Original Imperial German WWI M16 Stahlhelm Helmet Shell with Museum Label - marked T.J.68

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very nice example of a totally original WWI German M16 Helmet shell, with a great look and markings. The original green paint is still well retained inside the shell, with about 60% still present on the exterior, with areas of paint loss and oxidation. It does not look to have been repainted at any time. The entire liner is missing, very common to find on early helmets, as the liner was entirely leather, and once it deteriorates there is nothing to hold it in place. It does still have two of the three split pins, including the rear pin with the larger head.

The underside of the rear skirt bears original museum label, which reads:


There is also a 1939 date on the left side of the label, and asset number 118 on the right.

Above the left ear interior of the apron of the shell has a stamped manufacturer's code and size T.J. 68, which indicates manufacture by C. Thiel & Söhne, located in Lübeck, a port city on the North German coast. This company produced shells in size 66 and 68 during WWI. Size 68 is an extra large size that can accommodate liners from 60cm to 62cm or US 7 1/2 to 7 3/4. Size 68 shells are always hard to find and are therefore more valuable to a collector. The inside crown of the shell has some rust damage, so we are unfortunately not able to see any rolling mill markings.

The helmet still has both of the dome headed chinstrap retaining rivets, which hold the interior pickelhaube style chin strap lugs in place. Unfortunately the chin strap is completely missing. The shell also retains both of the extended ventilation side lugs, which are the correct short version without any step for the larger size 68 shell. This would ensure proper installation of a Stirnpanzer brow plate regardless of shell size.

This helmet shell, offered in great collectible condition makes an eye catching addition to any Great War collection. Ready to display!

History of the M16 Helmet

The Stahlhelm was introduced into regular service during the Verdun campaign in early 1916.

The M1916 design had side-mounted horn-like ventilator lugs which were intended to be support for an additional steel brow plate or Stirnpanzer, which only ever saw limited use by snipers and trench raiding parties, as it was too heavy for general use.

The shell came in different sizes, from 60 to 68, with some size 70s reported. The suspension, or liner, consisted of a headband with three segmented leather pouches, each holding padding materials, and leather or fabric cords could be adjusted to provide a comfortable fit. The one-piece leather chinstrap was attached to the shell by M1891 chinstrap lugs, the same kind used in the Pickelhaube helmet.

The M1916 design provided excellent protection: Reserve Lieutenant Walter Schulze of 8th Company Reserve Infantry Regiment 76 described his combat introduction to the helmet on the Somme, 29 July 1916:

"... suddenly, with a great clanging thud, I was hit on the forehead and knocked flying onto the floor of the trench... a shrapnel bullet had hit my helmet with great violence, without piercing it, but sufficiently hard to dent it. If I had, as had been usual up until a few days previously, been wearing a cap, then the Regiment would have had one more man killed."

But the helmet was not without its flaws. The ventilator horns often let cold air in during the winter, requiring the wearer to block the vents with mud or fabric. The large, flared skirt tended to make it difficult for soldiers to hear, distorting surrounding sounds and creating an echo when the wearer spoke.

Originally painted Feldgrau (field grey), the Stahlhelm was often camouflaged by troops in the field using mud, foliage, cloth covers, and paint. Official issue cloth covers in white and grey appeared in late 1916 and early 1917. Camouflage paint was not formally introduced until July 1918, when German Army Order II, No 91 366, signed by General Erich Ludendorff on 7 July 1918, outlined official standards for helmet camouflage. The order stipulated that helmets should be painted in several colors, separated by a finger-wide black line. The colors should be relevant to the season, such as using green, brown and ocher in summer.

After the effectiveness of the M1916 design was validated during the 1916 campaigns, incremental improvements were subsequently made.

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