These simple to set up and easy to use German field phones only require four D-cell batteries and standard single- or multi-strand copper wire to operate. Unlike other retailers selling similar military surplus field phones, each package from Cheaper Than Dirt comes with a set of two phones. The German military field phones do not need electricity to function and are perfect for use when cell phone towers are down or in an area with no cell service.
Are you afraid your communication is being intercepted? The field phones are a solid way to communicate between you and your comrades securely. Useable for more situations than its original design—communication between bunkers, trenches, hide-outs or foxholes—you can use these to communicate between any two locations you choose up to one mile apart. Each phone includes a switchboard wire that enables more than two phones to connect.
You don’t necessarily need to put these field phones away “just in case.” They have plenty of year-round use.
- House and barn, garage, shop, or storm shelter
- Upstairs and downstairs or basement
- House and tree house or playhouse
- Deer stand to deer stand
- Deer stand to base camp
- Neighbor to neighbor
- Children’s forts
Guten Tag (Good Day!)
Wehrmacht FF3 is the original 1933 design of the field phones used by the German Bundeswehr. However, my test set stamped 1961—the year they built the Berlin Wall and the start of the Cold War—are most likely the improved and updated FF54. Due to the nature of military surplus, the phone sets may date anywhere from WWII to the Cold War era. Both phones have plastic plates on the outside indicating they were made by Standard Elektrick Lorenz—a major supplier of electronics to the German military.
Enthalten (Appearance and Includes)
My set arrived exactly as described—like they had been found in a bunker. The Bakelite boxes fully encasing the internal workings of the phone are clearly used. There are a few scratches, but from the outside nothing appears corroded or rusted. Nothing is damaged or broken and both phones include all pieces.
The brown Bakelite case measures 10-inches long and 6.5-inches tall. The boxes are quite heavy, weighing eight pounds each. On the outside lid of each phone are two screwed-down plastic cards. The one on the right side has an International Phonetic Alphabet chart. On the left side, the plate reads, Handapparat auflegen! Sonst Abhörgefahr which, according to Google’s translator, means replace handset otherwise being intercepted. I cannot tell you how correct this translation is, as my German is limited to finding the correct bathroom and ordering a beer.
In the middle of the lid is a white button to open the phone. To close, simply push down the lid until you hear an audible click.
Inside the lid are schematics, two switchboard input jack wires and another black plastic plug that appears to be a standard two prong international power plug.
Wie es Funktioniert (How it Works)
The phones work on two circuits. One circuit—the ringing circuit—which operates via an 84-volt AC generator, powered by a crank located on the outter right side of the case and the talking circuit—powered by the D-cell batteries. To save power when communicating, only one phone’s battery power is used—the caller’s and not the receivers.
Zu Bedienen (To Operate)
To operate the phones, we removed the handset and unfolded the metal cradle located in the middle of the phone, labeled OB. It opens up to lay outside the Bakelite case. On the other side, it is stamped ZB. This is where we had the phone rest while setting up the batteries and wire.
On the left, inside the phone is a black plastic battery case. Lift the case out using the attached black metal handle and insert two D-cell batteries as shown on the outside of the battery case. Put the battery case back into the phone, making sure the bottom of the battery case makes contact with the two bottom metal prongs.
To connect your wires remove the screws on both the silver metal knobs labeled La and Lb/E in the middle of the phone’s console. I used basic stereo speaker wire. Insert one wire into La and the other wire into Lb/E. Make sure you have the corresponding wires connected properly on each phone. Because my wires were unlabelled, we followed each separate wire and marked one side with blue ink to make sure we had the same wire into the same La and Lb/E receptor. Twist the screws down on each side to keep the wire inside.
Your field phones should now be able to communicate with each other. To make a call, simply turn the crank. When you crank your phone, the other phone should ring. There are two choices of ringer volume, louder and not so loud. The ringer adjustment is located behind the wire connectors inside the phone. There are two white dots to indicate the volume—one larger than the other. The larger turns the ringer louder. The volume will also get louder if you press down the white plastic button—that resembles a rotary phone disconnect button—located next to the wire connectors while cranking the phone.
Inside the handle on the handset is a long, narrow black button. Push down on the ribbed side to talk.
Können Sie mich jetzt hören? (Problems and Troubleshooting)
- If you cannot hear the person on the other end of the line, try switching your wires around. They must match. Be sure to securely screw them down inside the connectors.
- You can also try switching the D-cell batteries around. The phone only functions when you insert the batteries properly.
- The handset cord attaches to a black plastic five-pronged plug. There are two different plug-in areas to connect the handset to the phone. Try switching it around to the other side.
Gedanken (My Thoughts)
The German field phones are a simple communications tool that is not only functional, but fun as well. Collectors and kids will enjoy using them. Out of all the military surplus gear I have tested, these phones are some of the simplest gear to figure out how to use. The Germans have always engineered efficient and quality items and it shows in these old field phones.
Like it? Want it? Buy it!
Do you have experience with these or similar field phones? Share your troubleshooting tips with us in the comment section.
Suzanne joined the content team with over eight years experience at Cheaperthandirt.com. Starting out as a product description writer, Suzanne has extensive knowledge of the Cheaper Than Dirt! product base and is a good resource for suggestions on which products you need. Suzanne specializes in writing for the female shooter, beginner shooter, and the modern-day prepper. Though she prefers plinking with her S&W M&P 15-22, Suzanne also loves revolvers, the 1911, short-barreled AR-15s, and shooting full auto when she gets the chance. Suzanne is a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!