Artefacts: Vickers helmet

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2009), Volume 17

1

The Vickers helmet—in spite of its British manufacture, its ‘German’ style rendered it the butt of much anti-Irish British propaganda. (National Museum of Ireland)

During the 1920s the newly formed Irish Defence Forces began looking for a steel helmet. At first the French Adrian model, named after its inventor, August-Louis Adrian, was tested on a limited scale but was found to be unsatisfactory. Eventually it was decided to choose the German helmet used in the First World War, and in November 1926 the Irish government approached the German consulate requesting a modern sample. The German Foreign Office’s reply, dated 30 December 1926, advised that the export of steel helmets was prohibited under the terms laid down by the Versailles Treaty, and for that reason they were unable to comply. So the Irish Free State had to look elsewhere: an order for 5,000 helmets was placed with Vickers & Co. Ltd, London, and the design was to be based on the German pattern worn during the Great War. The German consulate in Dublin reported to the Foreign Office in Berlin on 16 August 1927 to the effect that Vickers & Co. had been asked to deliver the helmets ‘to be tested for their expediency during the autumn manoeuvres next year’.
The helmet produced was similar to the German one except that the sides were more gently sloped and it was painted a dark shade of green. The most relevant features were the two small brackets affixed to the front to hold an officer’s pattern cap badge painted black and worn by all ranks when the occasion required. On the inside rim of the centre of the rear was a die-stamped inscription ‘V Ltd.’ with a serial number. The interior fittings were completed in Dublin and were stamped ‘T. Smith & Son, Dublin, 1927’.

Recruiting poster for the Volunteer Force, a reserve unit established in 1934 by Fianna Fáil. The Volunteer Force wore the Vickers helmets, along with a German-style field grey uniform. The regular army did not wear this type of uniform but did wear the helmets. (National Museum of Ireland)

Recruiting poster for the Volunteer Force, a reserve unit established in 1934 by Fianna Fáil. The Volunteer Force wore the Vickers helmets, along with a German-style field grey uniform. The regular army did not wear this type of uniform but did wear the helmets. (National Museum of Ireland)

This distinctive helmet remained in use until it was replaced by the British Mark II model in 1940. In spite of its British manufacture, its ‘German’ style rendered it the butt of much anti-Irish British propaganda. Many of the withdrawn helmets were subsequently issued to various emergency services and painted white.
F. Glenn Thompson is the uniforms expert at the National Museum of Ireland.

'


Copyright © 2018 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568