Dragons on Brass Fire Helmetshmyers

Helmet Dragon Photo

The inclusion of a dragon motif on the comb of a brass fire helmet is believed to be derived from Anglo-Saxon mythology and later heraldic customs.

Mythology in some cultures viewed dragons as evil creatures, but in others the dragon was a guardian spirit, a symbol of protection and strength. The heraldic symbolisms, which dated from the Middle Ages of Europe, were of nobility, leadership, wisdom, keen sight and courage. They were sometimes used as an ensign of war.

Dragons thus featured in many Coats-of-Arms of famous families, or important cities in England. The City of London adopted two upright facing dragons for its Coat-of-Arms in the 17th century, but it was not the only city to use them.

Dragons took many different forms – some with wings, some without (Drakes), some with two legs (Wyverns, Cockatrices), most with four legs, some without any (Amphiteres), and multi-headed varieties (Hydras).

The dragon on the helmet is most likely to be a WESTERN DRAGON, with its four legs, wings and a long tail. They were regarded as a creature of valour and protection.

Thus, whilst the dragon would have been stylised somewhat to suit the space available on the helmet (usually they are depicted standing or upright), the heraldic implications as detailed above would have been the primary motive for its inclusion. Shaw’s intention with this helmet was to ensure that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was seen to be superior to others in existence at that time.