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Equipment Helmets

Discussion in 'France' started by Dan Morton, Dec 26, 2015.

  1. Dan Morton A Fixture

    Wikipedia - Adrian Helmet
    The M15 Adrian helmet (French: Casque Adrian) was a combat helmet issued to the French Army during World War I. It was the first standard helmet of the French Army and was designed when millions of French troops were engaged in trench warfare, and head wounds from the falling shrapnel generated by the new technique of indirect fire became a frequent cause of battlefield casualties. Introduced in 1915, it was the first modern steel helmet[1][2] and it served as the basic helmet of many armies well into the 1930s. Initially issued to infantry soldiers, in modified form they were also issued to cavalry and tank crews. A subsequent version, the M26, was used during World War II.
    At the outbreak of World War I soldiers in the French Army wore the standard kepi cap, which provided no protection against injury. The early stages of trench warfare proved that even basic protection of the head would result in a significantly lower mortality rate among front-line soldiers. By the beginning of 1915 a rudimentary steel skull-cap (calotte métallique, cervelière) was being issued to be worn under the kepi.[3]
    Consequently, the French staff ordered development of a metal helmet that could protect soldiers from the shrapnel of exploding artillery shells. Since soldiers in trenches were also vulnerable to shrapnel exploding above their heads, a deflector crest was added along the helmet's axis. Branch insignia in the form of a grenade for line infantry and cavalry, a bugle horn for chasseurs, crossed cannon for artillery, an anchor for colonial troops and a crescent for North African units was attached to the front.[4] Contrary to common misconception, the M15 helmet was not designed to protect the wearer from direct impact by rifle or machine gun bullets. The resulting headgear was credited to Intendant-General August-Louis Adrian.[5]
    The helmet adopted by the army was made of mild steel[6] and weighed only 0.765 kilograms (1 lb 11.0 oz)), which made it lighter than the contemporary British Brodie helmet and the German Stahlhelm, although it also delivered less protection against shrapnel and bullets.[citation needed] By the end of World War I, it had been issued to almost all infantry units fighting with the French Army. It was also used by some of the American divisions fighting in France[7][8] and the Polish forces of Haller's Blue Army.[9] The French Gendarmerie mobile adopted a dark blue version in 1926,[10] which continued to be worn into the 1960s, well after the regular army had discarded this form of protective headdress.
    The helmet proved to be fairly effective against shrapnel and it was cheap and easy to manufacture. As a consequence, more than three million Adrian helmets were produced, and they were widely adopted by other countries.[8]
    However, because the new steel helmets offered little protection against actual bullets, they were reportedly often among the first pieces of equipment to be abandoned by soldiers on the battlefield.[9] It was also discovered that the badge placed on the front of helmets impaired the strength of the helmet because of the two slots required. This perceived weakness made several armies remove their national insignia altogether. Early helmets were painted "horizon-blue" (light blue-grey) for French troops and khaki for colonial forces. Adrian helmets are prized by collectors today.
    In December 1915, Winston Churchill, while serving as a major with the Grenadier Guards, was presented with an Adrian helmet by the French General Emile Fayolle. He is seen wearing it in photographs and in a portrait painted by Sir John Lavery.[11]

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