It may Look Funny To Us, But This WW1 Contraption Was the Ancestor of Modern Body Armor

Ancestor of modern body armour

Ancestor of modern body armour

Ancestor of modern body armour

Photo Credit: Soviet Gun Archives

Many people believe that the wearing of metal armor when going into battle ended long ago when the knights on horseback gave way to more modern weapons and as the weapons became more powerful metal body armor became obsolete.  This belief was largely true, but strangely enough, nearly all countries experimented with personal metal body armor at the time of WWI.

This strange looking hinged, plated armor was designed by the Germans and intended only for use by sentries.  It was designed to be worn on the front of the body and to cover from the shoulders to the groin.  Aiming a rifle was an impossibility wearing it, so it is unsurprising that strict instructions were issued that this was not to be worn when attacking, it was only for sentry duty.

The most unusual armor that saw the light of day was this contraption designed by the Austrians.  Again it was designed to cover just the front of the soldier, but this armor had an additional trick up its sleeve.

When fired upon the soldier could take his armor plate off, fold it up and use it as a portable pillbox.  Unfortunately, the protection offered only covered the front and provided protection to hide behind but offered no protection on the sides or rear!

There is no indication whether or not this armor was issued in large quantities and if it had any effect.  This armor is the quaint ancestor of the current carbon fiber based armor issued to the armed forces serving today.  They may be light years away in technological terms, and we may smile at these efforts, but they are evidence of the desire by a country to protect her troops, a sentiment shared by modern day governments.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE