This is a shell style that I have rarely come across in over 20 years of collecting – an interwar commercially manufactured M18 that has been specialized by the SS into this Himmler hybrid design. It is combat weight, and from the side the profile whereby the chinstrap rivets is almost in horizontal alignment with the liner retaining pin and featuring an elongated bill and a very shallow scoop similar to the SS Droop Bill. This particular style of helmet is only ever seen being worn by either high ranking SS officers or senior SS NCO’s and based on photographic evidence this particular helmet design was not used by any other branch of service and is therefore unique to members of the SS.
Heinrich Himmler himself often is seen wearing this exact same helmet and it is my belief that most likely this was created as a part of a very limited contract exclusively for the SS who lacked sufficient access to M18’s or later M35’s as supplying the Wehrmacht at that time clearly took top priority. Another possibility is that Himmler liked that this was a hybrid of the M18 as it made him feel less excluded from WW1 service a fact that apparently gave him somewhat of an inferiority complex among Hitler’s inner circle – all distinguished veterans of WWW1. Several Himmler reference photos are given below to demonstrate this.
The helmet has a sub layer of apple green paint and may actually have been originally issued as a double decal Waffen SS helmet and then later painted over in black. And so both SS decals are possibly still present beneath the black over paint. Unlike most re-purposed Luftschutz helmets this one was not repainted in Luftwaffe dark blue but left in it’s original SS black paint with only the front LS decal applied. Inside liner is rarely present in these and this one is not only in tact but also personally named!
BACKGROUND: The Air Protection Warning Service (Luftschutzwarndienst-LSW) was a civilian organization whose purpose it was to alert the population of impending air raid attacks. In fulfilling this role, members were required to interpret various communication reports regarding bomber formations flying over Germany, operate search lights, observe bomber formations, help keep order among civilians affected by bombing raids, and to utilize air raid sirens before and after attacks.
Members of the Luftschutzwarndienst (Luftschutz) were typically volunteers assembled into area units within cities and towns that held the highest risk of being bombed. Many population centers were divided into area “blocks” with unit leaders assigned to each individual section of a city. Volunteer teams were expected to rotate shifts and sleep in large concrete bunkers that held all the provisions and amenities of a regular fortification. These also included the immense “flak towers” built around German cities upon which anti-aircraft batteries were stationed.
On 2 April 1943 Hermann Göring mandated compulsory service in the Luftschutz for all German civilians. For the first time this order included women. Members of the Luftschutz were expected to supply their own helmets as part of the contribution to the German war effort. A variety of helmets were available for 5 Reich Marks each, but many volunteers chose to scavenge captured helmets of Czech, Polish, Dutch, French, and Russian origin.
The most common helmet used by Luftschutz members was the “gladiator” model so named for its ancient appearance and Roman looking profile. Also available were the more substantial M1935, M1940, and M1942 “beaded” combat helmets. Along the center line of these helmets was a beaded protrusion denoting their purpose as civilian use only. (Source: http://www.german-helmets.com)