Welcome to the Strelets Forum.
Please feel free to discuss any aspect of 1/72 scale plastic figures, not simply Strelets.
If you have any questions about our products then we will answer them here.
Can't help with question 1 although I wouldn't be surprised if retainers had some sort of family symbol on their shields, although a full coat of arms would seem to me unlikely as I thought the main purpose of heraldry was to identify a specific individual in battle for morale, valour and ransoming purposes so you wouldn't want other people running around in your "strip" (soccer term for non-English readers). Sons were identified from fathers by a strip at the top of the shield, so it was all very specific to an exact individual. Just my thoughts on the subject and I would gladly defer to someone with actual knowledge and expertise.
As for helmets in WWI, I think these definitely came in from about 1915 onwards chiefly because of the number of head wounds caused by shrapnel.
Graham is largely right I think. The French introduced the Adrian in 1915 and the British were not far behind. Both British and Germans were all helmeted by the Somme (mid 1916). Of course it took time to issue them to everyone so for much of 1915 and early 1916 both would have been seen. Russia never fully issued helmets, but Americans always had them when in the front line. Same goes for Portuguese. I think the Italians all wore them from 1916, but perhaps the Austrians were late in doing this.
The Germans had the leather pickelhaube helmet from the beginning, and did not completly change till 1916
Hi the french were the first to equip their troops with helmets from June 1915 although these were only made from ordinary steel, prior to this some experimental helmets had been issued, its by no means certain that russian troops on the eastern front were issued the adrian helmet in any numbers..
germany issued helmets from early 1916,there were several versions of this helmet including a cavalry version with ear cut outs, initially units coming off the line would pass their helmets on to troops going on the line, so its possible in early 1916 for not all troops in the same unit to have helmets, at least not untill theres a casualty! ...
before this one of the german units had an experimental helmet issued by and I believe at the expence of the commander, basically a curved steel plate to protect the forehead..
The british introduced the brody helmet in late 1915 by july 1916 1 million had been issued....
The austrian produced the Berndorfer and also bought large numbers of german M16 helmets these were used from late 1916 a number of experimental helmets were also in use.
The italians adopted the adrian helmet from april 1916 and later produced there own simplified version of it specialist helmets were issued to wire cutting assault units, see waterloo1815 ww1 italian wire cutter.
from early 1917 the turkish army used a version of helmet similar to the german M16 but with a reduced peek, was not generally issued and may only have been issued to assault companys.
look here for a great site on the adrian if you dont speak french use babelfish...