Ring around the rosy, Pocket full of Posy….

I was researching images of uniforms as source material ( and will post more on that in the future) but ran into a whole group of these portrait shots of young german soldiers before they went off to war.  Apparently it was traditional to “decorate” the young man with flowers in the image, stuffed in their pockets, gun barrels etc. The uniform, the gear is all the same.  The young men, each one unique and different.

One image alone is chilling…


Many of them together is numbing…..

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At the Battle of Verdun alone over 300,000 men gave their lives.  World War 1 as a whole, over 8 million men died.  Hard to even comprehend.  These images make it very personal and real to me.

Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!



10 thoughts on “Ring around the rosy, Pocket full of Posy….

  1. Powerful images… Those ‘men’ aren’t much older (if at all) than school boys.

    I’ve always wondered what the purpose of the pointy doo-dad on top of their helmets was. Any idea?

    • The pointy do-dad is the vestigal remnants of larger crests that were common on Napoleonic-era helmets. At that time, certain types of cavalry from different countries wore large crests on helmets, supposedly to guard against sword cuts. As swords became less common, the helmets and crests got smaller, less functional and more ornamental like those on the 1914-era helmets. Some of the spikes were even detachable, so the spike would not be used in field service. Still, by the time of the Great War plumes and horsehair crests were worn on the Picklehelm on dress occasions.

      When I was a kid, my Grandfather had a collection of old weapons and such. Among other things, there over a dozen Imperial German helmets, and I can remember being fascinated by the picklehauben even then. There were many different types of ‘spikes’; some weren’t even pointy. One had an eagle on it, and one had a skull. Pretty interesting stuff for a 7-year old… They’d never let me wear them though.

      • To bad you dont have pictures! My great uncle had a ranch in Solvang, California and he had a field house that was his “collection” of things. All different kinds of hats hung from the rafters and we used to get to try them on. The one hat I regret loosing was one that my dad gave me as a kid. It was a leather flight helmet, not authentic, but a kids toy from the 30’s or 40’s. It was real leather and had ear flaps and a buckle. Sure wish i still had it now!

        • My mother used to have some pictures…I have some pictures of some of his gun collection, but don’t think I have any of the militaria. I’ll see if if I can track some down… would be fun to see. Havent’ thought about that stuff in a long time.

  2. Von Guber flies German, he should know! The helmets surprised me too, if you look close they appear to have a fabric cover over it. On some you could see seams like it was sewn together with scraps. According to wikepedia,it is called a Pickelhauben and was a Prussian design meant to have a horse tail attached to it.

    “All helmets produced for the infantry before and during 1914 were made of leather. As the war progressed, Germany’s leather stockpiles dwindled. After extensive imports from South America, particularly Argentina, the German government began producing ersatz Pickelhauben made of other materials. In 1915, some Pickelhauben began to be made from thin sheet steel. However, the German high command needed to produce an even greater number of helmets, leading to the usage of pressurized felt and even paper to construct Pickelhauben.
    During the early months of World War I, it was soon discovered that the Pickelhaube did not measure up to the demanding conditions of trench warfare. The leather helmets offered virtually no protection against shell fragments and shrapnel and the conspicuous spike made its wearer a target. These shortcomings, combined with material shortages, led to the introduction of the simplified model 1915 helmet described above, with a detachable spike. In September 1915 it was ordered that the new helmets were to be worn without spikes, when in the front line
    Beginning in 1916, the Pickelhaube was slowly replaced by a new German steel helmet (the Stahlhelm) intended to offer greater head protection from shell fragments. The German steel helmet decreased German head wound fatalities by 70%. After the adoption of the Stahlhelm the Pickelhaube was reduced to limited ceremonial wear by senior officers away from the war zones; plus the Leibgendarmerie S.M. des Kaisers whose role as an Imperial/Royal escort led them to retain peacetime full dress throughout the war. With the collapse of the German Empire in 1918, the Pickelhaube ceased to be part of the military uniform, and even the police adopted shakos of a Jäger style. In modified forms the new Stahlhelm helmet would continue to be worn by German troops into World War II.”

  3. First, I wish you all the best on your Blue Max Project! On these photos, where did one come across them? They are very, very vivid and no kidding stops one in his tracks.

  4. I’ve visited “The Great Cloth Hall” In Ypres. Google it. 3-4 of the large rooms are wallpapered with photos like this, floor to ceiling. The story is that the troops would go to the local photographer to get a “Hero Photo” to send home while in the rear, prior to going into the trenches. The “wallpaper” photos are of those who never returned to collect their pictures when they were ready.

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