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Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

Article about: very interesting

  1. #1

    Default Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Hi all!

    It seems like Greek helmets have started circulating more widely in the militaria market and since many of these have seen postwar service and thus have been refurbished, they may cause problems to both Greek and British/Commonwealth militaria collectors.

    The subject of Greek postwar liners has been brought up several times in various fora, but I thought of putting together a thread on that, including some period photos.

    I hope that you 'll find it interesting!

    The first helmets used by the Greek army were British MkIs and French Adrians, during WW1. These were also used during the Asia Minor campaign and as late as during WW2, being issued to second line and some artillery and cavalry units.

    After 1936, it was planned that the Italian M34/39 would replace all other types, but since the deal on these was broken after the declaration of war on October 28, 1940, not all of the ordered helmets were delivered.

    The M34/39s were being delivered unpainted, without liners and chinstraps. The manufacturing process was completed locally. Wartime helmets have a leather liner, secured in place by four rivets and stamped with "Ellinikos Stratos" (Greek Army) around a cross and the liner's size and a superimposed crown.

    General view
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    Close up of the rivets
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    The liner. Note how the rivets secure it.
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    The chinstrap. Note the two buckles.
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    Liner stamp
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    These were still used during the occupation by the Gendarmerie and the Security Battalions, while the Greek forces in Middle East and Africa were being equipped by the British, thus being issued with MkII helmets.

    After the end of the war, the British equipped the reinstituted Greek armed forces, with the ML transporting tons of equipment as aid. The "new" helmet adopted by the Greek army was the MkII. The use of a helmet was much disliked by the troops and although the US military advisors insisted on it during the Civil War, it was adopted by all units only in 1949. Contemporary photos show the use of the "original" British/Commonwealth issue elasticated chinstraps, so these must have been hurried into use without any refurbishing.

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    I think that the postwar refurbishment of both M34/39 and MkII helmets has taken place during the 50s, in an effort to standardize the appearence of the soldiers, parallel to equipping them with the locally made Battledress clones. The received a British-like liner, made of a brown synthetic material, an aluminium headband and a single buckle leather chinstrap.

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    The refurbishing of the M34/39s demanded more radical changes. A hole had to be opened at the dome, so that the British liner clone would be held in place, thus leaving the four holes for the previous liner suspension visible.

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    Note the four exposed holes and single buckle chinstrap.
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    These were still being used till the '60s and even '70s by the Police. Here is a photo of policemen storming the Philosophical Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, during the military dictatorship of 1967-74. There can be seen both types of helmets in use.
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    So, if you are not into Greek militaria of the postwar period and you want a WW2 era untouched M34/39 or British/Commonwealth MkII, brown synthetic liners are to be avoided!

    Regards, Giorgos

  2. #2

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Thanks Giorgos,

    Good pics and a clear explanation. I'll keep this info as reference material!
    Thanks,
    Emile

    BTW
    What is there to tell about the use of the M1 and after? Did Greece produce it own helmets or were they imported and from what country?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Giorgos,

    Looks like a good complete story.
    I do however have a question about the M34/39s.
    Have you ever heard about non refurbished helmets used during the Greek civil war that had communist painted insignia on the front?

    Kind regards,

  4. #4

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    I 'm glad you found the info interesting!

    Magicdutchmen, I haven't seen any photographic evidence (let alone to have handed one in person) of M34/39s used by the Democratic Army during the Civil War, painted with communist insignia. I have seen in person a helmet of this type though, used by ELAS during the Occupation, painted with "ELAS" in red letters and also red hammer and sickle.

    After the collapse of the front in April 1941, many of these were hidden by retreating soldiers, among other equipment, weapons etc. Some of these helmets used by left wing resistance were coming from these hidden supplies, "straight" from the Greek army. The Italians also captured many of these and put them to use and it is possible that they might have again changed hands during fights or the surrender of 1943. The Gendarmerie as well as the Security Battalions have also been using this type and have been another "supplier" for the forces of ELAS. There is photographic evidence of these in use.

    Much of the equipment though was surrendered after the treaty of Varkiza and most of the hidden supplies were discovered during the following months by Gendarmerie, Police and paramilitary organizations. That way, the Democratic Army, which was actually created by small groups of persecuted armed and unarmed left wing supporters, fleeing to the mountains, had very limited supplies, a problem that was never to be solved till the end of the conflict.

    The prewar Gendarmerie was not disbanded by the Occupation forces though and they retained their helmets. The men of the Security Battalions were again equipped postwar under new organizational names and so they might have had retained some of these. So, the partisans of the Democratic Army would have a "source" for M34/39s, specially during the early stages of the 1946-49 conflict. The use of the helmet wasn't very widespread, though, for several reasons: It was a pretty heavy "accessory" for an army that was on constant move on foot, through difficult passages in mountainous regions and each partisan would have to lift all weight on his/her back. Secondly, the preferred bounty was food, boots, overcoats and weapons and ammo, while helmets were disliked even by the governmental forces. One more reason was that both armies had a more or less identical appearence, differentiated to some extend by the use of the helmet. So, the side caps with the insignia of the Democratic Army were preferred.

    All that said, it is not impossible that this was not done. The practice was for sure used during the Occupation by the "forefather" of the Democratic Army, ELAS and the "source" remained still available. Have never seen any evidence of it, but that doesn't mean that it didn't happen, even if it was done in a very small scale and just by single partisans and not by whole partisan units.

    As a sidenote, the dislike for the helmets, shown by both sides, is a real paradox. The rocky terrain multiplied the effectiveness of artillery and mortar shells, the use of which was very extensive, leading even to a massive appearence of shellshock incidents.

    Regards, Giorgos

  5. #5

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Some evidence of this practice during the Occupation and the Battle of Athens:

    On this photo, men of the Athens ELAS during a street fight. They have painted the initials "ELAS" on an M34/39 (possibly taken as bounty during the battle, by Gendarmerie or Security Battalions) and a British MkII.
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    This link redirects to the website of the Criminology Museum of the Medicine Faculty of the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens. One of the exhibits is what seems to be an ex Luftwaffe M35 battle damaged helmet, used again by ELAS.
    German helmet

    Regards, Giorgos

  6. #6

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Hi Giorgos, very informative. Thank you for this thread.

    Love the ELAS/German helmet shown in the link.

    Cheers, Ade.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Quote by emileverbunt View Post
    Thanks Giorgos,

    Good pics and a clear explanation. I'll keep this info as reference material!
    Thanks,
    Emile

    BTW
    What is there to tell about the use of the M1 and after? Did Greece produce it own helmets or were they imported and from what country?
    Emile, I 'm really sorry, I just saw your question regarding M1 helmets! The Greek M1s are locally made clones of the US ones, with a green plastic liner. I am not sure about the date they were introduced into service, but I think that this happened early during the military dictatorship ('67 or '68), when uniforms changed to the US greens pattern. Their external appearence varies greatly, from textured to smooth and from light green to dark green. They were issued with or without a net and are still being issued today, with the characteristic greek camo cloth cover. The bulk of the Greek army is still equipped with this helmet, although there is a large number of PASGTs in store, coming from the US, G. Britain, France, Israel and the local EBO-PYRKAL.

    PASGTs are issued to units stationed in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Somalia and also handed out for honourary and parade detachments. Some of these are also found in guard posts, but since there is only one in each post for all of the guards to share... these are not very popular. I 'm still making grimaces when I recall the sight of these!

    I guess the reason for not issuing all of the PASGTs, is that the number is yet not sufficient for all of the forces, plus they are more expensive and the large number of conscripts, who are still the base of army, is not trusted to handle these...

    Regards, Giorgos

  8. #8

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Here is a photo of an m1 clone liner. It's missing the liner's chinstrap, these are either artificial leather or webbing ones. The three rivets at the back of the liner are for the piece also found in US m1s, but these tend to fall and get lost over time. I have been issued 4 or 5 m1s during my service and just one had retained this piece in place. The plastic liner's finish can be lighter or darker in colour, slightly textured matt or glossy smooth like this example.

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    Regards, Giorgos

  9. #9

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Thanks Giorgos for your answer. Quite informative!

    Cheers,
    Emile

  10. #10

    Default Re: Greek helmet liners and chinstraps

    Quote by gi0rgos p View Post
    Some evidence of this practice during the Occupation and the Battle of Athens:

    On this photo, men of the Athens ELAS during a street fight. They have painted the initials "ELAS" on an M34/39 (possibly taken as bounty during the battle, by Gendarmerie or Security Battalions) and a British MkII.
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    This link redirects to the website of the Criminology Museum of the Medicine Faculty of the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens. One of the exhibits is what seems to be an ex Luftwaffe M35 battle damaged helmet, used again by ELAS.
    German helmet

    Regards, Giorgos
    Here is an interesting period photo, taken during the street fights of the Battle of Athens, showing the use of these helmets by the other side. The location is Petmeza street, in the Neos Kosmos district. The Sherman and the British paras are supporting (possibly evacuating) the men of the Security Battalions seen on the left, wearing German greatcoats and a mix of German and Greek M34/39 helmets.

    I think it's quite interesting to see all this equipment of various countries in one photo, on the same side! I also think that it gives a taste of the fighting in Balkans (quite different from the image of the fixed, strictly uniformed sides), which included many paramilitary formations and the deep split of the contemporary societies.

    Regards, Giorgos

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