Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gendarmerie Nationale Casque modèle 51 Gie, French National Riot Police Helmet , 1955, 1973

The latest addition to my growing helmet collection is an early model French National  "Gendarmerie Mobile" Riot Police helmet.  This model is officially known as  the "Gendarmerie Nationale Casque modèle 56 Gie".

Here is an amazing page (in French), that details every version of this helmet: Casque-francais-Mle-51-et-Mle-56-Gendarmerie

Before we go into the details of the helmet, here is a little background history and a link to details about the  National Gendarmerie .

The Gendarmerie Nationale is the French National Police Force that is actually part of the French Military.  They are tasked with Policing the french countryside (about half of the french polulation), riot and crowd control, airport and military security, and military police.  Gendarmerie Mobile is the section of the Gendarmerie Nationale that is responsible for riot control and special operations.  Gendarmerie Mobile  The helmet that I have is from this section of the police force.

The helmet that I have is officially known as  Gendarmerie Nationale Casque modèle 51 Gie.  This helmet is based on the French Model 51 OTAN military helmet, officially known as Casque-Francais-Mle-51-TTA.
The particular model that I have is the last improvement that was made on the original 1950's version.  In 1970, an order was put out to retrofit the old Mle-51 helmets with a new 3 point, leather strap system.  Helmets were recalled to the French Armory where the old strap mounts were carefully ground off, the paint stripped, new mounts welded on, new leather straps installed and the helmets repainted and re-stamped.  This retrofit was done in two batches:  1973 and 1975.  My helmet is from the 1973 retrofit.

The steel shell is made of Manganese Steel (non-magnetic) and is stamped with the Armory name and date of 1973.  It is painted in a very dark blue, officially designated as Bleu-Gendarmerie Valentine 1701.

The removable liner is stamped with the date of 1955.  The liner also has been marked in ink pen with the name of "BELTRAN" and the initials of "EB".  

The inside of the steel helmet portion has two stickers with the name of:  "VEST P2".  One of the stickers is an old Air France baggage sticker!

On the front of the helmet is a brass "flaming bomb" with the initials "RF" for République Française, or Republic of France.  The bomb is attached with two tabs that fit through two slots in the steel shell.

It is quite remarkable how similar this helmet is to the original US M-1 steel helmet.  The liner is nearly identical with the exception of the shape.  Even the headband, chinstrap and fasteners are the same!  The completely assembled helmet fits like a cross between an English Bobby helmet and a US M-1 steel helmet.  It rides very high on the head.

Here is an album of photos of my helmet:

Here are a couple of videos that depict the 1968 Paris Riots. As you watch the videos, you will notice a number of the officers wearing this version of the riot helmet.  The first one is a video slide show with a great mix of police shots and classic 1968 protester posters, graffiti and slogans...... enjoy!

Here are a few historical photos of French officers wearing this helmet during the 1968 Paris Riots.

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