General Information: During the First World War the French equipped Polish volunteers with French equipment including Model 1915 Adrian style helmets. These were fitted with pressed metal badges following the pattern of French chasseurs units, but with a Polish eagle in the center of the disk rather than “RF.” A less common badge was larger and oval shaped with a Polish eagle.
Displayed Example: This helmet originally came from a well-known, very old French collection. A friend of mine bought the helmet from this collector in 2008. A Polish M15 had long on my wish list. When I discovered that my collector buddy had one of these, I let him know that if he should ever decide to let it go, I would give it a good new home. That day came recently and the helmet completes my collection of foreign statutory badges used on French M15s during the First World War.
The Polish army in France was created in 1917, so it might be logical to imagine that these helmets should all have second pattern liners. This example has a first pattern liner. We have to remember, however, that by the time of the creation of the separate Polish army, Polish soldiers had been fighting in French units since the start of the war. France at that time had a very large community of Polish expatriates. It seems that some of the soldiers must have kept their original issue helmets when they transferred to the newly created all-Polish army.
I have a note from the original French collector who wrote this to my American friend: “Please find enclosed French M15 model with HALLER insignia. It is very rare because, in my collection life I saw it only once. Please ‘keep’(?) it well it’s a rare bird.” This individual had collected military relics for over seventy years, so his assessment of what constitutes “rare” carries weight. (“Haller” in this note is a reference to General Jozef Haller, who lead the independent Polish army in the immediate postwar years.)
The helmet is a size A, which was the smallest of three shell sizes used by the French in the First World War. It has an officer’s private purchase chinstrap. This is the less common type of private purchase chinstrap made up of solid pieces of leather that taper at the ends as opposed to braided type. (See also French M15 Medical and French M15 Artillery.)
Collector Notes: This is an exceedingly rare helmet. There are few surviving genuine examples of this type, but many fakes, so beware. Look carefully for signs of tampering around the edges of the frontal badge and the prongs in the interior of the helmet. Check to see if the design of the badge conforms to designs used by known originals or known reproductions.
* Permanent collection
* Citation pending