Unteroffiziere mit Portepee, literally "petty officers with swordknot", is the designation for German senior non-commissioned officers in the German Army. The name derives from earlier traditions in which senior enlisted men would carry a sword into battle. The word portepee derives from French port(e)-épée. Unteroffiziere mit portepee of the former Prussian Army were entitled to wear a sword-knot to their sabre, which was originally restricted to officers.
Ranks in this category include:
- Unterfeldwebel (unused in the Bundeswehr)
- Hauptfeldwebel, this rank was introduced by the Bundeswehr after being a position of service (informally Spieß and officially now Kompaniefeldwebel) in the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht
- Oberstabsfeldwebel, this rank was introduced by the Bundeswehr in 1983.
and equivalents of the Navy—replacing Feldwebel with Bootsmann—and, historically, the Cavalry and Artillery (with Wachtmeister). The latter is not to be confused with the Navy's "Kompaniefeldwebel" of today which are also called Wachtmeister.
German non-commissioned officers were identified by the use of metallic lace (called Tresse) on the collar of the uniform jacket, as well as the edges of the shoulder straps. Senior non-commissioned officers in the Wehrmacht also used silver "stars" on the shoulder strap to differentiate between ranks; one star for a Feldwebel, two for an Oberfeldwebel, and three for a Stabsfeldwebel.
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