Rock Island Auction Company

May 12, 2020

Camouflage 101: Splinter Camo

By Sean McCarthy

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In our previous article in this series, we discussed the Waffen-SS "Blurred Edge" pattern, a novel example of early camouflage employed on a larger scale. The focus on World War 2 Germany will continue by examining Splittertarnmuster, more commonly known as "Splinter" camo. It will be referred to as "Splinter" throughout this article, with distinction made to different variations used by the Heer and Luftwaffe (land and air forces, respectively).

Development of Splinter Camo

The earliest versions of a splinter-type camouflage came during World War 1, where they were used to hide trucks but never moved beyond that level of implementation.

The two main patterns of Splinter we will be looking at are Heeressplittertarnmuster 31 and Luftwaffesplittertarnmuster 41, where the number at the end of the name denotes the year of its deployment. Heer pattern was first conceived two years earlier in 1929 and in those early stages of initial development, Splinter camo was intended for use on German Zeltbahns, a type of tarp that could be used as a poncho or a small shelter. It would first be issued two years later in 1931.

splinter camo coverA Luftwaffe helmet cover printed in Splinter. Sold in our February Sporting & Collector Auction for $1,955

The Luftwaffe version came about in 1941, just before the invasion of Crete which saw widespread deployment of the feared Fallschirmjäger paratroopers. The Luft version was more or less the same, but the geometric patches were smaller than the Heer variety. The basic design of both versions saw the larger shapes in the pattern colored brown and the smaller ones green, printed over a grey/green background.

Later Luft designs (intended for use in Africa) switched the color of the patches, the larger being green and the smaller brown. Development and production of Heer and Luft camouflage was overseen by the German Army. Interestingly enough, this occurred separately from patterns developed for the Waffen-SS which had its own division for such purposes.

Splinter camo smockVery Rare Paratrooper Jump Smock in "Splittermuster 41" Camouflage with Rare Rank Insignia

Deployment of Splinter Camo

Much like the Blurred Edge pattern, Splinter camo found use in many different ways. It was prominently featured on jump smocks worn by the Fallschirmjäger paratroopers, as well as on their helmet covers, ammunition bandoliers, grenade pouches, and even the shoulder boards on which rank insignias were displayed. Pictured below is what appears to be a member of the Fallschirmjäger holding a Panzerfaust warhead.

splinter-camo-and-panzerfaust

This varied usage was similar for the Heer forces, which included printing on insulated winter gear such as gloves and insulated hoods. Splinter saw such success that variations of the pattern were used by other nations post-war. France, Switzerland, and Bulgaria all employed camouflage patterns that bear striking similarities to Splinter. In particular, a French pattern from 1950 is virtually indistinguishable save for minor changes to the geometry of the colored patches. The pattern's further evolution after the fall of Nazi Germany is indicative of its revolutionary design.

Collecting Splinter Camo

splinter camo jump smock

Equipment printed in Splinter patterns are highly sought after, particularly items developed for the Fallschirmjäger due to their respected combat prowess. If you would like to add some Splinter to your collection, Rock Island Auction is proud to have some items available to the collecting public in our June Premier auction. One of the most sought after pieces of German militaria is the Fallschirmjäger jump smock, and the item (shown above) is sure to entice collectors of such pieces. The condition is excellent, and the Splittertarnmuster 41 coloration is superb considering its age. Per information supplied by the consignor, this is the only known smock with an attached rank insignia, making it particularly noteworthy.

splinter camo smockA close-up of the insignia.

We also will be auctioning off a helmet cover printed in the Heer version of Splinter, as well one printed in the Luft version. These items are in good condition, with minor wear as expected for items as old as these. As mentioned above, the Heer pattern is identified by larger geometric patterns. The two pictures below show the helmets, and show the differences between the two patterns.

luftwaffe splinter camo helmet coverLuftwaffe Fallschirmjaeger Camouflage Helmet Cover

splinter camo pattern helmet coverSplinter Pattern Camouflage Helmet Cover

As always, thank you for taking the time to read these articles. If you make it to a Premier Auction and would like to chat, I won’t be too hard to find because I won’t be wearing camouflage.

Sources:
Palinckx, Werner, and J. F. Borsarello. Camouflage Uniforms of the German Wehrmacht: Manufacturers ... Schiffer, 2002.

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