Category Archives: Headress

Rest Centre Zuckerman Helmet

Rest centres were locations set up by local authorities to process those made homeless by bombing. These centres were normally in school or church halls and offered short term accommodation for those bombed out of their homes, as well as food and access to services to allow alternative housing to be provided, new ration and identity papers to be issued and any other advice and support people might need. These centres were manned by a mix of local authority employees and volunteers, the WVS having a major role to play in providing hot tea and food as well as distributing aid. The workers at these centres were lightly equipped, but some at least were issued with steel helmets to protect them as they went about their duties. Tonight we have a wonderful example of a Zuckerman helmet marked up to a rest centre worker:imageThis helmet is in the standard light grey paint, put a dark green panel has been painted on the front with the words ‘Rest Centre’ neatly painted on this:imageThe Zuckerman helmet was specially developed for civilian use and whilst not offering the ballistic protection of a military helmet, it was ideal for protection during air raids. Examples were issued by local authorities and it was also available for purchase by civilians for a few shillings.

The design was officially called the ‘civilian protective helmet’ and was pressed from manganese or mild steel in two shell sizes, medium and large. This example is a medium, as indicated by the ‘M’ stamped into the underside of the shell:imageThe other stamp on the underside of the rim indicates that it was made by Rubery Owen Company Ltd of Leeds in 1941:imageThe underside of the helmet shows the liner and the loops for a chin strap:imageChin straps were not supplied with these helmets, but users were advised that they could add their own and examples turn up with a wide variety of different chin straps, some as sophisticated as the standard army ones, others just a piece of ribbon.

The liner itself is made of leather with a tape crown, this ensures that there is a large gap between the top of the liner and the helmet shell itself offering more protection from falling debris. Sadly, despite the excellent condition of the shell, the liner in this helmet has perished considerably over the last eighty years:imageThe helmets were distributed with the liner unattached and an instruction sheet advising users how to set their helmet up for use:

MINISTRY OF HOME SECURITY

THE CIVILIAN PROTECTIVE HELMET

INSTRUCTIONS FOR ASSEMBLY AND FITTING

The Civilian Protective Helmet is issued unassembled in three parts – body, lining, and lace.

The steel body is in two sizes and the liner is in six sizes – i.e. three sizes to each size of body, as follows –

The medium body (stamped M) takes linings of 6 and a half, 6 and three quarters and 7.

The large body (stamped L) takes linings of 7 and a quarter, 7 and a half, and 7 and three quarters.

Fig 1 shows the general shape of the helmet. Although the body is symmetrical in shape the line of lacing holes is sloped so that when the lining is assembled to the body the helmet has a front and a back. The back comes down lower to protect the back of the head.

The letters L and M stamped under the rim at the back indicates the size of the helmet body.

How to assemble the Helmet.

(i) Take a lining of the required size and a body of the size to fit the lining – see above. (NB – It is essential that the right size of body be used with each lining size.) It does not matter which part of the lining becomes the front or back; but it is usual to assemble it so that the join in the headband is at the back.

(ii) There are eight pairs of lacing holes in the steel body, corresponding with the eight loops on the lining (A ‘pair’ of holes means two holes close together – about 1 inch apart. There is a space of about 2 inches between two pairs.) A loop should be placed behind and between the two holes which form one pair, and the lace threaded alternately through the lacing holes in the body and the loops on the lining as show in Fig. 2.

When the lacing is finished lace should be visible outside the body of the helmet between each pair of holes, and should be invisible between the two holes which form a pair (see Fig. 1).

(iii) When the lacing has been completed, draw the lace tight and tie it firmly in a bow. It will be most satisfactory to form the tie inside the helmet (ie alongside one of the loops in the lining) and at the back, where loose ends can be tucked away, and not outside the helmet, where the tie will be more liable to come undone.

The lacing can be done with any strong piece of cord or lace of the right thickness if the lace originally provided gets broken.

How to fit the Helmet.

The wearer of the helmet should see that it fits well. The leather band of the lining should fit as closely as possible around the head without being too tight. If it is too loose and the next size smaller is too tight, the lining should be padded with layers of paper or other material inside the leather band.

When the fit around the head has been made right, the helmet should be worn to see whether it comes down far enough, or too far, on the head. This can be adjusted by lengthening or shortening the piece of cord which is threaded through the webbing band at the crown of the head. The brim at the front should be about level with the eyebrows when the helmet is worn in a comfortable position on the head. (Note – the cord must not be loosened so much that the head nearly comes in contact with the steel body. People with high-domed heads may find it advisable to wear the helmet above eyebrow level.)

Chinstrap or Carrrying Loops

No chinstrap is provided because it is not likely to be necessary except in rare circumstances. Nevertheless lugs are provided inside the helmet on either side through which a piece of tape can be threaded if desired, to form either a strap (to be worn either under the chin or at the back of the head) or a carrying loop.

1960s Boonie Hat

The floppy bush or ‘boonie’ hat has been a mainstay of British Army tropical headgear since the Second World War and we have covered numerous variations of it on the blog over the years. Tonight however we are looking at a transitional design that sits between the World War Two design we looked at here and the introduction of the DPM hat in the mid-1970s:imageThe hat is a shade or two lighter in colour compared to the wartime design, however that may just be down to extensive wear and fading. The design is broadly similar to its earlier incarnation, with circular stitching round the rim to reinforce it:imageAnd loops for vegetation to be attached:imageThe top vents are covered with brass grilles, however this hat has clearly had a hard life and they are heavily corroded:imageOne new feature to this pattern of hat is the addition of two fabric tabs with metal grommets in them on the underside of the hat:imageThese allow a chinstrap to be threaded through if required. The inside of the hat has a stamped size, 7, and both an NSN number and what appears to be an old style stores code:imageThis suggests that the hat was made in that transitional period in the 1960s when NSN numbers were just starting to be introduced. This boonie hat was clearly used, as the original owner has written his name and regiment  inside in permanent marker:imageThe boonie’s longevity is due to a number of factors. It is comfortable, effective at protecting the wearer’s head from sun and rain and can easily be folded flat to put in a pocket:imageIt also has that indefinable ‘allyness’ that soldiers are always seeking- the wearer of a battered boonie is automatically a grizzled veteran who has seen much action (regardless of whether he used his boonie for years in the jungle or had just bought one from Silvermans…). These hats are then customised as one ex-regular explains:

They’re cut down – it’s a fashion statement with a modicum of practicality. It is important to remember that all British soldiers strive to look “Ally” at all times. There are three levels of Ally (1) not-Ally (2) Ally (3) Ally as Fuck.

Issue kit or cheap civvie stuff is Not-Ally. Issue kit altered or supplemented with expensive or special forces stuff is Ally and rare, foreign and very cool stuff whilst standing over the body of a terrorist and chomping a cigar whilst staring 1000 yards into the distance is Ally-as-Fuck.

The issue bush hat has a large brim. It is there to protect against sun, fire ants dropping down the back of your neck and provide shade when fighting those ungrateful ex-colonies in South East Asia.

The problem is that the brims get wet and droop and look shite (the trick is to sow in some copper wire to keep it rigid). However, that big brim will maintain not ally and prevent moving to the hallowed Ally status. Therefore soldiers cut them down (or have tailors do it) – Three reasons in order of importance.

  1. It allows you to get a better tan increasing your chance of getting laid on R&R or on your return.
  2. The long brim is too long and flops annoyingly, shorter is smarter and more soldier like
  3. There isn’t a rule against it, therefore it is fashionable to do it.

Mk6a Helmet

We seem to have been looking at a lot of modern British helmets and their covers this year and we continue tonight with the Mk6a helmet. The Mk6a was introduced in 2005 and saw a number of enhancements over its predecessor. The ballistic qualities of the ballistic nylon the helmet is constructed from were enhanced and so the helmet is marginally heavier than the Mk6. The manufacturer claimed that there was a 40% improvement to its performance over the earlier model. To make it clearly distinguishable from the earlier pattern it was made in black rather than green:imageThe other major upgrade was to the internal harness to make the helmet more comfortable for sustained wear. The earlier MK 6 had a simple drawstring to adjust the fit and was notorious for being uncomfortable:imageThe new mark added a mesh panel where the helmet fitted to the top of the head:imageAnd padded panels at both front and back:imageOn this example its former owner has clearly decided that this needed further enhancement and a first field dressing has been rolled up and tucked into the top of  the helmet to add further cushioning:imageThis was a common field modification done by soldiers who could be expected to spend many hours if not days wearing the helmet on operation. Despite the upgraded liner, many soldiers still wished to improve the liner:

if you deploy to theatre try and get one of them foam doughnut (not jam type) shaped things that the septics stick in their lids, make them mucho mucho comfy, if you are wearing a mk6a out in theatre, try removing the liner and fitting a para liner.

Another soldier used the First Field Dressing method:

What I normally do is use the old first field dressing, which I find to be the most comfortable mod I have used and I never found it too bad as far as sweating goes. Anyhow considering your most likely gonna be in stinking sweaty sandy countries and wearing personal protective equipment which is the weight of a small house it won’t make that much of a difference.

The first field dressing modification was not universally favoured:

FFD fans seem to stand out in the crowd – makes them look like they’re hiding a napper like Beldar from ‘The Coneheads’ the lid sits so high.

Mk 7 Helmet Cover

We looked at the Mk7 helmet a few weeks ago. Like all other recent British helmets, this design was intended to be used with a camouflaged cloth cover. Although the cover issued for the Mk6 helmet could be used, a specialist cover was developed that better fitted the shape of the Mk7:imageThis was delivered from the factory in a sealed plastic bag:imageA stores label is stuck to the outside of the bag, indicating that like so much modern British military equipment this cover was manufactured in China by the Cooneen Defence Ltd company:imageInside the packet is the MTP cover, laid out the revised shape is visible, designed to fit over the more PASGAT shape of the Mk7. The elastic straps for the scrim are also revised, just having two rings of elastic:imageA tab with a press stud is attached to the rear to help secure helmet mounted equipment such as goggles:imageLike all the other helmet covers issued over the years, this one is adjusted and secured by a drawstring:imageThe inside of the cover has a standard label:imageUnlike other helmet covers, this one includes a small bag of MTP scrim:imageThese are wedge shaped pieces of fabric about eighteen inches long that can be threaded through the elastic straps to break up the outline of the helmet:imageAlthough I have used these strips as they came, looking at service issued examples it seems as though it was common to cut the strips of MTP scrim lengthways to make them narrower and give the soldier more of them to thread through the helmet cover, providing a more scrimmed effect:image

Royal Scots Glengarry

Until it was merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, the Royal Scots were the most senior line regiment in the British Army, tracing their lineage back in an unbroken line to 1633. The regiment saw much service in the period immediately after the Second World War, including being deployed to Korea, Egypt and Aden as well as regular tours of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onwards. On each of those deployments the regiment’s distinctive glengarry was worn with pride whenever combat situations permitted and tonight we are looking at an example of one of those caps dating from the 1950s or 1960s:fullsizerender 5The glengarry folds flat to allow it to be easily carried in a pocket or under a shoulder strap:fullsizerender 1The glengarry is predominantly black in colour, but has a diced band of red, white and blue around the lower half:fullsizerender 4Note also the leather sweat band that is sewn around the lower edge. The regiment’s cap badge is attached with a black fabric rosette backing behind it:fullsizerender 2Removing the badge there is a second set of holes for a pair of cap badge lugs, suggesting that this cap has had a replacement badge at some point in its life:img_2286A pair of black tapes hangs down from the rear of the cap:fullsizerender 3A white inspector’s stamp with a /|\ mark is stamped into the interior of the cap:img_2285Sadly this cap has suffered from the moths a little over the years and is rather tatty now. During World War Two and earlier it was traditional to wear the glengarry steeply tilted to one side with the cap badge high on the head, after the war it became common practice across all regiments to wear them level on the head:20140603_002921Here we see Private Danny Hall from Glasgow (right), of the 1st Batt. Royal Scots, saying goodbye to the regiment mascot, three and a half year old Mark Baillie, of Fortingale Street, who they handed over to the replacing regiment, the 2nd Batt. the Coldstream Guards. Receiving the mini soldier is Sergeant Bob Otto from Maidenhead in Belfast, July 1970:4194b61a584e389efd915deecb

Blue UN Mk 6 Helmet Cover

When serving on UN peacekeeping missions, British soldiers are trying to appear as obvious as possible, rather than camouflaged. It is important that both sides in a conflict can see that they are there to keep the peace under a UN mandate and to this end their vehicles, even armoured ones, are painted white with large UN letters painted on them. The soldiers themselves are also easily identifiable, wearing blue UN berets much of the time. Sometimes however it is necessary for them to don helmets for their own protection and in these cases blue helmet covers are issued to make it very clear that these are UN mandated forces. For the Mk6 helmet, the UN helmet cover is very similar to that issued in camouflage Colours:imageOne thing that is very distinct however it that there are no elasticated loops for camouflage to be attached to:imageThis is quite deliberate as the aim is to be as visible as possible, which scrim or foliage would of course negate. Otherwise the cover is unchanged, with reinforcing patches on either side:imageAnd a white drawstring to pull the cover tight around the helmet:imageA label is sewn into the inside giving sizing, washing instructions and stores details for the helmet cover:

These helmet covers are not as common as the camouflage variants, but are equally not very collectable at the moment so can be acquired for a few pounds in mint condition.

One regular UN deployment the British Army contribute personnel to is the buffer zone in Cyprus. This article was published in 2016 and focuses on one reservist training for this deployment:

Each year the UK celebrates the service of its military reservists on Reserves Day but Private Flora Pape, aged 26, has been too busy preparing to deploy to Cyprus on Operation TOSCA.

Flora will be one of 250 Reservists and Regular soldiers deployed on the Army Reserve-led operation. The 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS), the North West’s light role infantry Army Reserve battalion, will be supported by personnel from its sister Regular battalion 2 LANCS.

Flora has spent the last two weeks with her fellow troops at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Nesscliffe training area in Shropshire completing her United Nations mission training, which centres on learning how to manage difficult incidents – from helicopter crash sites to riots.

Flora is a self-employed professional dog walker. She said: “I normally have quite a few dogs to walk and it keeps me fit! People who work full time don’t need to worry about walking or feeding their dog during the day because I do it for them, I’ve been doing it for five years and it works really well for me. Unfortunately I have had to close the business down for the period I’m away in Cyprus, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

As part of the Operations Company in Cyprus she will be patrolling and maintaining a stable peaceful environment along the border which has split the island since 1974 and will be on the lookout and reporting any infringements or changes from the day-to-day norm.APO WMID-2016-052-0034Flora said: “This week we’ve been getting tested on everything we would be expected to deal with when we are out there, the examiners have thrown all sorts at us but we’re well prepared to deal with them, the training has been excellent. I’m really excited about Cyprus because although I’ve been adventure training with the Army in Spain and Iceland, this will be my first operational deployment.

“I’ve always loved the Army because both my parents served in it I wanted to join the Army Reserve because I needed the best of both worlds – my civilian life and job and the military one too. 4 LANCS is perfect for me; I love the Infantry because you do everything you expect to do as a soldier.”

Op TOSCA is the name given to the British contribution to the UNFICYP – the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus – one of the longest-running United Nations missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south.

Mk 7 Helmet

In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:imageThe helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:imageThe chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:imageThey then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:imageA leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:imageThis is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:imageSome troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.

The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:imageJust one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:

New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.

The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.

Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.

The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.

British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire  while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…

The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.

Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.

The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Royal Marine from 40 Cdo in Sangin, AfghanistanWhilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:

British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.

Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.

Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour

The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.

 To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.

A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.

He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…

A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.

He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.

‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.

‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.

The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.