Originally worn by British tank crews during World War One, the splatter mask was designed to protect soldiers from shrapnel when looking for vantage points. The masks are made from leather and had a sheet of chain-mail to protect the bottom half of the face; the eye protection is made from metal.
The mask was mostly used to protect the gunner from their own tank. During the First World War, the tanks were very unreliable and were constantly breaking down. A big problem with World War One tanks were that they would also produce shrapnel, when shot at by machine guns, that would launch towards the view ports of the tanks.
The splatter mask often gains interest from people due to the fact it uses external chain mail for protection. While chain mail is still used for protection today, it is usually a component inside a piece of body armor. Chain mail is often associated with ‘medieval times’, with suits of armor found dating back to 3rd century BC. Since soldiers have not worn chain mail for the past few hundred years, it is a surprise to see a WW1 soldier wearing it.
This photograph shows a French tank gunner wearing a face mask on the 12th October 1918, just a month before the end of the First World War. He is wearing a French Adrian helmet with an artillery badge on the front.
Few splatter masks survived long past World War One and they are now very rare making them valuable for collectors; one sold in 2016 for £750 ($940).
This photo has been expertly colorized by Richard White.