Modern knights of the Tank Corps
Facial wounds were extremely common during the First World War, particularly when an unthinking soldier popped his head over the trench parapet. But even soldiers serving within the enclosed “safety” of a tank were not immune from such wounds: small pieces of steel could splinter off the inner surface of the tank when shells struck the outside, causing serious wounds to those inside.
Looking almost like a piece of medieval armour, this leather and chain-mail face mask offered tank crewmen some protection against facial wounds. It was supplied to members of the British Tank Corps, who trained with Australian troops in order to ensure infantry–tank cooperation, from 1917. Constructed from a thin steel plate that has been moulded to a face shape, the mask is covered with brown leather with slits cut for both eyes. The chain-mail skirt is attached by rings to lugs on the steel plate. The inside of the mask is lined with a thinly padded, buff-coloured chamois for comfort. On each side of the mask is a length of cotton tape, used to fasten it behind the wearer’s head.
Souvenired by an Australian soldier, this mask is one of the many objects expected to go on display in the Memorial’s redeveloped First World War galleries.