Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Canadian MkII air raid warden helmet of WWII

During the Second World War, these people...

took to the skies to fly over England (and, many feared, Canada) to kill their enemies, who were...

                                      these younger people.

Those younger people were...



                                               and rescued...

by people like these:

                        the British and Canadian wardens of World War Two.

And here is the warden's trusty helmet,  the standard British MkII in warden livery.

The letter painted on the front identified the responsibilities of the wearer.  "W"  for air raid warden, "A" for ambulance service, "RP" for rescue party, and so on.  Paolo Marzetti has a two-page spread of most of these helmet markings in his outstanding work "Combat Helmets of the World".

Side view provides that very familiar "battle bowler" profile.

Note that the finish is without any non-reflective sand or sawdust.  Simply a coat of brownish green paint.

Sadly, mine is missing its liner, though I'm still very happy to have this particular piece in my collection.  Usually I like to collect the best specimen possible, though sometimes I find that that means the only specimen available.

The manufacturers mark is stamped underneath the brim,  in this instance its of Canadian manufacture.

The rim seam butts neatly in the rear of the helmet.

The MkII spring-loaded chinstrap; here, relaxed...

and here, extended.  This strap in is very good condition.

The buckle is highly enameled and lustrous.

Stenciled proudly on the front is the Warden's insignia.  Take that you motherless Nazi swine!

accession number: MOA hmar219.26
MkII British ARP Warden Steel Helmet
Acquired 1983, Grand Rapids Michigan.
Purchase price :$16.00
Condition: excellent though liner is missing

Attention Readers:

Give me your input!  For my next series of helmet posts what would you prefer to see: Spanish helmets of the Spanish Civil War and beyond or Mk1 helmets of the U.S. Navy of WWII and beyond?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The model 1915 French Colonial Infantry helmet

What can I say about Adrian helmets that I haven't already said here and here?

Plenty,  I love these helmets.  The so-called Adrian is my favorite helmet design.  This earliest entry into the helmet race, though of no ballistic value, did protect the wearer from falling debris and splinters, and perhaps just as importantly, instilled a large degree of elan among fighting troops who enthusiastically embraced this distinctive piece of headgear .

The naivete of the warring nations in 1915 is reflected in the design of this artistic little gem.  
Little could they imagine the horrors they had unleashed upon Europe.

 Unlike any helmet coming after it, the 1915 French steel helmet still retained a design which reflected the aesthetics of the era.


Of four-piece construction, the model 1915 could not withstand a heavy blow let alone a projectile strike or an encounter with a taxicab tire.

Still, this light-weight helmet was better than the cloth kepis it had replaced

The horizon bleu finish, though quite complete on the exterior of this helmet is nonetheless oxidized and considerably darker than the day it came from the factory.

The distinctive Adrian profile has an American connection.

African-American soldiers, in the Jim Crow-era were issued what the US Army deemed "second-rate" equipment, and were thus equipped with French rifles and model 1915 helmets.

The men of the 93rd Infantry Division turned an intentional slight into a prized symbol of distinction and esprit de corps, even incorporating the model 1915 into their shoulder insignia

 But I digress. 

Back to the French.

The insignia on my new acquisition is a real piece of confection; the flaming bomb and anchor  of the French Colonial Infantry.

 visor and skirt are riveted at the centerline of the bowl; one of the structural fail points of this helmet.

Quite pronounced is the boss of the front split rivet which secures the comb to the bowl.

Sadly, the interior can only be described as being in "relic" condition with much paint loss, significant pitting, no liner, no chinstrap, missing bale and incomplete liner mounts.  

The good news is that the exterior is very presentable with few dents, 90 to 95% percent of the paint intact, a mellow patina, and a wonderful insignia, all illuminated here by the evening sun of the Cumberland Valley of Maryland:

 "Life", as my friend Steve says, "is full of trade-offs".  Ain't it the truth?

The ventilator hole as well as the split rivets affixing the comb are illustrated here.

as well as the corresponding vent slits on the exterior.

This overall view of the interior demonstrates the weaknesses of this helmet as a collectible


When I first started collecting, that wise old sage - Floyd Tubbs - advised me "always get the best helmet you can at the price you can afford".  And that is superb advice, which I always pass on to beginning collectors; but here I make an exception to that rule.  This helmet, in its current condition, is somewhat noncollectable among the high-end collectors.  For my garden-variety purposes however, well...  I simply can't pass up a pretty helmet.

And gosh, a pretty helmet paired with a pretty face?

ooh la!
Vive la France

More Adrians to come.