The museum has an item that will look familiar to those of us who watched the old Hogan's Heroes television show in the 1960's. Colonel Hogan, the senior Allied officer in the POW camp, would barge into the commandant's office and irreverently toss his US Army Air Forces service cap onto Colonel Klink's World War I spiked helmet, demonstrating that he was the one who was really in charge of Stalag XIII.

This spiked helmet--known as a pickelhaube (literally, "pickax cap")--was originally made of boiled leather, although some wartime examples were made of pressed cardboard due to shortages. It carries the royal cipher on a prominent eagle device with the motto "MIT GOTT FUR KOENIG UND VATERLAND" ("WITH GOD FOR KING AND FATHERLAND").

The distinctive "spike" on top of the helmet is removable, a feature introduced when Allied gunners began using it as an aiming point while shooting at German soldiers who were emerging from the trenches to begin their assaults across "no man's land." You will also notice immediately how small the size of the helmet was.

Headgear like this usually was worn for its psychological value in battle, making the wearer appear taller and fiercer. (The famous bearskin hats of Queen Elizabeth's guards at Buckingham Palace achieve much the same effect.) When worn by a tall, mounted cavalry trooper bearing down on a poor infantryman, it could make a most fearsome sight. Most people would be surprised to know that the United States Army wore a similar sort of spiked helmet in the late Nineteenth Century during America's "colonial" period.

Come and see this piece of history and others in "Granny's Attic," the Belhaven Memorial Museum.


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Diane K. Mason, HTML Editor 1998