Diving apparatus and equipment manufactured in Germany is a relatively unexplored topic. Over the past years, Draegerwerk produced a wide selection of well illustrated publications, while other manufacturers published information on a much smaller scale or very little at all. Often, little of the original documentation has survived to the present day. I hope to soon create a website that will be dedicated to ‘Diving Apparatus’ manufactured in Germany and I have also been asked by the German branch of the ‘Historical Diving Society’ to assist them with various matters concerning the old style copper diving helmet apparatus. I have registered the name of the new website as www.der-taucherhelm.de but this site is not yet active. In 2010 I started to write a book about the history of diving helmets manufactured in Germany. I am supported in this project by Frau Marianne Draeger, the daughter of the former director of Draegerwerk, ‘Heinrich Draeger Jr.’ I am currently searching for any information on German diving apparatus including photographs from collections, old photos showing the equipment being used and any other old documentation and equipment. If you can contribute in any way then please do not hesitate and contact me at the email address of this website. Thank you, David L. Dekker.

Draeger ‘Bubikopf’ helmets have been used in Holland for many years, but I have yet to seen any images of one with the rebreather back-pack attached to it (see chapter: ‘1899 Draegerwerk’). Around 1942, Draeger started the serial-production of a new design of helmet which was initially called ‘der Einfacher Draegerhelm’ (the ‘Simple Draeger Helmet’). This design soon became the new standard with a characteristic ‘rounded’ back shape to the helmet and this helmet type remained in production until the end of the 1970s. It has been difficult to find any precise information as to when the first ‘Einfacher’ helmets were manufactured, but the earliest illustration dates from 1938. The illustration shows a diver at the 1937 ‘World Exhibition’ in Paris. The photograph is a little puzzling as it shows the diver dressed in an early style of helmet with a round spit-cock (in the style of the ‘Modell 1912’ and ‘Bubikopf’ helmets), but the underwater photograph depicts a diver wearing a helmet with the ‘round back’. One possibility is that the helmet used was a ‘Modell 1912’ helmet of the most recent design, but it would seem illogical to bring an old style helmet to the World Exhibition in Paris. Another possibility is that the helmet is indeed a helmet ‘Modell 1912’ but the underwater photograph comes from an archive and was just used for this article.

A third possibility: this may be the first illustration of an ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’ taken at a time that the helmet was not yet in serial-production (see scans below).

Both scans are from ‘Draegerhefte’ collection David L.Dekker

The reason I estimate 1942 for the date when the ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’ became the new ‘standard’ helmet is because it is first shown and described in the 2nd edition of Herman Stelzner’s book ‘Tauchertechnik’. This book was written in 1942 and published in 1943. Also, in the price-list ‘Dräger Tauchergeräte schlauchlos, freitragbar’ 9th edition of January 1942, there are only two models of helmet available: one for use with a rebreather only and the other, a combined model which could either be used with a rebreather or with an air-pump and air-hose. Both the illustrations and their descriptions clearly state that the helmets are ‘Bubikopf’ (with the angled back). There is no reference to an ‘Einfacher’ helmet. In addition, it seems logical that WW2 created an increased demand for diving apparatus of all types and the ‘Einfacher’ helmet was easier to manufacture.

If any reader has proof of dates with regards to the introduction / development of the ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’ then please contact me. Thank you.

Above photograph shows what seems to be a demonstration of the brand new Draeger apparatus of the ‘Einfacher’ model. This image was taken in Antwerp during the German occupation of Belgium. Photograph, David L.Dekker collection.

Above: a late war / early post war Draeger helmet with an iron breastplate which I found in Scotland. Photographs: David L.Dekker

The first illustration of the new standard ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’, from the 1943 edition of Herman Stelzner’s ‘Tauchertechnik’. The numbers indicate they were made in June 1942.

Towards the end of WW2 Germany suffered from severe shortages of materials, one of them being ‘copper’. The ammunition industries had consumed large quantities of non-ferrous metals and as a result iron was used as a substitute. Gun shells were made of iron and then varnished to keep them from rusting, while the Draeger helmets were completed with breastplates made from tin which was nickel-plated and painted grey to prevent rusting. The glue used for the multi-layered safety glass was also of poor ‘war quality’ and eventually started rotting. Draeger helmets with iron breastplates are now rare.

Above: Page 19 of the English edition of the 1946 Draegerwerk sales catalogue. It clearly shows the ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’ helmet with an ‘iron’ breastplate. It also shows the new style of front-weight with bail-out tanks. This weight has the valve on the top side which was a feature introduced around 1942. The old style front-weight had the valve on the lower side. Whoever produced the catalogue made a mistake with the photographs because the diver on the lower left is not equipped with a DM40 rebreather back-pack. The front-weight being worn is the small version which belongs either to a DM20 rebreather back-pack or to surface-demand apparatus. The diver in the right-hand photograph does have the correct (large) front-weight with bail-out tanks attached to his helmet. This is the front-weight belonging to the DM40 rebreather back-pack.

The Draeger apparatus with DM40 rebreather (above photographs) was assembled on a mannequin for a ‘Deep Sea’ exhibition at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem during the summer of 2008. The DM40 rebreather is designed for deeper diving than other Draeger apparatus. It has a single air tank and one oxygen tank attached to the rebreather. For deeper diving, the apparatus has the front weight equipped with larger bail-out tanks compared to DM20 and other surface supplied equipment. Photographs, David L.Dekker

The ‘DM200’ helmet was initially designed for deep diving, the name DM stands for ‘Draeger Modell’ and the 200 for the maximum diving depth of 200 meters ( just like the DM40 was to be used to a max. depth of 40 meters and the DM20 to 20 meters. The first built helmet helmet of this model still had the neck seal inside as well as the 12 bolts system, but the production version had no neck seal any more. The helmet has 12 bolts and its neck-ring has a quarter turn ‘interrupted’ thread connection. The DM200 was mainly sold to government institutes such as the German fire brigades and military. However some civil and commercial enterprises also bought the equipment, among them the Dutch ‘Smit Tak’ of Rotterdam. The concept has certain advantages over other the modern helmets because the weight of the helmet is supported on the diver’s shoulders and not on the head. However, there is also a disadvantage: the old 3-bolt copper helmets were large enough for the diver to turn his head around inside, but the DM200 is too narrow for that. Instead if the diver wishes to look around, his whole body needs to move. Other modern helmets which do not have a breastplate do allow the diver to ‘look around’ but the weight of the helmet has to be carried on the diver’s neck instead of the shoulders.

The DM200 helmet ( photographs above ) had already been manufactured in certain numbers before complaints started to reach Draegerwerk. The most important complaint was that the exhaust-valve was too close to the knob which secured the front-window. When the diver wanted to adjust the exhaust-valve he had to turn it. When working with gloves on, the diver could inadvertently undo the front-window ‘locking device’ and the window would easily open at the next touch. When this happened the diver would lose all his air and fill his entire suit with water within seconds (not a good idea!). Yet another complaint was that the typical Draeger ‘eye’ on top of the helmet was missing. The helmet was re-designed and a ‘modified’ DM220 helmet was introduced (see photographs below). The exhaust-valve was placed much further to the back of the helmet and an ‘eye’ was installed on top, making the helmet silhouette resemble the old ‘Bubikopf’ helmet.

Above: photographs show a ‘DM220’ helmet with the re-designed locking device for the front-window, the exhaust-valve at the back of the helmet and the old style ‘eye’ on top of the helmet. This helmet is in brand new condition and was bought in Russia several years ago. This helmet is no longer meant for use at 200 meters ( as was the DM200 ) So the ports for the bail-out rebreather are no longer installed in this helmet, it has 1 air connection and 1 coms connection instead. The Model name DM220 now no longer stands for its max. dive depth, when I visited Draegerwerk in 2013 I met the designer of this helmet who kindly explained to me that the ‘220’ was just taken as a logic follow up after the ‘200’ of its forerunner the DM200.

Below: the complete ‘DM220’ system could be put together in two different ways. It could either be used for diving to a maximum depth of 15 meters (with a steel front-weight and back-weight at the breastplate), or for diving to a maximum depth of 50 meters (with a bail-out back-pack set and a regulator). Draeger designed both the DM200 and the DM220 equipment to be used with either heavy shoes or fins. The equipment is no longer manufactured but is currently in use with military forces in Europe.

Diving manual: Draegerwerk. Scan: collection David L.Dekker

Last but not least: the Draeger deep diving helmet of the ‘CCBS’ (Closed Circuit Breathing System) Deep Sea Diving System. Draeger took a Kirby Morgan Superlite 17 helmet to build a reclaim system on. At the time there were already Krasberg helmets and Divex made the Helinauts. But the system Draeger used was based on the ‘push-pull’ design of their ‘Pullmotor’ which dated from the early 1900’s. These CCBS helmets were made with and without a port for a bail-out rebreather.

Document: Draegerwerk. Scan: David L.Dekker collection.

1942. Introduction of the ‘Einfacher Draegerhelm’

1944 - 1946 and the shortage of ‘copper-supplies’

1955. Establishment of a new german army ‘Der Bundeswehr’

Above: For a period following the war, Draeger continued to manufacture helmets with breastplates made of tin. However, following the establishment of the new German Army in 1955,  Draeger apparatus were supplied to the military with metal parts covered by a white coating called ‘Isolieranstrich’. In the early sixties a new version of the DM40 back pack was introduced, this new version did not take filter cartridges anymore but had a rechargeable scrubber canister instead. The german army bought several lots of these new apparatus, which were all supplied during the nineteen sixties. Photographs, David L.Dekker

Civil Draeger Diving Apparatus with DM40 rebreather and ‘Einfacher’ helmet

1976. The last Draeger ‘copper’ diving helmet(s)

Above two photographs: one of the youngest Draeger 3-bolt copper helmet I have discovered. It was bought in the Ukraine during the 1990s. The serial-number is 5101 and inside the wooden apparatus box is a badge which states that this helmet was made in 1976. That year Draegerwerk had already started the production of its successor: the modern fiberglass helmet ‘Modell DM200’. Photographs, David L.Dekker

PS: recently a Draeger helmet has been discovered with serial number 5104(!) Do you have or know a Draeger helmet with a serial number higher then 5104 then please contact us. Thank you

1973. The Draeger ‘DM200’ diving helmet

1977. The Draeger ‘DM220’ diving helmet

1984. The Draeger ‘CCBS’ Deep Sea Diving System

German Diving Apparatus: a ‘website and a book’

1942 Draegerwerk Lübeck ( part 3 )

The ‘DM200’ helmet was developed in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. In march 1971 the very first version of this helmet is shown in a Draeger magazine called ‘TAUCHTECHNIK INFO’. The helmet is called a ‘Flachwasser Helmtauchgerät’ which translates as ‘Shallow water helmet diving apparatus’ It has only a faceplate and no top window ( yet ) ...

1971. The Draeger ‘DM200’ diving helmet prototype.

In 2012 I obtained the helmet for my collection but then it had a top window in it so during the tests it was decided to add one. The helmet has no brailes to connect it to a dry suit, it has a neck seal instead to be able to use it with any kind of suit. The system was surface supplied but the diver carried a bail-out set at his back.

The helmet at the photographs here above is an early version without an attachment for a bail-out rebreather backpack. I was lucky to be able to buy this helmet from a former scientist of the ‘GUSI’ Centre in Geesthacht, Germany. The helmet was used for the development of a voice filter for divers using helium mixtures. Helium is a lighter gas which makes the voice sound a lot higher in pitch (not unlike ‘Donald Duck’) and the filters developed were to make the voice sound more normal over the intercom.                                           Photographs David L.Dekker


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