French M15 North African

Paris, July 1919, during the victory celebrations

General Information: The soldiers who wore these helmets were part of the French 19th Army Corps, referred to as the Army of Africa. Its headquarters was in Algiers. The people serving in this army came mostly from French colonies of Algeria, Tunesia, and Morocco. These troops included zouaves, light infantry famous for their colorful uniforms, tirailleurs, light infantry skirmishers, and saphis, who were cavalry. There were just under three-hundred thousand North African soldiers who served in the French armed forces during this period.[1]

Because of the North African soldiers were predominantly Muslim, their helmet badges incorporated a crescent moon, the symbol of Islam, with the letters “RF” for Republic de France. Their helmets were typically brown, although some were blue-grey.

The collector nomenclature for this type of helmet is slippery. You will see these referred as “zouave” or “tirailleur,” or less commonly, “saphis” helmets. “North African” is used as well and this seems to me to be the better term as it encompasses the whole range of troops who fought under the crescent moon symbol.

Displayed Example: This helmet has a private-purchase officer’s chinstrap. The liner is the second type. The interior dome is nicely stamped “B” which corresponds to a medium and “57” which was one of three liner sizes that fit into a size B. The anchor stamp with CC is the manufacturer’s stamp for Compagnie Coloniale, a leading manufacturer of Adrian helmet during the First World War. The original owner wrote his name in the liner, but it is no longer legible.

Collector Notes: These helmets are relatively rare. Expect to pay about three times what a comparable French M15 army or artillery helmet would cost. They are faked, of course, so be careful.


* L’album De La Guerre 1914 – 1919. L’illustration. 1932

[1] “North-African soldiers. 1914-1918.” Chemins de Mémoire. Ministère des Armées. https://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/en/north-african-soldiers-1914-1918. Accessed November 13, 2022.


Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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