A French colonial prisoner of war in German captivity, 1940

Two members of the German Schutzpolizei light a French colonial soldier's cigarette. France, May/June 1940. The French soldier is Senegalese.

With the outbreak of war, the German Ordnungspolizei formed a considerable number of rifle battalions (sources tell of a number above 80, probably very close to 100), each consisting of more than 500 men. These were sent out of Germany to operate behind the front line combat units of the Wehrmacht. Their main tasks were preventing partisan activity and sabotage, removing weapons and abandoned military equipment, rounding up POWs, securing lines of communication, guarding installations, and generally maintaining law and order.

Both men have a rank no higher than NCO's, as shown by the collar patches edged by a narrow silver-gray cord all around, this cord being absent in Officers. The middle soldier seems to be either a Wachtmeister or an Oberwachtmeister, as shown by his shoulder straps. Only from 1941 onward did the shoulder straps allow differentiating between these two ranks, with the addition of a piece of extra cord to the base of the shoulder strap for Oberwachtmeisters.