Uniform Notes: 5

An iconic image of the Great War is of the soldier wearing what Percy called his “tin lid.” Neither the service cap nor the slouch hat offered much protection from flying shrapnel, and the British Army followed the precedent of the French (their 1915 “Casque Adrian”) and developed its own steel helmet, designed by J.L. Brodie, and  named for him.


“Illustrated War News” – Nov 17 1915. (1)

The first tin lid was rimless, with a liner made of leather and a pad of felt, fastened to the steel shell by a rivet on the top of the helmet.  The rivet looked like a button atop the rounded helmet. By June 1916,  a million of these helmets had been issued to Allied troops in France. (2)

The German “Stahlhelm” [steel helmet]in its distinctive shape was issued. Quite why it is called a coal-scuttle shape is not obvious to anyone who has used a coal scuttle to scoop coal from a coal bin to carry upstairs to a fireplace. Perhaps it is the difference in the edges of the helmet —  the deeper lip on the back to protect the neck is perhaps reminiscent of the edge of a coal scuttle that is dug into a heap of coal. And the two ventilation lugs on the side of the helmet do perhaps resemble where a handle might be inserted to carry the coal scuttle.

An improved British helmet quickly replaced the original: the new one had a rim, a drawstring to adjust the liner to the wearer’s head, and a non-reflective paint.  In 1917, a rubber cushion in the liner made the helmet almost comfortable. (2)


(1) Public Domain image
(2) Information from The Western Front Association.

Copyright 2016. See “About this project.”

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