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  In 1939 when the helmet was superseded by the British mkII the remaining m.27s were painted white and pressed into civil defense service.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.



victor van tuyl said...

I love mine dirt was still inside when I recived it actually I consider it as the jewel of my collection

Greg Pickersgill said...

Another fine piece of work, Mannie. I genuinely envy your work here.

Now, regarding the black-painted Vickers (I have one also), in an article in ARMOURER magazine (issue 91, Jan 2009) Chris McNally, the Helmet King of Blaeunau Ffestiniog, states that on issue to the CD in 1940 they were "painted white or sometimes black". And also, usefully, "These helmets have an additional set of numbers stamped into the back skirt - H 40 "

The H 40 obviously denoting helmets reissued to CD in 1940. The stamps are often hard to read. The basic is VLTD (Vickers Limited) followed by the alphanumeric H 12345 (Helmet, individual number) and 27 (helmet type). The H 40 is added adjacent to that.

Mannie Gentile said...


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