The above French photo (part of a collection developed by the colour photography pioneers the Lumiere brothers in conjunction with a serving major) gives an interesting example of the first generation feldgrau service dress of the German Imperial Army. Formally adopted on 23 February 1910 the field grey was distributed with such speed and efficiency as to be worn by most units involved in the summer manouvers that year. It replaced the varigated coloured uniforms (mostly Prussian blue) previously worn, though these were retained for parade, walking out and ceremonial purposes until August 1914.
As can be seen in the photo, the original feldgrau was of a light shade, with features of the peace-time dress commemorated discreetly in the form of coloured piping, collar and cuff braiding etc. These ornaments, together with the fairly visible shade of grey and the retention of spiked helmets, made the uniform less than totally satisfactory and in September 1915 a simplified field dress was adopted in a darker grey-green colour, with most of the trimmings reduced or removed. In practice both the M1910 and M1915 uniforms were worn on a mix and match basis until 1918. The grey-green proved sufficiently practical to continue being used until the end of World War II. For understandable reasons of political sensititivity it was then replaced by a much lighter grey in the army of the German Federal Republic and a slightly different shade called steingrau (stone-grey) in that of the German Democratic Republic.
The picture shown appears to have been taken in late 1914 since there is no sign of the pickelhaubes still generally worn in the opening weeks of the war (although these were often souvenired by allied captors or confiscated by intelligence officers to provide clear enemy unit identification. The colourful figure at left is a French chasseur a'cheval (light cavalryman). As a homely detail two pairs of red French breeches appear to be hanging out to dry behind the prisoners.
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