Imperial German Infantry Pickelhauben
The German infantry pickelhaube is one of the most easily identifiable pieces of headgear in modern history. The pickelhaube was the standard German helmet for close to seventy-five years, was issued to almost every soldier, and is synonymous with the rise of the German Empire in the mid to late nineteenth century. The distinct style of helmet and the strength of Prussia, the Kaiser, and Imperial Germany made the pickelhaube a symbol of German power and ambition at the start of the First World War (1914-1918).1 The infantry pickelhaube's highly distinctive components, discernible from every other style of helmet, including the related pickelhaube of other military branches, helped to give it its reputation.
The primary feature used to classify a German infantry pickelhaube is also its most famous element, the spike. This spike was used to identify infantry soldiers because it symbolized one of the main weapons, the spear or pike, used by German infantry before the advent of rifles.2 Its only function was to mark the wearer as an infantryman and it served no other military purpose.3 The infantry pickelhaube, if in the condition it was issued, can yield information about the helmet's state of origin, its role in the infantry, occasionally the specific regiment to which the soldier belonged, and the approximate year of the helmet’s production.
The most common helmet, that of an enlisted soldier, combined plain, dome-shaped studs and a ring around the spike neck often made of folded brass.4 Non-commissioned officers and cadets, both ranking above the standard enlisted soldier, often privately purchased their own helmet, replacing the folded brass ring with a more ornate pearl ring to display their status.5 The studs, however, remained the same as the enlisted soldiers.6 The officer’s helmet, like that of the NCO’s and cadets, were most often privately purchased and had a pearl ring instead of folded brass around the neck of the spike. But, unlike the other soldiers ranking below officer, the studs used to attach the spike were eight-pointed stars.7 Additional features of the pickelhaube often, but not always, help distinguish the ranking of a soldier. Brass chin scales that covered the leather chinstrap were very common on officer’s helmets and were generally of better material and quality than those issued to lower ranking enlisted soldiers.8 However, an enlisted soldier could purchase a privately manufactured pickelhaube of officer-type quality if he possessed the means.9
|Pickelhaube||1850 — 1916|