Lucky British soldier shows off his damaged helmet, 1917

A British soldier with a bandage over his head smiles as he shows his helmet to the cameraman and blows the big hole straight out of it. His smile says it all.

The main reason for wearing helmets at that time was not protection from bullets, but protection from shrapnel from artillery explosions. The original caption read: "Saved by Shrapnel Helmet. While being taken to the hospital with a bandage at the field dressing station, this soldier shows the helmet which saved his life.

The picture would have made ideal promotional material as the accompanying caption suggests. The soldier is happy and victorious in the middle of the scene.

Despite his head being bandaged, he is still carrying all his equipment and looks ready for action. In 1915, 65% of British casualties were head injuries from artillery fire.

During the first few years of World War I, none of the fighters provided their soldiers with steel helmets. Soldiers of most nations went to war wearing cloth caps, which provided no protection from modern weapons.

The massive number of fatal head wounds that modern artillery weapons inflicted on the French army prompted them to introduce the first modern steel helmet in the summer of 1915.

The first French helmets were bowl-shaped steel "skulls" worn under a cloth cap. These rudimentary helmets were soon replaced by the Model 1915 Adrian helmet, designed by August-Louis Adrian. The idea was later adopted by most other combatant countries.

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