Collecting British WW2 airborne militaria



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On This page you will find the helmets. On the next page you will find the berets.

The Helmet, steel, P-type

Click for larger image. On 19 July 1940 a conference was held at Ringway Central Landing Establishment to decide what pieces of uniform and equipment the airborne forces needed.
Briggs Motor Bodies Ltd from Dagenham, Essex was asked to produce a prototype helmet, based on the German Fallschirmjäger helmet.
In December 1940 BMB presented a prototype that was approved in January 1941 as the "Helmet, steel, P-type".
BMB then produced an estimated number of 500-1000 helmets that were delivered in march or april 1941.
The most distinctive feature was a hard rubber rim fitted around the bottom of the shell with a 2 inch deep lip-shaped extention at the back; the purpose of this extension is unknown.
The leather liner was dome shaped; an almost exact copy of the Fallschirmjäger helmet.
In July 1941 the medical authorities involved with the developement of airborne equipment reported to the War Ministry that the helmet had to be altered because of the large weight of this rim.
Further developement then led to the "Helmet, steel, airborne troops"; after its introduction most remaining stock of the P-type was withdrawn from inventory and shredded. Few examples are known to have survived, some with the lip-shaped extention cut off.
The only time the P-type helmet was used in battle was during the raid on the Bruneval radio station by the 2nd Bn, the Parachute Regiment in February 1942.
Wartime manufacturers: Briggs Motor Bodies (BMB)
Wartime variations: Early models used a khaki elasticated chinstrap similar to those on the MkII army helmet.
Post-war modifications: Does not apply.

The Helmet, steel, airborne troops

Click for larger image. Production of this helmet started on 24 June 1942; on 5 july 5,000 pieces were delivered. Production ended in October 1942; the helmet remained in service until 1946.
The hard rubber rim with lip was replaced by a 1" fibre rim.
To save leather the dome of the liner was made from four cloth straps linked by a piece of string. The black leather neck and chin adjustment straps were fitted with several brass grommets; allowing the straps being attached to the shell in several positions for an optimal fit.
To secure the helmet a narrow leather band was passed through two brass D-rings on the left side of the wearer's head.
Seven blocks of black rubber interspaced with felt were fitted around the liner as a shockabsorber; the two blocks fitted at the rear protruded to offer more protection to the neck.
The shell itself was produced in two sizes: Normal and Large. The liner however came in eight different sizes; this explains why the thickness of the rubber blocks varies with the size of the liner. The surface of the shell had a non-glare textured surface, a feature also seen on the later patterns.
A round crownpad was glued centrally inside the shell; it was made from felt covered with waxed black cloth.
Wartime manufacturers: Briggs Motor Bodies.
Wartime variations: Also liner paddings are found made from yellow or black sorbo and rubber coated felt. The chinstraps are either sewn or riveted.
Post-war modifications: Does not apply.

The Helmet, steel, airborne troops MkI

Click for larger image. The MkI helmet was approved in 1942 but manufactured mainly in 1943 and remained in service until 1954.
The fibre rim was replaced by a narrow stainless steel band, the edge of the shell was no longer rounded.
It was used simultaneously with the helmet, steel, airborne troops.
Wartime manufacturers: Briggs Motor Bodies, G&S (a short contract in 1943 only).
Wartime variations: Also liner paddings are found made from yellow or black sorbo and rubber coated felt. I have found one example of a G&S made helmet with lliner padding from felt without the rubber coating. The chinstraps are either sewn or riveted.
Post-war modifications: Does not apply.

The Helmet, steel, airborne troops MkII

Click for larger image. In 1943 the MkII helmet was introduced that had webbing straps and a leather chincup. The leather straps prooved to slip in wet conditions; and they werent very durable in tropical climates.
Also the attachment to the shell was simplyfied: at the neck the strap passed a rectangular ring that was fixed to the shell with only one screw.
The metal webbing fittings were made from brass with a black finish. The liner is made with black sorbo rubber; the picture shown here is of a MkI with webbing straps!
They were never used on a very large scale during WW2, it seems MkII helmets were issued only to replace unservicable earlier patterns.
The MkII helmet was first used in battle during Operation Overlord and most examples are dated 1944, production seized until 1953.
Wartime manufacturers: Briggs Motor Bodies.
Wartime variations: The members of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade used the MkII helmet covered with gas detection paint.
Post-war modifications: When the production was resumed in 1953 BMB changed the stampings; the BMB stamp was now placed to the left of the size stamp.
Note for the collector: the helmet was adopted by various nations after WW2. Both Pakistan and Israel appear to have used an identical design. Belgium used helmets with green webbing straps, a shell without texture painted darker green than the British helmets, yellow sorbo and a green crash pad. Also the liner sometimes stated size in centimeters only but no date and green cloth tapes on the inside rather than white. C.C.L. and C.W.L. are known British manufacturers of post-war airborne helmets.

The Helmet, crash, Glider Pilots

Click for larger image. Glider Pilots needed helmets that not only offered protection during landings, but also allowed them to communicate with the pilots from their tug aircraft. The first protective helmets used by the Glider Pilots were a mix of the fibre shell of the early Despatch Rider's Crash helmet and the leather earphone part of the RAF C-type flying helmet. Even the early motorcyclists "pulp" helmet was worn, but only during training.
Later an improved helmet was made: the lower half of the C-type helmet was now fixed to a shell from riveted fibre segments, covered with cloth and painted with an inflammable brown paint.
This was called the Helmet, Crash, Glider Pilots. Period pictures show that some pilots preferred the RAF C-type helmet.
As the Army ordered these helmets from the Air Ministry, they come in typical Airforce sizes: 22C941 was the smallest size (6 3/4 inch), 22C/947 being the largest (7 1/2).
In total 5,780 helmets were ordered, they remained in service until 2 October 1953.
After landing the airborne helmet was used.
Wartime manufacturers: Unknown
Wartime variations: Initially these helmets still had the fixings for the oxigen mask like the C-type helmet, later the fixings were left away as GP's had no need for an oxigen mask.
Post-war modifications: No.