Beach Day by Rodger Bliss
April 2024

Army Helmets

At the beginning of the First World War, the uniform of the British soldiers included a brown cloth cap. They had not yet discovered the advantages of metal helmets. But, as the war went on, the War Office became alarmed at the high proportion of men suffering head injuries. They therefore decided to replace the cloth cap with metal helmets. Duh! From then on, all soldiers wore the metal helmets. However–and this is the puzzling part–the War Office was amazed to discover that there were more soldiers hospitalized with head injuries than ever before. Now, it can be assumed that the intensity of fighting was the same before and after the metal helmets. So, why should the recorded number of head injuries per battalion increase when the men were wearing metal helmets rather than cloth helmets?

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2 guesses to Army Helmets

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  • brent

    I have two theories on this one.
    1) the improved uniform saved more lives (less deaths) but as a result there were a higher number of living soldiers with injuries of all sorts, including more head injuries.
    2) The metal helmets gave the men an increased sense of security in sticking their heads up into the line of fire – but a metal can was still no match for a rifle, machine gun or mortar round – so more head injuries resulted. (but maybe more battle successes too as a result of the new found courage?

  • The answer is supposed to be simple, but all of your ideas are valid.
    When soldiers wore cloth helmets any round fired at their head had a very good chance of penetrating the cloth helmet with enough force to kill said unlucky soldier. When they switched to armored helmets, said rounds were slowed or deflected resulting in injuries, but not deaths.

    In other words, the same amount of people were being shot in the head, but more of them were only wounded, thus increasing the number of head injuries.
    No idea if its true, but that’s the answer you’re supposed to come up with.