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German Imperial Flight Goggles

Article about: Hello All, I recently bought a nice German WW1 Flight Helmet for peanuts (less than \\$50 including shipping). Judging from the photos, the interior is in bad shape but for the price I paid, i

  1. #1
    RON is offline

    Default German Imperial Flight Goggles

    Hello All,

    I recently bought a nice German WW1 Flight Helmet for peanuts (less than $50 including shipping). Judging from the photos, the interior is in bad shape but for the price I paid, it doesn't look so bad and has plenty of character I think.

    I'm now thinking of completing it with a nice pair of German WW1 Pilot Goggles and need your help in picking 1 of 3 models I'm being offered.

    Photos of the helmet as well as the choice of goggles follow.

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    PAIR #1:
    (seems unused with the orignal 'Splitbrille' label on the right lense)
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    PAIR #2:
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    PAIR #3:
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    Which of the 3 pairs do you think best matches my helmet (authenticity & design wise)? Any period pilot photos I could see for further assessment?

  2. #2

    Default Re: German Imperial Flight Goggles

    I like no/ 1, large lens area for all round vision plus the label, but no/3 has that out of the ordinary look which i could see a pilot wearing just to be different

  3. #3

    Default Re: German Imperial Flight Goggles

    I like the first pair also. davejb has a good point "large lens area for all round vision"


  4. #4

    Default Re: German Imperial Flight Goggles

    If you are asking which is the one that will look most authentic, then No. 2 would be it. It is the closest to what a German pilot would have been wearing during the war. A pair of almost identical goggles is pictured in Prodger on page 139. If you are asking if any of these are actual WW1 German goggles, however, the answer is almost certainly not. I have seen the first two on eBay recently being advertised as WW1 goggles. If you are going to pay for that, you should know you are not getting the real thing.

    My favorite, No. 2, is highly suspect to say the least. The number 2 style of goggle was made for years after the war in the US and elsewhere. Cefco was one US manufacturer and there were others in Europe. See Prodger, pages 164 and 192. In fact, they are still being manufactured today. See Richthofen Aviator Goggles Richthofen Aviator Goggles. There are clear indicators that these are not right. Just look at the "fur". It is inside the metal edge of the goggle where it does absolutely no good. The primary purpose of the fur was to insulate the skin of the face from the exposed metal. Fur lining attached to the interior of the frame, not the edge, is useless. Also look at the poor quality stitch work, both attaching the fur and attaching the elastic strap. Also look at the metal finish itself. It looks brand new and highly polished. Over time this metal should take on a grey cast. For that matter, the leather and fur look just as new. Attached is a picture of an older pair of similiar goggles. See how grey the metal has become over the years? It looks like dirt, but its not: its just darkened with age. My pair was lined with rubber. See how it has hardened over time, turning into a plastic like molding around the edge of the metal? (Not that all rubber will have done this, but it shows where the fur should be and shows these are old goggles, although whether from WW1 or 1930, I can't say. The strap and hardware on mine are typical of the 1930s.) The fur on No. 2 may just be a recent unskilled replacement, but is that what you were told as part of the auction? The goggles might look very new if they were packed away forever, but if that were the case the fur and strap attachment should also be in pristine shape.

    No. 1 is also suspect, but it is a closer call. The sticker could be old or could be made today. All it means is split lenses. There are modern glasses available today that are referred to as split brille. Of course, back then some goggles really were made up of two pairs of split lenses, one example being the pair I show below; yours clearly are not that type of goggle. So is the label even correct? During WW1 almost all goggles were two piece. Did that make these split brille, or should this sticker be on a pair of split lense goggles like mine? The fur looks to be properly done, but the metal is still very shiney and polished looking. The leather tab looks in the picture like older leather, but that is a hard call on a photo. The fur looks little used. I have seen these goggles before, but I cannot tell you they are current manufacture. Goggles packed away for a long time can look like new. I have some myself in that condition, but they are upper end goggles that are plated in chrome. These do not look to be chromed. Rather, they look like typical steel frames that are incredibly bright. I think they are new, like No. 2, but they are better quality. The single thing that may worry me the most is the fancy trim on the end piece. The period goggles I have seen are incredibly utilitarian, even the upper end ones. There is no fancy detailing or cut work. The end piece on No. 1, however, just happens to exactly match the end pieces on the new goggles pictured in the internet site above as Richtofen Aviator goggles. There was a war on, pilots were a fairly utilitarian group even without a war, and I don't think most wartime manufacturers would have been putting a big (relatively speaking) fairly useless piece of ornamental trim on their goggles, especially one that intrudes, even slightly, on your field of vision. Both of mine as pictured have the same mechanism to allow for the replacement of the lenses and are much more typical of the spartan approach I would expect to see. The folding tab is barely even there!

    As to pattern No. 3, white is not normally favored by soldiers in combat as it's hard to keep clean and looking good. Remember the famous British Army Pith helmets worn in the colonial wars in India and South Africa (Zulu)? They were bright white, but the soldiers in the field stained them with tea to give them a brownish look. Otherwise they always looked filthy. The stained look was at least a vague off white tan! On these goggles, the leather connecting tab marks them as a pre WW2 design. In fact, the leather connecting tab/nose bridge was pretty much obsolete by the end of WW1, but it was much cheaper and easier to make than the adjustable metal bridges such as seen (and widely copied after the war) on the French Meyerowitz goggles, so it continued to be seen for many years. The lense shape and size is more typical of designs from the 30's (bigger lense, more oval shape and compound curves), but there are some goggles from WW1 that looked close to these. Their chief draw back is their color. White was popular among civilian fliers in the 20's and 30's.

    If you are looking for something that just looks right, I would go with No. 2. It is a copy of a real, and very popular, set of German goggles. If you don't just want to look real, but you want to be real, none of these are it. Original German goggles are not nearly as common as are British goggles, but they are out there if you watch. The problem is it is very hard to pin goggles down without a reference of some sort. Prodgers is best by far on WW2 and the interwar years, but it still provides a lot of insight as to WW1 goggles by showing what are NOT WW1 goggles!

    Sorry if I'm a bit (only a bit?) wordy, but hope it helps.

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  5. #5
    RON is offline

    Default Re: German Imperial Flight Goggles

    Davejb & Anton: thanks for your insight. I was personally leaning towards 1 myself since a squarish pair would've distinguised my helmet from my Luftwaffe ones.

    But Matt is definitely right; I am looking for the real deal and not just fakes... Copies have no soul/character. No matter how nice/close these might look/be, they have no story to tell... Look at my helmet; it is in a lamentable shape but it has this salty look that says: "I've been there; I've seen the War; I've been in the 1st air battles". Even if these were used by a rookie pilot who didn't make it through flying school before war's end; at least the helmet was there somewhere!

    Matt, very informative and not 'wordy' at all. One can never get enough of such details. This is the only way to expand your horizons otherwise we wouldn't be on such Forums...

    I guess this takes me back to square 2: Fiding a good authentic pair of German Imperial flying goggles for my old helmet. If you find one, think of me!

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