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Remembered Today:

German Sniper Body Armour


knpallok

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I've recently come into possession of a set of German body armour. The set includes the Stahlhelm helmet, the stirnpanzer brow shield, all of the leather inserts for the helmet and chin strap, and the body armour worn on the chest or back with the three bottom flaps. I do not know much about it, only that the original owner claimed that he killed the soldier wearing it during battle, which is how it came into his possession.

In the interior of the helmet, it is stamped A590.

I've heard the armour wasn't used much due to its weight (which I can definitely believe!), but this set definitely seems to have seen some action, which can be evidenced by the bullet hole in the helmet.

I'm definitely not well versed in this subject, does anyone have any further information they can share about usage/other sets?

post-46948-1244416129.jpg

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I've recently come into possession of a set of German body armour. The set includes the Stahlhelm helmet, the stirnpanzer brow shield, all of the leather inserts for the helmet and chin strap, and the body armour worn on the chest or back with the three bottom flaps. I do not know much about it, only that the original owner claimed that he killed the soldier wearing it during battle, which is how it came into his possession.

In the interior of the helmet, it is stamped A590.

I've heard the armour wasn't used much due to its weight (which I can definitely believe!), but this set definitely seems to have seen some action, which can be evidenced by the bullet hole in the helmet.

I'm definitely not well versed in this subject, does anyone have any further information they can share about usage/other sets?

This is the photo of the set.

post-46948-1244416217.jpg

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While the brow piece might have been worn by snipers the real use of the armor was by sentries in exposed positions. It seems to have been in widespread use across the western front. It was not used in attacks as some have said, it was simply cumbersome and extremely heavy for that type of work.

Ralph

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I hope this isn't the guy he shot! Dose'nt look like he ran fast enough.

post-32503-1244493828.jpg

Alan

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I've recently come into possession of a set of German body armour. The set includes the Stahlhelm helmet, the stirnpanzer brow shield, all of the leather inserts for the helmet and chin strap, and the body armour worn on the chest or back with the three bottom flaps. I do not know much about it, only that the original owner claimed that he killed the soldier wearing it during battle, which is how it came into his possession.

What I find odd about this story is that in the heat of battle I can't imagine anyone having the time or storage space to pick up and keep all this stuff which weighs a ton. <_< How did they get it home?

Wonderful items to have in a collection though.

John

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I've recently come into possession of a set of German body armour. The set includes the Stahlhelm helmet, the stirnpanzer brow shield, all of the leather inserts for the helmet and chin strap, and the body armour worn on the chest or back with the three bottom flaps. I do not know much about it, only that the original owner claimed that he killed the soldier wearing it during battle, which is how it came into his possession.

In which case he wasn't the original owner! There have been various claims about how and when and by whom such armour was worn. The enclosed photo (which I may have shown before) suggests that it was worn by some small groups rather than individual sentries. I think it was too heavy to be used in anything but a defensive mode and usually without the helmet shield

post-9885-1244498928.jpeg

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The caption reads: "German soldiers on the Western Front wearing the new steel body armour, which is principally used by bombers and Minenwerfer teams".

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In which case he wasn't the original owner! There have been various claims about how and when and by whom such armour was worn. The enclosed photo (which I may have shown before) suggests that it was worn by some small groups rather than individual sentries. I think it was too heavy to be used in anything but a defensive mode and usually without the helmet shield

Well yes, I suppose you would be right in saying he wasn't the "original owner," a poorly worded sentence on my part! This man claimed he shot the original German "owner," however I have no idea how true this is as he passed away long before I was even born (I've only seen paperwork stating this). Yes, I have heard that it was too heavy except for defense; I would never wish to wear it as it would probably tip me over while standing still. I've heard that it could be worn on the back as well as the front, but I honestly cannot even imagine doing so, being so awkwardly heavy, it would surely throw off your balance if you tried to move much.

In which case he wasn't the original owner! There have been various claims about how and when and by whom such armour was worn. The enclosed photo (which I may have shown before) suggests that it was worn by some small groups rather than individual sentries. I think it was too heavy to be used in anything but a defensive mode and usually without the helmet shield

Well yes, I suppose you would be right in saying he wasn't the "original owner," a poorly worded sentence on my part! This man claimed he shot the original German "owner," however I have no idea how true this is as he passed away long before I was even born (I've only seen paperwork stating this). Yes, I have heard that it was too heavy except for defense; I would never wish to wear it as it would probably tip me over while standing still. I've heard that it could be worn on the back as well as the front, but I honestly cannot even imagine doing so, being so awkwardly heavy, it would surely throw off your balance if you tried to move much.

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What I find odd about this story is that in the heat of battle I can't imagine anyone having the time or storage space to pick up and keep all this stuff which weighs a ton. <_< How did they get it home?

Wonderful items to have in a collection though.

John

I've considered the same question. The claim was that he took the armour for his own protection (though how he would have transported and stored it, I honestly have no idea) and shortly after returned home and took it with him... To me it sounds like an intriguing story, but it doesn't seem practical––after all that had happened, what compelled him to take the trouble to bring it home? Would you honestly want to take a memory home with you like that? The memory of killing a man in a brutal battle? I would not. I do wonder what actually happened.

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What I find odd about this story is that in the heat of battle I can't imagine anyone having the time or storage space to pick up and keep all this stuff which weighs a ton. <_< How did they get it home?

Wonderful items to have in a collection though.

John

I've considered the same question. The claim was that he took the armour for his own protection (though how he would have transported and stored it, I honestly have no idea) and shortly after returned home and took it with him... To me it sounds like an intriguing story, but it doesn't seem practical––after all that had happened, what compelled him to take the trouble to bring it home? Would you honestly want to take a memory home with you like that? The memory of killing a man in a brutal battle? I would not. I do wonder what actually happened.

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I've considered the same question. The claim was that he took the armour for his own protection (though how he would have transported and stored it, I honestly have no idea) and shortly after returned home and took it with him... To me it sounds like an intriguing story, but it doesn't seem practical––after all that had happened, what compelled him to take the trouble to bring it home? Would you honestly want to take a memory home with you like that? The memory of killing a man in a brutal battle? I would not. I do wonder what actually happened.

You have to consider that even if this armour was picked up in battle, how would it have got back to the UK? Most soldiers were rotated out of the trenches after a few days to a week back to the rear for a rest. Normally they would march the 5-10 miles to the rest area. A week or so later they might be back in the trenches, with possibly duty as carrying parties in between (some rest!). Kit storage was always subject to looting by other units and a souvenir such as this would not have lasted long in an ordinary soldiers kitbag. As to wearing it himself, I would have thought the nearest NCO would have stopped that within minutes. It may be possible that the story has some truth if the soldier was an officer with access to motorised transport. Otherwise I'm sceptical.

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have read all the entries but there is no mention of the maschinengewehr usage. I will dig out some pictures of MG08 crews wearing the armour set, clearly in a static semi exposed position. As to 'souvenirs' getting home, please look at my set - it has the British Post Office labels still affixed!!!

As to ease of bringing 'stuff' back, personally I think it would have been much easier in those days to ferret 'stuff' home, especially in 1918 regardless of rank. Hiding items on returning stores, and equipment amongst all the chaos of those lucky enough to go home with a helpful QM would be simple. No beastly HM customs officers :D strictly controlled firearms regulations, captured enemy war booty regs etc etc all the factors that are enforced today..

If one considers the remarkable lengths of the modern British soldier post Iraq wars to smuggle stuff home, under much more tighlty regulated conditions then in an environment where the Great War has ended there is no doubt the success rate would have been very high from battlefield to fireplace!

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Flamethrower pioneers were said to have used the armor, too. This drawing depicts a failed attack against the British in July of 1917. It should be noted that the illustration of the flamethrower is hopelessly inaccurate, corresponding to no known German weapon, which doesn't enhance the credibility of the claim. In fact it seems highly unlikely that flamethrower pioneers--already burdened with an apparatus that weighed anywhere from 55 to 70 pounds, depending on the model--would also don steel body armor.

On the other hand, flamethrower pioneers may have given the armor a combat trial or two, which may have ended as disastrously as the illustration would have us believe.

post-7020-1245315110.jpg

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Another picture of German body armour.

post-10020-1245316884.jpg

The caption in the book is"German machine-gun post near Ypres.Note the body armor (armour) to protect against bullets and shrapnel."

From WW1 in Photographs.

Gary.

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my set has a large hole from shell splinter in the chest, don't know if it was being worn at the time! this and your set are the original versions, a lter type had two, what looked like tiny handles to help secure the belt/equipment and a rest o the right shoulder to stop the rirle sliping against the steel, i think this is the type the IWM have on display if memory serves me right, but you don't tend to see many sets around.

matt

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cgdyrtrttr011.th.jpg

cgdyrtrttr009.th.jpg

Here is my set with postal stamps. Of course Royal Mail in those days was very reliable.

If anyone is in Belgium, Brussels Military museum has about 8 sets and in Mons, the small museum has I think 3 sets.

Amongst French and Belgian collectors, of whom I only know a fraction I have seen at least another 18 sets.

Mark

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This was bought by me privately about 3 years ago. I have seen about 3 Ebay ones over as many years but this is not it! The postage marks are interesting and all fittings, pads etc are complete. I do not display it though by hanging in order to preserve the straps etc.

Mark

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cgdyrtrttr011.th.jpg

cgdyrtrttr009.th.jpg

Here is my set with postal stamps. Of course Royal Mail in those days was very reliable.

If anyone is in Belgium, Brussels Military museum has about 8 sets and in Mons, the small museum has I think 3 sets.

Amongst French and Belgian collectors, of whom I only know a fraction I have seen at least another 18 sets.

Mark

Thanks Mark, very nice set you have with the stamps. I think I also remember seeing a set in Ieper at the Flanders Fields museum as well.

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Its original purpose I do not know, only because many reliable contacts have given different reasons!

From weapon slings, in that when slung across the body the sling will not move, to hanging/securing additional items of equipment. I think both explanations seem plausible.

Mark

Mark,

Nice piece. What are the hooks for on the breast plate?

georg

Birdsong you are right they have also sets on display. The Brussels Belgian MoD owned museum though is excellent and has the most comprehensive selection of body sets that I have seen.

Mark

Thanks Mark, very nice set you have with the stamps. I think I also remember seeing a set in Ieper at the Flanders Fields museum as well.
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I went last year to the festival of history, tried on original sniper armour when I remarked to a fully dressed german soldier that it was very uncomfortable,he pointed out that I had it on back to front and that snipers as a rule would have worn would be the back plate for protection against shrapnel,bye the bye the festival of history this year is on 25th/26th july,I go on holiday to dorset 24th,any one who likes history of all ages must be crackers to miss it.

biff

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