Why No tank helmet in Germany

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bam
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Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by bam » 22 Nov 2017 02:36

In 1939, it's arguable that the Germans had the best handle on tank crew performance, having pretty exclusively created : the 3 man turret; full vision cupola; full intercom and radios; realistic training ranges.
So why did they stop using their padded tank helmet/beret, and sent their crews out with nothing more than a cloth cap? Anyone who's been in a moving tank will tell you it throws you around randomly, and the inside of a tank is a deathtrap of sharp, hard metal objects. It's lethal man. The lack of crew head protection is a serious flaw, must have resulted in unnecessary injuries.
Why couldn't the venerated panzerwaffe create a simple padded helmet, like every other tanker nation did, even France & ussr!
It seems a mega oversight. I know some Stug Commanders wore infantry stahlhelm, and the cut down Fallschirmjäger helmet allowed full use of a radio headset, but these items had to be procured unofficially. Stug Brig 276 only managed to blag 30 para helmets in 1944, only enough for 1 crewman per Stug, and they had to be devious to get them, it says in Fleischers book.
It's common, I've read of hundreds of Commanders who got headshot when they poked their unprotected heads out so why couldn't they be protected by metal, just an armour frontispiece, doesn't need a whole helmet even..

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Jon Bailey » 22 Nov 2017 08:24

An interesting question to be sure but let’s cut it back to the facts. The Germans didn’t see the need for such a device and even discontinued the manufacture of the in-service beret and stack-hat.
I question your belief that you can wear German tank headphones with a German para helmet, you cannot. You can use one headphone with the helmet at an angle. Stugs in particular always used speakers as part of their radio set-up so no-one needed a headset and both exposed crewmen usually wore helmets.

Just to clarify I served 20 years in the Australian Armoured Corps with nothing more than a beret (black) and never had a problem nor did the thousands of blokes who served with me. Nor did we or the NZ or even the British* use helmets during the war. *Sure the British had the AFV crewman’s helmet which is identical to their para helmet but the crews didn’t use them much and I have never seen a driver wearing one for example.
The most dangerous thing about a beret was smashing the front of it on something hard which in turn drove the 2 mounting pins for the cap badge into your skull.

Now days everyman and his accompanying dog (military for the use of) wears a crewman’s helmet with built in coms etc. Which in my opinion robs you of situational awareness by having 2 headphones clamped to your head and no ability to push one behind the ear.

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Sheldrake
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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Sheldrake » 22 Nov 2017 11:47

bam wrote:why did they stop using their padded tank helmet/beret, and sent their crews out with nothing more than a cloth cap? Anyone who's been in a moving tank will tell you it throws you around randomly, and the inside of a tank is a deathtrap of sharp, hard metal objects. It's lethal man. The lack of crew head protection is a serious flaw, must have resulted in unnecessary injuries.
Why couldn't the venerated panzerwaffe create a simple padded helmet, like every other tanker nation did, even France & ussr!
It seems a mega oversight. I know some Stug Commanders wore infantry stahlhelm, and the cut down Fallschirmjäger helmet allowed full use of a radio headset, but these items had to be procured unofficially. Stug Brig 276 only managed to blag 30 para helmets in 1944, only enough for 1 crewman per Stug, and they had to be devious to get them, it says in Fleischers book.
It's common, I've read of hundreds of Commanders who got headshot when they poked their unprotected heads out so why couldn't they be protected by metal, just an armour frontispiece, doesn't need a whole helmet even..
Not every tanker nation. British tank crews were not issued a tank helmet during WW2. Even when aware of the danger to than exposed commander few seemed to bother with the issue steel helmet. A helmet would not stop a bullet from a sniper, and only offered limited protection against splinters from ground burst bombs or shells but it could protect from plummeting fragments of air bursts or the hazards of debris. Its a damned nuisance inside the vehicle.

The reason for the panzerwaffe dropping the beret was possibly because of it was not "ally".(Def. https://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/Allyness )

James Holland made the point that Wehrmacht uniforms were a fashion statement projecting a particular image. The Panzercorps beret was, err French and made the wearer look a bit of a knob. A bit like the dangerous brian hat. https://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/Dangerous_Brian_Hat https://hatchfive.wordpress.com/2016/04 ... ather-dpm/

You can test military coolness but the extent that soldiers will acquire it unofficially: Black leather Italian U Boat jackets and FJ helmets were ally enough to be prized acquisitions. The Panzer Corps padded beret was not. Are there any photos of Wehrmacht soldiers wearing it as a retro style post 1941?
Last edited by Sheldrake on 23 Nov 2017 11:01, edited 1 time in total.

luckystrike78
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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by luckystrike78 » 22 Nov 2017 17:52

bam wrote:Anyone who's been in a moving tank will tell you it throws you around randomly, and the inside of a tank is a deathtrap of sharp, hard metal objects. It's lethal man. The lack of crew head protection is a serious flaw, must have resulted in unnecessary injuries.
I served 12 years as a panzer officer and I dont belong to those "anyone". Its by far not as bad as you mentioned it. I was really glad that we had a simple beret and nothing else. Most of the time i didnt even wear the beret inside the tank.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by bam » 22 Nov 2017 21:18

My "anyone who's been in a tank" statement is based on my personal experience of cross country travel in a restored Sherman. It was limited to just 8mph. In the turret, I was lucky I had no other job to do than hanging on with both hands,or I'd have been battered. I'm sure modern tanks are better, but there wasn't a bit of padding anywhere. It was better in the drivers position, and I could see and anticipate the bumps a bit, but in the turret, it was random: left right up down, or all at once. They wouldn't let anyone ride without wearing a full British 60s afv helmet.
Jon Baileys comment about his 20 years in Aussie tanks in just a beret is revealing; let the crews decide and they'll choose comfort. I read in one of the tiger tank histories that crews deliberately hung their 5 issue stahlhelm, prominently on the turret in the hope they'd all quickly get shot off so the crew wouldn't have to lug em around anymore. But in a war, with sharp metal flying around, mines and urgent manoeuvres, a helmet would help against a penetration as well as safety during extreme movement. It would save lives, no brainer.

Thankyou sheldrake for your tank "fashion" argument. I like it. Explains why the panzerwaffe still wore ties. The image (I hope) I've attached below, from 39/40 (early Sturmartillerie uniform with green collar, and tie)
15113803388341702886135.jpg
of an experimental padded tank cap, cannot be claimed to rob any situational awareness or be too bulky (compared to, say, an einheits feldmutze with a brim). The only good reason not to wear it is it looks naff. So I'm with the fashion argument. As a kid, I never modelled my panzermanner with the beret cos even as a young squib, I could tell it looked awful, way too French clown like.
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Michael Kenny
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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Michael Kenny » 22 Nov 2017 21:54

When the tin helmet was introduced in WW1 I hear that people complained about it being totally ineffective because the number of men admitted to hospital with head-wounds increased dramatically.........

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Jon Bailey » 23 Nov 2017 02:58

“My "anyone who's been in a tank" statement is based on my personal experience of cross country travel in a restored Sherman. It was limited to just 8mph. In the turret”

And yet everyone here with real service experience says different. When you operate in a AFV for a extended period you develop a ‘feel’ for the ride experience similar to a sailors sea legs, you develop mussel memory to anticipate the bumps and knocks that go with high speed, cross country movement. The driver knows when he is going to hit such an obstacle and a lot of the time so do the rest of the crew even without observing it, from the track and engine noises, the gearbox changes etc.

I’m sure your ride in the Sherman turret was an experience and an eye opener but it’s not really enough to be making definitive statements as you see it. If you have an answer, and you seem happy with the style thing, then why ask in the first place? By the way the British still wore ties in the field later than you would find a German equivalent and you can’t claim the British battle dress was a stylish uniform…. Which the Germans eventually copied.

I believe the Germans just didn’t see the need. The example you show looks great but I don’t see him wearing a headset with that rig.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Nov 2017 11:06

luckystrike78 wrote:
bam wrote:Anyone who's been in a moving tank will tell you it throws you around randomly, and the inside of a tank is a deathtrap of sharp, hard metal objects. It's lethal man. The lack of crew head protection is a serious flaw, must have resulted in unnecessary injuries.
I served 12 years as a panzer officer and I dont belong to those "anyone". Its by far not as bad as you mentioned it. I was really glad that we had a simple beret and nothing else. Most of the time i didnt even wear the beret inside the tank.
Your tanks were better designed than ours. :)
The Leopard 2 could be summed up as everything had its place and a place for everything. British AFVs were full of odd brackets for obsolete technology in places guaranteed to catch some part of your anatomy.

Jonbailey - if you live on an AFV fr any time you develop the right places to grab and sit to avoid injury. You also develop a close relationship with the driver who can received a kicking for bad driving.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by bam » 23 Nov 2017 12:20

Jon bailey testily said: "If you have an answer, and you seem happy with the style thing, then why ask in the first place?" I take umbridge at your belittlement!
I asked in the first place cos I didn't have an answer, or any idea that fashion was involved in military decisions, the whole "ally" idea has been great new knowledge for me, thanks sheldrake.
And I get that you served in tanks, and I only had 1 day in a Sherman , I respect your answers, But you were in a modern tank with great suspension and all the benefits of the accumulated knowledge from earlier mistakes. Don't British tank crews all wear helmets now?
The other bit of my question was about the German tank commander. They fought with they're heads outside, which gave them superior awareness, but resulted in lots of dead Commanders, who were mega valuable assets. I am still surprised no effort was made to make a comfy, wearable, awareness-allowing, armoured headset. Your answers seem to suggest that this is an impossible goal: armour means uncomfortable and awareness restrictions. That surprises me, that's all.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by luckystrike78 » 23 Nov 2017 17:54

bam wrote: They fought with they're heads outside, which gave them superior awareness, but resulted in lots of dead Commanders, who were mega valuable assets.
Yes - and every single case was mistake. In training then and now you alwayes get learned not to look outside to much - especially not in combat.
I did not serve in a Panzer III or Tiger but I knew a lot of guys who did and all of them had the same opinion as me. The most popular headgear was the side cap.
We had this discussion about a "helmet" in the late 90´s in our class. The US army used (and use) some kind of a radio helmet. We were glad we didnt.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by bam » 23 Nov 2017 18:47

That's really interesting, it's now regarded as bad practice? But Was heads out a mistake in ww2? In the era of poor in-tank vision devices, that 1 action gave the German tank such an advantage, and e.g. Otto Carius says, it was the difference on the ostfront that meant they could win against superior numbers of superior tanks. (I know, generalisation, but I'm saying JS2 kills tiger I at twice distance tiger kills JS2.) . Or Ribbentrops amazing ride at prokarovka, when his pzIV was swamped by an onrushing T34 phalanx of 100+ tanks, he chose to turn and run in the middle of the T34 pack. With all the dust no T34 noticed him, which Ribbentrop puts down to the fact that all the T34s were closed up. He said all the T34 tank rider infantry could tell who he was, but all they could do was swear at him, they couldn't alert the tankers. Russian SU85 commander Krysov says that SU doctrine was different to T34, the SU boys fought Hatch open, head out. And his book Panzer Destroyer reveals his battles were fought like Carius, fire n manoeuvre. Krysov won against illustrious panzermen from 1st PzDv & SSLAH in winter 43/4, he bossed em, turned tables. He attributed that to head out, and his excellent 85mm. (its a great book, like tigers in mud standard, read it)

I am genuinely amazed that all u tankers are OK with crewing in a cap, no head protectors. I'd have never imagined u can get used to it enough to feel safe n comfortable in just a beret. Thanks y'all for educatin me. :idea:... :milwink: = :thumbsup:

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by luckystrike78 » 23 Nov 2017 19:58

During my duty the vision devices were not much better than in WW2. Today you have a lot of better devices (cameras). Of course is leading a tank "unterluke" a difficult thing - but always better than a bullet in the head.

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Christian Ankerstjerne
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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 23 Nov 2017 20:04

Michael Kenny wrote:When the tin helmet was introduced in WW1 I hear that people complained about it being totally ineffective because the number of men admitted to hospital with head-wounds increased dramatically.........
Which is true, but the reason why there were more people admitted with head wounds was that they previously died from their more serious head wounds in stead.

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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by Michael Kenny » 23 Nov 2017 20:28

From a 1945 survey on the specific types of injury sustained by tank crews:

screenshot.2017-11-23 (8).jpg
screenshot.2017-11-23 (9).jpg
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Re: Why No tank helmet in Germany

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 25 Nov 2017 22:11

bam wrote:In 1939, it's arguable that the Germans had the best handle on tank crew performance, having pretty exclusively created : the 3 man turret; full vision cupola; full intercom and radios; realistic training ranges.
So why did they stop using their padded tank helmet/beret, and sent their crews out with nothing more than a cloth cap? Anyone who's been in a moving tank will tell you it throws you around randomly, and the inside of a tank is a deathtrap of sharp, hard metal objects. It's lethal man. The lack of crew head protection is a serious flaw, must have resulted in unnecessary injuries.
Why couldn't the venerated panzerwaffe create a simple padded helmet, like every other tanker nation did, even France & ussr!
It seems a mega oversight. I know some Stug Commanders wore infantry stahlhelm, and the cut down Fallschirmjäger helmet allowed full use of a radio headset, but these items had to be procured unofficially. Stug Brig 276 only managed to blag 30 para helmets in 1944, only enough for 1 crewman per Stug, and they had to be devious to get them, it says in Fleischers book.
It's common, I've read of hundreds of Commanders who got headshot when they poked their unprotected heads out so why couldn't they be protected by metal, just an armour frontispiece, doesn't need a whole helmet even..
You don't need a helmet in a tank you just need intercom communication. If the choice(like the German had) is between a helmet that interferes with being able to use/hear the intercom/radio or not , no helmet would be the only way. Bumping your head , happens but nothing extreme. Its not going to happen when you're moving except for some hard crashes/falls and then you'll might get your face smashed and body , but a helmet won't really protect , help or effect that, except in a few cases. Also helmets by adding weight on your head , could actually make crashes worse by your head whipping around worse because of the weight, as in a helmet could cause you to bump/smash your head/face in that case or just make whip lash worse. Now someone just on a tank, first time or non-tanker, might want to wear a helmet simply because they not familiar with the tank they are on or the motion while riding.

As to the TC wearing a helmet . they do nothing to stop rifle bullets and machine gun bullets. Yes a helmet would work for artillery fragments(small) of course. The cupolas were designed and used specifically for this reason, protected observation cover from bullets and fragments.

Some full encompassing helmets, even a padded one with ear protection could limit you your peripheral vision/perception (which is very important in a tank), also getting uncomfortable in some climates (heat).

And yea, helmet should be worn off the tank, but hey tankers are some of the worst(prolly the worst) offenders in not wearing helmets in the field, on and off the tank.

Chris-Tanker , tank driver a few years

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