The Fliegerbordmütze is similar in style and construction to the standard Luftwaffe tropical overseas cap, which was in turn based on the continental overseas cap, but in a white cotton material like the Kriegsmarine.
By 1945 the Luftwaffe had nearly a thousand Nautical vessesls in service ranging from crash boats, weather ships, Flak Barges to Motor Vessels. It's well documented that many Kriegsmarine garments were issued to Luftwaffe crews on Flak barges (like the flak sleeve qualification badge in gold on navy blue) as it was more economic for the Luftwaffe to purchase and reissue the correct garments through Kriegsmarine stores rather than develop its own models for such a small number of personnel.
Made of a heavier weight, ribbed, white cotton twill construction, featuring fold down side and back panels with gently sloping, downward scallops to the front and forward sides. The front center of the cap has a machine embroidered, second pattern, tropical Luftwaffe eagle in light blue on a ribbed, white cotton twill base. The cotton twill base has been folded into an inverted triangle and is hand stitched in place. The front-center of the cap has a machine embroidered, national tri-color cockade on a rectangular white cotton base. Both the eagle and the cockade are neatly hand stitched to the cap.
The interior of the cap is fully lined in an off white color cotton HBT. The lining is marked B. A. W. (Bekleindungs Amt Wilhelmshaven) which indicates this is an actual KM summer O/S cap, the "V" may indicate "Verkauft" to denote the cap was purchased by the Luftwaffe, or Officially re issued through them, and dated III. 42 The cap shows light shelf wear, age toning, soiling and is approximately a size 58. In very good condition, overall the cap tests negative under a UV light and is in very good condition for it's age. Condition II+
As this is an incredibly rare cap, a brief history of this organization is needed to explain it's design and function. The Seenotdienst (sea rescue service) was a German military organization formed within the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) to save downed airmen from emergency water landings and operated from 1935 to 1945 and was the first organized air-sea rescue service.
The Seenotdienst was at first operated as a civilian service run by the military, and later was brought formally into the Luftwaffe. Throughout their existence, the group solved a number of organizational, operational and technical challenges to create an effective rescue force. When British and American air leaders observed the German success, they modeled their own rescue forces after the Seenotdienst. As the Allies of World War II advanced, denying sea areas to German forces, local groups of the Seenotdienst were disbanded. The last active group served in the Baltic Sea in May 1945.
In 1935, Lieutenant Colonel Konrad Goltz of the Luftwaffe, a supply officer based at the port of Kiel, was given the task of organizing the Seenotdienst, an air-sea rescue organization that would focus on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Goltz gained coordination with aircraft units of the Kriegsmarine as well as with civilian lifeboat societies and the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS, or "Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger"). He held administrative command over the Ships and Boats Group which was organized at Kiel within the Luftwaffe. Goltz was to operate the Seenotdienst as a civilian organization manned by both military and civilian personnel, with civil registrations applied to the aircraft.
Early in 1939, with the growing probability of war against Great Britain, the Luftwaffe carried out large-scale rescue exercises over water. Land-based German bombers used for search duties proved inadequate in range, so bomber air bases were constructed along the coast to facilitate an air net over the Baltic and North seas. Following this, the Luftwaffe determined to procure a purpose-built air-sea rescue seaplane, choosing the Heinkel He 59, a twin-engine biplane with floats. A total of 14 He 59s of the oldest models were sent to be fitted with first aid equipment, electrically heated sleeping bags, artificial respiration equipment, a floor hatch with a telescoping ladder to reach the water, a hoist, signaling devices, and lockers to hold all the gear. The Heinkel He 59s were painted white with red crosses to indicate emergency services. A varied collection of small surface craft were placed under the command of the air-sea rescue division.
By 1940 as the German advance moved to occupy Denmark and Norway, the Seenotdienst added bases along the coasts of those countries. A squadron of obsolescent Dornier Do 18s that had been used for sea reconnaissance was assigned to air-sea rescue. Some of the Heinkels that had been flying out of the island of Sylt were transferred to Aalborg in northern Denmark. The two bases in Norway were located at Stavanger and Bergen. In many cases local rescue societies cooperated with the Seenotdienst. When the Netherlands and France fell to the German advance in May and June 1940, more rescue bases were put into operation. The Hague and Schellingwoude became rescue bases in the Netherlands, and Boulogne and Cherbourg in France hosted rescue units that were soon to be active during the Battle of Britain. The Seenotdienst was taken formally into the Luftwaffe in July 1940, becoming Luftwaffeninspektion 16 (German Air Force Inspectorate 16) under the direction of Generalleutnant Hans-Georg von Seidel, the Quartermaster General of the Luftwaffe, and thus indirectly under General der Flieger Hans Jeschonnek, the Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff.
Dutch rescue craft belonging to the Noord- en zuid-Hollandsche Redding Maatschappij (NZHRM, translated North and South Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution) and the Zuid-Hollandsche Maatschappij tot Redding van Schipbreukelingen (ZHMRS) were incorporated into the Seenotdienst during the occupation of the Netherlands. The fast motor life boats were painted white with red crosses, though twice the boats were strafed by Allied aircraft. Civilian boatmen enjoyed good relations with German authorities. Between 1940 and 1945, the Dutch boats saved some 1,100 seamen and airmen.
In July 1940, a white-painted He 59 operating near Deal, Kent was shot down and the crew taken captive because it was sharing the air with 12 Bf 109 fighters and because the British were wary of Luftwaffe aircraft dropping spies and saboteurs. The German pilot's log showed that he had noted the position and direction of British convoys—British officials determined that this constituted military reconnaissance, not rescue work. The British Air Ministry issued Bulletin 1254 indicating that all enemy air-sea rescue aircraft were to be destroyed if encountered. Hypocritically, Winston Churchill later wrote "We did not recognize this means of rescuing enemy pilots who had been shot down in action, in order that they might come and bomb our civil population again." Germany protested this order on the grounds that rescue aircraft were part of the Geneva Convention agreement stipulating that belligerents must respect each other's "mobile sanitary formations" such as field ambulances and hospital ships. Churchill argued that rescue aircraft were not anticipated by the treaty, and were not covered. British attacks on He 59s increased. The Seenotdienst ordered the rescue aircraft armed as well as painted in the camouflage scheme of their area of operation. The use of civil registration and red cross markings was abandoned. A Seenotdienst gunner shot down an attacking No. 43 Squadron RAF Hurricane fighter on July 20 Rescue flights were to be protected by fighter aircraft when possible.
In August, a few captured French and Dutch seaplanes were modified for rescue and attached to the organization. Some three-engined Dornier Do 24 flying boats that were built in the Netherlands, and eight French Breguet Br.521 Bizerte models were refitted with standard Seenotdienst rescue supplies. Further bases set up at Le Havre, Brest, St. Nazaire and Royan. More aircraft were brought under Seenotdienst command on an ad hoc basis, depending on the urgency. On May 22, 1941 in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Crete, a squadron of Do 24s was called upon to rescue survivors of the sinking of the Gloucester—some 65 British sailors were picked up. In the battle for Malta, some 1,000 rescue missions were flown by Do 24s, with many shot down. In saving Italian sailors from the battleship Roma, four out of five Do 24T aircraft were shot down. The fifth flying boat rescued 19 men.
As the Allies advanced following the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Luftwaffe pulled bases back to keep them from being overrun. Units of the Seenotdienst whose areas of operation were threatened by Allied activity were disbanded or reorganized into other groups with safer locations. For instance, in July 1944, surrounded by the U.S. VIII Corps gathering to attack Brest, Seenotstaffel 1 that had been operating there since June 1940, with a southern detachment at Hourtin, was sent to Pillau in the Baltic Sea, then redesignated Seenotstaffel 60 in August. In November 1944, German leadership decided that the flying boat manufacturing resources could be put to better use elsewhere, and ordered the Dornier factory to cease making Do 24s.
The most persons that a single Seenotdienst aircraft rescued in one sortie was 99 children and 14 adults carried by a Do 24, saved from orphanages threatened by the Soviet advance into Koszalin during the Battle of Kolberg at the beginning of March 1945. The load was so great that the aircraft was unable to take off—instead, it wave-hopped and taxied back to base. During the same battle, six boats working with the Seenotdienst made repeated trips March 17–18 to a pier in Kolberg and evacuated 2,356 people. Thus ended the amazing history of the Luftwaffe Seenotdienst. Interestingly, the Seenotdienst became the model for all postwar Air Sea Rescue organizations, and the Dornier 24 remained in service well into the early 1970's.
Aircraft used by this organization were:
Below are several videos that might be of interest to hisorians and collectors relating to the Henkel 59 and Donier 24 Seaplanes.
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