Helmmacher Abteilung and
their Metal Helmets
Joseph P. Robinson.
28 September 2005.
Collectors have spent a lot of time trying to determine
how helmets flowed into the units. Several years ago, few
collectors understood it at all. But today, serious collectors
understand the Bekleidungsamt markings on helmets is the
vehicle that let us to study where helmets came from and
how they were issued. There are still lots of holes and
misunderstanding. Just as you thought, you understood a
great deal of it another picture surfaces and throws you
a curve ball. This is a series of two pictures that have
created great discussions. These pictures were not taken
at the same time but in the same place of roughly the same
group of people. They were both sent by Heinrich Hölzer.
These individuals are from the Helmmacher Abteilung of XIV
Corps. XIV Corps was the corps of Baden troops in the Prussian
army. The helmets that they are proudly displaying are metal
ersatz helmets. For lack of a better description these were
"kits". The helmet shell was factory produced
as well as separate front visor, rear visor, liner, spike
assembly, rear spine, cockades and chin strap and wappen.
These separate components were then "snapped"
into place by an assembly organization -- by this Helmmacher
Abteilung. This unit outlived its purpose with the introduction
of the M15 helmet. However, when they were in demand, a
man could snap together a helmet fairly easily.
In peacetime, pre-war Germany equipment was issued by Army
Corps. Each Corps had a small but very important supply
unit called the Bekleidungsamt (BKA). Consider them clothing
depots. Pictures of the BKA and the BJA(repair outfit) focus
on sewing machines and often times civilian workers. The
BKA was not standard in size or organization but varied
by Corps and nationality. In some cases civilians populated
the "handwerk" section. Prussian Corps had about
75 NCO and OR types while Bavarians had 200. Wurttemberg's
Corps and the two Saxon Corps had 28 NCOs but no ORs each.
The uniforms of the Bekleidungsamt were very specific. These
pictures show a mixture of uniforms as was common for recruits.
They use the old blue uniforms for training. It looks like
some troops behind the lines use these also for daily activities.
The shoulder of strap and sleeve decorations in the pictures
seem to match the XIV Corps Bekleidungsamt. This makes immense
sense, but the words Helmmacher Abteilung is a new one.
gentlemen in the second photo were obviously gathered for
a birthday party of Head Master Gebhart (a School teacher??).
You can plainly read the cancellation mark of the first
of March 1915 in Baden on the other card. You'll notice
that there are both Prussian and Baden wappen on these new
helmets. Why? There is a mention of Gren Reg. 110 on one
of the cards.
You'll also notice on the bottom shelf, there
are five helmet forms. The center three are liners that
have not been dyed. The outer two are shells without the
visors attached. These are helmet forms ready to be assembled.
There is no clear explanation yet of the mix of wappens.
Before we examine the helmets in detail.
We will look at the back of the cards.
our translation comes courtesy of a member of AHF.
This first picture holds few surprises. A
postcard to his brother in law from Heinrich Hölzer
dated clearly1 March 1915 addressed:
Mr. F. Lengsfeld
Lower (Untere) Clignet street
No.4, 3rd floor
Karlsruhe, February 28th, 1915
Dear Brother in law and Sister!
Dearest Greetings from
Heinrich. How are
you both? Hopefully
as well as I am.
This is consistent. Heinrich Hölzer from
the BKA sends a postcard showing his unit that puts together
ersatz helmets. The second picture says roughly.
Mannheim, the 18th of July 1915
Dear Parents (in god? and (name)? (Sister) ?)
...to the message, that I have been since the 15th of that
I am still well, and the same for you I hope.
With greetings, Heinrich
Adresse: Grenadier Hölzer
(Grenadier Rgt. 110 Mannheim)
The gentelman who helped translate this card
added this note: "That man's handwriting is very "special".
I fear he is that farmers son and not very used to writing."
The card is addressed to:
Post Bammertal ["m" with bar means "mm";
south east of Heidelberg]
Abs. Grenadier Hölzer 1. ErsBattl. 1.
It seems reasonable that this unit's mission
ended with the arrival of the M15 helmet. In this case,
it seems as though grenadier Holzer was sent to Grenadier
An example of a Kit Metal Helmet
The helmets themselves are a thing of simplicity.
This example shows a complete helmet with the spike removed.
There were 13 pieces to this helmet. These 13 pieces could
be assembled by hand in the order of one through 13. The
Helmmacher Abteilung provided the hands.
1. The helmet body or bell made out of thin
steel and covered with black enamel paint. The outer covering
a shiny, black and reminiscent of the enamelware used on
some mess tins. There were factory made holes in the bell
for the spike, the wappen, the spine and the M91 posts.
This was pressed out of one piece of steel. There was a
ridge around the base of the bell to allow for the placement
of the liner and the front and rear visors. The hole on
top for the spike, had a raised flange edge. The wappen
hole was unique in that there was a rectangle and two circular
holes. The rectangular hole was for the wappen to fit through,
and the circular holes, which are close together, could
possibly have been for a Saxon or Mecklenburg plate like the example on the right below.
2&3. Two M91 posts. These were standard
design to accommodate a 1 mm thick side hook. These were
placed in the holes and the rear prongs bent to keep the
posts in position.
4. The liner made of very thin leather or
a paper leather combination. These liners were deeper than
the normal liner and had a split in the back. This split
was fixed through the use of a snap. This example has the
female end of the snap, but the male end is gone. The liner
was laid on to the bell and crimped into the side ridges.
5. The front visor made out of thin steel
factory issued with a brass visor trim and faux brads on
the corners. The faux brads are quite small with the exception of Saxon ones which approximate mormal size. In this example, the maker's mark is engraved
on the inside of front visor. The visor was placed into
the ridges on the bell, and then bent down into position,
holding the liner in place and the visors securely to the
bell. The company was Firma von der Heyden in Berlin who
also produced the first 50 metallhelmes for Bavaria.
6. The rear visor made out of thin steel factory
issued with a rolled steel blackened trim. Just like the
front visor the rear visor was inserted in the ridges of
the bell. And then bent down, holding the liner in place
and fixing the rear visor firmly in place.
7. The wappen. Made of brass, with a single
tube loop to attach the wappen to the bell. This would allow
for easy application through a matched hole in the bell.
There are two holes drilled into the chest of this example
wappen. It was believed that this might be a post war addition.
The holes are too far apart for a landwehr cross. The only
state wappen it could support is for Oldenburg. The holes
are not even straight. But then this picture showed up:
8. The spike is made of brass and originally
of two pieces joined into one in the factory, the spike
and the base. The spike could be turned by hand. The base
had faux dome studs. The spike was crimped to the flange
on top of the bell.
9. A rear spine made of brass with two washers
and square nuts for attachment to the bell through the two
existing predrilled holes.
10&11 Two cockades in this example, a
Prussian one on the left and a Reich's cockade on the right.
48 mm with large holes and a slot to accept M91 posts.
12. A leather two buckle chin strap. This
strap has obviously been stretched out to go over someone's
chin, just by pulling.
13. A head pad to cushion the head from the
bell and the nuts. I do not know what material this is made
of. However, it is quite fragile and gives the impression
of a cardboard paper. Similar head pad's are found in the
helmets of some cuirassiers to pad the wearer from the metal
This example has provided a rare match between
the soldiers of a very specific Abteilung and a specific
type of metal helmet that we know was used in Prussia, Wurttemberg,
Bavaria, Saxony and Baden. I'm sure there are errors in this but
it is a fun explanation!