RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

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RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:48 pm

Hello Guys,

This one helmet with Überzug is my favorite in my small helmets collection, probably the only one I would try to keep if I ever have to sell my collection.
First, I have to thank Joe, who sold it to me at the beginning of 2017. It was not cheap, but it was worth it! So this topic is a kind of tribute to Joe who had an exceptional instinct to buy this helmet years ago! It could be really difficult to find another one of this special and unknown hessian reserve unit, formed December 1914.

The regimental story came with the helmet. As both, helmet and Überzug have the name of the original wearer (Heinrich OPPER, 4/254), it was a real exciting work to track the story of this guy.
The RJR254 was a very long time on the eastern front, from February 1915 till March 1918, as it came to France for the very first time.

I had the luck to make a trip to Poland (Mazuria, Belarus border) last May, and this was a very good opportunity to follow the path of Heinrich OPPER and his unit during the three last weeks of February 1915, called the second battle of Mazuria (Winterschlacht in den Masuren). So I took some pictures of the exact places and landscape he saw for almost 100 years.

First, some views of the helmet:

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The RJR254 was formed on the 16.12.14 in Hesse-Darmstadt with three Feldbataillonen:

- Feldbataillon 70 (with MG Zug 1), formed with parts of the Ersatz-Bataillon LGR115 in Darmstadt and became I/RJR254
- Feldbataillon 71, formed with parts of the Ersatz-Bataillon JR168 in Offenbach and became II/RJR254
- Feldbataillon 72, formed with parts of the Ersatz-Bataillon JR116 in Friedberg and became III/RJR254

The name tag sewn in the Überzug shows us that the Gardist OPPER was at the 4. company of the Feldbataillon 70 which became the 4. company of the RJR254 on the 16.12.14. The designation "Gardist" confirms that FB70 was formed with elements of the LGR115. Only such guys of this unit were entitled to have this designation which ended as the RJR254 was formed. The Feldbataillon 70 was a very small transition unit which only have existed between end of November and middle of December 1914

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The same name is written at the inside of front visor:

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Probably for some strong traditional reasons, this LGR115 origin has continued to subsist in the fittings on this helmet. They are truly all white metal (german silver), although very oxydized. Only parts of the fittings which were susceptible to be seen by the enemy have been painted in fieldgrey or chemically darkened: front trim, chinstrap elements, side posts and even the ventilation neck of the spike that could shine between the two parts of the Überzug.

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The hessian plate first looks like brass, but when you look at the back, it´s clearly german silver

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Without the Überzug remaining on the helmet, no one could have ever know the unit and the story of this quite (ugly) simple classic felt helmet, of its wearer and the places where he has fought.

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Next episode to come soon :wink:

Philippe
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"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Jaap Verduijn » Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:36 pm

Waht a beuati9ful story attached to this helmet!
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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by kaiser » Thu Dec 21, 2017 6:04 pm

This is a great helmet all is matching together :o
This happens almost never
Its a dig in to the story helmet with lots to learn about

Great find thats for sure

Jonas

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by J.LeBrasseur » Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:13 pm

Another great find, way to go, love the whole group

James
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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by pickelhauben » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:18 am

Great felt and history !!

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by SkipperJohn » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:10 am

Outstanding!

John :bravo: :bravo: :bravo:

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Sandmann » Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:53 am

A nice find and a nice story. Thank you for sharing it :bravo:
Best wishes, Sandy

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Adler » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:00 am

You certainly have a good nose for great pickelhauben! Congrats on this fine specimen!

Adler

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by poniatowski » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:58 am

I must be tired today. I read, "... Worn during the second marzipan battle" Nice grouping indeed. :)

:D Ron
I really do need to know more about this....

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Fri Dec 22, 2017 3:56 pm

In the "Verlustlisten 1914-18", Heinrich OPPER is mentioned as been light wounded during the fights between 8.2 and 15.3.15 (because he is now in the RJR254, he is no longer entitled to wear the designation "Gardist" but now "Musketier")

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And the previous page of the same publication:

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As written in the regimental story, it is the period of the winter fights in Mazuria (between Gumbinnen and Augustow) and at the north shore of the river Bobr.

This publication is showing that the 4. company RJR254 was the company which suffered least loss during this fighting period: only 2 killed in action, 22 light wounded and 1 seriously wounded.

Between the 7 and 29 of January 1915, RJR254 was first sent to the training camp of Ohrdruf in Thuringia:

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On the 2 of February, the regiment was sent with railway to the eastern front and was unloaded three days later in Gumbinnen and Jutschen (East-Prussia).

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This map is showing the moving of the RJR254 between the 5 and the 18.2.15 from Gumbinnen to Augustow (sorry for the french legends):

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The violet line is showing the railway trip of the regiment to Gumbinnen. The red dotted line shows the hard march (night and day) of the regiment in a southern direction in the very cold prussian winter 1914/15. The russian army was pushed to the south by the german XXI Armee Korps and XXXIX Reserve Korps and tried to reach the fortress of Grodno. The RJR254 belonging to the XXXVIII Reserve Korps had the duty to prevent from the west that some russian elements try to escape. During this tiring track race, the RJR254 lost 50% of its men because of exhausting and frozen members.
The green dotted line shows the final moving of RJR254 between 19 and 25.2.15 causing the surrouding of 50000 russians soldiers in the Augustow forest and the neutralisation of two russian bridgeheads on the north side of the river Bobr at the villages of Krasnoborki and Sztabin. Heinrich OPPER was wounded during the attack of Krasnoborki.

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The baptism of fire of the RJR254 happened in the night from the 8 to the 9 February as the II/254 attacked russian positions in the village of Stablauken and Klein-Tüllen. The 4. company of Heinrich OPPER was not involved. Next morning, the Russians were already vanished.

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After that, RJR254 continued a 150 kms exhausting pursuit till its entry in Augustow. Russian scattered units were not able to organize some resistance during this pursuit, only trying to get to Grodno through the big forest and swamps of Augustow.

On the 18.2.15, RJR254 is making its entry in Augustow. One day before there were still serious fights in this city

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The next day (19.2.15), the three bataillons of RJR254 have to moved as shown on the following map.

- II/254 stays in Augustow to securize the east side of the city
- III/254 goes to the village of Grußki (now Hruskie)
- I/254 with OPPER has to take position along the Augustow forest on the Augustow-Lipsk road in a 12 kms long sector. 50000 russian soldiers are trying at this moment to cross the big and swampy forest of Augustow (30 x 20 Kms) to reach the fortress of Grodno (Belarus).

Black crosses on the map are showing the exact place where I took the picts last May. I will proceed the same way while continuing this small photographic report.

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During this day (19.2.15) there are no contacts between RJR254 and the Russians.

Philippe
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"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Fri Dec 22, 2017 4:44 pm

On the 20.2.15, III/254 started to enter into the forest and reach the village of Rubcowo while I and II/254 left the Augustow-Lipsk road, marched through the village of Podwolkuszne and reached the small hamlet of Jasionowo near the wood village of Krasne.

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Entering into the forest, just after the village of Wilkownia:
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Podwolkuszne hamlet

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Jasionowo hamlet, position of the I/RJR254 of Heinrich OPPER, in the evening of the 20.2.15. During this whole day, OPPERS bataillon still not had any contact with the enemy. Next day, RJR254 will have to move further in the northern direction to help surrending the 50000 Russians in the forest.

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The forest pathes getting worse and worse a few hundred meters after the Jasionowo hamlet for our "city car", and without neither GPS signal nor indication panels, we decided to turn back and to get out of the forest to reach the Augustow-Lipsk road again, and then turn to the northern direction on the small road to the village of Skieblewo, following the edge of the forest.

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We drove then through the villages of Skieblewo and Rubcowo to reach form the other side the exact forest sector where the final russian surrouding happened, sector called: "Lubinowo-Gut Woltusch" (today "Wolkusz"). This sector is to be seen at the right top of the following map:

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Eastern edge of the Augustow forest, photograph taken from Skieblewo:

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Small bridge over the Wolcukz creek which is running along the eastern edge of the forest

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Rubcowo village, position of the III/254 in the evening of the 20.2.15:

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Finally, we had the luck to find an indication panel, allowing us to know our exact position

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This panel stood exactly at the beginning of the path we had to take, to reach the final place of russian surrounding of 21.2.15

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More to come..... :wink:

Philippe
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"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by coert65 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 5:39 pm

:bravo: :bravo:
You really amaze me with your excellent research on this regiment.....

Beautiful how you make history come to life.
:bravo:

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by pickelhauben » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:05 pm

I have to comment again.

Really nice felt !!!

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:26 pm

Let´s go on with the 21.2.1915.
All three bataillons of RJR254 are located in the morning of this day on a northern parallel line to the forest path between Rubcowo and Gut Woltusch (Wolcusz). The RJR254 formed the second wave of attack, behind the detachment Freiherr von Preußchen. Behind RJR254, detachment von Lotz is the third wave.

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Because RJR254 was in the second line of attack, it did not have to fight a lot and had no loss, unlike the detachment von Preußchen which had to fight hardly. The duty of RJR254 was to collect all russian soldiers that where wounded and still lied in the snow. It was no hard job, most of Russians surrendered without any resistance.

Entering in the Lubinowo sector:
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Lubinowo hamlet, pict taken from the forest path between Rubcowo and Wolcusz::
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Old russian house in Lubinowo:
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Those 4 picts are exactly showing the sector where RJR254 collected wounded Russians after the attack :
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The four next picts are showing the place at the edge of the Augustow forest near Wolcusz, where a lot of dead Russians were burried after the battle.

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Three picts of the small bridge over the Wolcusz creek, just behind the russian cemetery:
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A fewe picts of the Wolcusz hamlet. It´s just looks like for 100 years!
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On this day (21.2.15), 50000 russian soldiers were captured as a lot of war material. Because of a short thaw period, a few days before, hundreds of artillery pieces, many other horse trailers and vehicles sank down in the many forest swamps. Other vehicles were burried by the Russians to hire them, but in vain. The Germans organized a few weeks long some special troups (Kommandos) to recover all the hidden and sunk material.
II/254 was ordered with this duty too, between 21 and 26.2.15. So this second bataillon could not fight on the Bobr river on the 24/25 February.

A russian position in the Augustow forest:
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German soldiers in Bartniki (5 kms at the east of Wolcusz) after the mazurian battle, with a lot of captured russian material:
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15000 russian prisoners after the Augustow battle.
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russian vehicles left in the Augustow forest:
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In the evening of the 21.2.15, I and III/254 were alarmed to march to Golynka (today a small village in Belarus). Those two bataillons took position there in the night from the 21 to the 22.2. This was a preventive mesure from the german Oberkommando, to prevent a possible russian attack from Grodno to deliver the surrendered russians in the Augustow forest. But thas was not the case.

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A pict taken from the hamlet of Bartniki in the direction of Golynka. The village of Golynka is at the other side of the hill, in Belarus.
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Here is a map of the RJR254 moving between 22 and 25.2.1915

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In the morning of the 22.2.15, I and III/254 were ordered to march to Skieblewo (II/254 had to stay in the Augustow forest to clean the Wolcusz battlefield).In the village of Skieblewo, the two RJR254 bataillons had the luck to get some Feldpost from Germany and also some new victuals.

Next day (23.2.15), 4 pm, I and III/254 were suddenly alarmed to move quickly to Krasne (Hrasne), and further around Hruski, then Lebiedzin which was reached on the 24.2, 4.45 am. This very exhausting march in the cold winter night was extremely hard and many soldiers were so exhausted that they simply let themselves falled down in the snow.

The Russians had crossed the river Bobr at two places: Krasnoborki and Szabin. After Lebiedzin, the small rest of I and III/254 (Heinrich OPPER was still between them) had to run to Krasnoborki to reject the Russians to the other side of the Bobr, and if possible, to take position at the south edge of the river.
Because of the big loss of exhausted soldiers, both bataillons were very few.
The I/254 of Heinrich OPPER only still had 9 officers and 260 men (23 officers and 950 men at the beginning of campaign)
The III/254 had 5 officers and 205 men (24 officers and 946 men at the beginning of campaign).

In spite of this fact, both bataillons started to attack the village of Krasnoborki, as they learned during their formation at the training camp in Thuringia. On the 24.2, 1.45pm, the attack started. At 2 pm, Krasnoborki was taken, without any help of the german artillery, because it was not available. The MGs of the bataillons were some great help during this attack. A lot of Russians were killed, taken prisonners and the rest flew back over the small wooden bridge to the south shore of the river Bobr. The Germans tried first to get to the other side, but the bridge over the swampy area was only 3 meters wide and the russian MGs at the other side made this action impossible. The Germans secured then Krasnoborki awaiting that the Russians could make a try to take the village again. But this was not the case.
The regimental story tells that the losses of those two bataillons were not less. A lot of Germans were wounded after the attack through heavy artillery fire from Grodno over Krasnoborki. This was the first time in this campaign that the I/254 had to fight directly against the Russians. Heinrich OPPER has been lightly wounded during this attack.
In the night from the 24 to the 25.2, the russian artillery slightly stopped to fire.

North-east side of Krasnoborkii:
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Two picts of Krasnoborki, taken from the north of the village, just as the two RJR254 bataillons moved:
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At the end of this sandy path, to the south-east, one cross the road Krasnoborki-Szabin. Just after that road, the swampy area of the river Bobr is beginning. In the summer time, one can only see a lot of reeds in this area:
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A shot of Krasnoborki taken from the other side of the Bobr river, near the new modern bridge of Szabin
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Here is a map of Krasnoborki dating from the 1930´s showing that the old wooden bridge has not been rebuilt after the war. And it´s still not existing anymore today :Image

A view of Krasnoborki as the Russians could see from the south shore of the Bobr through spyglasses:
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In the morning of the 25.2.15, I and III/254 marched to Szabin that was already left by the Russians.

Entering Szabin coming from Krasnoborki
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A view of Szabin with the swampy area in the foreground, taken from the russian side:
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In the evening of the 25.2, last soldiers of the RJR254 returned to Krasnoborki. Some elements of the PB77 and 81 started there to check the possibility to get to the other side of the Bobr. But this idea was abandoned because of the beginning thaw of the Bobr.
The Bobr river is a very small river in its middle, only a few meters wide, not a lot of stream. But it shows a really big swampy area at both sides, most of the time a few kilometers swamps!

to compare, a pict of the Bobr in the winter time:
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And in the summer time:
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Next day (26.2.15), I/254 marched back to Kamien while III/254 stood one day longer in Krasnoborki. On the 27.2, the II/254 was then relieved through the RJR262 and rejoined the I/254 at Kamien. As the II/254 had ended its battlefield cleaning in the Augustow forest while taking some more prisoners in the woods, all three bataillons of RJR254 went back together to Augustow to take a rest. Most of lost exhausted soldiers were back again too. The whole regiment had now 36 officers and 1482 men, 50% less than at the beginning of the mazurian campaign...
On the 3.3.15, RJR254 was in Lyck (Elk) and was brought with railway to its new sector, Przasnysz (40 kms from Warschau).

Heinrich OPPER was sent to a Lazarett in Germany for reconvalescence. He never returned to the RJR254. His helmet and Überzug has been then kept in the Darmstadt garrison, as a thousand of others felt helmets that had shown poorly satisfaction at the front because of their big fragility.

Heinrich OPPER was then sent in another unit and fought in northern France. He was killed in action near Lille at the end of August 1918. I was not able to find in which unit. It was not the RJR254 because his name is not staying at the end of the regimental story, where all soldiers KIA in this unit are mentioned.

Philippe
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"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:41 pm

Heinrich OPPER is mentioned as killed in action in a late 1918 publication of the Verlustlisten:

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He is burried in the german military cemetery in Lambersart, near Lille. date of death: 21.8.18:

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In his native village of Daubringen / Hessen, his name is mentioned too. The date of death is here 22.8.1918.


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Philippe
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"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by edwin » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:20 am

Great helmet with a very interesting history!

Thanks for sharing :D

Regards,

Ewin

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Pickelhaube » Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:21 am

Superb helmet. I liked reading the history of the helmet and owner.

Greetings

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by gunner cooper » Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:32 pm

Amazing helmet and history. :thumb up:

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by keoki7 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:46 am

What a great presentation!
Geo

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by joerookery » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:39 am

Philippe,

Congratulations! You have taken this to the deepest level. I envy your research! This is exactly why I got into collecting. Believe it or not this helmet was rejected by number of European collectors because of the rank word Gardist. I was told in no uncertain terms that because of this rank there is no way that this helmet could be original. Based on my limited knowledge I disagreed and was able to purchase it for a song. I thought the real find was the unit history – the regimental history. I purchased this separately. The copy is absolutely pristine. It is massive and an undertaking of love by somebody in the unit. The maps are complete. You took it many many steps further. This is a tremendous story of a helmet intertwined with history. Congratulations again and thank you for doing this.
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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by argonne » Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:02 pm

joerookery wrote: this helmet was rejected by number of European collectors because of the rank word Gardist.
Thank you Joe!

In the collection, one have to hear first to one´s own intuition by looking exactly to the artefacts we have in our hands. Those things are really speaking to you, much collectors are not sensitive for that... The fact that you do not understand the thing at the first moment is never a reason to affirm it could never have existed in this configuration. It´s the laziest way to handle, never the cleverest...One have to always remain curious.
Fortunately, we have today some great possibilities to base a research on many original documents. Those who search, find sometimes. Those who never search, never find.....It´s just a question of time and patience...And passion....

Philippe
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-------------------------
"Laechle und sei froh, denn es koennte schlimmer kommen!" - Und ich lächelte und war froh - Und es kam schlimmer..."

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Sandmann » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:44 pm

I really admire the way how you’ve investigated his story. This soldier lost his life for his country believing to do the right thing.
With your passion you honor his sacrifice and he is not lost in the anonymity of victims.
Thank you very much :bravo:
Best wishes, Sandy

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Re: RJR254 HELMET, WORN DURING THE SECOND MAZURIAN BATTLE

Post by Westfront » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:58 am

Beautiful helmet and history respect for all your research :bravo: :bravo: :bravo:

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