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Mk2 South African Union Defence Force.

Article about: I have always wondered why these helmets are nearly always in un-issued condition, & reading the information that Mick supplied now know why. These S.A helmets were made from 1940-45, ro

  1. #1
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    Default Mk2 South African Union Defence Force.

    I have always wondered why these helmets are nearly always in un-issued condition, & reading the information that Mick supplied now know why.
    These S.A helmets were made from 1940-45, roughly the first 300,000 were issued to the UDF, thereafter the rest (1,200,000) were given up to the Eastern group supply council.Please read Micks information below, a very important piece of information regarding these helmets.
    This one has a 1942 dated liner, so probably given to the EGSC, split rivet holding the chin strap lugs, I guess the the commonly seen type rivet is of a later date?
    The paint seems to be smooth inside, apart from the inside rim which is like the outside rough textured.
    The liner is a size 7 3/4 & has no rubber buffers (big head) as usual the lining nut & bolt is round the wrong way.
    Please find below another excuse to show Micks info' on these helmets.

    ENQUIRY: SOUTH AFRICAN WW 2 STEEL HELMETS

    Thank you for your query of 2 November 2010. The curator of accoutrements at the Museum, Richard Henry has had similar queries in the past regarding South African manufactured steel helmets and replies to your query below.

    In 1924 Mr O Larsen registered a steel sanitary pail manufacturing company called the Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate, Limited (TSP). Later the company produced milk cans and other heavy hollowware. In 1937, a public company, the Amalgamated Steel Pressing Company Limited was formed and took over the entire share capital of the Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate, Limited. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the TSP was well established to tackle the many calls made on the firm.



    In January 1939, the managing director Mr O Larsen visited a number of similar factories in Europe and made preparations in the event of war breaking out. For instance he ordered dies, tools and some steel plate for the manufacture of the British Mk 1* / Mk 2 steel helmets. On his return he had to convince his Board of Directors as to his unexpected / unnecessary expenditure.

    The ordered consignments only arrived after the start of the war and thanks to Mr Larsen’s foresight, steel helmet production in the Union of South Africa commenced in about April / May 1940. There were, however many difficulties and suppliers of raw materials had to be found. The Iron and Steel Corporation (ISCOR) a newly formed state company, succeeded in record time in producing the right quality of bullet-proof steel (manganese steel). We presume these were to British specifications which called for 12% manganese steel rolled into sheets of twenty gauge - that is .036 inch / 0.9441mm thick. Although quite thin, this alloy was able to resist the penetration pistol bullet of 230 grains travelling a velocity of 183m/s. This bullet would produce a deep indentation in the helmet but No penetration. The first three-quarter million helmets were made from ISCOR material. A number of these helmets were shipped to Great Britain for use by fire fighting and A.R.P Services during the blitz on London. The weekly production of helmets was between 10 000 and 12 000. Later, in order that ISCOR could concentrate on other goods, steel supplies from ICSOR were discontinued and supplies were obtained from the United States.

    Production of steel helmets went on almost throughout the war. Occasionally there were hold ups for materials and for conditioning of tools. Regular shooting tests were conducted to ensure the helmets were up to specification and staff from the Director General Supplies inspected each helmet.

    The Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate pressed the helmets and trimmed them. Thereafter the three distinctive holes were punched in the back rim, one hole in the crown to accept the head liner retaining brass screw and one hole on each side to rivet the chin strap fixings to. The stainless steel, anti-magnetic channel rim was then fitted and spot welded on the left side of the wearer. The helmets were sent for painting to Messrs. Herbert Evans & Co. (Pty) Ltd. Helmets were first painted in the standard UDF green, then a darker UDF green and later in a desert sand or those helmets destined for troops in the Italian campaign, in a brown. Jager Rand (Pty) Limited manufactured and fitted the head linings and made delivery of the completed helmets to War Supplies.

    The Museum has one of the original dies, as well as a disc blank plate measuring 373 mm in diameter and marked “ Cast 3989 LOT 17” . We also have a display helmet of one of the first pressings with attached rim and painted in the UDF green but without the three holes in the back. We have another display helmet, with the three rim holes and fitted with a Jager Rand head liner and elasticised chin strap but painted in a darker green. This helmet was used to show the public within the Union of South Africa the quality of the steel used in South African helmet construction. It bears the wording “This Steel is South African Made And it’s Bullet Proof”. There are arrows pointing to a bullet strike indentation on the either side of the helmet.

    In about 1935 the Polo Pattern helmet came into general service with the South African Army. This pattern helmet was issued all South African proceeding north on active service, first in East Africa and later North Africa. Except for the South African anti-aircraft battery defending Mombasa, steel helmets were not worn in East Africa.

    Before the Second World War 1939 -1945, it was believed in some medical circles and amongst the South African public that direct sun shine on the spinal cord or neck would lead to sun stroke. Although neck veils do not appear in any of the dress regulations of the time, nor do they appear on any kit issue forms for the period 1939-1941, they were worn by South African soldiers in East Africa. Most who wore neck veils, placed their Polo helmet over a piece of Khaki Drill cloth which acted as a neck veil. The writer has over many years viewed thousands of photographs in the Museum’s photographic archives taken during the East African and North African campaigns.

    After the East African Campaign, soldiers of the 1st South African Division were sent to North Africa, arriving at the beginning of May 1941. They continued to wear the Polo Pattern helmet. Some men continued to wear the neck veil. It appears that many men by this time became aware that the lack of water and not the direct sun on ones spinal cord was the cause of heat exhaustion and sun stroke. Soldiers, stripped to the waist while digging trenches in Egypt in the mid-day sun, suffered no sun stroke, if they took in sufficient water. South African ladies of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Service (WAAS) who served in Egypt were photographed with Polo Pattern Helmets. Many of these ladies also wore neck veils with their polo helmets. Some ladies sewed the neck veil onto a steel wire band which prevented the neck veil from been blown away in the wind. The wire had the ends bent at 90 degrees and fitted into the ventilation holes in the sides of the Polo helmet, with the wire passing around the rear of the helmet with the neck veil attached. The neck veil was thus easily able to be removed. Other photographs show a few men of the 1st SA Division wearing steel helmets of a light colour which was probably a sand colour. These helmets are thought to be of British manufacture.

    With the arrival of the advance party of the 2nd South African Division in Egypt from mid May 1941, the photographs start to show more steel helmets in a dark colour – probably the darker UDF green. With the arrival of the main body of men of the 2nd SA Division from 21 June 1941 and their move to dig the El Alamein defences from mid July 1941, photographs show dark colour helmets, many with camouflage netting. None of these photographs viewed over 30 years show the wearing of a neck veil with the steel helmet.

    Once the requirement of the Union Defence Forces had been met (unknown amount but probably in the region of 300 000), production continued and on 9 April 1945 the Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate pressed their one and half millionth helmet. The excess helmets were supplied to the Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC). This council was formed as a result of a conference held in Delhi India between October 25 and November 25 1940. At this conference delegates from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Southern Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Zanzibar, Burma, Ceylon, Hong Kong Malaya and Palestine agreed to a joint war supply policy which would make use of the existing and potential capacity for war supply of each country. This would prevent duplication of effort and wasteful shipping from Great Britain. South Africa became the principal supplier of steel helmets to the EGSC. It is estimated that from February 1941 most helmets made in South Africa at a continued rate of 10 000 a week were sent to the EGSC. About one million, two hundred thousand helmets were thus exported to the EGSC.

    It appears that the use of neck veils was never officially sanctioned but the wide spread use of neck veils in East Africa with the Polo Helmet, was probably the reason why the TSP included holes for a neck veil. It is not known who instructed the TSP to punch the three holes in the rear rim, but was probably an officer with East African experience. Why were neck veils not worn with the steel helmet? By about September 1941 no further photographs show the use of any neck veils. It is assumed that a Routine Order from this period forbad the use of neck veils.

    All the South African manufactured helmets we have seen have head liners manufactured by Jager Rand in 1940. This reinforces the information we have that all the helmets required by the UDF were manufactured between about May and December 1940. We wonder if some of the South African helmets sent to the EGSC from early 1941 have liners from Jager Rand dated 1941-1945? Possibly some of these helmets may have found their way to Australia or New Zealand. Your views or knowledge on this would be appreciated as would any photograph of a neck veil attached to a South African steel helmet.

    We hope find this information informative......

    Mick
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  2. #2

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    Some great information there Aaron, thanks for posting it. I am always wondering about South African MK2s and it is interesting to see that they could have been sent almost anywhere it seems. Cheers.

  3. #3

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    Excellent information! Thanks for sharing this. I have pinned the thread.

    Cheers, Ade.
    Had good advice? Saved money? Why not become a Gold Club Member, just hit the green "Join WRF Club" tab at the top of the page and help support the forum!

  4. #4
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    Quite often seen on these S.A. Mk2's are British liners,& most seem to be late war dated, 44/45.
    With a shortage of information as to why this is the case, at a guess relined either late war, or most likely postwar. Who for, & why, I have no idea.
    This one has an 44 dated liner & has been repainted over the original textured paint.
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  5. #5

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    As to the Jaeger Rand liners, I've seen 1943 dated examples as well. The colour of the felt pad changed in 1942 from brown to black.

  6. #6

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    Excellent thread. Add another one to the list....

  7. #7
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    Here's one that was used by the Greeks post war. It has been stripped of it's original paint, repainted & an Greek liner & chin strap added.
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  8. #8
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    Again post war used, this time by the Israeli's. Inserting their liner & chin strap, believed to have been used from 1946-70.
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  9. #9

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    Great thread, this is the only pic I've ever seen of the neck flap. I can't be sure if it's a genuine or not?
    If you'd like, I could post my two helmets?

  10. #10

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    Quote by reneblacky View Post
    Great thread, this is the only pic I've ever seen of the neck flap. I can't be sure if it's a genuine or not?
    If you'd like, I could post my two helmets?
    I dont think any neck flaps were issued so could be somthing the wearer has added?

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