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Remembered Today:

Brodie Steel Helmets at Loos?


mmckay395

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Last weekend I dragged my girlfriend around the Cardiff Castle Museum and 'The Firing Line', which is a section dedicated to the Cardiff regiments. In the portion that dealt with the First World War was a display with various pieces of equipment one of which was a British Brodie steel helmet which had received a hit from shrapnel. The information next to the helmet explained that the helmet was worn by an officer ( I can't recall the name) who was killed in September or October (again I can't remember which) of 1915 at Loos.

Now, I was certain the Brodie design, although patented in 1915 was not introduced until February 1916 and took some months before all troops had been equipped with them. Therefore the information in the display must be incorrect. I brought this up with one of the staff. My mouth nearly hit the floor when he informed me thought steel helmets were worn from the beginning of the war.

I have looked elsewhere on the forum and can't find any information regarding this so perhaps someone else can shed light on my question. Were steel helmets issued to British troops for the attack at Loos? or were they, as I thought, not introduced until early the following year?

Mark

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Mark

It's just about possible he was wearing one in October 1915 according to this article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodie_helmet - which looks ok to me. Some officers purchased their own helmets privately, but if it's is a Brodie that's unlikely in this case.

Sadly, I am not a bit surprised that one of the staff thought helmets were worn from 1914. Whilst there are some excellent museum staff and I don't want to label them all, in 30+ years of collecting I've observed a widespread and truly breathtaking lack of the most basic knowledge amongst curators, equalled only by the bravura with which they dispense their duff information to all and sundry.

W.

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As far as I understand it there were Brodie's available late in 1915 but they were what was called "Trench stores" that is to say they were left in the line and handed over to each unit in turn as they came to the front. The Brodie didn't become general issue until 1916 just in time for the Somme campaign.

Hope this helps

Youngie

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Thank you both for your replies. Fresh light has been shed on the topic.

It was at least possible then for the helmet in question was worn during the attack at Loos. Either through the Officers own purchase or as part of the 'Trench Stores'

Mark

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I found a newspaper article a while back that mentioned that a number of bombers had been kitted out with steel helmets for the Battle of Loos. I posted it on the forum, I'll see if I can find it.

Barrie

[edit - here it is http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=45387&st=0&p=382020&fromsearch=1entry382020]

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I've also read somewhere that steel helmets, for the use of Bombers, were classified as trench stores and issued from September 1915 - general issue starting in early 1916 but I have also heard of one battalion having them issued in late 1915 and another complaining in May 1916 that steel helmets had yet to be issued.

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The Illustrated London News reported in mid-November that "our troops" (with no limitation evident) had been kitted out with helmets and the accompanying photograph shows Brodies. However, there's also on record a note that the Aisne, April 1916, was the first "battle" in which the Brodie was standard headgear. From the point of view of the OP, the provenance of the helmet may well have been correct, particularly if the officer was a trained bomber. Was it a shrapnel ball that hit it or a shell fragment? Was it punctured through as for a killing wound? Brodies were considered to be excellent protection against shrapnel balls. Antony

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The Illustrated London News reported in mid-November that "our troops" (with no limitation evident) had been kitted out with helmets and the accompanying photograph shows Brodies. However, there's also on record a note that the Aisne, April 1916, was the first "battle" in which the Brodie was standard headgear. From the point of view of the OP, the provenance of the helmet may well have been correct, particularly if the officer was a trained bomber. Was it a shrapnel ball that hit it or a shell fragment? Was it punctured through as for a killing wound? Brodies were considered to be excellent protection against shrapnel balls. Antony

I couldn't say whether it was a shrapnel ball or a shell fragment, or whether the Officer in question was a trained bomber. However, the roof of the helmet was cut clean through and I am of the impression that the resulting wound would have been fatal.

I think it may have been rash of me to presume the information incorrect. Clearly there is a very distinct possibility that a steel helmet could have been worn.

Mark

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Shell fragment then, more likely than shrapnel ball. However, that having been said, "shrapnel" became fairly common terminology for flying metal fragments. I think you're right that it would be rash to challenge the display at the moment. We know that Brodies were present at Loos. In what concentration is unknown and awaiting further elucidation. Interesting subject. Antony

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I volunteer at Firing Line, As far as I can remember (I've been off for a month) He survived the wound (caused by a shell fragment, its a pretty bad smash to the helmet) but spent a long time in Hospital recuperating. Though I cant remember what battle it was damaged at....I will check Tuesday when I am down there.

Gaz

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I volunteer at Firing Line, As far as I can remember (I've been off for a month) He survived the wound (caused by a shell fragment, its a pretty bad smash to the helmet) but spent a long time in Hospital recuperating. Though I cant remember what battle it was damaged at....I will check Tuesday when I am down there.

Gaz

Fantastic stuff.

The impact on the helmet looked as though it would cause at the very least a serious head wound.

Do let me know what you find out on Tuesday, I'll look forward to hearing it. ;)

Mark

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Yeah it wasn't just a graze, it penetrated the helmet. I'll try and take a picture too, to you show you guys the damage.

Gaz

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Very interesting topic. Of course the other question about this helmet vice it's provenance as a Loos veteran is: what type of Brodie is it?! In order to be a viable contender for service in Sepember '15 it would have to be a first pattern Brodie, e.g. rimless and with either the tongued oil cloth liner and 2-part chinstrap or a private purchase officer's liner. A photo (or 3!) would be hugely useful.

Dave

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Very interesting topic. Of course the other question about this helmet vice it's provenance as a Loos veteran is: what type of Brodie is it?! In order to be a viable contender for service in Sepember '15 it would have to be a first pattern Brodie, e.g. rimless and with either the tongued oil cloth liner and 2-part chinstrap or a private purchase officer's liner. A photo (or 3!) would be hugely useful.

Dave

Very good information I hadn't considered. Some photos would be extremely useful thumbsup.png

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I'll try and get access to the case though I doubt I will be able to, being a volunteer.

Either way I will let you if its a raw edge and show you the damage.

Gaz

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Well I gained access to the helmet (albeit for a short time as it was done on a lunchtime)

It was worn by Captain E F S Sims and was wounded Sept 1915, he recovered from the wound sustained

Here are the pics.

Liner and rim.. There is a rim attached around the edge which is coming lose in places.

Damage,

Rim,

As you can see the edge is coming off exposing the raw edge (I am a weapons guy not helmets so I have no idea if its correct ect)

Gaz

post-7438-0-64105500-1308680377.jpg

post-7438-0-23401800-1308680629.jpg

post-7438-0-60339300-1308680740.jpg

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Genuine question here, I simply do not know. How likely was a trained bomber to be an officer, in 1915? My notion was that bombers were O.Rs chosen primarily for their physical characteristics along with a goodly share of aggression. I could well see a man who volunteered to be a bomber being commissioned later in the war but Loos seems a bit early.

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Officers liner for sure but the helmet shell is post 1915 and has all features of the rimmed "second" pattern known as Mk 1 and not War Office. I believe that the provenance of the helmet may relate to the officer but I doubt it was worn (in fact know)at Loos in Sept 1915 (unless of course you believe in the Tardis).

Regards

TT

PS museum notices are not 100 %.

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TT,

Totally agree - quite likely the helmet did belong to the officer cited, but it doesn't date from Loos; looks like a 2nd pattern shell (Mk 1) with a private purchase liner. 1916 or later. Nasty hole, mind - wouldn't have wanted my swede in there when that was made. Distinct possibility of some ringing in the ears - amazing he survived and recovered.

Mark, interesting discussion. And Gaz - thanks for the pics - hope you don't get your wrist slapped for playing with the exhibits!

Dave

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Absolutely agree. Couldn't have been worn at Loos. However, the officer could perhaps have patented his skull! Must have had the hardest head :o . Antony

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I can't seem to find a medal index card to Captain E F S Sims on the National Archives.

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I believe the first action where steel helmets were issued was at St Eloi on 27th March 1916 to the 1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers & 4th Bn Royal Fusiliers. They were definately wearing them I have the official film footage shot by Geoffery Malins.

There was an article in the WFA magazine a couple of years ago about this but can't lay my hands on it at the moment. The gist of the article was that it was a control test. There were few head wounds to those issued with helmets but a large number to the Canadian troops who relieved them a couple of days later and were not issued with helmets.

Peter

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Fantastic photos Gaz.

I think we can conclude that it is highly improbably this particular helmet was worn and damaged at Loos. It is more likely the injury was sustained during 1916 or later.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the thread, I think it has been an interesting discussion.

Mark

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They were taken on my mobile I was worried they wouldn't be good enough for an ID, its quite dark down there and my phone with a flash isnt that great in low light.

I'm used to object handing now so it wasn't as difficult as I thought to look at it, asked the curator, white gloves on and it was that easy :lol: Just had to find a quite moment to open the case.

it may well be 1916, 17 or 18 and its a typo, there are a few mistakes that are being slowly corrected. As with everything typos happen. I will mention it and see if any more research can be done. If I am down the Tuesday I will enquire further.

If you need anything from down there, let me know :)

Gaz

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Thanks Garron for taking the time. Most interesting helmet.

TT

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