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.

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