Written by Craig Wharton.
Edited by Samantha Saunders.
In English ‘ringkragen’ means ‘ring collar’ and was originally a part of a military armoured suit that protected the throat. Over time, it became a symbol of status within an organization, i.e. a standard (flag) bearer or, in this case, a sign of police authority.
The duty gorget and readily identifiable badge of office of the World War II German Feldgendarmerie (military policeman) was only worn while on duty. It was known as "Kettenhunde", which translates to ‘chain dogs’. These officers were hated, feared and loathed by his own countrymen.
As well as the Ringkragen the Feldgendarmerie also wore a cuff title bearing that name in Gothic script in grey letters on a brown background. An embroidered police eagle within an oakleaf wreath arm badge was worn on the upper left sleeve of the tunic. In the orange-red ‘waffenfarbe’ (arm of service colour) for Other Ranks and in silver for Officers. This waffenfarbe was also found on the cap, collar litzen and as the underlay colour on the ‘schulterklappen’ (epaulets).
The German Feldgendarmerie (MP) had traditions dating back to 1740 when Friedrich II established the Feld-Jager Korps zu Pferd. The Feld-Jager Korps established a reputation for efficiency during the Napoleonic Wars and the Franco -Prussian War. The German civilian police, the Gendarmerie, established its own military branch, the Feldgendarmerie, which served alongside the Feld-Jager Korps. In time it outgrew the Feld- Jager Korps and took over the role of Germany's principal provost arm.
The Feldgendarmerie was reformed in 1939 when the German Army mobilized for war. The tasks the Feldgendarmerie were called upon to perform were much the same as military police do in any army: control of traffic to and from the front line, maintenance of order and discipline, rounding up stragglers, arresting deserters and looters, interrogation of suspects, anti-partisan patrols, escorts for prisoners, manning checkpoints and checking IDs and travel passes as well as general policing duties.
At war's end the Allies own military police services were stretched to the limit. They retained a large number of these Feldgendarmerie and Feld-Jager Korps as armed auxiliary formations to help them keep law and order in Germany following the German surrender. They did not lay down their arms till several months after the rest of the German Army had surrendered.
The Luftwaffe (German airforce) military police had a Ringkragen identical to the Army one except for the eagle, which is the Luftwaffe eagle in flight. This gorget was only worn by members of the Herman Goering Division. Other Luftwaffe Feldgendarmerie utilized the standard Army gorget.
The other Ringkragen are very rare these days but because the Feldgendarmerie were such a large formation within the German Army there are naturally more of them to go round. Even so these things are still quite rare with only one or two coming on the collector's market each year. They command a high price, usually around $1,500 to $2,000.