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