At the end of Operation Barbarossa, in December 1941, just as the Wehrmacht spearhead units found themselves at the gates of Moscow, the Russian winter, Germany’s worst WW2 enemy, sprang an ambush on the German Army. Although they belonged to a great military machinery, the German ground troops realized that they had been ill-equipped to fight a winter war as they were dressed in inadequate uniform that did not protect the foot soldier against the extreme cold weather conditions of the Russian plains. Thus, during the first two winters, the German infantry had to improvise with civilian surcoats and fur caps, for the adequate winter clothing would not reach all frontline troops until 1943.
The only available protective clothing worn by the German troops between November 1941 and March 1942 was composed of nine uniform items: the M1936 round-neck, grey-white, woollen sweater; extra-thick, woollen underwear; the feldgrau tube-shaped, a woollen balaclava; a wool greatcoat, a feldgrau water-proof, ankle-length, double-breasted, guard coat; feldgrau woollen mittens, and felt overshoes. Although this clothing was sufficient for Central Europe, it proved to be completely inadequate for the Eastern Front’s cold weather conditions, specially the traditional German jackboots (Marschstiefel).
Below: German infantry soldiers wearing improvised snow comouflage over their wool greatcoats in early November 1941 as they closed in on Moscow
Eastern Front: December 1941 – March 1942
Different types of uniform worn at the Battle of Stalingrad: winter of 1942-1943 (notice the Russian PPSh-1 sub-machine gun carried by the German wearing the white combat uniform)
Below: From left to right: a Panzergrenadier lieutenant, an artillery regiment captain, and a Grenadier regiment soldier, all wearing the winter uniform provided to German troops deployed in the north and central Eastern Front in February-March 1943
Grenadier regiment and Jäger regiment troops in the winter of 1943-1944