Since its introduction, the helmet has been used to protect the soldiers' head from external aggressions.
Unlike often thought, helmets can not stop projectiles from rifles, because the penetration is too high. As a rule, the helmets today serve against flying splinters, objects and ricochets, as well as pistol ammunition.
At first, these were mainly made of materials such as leather, copper, bronze, iron or steel, today modern synthetic resin materials are used together with Kevlar. Parade helmets, which are not the protection but the ornament, used to be often even gold.
The first helmets
It can be assumed that even the earliest humans protect their heads against blows and weapons. It scents especially materials such as fur, leather or the like have been used.
The oldest surviving helmets come from the period of the 3rd millennium BC from the summer culture. These used simple bronze helmets with integrated ear protection, but without forehead and face protection.
At the same time, the Egyptians are likely to have had bronze helmets, where headgear made of reinforced linen was also used.
The first use of iron helmets was probably made in the 14th century by the Hittites, later also used the Dorer, who penetrated into present-day Greece in the 12th century BC, an iron helmet.
Ancient greek helmets
Due to the influence of the Dorians on Greece there gradually disappeared the bronze helmets and were replaced by iron helmets. Due to the multitude of different Greek city states and cultures, a great variety of iron helmet types also developed. One of the best known is the Corinthian version. It was built at the beginning of the 7th century BC and was made from a single plate. Ideally adapted to the shape of the skull, the helmet protects especially the cheeks, nose and the largest part of the head. Higher social status or rank was also expressed by a horse mane on the helmet back.
Later, the Corinthian helmets were replaced by the Chalcidian and the Attic version. These allowed their wearer a larger field of vision and better breathing.
In addition, a variety of helmet types have been adapted to the respective requirement. For example, Helmet types were developed for the riders who put their priorities on an unobstructed field of vision rather than protection.
Helmets of the Roman Legion
The influence of other cultures in the early Roman Empire meant that at the beginning mainly variants of the Chaldean and Attic helmets were used in the Roman legion. From the 4th century BC, the Montefortino helmet was preferred by the soldiers, while the officers and riders remained on the Attic helmet.
After the Gaul campaign in the 1st century BC by Julius Caesar, the helmets of the legions were uniformly manufactured and introduced. First, there was the Coolus version, a helmet made of bronze with round bell and cheek flaps in the Celtic style, which could be tied together with leather straps. In addition, the helmet had a neck guard, an indicated eye shield and above a fortification on which one could attach a tail of horse hair, especially for the officers and riders of importance.
Later, the bronze helmets were replaced by iron helmets, also known as Imperial-Gallic helmets. These were similar to the Coolus helmet, but differed by the flatter bell and a neck shield showed more down.
At the end of the Western Roman Empire, late-niches comb helmets were worn. In this type of helmet, the bell was composed of two halves and was in contrast to the other helmets quite high and immobile. The neck guard was swhr kept short and almost vertically.
Early Middle Ages
The most common helmet at this time was the Spangenhelm introduced by the Sarmatians. This was used both by the Romans, as well as by the Byzantines and the Germanic peoples. 3 to 6 metal brackets were fixed by a Stirnreif, the gaps were closed with metal plates. In addition, the helmets often had flexible cheek pieces and a neck guard made of chain mesh. From the 6th century onwards, band helmets and lamellar helmets were used in Western Europe in addition to the Spangenhelm, while in Scandinavia and the Anglo-Saxon regions the Nordic comb helmets were used, some of which were provided with eye protection, a face mask made of chain braids or face masks.
High medieval helmets
By improving the blacksmithing improved helmets could be produced from the 10th century. These were made with a single iron plate, so that the type of conical helmets with nose protection found widespread use. Later in the 12th century appeared in addition to the conical helmets and cylindrical shaped variants in which the nose protector was quickly replaced by visors with visual and air vents. This resulted in the pot helmet, which was adapted over time more and more of the head shape and was therefore no longer cylindrically shaped. Until the 14th century, the custom-made Topfhelm was the most widely used helmet in the European area.
Helmets of the early modern era
During the 14th century, the so-called Hundsgugel was developed with tapered bell and a dog-snout-like visor, which explains the name of the helmet. By adding a chain mesh for the neck and neck, this type of helmet offered better protection than the cup helmets.
In the first half of the 15th century, helmets such as the Armet and the Schaller came to oust the Hundsgugel. The Armet encompassed the entire head and had a hinged visor. From the groundbreaking Armet should later emerge the closed helmet. The streamlined Schaller emerged from the Eisenhut and was completed by a chin and neck guard attached to the breastplate. In the middle of the 15th century, barbuta came to Italy, reminiscent of the ancient Corinthian helmet in the spirit of the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 16th century, the closed helmet was created, with the visor and chin guard fixed to the side of the helmet at the same point. The closed helmet quickly became the most important head protection of the heavy cavalry and existed in several variants.
By the Armet and Schaller helmets the era of Hundsgugel ended at the beginning of the 15th century. The Armet helmet proved to be more effective in that the helmet encircled the entire head and had a flip-up visor. The Schallerhelm, however, was easier and cheaper to produce and could be attached to the chest armor of the soldier by chin and neck protection, also form a high protection factor.
In addition to the helmet types Armet and Schaller came from the middle of the 15th century coming from Italy, the helmet type Barbuta.
In the course of the sixteenth century, more simple variants of a helmet were worn, especially by the infantry. the pear helmet with a high tapering bell and a narrow brim, or the Morion with a brim tapering towards the front and back and a high ridge.
Due to the slow advent of black powder and their use in fighting, many riders later opted for the open balaclava to ensure a better field of view. Although closed helmets were used until the 17th century, an unrestricted field of vision became more and more important to the soldiers.
In the second half of the 17th century armor and helmets were almost completely out of use. The exception is the heavy helmets worn by some sappers during sieges. The cavalry also occasionally held on to wearing a helmet, but this happened rather for representative reasons.
Helmets of modern times
During the 18th century, most armies relinquished elaborate helmet and body armor. As a rule, many soldiers wore only leather helmets to protect against saber strokes. At that time, the focus was more on the look of a uniform rather than its utility.
This partly changed in the 19th century where e.g. the Prussian army introduced the helmet with lace, colloquially "Pickelhaube". Other states, such as Britain for its colonial troops or the US, reintroduced more useful helmets, such as the pith helmet, which could protect the overseas troops more against the sun or falling objects than against enemy action.
Until the beginning of the First World War, these types of helmets were mainly used.
With the onset of the First World War and the frightening numbers of casualties and wounds of the soldiers in the head area by shrapnel, quickly changed the opinion of new combat helmets for the soldiers. Thus, in 1915, France equipped its troops with the newly developed steel helmet, which was supposed to protect its head from splinters more effectively. Britain and Germany retreated with their versions of the Stahlhelm in their own troops in 1916.
The combat helmets used by the armies in World War II hardly differed from those of the First World War. Only after the outbreak of the war did the participating parties decide on improvements and revisions. So the US Army introduced the M1 helmet in 1941. For the paratroopers was also a modified version, the M2, delivered which had a thicker inner lining and stronger chin strap.
Great Britain introduced a new steel helmet for the soldiers in 1943 with the Mk III. This had compared to its predecessor on a long neck shield and was better balanced.
The German steel helmet type M35 was also revised during the war and replaced by the M40 version with punched air holes. From 1942 the M42 was introduced due to the simple and fast production.
Modern combat helmets
After World War II, most of the armies stuck to the concept of steel helmets until the 1970s. It was not until the development and introduction of aramid materials such as Kevlar that the helmets were redeveloped and redesigned, so that in the Western armies they were gradually replaced by the new helmets.
The latest combat helmets nowadays are not only used as head protection, with integrated radio, infrared sight, multicam, ear protection and protection against biological and chemical weapons, more and more modern communication and protection technology is used.
You can find the right literature here:
The Roman military is an iconic, ancient institution; everybody is familiar with the image of fearsome Roman soldiers marching in their famous columns. In this book, Roman military experts Hilary and John Travis turn their attention to the helmets used by the historic Roman stalwarts, drawing on their expertise, their wealth of illustrated material and the world of re-enactments.There are currently two different methods in use in the identification of Roman helmet types: the British system, based on developmental progression and features indicating the geographical area of manufacture; and the much simplified Continental system, based on named find locations. In this study of helmets used by the Romans, Roman Helmets draws together the streams of published information of sculptural imagery and archaeological ‘hard’ evidence, while also comparing these dual typologies, discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
German Helmets Of The Second World War (Schiffer Military History)
This two volume set is a fully illustrated, detailed look at the famous German "stahlhelm" of World War II. Full color photographs - including multiple-view, interiors, and up-close detail - show Army, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Paratroop, and many others. Both volumes have been specifically produced to give the advanced collector the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge, and to compare paint and insignia against their own collections. For the novice or would-be collector, these books are an invaluable reference.
The History of the Steel Helmet in the First World War
This illustrated two-volume set is a further detailed look at the helmets of all nations using an identifiable helmet during the First World War, and contains over 1,000 full colour, detailed photos and over 200 period bw photos. Featured are rare and unique helmets, some previously unseen. The text includes a short history of the belligerent countries - setting the helmets and their development in context - as well as details and dimensions of all helmets.
U.S. Combat Helmets of the 20th Century
This book represents nearly a decade of research into the history of U.S. production combat helmets. Covered are the standard ground helmets, parachutist helmets and helmet covers. Every major production helmet version is presented in full color photographs, including detail shots and production markings.