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THE SOUTH AFRICAN STEEL HELMET MARK I *

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THE SOUTH AFRICAN STEEL HELMET MARK I *

USED IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

By Richard Henry, Curator, DISTONG: National Museum of Military History 

 

Introduction

The history of the South African manufactured steel helmet is not well known.  Much of the information available on the internet was the author’s response to a query from an Australian collector who shared my answer with others. This article is an attempt to write a more comprehensive account of the production of the South African manufactured steel helmet. 

 

Background

The British and British Dominions armies started the First World War wearing a variety of soft headgear. The most common headgear in Europe was the Pattern 1905 Service Dress Cap and later the winter version, which was nicknamed ‘Gor blimey’. This was followed by the ‘Soft Cap’. The Scottish regiments wore a Glengarry, Tam-o-Shanter or Balmoral.  Most of the Union Defence Forces fighting in German South West Africa, German East Africa, Egypt and Palestine wore the Wolseley Pattern sun helmet, introduced into British service in 1903. It was also worn by British soldiers serving in these theatres.

Figure 1: Palestine with Wolseley helmet.

 

Figure 2: Cap is worn on the Western Front.

 

 

The Brodie Pattern steel helmet

Once the British, French and German forces became static and entrenched in substantial trenching systems, most were safe and protected from enemy rifle and machine gun fire.  In response to this stalemate, the artillery of both sides bombarded the opposition with shrapnel shells. These shrapnel shells loaded with about 300 steel balls and fitted with a time and percussion fuse were often set to explode above the trenches inflicting head wounds. In addition, High Explosive shells fired from howitzers and trench mortars which landed close to the trenches also caused many deaths.  What was required was head protection from above.

 

The French were the first to produce a helmet, the Model 1915 Adrian was introduced into French service in July 1915. The British War Office evaluated the Adrian helmet and found it did not offer sufficient head protection and its production process was complex. 

John Leopold Brodie (born 1873) was a self-styled engineer working at the Army and Navy Stores in London. He used the British Medieval Chapel de Fer infantry helmet as the basis for his design. Made from mild steel, and pressed in a single pressing, it had a shallow circular crown with a wide brim and a raw edge. The liner, to enable the helmet to sit on the head had a simple padded crown with an oil cloth liner riveted to the centre of the bowl. He submitted his design in August 1915. The British War Office liked and accepted his design.  Within a few weeks, they had pressed about 4 400 of this type to be issued, in September 1915, on a rotational basis, (50 to each Battalion) to the troops in the very front lines. It was known as the ‘Brodie Steel Helmet, War Office Pattern’. This very first type was later modified and the original type then became known as Type A.

Figure 3: Original Brodie Helmet with 1st South African Brigade Emblem. Note raw brim edge.

 

 Sir Robert Abbot Hadfield

Robert Hadfield was born on Sunday 28 November 1858 in Sheffield England. He worked in his father’s foundry. He had a great interest in metallurgy and had studied the results of previous scientists working with alloy steels, especially the addition of manganese to mild steel.  He was specifically looking for a steel alloy for casting tram wheels which would be both hard and tough. In 1882 he found that the addition of 13.67% manganese and 1.35 % Carbon produced an unexpected dull metal which sheared the teeth off his file and could not be cut with saws or machined on a lathe. Grinding simply polished the surface and although it consisted of 80% iron it was non-magnetic. When heated and quenched it behaved almost opposite to plain carbon steel. He patented this steel type in 1883 and after perfecting the alloy mixture, he showed it to the public in 1887. With this new steel and its opportunities especially for railway and trams, he took over his father’s business in 1888. In 1908 he was knighted as Sir Robert Hadfield for his work with alloy steels. 

 

The influential Hadfield proposed that the British War Office use Hadfield or Mangalloy steel in the pressing of the Brodie Helmet. Production started in October 1915. The new helmets known as the Brodie Type B were made from 20 Gauge / 0.0392 in / 0.995 mm thick steel and had a manganese content of 12 percent.  The helmet was about 12 inches (305mm) long and 11 ¼ inches (286 mm) wide. It had a mass of about 2,4 lbs (1.088kg). The type B helmet gave a much higher impact strength than the original Brodie and was more resistant to shrapnel, stones and other debris thrown –up by bombardments.   The helmet’s official name at this time was Helmet, Steel Mark 1.  In a short time, 250 000 had been pressed and these were ready to be used in the battle of St Eloi in April 1916.  By the summer of 1916, the first million helmets had been produced and issued to British and British Dominion troops on the Western Front. 

 

The 1st South African Infantry Brigade (Western Front 1916-1919) and their use of the Helmet Steel, Mk 1 

The Brigade consisted of 106 Officers and 5648 other ranks.  They underwent formation and training at Potchefstroom, South Africa. Between 28 August and 17 October 1915, the brigade arrived in England and underwent training by British instructors at Bordon Camp. The 1st 2nd and 3rd Regiments of the brigade wore the 1905 Pattern Service Dress cap, while the 4th (SA Scottish) wore balmorals or Tam-o-Shanters.  At the end of December 1915, they were informed that they were to fight in Egypt against the Senussi. For this campaign, they were issued with Wolseley pattern sun helmets which they wore at the battles of Halazin, Agagia and other skirmishes in Egypt. Between the 13 /15 April the Brigade left Alexandria and five days later landed at Marseilles, France for service on the Western Front. The Brigade received their Helmets, Steel, Mark 1 in June / July 1916 from British stores and formed part of the 9th Scottish Division.  

 

Helmets were at first often painted with the regimental symbol and later either in camouflage paint to disguise the shape and glint from the helmet.  Hessian and khaki cloth was also used to cover the helmets.  Officers were expected to purchase their own helmets.  These helmets were worn during the Somme offensive and Areas/Battles of Dellville Wood, Le Transloy, Arras, Scarpe, Ypres, Menin Road, Gauche Wood, Lys, Marrières Wood, Messines, Passchendaele, Kemmel, Hindenburg Line, Cambrai and the Pursuit to Mons.  At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of 1918, when the Armistice came into effect, the 1st SA Brigade had lost 5 000 men dead and another 10 000 wounded.  

 

Before returning to the Union of South Africa, British equipment issued to the Brigade had to be returned to British stores.  All of the Helmets, Steel, Mark 1 in the accoutrements collection of the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History are officer’s helmets which were privately purchased and so could be brought back to the Union after the war.

Figure 4: Two Helmets, Steel, Mark 1. These two helmets were used by  South African officers in France and Flanders during the First World War (1914-1918).

 

Figure 5: To protect against helmet glint, some helmets were covered in cloth.

 

Between World War I and World War II 

As all helmets, except those belonging to officers, were returned to the British, the post-war Union Defence Forces (UDF) reverted to wearing the Wolseley Pattern sun helmet. In about 1935 a new Polo Pattern helmet came into general service with the UDF.  When the Second World War started, this was the helmet which was in general use and was worn by all men of the 1st South African Infantry Division in East Africa against the Italian forces and later in the early stages of the North African Campaign.      

 

A helmet to protect the wearer against heat stroke

Up until about 1941, it was erroneously thought by medical personnel that exposure of the head and neck to rays of the sun especially in the tropics was highly dangerous. In Mesopotamia, during World War 1, British troops suffered severely from heat stroke despite the wearing of a sun helmet. Heat stroke is defined as “a feverish condition caused by failure of the body’s temperature – regulating mechanisms when exposed to excessively high temperature“. South African troops were thus ordered to wear their Polo helmets even when attending church services in the East Africa theatre. Many soldiers added a neck veil attached to the rear of the Polo helmet to cover the neck and spine. In the early stages of the North African Campaign, it was found that men digging trenches in the midday sun without any headgear did not necessarily suffer from heat stroke. It dawned on the medical staff that if a soldier had sufficient water, drinking water would help regulate his body temperature and a person would not suffer from heat stroke. The administering of salt tablets was also prescribed. However, it was only in 1942- 943 that the wearing of sun helmets between 09h00 and 17h00 ceased to be compulsory in hot weather in India. 

Figure 6: The only image the writer has ever seen of an attached neck veil to a South African helmet – unofficial addition?

 

The Union War Supplies Board

From 1937-1938, the South African Government appointed a small board of military and civilian personnel to the Union War Supplies Board. Their task was to investigate, aided by practical experiments, the resources of the Union of South Africa available for the production of warlike stores and materials in case of emergency in South Africa. In September 1939 a list of technical stores and their numbers, in order of priority was compiled.  Twelfth and bottom of the list was a preliminary requirement for 60 000 steel helmets.  This number would be sufficient to supply the then permanent force and active citizen force. This small programme was later merged with a huge programme undertaken by the Director-General of War Supplies as the war progressed.

Figure 7: Director of War Supplies, Dr H. J. van der Bijl.

 

The Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate

Oluf Larsen was born on 25 January 1886 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He married Bertha Christiansen in 1909 and they came to South Africa in 1911 to join the dairy industry. He soon found that the Union did not use a standard metal milk can. He founded the Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate (TSP) specialising in the manufacture of sanitary pails in 1924. In 1932 he branched out to the manufacture of tinned steel five, eight and ten-gallon milk cans. These cans picked up by passing trains at farm junctions became well-known with their TSP mark on the bottom. Larsen was a big and forceful businessman and learnt about the original War Supplies Board’s need for 60 000 helmets. He also knew that this suited his business to a tee and that no other company in South Africa had the ability to press helmets. Before committing himself to an agreement with the Director-General of War Supplies, he had to obtain the appropriate equipment. He acted quickly and visited Great Britain in September-October 1939 to purchase the presses and steel he needed.

Figure 8: Oluf Larsen (left), presenting the 1 ½ millionth helmet to Dr Van der Bijl, April 1945. 

 

In 1938 Britain had started to manufacture their new Helmets, Steel, Mark 2. It is thought that Larsen purchased some of the old Helmets, Steel, and Mark 1 presses.  These were no longer needed and Larsen could get them at a good price. He also purchased 60 000 blank manganese steel disks with an approximate diameter of 370mm. He arranged for his purchase to be shipped to South Africa.  

 

Since these helmets were pressed using Mk 1 presses and a new liner was supplied by South Africa, the correct nomenclature for this helmet should be Helmet, Steel, Mark I* and not Mark 2.   

While he waited for his shipment to arrive, he had to convince the board of the Amalgamated Steel Pressing Company of which TSP formed part a part of, as to the sound business deal he had just concluded. He also had to arrange for a contract with the Director-General War Supplies and the pricing of the helmets.  Evidence seems to suggest that he managed to get an agreement to press the helmets for 17 Shillings and two pence each. The presses and blank plates arrived at the end of the year and Transvaal Steel Pressing (TSP) quickly set up these presses at their factory in the industrial area of Selby, just south of the city centre of Johannesburg and pressed the 60 000 helmets by March –  April 1940. These helmets did not have the later distinctive South African Helmet with three holes in the rear brim. These helmets needed to be painted and then supplied with a liner and chin strap. The contracted paint supplier for the Union Defence Forces was Herbert Evans situated not far from TSP on the corner of Pritchard and Kruis Street, in the Johannesburg city centre.

Figure 9: One of the male presses (matrix) for Helmets, Steel, Mark 1, purchased by Oluf Larsen.

 

Figure 10: A blank manganese steel plate for forming into a helmet.

 

Figure 11: TSP made many other steel containers apart from steel helmets.

 

Herbert Evans & Company Ltd was formed in 1889 when Welshman, Herbert Evans arrived in Johannesburg with much ambition, a cart, a ladder and some paintbrushes. Just after the 22 April 1900, Begbie, Boer ammunition factory explosion in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, quick thinking Evans purchased all the window glass available in Johannesburg. He then sold it back at an escalated price to the many people who wanted to repair their damaged homes. This allowed him to expand his paint company.  In 1910 he launched the first ready-mixed colour paints in South Africa. In 1915 his trademarked “Parthenon Paints” became a household name. This was the brand that he supplied to the Union Defence Forces throughout the Second World War. To ease the task of UDF personnel requesting paint from Herbert Evans, Evans set up a set of 16 colour charts with the 16 different paints requested by the UDF. All they had to ask for was for example 100 gallons of paint No 6. The standard paint in 1940 was a light to medium green, the same colour used on the South African Armoured Reconnaissance Car Mk 1 (Ford) and Mk 2 with Marmon Herrington four-wheel drive (see image below of this colour). It is not known if the original 60 000 pressed helmets were painted in this colour but it seems very probable. After the helmets had been spray painted, they were sent to Jager Rand Ltd for the fitting of the liners.  An interesting note here is that the African National Congress (ANC) leader, Walther Sisulu, worked at Herbert Evans in the 1930s as a paint mixer but left Herbert Evans to go into real estate by the time the helmets needed painting.

Figure 12: The original green colour paint used on the first batch of Helmets and the first armoured cars. 

 

Jager Rand 

Leslie Harmens Jager was the chairman and managing director of Jager Rand (Pty) Ltd. He was born on 26 July 1900 and educated at St Johns College and Michaelhouse, Natal.  As a very young man, he served as a pilot (probably officer) in the Royal Flying Corps in 1917.  Here he gained some knowledge of Helmets, Steel, Mk 1, and had probably brought back his helmet to South Africa after the First World War.  Jager Rand manufactured a variety of small electrical appliances.  How they managed to get into producing all the liners for the South African helmets is unknown, but his wartime experience surely assisted him.  During the Second World War, only a lucky few companies made the same or similar products as they were making before the war. Most companies got involved in the manufacturing of arms components to assist the war effort and their business. It is unlikely that liners were ready when the first helmets were pressed by Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate (SPS), but Jager Rand soon got the contract and produced thousands of these liners. Based on the more than 60 helmets in the Museum collection, all liners were either manufactured in 1940 or 1942.  Why the Museum has no liners made in 1941, will be discussed below.

Figure 13: An advertisement from the Nongqai magazine. 

 

D.I Fram

D.I Fram was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who set up a canvas and webbing-related business in Johannesburg. During and after the Second World War, they too had a factory in the Selby area of Johannesburg and made most of the South African Manufactured Pattern 1937 webbings, pouches, straps, large packs and other related canvas and web equipment. Most of their equipment had their name stamped on the item in blue lettering. It is believed that they made the helmet chin straps but I have not as yet seen their name on any of them.  

 

What happened to the first 60 000 helmets?

Men of the 1st South African Infantry Division were under training in Eastern Transvaal and by end of April 1940 were ready for deployment. They were issued with the Polo helmet introduced into UDF service in 1935 as the steel helmets were not yet completed.  Some men as mentioned above also wore neck veils with their Polo helmets, against the sun. The very first South African soldiers to be shipped to Kenya, were men of the 1st South African Anti-Aircraft Regiment. These men received copies of the first South African pressed helmets, without the distinctive three holes and used them when manning the quick-firing anti-aircraft gun Mk III around the defences of Mombasa.  It is believed that the coloured gunners on Robben Island also were issued with this first batch of helmets.  A few others were used as samples and for promoting the achievement of South African industry at the start of the war.  The main body of the 1st Division, along with the first locally produced armoured cars, and trucks were about to be shipped to Kenya. Troops still had their Polo helmets. 

 

The steel helmets were later completed (date unknown) but a little while later the bombing of British cities started. The ‘Blitz’ started in September 1940.  There was an urgent requirement for helmets for civilian firefighters, non-combatant civil defence servicemen and women involved in assisting the public of British cities during the ‘Blitz’.  The majority of the completed helmets were therefore shipped to Great Britain for this purpose.   

 

 Problems with supplies

The period January to May 1940 was a feverish time for producing arms and equipment for the UDF as normal imports from Britain were now severely restricted.  Britain required all the arms and military equipment made in Great Britain and Canada for its own armed forces and could not spare any for South Africa.  The helmet presses were ready for working and Jager Rand had made more than enough liners but the manganese steel plate was unable in South Africa. The only company able to produce this type of steel plating in South Africa was the Iron and Steel Corporation (ISCOR). ISCOR was working 24 hours a day and enlarging blast furnaces in Pretoria to produce the steel of the type that the Director-General War Supplies required for arms for the Union Defence Forces. Their priority was to produce armour plating for the South African armoured cars and to supply foundries for the manufacture of bombs, shells, hand grenades and the correct steel for engineering businesses involved in ordnance production. The production of the low-priority thin manganese steel plating would have to wait.   

 

The South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation Ltd (ISCOR)

From 1860 South Africa tried to exploit its iron ore deposits but nothing came of this until 1901. In 1912 the Union Steel Corporation was formed with small production at Dunswart on the east rand. In 1917 an experimental blast furnace was erected at Vereeniging. Some steel was made in Newcastle in 1920. These factories were small and not fully supported by the government. In 1922 the government passed the Iron and Steel Encouragement Act which paid money to those businesses which could produce more than 50 000 tons of pig iron or steel per year.  This was not successful, as only one company in Newcastle could match the target.  South Africa was still dependent on other countries for most of its steel requirements. 

 

On 5 June 1928 ISCOR was formed under the Chairmanship of Dr Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl. The government-backed the attempt to produce sufficient iron and steel for South Africa. German engineers drafted all technical and financial specifications of the approved plan.   The site selected for the production of steel was 8km west of the city centre of Pretoria. The site clearing commenced early in 1931 and with the German expertise employed, the coke ovens were fired on 4 December 1933.  Subsequently, the blast furnace was blown on 7 March 1934 the next day the first pig iron was produced. The first steel from the factory was tapped on 4 April 1934. Steel mills able to produce 30 000 tons of sheets were completed in 1934. 

 

However, by 1939 with war clouds looming in Europe, all the German engineers either left voluntary or became the enemy and had to leave or be interned after the declaration of war.   ISCOR was now left without the expertise to produce the steel required for the war effort. 

 

In 1940 the ISCOR works in Pretoria comprised of 57 ovens for producing coke from coal. There were two Blast Furnaces each with a daily capacity of 500 tons; three Basic Open Heath Steel Furnaces, two of 120 tons and one of 250ton capacity; Heavy and Light Rolling Mills and a sheet works with an annual capacity of 50 000 tons.  A reasonable production but no expertise.  By trial and error and using very primitive modifications to the existing plant, ISCOR was eventually able to produce enough steel for the railways and harbours and the mining industry. 

 

 For the Union Defence Forces, armour plates for the armoured cars, steel ingots for artillery barrel production, and nearly a year later, Manganese steel sheets of 20 gauge for steel helmets were produced.  A First World War helmet was examined at ISCOR and eventually steel was produced, which passed the Ericksen quality test. The delay was not for the lack of manganese but the technical know-how as in 1939, South Africa produced 463 000 tons of manganese ore. Manganese steel plates were produced in March 1941.

Figure 14: The blast furnaces at ISCOR, Pretoria. 

 

The Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate – TSPS (Part two)

 

With the arrival of the manganese steel plate, TSPS was able to press up to 8 000 helmets per week. The process was as follows:   Using male and female presses, a 370 mm diameter manganese steel disc was placed above the female mould/press.  A hydraulic press was released by an operator (technician) and the male press forced the disc plate into the female mould. The outer rim of the pressed helmet now often had corrugated ridges. The pressed helmet was stacked and then moved to the next station where the corrugated edges were trimmed. The helmet then had a hole punched/pressed in the centre of the dome and the distinctive three holes in the back brim.  As discussed before, these holes were to fit a sun-neck veil which was never used.  It is not known who gave the instruction for these holes, but was it probably a member of the Director-General War Supplies (DGWS) staff?  The last process at TSP was the fitting of a supposedly anti-magnetic channel around the sharp rim. The entire helmet made from manganese steel was anti-magnetic. The channel was spot welded on the left-right of the wearer at the 9 o’clock position. Remember that the whole helmet made from manganese steel was anti-magnetic.  A staff member from DGWS inspected and approved the quality of each batch of helmets.

 

Figure 15: A skilled operator at TSPS pressing the helmets.

 

Figure 16: Note the corrugation on the newly pressed helmet.

 

ISCOR supplied the manganese steel plating for 250 000 helmets, which would have been what the Union Defence Forces required.   From early 1942, ISCOR ceased to supply the steel for the helmets and the United States steel industries sent the required manganese steel plate to South Africa for pressing.

 

Herbert Evans

The helmets were sent to Herbert Evans for spray painting whose factory was less than two kilometres away. In March-April 1941 they were painted in a medium to dark green colour for issue to men of the 2nd South African Infantry division undergoing training in the Carolina area of the eastern Transvaal. From Herbert Evans, they were sent back to the Selby area of southern Johannesburg for the fitting of the liners. Once it was known that the 2nd Division was destined for Egypt, the helmets then produced, were painted in a sand colour. The 1st South African Infantry Division was about to move from East Africa to Egypt and was still wearing their Polo helmets. This division would also later be issued with sand-coloured helmets, some with the 1940 liners and others with the 1942 liners.

Figure 17: One of the sand-coloured helmets used in Egypt by the 2nd Division. 

 

Jager Rand  

While TSP was waiting for ISCOR to manufacture manganese steel plating, Jager Rand was manufacturing thousands of liners in preparation for the helmets. Although the second batch of helmets was only pressed from March 1941, all the liners were made and dated 1940.  Of the 60 helmets in the collection of the Museum, 14 were stamped with a 1940 date and most of the rest dating 1942. A few have no visible date stamp but none have a 1941 date stamp. The fitting of the completed liner was simple; a 15 mm diameter brass screw was paced through a hole on the dome of the liner and helmet and fastened with a flat dome nut on the exterior top of the dome of the helmet.  Excessive visible screw threads were ground off flush with the nut.  It is thought that Jager Rand also fitted the chin straps supplied by DI Fram.   

DGWS staff approved the quality of the helmet.  A pre-determined sample was taken from each batch for bulletproof testing.  Although only 0.944mm thick, the steel was able to resist the penetration of a 230-grain bullet travelling at 183 miles per second. Once the batch was bulletproofed they were handed over to the Quarter Master General (QMG). The quartermaster unit of the 2nd SA Infantry Division would then collect the helmets from OMG for issue to the units of the 2nd Division. Each unit quarter master staff would exchange the soldier’s Polo helmets for a new steel helmet against the signature on a UDF issue voucher.  The first men of the 2nd Division arrived in Egypt on 21 June 1941. The same procedure applied for issue to the men of the 1st Division and later the 6th South African Armoured Division.  Reserves for either the 1st, 2nd or 6th armoured division were issued with helmets of the appropriate colour in the Union of South Africa. Other soldiers who were to remain in the Union also now received their steel helmets.

Figure 18: Liner made by Jager Rand.

 

Figure 19: Jager Rand marking and 1940 date stamp.

 

Figure 20: One of the dark green helmets proofed against small firearms. 

 

Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC)

The Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC) was formed at a conference attended by the Governments of India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Zanzibar, Burma, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Malaya and Palestine, held in Delhi, India from 25 October to 25 November 1940. It was agreed at the conference that the mentioned countries would adopt a Joint War Supply policy. The maximum use would be made of the existing and potential capacity for war supply for each country. Some of the items supplied by South Africa included boots, blankets, canvas shoes, anti-gas eye shields, vaccines, serums, portable cookers and helmets.  So once the UDF had been supplied with helmets, the continued production went to the EGSC. On 9 April 1945, TSP pressed their 1 ½ millionth helmet and it was presented to Dr Hendrik van der Bijl, the Director-General of War Supplies. 

 

Cost of the helmets

The first 60 000 helmets produced cost the DGWS an average of 17 Shillings and 2 Pence each. This cost had to cover the importation of machinery and supplies and the cost of setting up the production.  By the end of the war and with 1 ½ million helmets produced, the cost per helmet had fallen to 7 Shillings and 6 Pence.  

 

Helmet colours

In general, the first helmets produced were painted in the same light green as used by the first 113 South African Armoured Reconnaissance Car Mk I (Ford).  After the ISCOR started to supply the steel plating to TSP, the colour was a medium to dark olive green. Once the 1st and 2nd divisions were in North Africa, the helmet in use was painted in a sand colour, some more sand brown than others. For the Italian Campaign, some wore sand colour helmets, others, dark green and new recruits a brown colour helmets. In the Italian winter of 1944 in the snow-covered Apennines, some men sensibly covered their dark helmets in a white cloth. In 1954, South Africa approved a new colour, Light Stone for much of its new equipment.  Some helmets used by the UDF at this time were painted in Light Stone. In 1962 a new colour Olive Drab semi- gloss was approved for general use.

                 

.               

Figure 21: The various helmet colours.  

 

A new helmet 

In the 1950s, South Africa continued to use British and American equipment. There was a distinctive need to break from the British Colonial domination and different sources investigated for supplying South African military needs.  South Africa broke away from the British Commonwealth in 1961 when South Africa became a republic. The new South African Defence Force immediately got permission from France to reproduce the French Modèle 1951 helmet. This occurred in 1963 and Fuchs was to go on producing this South African ‘Staaldak’ helmet until 1983 painted in the 1962 colour Olive Drab- Semi-gloss. The first recipients of the new Model 1963 helmet were Permanent Force personnel followed by those ballotters who were undergoing initial training at one of four training units.  When National Service was introduced in 1967, the Model 1963 helmets were issued to all new soldiers. The Citizen Force also received these helmets at this time but Commando units would have to wait until 1970 for their Steel Helmet Mk I* to be replaced by the Model 1963 helmet.   

 

The Model 1963 helmet was replaced in 1983 by a Kevlar helmet based on the Israeli OR-201 helmet.    

 

Conclusion

The writer as a child had a full set of Pattern 1937 web equipment and a South African Manufactured Helmet, Steel, Mark 2, which as we can see from the above, should actually have had a nomenclature of Helmet, Steel, Mark I *.

 

REFERENCES

  • Primary: The 66 Helmets Steel Mark 1 and Helmets Steel Mark 1* / 2 in the accoutrements collection of DITSONG: National Museum of Military History.
  • Chambers, S J Uniforms & Equipment of the British Army in World War 1. Schiffer Publications, Atglen, USA.
  • Chappel, M The British Soldier in the 20th Century – Field Service Head Dress 1902 to the present day. Wessex Military Publishing, Hatherleigh, 1987
  • British War Office Medical History of the Second World War – pages 82/83.
  • Digby, PKA Pyramids and Poppies The 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders 1915-1919. Ashanti Publishing, Rivonia, Johannesburg 1993.
  • Donaldson K (ed) South African Who’s Who 1953. Ken Donalson, Johannesburg, 1953.
  • Thomson, AG The Years of Crisis. The South African Federation of Engineering and Metallurgical Associations, Johannesburg, 1946.
  • Union of South Africa The Official Year Book of the Union of South Africa 1933-1934 No 16        Government Printer, Pretoria, 1934. 
  • Union of South Africa The official Year Book of the Union of South Africa 1940 No 21.      Government Printer, Pretoria 1940.
  • Union Defence Forces A record of the Organisation of the Director – General War Supplies (1939-1943 and Director –General of Supplies (1943-1945). LB Grey & Co, Johannesburg, 1946.
  • Williamson, H The Collector and Researchers Guide to The Great War Vol II, Small Arms Munitions, Militaria. Privately Published Anne Williamson, Harwick, Essex, England, 2003.
  • Shadrake D WW1: Combat helmet technology – the Brodie steel helmet published in E&T Magazine 16 June 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  • Internet   Website: About Herbert Evans / History. Retrieved 2 Feb 2022.
  • Telephonic Conversations with previous senior manager Mr Mike Parsons and previous owner of Herbert Evans Paints Mr Len Burger.
  • Wikipedia Mangalloy. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  • Wikipedia Robert Hadfield. Retrieved 2 March 2022.

 

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