Crusader brothers collect war memorabilia

Photo by Nicholas Smith ’22

Alec Zierlein ’22

Collecting war memorabilia is a hobby for many, including Nicholas Smith ’22 and his younger brother Topher ’24. They each collect from different periods of history, but together have been able to find many interesting and unique items.

Nicholas has been collecting British home service helmets, which were the full dress headdress of the British Army from 1878-1914. Resembling the German helmet known as the Pickelhaube, home service helmets have a spike on top, are made of cork, and are covered in either a blue, green, or gray cloth.

“My favorite ones,” Nicholas said, “are a blue cloth from the 59th Regiment of Foot and a gray cloth from the 1st Northamptonshire Rifle Volunteers.”

The one from the 59th Regiment was made in 1878 for Lieutenant Percy Henry Noel Lake, later Lieutenant General Sir Percy Henry Noel Lake. From 1878-1880, he fought in the 2nd Afghan War. He quickly climbed the ranks, becoming Chief of the Canadian General Staff in 1905, General Officer Commanding 7th Indian Division in India in 1911, and Chief of the General Staff in India in 1912. He even fought the Ottoman Empire during World War I as commander of the Mesopotamian Force.

The grey cloth helmet dates from 1879 and belonged to Henry James Fitzroy, the Earl of Euston. He was the aide de camp to King Edward VII from 1901-1902, deputy lieutenant of Suffolk and Northamptonshire, and until his death was first in line to inherit the title of Duke of Grafton from his father.

While Nicholas collects items only from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, his brother Topher instead collects items from the World Wars. Topher has been collecting for a little over four years and has obtained First World War French body armor, a Japanese World War II flag, a British helmet with shrapnel holes, and even a mannequin of an American soldier from World War I, fully dressed in an original uniform down to the smallest detail.

On top of the mannequin is a U.S model 1917 Brodie helmet. There are also a tunic and trousers, both dated from 1918. Equipment wise, there is an ammunition belt that carries clips of .30 caliber bullets. Attached to the belt is a medical pouch, a canteen, and a Remington bayonet, all dated 1917-1918. Located on the chest is a gas mask to protect the wearer against chemical attacks. Underneath, there are some small pieces that would be carried by a doughboy in France around 1918 such as a pocket watch, a dog tag making kit, a U.S. army issue match box, puttees, and ration tins, all sitting on top of an ammunition crate.

Photo by Nicholas Smith ’22