The need for protective helmets in the United Kingdom in the run up to World War II far outweighed the production capacity for steel helmets. The priority had to be for the armed forces and the government sanctioned Civil Defence forces. This left a gap in the market for private sales to individuals or businesses who wanted to equip themselves with protective headgear, but could not procure steel helmets. The alterntive was provided by companies that had specialised in making safety helmets for motorcyclists and miners before the war out of pulpware.
Pulpware was made of shredded, pulped and compressed paper with fabric and jute added to stengthen it. This was mixed with chemicals to make a substance that much resembeled plastic and was strong enough to absorb blows from falling debris, even though it was far from suitable for any military application. One of the main manufacturers was Helmets Ltd who offered a helmet called the ‘Cromwell Protector’:
The helmet is made up of two panels. the lower one wraps around the head and is rivetted together at the rear:
The top is made up of a cross shaped piece, again rivetted in place:
A standard helmet liner made of five panels for comfort was fitted. Many of these helmets had leather chin straps, but this example has been replaced with a standard army style sprung chin strap:
The helmets were offered for sale through a variety of retailers for 12/6 each, such as this one advertised by Roberts McClean & Co Ltd:
These helmets seem to have been bought primarily by civilians, however examples are out there painted with a company’s name painted on them showing they did see some commercial use. Here we see a group of boy scouts helping after a bombing raid and one is clearly wearing the Cromwell Helmet:
These helmets were largely ignored by collectors for many years, but interest is growing in them and they are steadily creeping up in price now, although bargains can be found as it is often assumed they are post war children’s toys.