East Asian Pickelhauben

The spiked helmet ("Pickelhaube") is famously associated with soldiers of the German imperial era, yet is was very rarely worn by colonial and overseas troops. One exception is the East Asian Expeditionary Corps and the following Occupation Brigade. The East Asian Expeditionary Corps were sent to China in 1900 with their standard home issue 1895 Pickelhauben. These were made of black leather, with variations on the helmet plate and cockades for the different German states and further variations in the style of spike, peak, chinscales and the type metal used for them with different ranks and arms of service. It was issued with a reed green cover to be used in action.

On 9th February 1901 new uniforms in field grey were authorised for the East Asian Expeditionary Corps (and its later successors, the East Asian Occupation Brigade and East Asian Detachment). These uniforms are usually referred to as the 1900 uniforms as parts of them and their design had been authorised or introduced by the Prussian war ministry between September and December of 1900. These uniforms included a new universal Pickelhaube. For the German Army Headquarters in Berlin this was a chance to run a trial on a design that might be more suited to modern warfare in a future European conflict than the old shiny black Pickelhaube.


1895 Prussian Guards Officers Pickelhaube
Photo by C Dale at the Imperial War Museum, London

1900 East Asian Pickelhaube
© Francois Fischer 


The new helmet varied from the previous army Pickelhauben in several ways. Rather than being made of blackened leather the 1900 helmet was made of field grey pressed felt. This was cheaper to produce and offered more of a camouflage appearance than the earlier Pickelhaube.

The front and rear peaks were made of green leather. The peaks did not have metal edging. Unlike the leather Pickelhaube the felt helmet had no rear spine.

The spike was of yellow metal with a rounded base. Officers helmets were not distinguished by fluted spikes or cruciform bases but did have a "pearl ring" around the base of the spike. The spike was intended to be removed in action and replaced with a small round grey metal cap that screwed in its place. When not in use the metal cap could be screwed to the underside of the helmet.

As the new East Asian Occupation Brigade was an imperial unit rather than one nominally individual state authority as the Expeditionary Corps had been, the new helmet had only imperial insignia. This insignia took the form of an imperial eagle with downswept wings in yellow metal, which was intended to be removed in action.

The helmet had an imperial cockade under the right hand chinstrap boss and no cockade at all on the left side where the state cockade had previously been displayed.

The chinstrap for other ranks was of usually grey green leather with two yellow metal buckles to adjust its length. Some surviving examples have natural brown leather chinstraps. Officers and senior NCOs had yellow metal chinscales on parade. As with most uniform items, officers usually purchased privately made Pickelhauben with better quality materials.

There were a few distinctions for arms of service. The artillery wore a helmet with a ball instead of a spike ("Kugelhelm").

The pioneers and staff officers had a white metal spike, eagle and chinscales (see below for Arm of Service variations).

The Jager-zu-Pferd wore a hunting horn below the imperial eagle on their helmets.

The East Asian Jäger (disbanded in 1901) and Train units wore a similar grey felt shako ("Tschako") with the same eagle and Imperial cockades as the East Asian Pickelhaube with an oval imperial cockade on the front.

Helmet covers were not worn with the 1900 helmet. With the the spike and imperial eagle removed for action, the helmet had a plain low profile field grey appearance without the need for a cover.

1900 East Asian Artillery Kugelhelm 
Note the ball replacing the spike for the artillery

1900 East Asian Jäger-zu-Pferd Pickelhaube
Note the post horn below the Imperial eagle and the screw cap replacing the spike for active service.
Photos taken at the Fort de la Pompelle Museum near Rhiems, France
by Khukri and originally shown on the Pickelhaubes Forum





Headdress of the East Asian Occupation Brigade
On the left is an officer's Pickelhaube from the Pioneer Company with a white metal eagle, on the right is a similar felt shako from the East Asian Train Company.
Photo from Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg © Mark Schellenberg 2016

Period Photographs of the 1900 East Asian Pickelhaube and Tschako

East Asian Officer
He wears the officers 1900 East Asian Pickelhaube with pearl ring and chinscales. His uniform is the 1902 Interimsrock and the officers double breasted greatcoat. At his throat is the Chinese Double Dragon Order.
Photo © Joe Robinson
Unteroffizier Musician of the
East Asian Train Company
He wears
field grey shako worn only by the Train and the short lived Jäger companies. His uniform is the 1900 Field Grey Waffenrock. Note the musicians swallows nests, NCO rank lace on the collar and cuffs along with a chevron on the left sleeve. He wears the Prussian Wilhelm I Centenary Medal.
Photo © Karsten Herzogenrath
East Asian Infantryman
He wears the other ranks 1900 East Asian Pickelhaube. His uniform is the 1904 Field Grey Waffenrock. He is armed with the Gew98 rifle and S98 bayonet.
Photo © Joe Robinson

M1900 East Asian Infantry Pickelhaube
Photos © JH Collection

Please contact me here if you have more information or photos on this topic. 

Back to Main Menu for German Colonial Uniforms