The Brodie helmet, called Helmet, steel, Mark I helmet in Britain and the M1917 Helmet in the U.S., was a steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...
A combat helmet or battle helmet is a type of personal armor designed specifically to protect the head during combat. Helmets are among the oldest forms of personal protective equipment and are known to have been worn by the Akkadians/Sumerians in the 23rd century BC, Mycenaean Greeks since 17th...
designed and patented in 1915 by the Briton John Leopold Brodie. Colloquially, it was also called the shrapnel helmet, Tommy helmet, or Tin Hat, and in the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
known as a doughboy helmet.
BackgroundDuring the first year of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
, none of the combatants offered steel helmets to their troops. The soldiers of most nations went into battle wearing simple cloth caps that offered virtually no protection from modern weapons. German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
troops wore the traditional leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...
The Pickelhaube , also "Pickelhelm," was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police...
, also of little protective value.
The huge number of lethal head wounds that modern weapons were inflicting upon the French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...
led them to introduce the first of the modern steel helmets in the summer of 1915. The first French helmets were bowl-shaped steel "skullcaps" worn under the cloth caps. However, these rudimentary helmets were soon replaced by the Model 1915 Adrian helmet
The M15 Adrian helmet 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 became a frequent cause of battlefield casualties...
, designed by August-Louis Adrian. The idea was later adopted by numerous other combatant nations.
OriginsAt about the same time, the British War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...
had also seen a similar need for steel helmets. The War Office Invention Department was asked to evaluate the French design but they decided that it was not strong enough and was too complex to be swiftly manufactured—the British industry was not geared up to an all-out effort of war production in the initial stages of World War I, which also led to the shell shortage of 1915
Shell Crisis of 1915
The Shell Crisis of 1915 was a shortage of artillery shells on the front lines of World War I, which largely contributed to weakening public appreciation of government of the United Kingdom because it was widely perceived that the production of artillery shells for use by the British Army was...
A design patented in 1915 by John L. Brodie of London offered advantages over the French design as it was constructed from a single piece that could be pressed from a single thick sheet of steel, giving it added strength.
Brodie's design resembled the medieval infantry kettle hat or chapel-de-fer
A kettle hat is a type of helmet made of steel in the shape of a hat. There are many design variations. The only common element is a wide brim that afforded extra protection to the wearer....
, unlike the German Stahlhelm
Stahlhelm is German for "steel helmet". The Imperial German Army began to replace the traditional boiled-leather Pickelhaube with the Stahlhelm during World War I in 1916...
, which resembled the medieval sallet
The sallet was a war helmet that replaced the bascinet in northern Europe and Hungary during the mid-15th century. Some sallets were close fitting except at the back of the head where they extended and formed a pointed tail. Some Italian ones followed the shape of the neck, and had an additional...
. It had a shallow circular crown with a wide brim around the edge, a leather liner, and a leather chinstrap. The helmet's "soup bowl" shape was originally designed to protect the wearer's head and shoulders from fragmentation
Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of an artillery shell, bomb, grenade, etc. is shattered by the detonating high explosive filling. The correct technical terminology for these casing pieces is fragments , although shards or splinters can be used for non-preformed fragments...
falling from above. The shallow bowl design allowed the use of relatively thick steel that could be formed in a single pressing while maintaining the helmet's thickness. Although this made it more resistant to projectiles, the design offered less protection to the lower part of the head and neck than other designs.
The original design (Type A) was made of mild steel with a brim 1.5–2 inches wide. The Type A was in production for just a few weeks before the specification was changed and the Type B was introduced in October 1915. The specification was altered at the suggestion of Sir Robert Hadfield
Sir Robert Abbott Hadfield, 1st Baronet FRS was an English metallurgist, noted for his 1882 discovery of manganese steel, one of the first steel alloys...
to a harder steel with 12% manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...
content which became known as "Hadfield's steel", which was virtually impervious to shrapnel balls provided they impacted from above. It also had a narrower brim and a more domed crown.
The original paint scheme, suggested by Brodie, was a mottled light green, blue, and orange camouflage, but they were also painted in green or blue-grey.
That same month the first delivery of the helmets was made to British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...
troops. Initially there were far from enough helmets to equip every man, so they were designated as "trench stores", to be kept in the front line and used by each unit that occupied the sector. It was not until the summer of 1916, when the first one million helmets had been produced, that they could be generally issued.
The Brodie helmet reduced casualties but was criticized by General Herbert Plumer
Herbert Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer
Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE was a British colonial official and soldier born in Torquay who commanded the British Second Army in World War I and later served as High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine.-Military...
on the grounds that it was too shallow, too reflective, its rim was too sharp, and its lining was too slippery. These criticisms were addressed in the Mark I model helmet of 1916 which had a separate folded rim, a two-part liner, and matte khaki
This article is about the fabric. For the color, see Khaki . Kaki, another name for the persimmon, is often misspelled "Khaki".Khaki is a type of fabric or the color of such fabric...
paint finished with sand, sawdust, or crushed cork to give a dull, non-reflective appearance. In 1917 the liner was modified to include a rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...
cushion to make it more comfortable (this was not adopted for the M1917). Helmets were often painted with unit insignia towards the end of the war, and are often called "parade helmets" by collectors.
The weight of a Mark I helmet was approximately 1.3 pound (0.589670081 kg).
ServiceIt was first used in battle in April 1916 at the Battle of St Eloi. Troops from other countries also used the Brodie helmet including the United States Armed Forces
Military of the United States
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...
when they entered the war late in 1917. The United States government initially purchased some 400,000 helmets from Britain. From January 1918 the U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...
began to use helmets manufactured in the U.S. and these helmets were designated M1917. The steel helmet was known to the troops as a "tin hat" or for the officers a "battle bowler" (from Bowler hat
The bowler hat, also known as a coke hat, derby , billycock or bombin, is a hard felt hat with a rounded crown originally created in 1849 for the English soldier and politician Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester...
By the end of the war some 7.5 million Brodie helmets had been produced, including 1.5 million M1917 helmets for use by American forces.
The British helmets were not designed to protect against bullets, but were primarily aimed at reducing head-wounds from shrapnel; The US manufactured helmets were made of was made up of 12 percent manganese. Thus ballistically, the M-1917 helmet increased protection for the wearer by 10 percent over the British Mk. I helmet, and could withstand a .45 caliber pistol bullet traveling at 600 feet per second fired at a distance of 10 feet. .
Post World War IFrom 1936 the Mark I Brodie helmet was fitted with an improved liner and an elasticated (actually, sprung) webbing
Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying width and fibres often used in place of rope. The name webbing comes from the meshed material frequently used in its construction, which resembles a web...
chin strap. This final variant served until late 1940 when it was superseded by the slightly modified Mk II which served the British and Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...
forces throughout World War II. During this period, the helmet was also used by the police, the fire brigade and ARP
Air Raid Precautions
Air Raid Precautions was an organisation in the United Kingdom set up as an aid in the prelude to the Second World War dedicated to the protection of civilians from the danger of air-raids. It was created in 1924 as a response to the fears about the growing threat from the development of bomber...
wardens in Britain
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
. There was also a "civil" pattern available which was a little deeper but made from ordinary mild steel, which was available for private purchase - see Zuckerman helmet
The Zuckerman helmet was a British helmet designed for use by civil defence organisations and the general public during World War II...
In 1944, the British replaced it with a significantly modified design known as the Mk III Turtle helmet
Mk III Turtle helmet
The Mk III Helmet was a steel military combat helmet developed for the British Army in 1941. First worn in combat by British and Canadian troops on D-Day, the Mk III was used alongside the Brodie helmet for the remainder of the Second World War...
The U.S. Army used the basic Brodie-patterned M1917 helmet until 1942 with some modifications, which included a totally new liner and canvas chin strap. It was finally superseded by the M1 Helmet
The M1 helmet is a combat helmet that was used by the American military from World War II until it was succeeded by the PASGT helmet beginning in 1985. For over forty years, the M1 was standard issue for the U.S...
Present dayBrodie helmets are still being used today, most notably by tribal levies in Pakistan, and up until just recently, by the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...
i civil defence forces. The steel shells of these helmets are most likely Second World War era British surplus, with domestically manufactured replacement liners.
Some live-action role players use Brodie helmets as substitute Medieval chapeaux-de-fer. The Brodie helmet resembles its Medieval original enough to be an acceptable substitute.