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Remembered Today:


phil andrade
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Another BBC drama is to be broadcast, and the trailers are appearing.

The Passing Bells....that, I think, is the title.

In the trailer, we see British soldiers going over the top wearing the soup plate helmets of 1916 onward.

Facing them, apparently, are Germans wearing pickelhaube.

I avoid discussions about uniforms by and large, but this bothers me a bit.

When did the Germans abandon the spiked helmets for the stadhelm ? Did the advent of the stadhelm coincide with the British soup plate ?

I've seen the Fromelles exhibition a couple of years ago in the IWM, and there were pictures of pickelhaubed Germans escorting Australian POWS. So, clearly, there were Germans wearing spiked helmets in 1916, but I wondered if these were the rear echelons ascribed to prisoner escort, rather than front line combat troops.

Hope it's OK to post this query in the Culture section, but I would appreciate clarification.

Phil (PJA)

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They both seem to have appeared at much the same time. A Wikipedia entry I just looked at says that the Germans tested the Stahlhelm in November 1915, and issued it to units involved in the Verdun offensive in February 1916. As this was their main effort for that year, it seems logical to suggest that the German troops at Verdun would have been first recipients followed by units in other areas, so it's not implausible that British troops in steel helmets would be opposed by Germans in pickelhaubes, which is certainly the scenario in a scene I saw over the weekend from the series 'Anzacs', depicting the Australian action at Pozieres in late July 1916.

Doubtless those with a better knowledge of the steel helmet will have a more detailed answer, but think I'm broadly correct.

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Interesting - thanks to both for posting. I've seen the trailers for this as well and the one thing that grates is this; why do TV production companies not manage to have their actors wear caps that fit properly?

The British ones look ridiculous.

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The main character in the trailer I saw wore his cap like Benny Hill's Fred Scuttle. Similar horrors can be seen in productions set in the present day featuring soldiers wearing berets.

The production received a sparkling review on Radio 4's 'Front Row' from Juliet Gardiner. Earlier this year Kate Saunders lambasted 'The Crimson Field' mercilessly on the same show.

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When they do occasionally have a cap that fits they have no idea how to wear it properly so any hope we might have of TV production companies getting it right seem to be very remote indeed.

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Haven't followed up on the end of the pickelhaube in use by front line troops, but I have seen a postcard dated 20 August 1916 of a chap in the Bavarian Landsturm with a pickelhaube, so certainly worn by "reserve" troops that late.

Interesting question, though - I wonder if they swopped them around at first as the Brits did with the limited number of soup plates? That's my feeling, with the transition beginning in early 1916. I should add that my very limited knowledge on the topic suggests that - as far as photographs are concerned - most guys in the front line in 1914-1915 and even into 1916 simply wore their field caps, with narry a pickelhaube in sight! I can well imagine that they may have been worn in the early stages of WW1, when there was still some fluid movement, but after the trench lines were drawn and static warfare began, well, best left in store!

Trajan

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