A close shave

22 Apr

Not much background to provide on this one, I’m afraid — just a British infantryman, c. 1917, saucily displaying the helmet that saved his life:

Helmets of this sort, it should be noted, were not readily available to the infantry at the war’s outset.

Production began in the summer of 1915 once the various powers’ war economies had been able to acclimate to the need for widescale production of such items in the millions. By the end of 1915 they were being regularly provided to front-line troops; by the middle of 1916 they were commonplace everywhere.

The British had the familiar bowl-shaped tin hat of the Tommy, the Brodie design as seen above (this was also used by the Americans, eventually); the Germans went from a steel Pickelhaube to the flat-topped bucket that is now so familiar to us from the second war; the French settled on the iconic Adrian helmet, with its ridge and crest along the top — very much like what we’d now view as a fireman’s helmet, but without the extended guard over the nape of the neck.

It’s worth noting that attempts were also made to produce workable body armour for infantry use during the war, but it never quite caught on in the same way everywhere. The Germans produced millions of units, often with mobile troops in mind; the French and the British tended to reserve it for those doing certain necessarily static jobs, given the weight.

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