Dressing up as the Enemy.

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Richard G, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Don't know what the correct term is but apparently wearing a enemy uniform and driving a enemy vehicle in enemy territory could get you shot eg the Americans shot some Germans pretending to be American during the Battle of the Bulge. So I was wondering about used to happen in North Africa when the use of enemy vehicles and even uniforms was fairly common and particularly about Rommel using a captured British 'Mammoth' command vehicle when in at least one instance he strayed into British territory but was ignored, presumably because of the British vehicle.

    I was sort of thinking that if he was captured then he and his staff could have been shot as an example to others. By using the 'Mammoth' I would thing he was breaching the rules of warfare or whatever they were.
  2. steelers708

    steelers708 Junior Member

    As far as I'm aware there are no rules that ban using captured equipment, and even if there, was considering the wide use of captured equipment by all sides in the war I would think it would have been ignored. As to Rommel and his Mammoth,although this goes for all captured vehicles, it had the Balkankreuz prominently painted on it(mainly to avoid being shot by your own side) and Rommel and his staff would be wearing German uniforms if captured.

    The Germans executed during the Bulge were tried by Court Martial and shot as spies as they were wearing American uniforms and were operating/fighting behind enemy lines which is against the rules of war, this would also apply to Allied troops and SOE agents who were fighting behind enemy lines, I'm not sure if this would apply to e.g escaped PoW's captured in civilian clothing.

    Under the Hague and Geneva Conventions, it was legal to execute "spies and saboteurs" disguised in civilian clothes or uniforms of the enemy, provided that: "A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial."This provision only includes soldiers caught behind enemy lines in disguises, and not those wearing proper uniforms. Soldiers in proper uniforms cannot be punished for being lawful combatants and must be treated as prisoners of war upon capture, except those disguised in civilian clothes or uniforms of the enemy for military operations behind enemy lines.
  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  4. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I don't think so. All the pictures I have seen had German markings on the vehicle, so it was fully compliant with the rules.

    All the best

  5. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

  6. Pete Ashby

    Pete Ashby Junior Member

    After the fall of Tunis my Fathers unit (78 Inf Trp Wksp REME ) were tasked with putting back into service any usable Axis transport from the captured vehicle dump on and around Tunis race course. The unit's CO Maj H Macniven, appropriated for himself a senior Italian officers 4 wheel command trailer for use as his mobile HQ. The trailer subsequently traveled for the next 2 years with the unit through Sicily,the length and breadth of Italy and finally into Austria towed behind one of the units 6x4 workshop trucks.

  7. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    They (biased) way I look at how the Mammoth was marked indicates a not too serious attempt to make the wrongly shaped cross look obvious, none on the sides either. A bit of dirt and it could be anything. From memory it was during Rommel's 'dash to the wire' that he became mixed up with British traffic but went un noticed, unlike O'Connor who was captured driving a easily recognizable British staff car, at night. Perhaps he should have commandeered a Kettelrad or something.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    The German SF Unit the Brandenburgers often wore enemy uniform but often over their own German Uniform - depending on the mission it could be an enemy helmet and greatcoat but on other missions full enemy uniform was worn complete with appropriate ID documents
  10. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Whichever way you look at it, there is no legal basis on which anyone could have been shot.

    As a piece of advice, you should spend some time just googling 'Rommel Mammut', to see, instead of letting you be guided by your bias. It will make your contributions to the forum more worthwhile.

    All the best

  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Re. uniforms... (and insignia etc)

    Does this mean though that somewhere (in Geneva?) there is a book of all the uniforms of the world nicely laid out? Or perhaps they keep them on manikins to refer to over schnapps there? And if so does it include examples of what every army says it might choose to wear as it goes to war? I know that they are pretty clear on the use of the correct insignia on vehicles for example and that tends to be what tips the balance most there.

    Presumably uniforms need a correct insignia in order to be uniforms. Couldn’t you just wear an enemy uniform and remove insignia or put on a sign to a non existent unit on your fake. You’d be wearing a uniform then that just at a distance looked like an enemy uniform, as a form of camouflage there.

    Army’s used to wear uniforms so that they could actually be more easily picked out, hence bright red etc. chosen by the (bloody) British. But it’s been a long time since this was seen to be something to be desired, albeit it might come in handy if you want to avoid blue-on-blue (I know confusing isn’t it?!).
    Re. the question then of what’s civilian and what’s military? What is designed to say who you are and what is designed to make you hide in the bushes / blend into the crowd, or into the rubble of a town is just so confusing though.

    If an army is essentially these days in camouflage, does that mean one army can “copy write” the scientifically most effective camouflage, and any other army using said camouflage or anything approximating it (i.e. most difficult to see) is essentially copying another army’s uniform and hence is in contravention of the Geneva Convention? Are we meant to be able to tell each army’s camouflage apart? BTW - Who owns the white snow camouflage look? It must be pretty hard to distinguish those in the snow.

    If the sneaky enemy decides it wants to start dressing up to superficially resemble civilians i.e. in burka’s or as nun’s can they claim that the “nun’s habit” is a new uniform they are testing out – a bit like a kilt? Some might say a nun is a civilian, but Scot’s wear kilts don’t they? and don’t always distinguish between those for peace and another one for war.


    And during the “last invasion of Britain” – tee hee - the French are thought to have surrendered after seeing the local women nearby and mistaking their dresses for British Grenadiers, did the French claim thereafter that they had been duped by women dressing up to look like enemy combatants? And get some kind of get out of jail refund and apology there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fishguard#Legacy

    What about things like the necessary kit for the job in hand i.e. frogmen, or troops in coveralls / boiler suits, mountaineers i.e. operating in action and therefore possibly slipping behind enemy lines. Are they in uniform? If so who owns the frogman look? Boilerman look? And all the rest.

    I imagine the lawyers have a field day charging to think this stuff up and then painstakingly work it all out, into some vast all encompassing document that someone will have to sign, just to say that they have read.

    More schnapps anyone ;)
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Get's more confusing when different sides both used Ford trucks/lorries.

    See Allied Ford 01T 3Ton 4x2 GS and German Ford V3000.
  13. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Or ex-Allied now German Ford 3ton 4x2

    All the best

  14. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

  15. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    AVM John Whitley as station commander of RAF Linton on Ouse often flew with his crews as pilot.When he did,he wore mufti under his flying gear with French clothing labels attached.Served a good purpose when he was downed over France and he was able to escape back to Blighty...he had an advantage in that he had lived in France as a young person.

    Escaped RAF POWs in mufti would rely on their dog tag to get them out of trouble,it worked for many but some who were persistent escapers drew the attention of the Gestapo and vanished without trace....now remembered on the Runnymede panels.

    Wearing the uniform of the enemy nearly worked for Mike Sinclair in his attempt to escape from Colditz .He posed as a
    German officer on the staff down to donning a false moustache and nearly fooled the main gate guards.In a heated discussion at the main gate ...he could speak fluent German.The real German officer turned up and Sinclair's cover was blown.He was wounded by gunfire and recovered but was killed when he tried to escape in September 1944.
  16. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    As I said, the cross on Rommel's Mammoth was quite unlike the usual German cross so it's reasonable to dispute that the vehicle was properly identified as German. There are heaps of pictures of it around so it's no secret what it looked like, there are even pics of it and it's markings covered in camo netting.

    My 'bias' against Rommel is more to do with using his supposed greatness as an excuse for getting beaten by him, utter nonsense.
  17. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    So what? What exactly was a 'usual' German cross? How does a badly painted hugely OVERSIZED German cross make it likely for him to be shot for contravening the laws of war?

    It's also not 'reasonable' to dispute if it was probably identified as German. It's clueless.

    Please get serious.

    here's a picture from the back:


    All the best

  18. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Russkis in Afghanistan (I think) :


    And, sometimes, 'Uniform' is a relative thing...

    Think of the fuss Lawrence would cause now...

    And I agree; captured equipment is a rather different thing to a 'Ruse de Guerre', as, technically, is 'spying'.
  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Perhaps he just didn't think that his own side would want to shoot him for "impersonating a civilian" or an "enemy" * - it's an interesting question though, should we be policing our own side far stricter than the opposition police theirs and also just how far should soldiers be allowed to go in the pursuit of self-defence?

    And I think if I was being paid hundreds or even thousands of pounds an hour to sort these things out in a court somewhere the question would be even more fascinating and drawn out.

    Particularly if an investigation of every degree of potential crime should be pursued to the uttermost based on what's easiest or closest to the court first, as... "I wouldn't want to have to travel too far or pursue an actual enemy that might fight back or be more of a nuisance there". (Actually I probably would, but perhaps that's just me :) )

    If I was in a battle I'd just be wondering what all the fuss was about, I think there's a phrase "don't you know there's a war on" that seems to sum things up there. An odd thing though is if this just sounds like some condoning of criminality I don't think it is. Most of the time the law seems to get things right and pursue the right cases, and there is no case to answer anyhow at the end of the day. It's usually just the most blatantly daft, that are soon "sorted-out" that get ruminated upon, and people ask afterwards "why on earth was that even pursued?"

    You do tend to see why sometimes only those litigious, vexatious types of lawyers and arm chair generals that pontificate too much give themselves a bad name. :D Still I guess it is a fire that sometimes must be stoked!

    All the best,


    * I think soldiers always tend to assume the enemy itself wants to see them shot.
  20. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    There is no harm in discussing these sorts of things, isn't that what forums are for?

    The German cross on the back in the pic Andreas posted is far more like the easily recognised German insignia than that on the front which looks more like a Christian cross. An ordinary soldier moving past in the back of a truck could easily mistake that and think that the vehicle belonged to religious personnel, it certainly was less likely to register as a German vehicle than if it was more clearly marked, particularly with a swastika. Which, as the other pic indicates, was probably used anyway when identification was important. Another one of Rommel's tricks I think.

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