Monday, October 27, 2008

Helmets of the Spanish Civil War (and beyond)

Americans of the Abraham Lincoln brigade ready to strike a blow against fascism while wearing what appear to be Italian M.16 helmets.

The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) Was a brutal, repressive, and for this Americano, difficult to follow struggle which pitted several not particularly sympathetic groups - some quite repugnant- against each other.

When it was over strongman Francisco Franco  was left standing, the Spanish Republicans were on the run and in tatters, and the Communists were just as looney as ever.  The three guys who may have benefited most were Ernest Hemingway who got a great book and movie deal out of it all, Picasso who left us with an incredible painting, and Adolf Hitler who profited from what was a great opportunity to road test much of Nazi Germany's new war making hardware.  

Today over a half century later we are left with a modern Spain that may be the leading exporter of irrelevance and ambivalence.  At least that struggle gave the helmet collecting world some very interesting steel lids.

During that war the various  factions used a variety of helmets, foreign and domestic, interchangeably with each other while they bled their country white.

This jaunty Red wears the Spanish manufactured  M.26 helmet.

This stylized graphic poster provides us with an arty look at the "Eibar" helmet

These bicycle peddling Republicans sport the Italian M.16 ...

as do these actual Italian fascist troops assisting Mussolini's pal Franco in his nefarious ambitions.

Like the sandal-clad republican above, I'll try to figure it all out while showcasing, over the next five weeks, several Spanish helmets, including a few from the Civil War era.  Beginning with the specimen below, an Italian M.16 in Falangist livery.

The  "yugo y flechas" (bow and arrow)  is an insignia of the Spanish Nationalist group "Black Arrows".

I never get tired of that classic Adrian-inspired design.

No surprises inside.  I often wonder, when examining the helmets in my collection, how the former wearers fared.

Close up of the "yugo y flechas" insignia.

Join me again next week (Monday) for an in-depth look at the Czech manufactured M.30.  A unique helmet exported for use by both sides in the Spanish Civil War.

Keep on collecting!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh my!

I've just been informed by reliable sources that my British MkII Warden's helmet, is in fact a Canadian Warden's helmet.
Consider my face slightly red.

Stay tuned next Monday for the first in a series of Spanish helmets.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

German Luftschutz Helmet

fourth in a series of Civil Defense helmets


When your enemy controls the skies, the idea of Civil Defense grows large in the public imagination.

The "Luftschutz" was the air defense arm of the RLB; civilians, that is old folks, women, and children performing all of the Civil Defense roles so abundantly available in a smoldering and crumbling Germany while the last of the able bodied men were being pushed into the sausage machine of Hitler's "Thousand-year Reich".

This brave-looking dark blue helmet, of that Germanic-flared style, has a deep dome, wide protective skirt, and is emblazoned with the winged swastika insignia of the Luftschutz.

The profile demonstrates that typical "Fritz" style. The 'bead" or circumference ridge is an element we'll see again in a police-style helmet in a later posting of German helmets.

These distinctive colander-like ventilation holes prompt thoughts of draining pasta.

The rear view shows the widely flared skirt to fine effect.

The top view shows a finish in quite good condition, all very much intact save for that ding, caused perhaps by falling masonry? I'm hoping the damage occurred as the lid was thrown down in greeting the advancing food trucks of the American GIs (and not Russkis, for heaven's sake).

The very simple, very cheap, liner is indicative of the scrimping that Germany had to resort to in order to support a madman's hallucination of world domination. The cork spacers provided the wearer with a scant eighth of an inch separation between shell and skull. Let's hope our Aryan Air raid warden had a healthy head of hair.

The size is stamped on one of the liner fingers. The leather, by the way is very thin and cheap. Had the war gone on another year the liner doubtless would have ended up as some Berliner's lunch.

Manufacturer's mark stamped in the rear skirt.

Those familiar with German helmets will recognize the trusty split rivet that fastened the liner to the shell. The liner band, by the way seems to be some sort of pressed heavy paper.

The cork spacer is all that lies between the wearer and a concussion.

The nicest piece of leather is the chinstrap, of which only the buckle-half is currently attached.

This insignia will also be found on the captured helmets of many nations before the war ended.

Three cute German girls in Luftschutz gear, dutifully and cheerily marching toward oblivion...

as Hitler's Reich reaps the whirlwind.

As you collect, reflect.

The Luftschutz "gladiator style" helmet of World War Two. A sad cautionary icon, reminding us that willingly following pied pipers and maniacs can bring with it a terrible price.

Next Monday's installment will be the British MkII air-raid warden's helmet of WWII.

Note: the three German girls photo is a copyrighted image of and is used here without permission, though I'm still hoping to hear from them.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Danish M48 Steel Helmet - Civil Defense

third in a series of five civil defense helmet posts
What's not to like about Denmark?

Things from Denmark are always great...unless of course they happen to be ferocious Vikings who want to kick in your door and your teeth and rape your women and your chickens. That part of Denmark I can live without, thank you very much.

Otherwise, I like all things Danish, especially their appreciation of that stellar classic of helmet design: the M1.

Drink it in, you know you love it.

The M48 is an outstanding clone of the venerable American M1 design. Manufactured in Austria, Germany, as well as Denmark, this version of the M1, although not a combat item, is absolutely outstanding in all respects. Proving that sometimes you can improve upon the original.

Now this from Joseba's fantastic site (translation via bablefish):

The helmet MÂș 48, as it happened prior to the successive helmets of the Danish army, at the beginning the distribution of new helmets of Kevlar massively has been destined to the Civil defense (Civilforsvaret). For it a black painting seal has been printed them with the letters " CF" under the Danish real crown. Besides the seal, mate is frequent to paint the helmets of gray color (in other models of Danish helmets, the seal of the DC was used to print in the leather of the trimming).

Gracias Joseba!

Also, Greg Pickersgill has info and more photos at his fine site right here.

So far no surprises for any fan of the M1. The steely blue gray color is quite attractive and the finish on this unissued helmet is absolutey mint.

Stamped in the dome of the shell is the insignia for the Danish Civil Defense organization -

the Civilforsvaret.

Again the liner presents nothing startling, all very much the M1 family.

Here's a real improvement over the American version: A fabric chinstrap. Made of heavy duty webbing this chinstrap is far more functional and durable that that very thin leather strap of the US M1 (just think of how many broken ones you've encountered while pawing through stacks of old Westinghouses and Capacs).

Like the original this liner has the insignia grommet front and center.

That very distinctive, Nazi-defeating profile.

Chinstrap bales are in all respects identical to the late war M1.

Aside from the web chinstrap the liner also has a pronounced lip, very much unlike the American original. This lip would be very helpful for channelling and shedding rain.

Close- up of the cam slider. Everything about this helmet smacks of very high production standards.

Like the shell, the liner interior is also stamped with the Civiforsvaret "CF" surmounted by the royal crown of the queen.

Though one wonders why the Danes would mark their helmets with an old crown when they could render what the queen actually wears...

A smokingly-stylish hat! Goodness, yes!

This is the very chic Queen Margrethe II who is the monarch of that fine country of Denmark. A stylish gal who, apparently, isn't afraid to speak out against Islamic bullies. You go, Margie Girl!

Good lookin' Queen...

Good lookin' helmet!

Oops! gotta go...

Someone's at the door.