The Tin Hat on the Somme

Prisoners taken in Regina Trench

Prisoners taken in Regina Trench, 1916. Note the prisoner escorts wearing the familiar tin hat of the Great War. Circa 1916.

I Heard the Clang of a Bullet

Some months prior to the attack on Regina Trench, 8 October 1916, Canadian troops were first issued with the steel helmet in the spring of 1916. Patented in London in 1915 by John Leopold Brodie of Buffalo, New York, the helmet came into general use when large quantities had become available for distribution. The first style helmet was rimless but a second model featured a reinforced rim and alterations to the liner. The helmet, commonly in use by soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, was officially called “Helmet, Steel Mk. I” and was first worn in action by Canadian troops around St. Eloi. Despite its weight, compared to the soft caps and other fabric head gear worn by troops previously, the helmet helped to prevent head wounds, though direct hits from speeding bullets, fragments, splinters and shrapnel balls still incurred their wrath upon soldiers.

A soldier of the 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish).

A soldier of the 16th Battalion  C.E.F. (Canadian Scottish) wearing the tin hat. Painting by Augustus John.

An officer of the Canadian Scottish, Acting Captain David Hunter Bell M.C., was killed at Regina Trench, 8 October 1916, and the regimental history records the following, “We had reached the enemy’s wire and were crouched down waiting for the barrage to lift. Captain Bell, resting on one knee, was looking at his wristwatch and remarked to me [Bell’s batman*], ‘it will lift soon.’ I was about to answer him when I heard the clang of a bullet striking his steel helmet. He fell over instantly and I knew he was dead. I have lost a friend and the 16th a brave, and well-loved officer.” (Urquhart, History of the 16th Battalion C.E.F., page 186).

*Batman – A personal servant assigned to an officer.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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