Medieval armies used camouflage

Protection and symbol The German steel helmet

First World War, February 21, 1916, 7:12 a.m. French time: one of the bloodiest battles in history begins in northeastern France with a cannonade of over 1,200 guns - a violent spectacle the world has never seen before. The aim of the German barrage is the positions and forts around the French fortress town of Verdun. They are supposed to be shot ready for an ingestion.

Practical test before Verdun

After nine hours of continuous fire, six German divisions attacked. It starts with special storm troops who are specially trained and armed. Each fighter carries a pistol and a carbine with a bayonet attached, plus 90 rounds of ammunition and a number of hand grenades. In addition, some of them wear headgear that has never been seen before: a helmet made entirely of steel. These are the first examples of the model whose distinctive basic shape - later modified several times - will shape the appearance of the German soldier for three decades: the steel helmet model 1916.

Successor to the Pickelhaube

30,000 pieces of the new German helmet model had only recently been distributed among the units of the Western Front. Among other things, the steel helmets replace the spiked hoods of the infantry, which shaped the appearance of the Prussian-German military for over half a century. The old helmets made of pressed leather with metal reinforcements and a brass tip, which are primarily intended to protect against saber blows and which still served well in the wars of unification from 1864 to 1870/71, no longer offer any protection in the First World War.

Response to fatal head injuries

With the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and the defeat of the German armies on the Marne in 1914 - in the words of the military - on the western front "fire" finally triumphs over "movement". In the battles of the trench warfare that followed, attacks - as in 1916 at Verdun - were prepared for hours of massive artillery fire with fragmentation and shrapnel shells. The proportion of splinter injuries alone among soldiers on both sides rises to around 80 percent in the attrition battles of the trench warfare. A quarter of them are head injuries. And they are almost always fatal.

First delivery from Thale

After France and then Great Britain introduced helmets made of sheet steel for their soldiers in 1915, the voices in the German military were also louder calling for the troops to be equipped with a German "steel helmet" as soon as possible. After the first specimens were successfully tested in December 1915, the Prussian War Ministry ordered mass production shortly thereafter. In January 1916, the Thale / Harz ironworks delivered the first 30,000 German steel helmets to the troops.

Standard helmet of the Central Powers

The German steel helmet model 1916 (M1916) with its striking forehead and neck protection, made from a 1.1 millimeter thick chrome-nickel steel plate in five work steps, soon became a successful model. Until the end of the war, not only the armies of the German Army and the air force pilots carry the M1916, but also the allied armies of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. An export model without forehead and neck protection is made for the Turkish army, which can also be worn during prayer.