History and Timeline

German combat helmet development

The different helmet designs are named for their year of introduction (for example M1935 or M35 stands for the model introduced in 1935).

Designnotes of the stahlhelm

Designnotes of the stahlhelm

The beginning, M16 and M17

The M16 design had big side-mounted ventilation lugs (Lüftungslöcher). these were intended to hold an additional steel armor plate (Stirnpanzer). The shell came in sizes from 60 to 70. The liner had a headband with three segmented leather pouches adjustable by a cord. The chinstrap (one piece) was directly attached to the shell. The design however had a few flaws. It was cold during winter, therefore the ventilation holes where often blocked. The skirt made hearing difficult. The M17 had an improved liner.

big side-mounted ventilation lugs (Lüftungslöcher)

Big side-mounted ventilation lugs (Lüftungslöcher)

Improvements, M18

Introduction of the new two-piece chinstrap now directly attached to the helmet liner. New cutouts in the shell should improve hearing.

M33

In 1932 the Army High Command ordered the testing of a new prototype helmet. It was made entirely from a composite plastic material (Vulkanfiber). The M33 helmet kept the same basic form of previous helmets but was much lighter. It was put into production and tested in the field in 1933 by the Reichswehr.
Designer of the German helmet Dr Friedrich Schwerd

Designer Dr Friedrich Schwerd

M35

In 1934 tests began on an improved Stahlhelm, whose design was a development of the World War I models. The Eisenhüttenwerke company of Thale carried out prototype design and testing, with Dr. Friedrich Schwerd once again taking a hand.

M40

The M35 design was slightly modified in 1940 to simplify its construction, the manufacturing process now incorporating more automated stamping methods. The principal change was to stamp the ventilator hole mounts directly onto the shell, rather than utilizing separate fittings. In other respects, the M1940 helmet was identical to the M1935.

M42

The M1942 design was a result of wartime demands. The rolled edge on the shell was eliminated, creating an unfinished edge along the rim. This edge slightly flared out, along the base of the skirt. The elimination of the rolled edge expedited the manufacturing process and reduced the amount of metal used in each helmet.

Timeline (remarkable dates and facts)

1916 Introduction M16 into service (Verdun, France campaign)
1917 Improved liner (M17)
1918 Redesign shell, chinstrap (M18)
1932 – 1933 Development and testing of composite (Vulkanfiber) helmet
14-3-1933 Left side decals (Abzeichen) “Reichsheer” where replaced by “Wehrmacht” decals. Eagle with swastika (silver on black background aprox 3,8 cm high and 3,1 cm wide. 3 mm under ventilation hole)
1934 Development and testing of molybdenum steel helmet by the Eisenhüttenwerke company of Thale
17-2-1934 Right side national color decal (wappen) introduced (black, white, red, aprox. 3,3 cm wide and 4 cm high)
25-06-1935 Official acceptance (Verfügung vom 25.6.1935) of the M35 by Army Supreme Command
1940 Simplified production methods (stamped ventilation holes)
27-1-1940 Introduction new color “matt feldgrau” RAL6006 (Verfügung vom 27.1.1940)
1-3-1940 Introduction new color “matt schiefergrau” Rauhtarn, RAL 7015 (Verfügung vom 1.3.1940), reissue (Generalüberholung) of helmets already in use and old stock
21-3-1940 Discontinue of tricolor national decals due to camo and simplified production methods (“Tarn- und Herstellungsgründen“)
26-07-1942 Simplified production methods (discontinued rolled edge)
28-08-1943 Discontinue of Army service emblem (Eagle with swastika)

The firms that produced the helmets

Manufacturers Code Firm Location Remarks
ET or ckl (1943) Eisenhüttenwerke AG Thale (Harz)
FS or EF Emaillierwerke AG Fulda
NS Vereinigte Deutsche Nickelwerke AG Schwerte
Q Quist Esslingen Produced the M40 until sometime in 1945. Produced only few M42.
SE or hkp (1943) Sächsische Emaillier und Stanzwerke Lauter Produced the M40 until sometime in 1943.
bvl (qvl) Theodor Bergmann u. Co. (Abteilung Automaten- u. Metallwarenfabrikation) Hamburg, Altona Unsure, only few known helmets from this firm. “b” is identical to “q” (upside down).