General Information: The French Model 1926 helmet was the main helmet used by French armed forces in the second world war. A large number of reissued Model 1915 helmets were also used. A transitional helmet, the Model 1923, was issued in limited numbers. In addition to the M26, specialty helmets were issued for armored, antiaircraft, and navy units. At the end of the war French soldiers were equipped by the United States and Britain and typically used the American M-1 steel helmet. As with the Model 1915, front badges designated different branches of French armed forces. Early issue M26s used World War One style badges. Later issue helmet were disks stamped with the symbols of the respective armed service branches (infantry, artillery, Zouave-Saphi/North African, chasseurs, engineer, aviation, medical, marine/colonial, armored, and light armored). Badges were generally painted separately from the helmet shells and are often slightly different colors or shades. In the 1940 campaign the great majority of the M26 helmets used by the French army had the earlier style badges.
The M26 was an improvement over its M15 ancestor. It was made of two main pieces: the shell and the comb rather than the four pieces used in the manufacture of the M15. It was made of an improved steel alloy with greater ballistic protection. The leather chinstrap was thicker and sturdier than the older version. Finally, the liner was mounted on a suspension system that allowed for greater ventilation. The helmets were manufactured in three sizes: B, C, and D. As with the earlier model liners were made in several sizes for each shell size to accommodate more precise head measurements.
The manufacturer stamps and size stamps are usually visible in the dome. The inside of the liners was stamped with the name of the manufacturer, the date of the contract and the size expressed as a number.
The French manufactured approximately three million M26s prior to the armistice of June 1940.
Displayed Example: This helmet is a size C, which corresponds to medium. The liner is stamped 57 which was one of the three sizes of liner that fit into a size C shell. The liner is also stamped with the year of the contract which appears to be 1929. The manufacturer’s name in stamped in large black ink in the dome. The company Industrielle Marseillaise à Marseille manufactured this piece. The helmet bears the traditional flaming bomb symbol designating infantry. The badge is the earlier First World War type.
Collector Notes: The French M26 is not a difficult or expensive helmet to acquire, but most M26s on the market have the later type badges with the service branch stamped in a disk. Since the great majority of the helmets used in the 1940 campaign were the earlier type, this to me was the more interesting version to have in my collection. They are harder to find, particularly in good condition, but the market does not make much distinction in value between older and newer.
 Hennequin, R.