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WW I Broken Helmet Chin Straps or Something Else?


world war I nerd

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world war I nerd

Two of the men in this image cropped from a larger photo of 91st Division men just out of the line after 12 days of combat in the Argonne Forest have straps dangling from their steel helmets.

 

Opinions please ... are these just broken chin straps or could they be something else?

 

Thanks for looking ... World War I Nerd

 

Photo courtesy of the LA Times

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Greetings!

 

Some early British-made helmets had straps that had to be buckled. A brief view of some was given on the AHC Channel TV mini series Apocalypse WWI as 3 British soldiers tried on the new helmets for the camera "somewhere in France." The first 40,000 helmets for the AEF came from British stocks, so it is possible that a few of this style made it into US divisions' inventory. My collection contains just 3 British helmets, none of which are separate strap style. None of my British photos show them either. The AHC program was the first time I had seen such examples. This is one for the British experts out there. MHJ

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world war I nerd

Socarlus, the straps probably are broken, the simplest solution is usually the correct one. There are however, two things that make me wonder if the broken straps could be something else ...

 

1. There are two men standing side by side with broken chinstraps. I've looked at thousands of WW I photos and this is the first time I've ever noticed broken chin straps. No doubt that chin straps were broken & damaged, but two side by side in the same photo struck me as being unusual, but anything's possible.

 

2. What ever is dangling from the helmets looks (to me) to be a bit wider than the average chinstrap, especially the shorter strap on the far right hand side.

 

Littlewilly, interesting info about the two piece British helmet straps. Did they appear to be the same width as the one piece straps?

 

 

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with what's dangling from the helmets, but one of the men from the same photo appears to have something wrapped around the crown of his helmet. Any guesses as to what's on the helmet worn by the Doughboy on the far right?

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In reference to the width of the "buckled" straps, sadly there is no way to know for sure, as the video clip was so brief. I would presume the British settled on a standard width for the helmet straps, but again that is for the British experts out there. I am curious about this photo, as a broken strap would not be of any use to anyone, especially a combat soldier. Broken equipment would have been turned in for salvage. Since these guys are fresh out of the field, it could be they have not yet had time to make an exchange. Also, I wonder what it would have taken to break a virtually new strap short of a shell fragment at the front. I have many helmets with straps in my collection that after almost 100 years are still nice and supple, though we all have the brittle ones as well. Would not a broken strap in the photo show the other broken piece on the opposite side of the helmet? We will probably never know. The man with the curious band on his helmet does not appear to have worked his chinstrap up over the brim as I do not see the buckle anywhere on it. Not a common practice anyway. MHJ

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Bonjour.

 

Beware photos of that time. It is believed or even things that does not exist. A shadow can pass for a jugular! For the man on the far right, perhaps a reflection or a shadow.

 

 

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It also seems as though whatever these things are, they are hanging somewhat outboard of where a chinstrap would hang.

 

Perhaps remnants of a Wilmer eye shield or some other experimental protection?

 

Chris

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world war I nerd

Chris,

 

I also thought about the Wilmer eye shield because numerous 91st Division painted helmets show up with a trio of small holes in the rim to which the shield was attached. According to the LA Times, the source of the photo, these men were from one of the 91st Division's infantry brigades.

 

Anyway, here is a member of the Signal Corps wearing a helmet with similar holes & a ring as well as a 91st Division helmet also with eye shield holes.

 

Photos courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection (left) & Bay State Militaria.com (right)

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world war I nerd

Also an illustration & its method of attachment (a coiled spring & a snap-hook) and a close up of the holes and ring from the other side of the above helmet. The illustration was posted elsewhere on the forum & the photo of the helmet holes is courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com.

 

I'm not that familiar with the Wilmer Eye Shield and do not know if it could have been attached to the helmet by something other than the coiled spring, like a leather strap or by cotton tape.

 

PS, At some point it was recommended that all steel helmets be secured to a shoulder strap by a lanyard so that it would not be lost when donning a gasmask. I've seen photos of Doughboys with lanyards attached to their helmets, but in the two separate photos both of the lanyards were made from cord. By the way both helmet lanyards were tied to the right hand shoulder strap and either to the helmets liner or chin strap D-ring ... the lanyard disappeared into to inside of the helmet on the right hand side.

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world war I nerd

Little willy, you raise a good point in respect to how strong the leather chin straps were. I suppose it's possible that the leather could have become dry or weakened by prolonged exposure to moisture and repeated drying, however unlikely that may sound. I doubt that is what happened, but anything is possible.

 

The short strap also looks like a clean cut as if it's been purposely cut to that length.

 

This is probably just another one of those mysteries that we'll never know the answer to unless a better photo shows up or some sort of AEF memo or orders are found explaining the curious strap arrangement on the helmets.

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Only about 20 Wilmer eye shields ever saw anything other than the inside of a crate during WWI, so whatever it is, it's extremely unlikely to have anything to do directly with them.

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world war I nerd

I didn't mean to imply that the broken straps had anything to do with the eye shields. I was posting the images to rule it out more than anything else. Plus It was just the only thing I could think of that was officially attached to the outer edge of the helmet rim.

 

I always knew that the Wilmer Eye Shields were uncommon, but I didn't realize that they were that uncommon. Thanks for adding that tidbit of info.

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world war I nerd

I came across another period photo showing a short strap, similar in appearance to the photo which began this post, dangling from the left hand side of a helmet worn by an African American Doughboy ... Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection

 

If you look closely at the enlargement on the right, you can see that the strap disappears into the liner inside the helmet. It is not attached to the helmet's rim as previously thuoght. The strap appears to end at the point in which it comes into contact with the helmet's chin strap.

 

Also, because we are looking at the forward edge of the unknown strap it looks much narrower that the strap shown in the original photo (center). I suspect however, that if we could twist the strap so that we could view if from the side that its width would probably be close to or the same as the strap in the center photo.

 

Any further thoughts as to what the purpose of this strap could have been?

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