Saturday, April 28, 2007

German Model 1917 "stahlhelm": Scourge of the 20th Century

Nothing says lovin' like something in the oven, and nothing says coersive world domination (with a dash of genocide) like the German sthahlhelm (steel helmet) of the 20th century. First encountered in World War One and again in World War Two, this classic, and oft copied helmet profile, struck terror into untold millions of innocent victims. Such nasty hordes, such an efficient and outstanding design.

Here, in all of its terrible glory, is that apex of protection for the frontline soldier, the German M.17 trench helmet.

Weighing in at a hefty 2 lbs, 6 oz, this concoction of manganese, nickle, silicon, and carbon may not have been the first of the modern combat helmets, but it is certainly the best of the batch of WWI. Designed for maximum protection with a thickness of .045 inches, this is an outstanding example of a helmet design that remains with us to this very day, referenced in the so-called "Fritz" helmets of the kevlar variety.

This particular piece is finished in a glossy apple green with the original chinstrap and much of the original suspension. There are also many examples of camouflage patterns for M16 helmet, often with geometric shapes of green and brown with thick, black, painted outlines.

The distinctive "Frankenstein" lugs provided both a means for ventilation as well as support for an armoured frontal plate as illustrated in the Bashford Dean illustration below.

The "brow shield was for advanced position troops, typically lookouts and machine gunners. The heavy frontal protection provided by the quarter-inch thick plate could stop an enemy bullet fired from beyond fifty meters. Although it increased the ballistic protection of the helmet, the tradeoff to the soldier was the discomfort of the five to seven pounds of extra weight...what a pain in the neck!

This helmet is incredibly well designed, from the long visor...

to the deep neck and shoulder protection provided by the 2 and one half inch skirt.

The liner is the typical European three-pad style. This one has significant damage and has been backed with archival material.

I'm quite certain that the legend of this poster reads: "Now, let us take a look at the details of this fine helmet", or something along those lines.

In the dome of the helmet is stamped a manufacturers code "BN298". The significance of this inscription is unkown to me, I invite readers to subimt information.

On the inside helmet skirt is the size of this helmet "ET64" also pictured is a detail shot of the chinstrap mounting lug as well as the "rolled edge" of the helmet.

This model has a steel liner band, others had leather bands that attached to the liner.

A nice shot of the underside of one of the three liner tabs. The pocket contains a cusioning material that spaces the helmet shell an inch from the skull of the wearer. I've seen references that infer that these little pockets sometimes held first aid kits...for some reason I find that doubtful. Bashford Dean's seminal study "Helmets and Body Armour of the Twientieth Century" notes the padded "mattresses" that were contained within these tab pockets.

And , voila! just as the emminent Professor Dean illustrates, this helmet tab conceals one of those aforementioned "mattresses" suitable perhaps for a" liddle kiddle" (ask your wife).

A closeup of that lug from the outside,

and here, the inside.

Alas, regardless of the advances in protection, its the same old sad story in each war: the young soldier boys, usually in their teens, go confidently marching off looking like this:

...and, all too often, end up like this.

As you collect, reflect.

accession number: MOA hmar.90.32.10
Model 16 German helmet.
Acquired 1989, Lansing Michigan.
Purchase price :$40.00
Condition: good

Next post: Here come the Tommies! The British mark I of 1916...stay tuned.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Italian M-1915/16 Steel Helmet in Spanish falangist livery

Here is a wonderful story of a junk store find.

My wife and I used to live in Western Michigan and one summer we were checking out the antique/junk emporiums in the Lake Michigan communities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg. Sifting through the usual fare of Beanie babies, old LPs, telegraph wire insulators, and the usual detritus I came upon this delightful piece. Scratched, dented, and only slightly misshapen, this wonderful Italian helmet leapt to my hand. With original paint, liner, and chinstrap I was thrilled to find this example with the typically stenciled insignia on the front. And boy oh boy was the price right.

Sixteen dollars later I walked out of that lakeshore junk store, the proud new owner of a very nice old veteran of Italia's efforts in the Great War.

Here we have that classic Adrian-style profile but without the weaknesses of the four-piece French helmet.

Typical of the era, and style, this helmet has the corrugated aluminum spacers that provide some distance between the liner and the steel shell. As with the French Adrian, the spacing is barely minimal to accommodate the amount of deformation that will be caused by high-velocity shrapnel, though, again, its better than the cloth cap.

Italian helmets of the twentieth century all sport stenciled insignia in a dizzying array of designs and colors. I have not been able to identify the significance of this particular insignia. Reader input would be greatly welcomed.

This picture...
and this one illustrate the main difference between this helmet and the Italian "Lippmann" helmet of my most recent post; the crest is riveted rather than spot-welded.

And here is my favorite thing about helmets...
a mute reminder of the person who wore it into combat. just an ordinary flesh and blood person like your or me. This helmet bears the handwritten identity of the former owner: "Mario Forteleoni, 1st regt. 3rd comp." I have to wonder what became of Mario.

The only other marking that I can find is a stenciled "60" on the liner.

The chinstrap and buckle are intact although the leather is noticeably shrunken.

Peeling back the leather and wool liner reveals the ventilation hole in the top of the helmet.

Liner materials are in remarkably good condition considering the age of this helmet.

This close-up reveals that the finish was brushed rather than sprayed on.

All in all a very nice specimen of a very handsome helmet. A helmet found in a junk store but ...

fit for a king.

UPDATE I received this comment in August. Thanks Pablo for the information.
pablo massolo said...
Dear Sir I am a helmet collector from argentina and member of yahoo helmets club.
You itailian adrian was in fact used by fascist units in the SCW, the painted sign is the´´ yugo y flechas ´´of the most important franquist units, the rivetts on the comb was a normal repair dome in spain during the conflict. Is a terrific helmets, much more interesting than a regular italian one, check josebas site for more examples on this lid! Thanks for the blog is great!! POLI, my mail: ( use this if you want to contact me )
I am always interested in new helmets and contacts!
Ps: a link from josebas, the same badge on an italian M33

accession number: MOA hmar.154.43.39
Model 1915/16 Italian helmet.
Acquired 1999, Ferrysburg Michigan.
Purchase price :$16.00
Condition: good

Come along as we explore the German M-16 in our next post.