Original German WWII M40 Normandy Camouflage Trench Art Helmet - A Good German is a Dead One!
Some of the most unique German helmets of WWII were worn during the Battle for Normandy. The terrain of thick green hedgerows, rolling green meadows, golden fields and orchards created diverse but deadly battlefields; one that necessitated good helmet camouflage for survival. To help their helmets blend into this environment, German soldiers at Normandy used a wide range of paint, wire, cloth covers and other devices to this end. These men were often hardened, experienced combat veteran with experience in campaigns in Poland, France, Africa and the USSR. They knew from experience what worked and what didn’t, and the helmet they wore during the Normandy campaign reflected that.
In addition to the camouflage painted on the top of the helmet by an American or British soldier is written:
Clearly the veteran didn't know Churchill well enough to spell his name properly or the fact that Churchill was never quoted as saying that phrase, but it was a popular phrase among allied soldiers and was frequently attributed to their leaders.
One effective, although more permanent method of concealing the helmet was the use of camouflage paint. It is up to some debate exactly when this method began among German soldiers but by the time of the Normandy campaign it was widespread. In mid 1943 the German high command ordered that a three color camouflaged scheme of tan, green and brown be used in the painting of vehicles and other equipment. These same paints were used to camouflage helmets as well. While the high command did order specific color codes be used for consistency, the hues of tan, green, and brown can vary on original examples significantly. The mix of these tan, green, and brown colors were used by German troops at Normandy with such frequency that today collectors call almost any German helmet with a mix of these three colors “Normandy Camo”. It should be clear that while the use of these three colors for camouflaging helmets was common, there was never a directive from the German military high command to paint helmets in this manor. No officially sanctioned “Normandy camo” existed. The collector term, Normandy camo can still be justified to a large degree. Photos from the battle as well as surviving original example with Normandy providence would indicate this particular camo pattern was a favorite of Germans during the campaign. The mix of the three colors was certainly a good choice for Normandy as the countryside does exhibit those same colors. That being said with much of Western Europe’s terrain looking so similar this same pattern would see action in other battles as well. The camouflage paints used at Normandy do not confine themselves to distinct hues of tan, brown and green. Some helmets were painted with two colors or just one and sometimes with non-standard military paints that were probably locally sourced. Further complicating the matter, captured British, Soviet, French and Italian paints were all used to camouflage helmets at Normandy. The hue of these colors often deviate from the standard German military colors. The German soldiers who camouflaged their helmets were well aware of their surroundings and certainly were aware of what colors and patterns would blend into the terrain they would soon be fighting in. It is logical they would have chosen colored paint based the local area which would account for the variation.
This stamped sheet steel construction helmet retains much of its original Normand Camo paint but shows expected wear and use. The left side of the helmet features a Heer eagle decal which was painted over. The decal silhouette can be both seen and felt.
All three liner retaining pins are intact. The interior of the helmet still has the original M31 leather liner with all eight of it’s fingers intact. The liner is a bit dry and flaking in some areas but is in overall good solid condition and not stiff. Original chinstrap is still present and nicely maker marked.
The reverse, interior, neck guard apron is batch number stamped, 147 and the interior, left side, apron has a stamped manufacturer’s code and size, ET 64 indicating that indicating it was manufactured by Eisenhuttenwerk AG, Thale Harz, Germany in size 64. Size 64 is a nice medium size that can accommodate liners from 56cm to 57cm or US 7 to 7 1/8. Size 64 shells are harder to find and are therefore more valuable to a collector.
Overall a stunning Normandy Camouflage M40 Trench Art Helmet offered in fantastic condition.
The first "modern" steel helmets were introduced by the French army in early 1915 and were shortly followed by the British army later that year. With plans on the drawing board, experimental helmets in the field, ("Gaede" helmet), and some captured French and British helmets the German army began tests for their own steel helmet at the Kummersdorf Proving Grounds in November, and in the field in December 1915. An acceptable pattern was developed and approved and production began at Eisen-und Hüttenwerke, AG Thale/Harz, (Iron and Foundry Works), in the spring of 1916.
These first modern M16 helmets evolved into the M18 helmets by the end of WWI. The M16 and M18 helmets remained in usage through-out the Weimar Reichswehr, (National Defence Force, Circa 1919-1933), era and on into the early years of the Third Reich until the development of the smaller, lighter M35 style helmet in June 1935.
In an effort to reduced construction time and labor costs minor modifications were introduced in March 1940 resulting in the M40 helmet. Further construction modifications were undertaken in August 1942 resulting in the M42 helmet.
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