Sunday, June 29, 2008

Schutzmutze: The West German tanker's beret/helmet

fourth in a series on tank helmet posts

Of all the helmets in my collection, this one is my wife's favorite.

For your consideration, the Bundeswehr padded tanker's beret. This natty little number is a testimonial to tradition, functionality, and rakish good looks.

The design is a direct descendant of the Baskenmutze of the Nazi era.

Now, I don't feel I'm going out on much of a limb here by opining that there were only three things the Nazis created that weren't outward manifestations of their black-souled demonic evil, and those three things were actually pretty swell. They are:

1. The autobahn
2. The Volkswagen Beetle
3. The Baskenmutze/Schutzmutze family of helmets

While this trio slowly roasts in hell (for those of you who believe in that sort of thing) their jaunty little padded berets continued to march on into the 1970s in the form of the Schutzmutze.

This side view shows to good effect the typically high-quality wool that forms the beret portion of the Schutzmute. Our first clue that this beret is unusual is the thick, protective bumper that runs the circumference of the opening.

Here, is the meat-and-potatoes of this helmet/beret.  When the beret is slipped off we are left with the protective element of this helmet.  Marzetti states that the protection is acheived through felt and foam rubber,

and,  when you pull back the inner fabric lining, some sort of plastic, ABS (like) or fiberglass hard shell is revealed, forming the rigid, non-ballistic,  bowl.  

As is so often the case with old foam rubber this foam has deteriorated into nothing more than a granular orange powder.

This particular Schutzmutze is abundantly marked.   Finding and interpreting the markings on a helmet is much of the fun of collecting.

Based on this label, if I had to guess, I'd say that this helmet was produced in January of 1963.  Here again, I remind readers that I always welcome corrections, clarification, and comments.  Any information that YOU can provide will simply make this a more valuable post to collectors and helmet enthusiasts, and I am always very grateful for your thoughtful, and factual,  input.

I'm guessing that this is the size.

These markings are stamped underneath the sweatband, I don't know what they mean.

The very cool insignia of the Bundeswehr graces the front of this very distinctive piece of military headgear.

Altogether this stout hard shell coupled with the surrounding bumpers provides considerable protection for the head of the tanker, all in a lightweight, well ventilated, and very attractive package.

Like I always say:  "Bundeswehr is fun to wehr!"

Just ask these three Leopard tankers.

For successfully incorporating both the beret AND androgney the Bundeswehr has no equal!

accession number: MOA hmar120.32.106
Schutzmutze: Tank Crewman's Beret/Helmet, West Germany 1970s
Acquired 1984, Lansing Michigan
Purchase price :$15.00
Condition: excellent

Next Monday, another tanker helmet.

Comments from readers include:

This authoritative laundry list from collector dirk r. festus festerling

great fun (like every week...), just some small additions:

The concept of the Autobahn (without actually naming it like that)
predates the nazis. post war chancellor Adenauer, then lord mayor of
cologne, a conservative hardliner but surely no nazi, and the prussian
Landeshauptmann (roughly: province chief executive officer...)
Johannes Horion, not accidently member of the same Burschenschaft
(Conservative student´s fraternity) as Adenauer, ran the project to
employ thousands of jobless people (the use of heavy building
machinery was forbidden whereever a man (or many) and a
shovel/wheelbarrow could get a task done.
as a nice side effect the BIG ford car plant in cologne got a high
speed test areal.
more fun details

the Nazis just spread the concept.

"Our first clue that this beret is unlike other Bundeswehr berets is
the thick, protective bumper that runs the circumference of the opening."

[change made to above text]

at that time there are NO other bundeswehr berets. non-armour wears
various versions of Schiffchen or Bergmütze caps.

56 is the size, indeed. the crossed sabers beyound the cokarde aren´t
the armour symbol, but the generic "army" one.
[change made to above text]
the only crossed symbol in armoured units is the crossed lances of the
Panzeraufklärer armoured scouts, but "your" beret was issued to all
armoured personnel regardless of designation. stories of PzAufkl
lining (at own cost) the inside of all of their uniforms including
pyjamas in gold satin to show they are the true heirs of cavalry are
greatly exagerated. never witnessed trouser inliners.

oh, and on the last but one tank helmet. nowadays and at least from
the ´80s onward bundeswehr armour was issued the same or rather very
similar padded headgear. i´ve been searching for very stupid foto of
chancellor Kohl wearing one of these while stuck in a Leopard turret
hatch in Munster, celebrating 30th bundeswehr anniversary.

the number of non-staged fotos with protective caps is neglectable.
whereever possible "true tankers", non-debarking Panzergrenadiers and
protected company Jägers will wear their issued black resp. green
berets without any serious protective qualities and put a comm headset
over it, only those stuck with non-camouflagous headgear couldn´t
prevent wearing these.
i still like my coral red beret.
and i´m a bit nervous about recent attempts to impress the afghan
public with superior haberdashery:

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