Tuesday, July 3, 2012

French Model 1915 Steel Helmet: General Adrian's legacy to the modern soldier.

Me, I love all things French: liberté, fraternité, égalité, nudité!

the French were the ones who recognized the American colonials in our struggle against the British during the American Revolution. When the French recognized the Americans they backed that recognition up with men, money, ships, and guns in an abundance.

Without the assistance of the French in our struggle against the British, we Americans might all be speaking English today.

France has given Western Civilization some of its greatest gifts:

Juliette Binoche

French fries, French bread, French lingerie, and Lafayette.

French culture has made the world a richer, more delightful place.

And French General August Louis Adrian made it a slightly safer place for the soldier when he designed the first modern combat helmet (click the link for the video).

The French armed forces appeared on the field in the opening year of the Great War uniformed much as they had been fifty years earlier. Pomp and prettiness by the yard, but very little functionality either in personal protection or concealment.

French soldiers, Like their British counterparts, entered the war with cloth caps as their only headgear.

The obvious shortcomings of this sort of headgear will quickly become apparent to these French soldiers.
It was General Adrian who developed the first , rudimentary head protection; a close fitting steel bowl that was worn underneath the soldier's cloth kepi.
Adrian went on to develop a more elaborate and effective helmet, patterned after the French firefighter's helmet of the time (can you say "pompiers"?)

Behold, the gem of my collection, my favorite and the third helmet I acquired on this long journey. The French model 1915 Artillery Helmet.
Front view of the helmet, blue in color, with the brass "veteran's plate" affixed to the front visor.

Side view, showing both the distinctive profile of this beautiful helmet and , at the same time, exposing its inherent weaknesses. The helmet consists of four separate parts: front visor, rear visor, bowl, and crest. Each seam and each rivet represents a weak point, a place of potential failure. This helmet is very light, the steel very thin, the liner rudimentary, and the whole thing is made of only mild steel, still...

it was a breakthrough, and immediately fatalities from head wounds decreased.

The only way for protective equipment to be successful is if it is actually used. The French high command was pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm that the French G.I.s accepted this helmet. It provided them with a martial élan, that stoked their professionalism and pride. In short, the French soldiers embraced it.

And the other nations took note.

Front view showing the crossed cannon insignia of the artillery and the brass Veteran's plate (issued after the war).

"Soldier of the Great War 1914-1918"

The helmet and liner are pretty much free of manufacturers marks, there is a roughly inked number, 27?, on one of the goatskin tabs of the liner.

This close-up of the leather, wool, and aluminum liner demonstrate another weakness of this pioneer attempt a cranial protection: less than a quarter of an inch separates the shell of the helmet from the skull of the wearer. Typical displacement of a dent in the helmet is an inch...so where does that leave the skull of the wearer? Improvements will come, but, still, this is much better than a cloth cap, ne conviendriez-vous pas ?

The critical weak point on this helmet, where the bowl and the front and rear visors are joined together by rivets.

Like the Peruvian helmet profiled in an earlier post, the riveted crest provides a rain-proof cover for the ventilation hole atop the shell of the helmet.

A close-up view of the stamped artillery insignia..

This period advertisement makes it quite clear that the Adrian helmet was worn with pride by enlisted men and officers alike

French soldiers, wearing Adrian helmets at the front.

And a silent reminder of the great cost of the Great War.

As much as silly Americans like Donald Rumsfeld like to belittle the combat mettle of the French, the fact remains...

1,357,800 dead, 4,266,000 wounded.

Vive La France!

Before you go, check out the delightful label of this California winery, with the model 1915 as its logo.  How cool is that?

Link to Le Casque here, and raise a glass of this fine California wine in a toast to General August Louis Adrian, the man who started it all. Cheers!

accession number: MOA hmar.vi.60.9.13
Model 1915 French artillery helmet.
Acquired 1978, Lansing Michigan.
Purchase price :$35.00
Condition: very good.

Next post: The Italian model 1915-16 of World War One

1 comment:

isabella said...

I had to sign on as Isabella because of your security but well, here I am anyway.
So you like things French? There's nothing like a good ol' soap commercial on morning TV in Paris where the woman (as you would expect) has no clothes on. I took notes. I could not ever remember the name of the soap.
So my question is, what is the "accession number: MOA hmar.vi.60.9.13"?
You can't tell me the WWI Frenchies used serial nbrs?