Serbian M15

Serbian soldier of the First World War*

General Information: The French supplied Serbian armed forces with 123,000 Model 1915 helmets.[1] The Serbian helmets were painted brown like other foreign-used M15s. They had a frontal badge that was the coat of arms for Peter I, the King of Serbia from 1903 to 1918. The double headed eagle was adopted from the Nemanjic dynasty that ruled Serbia in the Middle Ages. The shield in the middle of the badge contains a cross with four firesteels, or file strikers, facing opposite directions. Firesteels were used to start fires using a flint and tinder. They were part of a musketeer’s tinderbox, which may be the root their symbolism in the Serbian coat of arms. They are not “Cs,” or Cyrillic “Ss,” as is commonly understood. (In the Cyrillic alphabet a “C” is equivalent to an “S” in the Latin alphabet.)

Displayed Example: I got this helmet in a trade with a French army officer who was serving in Serbia. He told me that it had been found outdoors in a pile of material discarded from a Serbian military facility. In the trade, he got a beautifully restored Hessian enlisted man’s pickelhaube with parade trichter. I got this helmet plus a German model Berndorfer. Fair trade?

This one has an “A3” stamp on the interior. The “A” indicates that it was the smallest of three helmet sizes produced by the French. The “3” indicates that the liner was the largest of three sizes installed in size A helmet shells. This would have corresponded to a head size 56. The liner is the first type made of a single piece of leather. The chinstrap is an original WWI type, but it is not original to this helmet.

The fabric used in the helmet liner was originally destined to produce the red pants that French soldiers used at the start of the First World War. The use of red pants was wisely abandoned, but that left a lot of unused red fabric, some of which ended up being used in helmets like this one.

Collector Notes: After the First World War, when Serbia became part of Yugoslavia, many of the Serbian helmets were refurbished. The old badges were replaced with similar new ones that represented the unity of the different nationalities that comprised the new country. These helmets were painted green. Subsequently, presumably following the German conquest of Yugoslavia, large numbers of Yugoslavian Adrian type helmets were transferred to German-allied Bulgarian military facilities. There, they were again refurbished for use by Bulgarian armed forces. This involved removal of the badges, repainting, and installation of new liners. These Bulgarian helmets are interesting objects too. They can be readily identified by the domed bolts used to secure the liners. Because of this long history of use and refurbishment, a Serbian M15 in its original condition is a very rare thing.

[1] Haselgrove. 2006. pp639

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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