History of War
COMMON SOLDIER HELMETS
Certain styles of helmet were made for use by the wealthy. For example, the helm was primarily used by the knightly classes or their well-off followers. The great basinet, armet and close helmet were designed to be worn with full plate armour. Who might use other forms is less well defined and it must be remembered that spoils could be picked up on a battlefield. The early conical helmet was a universal shape used by all who were lucky enough to afford it. The cervellière could be used by all ranks, as could basic forms of the basinet.
In the 15th century open-faced sallets and skullcaps were also popular with soldiers, especially archers, because lacking a brim over the forehead it did not interfere with the string when the bow was at full draw. In Spain simple skull-caps were worn, and skull-caps with arched openings over the eyes became popular in that country. Other forms of sallet, being less confining than the armet, were also worn by light cavalry and foot soldiers and were pushed back when not needed.
One helmet style was particularly popular: the kettle-hat. In the mid-12th century a helmet appeared that was often slightly conical and was fitted with a broad brim. This was the chapel-defer, or kettle-hat, so-called from its resemblance to an upturned cauldron. It was often made like a ‘Spangenhelm’, from a framework with plates riveted inside and a brim added. From the second quarter of the 14th century it was usually made from one or several pieces of metal and was often quite deep. It proved useful in siege work as the wide brim could deflect missiles when climbing a scaling ladder. Even knights sometimes preferred it because it enabled air to reach the face and gave good vision. Its affordability also made it attractive for poorer knights. Some kettle-hats were worn with bevors, except in Italy.
The kettle-hat was so popular that it endured throughout the medieval period and into the Tudor period, with cheek-pieces added; in the 17th century it evolved into the pikeman’s pot in the English Civil Wars. It reappeared in 1914 as the British infantry ‘tin hat’ and was used again as the ‘battle bowler’ by the British in World War II — quite a respectable run!