Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Siamese/Thailand model 30-32 Steel Helmet

 A recycling story...

If you were a nation occuppied by the Japanese in WWII you find yourself awash in Japanese military materiel upon their surrender.  Suddenly your army (such as it is) has lots of helmets!

Such was the case with Thailand.  A small army, a whole bunch of Japanese helmets, just add insignia, and away you go!

The distinctive Japanese 30-32 profile in Siamese livery.

Ventilation holes in the dome.

This example has mounts for the French m. 26 liner and chinstrap.

Close-up of riveted mounting frame for the liner...

though the mounting holes for the original Japanese liner are apparent

Back story...

Remember back in the late '70s and early 80's seeing ads in military magazines for genuine Japanese helmets for only 15 (later 25) bucks? Sounded like a rip-off, but what the heck, it was only fifteen dollars, so I gave it a shot. The helmet I got in the mail proved the adage: "You get what you pay for"; a stripped-down Japanese helmet sans liner and insignia of any sort.

On the plus side it did have a chinstrap, though it was unlike any I was used to seeing on Japanese helmets, and had the French-style suspension for a liner intact. What was most intriguing about this helmet though, was the printing on the remnants of newspaper that were stuck to it (obviously this helmet had been in storage for some time). The script on the newspaper fragments was unlike any I'd seen before. It was definitely not Japanese, nor was it Chinese or Korean. That puzzled me. Also, on the front of the shell, where an insignia had been, was the distinct and symmetrical outline of that missing insignia. The outline was clear and very distinctive, and again unlike the shape or size of any Japanese insignia that I was familiar with.

Mystery aside, I felt a little sheepish about this helmet and pretty much tucked it away in the old "live and learn" box, where it stayed for almost 25 years until it suddenly became somewhat of a prize.

In the intervening 25 years a couple of things happened: the publication of that outstanding book by Paolo Marzetti "elmetti di combattimento di tutto il mondo" (Combat Helmets of the World) and the advent of ebay.

Marzetti's book gave me my first glimpse of the Siamese model 1930-32 which was simply a salvaged Japanese 30-32 with a replaced liner (French m.26 style) and leather chinstrap.

  And mounted on the front, with that distinctive outline that had so puzzled me was the embossed metal Siamese insignia. Shortly after that, as ebay came into full-flower, I successfully searched out and obtained that helmet plate. The helmet came out of storage, the insignia was affixed, and suddenly that cast-off was placed front and center in my collection with some of the other more obscure models.

A very nice ending indeed.

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