Pickelhaube Research Project: What was the Spike used for?


Good evening everyone, I hope you are all well! So recently, I have decided to dedicate some time to researching everything about the Pickelhaube, and have started a research project. The end goal of this is to present my information to the history club on campus, and encourage young historians to maybe consider collecting and possibly develop an interest towards the history of the Pickelhaube and other things related.

I was wondering if I could pose a question. The one part of the pickelhaube that I have always been curious about is the use of the spike. So, what is the spike’s purpose?

I have done some research on this already, and have gotten many different answers, so I wanted to see what pickelhaube collectors think about it. I do have a few theories, but I don’t have anything to back these up yet.

1. This first one I believe is most likely false, because of the way a cavalry charge is done. This theory states that the spike is meant to deflect saber blows to the head. But to find out if this is true or not, I would have to look more into how a cavalry charge is done, because I don’t have much knowledge on that.

2. This theory, which I believe is true, states that the spike is meant to provide a militaristic and barbaric look, and is also there to be used in parades, making it completely for looks. But that leads me to wonder if there was actually a practical purpose for the spike. It could have been used entirely for looks, but I just don’t know.

3. This may or may not be true, it is just a thought. This theory states that the spike is meant to help identify soldiers. During Napoleonic warfare, when more smoke was present when using artillery, the spike was used as a way to identify German soldiers from the French during the Franco-Prussian war. (Unlike during the First World War, where German soldiers had to take their spikes off to blend in and not give away their position.)

4. This I believe is most likely true, and that is that the spike was used to identify rank among soldiers/officers. I have read this in a couple articles and a few books, but there may also be more than one way the spike was used.

Sorry for the long spiel, but I just want to know what all of you think because it would be a great topic of discussion for my presentation. This project will also be a great way for me to learn more, because I still have so much I don’t understand, and I wish to fill in those gaps.

Thank you!
Katie :)
Hello Katie,
The tip of the Pickelhaube is the German version of the crest. In France, a banana-shaped crest was used to protect the head from blows from swords and stones after explosions (the same was used by the fire brigade). And to protect the nape of the neck and the back from blade cuts, there was the ponytail and the lobster-tail neck cover. The German cavalry also had the point and the lobster tail.
The German spike, like the French crest, was also designed to enhance the silhouette of both infantryman and cavalryman, in order to impress the enemy.
Lastly, the spike was an aeration tower to ventilate the scalp, reinforcing the holes drilled in the hull for this purpose.
The version in which the spike was used to deflect the blade is accurate and not a legend, even if there are doubts about the effectiveness of the device.
To sum up, the spike was adopted in Prussia in 1842 for all the reasons mentioned above.
Hello Katie,
I had the same questions and researched my answers in historical military magazines. All of my statements in the article are supported by period sources. I have listed the mostly German sources in the legend and, where possible, linked them. I hope the article answers your questions.

Here you may find answers to helmet models of a special timeframe:
Personally I believe it's all about the look. If it was about protection the helmets would be getting larger to cover more of the head, in the way that medieval helmets evolved. Instead they get smaller with changes in fashion.
I served in The Life Guards and some of the things that were said about our kit had no factual base, but people believed it.
An excellent question Katie. Here are my ideas on the subject. First, I agree with the others here that the spike was intended to increase the height of the individual wearing it. I also support the concept that the spike and other metal fittings were intended to provide some protection from sword cuts. For example, the brass chin scales initially worn on both officer and ordinary ranks helmets were intended to protect the sides of the face. The only thing that I would add about the spike is that it also had a symbolic role as representing the spear point of the ancient warrior. Thus, we also see artillery helmets with the ball top representing the cannon ball. So I think that the construction of the pickelhaube represents a combination of factors……style, symbolism, height and protection. I would also add that I think that it is very cool that you are going to discuss this topic at your History club meeting.