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The German Tornister backpack


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Let's talk about Tornister backpacks.
I am under the impression that most collectors find them rather mundane, and almost nobody include them in a collection display. Most collectors have one or two of them, in their collection but they mostly seem to end up packed away in a box or a closet instead of being in an open display. It's a shame really, because these are really quite interesting, and can make a really good and colourful display. 


I do have a few variants of these in my collection. Let's have a look.







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The German army issued or used mainly two main types of tornisters. The M34 and the M39.

Let's look at the M34 first.

The M34 Tornister came with detacheable and adjusteable integrated carrying straps






This particular M34 model Tornister is in nicely used condition made in 1938 and has the nametag of an Unteroffizier attached.
I have stiffened it up with strips of cardboard inside, to help it keep a nice shape.




At the bottom of the Tornister, there was a small strap with a flat metal hook (also detatceable and adjustable in length), for securing the tornister to the soldiers belt.




The Tornister was also issued with three leather straps ( Mantelriemen) wich were to be buttoned on to the tornister, and the solider could strap on a coat, blanket tentsheet etc. to the outside of the tornister.




There are different leather loops around the Tornister, to attach these straps to:








The short part of the leather straps are to be threaded trough the little leather hemps or loops, and buttoned together. This way the straps will stil be hanging on the Tornister, even thou the straps are opened for attachin or removing equipment from the Tornister,






Inside the Tornister, there are different compartments.

This is the compartment or pocket for the messkit or the Kochgeschirr/Essgeshirr




The inside "belly" of the Tornister, can be closed up with three small adjusteable leather straps. This way, you don't have to empty the tornister to reach the stuff that is packed in the bottom.




There is also a closeable compartment inside the lid of the Tornister as well



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The M39 Tornister, was part of a major update to the soldiers equipment, and was implemented in 1939. The new system was a more versatile equipment type, wich could be used in different variations, and would allow the transport of more equipment in the Tornister.
The main difference was the introduction of the Y-straps and the A-frame (Sturmgepäck)




The Y-straps was to be worn on the field uniforms at all times, and was used as extra relieve for carrying the weight of the standard equipment on the combat uniform. (Taking the strain of the internal carrying straps and the belt hooks on the combat tunics) 
The introduction of the Y-straps ment that there was no more use of the integrated carryingstraps on the Tornister.
Instead the Tornister was issued with (adjusteable) leather flaps with hooks, to hook them onto the D-rings on the Y-straps.

Here is a very nice, 1940 dated M39 Tornister.




The first thing you notice, when telling the difference on a M39 versus M34, is that the M39 has a leather strap with stud-button mounted on the lower parts of the outside lid of the Tornister. This leather strap is there to secure the A-frame to the Tornister.




And of corse, the lack of carrying straps, replaced with hooks for attaching to the Y-straps instead.




The M39 Tornister, also has D-rings attached to the top of the Tornister. These are for hanging the hooks of the A-frame.




The M39 Tornister also have the loops for the button-on Mantelriemen - equipment straps.






It does MOSTLY look like the M34 Tornister on the inside, but it does no longer have the integrated pocket for the messtin inside, The messtin was now to be worn outside of the backpack, mounted on the A-frame.




This Tornister is in more or less un-used condition, and I do have a matching 1940 dated Y-strap from the very same factory for it:












..And with the A-frame with pouch and messtin, Wehrmacht blanket and a tentsheet mounted on the outside:



Edited by Björn
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There were quite some variations to the Tornisters themselves, and both the M34 and M39 models were also issued in fur-less versions. Here is a 1940 dated furless M39 Tornister from my collection:









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Here is a M34 wich has been modified, and had it's integrated carryingstraps replaced with M39 hooks for the Y-straps instead.



IMG 021_zpsig18uyw8.jpg

IMG 022_zpsiwzsvfx0.jpg

Edited by Björn
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Here is another interesting M34 Tornister. It is a well used 1936 dated backpack:






This Tornister has regimental markings, both in ink on the cloth and also pressed into the leather of the carrying straps:






But here is the fun part. The Tornister itself is 1936 dated, but the carryingstraps are dated to 1917 - world war one production.
They have been matched to the tornister after 1936, and has recived regimental markings together with the Tornister.
The Tornister is 85 years old, but the carryingstraps are 104 year old...







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Let's try to mount the tornister.
For the M39 we need the Y-straps first.






And the A-frame, with Gasmask and messtin mounted:




And the M34 Tornister:





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So far so good.
But what about the contents of the Tornister? Let us have a look at the original Wehrmacht Packing list, shall we?





Here are a couple of variants of the "Gepäckter Tornister" that I have come across.
Lets go trough this in english, starting from the top.

In the lid of the Tornister:

1. Washing and sewing kit.

2. Underwear and towel

On the outside of the Tornister


In the main compartment of the Tornister:

1. Socks

2. Messkit

3. Right and Left Shoes - packed inside the shoes; shoe polish equipment

4. Gun cleaning kit (RG34)

5. Meat conserves

6. Tent rope


Ok. So now we know what SHOULD be packed in there, let's see if we can re-create this.

In the next few pictures here, I have tried to re-pack the Tornister after original instructions.

These items pictured here are NOT some sort of reenactor stuff, but all original ww2 issue items from my collection.


So here is what we are going to see if we can fit into the Tornister:






First a pair of Wehrmacht issue woolen socks




Then the Shoes. The shoes that I have chosen to pack, is a pair of german sportsshoes from the 1930's/40's
Very similar to the Reichswehrmodel M30 Sport shoes.
I did try to fit a pair of M37 Schnurschuhe - lace up low boots, but these would absolutely not fit into the tornister, as they were too long / high in the ancles area to fit together in there.












Anyway, I tid pack up a box of original shoepolish, a original issue brush and polishing cloth pads inside the shoes, and placed them in the Tornister:








Next, we see the M31 messtin placed in the messtin-pocket inside the Tornister:




Now there should be a hermetic can of conserved meat. At the time that I took these pictures, I had not yet found a original can of german ww2 meat conserves for my collection.
But I do have a few original and unopened hermetic cans of bread conserves in my collection, so I did use one of these instead.




Each can contains 400 grams of bread. ( quite possible still eadible? )




On a side note - What I should have used, was this Wehrmacht-can for meat conserves in the Tornister. I got hold of this unused can, after the tornister-pictures were taken:




Anyway. Here's the can of Bread and RG34 (Reinigungsgerät 34) gun cleaning kit in place inside the backpack.
I've also packed the undershirt (Leibwasche), soap, razorkit, towel, sewing kit and washingcloth in the lid-compartement.



Here's the sewingkit. it's marked with "Militär-nahzeug drgm" wich translates to military sewing kit drgm (- Deutshes reich gebrauchsmuster - wich is a german reich patented pattern)





The shaving kit is also a original ww2 item, Rotbart - wich translates into redbeard in english.










Everything is packed in the Tornister here, and compartments are closed:





This is what should be packed into the Tornister, according to the packinglists that I have seen.

Edited by Björn
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......But anyway. There is still plenty of room in this little backpack, and I was thinking about the german invasion of Norway in April 1940. There was still lots of snow here, and temperatures were in many places below freezingpoint. let's add on a few more garments.

I am adding a Schlupfjacke 36 (Wehrmacht issue sweater), one pair of wehrmacht knitted gloves, another pair of socks, a M34 sidecap, a "schlauchschal" tube scarf, a sports shirt and a pair of Wehrmacht sport shorts.




Everything is being packed carefully into the different compartments here








Now it looks to be bulging(ly) full.
But we're not done yet. The blanket and the tentsheet still needs to be rolled up and attached to the Tornister.




There. Now, that is a fully packed German ww2 Tornister




Let us have a last, overall look at what I managed to fit in this Tornister. 

I must admit that I am actually quite impressed myself, of how much stuff it was possible to fit into this rather small backpack...



Edited by Björn
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And let us have a look at the medic's tornister (Sanitätstornister) from the first picture i posted in this thread.
This is what mainstream collectors would (proberbly) say that "it's not an original" or "it's a post-war used tornister, with added red cross mark on a metal plate on it"
Well. It is definently not a textbook german ww2 medical tornister. I can agree to that.
But it is absolutely real and wartime issue - 100%.
I will explain why I am so confident about this a little bit further down.

I have done some research on this type of tornister, and the pattern it is made from would be the german M1895 tornister. This example is 1936 dated.




As you can see, this is what most of us would consider to be a paramilitary tornister, i.e. Hitler youth, SA, Polizei, etc.
It's a standard early pattern M1895 Tornister, wich have had a circular metalplate with a red cross mark, riveted onto the lid.








The reason that I am so confident about this non-textbook Tornister, is that I know the story behind it, from 1943/44 until today.
It is not really a long story, so here it goes.
in late 1943 to early 1944 this Tornister was stolen by a Norwegian local man, from a german field hospital in my local area.
(The german field hospital is actually still in existence and is today a museum.)
Anyway, the man who stole this Tornister from the germans got really anxious about what would happend if the germans found out that he had taken it. He realized that if this was discovered by the germans, he would most likely get shot or executed for sabotage.
So he hid the Tornister in the deepest, darkest corner of his attic. And he left it there.
He left it there for the next 70 years, untouched, until he gave it to me as a gift for my collection in 2014.
Sadly, the man has since passed away.
But I will keep the Tornister and the history behind it alive.

Because this is not just a random, non-textbook tornister - this is a time capsule.
The Tornister still has all of it's original contents present, down to the packing list and signed paperwork for replaced and updated contents. 

Let us have a look inside.




In the green, rectangular cloth pouch between the lid and the main compartment of the Tornister we find wooden plates, with metal sleeves, wich can connect the plates together for reinforcing and damping broken bones.




When we open the compartment in the lid of the tornister, the first thing that we find is 6 large and relatively thin wooden sheets. These are for supporting and holding together soft-tissue wounds.






Next we find a couple of pouches with glass and metal tubes, containing different types of medical pills and tablets






Further in, there are two metal schachtels containing several tubes of different types of ointments.






And behind these we find three booklets, each with 25 medical tags, with pencils and string to attach the tags to the uniform of the wounded or sick soldier.
From left to right: Chemically injured (i.e. mustard gas or other military chemicals), sick and wounded.






1. The tags can only be written or filled out by medical doctors.
2. The tag is to be attached with the string, in the second buttonhole of the jacket, coat or the shirt.




This next one is a little bit interesting. I know, it's a bit hard to read from these pictures, but on the upper part of the tag for sick soldiers:

Transporttuctig- suitable for transport
Antsteckend=Contagious, yellow stripe on the tag.

Transporttuctig- suitable for transport
Nicht antsteckend= not contagious, green stripe on the tag

Marchtuchtig-suitable for ordinary transport/march
Nicht antsteckend= not contagious, no stripe on the tag

So the coloured stripes on the tags, were to be cut off according to wich state or severity of illness the soldier had.








Let's move on to the main compartment of the tornister.
The first thing that meets us here is some paperwork. A small pamphlet with a list of contents, a hand written reciept or control tag and a additional typewriter-written sheet with the contents of the Tornister.










 And here we also find different puches with band-aids, compresses, tourniquets, gauzes and so on.












There's also a cardboard box with three glas bottles for opium tincture, unmarked bottle and alcohol bottle. The contents of these has dried up and evaporated ages ago.








So there you  go. A rather special Tornister, with a local story to it.

I hope you like the pictures.

And please post pictures of tornisters that you may have in your collections. It's always nice to see other examples in collections.

After the war many of these saw civillian use, and many has been used up. At least the M34's with integratet carrying straps has been used extensively as post war military surplus / civillian backpacks.

Best Regards

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Well, what can you say to that, Its one of the most comprehensive set of Tornister,s I have ever seen, Bjorn I have to say that I think you may be one of the most avid collecters in the world, the items that you show are not just odds and sods but complete and pristine items that most people have never seen before, but to have as many Tornisters as that with full packs of proper kit in them, and so well put together , It would be hard to fined better, these are all museum pieces, I am gobsmacked, 

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Wow. Thanks, Dave.. I don't know what to say. This is maybe one of the finest feedbacks that I have ever got to something that I have posted. Really.
Thank you.
Kind Regards

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  • 1 year later...

I recently acquired what I now believe after reading your excellent presentation here an M39 backpack with M34 straps.  Is this unusual or would this be common practice? Any information would be appreciated.  This is my first German backpack..  Any translation help would also be appreciated. IMG_3145.thumb.JPG.6b32c45779dc831059f0b8aebe529b37.JPGIMG_3144.thumb.JPG.99f18a1ef4a2ec9b87a526e3ec768856.JPGIMG_3143.thumb.JPG.6d24131e8ac9a9ffbc2238b616b6d922.JPGIMG_3140.thumb.JPG.4b3e578909e5a47b2f1da6ef41c0e873.JPG

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  • Afrikakorpsrat64 pinned this topic

I've owned several Tornisters over the years but have none now. But I am having a new interest in them. I only have my DAK tropical Rucksack that I have had since I was 15. Its always on my display, but i think i may need to start packing it with all the personal bits and pieces. 

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  • 2 months later...

Marvellous study Björn, I missed this. I have a few too that I can add if I find them....



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  • 3 weeks later...

Fantastic information & motivates me to get mine out & appreciate them more. When did the M34 cease to be produced? I’ve one dated 1942 so I see the overlap between the M34 & M39. How late was the 1895 produced? 

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  • 1 month later...

Bjorn... what a real interesting read, thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm curious what the large hooks connected to? Where they for some kind of chest rig? As the Action Man Stormtrooper pack has similar hooks, and to be honest I always wondered why they were there.. many thanks Sean


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  • 1 month later...

Ahoj. Chtěl bych se optat k čemu sloužil kovový kroužek dole na boku u tornister M34? Díky

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  • 5 months later...

Wow - 

Bjorn your collection is just mind blowing. 

Already said by other members, just amazing examples of entire kits. 

I have one from WW1 and another from WW2 dated 1942. It is incomplete and has no fur cover. 

I doubt you would be interested in it, but if you collect them for "spares or repairs" let me know and I can send it to you. 

Absolutely stunning collection. 

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