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Shortly after the US declaration of war in April 1917, the US ordered around 400,000 helmets from the British. So despite the fact that they are foreign-made, there is a significant likelihood that collectors of US WWI militaria will run across one used by the AEF.

 

In 1915, John Brodie patented his design for a helmet for British forces, leading to the common nomenclature of Brodie helmets. The Brodie Type A and Type B were produced for a very short period of time in 1915, and the chances of finding a US-used example are vanishingly small. The Type A served as the basis of what is referred to as the War Office Pattern helmet, examples of which occasionally found their way into US service. The Type A, Type B and War Office Pattern fall under the catchall description of "rimless Brodies".

 

By far the most common British helmets used by the AEF are the Mark I, officially known as the "Helmet, Steel, Mark I". The main difference between these and the War Office Pattern is the crimped steel rim around the edge of the helmet. Manufacture of the Mark I began in 1916 and continued through the end of the war.

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The very first liner, found in Type A and Type B helmets, was a six-fingered 'American cloth' liner, very similar to the first-pattern leather liners in French Adrian helmets.

 

The next pattern (usually referred to as the first pattern) is found in both the War Office Pattern (rimless Brodie) and the Mark I (rimmed Brodie). It consists of a asbestos-backed pad made of wool felt (usually kind of a khaki color) which was riveted to the top of the helmet, and then the standard oilcloth and net liner. On the inside of the oilcloth portion, there is typically a red patent inkstamp, which reads:

Brodie’s Steel Helmet

Registered No. 651.999

War Office Pattern

Patent no. 11803/15

 

The last pattern (AKA second pattern) is the same as the above, except that there is a rubber ring between the asbestos and the felt pad. The ring was intended to increase the separation between the wearer's head and the shell.

 

I have several examples of British-manufactured helmets that have been relined with US-manufactured liners. The felt pad in these is usually a dark gray, and the oilcloth lacks the Brodies patent stamp. They are usually maker-marked somewhere inside the liner in blue, purple or black ink.

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There are a number of keys to look at when differentiating a Mk. I from a US-made m1917. The most obvious is the chinstrap loops and their attachment to the shell.

 

British helmets have a shallow-domed rivet with a split tail to attach the loops to the shell. The m1917 has a much more rounded rivet without a split tail. The actual loops are of a finer-gauge wire than on the m1917 as well.

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At the crown of the helmet, both the Mk. I and m1917 have a label with instructions for fitting the helmet the soldier's head. The text is the same on both, but the font and label paper are different. The Mk. I instructions are printed on card stock while the m1917's are on a much more durable cloth-backed paper.

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Another difference is the join in the rim around the edge of the helmet. The Mk. I has an overlap of more than an inch, and it's spot-welded. The m1917 varies between more or less evenly-butted to about a half-inch overlap, and it is simply crimped.

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Paint is yet another difference. There is a wide variety of shades to be found on Mk. Is, but they tend to be lighter green/khaki and glossier than m1917s. They also typically have sand mixed into the paint as opposed to sawdust. Sand was also used on m1917s, but it tends to be very heavily applied.

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