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Depot Marks

Joseph Robinson and  Maxime Chaffotte

22 June 2007

(This is an international effort.  Maxime Chaffotte and I are trying this together.  We welcome your improvements!)

 

We have seen all sorts of stamps and marks on the back visor of issue helmets. Private purchase helmets might have a maker's mark or a size. It could also have the regiment and owner's name.

 

However, issue helmets seemed designed for stampings from their creation. Understanding these marks is elusive but we can at least explain some of them. Not all helmets were marked the same. Conventional wisdom created the wrong impression  when Bowman called these "maker's marks"i]. Let us try to clear this issue up a little.

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. It seems however, that 4 of the 25 Corps did not at first glance have an independent BKA. XVIII, XX, XXI and III Bavarian Corps seemed to have doubled on an older BKA.[ii]  We still had 21 BKA. This gives rise to our first mark which was BA.  BAXIV for example is the mark for the BKA of the XIV Corps. This example shows BA IX.[iii]

[iv]

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. [v]

VIII Corps in Coblenz seems to have picked up much of the slack in the missing BKAs. They did parts of XVIII Corps, parts of XXI Corps and assorted other units like the NCO school. II Corps picked up XX corps. XV picked up most of XXI Corps.  XI Corps picked up Regiment 87 & 88 from XVIII Corps as well as both Eisenbahn Regiment 2 & 3. Mostly I Bavarian Corps but some of II Bavarian Corps picked up Bavarian III Corps. [vi]

 BKAs seem to have come into their own in waves as Corps HQ's were created. Most corps through corps XV in 1888. Corps XII, XVI-XIX in 1892, III in 1889.[vii] What that signifies is a significant shift of how things were marked. In general, an Imperial cabinet order was given (AKO) about the "regulation" of clothing, marking etc.  This AKO had to be passed by the various kingdoms and a royal decree given in each kingly state.[viii]  Therefore, adoption of AKOs took place at different times and to different degrees.  Saxony, Württemberg, and especially Bavaria maintained some freedom in regards to AKOs. Each duchy had a different way to implement but I do not know those fine details. So you had the primarily Prussian Corps listening directly to the Imperial AKOs and the XIII Corps (Württemberg), XII and XIX Corps (Saxony) and the Bavarians doing variously different things. Also any marking rules were taken as suggestions not mandates. As a result you have a mixing of depot marks that we can only begin to decipher.

With the outbreak of hostilities the Bekleidungsamt organization exploded in size. The organization's name changed to Kriegsbekleidungsamt. They grew to regimental size, commanded by a Colonel, consisting of companies and battalions (Betriebsabteilung). A Bekleidungsamt consisted of 85 officers, 50 Beamte and 3300 workers.  The repair organization was much smaller.  The Bekleidungs Instandsetzung had only seven officers six Beamte and 300 workers.  It was commanded by Captain.  Much of the work force hired by the Bekleidungsamt were female. From Dr. L. Meyer`s “Grundzüge der Deutschen Militärverwaltung“, published in 1908. In remarks concerning mobilization of Bekleidungsämter (translation by Glenn Jewison):

„The re-enforced Handwerkerabteilung is organized into four parts: Betriebsabteilung I (shoemakers), Betriebsabteilung II to IV (Tailors), which are each further organized into four companies.”

III Bavarian Army Corps created a Bekleidungsamt and in Prussia where the XVIII, XX, and XXI corps had no Bekleidungsamt they developed what was called a Reserve Bekleidungsamt (RBA). [Kraus pg 829-830] The reserve Bekleidungsamt seems to have been identical to the other Kriegsbekleidungsamt organizations.  I cannot readily explain the difference in name except to note that there had been no Bekleidungsamt in these military districts previously. 

The Bekleidungsamt fell under the jurisdiction of the deputy commanding general in the Military District.  As each Military District Deputy Commanding General was basically an independent satrap -- markings differed by corps Military District. Differences abounded. Location of the stamp, method used, size, and abbreviations differed. Most pre 1895 type helmets had the marking pressed or stamped into the leather.  For some there were also painted on marks often in white paint. So you could have different locations, sizes and methods.  Do not expect a uniform method of marking. This example shows a mixture of white paint and pressed in marks.

[ix]

70th regiment first battalion I, first issued 1888. Reissued 1894. Some white paint was in the shell of the helmet.  This is the same helmet but a shot of the inside top.

 

[x]

It says size 55, 70th Regiment, Ist Battalion, 3rd Company, Garniture III.

 

A "normal" helmet was stamped (in theory) BA Corps # in a box upon inspection at the BKA. This signified the acceptance of the helmet from the manufacturer.  It could also have a manufacturers stamp or sticker. You would also have a date (in theory) of when the helmet was inspected.  As helmets had a wear out date this could ground the inspector in how long this item had been around. This example in white below has an issue date. The Saxons of XII and XIX Corps also sold helmets marking them as bought.

[xi]

 

[xii]

 

The BKA then issued the helmet to the unit.  An issue went down to company level and when issued the regiment, battalion and company were marked into the helmet. These marks varied immensely. Some were not marked by company.  Some didn't even have battalion. It seems as though regiment passed equipment down to the company level.

Few helmets had markings from all levels but here is an example of 133rd Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 9th Company from 1898

[xiii]

The size might be marked in the helmet like this size 57 1/2 example:

[xiv]

Companies had clothing closets called Kammers.  So each company had a small stash of clothing to issue out.  It seems that the helmet would be marked before it got to the Kammer.  This period cartoon should apply.

Very possibly regimental depots helped in the process leading to more variation. [xv]  Regiments often were marked in a box with the initials JR or IR in a way similar to the BA marking.

[xvi]

 

The helmet could be marked at this time with a roman numeral called a garniture mark. This indicated the "goodness" of the helmet.  A good model would be marked with one Roman numeral and then further garniture marks would be added as inspections took place and the condition deteriorated.[xvii] Grades were from I-IIII with I being the best. Not all helmets had these marks. This one is garniture III.

[xviii]

 

So let us recap. Helmet is produced and possibly marked by the maker. Regularly this mark is round and in the skull some times in paper.

However, below is an example of a makers mark that is huge and on the rear brim. This mark has been faked so be careful of it.

[xix]

The tag shown below is not a maker's mark.  These stickers could be purchased at the military effects store.  This is a private tag to mark your "stuff". They often have great information on them. You can see the name, rank, regiment, and company on the second example.  This guy is named Schmidt II which means he is the second Schmidt in the company.

[xx]

[xxi]

Now that the maker either has or has not marked the helmet, it is issued to a BKA. The BKA stamps it.  Maybe dates it and puts it on the shelf. At some time the BKA inspected the helmet and might have applied garniture mark I. I think that the BA mark is later and garniture mark earlier in the general progression of helmets but all of this is loose generalization. So the BKA did not mark the helmet at all until something like 1902 and before that the first mark was made to detail regiment and issue date. BA marks are mostly found in ink.

[xxii]

This example is a 1902 pressed variety.  You can see the garniture I mark superimposed on other marks

[xxiii]

This is an inked variety.

[xxiv]

The earliest known use of ink alone is 1873. These were relatively uncommon, and ink did not become the mainstay on until almost the 1890s.

[xxv]

There are pressed examples where ink was used to highlight the markings.

 

Regularly the same suppliers supplied the same corps. While at first this might mean nothing, most makers had similar grommet measurements for their helmets. 
So all wappen supplied by that maker should have the same measurements between mounting hardware. In a case like the maker Julius Jansen he supplied many of the helmets for both  XIV and XV corps.  So you can have a Prussian eagle and Baden Griffin on an issue helmet made by Jansen that have the same distance between mounting hardware. The pictures below are of two M15s from Jansen and the two wappen though original have grommets the same distance apart.

[xxvi]

[xxvii]

[xxviii]

[xxix]

 

When the BKA issues the helmet, it goes to the regiment that might again mark it or date it.  Then it is passed to the battalion and finally company to be put in the Kammer. At each step along the way it could be marked but it seems as though Battalion often standardized markings for Battalion and company.

[xxx]

Infantry Regiment 106, 1912, 1st Battalion, 3rd company, Garniture mark I. It is not clear who put the garniture mark on this helmet but the typeset for regiment and date is different than that for battalion and company. This cartoon shows a helmet being issued from the Kamer.

[xxxi]

A leather helmet was supposed to be good for 10 years[xxxii].  When the soldier's enlistment was up in 2 years the helmet went back to the Kammer. I do not have the stock levels for Kammers but it makes sense that excess helmets were sent back up to the BKA. The subordinate leaders would of course keep the good ones and send those in worse shape back. When it arrived back at the BKA it could be re-inspected and a new garniture grade issued if it had degraded in the previous owner's use.  It was then ready to re-issue.  A new date and possibly a new garniture mark added. This example was issued three different times.

 

[xxxiii]

107th Regiment 3rd Battalion, issue dates 1891,1894,1903.

[xxxiv]

Oldenburg Infantry Regiment 91, 10th company Garniture II (notice how the second mark was added)

 

When inspected by the BKA the helmet could be found unserviceable and sent for repairs to the Bekleidings Instandsetung (B.J.A.). Each BKA had a repair shop and had its own mark when done. This example was repaired in XI corps.

[xxxv]

 

Not all markings conformed to BKA regiment Battalion and company.  Not all were marked on the rear visor. But for example Füsilier Regiment 35 was in no way going to be confused with an ordinary Infantry regiment on this 1903 ink marking..

[xxxvi]

 

This example uses the units formal name and maker's mark in ink behind the front plate! Magdeburgisches Pionier-Battalion  Nr. 4.

[xxxvii]

Just when you thought you had a handle on it you find other examples that are outside the norm. This one has white paint in the crown of the helmet dated 1916. For some reason Baden Regiment 111 seems to have always used paint (white or black) in the top of the helmet.

[xxxviii]

[xxxix]

[xl]

 

Below is a list of abbreviations used.  It is a subset. We welcome additions.

 

 

Abbreviations used

 

A.A.                             Aufklärungsabteilung

Abt.                             Abteilung

A.K.                            Armee Korps

A.M.K                         Artillerie-Munitions Kolonne

A.N.R.                         Armee Nachrichten Regiment(signal)

A.R.                              Artillerie Regiment. Mostly foot artillery but found on one Field Artillery.           

B.                                 Battalion

B.A.                             Bekleidungs Amt-  (Followed by a roman numeral Corps number)

B.A.G.                         Bekleidungs Amt Garde

B.A.O                          Bekleidungs Amt Ostasien

Bat.                              Batterie

Bay.                             Bayrisch

B.                                 Battalion or Batterie

B.I.A.                           Bekleidungs Instandsetzung (Followed by a roman numeral Corps number)

B.I.L.R.                        Bavarian Infant. Lieb Regiment

B.J.A.                          Bekleidungs Instandsetzung (Followed by a roman numeral Corps number)

Br.                               Brigade

Brok. Tr.                      Brücken Train

C.G.R.9                       Colbergsches Grenadier Regiment 9

Chev. Leg                    Chevaulegers

Dic.                              Division

D.R.                            Dragooner Regiment

DRGM                             Deutsches Reichs-Gebrauschs-Muster = registered trade mark in germany

DRP                                 Deutsches Reichspatent             

E.B.                                    Ersatz Battalion         

E.L.I.R.                        Ersatz Landwehr Infantry Regiment.

E.R.                             Eisenbahn Regiment

E.R.I.R.                        Ersatz Reserve Infantry Regiment

Eisb. R                         Eisenbahn Regiment

Esk.                             Eskadron

F or f                        FELDBRAUCHBAR --Field wearable (or serviceable)

F.A.R.                          Feld-Artillerie- Regiment

Fd A.R.                        Feld-Artillerie- Regiment

Fd. Las                        Feld Lazarett

F.F.K.                          Fortress Ferensprecher Kompanie

Flg. B.                          Flieger Battalion

Fpk. K.                        Fubrparl Kolonne

F. R.                            Fusilier Regiment

Fr. Wag.                      Futter Wagen

F.S.                              Feld Schmeide

Fs AR                                  Foot Artillery

Fuss A.R. (B)               Fuss Artillerie Regiment (Batallion)

Geb. Jäg. R.                 Gebirgs Jäger Regiment

Geschw.                       Geschwander (wing)

G.F.R.                          Garde Fusilier Regiment

G.G.R.                         Garde Grenadier Regiment

G.G.R.5.                      5th Garde Grenadier

3.G.G.K.E.                  Königen Elisabeth Garde Grenadier

4. G.G. R. K.               4th Garde Grenadier

4.G.G.R.K.A.              Königen Augusta. Garde Grenadier

G.J.B.                          Garde Jäger Battalion

G.K.R.                         Garde Kürassier Regiment.      

G.P.B.                          Garde Pioneer Battalion

G.R.                             Grenadier Regiment oder Garde Regiment

Gd.                              Garde

G.R.z.F.                       Garde Regiment zu Fuß         

G.S.B.                          Garde Schützen Battalion

G.T.                                    Garde Train

H.R.                             Husaren Regiment

I.L.R.                           Infantry Lieb Regiment

I.M.K.                         Infantry Munitions Kolonne

IR                                Infantry Regiment

5/I.R.88                       5th company Infantry Regiment 88.

II/I.R.88                       2nd Battalion Infantry Regiment 88

J.B.                              Jäger Battalion

J.R.                              Infantry Regiment

K.                                Kompagnie

K.A.G.G.R.1               Kaiser Alexander 1st Regiment Garde Grenadiers

K.B.A.                         Kreigs Beckleidungs Amt

K.B.A.G                      Kreigs Beckleidungs Amt Garde

K.F.G.G.R.2                Kaiser Franz 2nd Garde Grenadier

Krad. Schtz. Btl.           Kraftrad Schutzen Batallion.

Krnk. W.                     Kranken Wagen

Kür. R                          Kürassier Regiment

L.B.A.                          Landwehr Bekleidungs Amt

Lds.                             Landsturm

Ldw.                            Landwehr

LG                               Landgendarme (territorial police) [also Landes Gendarmerie]

L.G.R.8                        Lieb Grenadier Regiment 8      

L.I.R.                           Landwehr Infantry Regiment.

M.G.A.                        Maschinengewehr Abteilung

M.G.K.                        Maschinengewehrkompanie     

MPB 4                         Magdeburgisches Pionier-Battalion  Nr. 4.

P.B.                             Pionier-Battalion 

Pi                                 Pionier-Battalion                      

Pion. B.                        Pionier-Battalion 

PI. KP.                         Prussian Pionier-Battalion 

P.R.                         Rekrutendepot des Pionier-Battalion or Pioneer Regiment

Prov.                            Proviant (supply)

R.                                 Regiment (A mark of R87 could be either 87regiment or RJR87.)

R.                                 Reserve Infantry Regiment. (A mark of R87 could be either 87regiment or RJR87.)

R.B.                             Reserve Battalion

R.C.                             Reserve Company

R.B.A.                         Reserve Beckleidungs (followed by a corps number)

r...                               Reitende ( Horse Artillery)       

Rdf. C.                         Radfahfer Kompanie

Res.                             Reserve

R.I.R.                           Reserve Infantry Regiment

RG                               Reich's Gendarme       

R.J.B.                           Reserve Jäger Battalion

R.J.R                            Reserve Infantry Regiment.

Schwf. B.                     Scheinwerfer Battalion

Schw. R.R.                   Schweres Reiter Regiment

T.A.                                   Train Abteilung

T.B.                             Train Battalion

Tel.                              Telegraph

Telgr. B.                       Telegraph Battalion

Tr.                                Truppenubungsplatz. (Training ground)

U. R                              Ulahnen Regiment

z.F.                              ZuFuss            

 

*[xli]      

Why would my helmet have no marks?  there are several reasons and one could buy a Diensthelme that looked an awful lot like an issue helmet but as a private purchase item there would be no marks. Helmets not issued out to units would also bear no marks. As the war went on I think standards in BKA's slipped to keep pace with the volume so war time helmets are less likely to have marks.  As Pickelhaube were phased out in favor of steel helmets inflowing inventory would be stockpiled. Manufacturers were completing contracts and units were being issued steel helmets.  Helmets that were stockpiled and not issued would not have a marking. In the same vein many of these stockpiled helmets were supposedly the supply for the thousands of war bond helmets found in the USA. (see example below)  So thousands of good unmarked helmets found their way into family hands. This picture taken on the steps of the Treasury Department USA. (with Permission of owner.)

Friday Feb 7, 1919 THE STARS AND STRIPES newspaper, Page 1, Column 1:

"85,750 Shiny Ones on Way to American
Prussian Guards' Helmets will help sale of Liberty Bonds


The doughboy guards at Coblenz who kept the keys to the German warehouses where 85,750 Shiny Prussian Guards helmets were stacked are restored to good nature. They eat normally, and no longer dream of great helmet robbery mysteries. For the helmets are out of their custody at last and on their way back to the States. The warehouse keys arent't needed any longer. The helmets are to be handed out back home to buyers of bonds of the Fight Liberty Loan.

Meanwhile, traders on the AEF souvenir bourse are eagerly watching the tape for the first transatlantic quotation on Helmets, pfd.

Word of the 85,750 helmets in one buiding leaped back through the AEF almost before the advance guard of the Third Army settled in Coblenz. Mails from the rear areas of the AEF to the Army of Occupation grew unaccountably large. Every man in the A of O had from six to 60 friends whose latest letters always said after speaking pointedly of lugers and mausers and iron crosses: "And of course I am relying on you to get one of those 85,000 helmets for me."
The pressure of visitors to the warehouse grew so strong that the chief salvage officer at Third Army Headquarters posted a big sign: No More Helmets Given Out." (The citation was found by Keith Gill.)

[xlii]

 

So what do we know.

  1. Helmet issue was a corps function.
  2. Regiment, battalion probably had small supplies.
  3. Companies issued to the soldier
  4. It is not clear which of those agencies marked the helmets.
  5. Location, method, and amount of marking varied immensely.

 

What I would like to know is when marks changed from pressed to ink. Why? Please send your comments cards and letters. The more we know the better off we are. Please send other examples (with permission to publish) and abbreviations for the list.

We end this essay with a couple more examples.

[xliii]

Grenadier Regiment 119, 3rd Bn. 1903

[xliv]

Ersatz Battalion IR 69, /Garniture I.

 

[xlv]

First Schwere Reiter Regiment 3rd Squadron 1873.

 

[xlvi]

Scheinwerfer Battalion (searchlight.)

 

[xlvii]

1st Grenadier regiment (prior to name change) 1897, Fusilier Bn., 1901 12th company first garniture.

 

[xlviii]

Field Arty School 1902 3rd Lehr Abteilung 7th Battery.

 

[xlix]

Eisenbahn Regiment #1 1st Battalion.

 

[l]

No one we know has any idea.

 

[li] 

Bekleidungsamt Garde 1913 5th Garde Regiment

           

Another real different one.  The Artillery School was in Jüterbog but what is the "E"? The owner has some ideas: "It could be artillerieeinschlag troop it could also be artillerie eisenbahngeschutz railway gun section of artillery or artillerie entferngsmesser ie range finder section of artillery .Again it could be artillerie entgiftungskompanie ie artillery decontamination company as well as artillerie erdbeobachtung artillerie ground observation,artillerie erdienschiebzeil artillerie ground adjustment  as well as artillery ernstfall troop artillery emergency troop".[lii]

 

[liii]

Old style marking .. "Kaiser Franz" (2th GGR), 1st Bat, 2d comp and not by the newer way (GGR.2).

 

[liv]

 

This is a very unusual marking in the helmet shell.  All ink 1897 3JR (Bavarian).

[lv]

Great Bavarian mark!  5th Infantry Regiment 1899, 1st Battalion 1913 Maschinengewehr Abteilung

 

A Note on LG Helmets

Many helmets are mistaken for Garde helmets. They have a guard Wappen with the star in the marking LG on the inside. these are not military helmet strictly. They are police helmets. The Landgendarmerie or LG was a police unit mostly in rural areas. The the chain of command of the Gendarmerie went off to the War Minister not to the Ministry of the Interior.
These gentlemen were civil servants who had spent at least nine years in the Army. They had a mobilization mission and are found in some pictures as Feldgendarmerie. There were both mounted and dismounted LG. mounted LG have squared visors and dismount and ones had rounded visors. Both wore the guard Wappen on their helmets.


 

[i] Bowman, J.A., The Pickelhaube, Volume 1 Imperial Publications, Lancaster England 1989. Pg 344-345.

[ii] Harrell John, L, Regimental Steins, The Old Soldier Press, Hagerstown, MD, 1983, Pg 61.

[iii] Ruhl, Moritz, Die Uniformen der Deutschen Armee, Volume 1, Verlag von Moritz Ruhl,  Leipzig Germany. 1899, pg 20

[iv] With permission from the Chaffotte Collection

[v] Ibid

[vi] Freidag, B., Führer durch Heer und Flotte, Verlag Heer der Bergangenheit, Krefeld, 1914. Pg. 193.

[vii] Harrell John, L, Regimental Steins, The Old Soldier Press, Hagerstown, MD, 1983, Pg 61.

[viii] Kraus, Jürgen, The German Army in the Frist world war, Verlag Militair, Vienna, Austrian, 2004. pg 27.

[ix] Chaffotte collection.

[x] Chaffotte collection.

[xi] With permission from the Hofmann collection.

[xii] Notes on examination of the Effects and Various Objects Found on German Soldiers, Translated by US Army War College, Government Printing Office, 1917, pg 25.  It was thought that the 175 was a factory number used in the Bavarian Army.

[xiii] With permission from the Devaux collection

[xiv] With permission from the Devaux collection

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Robinson Collection

[xvii] Op Cit Harrel pg 61.

[xviii] Robinson Collection

[xix] Chaffotte Collection

[xx] Notes on examination of the Effects and Various Objects Found on German Soldiers, Translated by US Army War College, Government Printing Office, 1917, pg 30.

[xxi] Chaffotte Collection

[xxii] From the collection of Alexis Anne.

[xxiii] With Permission of owner.

[xxiv] With Permission from the Devaux collection

[xxv] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xxvi] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xxvii] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xxviii] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xxix] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xxx] With permission from the owner.

[xxxi] Authors archive.

[xxxii] Metal helmets had a longer life span.

[xxxiii] With permission from owner.

[xxxiv] With permission of owner.

[xxxv] From the Chaffotte collection.

[xxxvi] With permission of the owner.

[xxxvii] With permission from the Devaux collection

[xxxviii] With permission from the Hofmann collection.

[xxxix] With permission from the Bellars collection

[xl] With Permission from the Wylie collection

[xli] References for the Abbreviation list include:

Kraus, Jürgen, The German Army in the Frist world war, Verlag Militair, Vienna, Austrian, 2004.

Lacarde, Jean-Louise, Casques a Pointe Volume 1, Uniformes, Paris, 1983

Kaiserzeit Magazine Vol III, #1, Spring 1974.

Kaiserzeit Magazine, Vol II, #6 Nov-December 1973.

[xlii] LeBrasseur Collection

[xliii] With owner’s permission

[xliv] With owner’s permission

[xlv] With owner’s Permission

[xlvi] From the collection of Alexis Anne

[xlvii] With owner’s permission

[xlviii] With owner’s permission

[xlix] Bellars collection

[l] With owner’s pemission

[li] With permission from the Devaux collection

[lii] With permission from the Bellars collection

[liii] With permission from the Devaux collection

[liv] With permission from the Devaux collection

[lv] With permission from the Bellars collection 

 
 
 

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