Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spanish Military Police (M1 clone) Steel Helmet


Yankee go home! (but leave your helmet)

The classic US M1 helmet has been copied by numerous nations, some best buddies like Taiwan (go here), also some dear acquaintances like the Netherlands and Denmark (likewise, go here and here).
 Our Cold War allies (save for the British Commonwealth countries), even France (for awhile) adopted the M1 or started producing their own domestic clones of that classic design.  It was an anti-commie love-fest, everybody in matching helmets.

Spain is an interesting exception to that rule.

Spain and the United States have not been such good pals, some have gone as far as to opine that Spain is the most anti-American country in the galaxy (here).

[fun times in Barcelona]

Goodness, such fussing between two such nice peoples; and when one considers the histories of the two countries one will find some disquieting similarities.

Despite the ill-feelings, Spain after its long love affair with the German-style helmet (here) adopted (in 1983) the venerable, and very much American, M1-style helmet.

At last, something we can agree upon.

Two members of the policia militar, one martial, the other groovy.

Although very similar to the US M1 this home-grown Spanish clone is entirely of Spanish manufacture and the differences in the two helmets become immediately apparent when looking at that distinctive chin cup and cotton-webbing liner strap.

The "draw marks" visible in this view indicate a thickness not nearly as great as the M1

Another difference is the raw edge of the Spanish model. The M1 has a separate rim providing a very "finished" look and feel.

The "loop within a loop" chinstrap fasteners are quite handy and the bale is nearly identical to that in the M1

The distinctive chin-cup provides for great stability however the plastic material is 
not particularly rugged.

The liner has rivet placement unlike the M1 as well as...

a pair of ventilator grommets.

These ventilators lead me to believe that the liner is more likely to be stand-alone headgear than would the complete liner and helmet combination, witness the above picture of the two youthful PMs.

Here's the meat-and-potatoes of the liner suspension and where any similarities to the US M1 take their leave.  The five-leaf suspension is distinctly European as is the leather construction.

The liner strap bales are unique as well.  Note the crack above the bail.  The plastic liner, as with the chin cup, is not particularly durable.

Velcro, that great legacy of the space-age, provides size adjustment for a snug fit.

The liner is nicely marked with this manufactures embossment in the dome.

Although of very simple design and inexpensive material this liner clip does bear some resemblance to the similar fitting in the M1

A phalanx of PMs armed and ready for action.

Spanish soldier...
American soldier.

Why can't two such cute countries just get along?

A fine looking M1 clone in Spanish livery


Sunday, October 21, 2012

1970 US Army MacGregor Tanker's Helmet



Readers of this blog frequently email with questions about the cleaning and restoration of helmets.  I don't really think that anything can be restored, entropy being what it is, however nearly anything can be conserved.

"Restoration" makes me think of Norma Desmond:


"Conservation",  on the other hand, allows one to grow old gracefully; a conserved helmet will always be able to say "I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Demille."

This post shares some things I learned from twenty years in museum work.

(Me with Custer's shoulder strap 
and Lee's sash, both in the 
holdings of the Public Museum
 of Grand Rapids Michigan)

The old curator sez:

Conservation means stopping the agents of deterioration from further degrading the object, and, protecting the object from future degradation.

Active rust, grime, and mold are three things that can degrade or damage a helmet.  Those conditions need to be halted to prevent further deterioration of that helmet.

The greatest tools in conservation are:
1. a rough towel
2. a little warm water
3. an eraser
4. a soft toothbrush
5. a dehumidifier


6. a very light touch.

I qualify this whole discussion with the knowledge that one can do anything that one wishes with an object that one owns - cover it with sequins if that's what tickles the fancy; hey, its your helmet, not mine.    But if one wishes to take a more measured approach here are some things to consider.

Set aside a cast-off towel to be used for cleaning your helmets.  A rough toweling will remove 60% of the crud that's eating your helmet.  The soft tooth brush will remove most rust scale, and for removing very surface rust a pencil eraser can be very effective.

Warm water, with a drop or two of dish detergent used in combination with that towel (moist only) will work wonders in removing grime, here's where patience and a light persistent touch will remove detrimental material but not compromise the object or its finish.

Mildew and active mold blooms are very frustrating as once they establish a beach head in leather it is usually there for the duration.  The impulse is usually to hit it hard with bleach or some equally noxious fluid to kill the mold and the spores, but all that will do is damage the leather and lead to its quick demise.  Leather "treatments" merely lock in the spores which can remain dormant for many years only to erupt later.  The best thing with mold is to towel or brush the visible mold from the surface and plug in the dehumidifier - forever.  Once the environment dries out the mold will stop growing; if the environment getshumid again the mold will reappear, much to the regret of the collector.  My dehumidifier runs every day and my helmets are much healthier for it.

Meet Meis van der Rohe

He would have made a great helmet conservator with his "less is more" philosophy; maybe that's why "conservative" and "conservation" have the same root.  The idea is simply to retard or stop the further degradation of the object.

This brings us to the last step, especially in the prevention of further rust.  Micro crystalline wax is a staple among museum conservators, it provides a protective (and reversible) coating on metal to keep it from rusting further.  The pits caused by rust cannot be filled in, but the offending oxidation can be removed and the wax can be applied to prevent rust from becoming active again.

Gaylord Inc. carries a full range of museum and library conservation supplies and they are an industry standard in the museum world.

Conservation; an example:

In Gettysburg PA I picked up a MacGregor football-style tanker's helmet which was in need of some TLC.  At 34 bucks the price was right even though the lid was looking a little shabby.  An hour of work with the materials listed above proved that there was a pretty nice helmet lurking just below all of the surface crud.

I love "before" and "after" shots, so kindly indulge me.

This is one of the rusty and crusty liner fasteners on the helmet as purchased

A pencil eraser was brought to bear to remove the worst of it:

 Here's the inner padding half-way through cleaning with a damp towel:

that same towel was brought to bear on the upper lining which was very grimy

Moments later, this appeared:

The earphone bushing had some light oxidation and rust. Some serious wielding of an eraser produced nice results.

Much better.

Here's the lid before cleaning and application of the micro crystalline wax:

And here is the "after" shot

The whole process took no more than a very pleasant hour sitting in my shop listening to the radio and drinking a soda.  What I'm left with is a pretty respectable addition to the collection...

A MacGregor Armored Vehicle Crewman helmet from 1970.

The US Army fiddled around with civilian football helmets since the Second World War and this version of an olive drab "Mister Touchdown" lid appeared, if only briefly,
 during the Vietnam War.

Wilson, Riddell, and MacGregor helmets saw service as paratrooper and tanker helmets in an interim capacity. This lid was the lightweight stop-gap on the long road to the US CVC helmet which I blogged about in 2008 (go here).

This is a just standard football helmet fitted with earphones  and a  boom microphone and chinstrap.
("sis-boom-bah" mic?)

On this specimen only the mounting holes and studs remain,

though the earphones are still intact and in place.

Markings consist only of this interior label and...

this very civilian label on what is, after all, just a football helmet in G.I. livery.

At 34 dollars and a little elbow grease, its a very nice addition to the collection.

Conserved and among friends.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Royal Dutch Army M.53 steel helmet


 Dutch treat II 
"Haven't I met you somewhere before?"

Ruggedly handsome, straightforward and reliable, the American M1 helmet design 
is a lot like Don Draper

The design was adopted by numerous "free world" countries following the Second World War.

These European "clones" are to the US M1 as muppet Guy Smiley is to Don Draper;  ruggedly handsome, straightforward and reliable...

yet slightly different.

Below are Royal Dutch Army soldiers of the 1970s and 80s wearing the M.53

(cool 'stash, bro)

The NATO M.53 is nearly identical to the US M1 in appearance and utility, with a few differences.

I particularly like the Dutch combination of camouflage covering their version of the NATO M.53.

There is quite a lot of versatility in this combination starting with the non-reflective burlap.

A net with a wrapped cord covers the burlap allowing foliage to further 
break up the profile of the helmet.


The whole affair is snugly held in place by a piece of rubber inner-tube.

As with the US M1 the separate liner is held in place by an auxiliary chinstrap.  Although executed in webbing the rolling-cam adjustment buckle is a dead-ringer for the American version...

 as is the stud and garter-style fasteners attaching the strap to the inside of the liner.

Similar to the American version, the M53 chinstrap is made of cotton webbing however the European twist is in the fastening buckle.

Unlike the American "claw and arrow" this fastener  sends a sprung claw into a slotted adjusting buckle, which I find not nearly as handy as the M1 version.

No surprise with the clips fastening the strap to the bales, this is nearly identical to the G.I. T1 chinstrap clip

The plastic (rather than US fiber) liner has a suspension that's a near dead-ringer for the American version save for the manner in which the sweat band "snaps" on to the inner suspension band.

The M1-family nape strap mirrors the M1...

as do the "arrow" washers that secure the webbing to the liner shell.

The sole marking on this helmet is this embossment in the dome of the liner.

Inside an out this Dutch version of the NATO version of the M1 is a solid, well-engineered, and soldierly helmet which held the line against generations of commies, but finally fell to the modern composite lids of today.

All good things do come to an end.