Monday, December 26, 2016

Republic of Ireland mkII helmet

Before we get started, Google "YouTube WWII and the Shameful Actions of Ireland".  The short video gives background about Ireland's role in the Second World War and how Irishmen who chose to fight against Hitler were treated upon returning home. 

In the Republic of Ireland the period of the Second World War was termed "The Emergency".  Ireland chose not to ally itself to the forces of anti-fascism but instead chose to stay neutral and turned its attention to its own borders and welfare.

The political and military leaders of the Republic of Ireland envisioned two possible scenarios that they needed to protect the country against:  first, that the Germans would invade and occupy Ireland and use it as a staging area for a thrust into Britain.  Second that the British may possibly invade to occupy the treaty ports of Berehaven, Queenstown, Lough, and Swilly. 

Owing to the traditional hostility between the two nations the reluctance of the Republic to ally itself with Britain may be understandable though less so considering that the common foe was Nazi fascism and European enslavement, in this the Irish seem shortsighted and even selfish. Irish passive-aggressiveness toward Britain included an agreement with the Nazis regarding the acceptance of captured British materiel, including 10,000 rifles, 550 machine guns, and 46 field guns with which to supply and arm the Irish Army; the only reason this scheme wasn't realized was the difficulty of transporting the large amounts of booty from the European mainland to Ireland.

In 1927 the strength of the army of the Republic of Ireland numbered some ten thousand men, by 1940 it was 17,156, by 1942 - 38,000, and in 1949 well after the period of the emergency it was 40,000.

Despite the Irish enmity for Britain the Republic did embrace the mkII helmet perhaps to distinguish themselves from the Germans through the use of  the Germanic design of the m.27 helmet.

My previous post of the m.27 can be viewed here.

Now for the walk around:

ROCo is the maker's mark for the firm of Rubery Owen & Co Ltd of Leeds. Also noted is that this is a mk.II helmet manufactured in 1940.

The helmet rim is a separate piece of stainless steel spot welded along the edge of the shell and butt-joined at the rear of the helmet.

This marking is penciled under the brim.

The chinstrap clips are fastened with a single rivet.

The liner is secured to the helmet shell by a large screw and nut
passing through the apex of the shell.

The liner is the first version of the mkII liner which utilizes fiber
rather than rubber bumpers on its perimeter.

The bumpers are fastened to the pressed paper crossbands by split pins.

The liner's only marking is the numeral 7 appearing twice.

In addition to the fiber bumpers, the earlier version of the mk.II liner is characterized
by a large pad at the crown.

The liner fingers are gathered by a cord.

The blackened brass buckle is overly complex and doesn't lend itself to
quick fastening and unfastening.

The rectangular chinstrap loops are held in place with a tensioned clip.

The shield and six-pointed star is the insignia of the Eastern Command.

And now, some photos of the helmet in action:

President of the Republic of Ireland Eamon DeValera reviewing the troops
during "the Emergency".

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


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.