Original U.S. WWI M1917 Doughboy Helmet with Painted British 1st Division Insignia and Holes for Wilmer Eye Shields

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very good, yet strange example of a U.S. M1917 "Doughboy" helmet, which features original period textured OD Green paint and is complete with all parts. This helmet also has 3 holes on each side of the helmet on the skirt for attaching Wilmer eye shields. On the front is a white triangle painted for the British 1st Infantry Division. It’s strange seeing a British unit insignia on an American helmet because we all know that the British supplied Americans with helmets before America started manufacturing their own, and not the other way around. Maybe soldiers swapped helmets for different sizes? Regardless of the case, this really is a good example of these helmets, many of which are now just shells, completely missing the internal rigging.
The shell is maker marked with a stamping on the underside of the rim that reads ZB 53. The solid rivets and heat lot number indicate that this helmet shell was produced in the United States. The paint is in good condition both inside and outside the helmet, with a lot of the original texture remaining. There is some light oxidation in areas, as well as overall dirt and dust, which we have left intact to preserve the lovely patina.

The liner is present, and in ok condition, especially considering the age. The oil cloth is in good shape, as is the netting underneath, and the top strap is stamped with size 7 1/8. There is some wear to the oil cloth and top pad and has the original label on the top. The chin strap is present, though it is in delicate condition. It is torn through near one of the bales at the rivet attachment, and the rivet attaching that side to the liner has pulled through.
A great example of an authentic WWI "Doughboy" helmet used by a british soldier!
The M1917 was the US Army's first modern combat helmet, used from 1917 and during the 1920s, before being replaced by the M1917A1. The M1917A1 helmet was an updated version of the M1917 and initially used refurbished WW1 shells.
The M1917 is a near identical version of the British Mk.I steel helmet, and it is important to note that when the US joined the Great War in 1917 they were initially issued with a supply of around 400,000 British made Mk.Is, before production began stateside. The M1917 differed slightly in its lining detail, and exhibited US manufacture markings.
M1917 helmet liners typically show a paper label at the crown and the dome rivet head. The liner is set up as on the British versions, with an oilcloth band and net configuration, attached to a leather strap, riveted to the shell. The chinstrap is leather with a steel buckle.
Wilmer Eye Shields
 Even though helmets, body armor, and face shields did little to protect the wearer from high-velocity projectiles from rifles and machine guns, their use provided a sense of defense, even if minimal. Much like the columnar and row formations of pre-modern battle tactics, which served the purpose of structure and organization and a false sense of security to each participant, psychologically; personal body armor also provided a sense of security to the wearer. Several personal memoirs and accounts of battle make a note of soldiers lowering their head while rushing towards enemy trenches. The writers recollect later that by lowering the head was rather futile against a hail of rifle fire, but it did provide a small sense of protection.
The call to protect soldier’s vision came early in the war from two French oculist experts who published a study on eye wounds in the Bulletin de la Societe d’Ophtalmologie, a French ophthalmology journal. In the article, both armorers studied seven hundred eye wounds and determined that half of those could have been prevented with a type of eye protection. Out of the nearly 700 cases studied, 51.8% of ocular wounds were caused by either artillery or grenade fragments. Some of the superficial eye wounds were caused by either splinter from trees after being struck by an artillery round or other debris from explosions. Since artillery was the leading cause of combat fatalities and injuries in WWI, helmets were explicitly developed to address head wounds caused by overhead explosions and not intended to stop a high-velocity round shot from a rifle. While the study focused solely on non-fatal eye wounds, it failed to account for the fatal eye wounds, which would have significantly decreased the need to address the small number of preventable eye wounds. From this article and others like it, all other major combatant nations scrambled to develop a type of face protection for the frontline soldiers, frequently sacrificing comfort and combat effectiveness for safety.
To address the number of ocular injuries from small fragments, as suggested by Morax and Moreau, other oculists partnered with armorers to develop several different types of eye protection to reduce casualties. Among those was leading American oculist Colonel W. Holland Wilmer of John Hopkins University. To address the need for eye protection, Wilmer developed an eye shield that showed promise. Starting in January 1918, the Equipment Division of the War Department requested 75,000 face shields to be produced by Worchester Pressed Steel Company that were then to be delivered to Ford Motor Company for painting and assembling. Out of the contract, only half were fulfilled and shipped to France for field testing. Showing obvious merit for ocular protection, American Expeditionary Force Headquarters (HAEF) rejected the eye shield stating the face shield did not remain in position. Due to the HAEF rejection, the Wilmer Eye Shield never saw combat experience, leaving many unused and sitting in boxing in France. Out of the 30,000 produced and shipped overseas, a mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the experimental eye shields due to the absence of survivors, with roughly half a dozen known to exist.
From the elongated slits for a limited range of sight, the Wilmer Eye Shield has a very sorrowful and tired look. Protruding from the eye shield are two bulbous shaped forms allowing the wearer more space between the shield and the eyes but, when viewed from the profile, gives a frog-like appearance. By the two springs, the face shield was attached to one of three holes on each side of the helmet giving three different positions based on the preference of the wearer. On the back of the eye shield was a tubular rubber sponge seating the shield comfortably on the face. Through the tension in the springs, the eye shield rested on the wearer’s face, but in a combat/field environment, the eye shield would not remain in position. Under the two horizontal slits are two holes near to the nose. These two holes were punched out to give the wearer the ability to look at the ground without lowering his head. As effective as the eye shield was, unfortunately, it was not adopted but remains one of the most challenging pieces of experimental gear to collect.
1st Infantry Division (United Kingdom)
The 1st Infantry Division was a regular army infantry division of the British Army with a very long history. The division was present at the Peninsular War, the Crimean War, the First, and the Second World Wars. It was finally disbanded in 1960.
The division was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for the duration of the war. On 31 October 1914 divisional commander General Samuel Lomax was seriously wounded by an artillery shell and died on 10 April 1915 never having recovered from his wounds. After the war the division was part of the occupation force stationed at Bonn.
The division's insignia was the signal flag for the 'Number 1'. During the war, the division was involved in the following battles: Battle of Mons, First Battle of the Marne, First Battle of the Aisne, First Battle of Ypres, Battle of Aubers Ridge, Battle of Loos, Battle of the Somme, Battle of Pozières, Third Battle of Ypres, Battle of Épehy.
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