Back to the
Imperial German Pickelhaube Guide
Uniform Details of all
Jäger and Schützen Battalions
The Tschako
1854 - 1915
Prior to the introduction of the now-famous Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) in 1842, the most common form of helmet worn in Imperial Germany was the tall cylindrical piece of headgear called a Tschako (Shako).

The Tschako in some form, outfitted almost all troops during the Napoleonic wars and well into the 1800s. The photograph to the right by Richard Knötel shows soldiers of the Preußen Colbergsches Infanterie-Regiment in 1811 wearing typical early Tschako of the time.

With the adoption of the other forms of helmets for the various arms after 1842 (Pickelhauben, Metalhelme etc) the Tschako with a more refined shape, was eventually worn only by Jäger and Schützen (light infantry), Telegraph, Train (Supply), and other small units.
Below is an abbreviated list of contingents that utilized some form of Tschako after 1842:
  • 1843 - Preußen Jäger and Schützen;
  • 1844 to 1886 - Braunschweig (all foot units);
  • 1862 - Seebataillon and Marine-Infanterie;
  • 1863 to 1903 - Preußen Train (Supply);
  • 1864 to 1903 - Baden Train (Supply);
  • 1865 - Mecklenburg-Schwerin;
  • 1866 - Sachsen (Saxon) Jäger and Schützen;
  • 1867 to 1903 - Sachsen (Saxon) Train (Supply);
  • 1871 to 1903 - Hessian Train (Supply);
  • 1871 to 1903 - Württemberg Train (Supply);
  • 1895 - Bayern (Bavarian) Jäger;
  • 1899 - Preußen, Sachsen (Saxon), & Württemberg Telegraphen (Telegraph);
  • 1901 - Preußen & Sachsen (Saxon) Maschinengewehr (Machine Gun); and
  • 1901 - Bayern (Bavarian) Telegraphen (Telegraph).

From 1843 to 1854 the Preußen Jäger and Schützen wore a line infantry Pickelhaube which was replaced in 1854 with a cylindrical Tschako. The M1854 Tschako was very tall with brass chinscales and visor trim on a squared front visor, similar to the M1842 Pickelhaube. A black horse Haarbusch (hair bush) was worn at all times.

As shown in the illustration to the left, rather than an eagle Wappen (front plate) the Tschako carried two vertical bars on the front for Line Battalions. The two Garde Battalions wore a large Garde star, and Jäger Battalions 1,2,5, and 6 wore a large brass FWR cypher. Other contingents that eventually adopted the Tschako wore their own state Wappens.

Contingents that utilized a Tschako wore a cloth-covered wooden badge called a "Feldzeichen" in the state colors. The photo to the right shows most of the issued Feldzeichen and opens with further explanation.
Officer's Feldzeichen

Officer Feldzeichen were made from hand-embroidered bullion with velvet centers in the contingent colors.

The example shown here is Preußen.

The bullion officer Feldzeichen was also authorized to be worn by the two highest level of NCOs, the Vizefeldwebel and Feldwebel. The only other rank that could wear the bullion Feldzeichen was the Fähnrich (Officer-Candidate NCO) after passing exams.
Eigentumsstück Feldzeichen

Eigentumsstück (privately purchased) Feldzeichen were normally of a looped cord. Collectors often refer to the looped cord Feldzeichen as "NCO", when there appears to be no proof or documentation that it has anything to do with it being an NCO. It appears constantly in period photos of Jäger with the ranks of Private which indicates that looped cord Feldzeichen were just a Eigentumsstück (private-purchase) "upgrade" and not dependant on rank.

In 1860 Preußen Jäger and Schützen Battalions adopted a new Tschako which was reduced in height, the brass chinscales worn by Mannschaften (Other Ranks) were replaced by a leather chinstrap and the brass trim on the front visor was removed, as the visor was no longer made of leather, but of a pressed composite material. From 1860 on, the Haarbusch (hair bush) was no longer to be worn in the field, only on parade. The new Tschako carried the new eagle Wappen (front plate) with the "MIT GOTT FÜR KOENIG UND VATERLAND" (With God For King And Fatherland) Bandeau.
The Preußen Line Tschako eagle Wappen is much smaller than a Line Infantry eagle, measuring only 94 mm from the tail feathers to the crown. The Wappen on Tschako range widely and are detailed (for 1914 only) in the "Uniform Details of all Jäger and Schützen Battalions" link at the top or bottom of this page.
In 1860 Preußen Garde Battalions adopted a new Garde star to coincide with the adoption of the introduction of the "MIT GOTT FÜR KOENIG UND VATERLAND" (With God For King And Fatherland) Bandeau. The fellow in this pre-1914 photograph is from one of the Flieger Battalions (Flying Troops).
To ventilate the M1860 Tschako, there was an internal vent behind the Feldzeichen which could be opened or closed.
The liners on issued M1860 Tschako were of heavy leather with rounded "tongues" perforated at the ends for a leather string to adjust the fit. Contrary to some publications, this liner was in use for issue helmets for the entire life of the Tschako from 1843 to 1915.

Eigentumsstück (Private purchase) Tschako were of a much higher quality and were utilized the "squared finger" liners until 1880 when the internal sweatband and skull-cap came into use. However, the old squared finger liners seem to have been a lower cost option for Eigentumsstück (Private purchase) Tschako for many years after.
In 1866 Sachsen (Saxony) adopted the Preußen M1852 Tschako for the Jäger and Schützen Battalions. This was short-lived, when a new pattern specific to Sachsen was adopted in 1867. More cap than helmet, the Sachsen Tschako was covered in black cloth with a flat visor and closely resembled the French or American Civil-War Kepi worn at the time. The front Wappen consisted of a Sachsen Wappen backed with a star, similar to other Sachsen units, but with the the addition of a Jäger horn. At all times, even into the great war, a black horse-hair plume was worn on the left side of the Tschako.

In 1888 the Tschako shell received several significant modifications. The first was a reduction in height from the older model. The second was the addition of a single black-painted vent on each side to aid in ventilation; as a result of the new side vents, the internal vent behind the cloth-covered wooden "Feldzeichen" was removed. The third, was the adoption of the replacement of the threaded bolt for retaining the leather chinstrap, to the Infantry pattern M1887 loop and hook system.

As shown by this M1888 example for Preußen Jäger Batl. 1 or 2, however, the M1887 loop and hook system for the chinstrap was not always adopted and the old threaded bolt continued in service.

In 1892, units that wore the Tschako received the infantry pattern Model 1891 posts for the leather chinstrap. In 1895 a new model of Tschako was introduced, which was shorter and more refined than the M1888 with a shape similar to the officer's Tschako but manufactured out of leather. On the M1895, the screw-posts that had been on the reverse of issued Wappen on the M1895 were replaced by loops. Like all other troops in the empire, in 1897 all Tschakos were updated with the new Reich's Kokarde, worn on the right side.
To reduce the reflection of the brass or silver fittings, all ranks were issued with cloth Überzug (helmet cover) in 1892. Issued covers utilized hooks while privately purchased and officer covers utilized stiffened brims. In 1915 the issued covers were modified to allow the leather chinstraps to pass through the sides.
For parades, Mannschaften and officers wore parade plumes inserted behind the Feldzeichen. Mannschaften wore a Haarbusch (hair bush) parade plume made from white or black horse hair, officers wore a Haarbusch made from Yak hair. The color of the top "button" of the Haarbusch was also important, for Jäger NCOs it was painted white, for NCOs of the Garde-Schützen-Batl. it was painted black.

Beginning in 1914, all arms received Ersatz-Helme (substitute helmets) until helmet supplies could meet demand. Ersatz Tschakos were made from rabbit felt and by one manufacturer, oilcloth. Surviving original examples are found with no front visor trim as shown by this quite rare Ersatz Model 1899 Preußen Filz Tschako (Shako) marked to Telegraphen-Bataillon Nr.2. The Tschako has the identical parts as the leather Model 1899, with German silver Wappen, M91 pattern posts & chinstrap, blackened air vents on the sides and a standard Preußen cloth Feldzeichen. As with all original Filz Tschako, there is no trim on the front or rear visors.
Occasionally Ersatz Filz Tschako were blackened to resemble the leather versions. There appears to have been two different patterns: black felt which appear matt and unreflective in photos as in the example shown here, and lacquered felt Tschako, which have a shine but lack the distinctive sewn top of the leather versions.

In accordance with the 1915 regulations issued Tschako would no longer use brass or silver, but would now only have grey oxidized steel fittings for all Battalions.

Infanterie-Regt. Nr.92

Bayern (Bavaria)
Eisenbahn, Flieger, or Telegraphen


Model 1860
Preußen Line Jäger


Württemberg 3rd Komp
of Telegraphen-Bataillon Nr.4


Ersatz Filz
Preußen Jäger-Batl.

Preußen Jäger
Eagle Wappen Chest Feathers

From 1860 to 1895 the eagle Wappen on Jäger Mannschaften Tschako had standard overlapping chest feathers. In 1895 one manufacturer changed the chest feathers so they appear to meet in the center, like fingers, touching.
It appears, however, that other manufacturers continued to produce Jäger Mannschaften Tschako Wappen with the pre-1895 overlapping chest feathers. This unique configuration is found on issued Jäger Tschako but is generally not found on private purchase or officer Line Jäger Wappen. This unique feather configuration carried over to the M1915 Tschako as the photo illustrates.
Photo used with the kind permission of
Stephen Case-Pall
Officer's M1871/1899

The officer's pattern Tschako first appeared in 1871 and was of a much higher quality thatn the issued model as illustrated by this 1915 dated photo of Lt. Paul Schaff wearing the officer's Tschako. The most noticeable differences between an officer's and an issued Tschako, are that all officer Tschako carry brass or silver chinscales dependant upon the Regiment, are covered in a fine, black wool, have very high quality 94 mm Wappen with voided crowns, and have a bullion embroidered Feldzeichen. Internally, officer Tschako utilized the "squared finger" liners until 1880 when the internal leather sweatband and silk skull-cap came into use.

The Landwehr originally wore a Pickelhaube from 1842 to 1860, but adopted the M1860 pattern Tschako in 1860. Instead of the Preußen eagle Wappen, the Landwehr wore a large stamped metal plate painted in Preußen colors with a Landwehr cross superimposed on the plate. This was worn until 1881 when the Landwehr once again adopted the Pickelhaube. Officers wore the identical Wappen with a bullion the wire Preußen Feldabzeichen and brass chinscales on the Tschako. NCOs were allowed to wear the bullion wire Preußen Feldabzeichen if they were Unteroffizier mit Portepee (NCOs with the Officer's sword knot). Private purchase did not allow men under those ranks to wear wire bullion.

According to Kraus (see references) vol. I p. 468.due to shortages of Pickelhauben in 1914 when war was declared, Landwehr Infantry Regts 8, 24, 39, 47, and 93 were initially issued the old Tschako with Landwehr plate, which were later replaced by Pickelhauben.
Garde Landwehr

The Garde Landwehr wore a similar plate to the Landwehr plate above, but with a Garde star under a smaller Landwehr cross. The Garde Landwehr also adopted the Pickelhaube in 1881.
1914 issue to the Landsturm

In 1914, the old Tschakos of the Jäger, Landwehr, Train, etc were dusted off and issued to the Landsturm in order to meet the needs of mobilization. In 1916 the Tschakos were finally retired when the Landsturm finally adopted the Pickelhaube.
Like Preußen, other contingents also dusted off the old Tschakos and issued them to their Landsturm troops in 1914.

Preußen 1914 Landsturm

Baden 1914 Landsturm

Hessen 1914 Landsturm
(photo courtesy Thomas Helmlick)
A very interesting photo that shows that the German Army was not as concerned with extra holes on helmets as collectors of the 21st century are.

This view of a Landsturm soldier clearly shows the two holes on either side of the Tschako plate on his M1860 Tschako where a Jäger eagle Wappen once resided.
The Tschako as a form of military headdress ended with the introduction of the famous German Stahlhelm in 1916, although it continued to be worn in non-combat areas to the end of the war.
Back to the
Imperial German Pickelhaube Guide
Uniform Details of all
Jäger and Schützen Battalions