Czechoslovakian M15/18

Solders of the 22nd Regiment posing for a photograph in Karviná, Czechoslovakia. Likely early 1920s. Photo courtesy of Radovan Klokočník*

General Information: From August 1914 soldiers from the regions that eventually formed the state of Czechoslovakia – Bohemia, Slovakia, Moravia and Czech Silesia – served in the French Foreign Legion. At the end of 1917 a Czechoslovakian army within the French army was officially formed. These soldiers came from Czechs and Slovaks living in France,** Russia, Serbia, Romania, the United States, and other countries. Many were former Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war who volunteered to serve under the French.[1]

Czechoslovakian soldiers serving in the French Foreign Legion had standard French infantry or helmets painted brown like their fellow legionnaires.  Some wore M15 helmets with colonial badges (anchor emblem).** In the last year of the war, troops serving in French-organized Czechoslovakian army were issued standard French helmets that were painted grey-blue and bore the emblem of aspiring Czechoslovakian nation state. The badged was named “Sdružený legionářský znak” which translates to “Joined Legionary Emblem.”** The main element of this badge is the Bohemian lion. Above that is the Slovakian double cross together with an image representing three mountain ranges: Tatra, Matra, and Fatra. On the left side of the badge is the emblem of Moravia and on the right the emblem of Silesia. [2] The Czechoslovak army used these helmets into the 1920s.**

Czechoslovakian soldiers served in national units within the Russian and Italian armies as well. These units serving in foreign armies were referred to as “Czech Legions.” The Czech Legions within Italian armed forces were issued Italian M16 type helmets painted with Bohemian lions on the front and sometimes with regiment numbers stenciled in black under this emblem.** Russian Czech Legions, wore standard Russian/French M15s with Russian double-headed eagle badges or with badges removed. In lieu of a badge these helmets were sometimes adorned with red and white ribbons representing the national colors of Czechoslovakia.**

Displayed Example: My recollection is that I got this helmet from Regimentals in the UK. There is a black ink stamp on the interior of the dome: “Reflex 58 Paris.” Reflex was a major manufacturer of French M15s and “58” refers to the head size in centimeters. The helmet shell is a size B, which corresponds to a medium in the sizing scheme used by the French in the First World War. The threading on some of the liner tongues has come undone and the riveted end of the chinstrap has come loose.

Collector Notes: There are some convincing-looking fakes of this type circulating, so exercise caution. Look for signs of relatively recent tampering of the attachment prongs behind the badge.

In the period photo above you can see that some badges are a different color or shade from the helmet shells. A badge with paint different from the shell, therefore, is not necessarily an indicator of fakery.

* Klokočník, Radovan. Original postcard from personal collection. Personal email communication of September 8, 2022. Not to be used without permission.

** Radovan, Klokocink. Personal email communications September 7-8, 2022

[1] Haselgrove. pp 105

[2] Marzetti. pp 66

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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