Thursday, December 22, 2016

Irish Free State Vickers m.27 combat helmet

What do you call an Irishman who spends all of his time in your backyard?

Paddy O'furniture.

There's not a great deal of information out there on the Irish m.27 and some of it is merely conjecture.

Sadly, I have nothing new to add.  I've found no more than a dozen sources of information, including some of the fine sites linked at the bottom of this page.  In all, what is known about this helmet can be encompassed in four or five paragraphs.  So bear with me as I merely parrot the meager information that is available.

This was the first helmet of the Irish Free State, and then the Irish Republic,  adopted in 1927 and in use until 1939.  10,021 were produced by Vickers ltd to supply the 10,000-man army.  The Irish initially were interested in the French m.1916 Adrian but found it to be unsuitable and opted for  the German m.16.  Ireland originally intended to purchase surplus helmets directly from post-war Germany but the Treaty of Versailles prohibited the Germans from exporting war materiel.  Vickers Ltd had come into possession of confiscated helmet stamping and finishing machinery and they were contracted by the Irish to produce the helmets.  Identical in every aspect save for the thickness of the shell and the quality of the steel, the new helmet took to the field in 1927.  Compared to the German m.16 the helmet is light and dents easily and is subject to stress cracks.  Although the helmet has the characteristic lugs for a frontal plate, no such plate was used by the Irish.

Here's the conjecture part.  One or two sources out there feel that the Germanic shape was chosen as a thumb to the eye of the British - the traditional adversary of the Irish.  I don't know if this is true.

While in army service the m.27 was painted a very dark green.  In 1939 when the helmet was superseded by the British mkII the remaining m.27s were painted white and pressed into civil defense service.

And now, the walk around.

The two brackets on the brow are for mounting the badge.

As a testament to the softness of the inferior steel, when I took this helmet out of the box the visor was bent up at an alarming angle, it immediately reminded me of Huntz Hall's baseball cap (sorry to have burned that image into your retinas).

A moment with a padded vise remedied most of that problem.

These little brass brackets on the front of the helmet are what every collector looks for at a militaria show.  When looking through German m.16s and these brackets show up...jackpot!

The  lugs mimic the German cousin, though in the case of the m.27 the original purpose of these fixtures was lost as the Irish did not purchase the armor frontal plates utilized by the Germans. Nonetheless, the hollow lugs do provide ventilation.

Three copper rivets and washers secure the leather liner band to the shell.

The final exterior features are the rivet heads which affix the chinstrap posts
to the interior of the shell.

The liner is nearly identical the German m.16 which is distinguished from the m.17 by the robust leather liner-band.

All liners were produced by the same firm, here crisply marked "T.Smith &amd; Son, Dublin. 1927.  The capital "L" designates the liner as size large.

The three leather liner leaves are backed by fabric pockets that contain
horsehair-filled cushions.

The horsehair is particularly resilient and provides a good degree of comfort
as well as impact protection.

These aluminum figure-eight fasteners affix the chinstrap to the chinstrap posts.

The sliding buckle adjusts the length of the chinstrap. On this example the aluminum buckle is broken in half...the only damaged part on this otherwise complete
example of the m.27.

The rear skirt is stamped with the makers mark, serial number, and model number.  This helmet was number 3762 of 10,021 helmets produced by Vickers.

The emblem on the front of the helmet has the double F of Fianna Fail ("Soldiers of destiny) with the inscription OGLAIG NAh- Eireann ("Warriors of Ireland").  This emblem would not have been present on the civil defense helmet;
it appears here simply because it pleases me.

The rim of the helmet is folded rather than raw.

And now, some pictures of the m.27 in action:

The severe dents evident in the crown of the helmet on the left attest to the
lightweight nature of the m.27

Not quite half of these helmets were destroyed in the 1970s as they were bulldozed into the ground as part of the foundation of an army barracks, as a result these helmets are not a common item... and I'm very happy to have added this one to my collection.

In 1939 the helmet was replaced by the British mkI and mk.II models, at that time nearly all m.27s, such as this example,  were painted white for civil defense purposes.  Some of these helmets today are found to be painted black - the significance of which is unknown to me.

See you next time with a walk around of the Irish mkII.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mexico m.26 combat helmet


Mexico declared war on Germany in 1942 after two Mexican ships were torpedoed by German U-boats. With that ties between the Rio Grande neighbors became stronger as they faced off against a common enemy; indeed, a squadron of Mexican fighter planes - Escuadron 201 - fought alongside US Army Air Forces squadrons in the Philippines in 1945. Mexican citizens served not only in the Mexican National forces but there were many Mexicans who enlisted in the US armed forces for the duration of the war.  On the homefront, over 300,000 Mexican citizens entered the United States to work in defense plants, shipyards, and other strategic industries. 

Mexico was a true friend of the Estados Unidos.

To promote unity with our friends south of the border, Walt Disney, in 1944, produced the animated movie "The Three Caballeros" starring Donald Duck from the USA, Jose Carioca from Brazil, and Panchito Pistoles from Mexico.  This attempt at building good feelings between neighbors left us with a very peppy song sung by the trio which can be viewed here.  Feel free to sing along; it's pretty infectious.

Mexico adopted the French m.26 Adrian helmet for use by their armed forces in 1935.

When France became entangled in the war no more m.26 helmets were exported and Mexico produced its own version in which the rivets and split pins were replaced by spot-welding.  This example is of French manufacture.

 As with all Adrian helmets, the comb conceals the ventilation system. 
Air flows through slits at the base of the comb...

 and passes through holes at the crown of the shell. 
Note that the comb is affixed with split pins.

 Rivets pass through the shell...

 and attach the liner bracket.

 The liner, which is missing in this helmet, is attached by clips to four brackets.

What appear to be rivets affixing the comb...

 are actually split pins.

The chinstrap is connected to the shell by thin, rectangular, wire bails.

 The chinstrap is adjusted by two sliding buckles.

A small leather strap grommeted to the chinstrap forms a simple chincup.

Crossed rifles and an intersecting bugle is the insignia of the infantry.

Adios amigos y amigas!
I'll see you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.