WW2 British Army Dispatch Rider’s Helmet

At the start of the Second World War the British Army did not have a dedicated motorcyclists helmet- dispatch riders and other motorcyclists having to make do with the brimmed MkII steel helmet. Unfortunately this helmet caused neck injuries if the wearer had an accident; as a stop gap a papier-mâché pulp crash helmet was produced but it offered no ballistic protection. Clearly what was needed was a steel helmet that could protect the wearer from both crashes and in the field. The army turned to their rimless parachutists helmet shell and married this with a new liner to make it suitable for use on a motorbike:imageThe distinctive feature of the helmet is the leather curtain that goes around the neck and under the chin:imageThe liner of the helmet stands off from the shell with a couple of large compressed wool pads:imageNote also the laced adjustment at the rear of the liner to ensure the helmet is a tight but comfortable fit. The wool liner at the front is covered in a dark leather, the inner sweat band in a contrasting shade and a softer grade of material:imageThe crown of the liner has a set of white tapes, secured with a string, that again can be adjusted for fit:imageThe liner on this helmet is in superb condition and was made in 1942 by Briggs Motor Bodies:imageAs can be seen the helmet is in a good 6 ¾” size, but this seems to be generous as my 7 ¼” head can just about fit in!

Either side of the leather neck curtain has a series of punched holes to help the wearer hear:imageBy all accounts this was not successful as one dispatch rider recalled that in the desert the only way he could tell an enemy aircraft was pursuing his motorcycle was when he saw its shadow or the dust kicked up when it started firing at him- needless to say he jumped off pretty smartish at that point! A felt patch is sewn on the revers to aid the comfort over the ears:imageThe helmet is secured with a leather strap and buckle arrangement, the strap having a keeper that prevented it from being removed fully from the buckle. A Newey stud helped secure the loose end of the chin strap:imageHere we can see Military Police dispatch riders of a beach group wearing the helmets whilst they chat to French civilians on D-Day, 6th June 1944:d-day_-_british_forces_during_the_invasion_of_normandy_6_june_1944_b5028These helmets are getting rarer now as so many have been converted into parachutist’s helmets for re-enactors, this one is about as nice as you can get and a great addition to my collection, especially as it only cost a tenner!

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