Wednesday, July 20, 2016

British Brodie Helmet MkI, WW1, manufactured between 1916-1918, Mark 1, Mk1

Today we'll be jumping back in time a bit and taking a look at one of the first modern, British helmets and the predecessor of the first US steel helmet.  This beautiful, old helmet is a WW1, British 
Mk 1 Brodie helmet.

This helmet came into my collection via my uncle, who picked this up in his travels here in the US.  It was first thought to be a US Model 1917 helmet from WW1, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be British.  The two WW1 Brodie Helmets, British and American, are nearly identical.   Only a few very minor details set them apart from each other.

These original British Brodie helmets were designated the Mk 1 Steel Helmet, and nicknamed after the inventor who designed and patented them in 1915, "John Leopold Brodie".  Production of the Mk 1 Brodie helmets began in 1915 and continued through the end of the war.

British soldiers in the trenches.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, the US soldiers were not issued helmets.  They shipped out from the US, and landed in France, with the standard felt, US Campaign Hat as their field head covering .  In June of 1917, the US placed an order for 400,00 British made helmets and issued them to the US troops in France.  At about the same time, production was started on the US version of the Brodie helmet, named the US Model 1917 Steel Helmet.  In November of 1917, the US produced helmets were available in significant numbers and were being issued to the US soldiers before they shipped out for France.
With this in mind, my helmet could just as easily have been issued to some of the first US soldiers in France, or it could have been issued to a British soldier.  The fact that it was picked up in the US almost 90 years after the war, might indicate that it came back over with the US soldier it was issued to, but we will never know for sure.

My particular helmet is in pretty good condition considering it went through one World War and has survived for 100 years!

My helmet is stamped H.V. / 349 on the underside of the front rim.  The "H" indicates that the helmet was made by Hutton and Sons Ltd. of Sheffield (they produced helmets beginning in 1915).  The "V" stands for the steel supplier, Vickers Ltd. of Sheffield (they began supplying steel in 1916).  The "349" is the heat treating lot number of the steel used to press the helmet.

One of the easiest features that distinguishes a British Helmet from an American helmet, is how the chinstrap bail is attached.  The British helmets used a spit pin rivet, and the American Helmets used a solid, peened rivet.   My helmet has the distinctive British split pin.

The glossy finish is from the varnish I used to seal the old asbestos!
The liner of the helmet is attached with one rivet in the center, top of the helmet.  This rivet originally went through a liner support strap, and then the top pad, that consisted of an asbestos fiber pad that was sewn to a wool felt pad, with a ring of rubber tubing sewn between the two.  The felt pad and rubber tube ring have disintegrated from age and only the asbestos pad is left (there are some small spots of orange adhesive that may have been used to glue the pad in place by a previous owner).  I coated the asbestos pad with varnish to encapsulate it due to the danger of having decomposing, raw asbestos exposed!  I will manufacture a replacement, replica, wool pad and rubber ring to cover the asbestos pad (not permanently attached, for display purposes only).  You can still see some of the old wool and stitching on the old asbestos pad.

The remainder of the liner was sewn from a coated "oil cloth" with a ring of mesh support netting.

The chinstrap is leather with a stamped sliding adjuster.  The American helmets used a cast sliding adjuster.

On the backside of the oilskin liner, there is a faint printed area in red ink that is no longer readable.  This is where the information about the "Brodie Helmet" is printed.  This red printed label is only present on the British helmet liners. This is what the printed label looks like, if not faded out:

Registered No. 081,990.
PATENT No. 11803/15

The faded red printed label on the backside of the oilskin liner.
It is amazing to see how far "helmet technology" has come since 1915.  These old WW1. MkI helmets were nothing more than "stamped tin", and they soon evolved into the heavy steel MkII helmets of WW2.  Very interesting to see the difference that 25 years made.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of my British MkI and MkII helmets.  Very interesting!  (the MkII helmet is shown in the previous blog posting).

And now we've come to the traditional Photo Album!  Enjoy!

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