Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Italian M-1915/16 Steel Helmet of World War One

                                                          (with regimental crest)

                                                   (without regimental crest)

An outright copy of the French "Adrian" helmet, this attractive Italian manufactured gem, known as the "Lippmann helmet", simplified the construction process and eliminated many of the weaknesses of it's French progenitor. The Italian soldier of 1915 - 1916 had the next step in state-of-the-art helmet design.

This soldier wants YOU to appreciate his revolutionary helmet.

The Italian soldier, like his French and British counterparts, entered the war with the cloth caps of an earlier era... not so hot in protecting the head from high-velocity artillery shell fragments.

This elegant improvement of the French Adrian design included a two-piece construction rather than the four-pieces of its French counterpart. Fewer pieces meant fewer points of failure when impacted by debris, fragments, or shrapnel.

Another improvement to the integrity of this helmet was the elimination of rivets. The French Adrian helmet was riveted together, each rivet providing a weak point. Note that the ventilator crest of this little Italian job is spot-welded, all rivets are eliminated on this helmet, giving it improved structural integrity over its French forebear.

Oddly, rivets will reappear in the next generation of WW1 Italian helmets (the subject of my next posting).

Here, sadly, and graphically, we are reminded that no helmet of World War One was bulletproof. This specimen was pierced, at the temple, by a high-velocity bullet; mute testimony to the vulnerability of the front-line soldier to the marksmanship of his enemy.

The interior view reveals an opening in the crown connecting the ventilation holes of the crest to the head of the wearer.

I acquired this helmet without a liner.  Or the Grenadiers crest. Normally I would pass on a helmet with no liner or chinstrap, however, the condition of the shell and the telling bullet hole made this a particularly compelling piece for my collection.  With the recent addition of the 3rd Grenadiers insignia, its become a centerpiece!

This elegant little gem in its very modest way has become a real stand-out in my collection.

And a word on my accession number system. I've had readers question how I catalogue the helmets in my collection. I use two primary sources for my nomenclature: Chris Armolds "Steel Pots" volumes and the aforementioned volumes by Paolo Marzetti (Combat Helmets of the World).

Specifically this example guides off the Marzetti book: MOA (Museum of America) h (helmet) mar (Marzetti) 151 (page 151)
43.28 (figure 43.28). Simple huh?

accession number: MOA hmar.151.43.28
Model 1915/16 Italian helmet.
Acquired 1978, Lansing Michigan.
Purchase price :$5.00
Condition: shell only, original paint 80%

Next post: The Italian model 1915 riveted crest helmet of World War One

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

M-91 German artillery helmet of 1915

Is that a trailer hitch, or are you just glad to see me?

Ladies and gentlemen, the M-91 German artillery helmet of 1915.

As you may have guessed, the ball surmounting the helmet represents a cannonball. This was the distinctive headgear worn by artillerymen from the Franco-Prussian war to the first year of World War One.Paper Prussians rush a gun to the front to do battle with paper French Algerian zouaves. Note the orbs atob their little paper helmets.

The front of the M-91 enlisted man's helmet.

Right side, showing the black and white Prussian korkarde. (a reproduction just like on the pickelhaube of my previous post)

And the left side,with the original Reichs korkarde,

This rear view exhibits a slightly crazed but still shiny surface. The ventilated spine is quite identical to the pickelhaube.

This helmet is in really nice condition.

Close-up of the sliding buckles of the chinstrap...

as well as the date and unit markings under the rear visor.

Although the Prussian korkade is a metal reproduction the Reich korkade is original.

Acquired in 1979 at a military collectibles show in Lansing Michigan, I paid about $45.00 for this nice specimen. Today It's worth a great deal more. I'm fortunate that I began collecting helmets so early when there were still plenty of these things around at relatively reasonable prices.

The "helmet shows" were always a blast, and although, ebay has all but rendered them obsolete, there is nothing like browsing an exhibition hall or armoury filled with dealers and the weirdos and weenies who seek them out. It's a strange kind of fun.

Come visit next time for the grandpappy of modern combat Helmets; The French "Adrian" of the Great War.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Germany m.91 pickelhaube of 1915 (part one)

Leave it to those rootin' tootin' teutons to provide the world with what is, arguably, the most distinctive helmet design of the late 19th and early 20th century; the pickelhaube, or, "spiked helmet"

I picked up this one in 1978 in Lansing Michigan. At that time I was attending Michigan State University. Back then there were a couple of junk stores-cum-antique shops on Michigan avenue about eight or ten blocks from the magnificent capitol building. This district was home to all of the restaurants, watering holes, and gay bars that catered to a diverse clientele of legislators, winos, leather guys, and helmet weenies, I being of the latter persuasion.

I was living off my GI bill money so I didn't have a lot of cash to spread around, but when I spotted this helmet in an old warehouse of a junk store, I knew that I had to take it home with me. It was surprisingly complete and in pretty good considering it had been sitting around for who-knows- how- long in a junk store.

Today I probably couldn't afford a comparable helmet at current prices.

The spiked helmet of WWI is a classic, even a cliché. It is the caricature of prussian militarism.

And of course, who can forget...

I think its fair to trace the roots of this style back to the Indo Persian helmet.

The tight fitting dome and very fierce spike are referenced by the, less combat functional, Pickelhaube of 1915.

This very cool example is circa 1700. Check the garage, you never know what might be under that stack of old fruit crates.

Front view with eagle front plate ("wappen") and sliding buckle chin strap.

Left view showing the red, white, and black Reichs kokarde (relax, lets just say "cockade").

Left side showing the other ranks (enlisted men's) black and white state kokarde, in this case the state is Prussia. Note that the Kokarden on this helmet are reproductions, the rest of the helmet is, as near as I can determine, completely original.

The back of the helmet showing the rear visor and the reenforcing spine. But wait, there's more!

The spine is hollow, and note the little metal sliding door that provides an adjustable opening. What's up?

The interior view shows the intact liner and upon closer inspection one of the greatest mysteries of this helmet is slowly revealed...

"Why the spike?"

When I take this helmet around to school groups, I'll always ask the kids what the spike is for. Invariably, they give the same answer. A fourth grader will bend over and lunge forward in a pantomime of the pointy part's perceived purpose, that is, to charge the enemy soldier and stab him (or at least freak him out) with the deadly spike. After congratulating the kid on a fine and reasonable guess I then reveal the very mundane point of , er, the point.

Peer into the bowl of the helmet...hey! I see daylight!
Note the holes emitting light (and air) around what is the base of the spike. Also, notice the small hole to the left of that base, it connects with the spine.

Back to the outside of the helmet and it all starts to become obvious. The holes are to provide some airflow, ventilation for this helmet. You can imagine just how uncomfortable this tight fitting, black, helmet could be in hot weather.

The screw-off spike now reveals the communicating holes into the bowl of the helmet. The spike itself is merely a decorative and rain proof cupola.

Moving some air through this headgear may be all that can keep the young WWI German soldier from passing out while standing in formation, under the sun, waiting for Edith Cavell to appear before the firing squad.

Sorry, just an unpleasant reminder to keep it all real.

There you have it, an up close and personal exploration of the M-91 pickelhaube of 1915.
For an absolutely exhaustive, and pretty fantastic study of the pickelhaube, go to: (in my links at right), you'll be glad you did.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.