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Q66 KRIEGSMARINE CAMO - U BOAT CONNECTION

Hi Guys
Here is a dirty old Navy helmet.
I collect textbook helmets. I collect lots of textbook KM helmets. I love them. As I grow as a collector …. I had a nagging feeling that I wanted to get completely out of my comfort zone which led me to acquiring one of the most Non-Textbook KM lids I have ever seen. Some helmets just LOOK WWII ..... and this is one of them for me. This one had a long hard life at Sea.
I had stumbled across this Helmet in an old post by its previous owner researching something else.  The previous owner is a person many of us know and love and whose helmet knowledge, skills and experience ranks up there with the best of the best. We talked about this helmet for months. I believe he had 70+ photos and macros of this helmet showing off what paint is where and on which layer… patina… chips and scrapes etc. The who, what, where, when and how.   We chatted about it ad nauseam and frankly some of it was way over my head so I compiled lists of questions which he graciously answered over time.  All of the in depth analysis and breakdown of the technical aspects of the helmet is greatly appreciated.
But … at the end of the day it really just came down to ..... The “Gut Check” ... It's one of my most important tools in determining originality … it told me this was a good one and a one-of-a-kind KM Camo.
There is a very probable U Boot connection associated with this helmet that I believe to be true. It was found in St. Nazaire, France from a house liquidation sale many years ago by a very experienced collector / trader. Putting 2 and 2 together with the painted shamrock emblem…. We feel this helmet could have had some connection to U-380 who, along with her Flotilla, was based in St. Nazaire during the war. Through my own research I have uncovered alot about this boat.  U-380 did not have some illustrious career (although these men accomplished many great things) ..... rather she was a "working boat" ... playing escort ....rescuing some stranded crew members ... playing defense....ferrying supplies....etc.
Many U Boots had their own emblems painted on them as opposed to numbers like the capital ships had …. U Boot crews painted Wolves, Sharks, Edelweiss, Seahorses, Bulls Etc. on the Conning Towers of their boat. This one has a Shamrock … which was U-380s insignia (pic). These markings were done against regulations by Naval High Command but this was largely allowed and the rules were never enforced. These guys had a dangerous job.
Helmets with hand painted insignia are very few and far between. Extremely rare (for real ones). But I have seen this a few times with KM helmets. It is a feature that at first gave me pause ... but then made me embrace the helmet even more.
I reached out to the German U-boat Museum in Cuxhaven and through their archives I was able to find a photo of a similar Splotch Pattern Camo pattern painted on the side of U-380 (See pics .. one similar pattern is on U380 w the shamrock visible as well… I did a mock-up in photoshop as well assuming it was Green paint used).  The crew of U-380 also put tin pins of a Shamrock or 4-Leaf Clover on their caps (also in Pics).
St. Nazaire had about 5,000 KM personnel manning 30 or so gun batteries protecting the harbor. Many were workers in the Shipyards and many more manned Anti-Air positions. Other members of the KM would be patrolling the area on land around town and the facility. Patrol boats also provided additional security. The St. Nazaire facility was also the target of a daring raid by British commandos in 1942.
The lid itself is a Size 66 made by Quist. It has resided in collections in Italy and Belgium after being found in France long ago. The helmet itself is just plain dirty. It has stains and extraneous paint splatter on it as well. Red. Yellow. The yellow though appearing next to decal in the rust … upon closer inspection is actually on the “Gray” layer that still has some specks there as seen with a USB Micro. This exact Yellow has been noted on a few different KM Camos.  The base of the helmet is the Gray factory … or almost looks like a dark blue black black could have been applied  … then a layer of Red Anti Rust primer was applied followed (we see this with some TR helmets and Equipment )  … followed by the Shipboard gray and then the Green Camo and insignia.
Though a lot to look there is nothing indicating a Post War creation to me.  But as always Mis Amis ... all questions and comments are welcome. Liner has been removed at some point during the War. If it wasn’t a Navy helmet it would have given me pause but with all the tinkering that was done with equipment in the KM and the various workshops aboard the boats and at port I don’t sit up at night thinking about it’s originality. Through my predecessor's research (at GHW .. this helmet was posted years ago) he found that 6 KM helmets within this same lot number all had the spliced leather liners as this one exhibits so I am pretty confident that this would be the Liner the helmet was issued with at the Quist Factory.
The Helm is severely rusted over at is base indicating to me definite heavy use at sea. Many Shipboard KM helmets are corroded … constantly being degraded by the waves crashing over the deck as Sailors manned their positions or stored in racks attached to the ship (see pics) outside in the elements. The same wear characteristics are seen in WWII US Navy M1 helmets. Some I own have 4 or 5 layers of paint. Constantly being refurbished and overhauled due to the fast and heavy deterioration at Sea from corrosive salt water. The chinstrap also has some ancient repair done to it. It does not look like the work of a collector. Looks like a period repair to me (pic).
This helmet was definitely out to sea due to the hallmarks of the wear BUT besides that another thought we discussed could be that this was a helmet that manned some fighting post after U 380 was Sunk in 1944 (everyone survived except for 1 man). I think my most plausible explanation is that this Shipboard Gray Helmet was hanging in some workshop or Armory at the St Nazaire facility and was repurposed for Land Combat with the camo and the insignia adorned by an old faithful crew member.
When the Allies surrounded St. Nazaire,  German sailors and soldiers formed a Fortress and pocket of resistance .... fortifying the city and setting up Anti-Tank ditches.  Perhaps this helmet had some use during this time.  The Allies originally just bypassed St. Nazaire as it was isolated on its own.  The US wanted to avoid the stiff resistance being put up by the KM and the rest of the Wehrmacht who were holed up there.  The Germans held St. Nazaire until the end of the War in May of 1945. Almost a year after the D-Day landings.
A Beauty Queen? A helmet for “everyone”? Definitely not.
But for a KM Collector this is really special piece with a really great look and a lot to wonder about.
Oh and I’m Irish and it has a Shamrock on it! No brainer for me to go after this one LOL
Thanks for looking!
Z
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Hey Zach , what a wonderful big posts you always make. You bring the history back to life.

Honestly this helmet is starting to grow on me , as you know I'm more conservative what camo colors are concerned. And that has more to do with personal taste , we don't like all the same art either 🙂

Your photos really make it pop , a truly unique camo. Worthy of your KM collection.

 

Quote from schwerpunkt73 on October 28, 2021, 5:07 pm

Hey Zach , what a wonderful big posts you always make. You bring the history back to life.

Honestly this helmet is starting to grow on me , as you know I'm more conservative what camo colors are concerned. And that has more to do with personal taste , we don't like all the same art either 🙂

Your photos really make it pop , a truly unique camo. Worthy of your KM collection.

 

Thank you Frank! It is a dirty old Navy helmet. No doubt about it.  Just like some of my US. Beat to S by the waves and war and then storage. I Imagine this one clanked around the St Nazaire facility for years and had multiple wearers. Thanks for the comments and yes…. I do enjoy the shipboard gray PLUS the splotch Camo look. Almost like killing 2x KM collecting Birds w one stone.  I imagine it’s been through a lot :). Thank for lookin Duder

Z

When I have time I will actually read what you wrote.....but a great helmet. Love it!

You must be even more pleases with: "The crew of U-380 also put tin pins of a Shamrock ....on their caps " and the fact that the camo color is so similar to a Shamrock

Damn it, Zach.

you couldn't have done it better. Outstanding presentation.
Lots of pictures I had never even seen related to that U boot. This helmet certainly couldn't go to anyone but you.
Never queasy about discussing, comparing and talking, never enough. Helmets like these almost have an obligation to be analyzed and discussed and it's the part of collecting that gives the most pleasure.
A unique helmet and not for the faint of heart.

again, congratulations on the helmet and the absolutely killer presentation/photos.

A

 

Quote from sysyphus on October 28, 2021, 11:06 pm

 

you couldn't have done it better. Outstanding presentation.
Lots of pictures I had never even seen related to that U boot.

Never queasy about discussing, comparing and talking, never enough.

 

A - Thank you.  I reached new "Helmet Nerd" Heights discussing this one with you.  And I learned so so much.  Defintely the reason we say owning and handling these is one of the most important tools in a collectors knowledge tool box.

The pics are from a U-Boot Museum in Germany.  I got some other U Boot pics of the crew wearing Steel Helmets out to sea.  They are rare 🙂 For what its worth the Curator of the Museum weighed in on his thoughts.  He thought the helmet was used in the Defense of St. Nazaire by an Ex Crew Member as opposed to having this Aboard that particular boat 🙂

Z

Zach,

What a superb helmet. My first impression of the camo and wear was that it was a period WW2 helmet. The shamrock stumped me until i read you explanation. I love u-boat history and i'm sure i've seen pictures of this emblem before. Well, anyway - here it is.

This must be from a sailor attached to that boat - what else could it be? Do you know if he actually went to sea though? Did the helmet stay at port when he did?

So it looked like the decal has been liberated at some point?

I knew you had the one in the pipeline, but i was not expecting this.

Well done - a cracking helmet.

nick

Quote from HoundsTooth on October 29, 2021, 9:19 am

The shamrock stumped me until i read you explanation. I love u-boat history and i'm sure i've seen pictures of this emblem before.

This must be from a sailor attached to that boat - what else could it be? Do you know if he actually went to sea though? Did the helmet stay at port when he did?

So it looked like the decal has been liberated at some point?

 

Nick - Thank you Mate.  I think he could have been a crew member Nick.  I don't know if this helm was on U 380.  Maybe at some point before the Green Splotches were applied.  It was defintely out to Sea for years due to the Rust and similar wear that all Navys exhibit.  U Boots had Lids aboard ... VERY few photos of this but I found some in my research.  A lot of pics of the U Boot crews were taken in Port and they didnt have Helms on

 

I think the paint and rust behind the decal just wore away.  I dont think it was painted over at any point.  You can see a little paint wisp at the bottom right there of Gray that looks like someone carefully painted around.  No paint looks to have had been on decal either 🙂

 

Im glad you like it!!!!

 

Z