Mind Your He ad!

Richard Pullen takes a comprehensive look at the myriad of different helmets used by British tank crews

A member of the HSMGC, mid-1916, in a leather tank crew helmet

It’s a certainty that anyone who’s spent any length of time inside an old armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) will have climbed out at one point or another, rubbed their head and said, “Oh, goodness me, that hurts” – or words to that effect that can’t be printed here. The oldest tanks, especially those from World War One and World War Two, weren’t usually made with health and safety or crew comfort in mind. The insides of old tanks are often hard and sharp, so it was quickly realised that some kind of protective headwear would be required.

This problem of hard and sharp interior surfaces and the unpredictable motion of a tank led to a string of serious head injuries, even in the very earliest tanks of 1916. The result of this was the production and issuing of a peculiar helmet made from riveted leather. The standard Brodie helmet was no good in tanks as the brim got in the way when using the prism boxes to see what was outside. In addition to this, the brim was a danger to other men working nearby, and if a man fell on his face, the brim would hit the floor first and jerk his head backwards, potentially leading to a serious neck injury.

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