oberleutnant- Obermusikmeister

Hauptmann- Stabsmusikmeister

On 30Jun1939, two additional rankings were created to make up the Music Superintendents. These men were assigned to the RLM and had a Black waffenfarbe, yet this was soon changed to these men wearing the waffenfarbe of the last unit they were assigned to. Their rankings were:

Major- Musikinspizient

Oberstleutnant- Obermusikinspizient

Please see below for more specific descriptions on the inisignia.

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Collar tabs...

The collar tabs were piped in the branch color of the unit the Musikmeister was assigned.


Musikleiter(Oberfeldwebel)- Blank collar tabs with a silver metal lyre cypher fixed to each, instead of gulls. Overcoat tabs had the thin aluminum tress along the outer and lower edges, as with the regular luftwaffe for NCOs. As before, the lyre cypher replaced ranking gulls.

MusikMeister(Leutnant/Hauptmann)- Collar tabs consisted of the half wreath, with a lyre instead of wings. There was no distinctive rank designation on the collar tabs. The rank was specified on the shoulder boards.

Music Superintendents(Major/OberstLt)- Collar tabs consisted of a full wreath with a lyre. Again, rank was specified on the shoulder boards, alone.


Musikleiter(Oberfeldwebel)- No change from above.

Musikmeister(Leutnant/Hauptmann)- Collar tabs consisted of half wreath and rank was specified by the introduction of wings(gulls). The lyre was reduced in size and embroidered above the upper gull.

Music Superintendents(Major/OberstLt)- Like the Musik Meister, the tabs introduced the use of gulls, with the lyre being reduced in size and being embroidered above the upper gull.

Here are some examples of some post 1938 Band Leader collar tabs.

1. Flight piped Musikmeister

2. Flight piped Obermusikmeister

3. Signals piped Obermusikmeister

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Shoulder Board....

The shoulder boards authorized for Band Leaders and Music Superintendents were very distinctive, when compared with those of the normal Luftwaffe.

The shoulder boards were constructed in the same manner as the shoulder boards being used by the regular Luftwaffe, with the exception of the center braid consisted of a red cord of bright artificial silk, flanked by two smaller cords of aluminum braid on both sides. These boards had gold colored lyre cyphers fixed to them. As with the standard Luftwaffe ranking system, rank was noted by the type of shoulder board and the number of pips.


Musicians wore swallows nests on each shoulder. I will get into more detail on these shortly.

Music Leader

Oberfeldwebel- Musikleiter- Apr1935-Apr1938- Woven shoulder "knot" as seen on the NCO shoulder insignia for Luftwaffe officials, except done

using red cord instead of blue-gray. The underlay was the branch color of the host unit(same as seen on the tabs).

Post 1938- Standard Feldwebel-Stabsfeldwebel straps with a Lyre in the center.

Band Leader

Leutnant- Musikmeister- No Pips

Oberleutnant- Obermusikmeister- One pip

Hauptmann- Stabsmusikmeister- Two pips

Music Superintendent

Major- Musikinspizient- No pips

Oberstleutnant- Obermusikinspizient- One pip

Here is an example of a Musikmeister(leutnant) board for a leader assigned to a Flight unit.

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Swallow's nests...

The swallow's nests were worn by the rank and file musicians. These pieces were detachable pieces of insignia that were placed over each shoulder. They were the color of the waffefarbe of the base unit, trimmed with a thick tresse of aluminum braid.

There were three variations, based upon the role of the musician.

1. Musiker(bandsman)- The swallows nest is in the appropriate color, trimmed in aluminum braid.

2. Stabshornisten(Bugle Major)- Same as musiker, except for the addition of a 7cm aluminum braid.

3. Spielleute(fife and drum member)- Same as musiker except trimmed in a gray braid instead of aluminum.

Musicians wore no other identifying insignia. Their uniforms and insignia were identical to those assigned to the branch unit.

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The next photos is of a full uniform of a Luftwaffe Musikmeister(Leutnant). As you can see, he is assigned to a Flight unit. The uniform was a private purchase set made in Gent Belgium. Unfortunately, it is not named! Note the post 1938 insignia and the silver collar braid.

As a side note, the ribbon bar, aguillette, and buttonhole ribbons have always been with the tunic. I placed the DRL badge into the chest loops.

Musikmeisters were compelled to purchase their own uniforms with their own funds.

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I will post some photos I found on Ebay. Sadly, they are part of a larger grouping that the seller decided to break apart and sell individually. There were about 50 photos, and I was able to get 5. mad.gif

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Any data or militiaria related to Luftwaffe Musicians will be greatly appreciated. As usual, anything pertinent to the topic is welcome... period photos, insignia, uniforms, instruments, documents... anything goes!



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Thank you for sharing your pieces with us! You have some very rare pieces there!

The 1935-8 Signals Oberfeldwebel(Musikleiter) board is really something! I have been trying to find a 1935 Musikleiter pattern board for a long time. It seems as if the Political style lyre was used freely, as my tunic is utilizing the same style.

Your post-1939 Flak Superintendent board is also awe-striking. It is the first Flak piped music board I have seen. I would love to see these boards on a tunic! :cheers: One that I am surprised in not seeing is the black piped insignia. It would seem that the RLM black would be more common.

Remember, any Musik related items are welcome! Lets keep 'em coming! :jumping:

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That is a great question.

Of my books, Davis seems to get into the most detail on them.( "Uniforms and Insignia of the Luftwaffe, volume 1: 1933-1940", page 140). All that he states about the origin is that, "The practice of German musicians wearing swallows nests is a very old tradition...". Maybe someone else can help shed some more light on this!

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That is a great question.

Of my books, Davis seems to get into the most detail on them.( "Uniforms and Insignia of the Luftwaffe, volume 1: 1933-1940", page 140). All that he states about the origin is that, "The practice of German musicians wearing swallows nests is a very old tradition...". Maybe someone else can help shed some more light on this!

I hope I am replying in the right place.The swallowsnest was initially to prevent the straps sliding off the shoulder and then evolved into a musician-branch disticntion. I regret it is not used today as the German bands are terrific. I am blasting the Radetzky now and have a vast collection of the German military music. Go to YouTube and type in military parades of Chile and you will see Prussia alive and well, proud,self confident musicians ..with swallowsnests.There are some great video clips avavilable.BTW,PaulR I appreciate your contributions,especially Medical..I was proud Army dentist..our motto..we scare soldiers,unfortuenately ours!.Sorry for typos must get to work.John Wilson

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Go to YouTube and type in military parades of Chile and you will see Prussia alive and well, proud,self confident musicians ..with swallowsnests.

AMAZING! (their singing leaves a lot to be desired though...)


Edited by Biber
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