Ludwig Baer the writer of the “History of the German Helmet” has unearthed some very interesting wartime documents that are really important for German helmet collectors.
I won’t post the documents here because I want to honor the copyright but if you get your hands on the book you will be able to see them.
One document dated the 12th of August 1935 explains how the SS helmet emblems should look like and that they should be oil painted onto the helmets. It states that the runic shield must be silver with black runes and the party shield or NSDAP shield must be red with white circle and black swastika.
Note that these oil painted SS shields are only observed on black Transitional helmets and that there was only a very small time frame between the painted SS decals and the actual use of decals.
Another document dated the 14th of August 1935 already speaks of CA Pocher being contracted to produce the famous CA Pocher SS runes decal.
The third document is from the 21st of March 1940 and it is this document that orders that the tricolor decal no longer should be applied to helmets.
Note that this order speaks only about tricolors and not NSDAP shields. Lot number research seems to confirm that M40’s no longer had tricolors applied , at least not by the factories producing the helmets.
The last and 4th document dated 10 October 1943 is also a treasure because it talks about the fact that decals no longer should be applied.
In this document we read that the “Beschaffstelle der Waffen SS” wrote to the “Wehrmachts-Beschaffungsamt” that it agreed to the order of removal of the decals.
We can thus safely say that all decals were ordered to be removed from October 1943 onwards. The lot number data I have collected since 2006 corroborates this.
The decals produced during the Third Reich period were printed both face up and face down and were of the waterslide kind.
Water slide decals (or slip decals) are water-mounted decals generally printed face up and rely on the dextrose corn sugar residue from the decal paper to bond the decal transfer to a surface. A water-based adhesive layer can be added to the decal to create a stronger bond or may be placed between layers of lacquer to create a durable decal transfer. The paper also has a layer of glucose film added prior to the dextrose layer which gives it the adhesion properties; the dextrose layer gives the decal the ability to slide off the paper and onto the substrate (lubricity).Wikipedia
The decals were applied to the helmet by manual labour , this is why we can observe decals that are misapplied or badly placed.
Here is a rare movie that shows the application of a Luftwaffe decal in the factory.
Some decals have white as base color color on top of which are printed black and/or red. Examples below.
Most others have a silver base color (also called pulver by collectors) on top of which black and blue (RLB) or green (RLB) are printed. Examples below.
Only one decal has a gold colored base namely the Kriegsmarine decal.
Often toned Heer decals are mistakenly identified as Kriegsmarine decal , certainly a watch out if you are looking for a genuine Kriegsmarine helmet. Click here to read more about that.
WHEN TO EXPECT HELMETS WITHOUT DECALS
As explained earlier ALL combat helmets (M35, M40 and M42) would have left the factory with decals from 1935 until end of 1943.
We know a lot of M35’s were reissued to M40 specifications which meant they were overpainted and received a single decal. But some did not and are thus considered no decal helmets but they would in most case still have the decals under the paint.
Find more about reissued helmets here.
To pinpoint exactly when helmets left the factory without a decal the lot number database is a big help although depending on maker the water may still look a bit muddled and you will see that from a certain point there will be a mix of no decal and decalled helmets.
Suffice to say that a decalled helmet needs to follow the rules of that maker. So they have to have the standard accepted decal design for that maker. Late 1943 dated M42’s with reissue decals could be a problem.
For all makers except Quist M42’s are the ones that were produced from end 1943 till the end of the war without decals , Quist made M40’s almost right up to the end of the war so there will be a lot of Quist ND helmets dated 1943 and later. No M42 Quist should have decals.
Click here to go to the Lot numbers database.