German First World War Artefacts, York Sunbury Historical Society, Fredericton Region Museum collection

German First World War artefacts in the Fredericton Region Museum

(Author Photo)

German First World War Anti-shrapnel Body Armour (Sappenpanzer), on display in the FRM's First World War trench exhibit on the 2nd floor.

Accession number: (1969.2152.1)

This First World War German Army body armour was initially issued to front line troops in 1916. The museum's example consists of a steel breast plate with three additional interlinking abdominal and groin plates, all connected by two canvas straps, and suspended from the wearer's shoulders via fitted curved panels. Each steel plate originally had additional rectangular-shaped blocks of thick felt added to deaden contact noise between the plates.

The equipment weighed between 20lbs and 24lbs (9kg and 11kg), reflecting the two variant sizes produced; 500,000 sets were issued to men on the Western Front. The armour was capable of stopping low velocity bullet fragments and shrapnel. Because of its weight, the Sappenpanzer (trench armour) was only practical for troops on sentry duty and machinegunners operating in static positions. It was designed to be used together with the armoured brow plate that hooked on to the steel helmet. This armour was capable of stopping a pistol round but only superficially helpful against rifle fire. It was also helpful in protecting the wearer against bayonet and other edged weapons thrusts. The additional weight tired the wearer quickly, however, defeating any tactical advantage he might have had by wearing it. 

Height: 643 mm. Length: 404 mm. Width: 272 mm.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396714)

A Canadian soldier trying on a set of captured German body armour, France, June 1917.

(Author Photo)

The main German gas mask of the First World Warwas the Lederschutzmaske 1917, which featured a rubberized fabric mask witheyepieces and a separate cylindrical screw-fit filter that could be changedonce its filling become ineffective. This mask was produced in three sizes andwas initially carried in a cloth bag.

(John Guttman Image)

The 8- to 10-power Zeiss Scherenfernrohr prism binoculars enabled observers to track enemy movements without putting themselves in the direct line of fire.

"Klemme lösen bevor Arme bewegt werden" (Release clamp before moving arms

German First World War Field Artillery Forward Observers optical periscope (trench binoculars)

Accession number:(1972.15 A & B.

The museum's optical periscope (Scherenfernrohr) [scissors telescope], was manufactured by Carl Zeiss, Jena, Germany.  These ranging binoculars were used in the trenches for artillery spotting.  The periscope has a "CarlZeiss Jena" maker's mark. "NF Klemme losen bevor Arme bewegtwerden" (Translated as to "loosen terminal before arms are moved") on back side of lens housing. "S.F.09" is stamped on base of the lens housing, with with two grenade symbols. The device consists of a pair of adjustable optical periscopes, missing the mounting tripod.

The Scherenfernrohr was developed in 1894 when the German optics firm of Carl Zeiss introduced a new type of prism binoculars, an 8- to 10-power devicefitted with adjustable twin periscopic extensions connected by a hinge. Zeiss called its invention the Scherenfernrohr (scissors telescope). An observer could position its tubular “ears” upright and parallel to each otheror splayed out for greater depth perception, causing objects to appear in modeled relief, strongly distinct from the background. This cross between binoculars and a periscope enabled the observer to remain safely concealed behind walls, trees, or other cover with only the upper lenses visible, an advantage with obvious military applications.

In 1905, three years before its patent was to expire, Zeiss produced three large versions of the Scherenfernrohr: the fixed-position Hypoplast, an army-issue variant and a field artillery model. After 1908 other countries produced their own versions of the scissors telescope, which the British nicknamed “donkeyears.” When the First World War broke out and the opposing armies burrowed intotrenches along the Western Front, the periscopic properties of the Scherenfernrohr soon earned regard as a life-saving feature.

The First World War introduced 24 hour, seven days a week fighting. Indirect artillery fire had increased the distance between the guns and their targets, and between the observers and their guns. This led to the use of observing officers to act on behalf of the battery commander.  With its twin periscopic extensions swiveled out from the parallel, the Scherenfernrohr provided observers greater depth perception when targeting enemy troops and hardware.

The device remained in use during the Second World War as a useful tool for observation, artillery fire direction and a variety of other applications. The postwar West German Bundeswehr did not use Scherenfernrohren, but East Germany’s Nationale Volksarmee did, right up until the 1990 reunification. (John Guttman)

Height: 400 mm. Length: 40 mm. Width: 20 mm.

(Author Photo)

German First World War Pickelhaube (pl. Pickelhauben; from German: Pickel, lit. 'point' or 'pickaxe', and Haube, lit. 'bonnet', a general word for "headgear"), also Pickelhelm. This is a spiked helmet that was worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by Prussian and German military officers, firefighters and police. Although it is typically associated with the Prussian Army, which adopted it in 1842–43, the helmet was widely imitated by other armies during that period. It is still worn today as part of ceremonial wear in the militaries of certain countries, such as Sweden, Chile, and Colombia.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395616)

A Canadian leaving a dug-out in Cambrai with German spiked helmets. Advance East of Arras. October, 1918.

(Author Photo)

German Prussian Pickelhaube Brass and Leather Spiked First World War Officer's Dress Helmet.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3403143)

Captured German prisoner with body armour and helmet, September 1917.

(Author Photo)

German First World War Stahlhelm ('steel helmet'). This German military steel helmet intended to provide protection against shrapnel and fragments of grenades. The term Stahlhelm refers both to a generic steel helmet and more specifically to the distinctive German military design.

The armies of major European powers introduced helmets of this type during World War I. The German Army began to replace the traditional boiled leather Pickelhaube ('spiked helmet') with the Stahlhelm in 1916. The Stahlhelm, with its distinctive "coal scuttle" shape, was instantly recognizable and became a common element of propaganda on both sides, just like the Pickelhaube before it.

The Stahlhelm was introduced into regular service during the Verdun campaign in early 1916. The M1916 design had side-mounted horn-like ventilator lugs which were intended to be support for an additional steel brow plate or Stirnpanzer, which only ever saw limited use by snipers and trench raiding parties, as it was too heavy for general use.  The helmet provided excellent protection, but was not without its flaws. The ventilator horns often let cold air in during the winter, requiring the wearer to block the vents with mud or fabric. The large, flared skirt tended to make it difficult for soldiers to hear, distorting surrounding sounds and creating an echo when the wearer spoke.

(Author Photo)

German First World War Model 1860 Prussian belt buckle, inscribed "Gott mit uns" (God is with us).

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