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Helmets of the Reichswehr

Discussion in 'German WWII Uniforms and Equipment' started by Jim, Sep 19, 2007.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Reichswehr era troops serving in both the Reichsheer and Reichsmarine were issued Model 1916, Model 1917 and Model 1918 pattern helmets.
    These included a small number of wartime-manufactured M1918 'ear cut-outs', as well as remanufactured M1918 helmets in slightly larger sizes.
    The liner systems used in these helmets continued to be patterned after the three-pad type introduced with the M1917 helmet. Several modifications were made to the helmet liners, including the introduction of a newer model in the former World War I style. In an effort to standardize the overall look of the Reichswehr, most of the helmets were repainted using newer colours.

    1934: The loader of an MG08 machine gun team wears the M1918 helmet with ear cut-outs - photos taken during field exercises confirm that a variety of helmets were worn during this early transition period. Of interest is the fact that the team leader (right) wears the early white breast eagle badge while the loader does not; such inconsistencies were common during 1934.

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    These colours were much lighter in shade than those used during World War I, and did not include the angular three coloured camouflage schemes ordered in July 1918. Beginning in 1923, Reichsheer helmets bore a distinctive hand painted crest representing the province in which troops were garrisoned. In 1924 the Reichsmarine adopted a similar design, depicting a shield with crossed anchors. Many of the helmets formerly used by the Reichswehr were repainted in 1940 when shortages of military equipment required that older models be upgraded and reissued to the Wehrmacht.


    The Model 1916 steel helmet

    The very first steel head protection issued to Imperial Army soldiers was a local initiative by Army Group von Gaede on the Vosges front in 1915, with the aim of giving some overhead protection from artillery shrapnel and fragments.
    It was not a true helmet, but a partial bowl of thick steel (5-7mm) covering the top and front of the head, but not the back, and drawn down into a long nasal bar at the front centre. Mounted on a cloth-lined leather cap with rear strap adjustment, and weighing about 2kg (4.41b), the 'Von Gaede' was manufactured by the army group's artillery workshops at Mulhouse. There is photographic evidence for its issue to line units, but only c.1,500 examples are thought to have been made.3 The M1916 helmet was first developed in 1915 by a process of experimental research under the direction of military physician Professor Friedrich Schwerd with Professor August Bier at the Technical Institute in Hanover. The design incorporated a protective dome with an overhanging brim that slanted down at the sides and back, giving the classic stepped 'coal scuttle' profile. The M1916 helmet shell was produced in six standard centimetre sizes (60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70) from a 1mm thickness of hard martensitic silicon/nickel steel, by hot pressing in electrically heated dies. More costly and, at 1.2kg (c.21b 10.5 oz), heavier than the French mild steel 'Adrian' helmet or the British 'Brodie' of hardened 'Hadfield steel', the German M1916 gave greater protection than either. Estimated production by the end of the war was more than 7 million examples.
    Like the Allied models, the M1916 helmet was not designed to protect the head from bullet impacts but to deflect artillery fragments that fell on men in the trenches, which were causing some 80 per cent of head wounds. The elongated front brim or visor and the low-hanging neck shield protected the face and neck from injury (though paradoxically, the improved survival rates from such wounds greatly increased the number reaching the field dressing stations by late 1916).

    1936: A cavalry trooper of the 4.Reiter Regiment wears the M1918 helmet with ear cut-outs, bearing the national tricolour insignia in the position ordered on 17 February 1934.

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    A noticeable feature of the M1916 were the raised 'horns' incorporating air vents on each side of the helmet, to disperse heat when the helmet was worn for prolonged periods. These 'horns' were designed to engage with the location cut-outs in an optional steel brow plate (Stirnschilde) that provided added protection from frontal bullet impacts; a strap on the brow plate also passed around the back of the helmet to hold it in place. These 5mm-thick brow plates were so heavy, 2-3.5kg (.4.1/4 -7lb) that they were practical only for the most static duties; and although several tens of thousands were made, they were very rarely seen in the trenches. The brow plates were not used by the post-war Reichswehr.
    The steel helmet was secured to the head by means of a leather chinstrap that could be adjusted by two sliding buckles. The chinstrap attached to the inside of the helmet just above each ear; a triangular cut-out in a brass or steel '8'-ring on the end of the chinstrap fitted over a triangular extension on the face of a pierced round bolt riveted inside each side of the helmet. The liner consisted of a thick leather band held by three rivets, to which three thinner leather sections were sewn, each section with two pierced 'fingers'. Sewn to each section was a fabric bag holding a pad; adjustment was by a central drawstring passing through the holes pierced in the ends of each of the six fingers. Many M1916 helmets used by the Reichswehr had their liners replaced with a variety of upgraded systems. These included the M1931 helmet liner (M1931) that was subsequently used in all World War I1 combat helmets.

    Two members (rear & right) of this machine gun team assigned to the 16.lnfanterle Regiment wear the M1 933 prototype helmet, identifiable by the sharply angled step in the lower edge; this is the initial pattern, with a longer frontal brim and no side slot. This helmet was unique in being made of 'Vulkanfiber', a composite plastic material similar to modem fibreglass. This photo was taken in 1934, apparently prior to the introduction of the Heer arm-of-service helmet decal, which displaced the national tricolour shield to the right side.

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    The Austro-Hungarian Army ordered nearly half a million M1916 helmets from Germany, and in November 1917 acquired licence manufacturing rights. The Austrian-made version (confusingly designated M17 in Austro-Hungarian service) was produced in fewer centimetre shell sizes (62, 64, 66, 68), but was essentially no different in appearance from the German original. The Austrian version utilized 'D'-rings for attaching the chinstrap instead of the keyed bolts found on German helmets; these were riveted noticeably higher on both sides of the helmet than the German fitment. The two-piece Austrian chinstrap was produced in a khaki fabric with metal eyelets for the pronged buckle; and the liner incorporated a metal band to which the three two-fingered leather pad-mounting sections were attached. The Reichswehr converted a large number of Austrian helmets to German use, and many of these were pressed into service between 1934 and 1940.

    A company sergeant-major (Feldwebel) Provides instruction on the proper use of the Kar98 rifle. The photo illustrates that double-decal M1 935 helmets were used during field training and not merely on the parade ground. The proportions of the helmet indicate that the rifleman is probably wearing the smaller sized 62cm shell.

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The Model 1917 steel helmet

    The M1917 helmet was a variation of the M1916 whose only difference was the design of the liner system (and some commentators decline to accept a separate 'M1917' designation). First introduced in the spring of 1917, the helmet incorporated a metal liner ring to replace the thick leather band that had previously held the three liner pads in place. During the Reichswehr period many M1916 helmets were upgraded by the addition of this metal liner band ring. Since both helmet shells were identical, interchanging the parts between them was simple. Like M1916 helmets, the 1917 models used after World War I were often repainted in standard Reichswehr colours over their former Imperial Army paint schemes.


    Serving on the Eastern Front, this Luftwaffe anti-aircraft Unteroffizier wears the standard M1 935 helmet, with single 'second pattern' eagle decal applied to a smooth blue-grey factory finish.

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    An estimated one-third of all German helmets received an inspector's stamp on the inside of the dome. This was done as an independent process in order to ensure quality within an overall production batch. This ink stamp found in an M1935 helmet is dated 1939.

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    The Model 1918 steel helmet

    There is no controversy over this classification. In 1918 the side chinstrap rivets of the M1916 were removed and replaced by internal 'D'-rings attached directly to the metal liner band ring. This change altered the exterior appearance of the helmet, and was identifiable by the absence of the external rivet low on each side. With the introduction of this modification an improved chinstrap was also manufactured. This incorporated a sprung hook or 'carbine clip' attached to one end, the other end being permanently mounted to the opposite 'D'-ring by a rivet. The carbine clip continued in use in both Reichswehr and Wehrmacht helmets during the transitional period when new equipment was being developed and old stock was still in use.
    Additional chinstraps with carbine clips were manufactured for general use prior to the introduction of the roller-buckle chinstraps of the mid to late 1920s


    The M 1918 'ear cut-out' helmet

    The unique characteristics of the M1918 'ear cut-out' pattern are immediately obvious, an upward dip in the lower edges of the helmet shell just behind the level of the ventilation 'horns'. This model is often referred to as the cavalry, artillery or telephone talker's helmet because of its general appearance and its apparent popularity with men serving in these roles; but such terms have no validity. The helmet was developed and tested in August 1918 in response to requests by front-line troops for a helmet that allowed for better hearing in the trenches. An estimated 2,100 M1918 'ear cut-outs' are known to have been produced in medium sized 64cm shells by the established firm of Eisenhuttenwerke located at Thale. It was planned that a total of 100,000 were to be manufactured before the end of World War I; but the scarcity of surviving examples, and the extreme rarity of photographic evidence for its front-line use before the Armistice suggests that only small numbers ever reached the army.4 The helmet proved successful, nevertheless, and had the Armistice not intervened this might have been the next pattern selected for general issue to frontline troops. So popular was the M1918 'ear cut-out' that in the mid- to late 1920s at least one German firm was contracted to remanufacture the helmet in the larger 66cm shell size. This was intended to supplement the small number of World War I era shells in service, and to aid in expanding the range of head sizes available from a maximum of 57cm to a much larger 59cm. Like many transitional helmets, some were stored and later repainted with rough texture paint for reissue to Wehrmacht troops in 1940. These post-war helmets, too, are considered as rarities.

    The air vents found on M1935 helmets differ from those on M1940 and M1942 models. The M1935 had a separately Inserted hollow rivet (Top) the other two models had an air hole punched directly through the steel shell with a raised, embossed rim. (Bottom)

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