Action Man index

Action Man German Staff Officer

Action Man German Staff Officer, 1975-77
Action Man German Staff Officer, 1975-77

Palitoy introduced the German Staff Officer uniform in 1974. It was an addition to the 'Soldiers of the World' series. The German Staff Officer was a good companion to the German Stormtrooper, which Palitoy introduced in c1967.

The Staff Officer had a similar jacket and the same jackboots as the Stormtrooper. He had an officer's schirmmütze (peaked cap) instead of the Stormtrooper's steel helmet. He also had officer's breeches instead of the Stormtrooper's straight-cut trousers. German officers often wore breeches. They were derived from contemporary riding breeches, which had extra width to allow for more movement.

The German Staff Officer had a short life in Palitoy's catalogue from 1974 to 1977. A German Officer returned to the line-up in 1980 - the Panzer Captain. His uniform was black.

The uniform

You could buy either the complete outfit, no 34153, or the uniform (no 34259) and equipment (no 34260) separately.

The uniform comprised cap, jacket, trousers and boots.

Jacket

Palitoy made the most of the existing German Stormtropper uniform. The first release of the Staff Officer had a similar jacket to the Stormtrooper. In 1974 this was the original uniform with small rounded pockets. As with the Stormtrooper's jacket, the finish around the shoulder straps was neater and the material thicker.

I think Palitoy must have found a different supplier in 1975 as the quality of the uniform declined. The colour also changed from dark green to an emerald green.

The 1975 'Official Equipment Manual' shows the new-style uniform. It shows the Staff Officer with small rounded pockets similar to the old-style uniform. There is a Stormtrooper stood next to him. The Stormtrooper's jacket has square pockets. Was there a difference? Certainly the later jackets exist with both square and rounded pockets. Palitoy used the same picture in 1976, but revised it in 1977 showing the officer's jacket with square pockets.

Trousers

The trousers for the Staff Officer were new. They were breeches-style based on a German officer's breeches. They matched the colour of the jacket.

What was in the kit?

Action Man German Staff Officer kit
Action Man German Staff Officer kit: belt with holster, map canister, binoculars, Luger pistol, schirmmütze (officer's cap)

The equipment

The kit comprised:

Like the Stormtrooper, he does not have a gas mask. Most German soldiers carried one in a ribbed cylindrical tin.

The equipment made the most of what was already in Palitoy's parts bin.

The boots, belt and Luger pistol were the same as the Stormtrooper's. The map canister and binoculars were originally issued to the 'Action Pilot' as part of the 'Communications' set (no 94037530 in 1966). The sand goggles first appeared as ski goggles in the Ski Patrol set (no 93635100 in 1966). All three were used in other outfits, including the Polar Explorer and Mountaineer.

The Staff Officer was a clever repackaging exercise, but was it realistic?

How realistic is the German Staff Officer's uniform?

German Second Lieutenant, Artillery
German Second Lieutenant, Artillery from an American poster dated 1943. Public Domain image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).

The German Staff Officer's uniform provides a good impression of a German officer, as familiar to most people in the 1970s from war films. It does not stand up to close scrutiny.

The schirmmütze (cap) is good. It was not a remould of the British Officer's cap (introduced in 1972). It has detail such as the silver cap cord which was worn by officers and senior NCOs. Other detail, such as the eagle, looks spot on. According to Ian Harrison in 'Action Man, the Official Dossier' it was modelled on a real German officer's cap owned by Palitoy's Sales Director, Harry Trowell. [1]

The uniform jacket followed the various changes in the life of the Stormtrooper jacket. The red piping around the shoulder straps and red collar piping suggests he was an artillery officer. The rank insignia for a German Officer is missing. Unlike the British Officer, Palitoy did not provided a set of stickers for this.

German Officers did have different jackets. According to Brian L Davis in German Army Uniforms and Ingsignia 1933-45, officers were allowed some freedom in the choice of uniform and some preferred to wear the enlisted men's jacket with the addition of their rank insignia.

The belt is not correct. German officers had a different belt with a buckle and without the eagle and swastika. The US poster (above left) has the same error.

Whilst it is possible that the officer could have worn the same jackboots as the enlisted men, he would have probably worn higher-fitting riding boots with the breeches.

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel with his distinctive sand goggles
Field Marshall Erwin Rommel with his distinctive sand goggles worn on his cap (1942) Image by Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-785-0287-08 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 image licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE) (cropped).

The sand goggles were a strange choice. The German army issued perspex goggles in different shades to protect against dust or sun. They were not specifically issued to officers. [2]

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is almost certainly the inspiration for the sand goggles. In the early 1970s there was renewed fascination with the Desert Fox. Rommel was the subject of the first episode of a BBC documentary series 'The Commanders' which was broadcast in 1972. A new book 'Rommel' by Charles Douglas-Home, which cast doubt on his reputation as a military genius, was published in 1973.

Since Palitoy introduced the Staff Officer uniform in 1974, their staff may have consulted the 1973 book 'Army Uniforms of World War 2' by Andrew Mollo and Malcolm McGregor. There is an illustration of a 'German General' who just happens to be Erwin Rommel. He has goggles fixed on his cap and a pair of 10x50 Dienstglas binoculars. The book points out that the sand goggles were British. Rommel was known for using captured British gas goggles for protection against the sun and sand. They were British MkII or MkIII gas goggles. Originally packed with a gas mask and designed for protection against poison gas, the goggles did equally well against sand. It was well-known at the time that Rommel used British goggles. You could buy 'Rommel goggles' from Army surplus in the 1970s.

There is a story that the goggles were given to Rommel by Major General Michael Gambier-Parry who was taken prisoner.

The German Staff Officer's binoculars are generic Action Man binoculars. They do not resemble the Dienstglas binoculars a German officer or NCO would have had.

The map case is also wrong. Palitoy did not even think to change the word from maps to 'Karten'. In reality, a German officer would have had a leather case to store maps. [3] Perhaps the map case was meant to illustrate his role as a Staff Officer.

The term 'staff officer' means an officer serving in General Staff. They were usually specially trained officers, often graduates of the prestigious Prussian Staff College. Staff officers had their own unqiue collar patches. Mollo and MacGregor's book also features a German staff officer. The illustration is that of a Major in General Staff. He had crimson stripes on his breeches and carmine (deep red) piping around the shoulder straps. So the Action Man's bright red ones are not too far off.

Staff officers assisted commanding officers with planning and administration. Perhaps not too exciting for a 1970s boys' toy. But both Oberst (Colonel) Claus von Stauffenberg and Oberst Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff, who independently tried to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, were staff officers.

Palitoy's illustration though shows their staff officer in a field pointing a Luger pistol with no maps or plans in sight.

The German Staff Officer uniform probably squares with how most people in the 1970s thought it should look. It looks like some expediency in the use of existing parts helped keep the cost down. My own recollection is that it was more expensive than the Stormtrooper.

How much is my Action Man German Staff Officer worth?

The Staff Officer uniform is very collectable.

Look for:

Action Man German Staff Officer on eBay

More on Action Man

References

[1] Action Man, the Official Dossier compiled by Ian Harrison, published Collins 2003, page 73

[2] Deutsche Soldaten by Agustín Sáiz, published by Andrea Press, 2008 page 212

[3] German Army Uniforms and Ingsignia 1933-45 by Brian L Davis, published by The Military Book Society, 1971 (Second Edition 1973), page 205

By Steven Braggs, March 2021

Add your comments

Add Comment

* Required information
1000
Captcha Image
Powered by Commentics

Comments

No comments yet. Be the first!

FEATURES

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles ★