World War One: The Miracle of the “Battle Bowler”

One of the iconic images of the Great War is the steel hat worn by British, Commonwealth and American forces between 1916 and 1918. The helmet was initially designed and patented in 1915 by Briton John Brodie in 1915. The helmet has many names which include Brodie Helmet, Steel Mark I and M1917 Helmet. The helmet has also been referred to as Tommy helmet, doughboy helmet, shrapnel helmet and most famously Tin Hat.

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In the ensuing slaughter, the number miracle sheets reviews of head wounds outnumbered other wounds. The French army subsequently introduced the Adrian helmet in 1915. This forward idea was adopted by other nations.

In 1915, the War office saw the need for steel helmets, following in the example of the French. The British Army evaluated the French design and believed it to be not strong enough. Following this, in 1915, John L. Brodie offered a unique design; a helmet that was pressed from a single sheet of steel which gave it added strength.

Brodie’s design was very similar to the medieval kettle helmet. The design was shallow with a wide brim. The helmet was initially designed to protect the wearers head and shoulders. Despite the concept to protect the head and shoulders, the helmet offered less protection to the neck and face.

Type A was composed of mild steel and was only produced for a few weeks before the type B was introduced in late 1915. The design change was the idea of Sir Robert Hatfield, who argued that harder steel with 12% manganese content was better. This concept became known as “Hatfield’s steel” The modified helmet was all but impervious to shrapnel from above. The design also had a more domed crown; this design became the well-known image in later years.

In early 1916 the first delivery of the new helmet was delivered to the British Army. Despite the forward thinking, there weren’t enough helmets to equip everyman. They were ultimately kept and stored as ‘trench stores’ which would be used by units moving into the Front line. The new helmet was properly issued during the summer of 1916.

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