Military Review

Steel Front Friend: From the History of a Soldier's Helmet

Steel Front Friend: 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. It is probably historically correct to hold this parade on the very day that the famous parade of the winners, which became yet another military award to war veterans, was held. Not just winners, but war heroes. Let me remind you that only front-line soldiers participated in the 1945 parade and only were awarded repeatedly with military orders and medals.

Today we’ll talk about one participant in the Victory Parade, which many simply don’t notice, but who, to some extent, “participated” 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-historical museum. 

Today I decided to remind readers of a simple soldier's helmet. The same one that went through the whole war with infantrymen, sappers, scouts, artillerymen and partisans. Even 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 World War I, 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 soldiers died from wounds to the head.

We wrote a lot about small arms weapons, which in the 20th century has become much more effective than before. They wrote a lot about artillery, in the arsenal of which there were shells specially designed for the destruction of precisely manpower. World War I quickly modernized European armies in the sense of armament. Accordingly, a soldier who needed to stick his head out of the trench was injured precisely 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%!

Hadrian's helmet consisted of 4 parts. A hemisphere helmet made of steel 0,7 mm thick, front and rear visors made of the same steel, a crest on the top of the hemisphere, to enhance protection and cover the ventilation hole from above, a leather cap comforter made of horse leather. The weight of the helmet, depending on the size (3 different), ranged from 700 to 800 grams.

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

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

In the Red Army, this helmet was used quite widely and can be seen on many campaign posters of the pre-war period, in films and in the photo. This was due to the presence of a sufficiently large number of these helmets in warehouses. The Russian imperial army used 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.

Well, the last thing about Adrian's helmet. What causes questions from many readers. On helmets of the period of the Second World War there are no identification marks on the front. In the best case, there is a painted star or SS sign on the side. Why? 

In the course of using Adrian's helmets, a strange feature of combat helmets was revealed. The crest from above was an enhancement of the protective properties of the helmet, but the metal emblem, on the contrary, reduced the protective properties. Some countries abandoned emblems altogether, others transferred emblems to the side surfaces of the helmet. Hence the subsequent actions in the development of other samples. Emblems began to be applied with paint. Ours are on the front of the hemisphere, the Germans are on the side ... A star or a sign of belonging to the SS was more of an "army chic" than a necessity.

How the helmet of winners was created

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

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

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

The helmet was made of steel with a thickness of 1,9 mm. Helmet weight was 1250 grams. Dome comforter made of fabric, leatherette, domed waxed fabric. Under the fabric a felt or fabric gasket. The comforter was adjusted using a rope in the upper part 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 this design, when the cap comforter does not touch the helmet, made it possible to significantly reduce the cost of helmet production and solve the problem of ventilation of the soldier’s head without additional holes in the helmet. 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 educational institutions of the Civil Defense until the 60s of the 20th century. True, it is unlikely that a layman will be able to recognize him among the subsequent SS-40. The fact is that after the war the SSH-39 went through modernization and received a send with the SSH-40. And the stamp was put precisely in the years of modernization-1950.

And here he is, a helmet-winner in World War II. The famous SSH-40. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel V. Orlov. That same Lysvenian helmet. In fact, the SSH-40 is a modernization of the SSH-39. You can distinguish them by the number of rivets. There are 40 on the 6th model. This is due to the sub-body device. Now it consists of three dermantine petals, which are connected at the top by a cord. Inside each petal is cotton wool. The chin strap is divided into two parts. Now it can be adjusted in length without restrictions.

But the most important difference of the SSH-40 is the manufacturing material. Unlike the SSh-39, the helmet is now made of alloy steel 36SGN grade 1,2 mm thick. Durable and reliable helmet of a Soviet soldier withstood hit machine gun from a distance of 150 meters. But even in the case when the bullet pierced the helmet, the probability of a fatal wound was reduced significantly. The energy of the bullet was simply not enough to fully disable the fighter. 

Why is the helmet, which has become an integral part of any monument to the Soviet soldier-liberator, called Lysvensky? 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 outbreak of war, two factories were forced to stop producing helmets. Leningrad was in a blockade, and the plant in Stalingrad was completely destroyed. Thus, the only manufacturer was the plant in Lysva.

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 increased to 1,5 kg in full assembly.

But, the number of helmets in warehouses today even exceeds the necessary. Therefore, their production is 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. In development 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 half a kilogram lighter than the SSh-68. Weight is only 1000 grams. 

The legend will again pass on Red Square

Soon we will again see many legends at the Victory Parade. We will see machine guns, rifles, machine guns, Tanks, "Katyusha", guns ... Weapons that smashed the enemy on all fronts of World War II. 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. 
Photos used:
Wikipedia / HOBOPOCC
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Lebed
    Lebed 21 June 2020 13: 00
    Usually you don’t think how much painstaking work is inherent in such a seemingly simple subject.
    Thank you for the article hi Very interesting good
  2. Ragnar Lodbrok
    Ragnar Lodbrok 21 June 2020 13: 18
    They regretted good metal on our helmets, broke easily, and the Germans barely punched them with an ax with the boys ... Collected in the forest in childhood, Italian and Hungarian are also not so hot, but by and large I agree, let there be a piece of iron on the head ... Anything is better than nothing ... You look, it will protect you from a small splinter or a bullet at the end of the war ... Although both grandfathers said that they did not like to wear a helmet, "heavy, it interferes, like a bucket was put on you" ...
    1. Terenin
      Terenin 21 June 2020 13: 37
      It's because
      Quote: Ragnar Lothbrok
      German with an ax barely punched by the boys ...
      and that means the conclusion
      Quote: Ragnar Lothbrok
      On our metal helmets spared good
      not quite right or not right at all No.

      These characteristics of the steel helmet were confirmed by shooting from a 3-line rifle, as well as pistols of the "Nagant" and "TT" brands. During the first tests in the dash of the plant, a steel helmet was fired at from a distance of 10 meters from a Mosin rifle, designed for a firing range of 800 to 1000 meters, as well as from a "revolver". The new helmet passed the tests with flying colors. Then, at the training ground, a steel helmet was shot from a PPSh machine gun from a distance of 115 meters, the result was also satisfactory. The test data were accurately recorded in the appropriate logs and have survived to this day.
      1. Thunderbolt
        Thunderbolt 21 June 2020 13: 50
        Quote: Ragnar Lothbrok
        ... Although both grandfathers said that they did not like to wear a helmet, "heavy, it gets in the way, like they put a bucket on you" ...

        You quickly get used to body armor and a helmet, the main thing is to tighten everything correctly, and not wear it like a cowhide.
        P.S. A month ago, I was digging a new sewer in the house. He threw back the earth from the trench with a helmet. Very convenient! I cleaned it and hung it on the carnation again in the barn smile
    2. bk0010
      bk0010 21 June 2020 20: 16
      Quote: Ragnar Lothbrok
      You look, from a small fragment or a bullet at the end and protect in war
      The initial task of the helmet was to protect the infantryman’s head from shrapnel. The infantryman’s body was covered by a trench, but his head was defenseless. With the introduction of helmets, a breakthrough of the wounded in the head suddenly formed. These were people who used to be just killed.
    3. neri73-r
      neri73-r 22 June 2020 11: 12
      Quote: Ragnar Lothbrok
      and the Germans barely punched the boys with an ax ...

      And in our village up to 90 dogs were fed from German helmets.
  3. Terenin
    Terenin 21 June 2020 13: 34
    But the most important difference of the SSH-40 is the manufacturing material. Unlike the SSh-39, the helmet is now made of alloy steel 36SGN grade 1,2 mm thick.
    The main thing was the development of carbon silicon-manganese-nickel steel, which received the symbol I-1. It was its application that made it possible to achieve the necessary bullet resistance.
  4. Vadim Golubkov
    Vadim Golubkov 21 June 2020 13: 34
    When he served .. Helmets saved us from injuries, or maybe the death of our grandfathers on guard, they got artifacts and didn’t want to put them on, the head of the guard forced them to wear, during a divorce, a tree fell from a strong gust of wind and flew onto the heads of grandfathers, lucky that struck with branches, not a trunk, then they took off their helmets and began to kiss theirs and then wore them as cute. Even in peacetime, a helmet saves lives from injuries of soldiers.
  5. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 21 June 2020 13: 48
    Very interesting! Thanks to the author! I never thought about such familiar and seemingly everyday things like a helmet, a duffel bag, a pouch ... But this is all someone invented, worked out and put into use!
    At the KMB in the army, he pulled this element on his head. And then about ten years ago, at one of the exhibitions I tried on a Kevlar headdress. How much thicker it is steel, and as it seemed to me, heavier! ...
  6. vladcub
    vladcub 21 June 2020 14: 01
    In fact, the site already had publications on the history of helmets.
    Many people remember on the SS-39 on the sides of the flange, but do you know where they came from?
    In 1939, it was decided to create a Steel Helmet. At a meeting of SNK, they brought a manikin in a red army uniform and helmet.
    S. M. Budyonny took the saber and slashed it at the top of the helmet, the helmet withstood the blow, and the saber slipped on the manikin’s shoulder. It was decided: to make lapels on the helmet so that the fragments do not slide down.
    At least I read such a version in a newspaper, somewhere in 1976-1977
    1. domokl
      21 June 2020 14: 32
      One of the developers of the helmet M. I. Koryukov [5] recalled subsequently:

      “The work was taken by a commission led by Semyon Budyonny. He carefully examined the helmet made by the laboratory staff and ... took up the saber. Surprised by the choice of weapons, I grinned. Noticing this, Semyon Mikhailovich explained that with a checker a good cavalryman cuts the enemy from shoulder to belt - the bullet does not have such power. Of course, Budyonny was an experienced “grunt”, and the blade of hardened Zlatoust steel, presented to him by the workers, was a strong test weapon in his hands. But here, so to speak, the scythe found on a stone. The air cut by the saber whistled, and the helmet tinkled immediately. Budyonny looked in surprise at the site of the strike: “Please tell him at least something!” And he took up the gun. Semyon Mikhailovich shot first from twenty-five meters, then from ten, almost point blank. After each shot, the helmet jumped, the bullets ricocheted, and I was very afraid that they would not hit Budyonny. For the fate of the helmet, I was calm and not worried. “Well done! - said, finally, the marshal, “well done.”

      quote from quite a few articles
      1. hohol95
        hohol95 21 June 2020 19: 04
        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.

        So the Wehrmacht soldiers did not have their emblem (decals)?
        Were - An eagle holding in its claws a swastika and a shield of colors of the national flag!
        From 1935 to 1940, German helmets had two decals. On the right side is a decal in the form of a shield with national colors (black, white, red). On the left is the Wermachtadler decal. Silver eagle with semi-folded wings on a black shield.
        The color of the eagle was silver, not white or gray, as can be seen on modern replicas of decals.
        From 1940 to early 1943, only the Wermachtadler decal was present on helmets. Beginning in 1943, helmets were made without decals.
      2. figwam
        figwam 21 June 2020 19: 06
        In my opinion, they tested the SS-36 helmet, which had wide fields along which the checker glided and flew without getting on the infantryman’s shoulders, after the fighting in Spain, on Hassan and Khalkhin-Gol revealed its flaws, and then the SS-39 appeared .
        1. domokl
          21 June 2020 19: 58
          The quote that I cited in the commentary belongs to one of the developers of the SSH-39 and he spoke specifically about the tests of this helmet
      3. cat Rusich
        cat Rusich 21 June 2020 21: 04
        Alexander, You can't even cut a bucket with a saber - the metal material is springy, human flesh is not springy. The pistol should be taken from a "potential enemy" - for example, Parabellum (cartridge 9x19mm), or your own TT 7,62x25. An "experienced grunt" will cut his head off his shoulders or cut from the SHOULDER to the waist - he will not cut his helmet. By the way, you can't shoot an empty bucket just like that - because of the springy effect, and a bucket of water is easy - the tin does not spring and immediately breaks through.
        1. domokl
          22 June 2020 04: 32
          Quote: cat Rusich
          Alexander, you won’t even cut a bucket with a checker

          This is not for me. This is to Semyon Mikhailovich ... He in the First World War, as he says, cut ...
        2. garri-lin
          garri-lin 22 June 2020 10: 17
          In childhood pneumatic buckets punched. And I will say blasphemy, cooperative slingshot pierced. If the bearings were shot.
  7. Vladimir Mashkov
    Vladimir Mashkov 21 June 2020 14: 15
    Thank you very much, Alexander, for such a good informative story! good
  8. Ravil_Asnafovich
    Ravil_Asnafovich 21 June 2020 14: 19
    On one TV channel, a torpedo bomber recalled a marine pilot, when they took off on a mission, the pilots were forced to wear helmets, naturally ignored it, because it was a hindrance, one of the sorties on a mission with the squadron commander had to put on a helmet that saved his life as a result.
  9. certero
    certero 21 June 2020 18: 22
    Unfortunately, the Soviet soldiers very often neglected the helmet.
    1. bubalik
      bubalik 21 June 2020 18: 42
      very often neglected helmet
      ,,, the problem was such, even at the end of the war.

    2. irontom
      irontom 21 June 2020 23: 32
      I do not agree. The answer below is the memory of the grandfather.
  10. Clone
    Clone 21 June 2020 18: 49
    In the garage on a shelf in a place of honor, my last helmet ... brought during the withdrawal of troops from the GSVG-ZGV ... then a lot of property was simply thrown away. And he glued the mannequin's head himself. repeat
  11. irontom
    irontom 21 June 2020 23: 31
    Last year he buried his grandfather, 95 years old, in the 42nd at 17 he left as a volunteer, the Totsky school of sergeants, fought from May to November of the 43rd.
    From the memory, the first thing I did was get to the front on the advice of experienced fighters I got myself a helmet, where I never told him.
    In the fall, an offensive grenade exploded in front of my face, from my memories - I heard hissing, I just managed to lower my head, I took the main fragments of the helmet, my face got seriously injured, I lost my eye, and small fragments came out for a long time. They treated for a long time in Sochi, the local therapeutic mud helped a lot.
  12. Carib
    Carib 22 June 2020 10: 09
    "Why is the helmet, which has become an integral part of any monument to the Soviet liberator soldier, called Lysvenskaya? How did a small town beyond the Urals deserve such an honor?"
    Lysva, located in the Perm Territory, to the Ural Ridge. We have the name Urals. And beyond the Urals it is the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk regions. Not sure just write in the Urals, this will not be a mistake.
  13. Razvedka_Boem
    Razvedka_Boem 22 June 2020 17: 27
    [media = http: //]

    About modern helmets and not only ..
    from 29:45 says in detail.
  14. leit
    leit 22 June 2020 20: 01
    It’s interesting how Lysva became a city beyond the Urals? She is still in Europe if something. It’s a shame it’s free to deal with the geography of her native country. They didn’t even mention Goryunov’s helmet adequately, namely, it’s ours who fought in Finland and the Finns themselves were German helmets were worn.
  15. Vdi73
    Vdi73 15 September 2020 18: 07
    It’s necessary to come up with such inconvenient crap.