One of the books I own has this interesting illustration and entry. I would be inclined to describe this as a “tabard” but the book calls it a body-apron, or more properly “Die Heeres Tarnungs Köper-Schürze”. One side was white while the other side had a camouflage pattern. It was secured by two sets of camouflaged tapes which could be tied at chest level and waist level. It was probably intended to be worn over the webbing equipment, access to the ammunition pouches being via the side openings. The camouflaged smock issued at around the same time was also intended to be worn over the webbing and was provided with two pocket-like openings. In practice it was more common to wear the webbing outside the smock and the same may have been done with the body-apron.
Today I found a couple of additional illustrations of this item in differing camouflage patterns.
The version below was a post-war design used by the German border guard (Bundesgrenzschutz or “BGS”). This version was made of waterproofed material and intended to also serve as rainwear. It fastens with poppers rather than tape.
While I was trying to locate an on-line picture of the German body apron I came across the following interesting photographs.
These soldiers are from the New Zealand 24th Auckland Battalion. These photos were apparently taken in Italy in 1944. These are obviously not the German body-apron, which had a V-neck. The Kiwis most likely made these themselves from captured German or Italian camouflage material. Notice that the webbing and pouches have been marked with paint/ dye/ blanco to add additional camouflage effect and that at least one soldier also wears camouflaged trousers. I have seen it suggested these troops have been through “sniper school” but the variety of armament displayed makes me sceptical of this. We see Bren guns, Thompsons and a 2″ Mortar but no scoped rifles are evident. The Imperial War Museum collect includes photos of other Commonwealth troops using tabards including one of the 1st Guards Brigade.
Modern camouflaged clothing can be very expensive. These photographs illustrate that reasonably effective camouflage gear can be produced no matter how basic your tailoring skills. In another illustration I have is of German troops in Normandy wearing sleeveless “string vests” designed to hold foliage. There is no reason why a camouflaged tabard cannot be improved further with some bits of frayed cloth, scrim and netting.
Watch news footage from the Middle East and you will note that American soldiers are very easy to identify. Their black or woodland camouflaged body armour appears as a dark blob. This must make a very nice aiming point. Fifteen years of conflict and still this has not been addressed. For several decades I have been advocating that modern soldiers should use camouflaged smocks large enough to fit over their body armour. (And place the knee pads under the trousers while you are at it!). Constructing tabards from any suitable shade of available cloth would quickly fix this problem.