Monday, July 16, 2012

The model 1915 French Colonial Infantry helmet

What can I say about Adrian helmets that I haven't already said here and here?

Plenty,  I love these helmets.  The so-called Adrian is my favorite helmet design.  This earliest entry into the helmet race, though of no ballistic value, did protect the wearer from falling debris and splinters, and perhaps just as importantly, instilled a large degree of elan among fighting troops who enthusiastically embraced this distinctive piece of headgear .

The naivete of the warring nations in 1915 is reflected in the design of this artistic little gem.  
Little could they imagine the horrors they had unleashed upon Europe.

 Unlike any helmet coming after it, the 1915 French steel helmet still retained a design which reflected the aesthetics of the era.


Of four-piece construction, the model 1915 could not withstand a heavy blow let alone a projectile strike or an encounter with a taxicab tire.

Still, this light-weight helmet was better than the cloth kepis it had replaced

The horizon bleu finish, though quite complete on the exterior of this helmet is nonetheless oxidized and considerably darker than the day it came from the factory.

The distinctive Adrian profile has an American connection.

African-American soldiers, in the Jim Crow-era were issued what the US Army deemed "second-rate" equipment, and were thus equipped with French rifles and model 1915 helmets.

The men of the 93rd Infantry Division turned an intentional slight into a prized symbol of distinction and esprit de corps, even incorporating the model 1915 into their shoulder insignia

 But I digress. 

Back to the French.

The insignia on my new acquisition is a real piece of confection; the flaming bomb and anchor  of the French Colonial Infantry.

 visor and skirt are riveted at the centerline of the bowl; one of the structural fail points of this helmet.

Quite pronounced is the boss of the front split rivet which secures the comb to the bowl.

Sadly, the interior can only be described as being in "relic" condition with much paint loss, significant pitting, no liner, no chinstrap, missing bale and incomplete liner mounts.  

The good news is that the exterior is very presentable with few dents, 90 to 95% percent of the paint intact, a mellow patina, and a wonderful insignia, all illuminated here by the evening sun of the Cumberland Valley of Maryland:

 "Life", as my friend Steve says, "is full of trade-offs".  Ain't it the truth?

The ventilator hole as well as the split rivets affixing the comb are illustrated here.

as well as the corresponding vent slits on the exterior.

This overall view of the interior demonstrates the weaknesses of this helmet as a collectible


When I first started collecting, that wise old sage - Floyd Tubbs - advised me "always get the best helmet you can at the price you can afford".  And that is superb advice, which I always pass on to beginning collectors; but here I make an exception to that rule.  This helmet, in its current condition, is somewhat noncollectable among the high-end collectors.  For my garden-variety purposes however, well...  I simply can't pass up a pretty helmet.

And gosh, a pretty helmet paired with a pretty face?

ooh la!
Vive la France

More Adrians to come.


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