WW1 M1915 French Artillery Officer's helmet.
The M15 or M1915 is credited as being the first truly modern combat helmet. The helmet was painted in horizon blue and either had a two style mono coloured lining (2nd type, as seen above) or a one piece leather lining (1st type). Although German Third Reich helmets and WW2 American helmets featured unit or branch decals and markings, French helmets displayed metal badges to either the Infantry, Artillery, or Colonial troops, and so on. This particular example is attributed to a Brigadier Hérout, but it is worth noting that French Officer's helmets featured a plaited leather chinstrap, instead of the simple strap.
WW1 M1915 French "Adrian" helmet.
Further to the description of the first helmet, the M15 was also know as the "Adrian Helmet". This example displays the first issue one piece leather lining as well as the Infantry helmet badge. The featured helmet colour is dark blue / green as it has been hand painted olive drab for service in the Second World War. Note the helmet is made from three pieces of metal with an additional comb. It is worth observing that the M1915 Adrian Helmet was also used by many other nations including Italy and Russia.
WW2 M1926 French helmet.
During the inter-war years the Adrian Helmet underwent some changes, evolving into the M1923 and finally the M1926, although the overall shape remained true to the original 1915 design. Whilst the comb was largely unaltered, the helmet was made from one piece of steel with a narrow metal rim. The lining was clipped into the shell onto spring supports, and could easily be removed. The chinstrap bales became larger and square in shape. This particular helmet exhibits its original "DP" badge, denoting the helmet as being from the Defense Passive, or Civil Defense. The difference between an M23 and M26 can observed from the lining, which is very much in the 2nd Type M1915 style, with split pin attachment rather than shell rivets. A valuable reference on French helmets is the Uniformes journal, "Le Casque Français 1915 - 1945".
1957 M51 French Helmet Liner.
During the latter stages of the Second World War, the French army was issued with a variety of American and British equipment, including the M1 Helmet. After the war the French developed the M51 helmet inspired by the M1. This new helmet also featured a metal shell with a separate fibre lining. As this liner shows, the similarities with the M1 are very evident. A collector must beware not to confuse an M51 with an M1. The lack of a peak and its wideness are key points to look out for on such helmets. The maker is Celoron.
1966 M51/56 French Helmet.
By the 1960s the M51 had undergone several changes, most notably with the liner. The liner shell was now made from black plastic rather than fibre. Compared to the Vietnam Era M1s, the M51/56 lining style remained similar to its original configuration albeit for the lack of nape strap. The liner maker is M. P. M. P of Marseilles.
1988 F1/S2 French helmet. *
Adopted during the late 1970s the F1 helmet was used by the French army until the introduction of the F2 composite helmet. However some regiments, such as artillery units, still use the F1/S2, even as recent as July 2016. Whilst clearly a development of the M56, the F1 has a less cumbersome shell which dips above the ears, with a more advanced and comfortable liner. The three point chinstrap features a leather chincup. The maker is Dubois. The helmet cover on this example is from 1993.
More information and examples of French helmets can be found at this excellent website.
WW2 French TC 38 Gas Mask.
The TC 38 or Type Civile is probably the most commonly encountered of all Second World War French gas mask types. The construction is more reminiscent of a WW1 mask, being made from canvas with a separate rubber panel to which the celluloid lenses are fitted. The head harness is elasticated, as on a British Mk.II Brodie helmet. This particular example is attributed to a Florence Talisg and dates to 1939. It is not uncommon for later dated components to be used, such the filter unit, which in this case dates to 1943.
WW2 French SALVATOR Gas Mask.
In comparison to the TC 38 the SALVATOR appears to be an updated design. Whilst the style is similar however the mask is made completely from rubber, including the harness straps. The lenses are tinted and also celluloid The filter and mounting are as that on the TC 38. This example dates to 1939 and was used by a Miss Alleon. As with all such masks, the canister is tall and painted horizon blue with a webbed strap.
WW2 French AJAX F2 Gas Mask.
The AJAX F2 features a full rubber mask with elasticated webbed harness and tinted glass lenses. The filter unit is as used on other gas mask examples, as well as the canister. This mask dates to around 1938 - 1939.
WW2 French FATRA F-M-3a Gas Mask.
The FATRA F-M-3a was a Czech made gas mask used by French civilians. The quality of the FATRA speaks for itself. The mask is made from grey rubber and features a Bakelite mount for the filter unit. The lenses are framed in metal and are glass. This particular example dates to 1939 and came together with a 1938 dated French government instruction document, detailing its use.