“Steel front-line girlfriend”: from the history of a soldier’s helmet

There are only a few days left until the Victory Day parade, which we will hold on June 24. Probably, it is historically correct to hold this parade on the very day when the famous parade of the winners, which became another military award to the front-line soldiers, took place. Not just winners, but war heroes. Let me remind you that only front-line soldiers took part in the 1945 parade and only those who were repeatedly awarded military orders and medals.

Today we will talk about one participant in the Victory Day parade, whom many simply do not notice, but who, to some extent, “took part” in the life of every Soviet family, who saved Soviet soldiers and officers from death along with orderlies and doctors. Which is today, probably, in any military history museum.

Today I decided to remind readers of a simple soldier’s helmet. The one who went through the whole war with infantrymen, sappers, scouts, artillerymen and partisans. Even the generals and marshals, being on the front line, were not shy about this soldier’s defender.

A bit of history about the return of helmets to the army

Until the outbreak of the First World War, European armies did not really think about combat helmets for their soldiers. Only a positional war, or as the trench war was then called, made the commanders think about protecting the head of a soldier. I understand that today it sounds a little wild, but in the early years of the First World War, most of the soldiers died from wounds to the head.

We have written a lot about small arms, which in the 20th century have become much more effective than before. They wrote a lot about artillery, in the arsenal of which shells appeared, specially designed to destroy precisely manpower. The First World War quickly modernized the European armies in terms of weapons. Accordingly, a soldier who needed to stick his head out of the trench was wounded in it.

The “father” of modern military helmets should be considered the French general Auguste Louis Adrian, who in 1915 developed a steel helmet that protected soldiers from shrapnel and shrapnel. Note that the helmet was not a protection against direct bullet hits. The effectiveness of the helmet stunned the command of the French army. After equipping the army with Adrian’s helmets, the number of head wounds decreased by 30%, and the number of deaths from such wounds by 12-13%!

Adrian’s helmet consisted of 4 parts. Half-sphere helmet made of 0.7 mm thick steel, front and rear visors made of the same steel, ridge on the top of the hemisphere to enhance protection and cover the ventilation hole on top, leather comforter made of horse leather. The weight of the helmet, depending on the size (3 different), varied from 700 to 800 grams.

By the way, modern researchers of the means of protecting soldiers on the battlefield note the beauty and reliability of the helmet design, as well as its combat properties. According to some characteristics, this particular helmet surpasses even modern helmets.

So American scientists from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University conducted a study of 4 types of helmets from the First World War and a modern protective helmet. The goal was to find out how a soldier’s helmet protects from shell shock when exposed to a blast wave. It turned out that Adrian’s helmet copes with this task best of all.

In the Red Army, this helmet was used quite widely and can be seen on many pre-war campaign posters, in films and in photos. This was due to the presence of a fairly large number of these helmets in warehouses. The Russian imperial army has been using them since 1916. True, the royal emblems were removed from the helmets and replaced with tin stars. The same helmet became the prototype of Solberg’s Russian helmet. It is this helmet that we see on the heads of Soviet and Finnish soldiers during the Soviet-Finnish war.

And the last thing about Adrian’s helmet. Something that raises questions from many readers. On helmets from the Second World War, there are no identification marks on the front. At best, there is a painted star or CC sign on the side. Why?

During the use of Adrian’s helmets, a strange feature of combat helmets became clear. The ridge on top was to enhance the protective properties of the helmet, but the metal emblem, on the contrary, reduced the protective properties. Some countries have abandoned the emblems altogether, others have moved the emblems to the side surfaces of the helmet. Hence the subsequent steps in the development of other samples. The emblems began to be painted. Ours – on the front of the hemisphere, the Germans – on the side … The star or sign of belonging to the SS was more “army chic” than a necessity.

How the winners’ helmet was created

Attempts to create their own army helmet in the USSR were quite active. However, today I will not talk about all the attempts to copy or modernize the helmets of other armies. I’ll tell you about a truly breakthrough invention of our designers, which became the “father” of the winning helmet. About SSh-39, a steel helmet of the 1939 model. It was manufactured from 1939 to 1942.

In the period 1936-37, many experimental helmets were created in the USSR. These developments were based on foreign army helmets. The Rzhev test site at that time resembled an experimental site. The tests were in full swing. In 1938, the final decision was made on which helmet is suitable for the Red Army.

In appearance, the new helmet was very similar to the Italian M33. I did not find the exact data, so I made a conclusion simply by the appearance of the helmet. And during the Spanish Civil War, this helmet was widely used there.

The helmet was made of steel with a thickness of 1.9 mm. The weight of the helmet was 1250 grams. Dome-shaped liner made of fabric, leatherette, dome-shaped waxed fabric. Under the fabric there is a felt or fabric padding. The liner was adjusted with a string at the top of the dome. The fabric was attached to a steel hoop, which in turn was attached to the helmet with three rivets.

It should be noted that such a design, when the comforter does not touch the helmet, made it possible to significantly reduce the cost of production of the helmet and solve the problem of ventilation of the soldier’s head without additional holes in the helmet itself. The manufacturer’s stamp on Soviet helmets was placed on the back of the helmet next to the size of the helmet.

This helmet served in the army, and then in the educational institutions of the Civil Defense until the 60s of the 20th century. True, a layman is unlikely to be able to recognize him among the subsequent SS-40s. The fact is that after the war, SSh-39s underwent modernization and received a helmet with SSh-40. And the stamp was put precisely in the year of modernization-1950.

And here it is, the victorious helmet in World War II. The famous SSh-40. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel V. Orlov. The same Lysva helmet. In fact, the SSh-40 is a modernization of the SSh-39. You can distinguish them by the number of rivets. There are 6 of them on the 40th model. This is due to the sub-unit device. Now it consists of three dermantine petals, which are connected at the top with a cord. There is cotton wool inside each petal. The chin strap is split in two. now it can be adjusted in length without restrictions.

But the most important difference between the SSh-40 is the material of manufacture. Unlike the SSH-39, now the helmet is made of alloyed armored steel of the 36SGN brand with a thickness of 1.2 mm. The sturdy and reliable helmet of the Soviet soldier withstood the hit of an automatic bullet from a distance of 150 meters. But even in the case when the bullet pierced the helmet, the probability of fatal injury was reduced significantly. The energy of the bullet was simply not enough to fully incapacitate a fighter.

Why is the helmet, which has become an integral part of any monument to the Soviet liberator soldier, called the Lysven helmet? How did a small town beyond the Urals deserve such an honor?

The fact is that in the USSR, only three factories were engaged in the production of helmets for the army – in Leningrad, in Stalingrad and in Lysva. It is clear that after the start of the war, two factories were forced to stop producing helmets. Leningrad was in a blockade, and the plant in Stalingrad was completely destroyed. Thus, the plant in Lysva became the only manufacturer.

This plant is generally legendary. Shells for anti-aircraft and air cannons, incendiary bombs, shells for the “Katyusha” went to the front from Lysva. But the plant workers received thanks from the front-line soldiers and their families for the release of the SSH-40. During the war, since 1942, the plant handed over to the front more than 10 million SSH-40 helmets! Agree, the numbers are impressive. Soldiers often called the helmet a “steel front-line friend”.

Descendant of the winners

The story about helmets would not be complete if not to mention the descendants of the SSh-40. The fact is that most of the veterans who served in the Soviet Army remember “their” helmet. Very similar to the 40th, but still different. Different in form. Indeed, the famous helmet has been modernized several times. It underwent the most significant modernization in 1968. The strength of the helmet was increased, changed to a greater slope of the frontal wall, and the sides were shortened. And the weight of the helmet has increased to 1.5 kg in full assembly.

But, the number of helmets in warehouses today even exceeds the required one. Therefore, their production has been discontinued. However, our designers do not intend to stop. Yes, and materials today allow you to create more effective means of protection.

Today the uniform military combat helmet of the Russian army is 6B47, which is better known as the “Ratnik” helmet. Developed since 2011. It is made on the basis of fabric materials based on microfilament threads and provides the possibility of using additional devices. The helmet is lighter than SSh-68 by half a kilogram. Weight is only 1000 grams.

The legend will pass through Red Square again

Soon we will see many legends again at the Winners’ Parade. We will see machine guns, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Katyushas, ​​cannons … Weapons that smashed the enemy on all fronts of the Great Patriotic War. We will see the descendants of the winners. And we will definitely see a simple soldier’s helmet, which saved the lives of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Soviet soldiers.

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