Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yugoslavia m.59/85 combat helmet

Is it just me...

 or does Tito look like Liberace?

Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav partisan leader of WWII is said to have designed the Ne44 helmet; the forerunner to the last generation Yugoslav helmet, the m.59/85.
(Note: There are differences of opinion regarding the lineage and the designation of the Ne44.  I think this is more than a fine point as I have heard this assertion before.  I use the collector and author Paolo Marzetti as a yardstick for this blog and my collection, nonetheless every source may have errors.  Please see Bill's comment at the bottom of this page, he is a knowledgeable collector and I respect his opinion).

With the end of the Cold War era and the civil wars and internal disruptions that typified some former Eastern Bloc countries of the time, the m.59/85 transitioned from use in the Yugoslav army to the various emerging forces of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Servia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.  Simple huh?

But I digress, let's stick to good old Yugoslavia when it was still, nominally, under the Soviet umbrella.  I stress nominally.  Tito was a nationalist strongman, who did not march in lockstep with Stalin or his many successors.  By and large Tito was his own man and he strove to plot a course for Yugoslavia that was unique among the Eastern Bloc countries and client states.

 The Ne44 helmet was introduced in 1952 and was used, along with its successor the m.59/85
 through the end of Yugoslavia's existence.

 Of note is the captured German materiel in use by these Yugoslav soldiers.

Here then is the offspring of the Ne44, the m.59/85.  It is interesting to note that unlike many Soviet client States which adopted various versions of the Soviet Ssh-40 and 60 helmets, Tito, characteristically, chose to retain this unique helmet design for Yugoslav military forces.

 A primary difference between the m.59/85 and its progenitor the ne44 is that the bottom edge of the m.59/85 is curved while the earlier is more straight, this is very evident when the rear skirts of the two models are placed side by side on a flat surface.

Commies! the bogey men of my Cold War childhood.

Anyone familiar with the US M1 helmet will recognize this Riddell-style suspension.  It is used in nearly all of the M1 euro-clones and even here in the helmet of a Cold War enemy.

Typical Riddell adjustment for depth at the crown.

With the headband removed one can see that unlike the USM1 the crosspieces in the m.59/85 are adjustable by buckles.


The headband assembly.

Another significant difference between the Ne44 and the m.59/85 is the manner in which the headband suspension is affixed to the liner.

In the Ne44 all suspension components are permanently fastened making replacement of a damaged suspension difficult, if not impossible.

The m.59/85 has an entirely different fastener.


The head band lock into place with a spring-loaded fastener, making replacement of the band a cinch.

An American invention that turns up in helmets across the globe is this little spring clip which attaches the headband to the suspension.

The headband has an adjustment buckle in the back

I wouldn't say that the chinstrap bail is flimsy, but it is the thinnest and most lightweight that I have ever seen in a helmet, certainly any of my helmets.  The wire isn't much thicker than a paperclip.

Another difference between this helmet and the Ne44 is the chinstrap.  On the earlier helmet the strap has a single adjusting cam buckle, the newer helmet has two.

Tito's design is still soldiering on and is one the the few European helmets that hasn't yet been replaced by the newer composite models.

I'll see you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

m. 91 Picklehaube - German spiked helmet of WWI (part 2)

Perhaps no helmet is more emblematic of the nineteenth and early twentieth century
as the spiked helmet - the picklehaube - of the German Empire.
We have Frederick William IV to thank for this distinctive piece of headgear, introduced to the troops in 1842.  It originated in Prussia and was quickly adopted by the other principalities of the German Empire.


A very regal looking Friedrich Wilhelm IV pictured with his plumed picklehaube.

 The realities of trench warfare quickly proved the m.91 inadequate for modern warfare.  By the second year of the war the picklehaube started to be replaced by the steel helmet (profiled here).

For a much more extensive exploration of the picklehaube go to the
 authoritative Colonel J's site here.

The black and white cockade is indicative of Prussia.

As the war became static and the armies entrenched, the picklehaube proved to be mostly style and little substance; much to the woe of the German foot soldier.

The German Reich cockade adorns the right side of the helmet.

The posts that secure both the cockades as well as the chinstrap are
 elegant in their simplicity.

The posts are fastened inside the shell with a
washer and pin system.

 Thousands of picklehaubes came to the United States after the war and were used as premiums for those who purchased Liberty Bonds.  Certainly many of the picklehaubes on the market today were among these give-aways rather than the old saw of
"brought home by a vet" which collectors hear so much.

The liner is a nine-finger configuration gathered in the center with
a drawstring which adjusts the fit.

The chinstrap is adjusted with two slider buckles finished in gray.

 Like most picklehaubes found today the finish is crazed, here, on the front visor.

This close-fitting, black-painted helmet must have been very uncomfortable to wear in hot weather, so ventilation was a must.
The rear spine is hollow with a little sliding door...

which can be slid open to provide a positive airflow through the top back of the shell...

 as well as the back of neck by this little opening at the bottom of the rear visor.  Visible also is the nut which secures the spine.

More ventilation is provided at the top, which demonstrates that the spike is more than merely decorative.  It serves as a rain proof cupola for ventilation holes...


 which communicate to the top of the helmet.  Also visible are the split pins which secure the disc at the base of the spike.  These are very well designed and engineered helmets.

Robust bosses secure the spike base to the shell of the helmet.

The spike twists off with a simple bayonet mount.

The eagle insignia, or "wappen" is finished in gray, as are all of the metal fittings.

Although illegible, the maker's marks appear on the rear visor.

These helmets were an issue item and would have a variety of owners, here the names Eisen and Vize are penciled in as well as the size stamp.

Another stamp, although illegible, this helmet is well marked; always a treat for the collector.

The wappen is secured to the helmet with wire loops passing through grommeted holes and secured by leather wedges.

These jolly cockades are in good condition with a very pleasant patina; German Reich to the left and Prussia to the right.

"For God, for king, for fatherland"; the wappen commemorates Fredrich Wilhelm IV.

 The shell is of five-piece construction.  Heavy leather with equally robust stitching.

A classic and altogether handsome helmet by any measure.
The influence of the German picklehaube extended to the military fashion of other countries, including the United States.
For the entry on my m.1881 cavalry helmet go here.
The picklehaube can still be found in use today...
 I think that Friedrich Wilhelm would be gratified to see that his design is still in use by many countries, although I think he would be startled that this member of the Royal Swedish Guard is a young woman.  Fancy that.

Perhaps no helmet has been so lampooned as the m.91.  Here's a selection of how artists have rendered this iconic helmet in the service of satire:

And that's the long and short of it!

I'll see you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.