« PreviousContinue »
pair of hooks which could be fastened to the soldier's belt. This defense was then covered with blue-gray cloth to harmonize with the uniform of the soldier. To an early type of the shield, hip and groin guards were added. These, three in number, approximately of the same size, were slung together and then fastened by a leather band to the abdominal armor. The groin guard, or sporran plate, hung in the middle; the thigh guards, or tassets, on either side (Fig. 65). The lower defenses proved cumbersome in active service and were soon discarded by the soldiers. Of the abdominal plate, 100,000 examples were manufactured and they were to have been used in the front line. A final report upon them, however, has not been seen by the writer, but he learned indirectly that the soldiers did not take to them as kindly as they took to the casque Adrian, and there is no evidence that they appeared in greater numbers, as part of the regular equipment. From the theoretical point of view, none the less, the abdominal shield deserved very careful consideration. Moreover, a carefully arranged series of tests (1917) showed clearly its ballistic value.
In addition to the body defense just described, General Adrian devised a breastplate which joined the abdominal defense below and which was provided above with a gorget. About three thousand of these defenses were made and they were given practical tests. These showed that the entire defense, which weighed about five and a half pounds, was too heavy for general use. Hence, no further experiments were made in such a direction. It may be noted that the armor when exposed to exploding grenades, even grenade "F," which is the most deadly form available (German grenades were not to be had for this experiment), resisted a large number of the missiles. In these experiments the shields were hung so as to form fences and the grenades were exploded at distances of from three to five yards. It was found that large fragments of the grenades perforated in the majority of cases, the middle-sized fragments perforated occasionally, the small fragments never. In a general way, two thirds of the missiles failed to penetrate. In many instances the percentage of failures showed a margin of safety greater than here indicated. General Adrian also attempted to produce lighter forms of defense which soldiers of all classes would not hesitate to wear. Here should be mentioned his steel epaulets which came to be used in very large numbers (hundreds of thousands) and which were unquestionably the means of avoiding casualties. They were small plates of steel which were inserted, like shoulder padding, between the layers of stuff in the soldier's tunic. Such defenses weighed but a few ounces; they gave the wearer no discomfort, yet served to ward off such missiles as a standard helmet would resist. They covered, moreover, a part of the body which was apt to be struck when shrapnel burst overhead. As a detail in the economy of manufacture, it was found that material for the epaulets could be obtained from the trimmings of steel cast aside during the manufacture of helmets.
Fig. 66. Leg defenses. French, 1916-1917
(d) DEFENSES FOR ARMS AND LEGS
The French, so far as can be learned, never considered seriously the use of arm defenses. On the other hand, they manufactured leg defenses in some number and one of their models is shown in Fig. 66. This encloses the lower leg and consists of greave and calf-plate. It is made of helmet steel and is modeled competently. Its surface is pressed into ridges which are designed to offer greater ballistic rigidity after the fashion of armor in the time of Maximilian, as noted on page 84 of this work. It is not known whether this defense was used at the front: in any event, it was not adopted as part of the general equipment and no further effort seems to have been made to protect the soldiers' legs.
(a) Types of British body armor
(c) Face defenses
Of all the nations in the present war, the English have been the most persistent in their effort to solve the problem of light armor. Upward of eighteen designs of body shields have been produced commercially; and the Government has spent large sums in purchasing armor of various types and in itself producing revised models. There has, moreover, been no little expenditure in this direction on the part of British soldiers themselves. In shops in England, armor could be bought everywhere. Even the poorer types of it seem occasionally to have had good results, for all manufacturers received unsolicited letters from the front which tell of saving life and limb. It appears that defenses of the various models to be noted were worn only on special service and that he who wished the protection of armor must have been willing to carry it about with him, at the cost of no little discomfort, as part of his regular equipment. In view of this, several manufacturing companies endeavored to provide a body armor which would be light in weight and folded readily, so as to be carried in the soldier's pack. In the matter of general results, however, it should be stated that the British Government did not recommend body armor as a part of each soldier's equipment; it provided it only in sufficient quantity for arming about two men in each hundred. It was then kept at such points that it could conveniently be placed at the service of scouting parties, sentinels and bombers. Hence it was apt to be seen along the front as part of the regular materiel.
(a) TYPES OF BRITISH BODY ARMOR
Inventional work in Great Britain in regard to body defense has followed two lines of development which represent, for the rest, the types of armor known in early times, i.e., "yielding" and "rigid." "Yielding" armor corresponds to the quilted or cushioned defenses and to the chain mail and banded armor of the Middle Ages; the latter corresponds to armor of plate.
"Yielding" Armor: The general subject of armor made of silk and other fibers, woven or padded, will be referred to in a later section of this report (page 282). A defense of this kind aims to prevent injury to the wearer by deadening the blow—that is, by yielding to the impinging missile yet at the same time clinging to it, so that in the end it brings it to a state of rest. In the present section, we will refer only to the kinds of "soft" body armor which the British have actually used.
The first of these is a silken neck defense or necklet, prepared in London under the auspices of the Munitions Inventions Board. Its form, as shown in Fig. 67, suggests the high collar of an ulster, generous in its lines, thick (nearly two inches), and heavy (3J4 pounds). It is padded with about twenty-four layers of Japanese silk of six momme (1.1 ounces) and wadded
with an additional amount of waste and floss silk. Its covering is canvas and khaki-colored muslin or drill, and its contour is stiffened with % inch iron wire. This defense is of about the same ballistic value as the English shrapnel helmet. Tests made by the Ordnance Department showed that it would stop a 230-grain pistol ball traveling at the rate of 600 foot seconds. The British authorities regarded the present necklet as a valuable defense and they issued it at the rate of 400 to a division. They later found it of less merit than had been supposed; it deteriorated rapidly as trench materiel, it was costly ($25), and the silk for its manufacture was difficult to procure.
A second type of soft body armor which has been used (but to a very limited degree) in the British Army is the Chemico Body Shield (Figs. 68