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Steel helmet, France, 1914-1918

The symbol on the helmet is a red cross in a circle, suggesting it may have been worn by a member of the French Red Cross, who would have given first aid to soldiers in the trenches during the First World War. Trench warfare was a new way of fighting that brought fresh dangers – flying shrapnel, heavy shelling and snipers. Steel helmets were introduced into the French Army in the early months of the First World War to reduce the number of head injuries. They replaced blue serge caps, which provided little protection.

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Glossary: first aid

Treatment that is rendered initially for the care of an emergent condition. It is usually performed by a lay person to a sick or injured patient until definitive medical treatment can be accessed

Glossary: helmet

Any of various forms of protective coverings for the head, usually made of a hard material.

Glossary: shrapnel

Fragments of shells, bombs or bullets.