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WWII German Helmets

Discussion in 'German WWII Uniforms and Equipment' started by Jim, Sep 20, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The type of paint used on German helmets varied greatly in colour and texture. Many collectors have noted that no two German helmets ever appear to have exactly the same paint finish. The evolution in paint finish even over a relatively short period, and the ability to standardize colour, were complicated by several factors. Like other features, paint used on helmets was modified as a result of practical experience of simulated combat manoeuvres and field situations. Many helmets underwent factory or supply depot refurbishment prior to reissue, and received different paint schemes. When paint was available in the field many helmets were repainted by the men who wore them, using whatever was to hand. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles required the confiscation and destruction of vast amounts of military equipment. Much that remained continued to bear World War I colour schemes. In 1922 the German government allocated funds to upgrade the military, which included new paint standards and colour schemes for basic equipment, vehicles, and artillery pieces. Many items - including helmets - were repainted a standard shade of light field-grey. Beginning in that year, Reichswehr officers began to file reports complaining about the painted surface of the helmet; they particularly noted that the smooth finish often gave off revealing reflections when wet, or if exposed to bright sunlight or moonlight. The Reichswehr Minister authorized an investigation into the problem, and three paint-manufacturing companies were selected to compete for a new contract. After field trials finished in October 1930, the firm of Blume in Magdeburg was selected as the new supplier of a matt finish helmet paint. Paint was also provided to military supply depots through requisitions placed by the central Procurement Office of the Wehrmacht. This paint was intended for touching-up and repainting of World War I helmets still in service; and in 1934-35 many of these transitional helmets received a second coat over their original Reichswehr finish. During these early years helmets were often repainted by hand using a paintbrush.

    This photo taken in 1935 shows the M1918 helmet worn with 1934 Anny Insignia. In the pre-war years helmets like this were typically repainted light field-grey In a matt finish.

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    Following the introduction of the M1935 helmet, the firm of Duco AG in Berlin-Spindlersfeld was chosen as the primary supplier of paint. Their product had a smooth lacquer base with a heavy concentration of zinc to prevent rust; and although a matt finish continued to be thought important, factory-finished helmets often displayed a semi-gloss or ‘eggshell’ appearance. The Duco AG paint was produced in a light field grey (Feldgrau) for the Army and Navy, and in a blue-grey (Blaugrau) for the Luftwaffe. Inevitably, colours often varied slightly from one production run to another. In addition, other firms were contracted to supply paint to the helmet factories when helmet production was expanded, resulting in yet more varied nuances of shade.

    Large numbers of M1918 helmets were refurbished with rough-textured paint and the single decal, and many of these were issued to German infantry prior to the 1940 invasion of France. German veterans of that campaign have commented that R was not uncommon to see the older helmets in use even with front-line combat units.

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    Colour standardisation

    The Supreme Commander of the Army established the standard colour for all helmets used by the Army and Navy in June 1935. This early paint scheme is often referred to as ‘apple green’ due to its unique shade of field-grey. The Navy often repainted helmets at unit level with light or dark grey colours if shipboard service was expected, but otherwise they continued to use the Army field-grey colour as their primary paint scheme.

    This M1935 helmet exhibits field repainting. Large blocks of textured paint have chipped away, revealing the smooth pre-war finish underneath. This type of appearance was common to helmets that saw extended use in the field.

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    On 4 November 1935 - nearly six months after the introduction of a standard field-grey by the Army and Navy - the Luftwaffe selected blue-grey as their standard helmet colour. A darker shade blue-grey was also applied to some helmets; there has been speculation that the darker helmets were intended for wear by anti-aircraft and ground combat units, though it is possible that variations were due simply to different sub contracted paint suppliers. To create a uniform standard for the manufacture of paint, the firm of Duco AG and others registered their colours with the German government. These industrial colour standards were administered by the RAL Institute (Reichs Ausschujl fur Liefebedingungen und Giitesicherung), established in 1927 through a government commission that set out to ensure that standard colours would be used on various industrial products. This included items manufactured for the military as well as other government organizations, such as the railway and postal services. The paint standards were not very rigorously enforced, and individual manufacturers could adopt a registered colour or create their own without difficulty. By the end of 1927 approximately 40 military colours had been registered with the RAL, including many used by the Reichswehr.

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    By May 1945 more than 120 individual registrations had been created to cover the entire scope of military paints used by the Wehrmacht. Due to the number of possible paint schemes as well as the variety of manufacturers supplying equipment, it is difficult to establish which registered colours were specifically designated for helmets. Table 7 (Above) provides a selection of ‘RAC numbers registered for use in the production of military equipment prior to May 1945; these are a representative sample of some of the colours most likely used in the production of helmet paints.


    This M1940 helmet displays a non-reflective textured finish common to helmets delivered after 21 March 1940. The decal insignia has chipped off as a result of the rough painted surface.

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Paint modifications

    Between 1935 and 1939 helmets supplied to the Wehrmacht were painted in a smooth finish both inside and out. Finish types ranged from semi-gloss to near matt depending on the paint lot and application method. Specific orders were drafted by the German Army and Luftwaffe to prohibit men from polishing or greasing the helmet for parade purposes. Despite this, period photos clearly show that some helmets use in ceremonies were often painted with a clear gloss varnish; however, these helmets may have been reserved for parade use only. When World War II began with the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, the M1935 helmets were painted a smooth finish, and had double decals on the right side the national colours of Germany, and on the left side the respective insignia denoting arm-of-service.

    Recently formed Luftwaffe paratroop units (which also incorporated Army parachute infantry on 1 January 1939) used a field-grey smooth finish like that of the Army on M1938 Fallschirmjager helmets, which bore double decals as prescribed for the regular Luftwaffe M1935 helmet. Following the end of the Polish campaign that October, the Wehrmacht began to evaluate a wide range of combat experiences, which led to several changes in helmet colouring and decals. The first took place on 27 January 1940, when the Army High Command ordered all helmets both in service and in production to be painted a smooth, matt grey colour. A few days later the Army High Command also requested that steel combat helmets be issued to all armoured vehicle crews. To comply with this order, many helmets were repainted matt grey over their previous field grey colour. A second change cam on 21 March 1940, when the Army High Command ordered all helmets to be painted a rough-textured, slate grey colour. The same order called for the removal of the national shield decal from the right side of the helmet. Because this order was issued less than eight weeks after the previous one, it is unlikely that many factories were able to comply with that of 27 January. Many helmets in service as well as those in storage were factory-refinished in textured paint to comply with the new standards, and were then reissued with a single decal. The German Navy followed suit, and all helmets supplied directly from the factory were now configured with the new textured paint and a single decal. The non-reflective textured paint was applied on the exterior of the helmet only.

    Two soldiers wear M1940 combat helmets with single decals characteristically; the paint has worn off one rivet (left) to reveal the bright metal surface underneath. Both men wear regimental coloured identification loops on their shoulder straps.

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    The order to remove the national tricolour shield and the change to textured paint was, obviously, an attempt to improve the concealment of infantry in combat situations. Reports from commanders who saw action during the Polish campaign stated that opposing forces could easily see the white part of the national decal, thus needlessly exposing troops to small arms fire and easing the task of enemy reconnaissance units in locating them. Veterans of these early campaigns recall that soldiers were ordered to scrape off the national decal; others were simply over painted when the order arrived for re-painting with a textured finish. It was not until the height of the invasion of France that the Luftwaffe adopted these regulations. On 12 June 1940, more than a month after the attack on France, the Luftwaffe abolished the national tricolour shield while adopting a rough-textured, blue-grey paint finish for the exterior of all helmets. In addition to slate-grey, many Fallschirmjager helmets received coats of field-grey textured paint identical to that used on Army helmets. This was a logical consequence of the increasing part that paratroop units played in prolonged ground combat, no different from the experience of regular infantry, during the middle and latter years of the war. Under direct supervision, the central Procurement Office of the Wehrmacht was able to enforce paint standards on helmet manufacturers; but despite the changes ordered by Army High Command many helmets were left unchanged. Helmets in continuous use by the Wehrmacht often escaped repainting, and some helmets with
    Pre-1940 configurations saw continuous use until May 1945. These included helmets placed in storage and later reissued, as well as those used in rear areas.
     

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