Richard Pullen looks at the history of the crash helmet and what the law states for enthusiasts wearing vintage helmets while riding their wartime classics

A trio of despatch riders sporting a variety of headwear

For many people, a huge part of owning a classic military vehicle is finding the correct matching, period gear to go with it. When you own an old military motorcycle, this can be quite tricky. Finding the correct boots, overcoat, trousers, gloves and goggles can become a job on its own.But there is one part of the kit which can be more of problem than anything else – the helmet. Good, large sized examples are tricky to find, expensive to buy and could even potentially get you into hot water with the authorities.

Most motorcycle troops in World War Two wore a helmet of some kind, and they doubtless saved many lives. But when did they become compulsory, what is their history, should you really trust your life to an 80-year-old original helmet and are you even legally allowed to do so?

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