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Two Belgian M51 Helmets

Article about: I was given this shell recently: So, I bought this liner online: The label in the crown reveals that it was originally made in 1960 by COGEBI (the Belgian General Insulation Company) for the

  1. #1
    JBR
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    Default Two Belgian M51 Helmets

    I was given this shell recently:

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    So, I bought this liner online:

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    The label in the crown reveals that it was originally made in 1960 by COGEBI (the Belgian General Insulation Company) for the navy - 'ZM (anchor symbol) FN' is the Flemish/French marking for the Belgian Naval Forces, the equivalent of 'ABL' for the army. It's made of phenotextile resin impregnated fabric, like the US M1 liner type it was modelled on. The outer surface has been sprayed OD over the navy blue textured finish, which shows through here and there. Presumably, this is the result of return and refurbishment at the army supply facility in Ypres. Of course, it could've been done by someone else but this facility is said to have taken in stuff from all the services and turned them around without any reference to from whence they came.

    This info I have deduced, with the help of Google Translate, from the excellent Belgian collector's website: casquescollection.skyrock.com/1 (which I expect many readers of this will already know). I hope nothing has been lost in translation......

    You can see from these pics what shell and liner look like when assembled with a cover:

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    I've had the cover for a while. It's unissued and not labelled or marked. I had understood it was a commercial invention that may or may not have been available to Belgian servicemen. However, the website mentioned above seems to suggest that current thinking is that it is more likely to be the product of the Belgian military's supply organisation working 'in-house'.

    The second M51 I've had for a while:

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    Unlike the first example, this one still has it's decal. It's had a quite glossy repaint (at Ypres?) and the Belgian equivalent of the US M73 straps added.

    The liner is the later plastic variety. The website mentioned above indicates that these are considered inferior products in comparison with the phenoltextile type. The plastic being known to 'go off' in various ways including getting very brittle. There were various suppliers, this one is Levoir, Belgium. A firm in Hong Kong has apparantly made rather nice examples.

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    Put together, with a net, this helmet looks like this:

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    The above website is not the easiest to navigate but is full of gems and excellent photos. I intend studying it more closely........... eg it seems a number of M51 steel shells appeared in a US Army inventory during the 60s..............

    Hope this is of some interest.

  2. #2
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    Great examples, these models are a firm favourite of mine, I particularly like the early version with the Phenolic liner, I have a few of this manufactures liners in my own collection but they are ABL not Naval issue, so that is of extra interest to me, the Jigsaw pattern covers were indeed officially issued ,however I see no reason why they were not made in the barracks too!

    I look forward to seeing more of your excellent collection.

  3. #3

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    Hi JBR
    The reason why your first example has no national belgian flag is because it is an early west German M56 m1 clone made by Quist!! quite a rare beast in itself!! Well done!!!

  4. #4

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    Bloody hell, your man Austro is right! I didn't notice that. Very hard to find shell, spent years looking for one myself. Perversely the appropriate liners are comparatively much easier to get as they were used for some years after the M56 was notionally retired as parade or guard helmets, usually with the outside repainted. What a lucky person you are, JBR. Keep an eye on Ebay.de and you will find one. Eventually.

  5. #5
    JBR
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    Thank you austromunga and Greg - I'm (almost) dumfounded! When I was given the shell, my first guess was Dutch but then realised the white serial number was not the control mark used by that country. I checked the usual suspects and went for Belgian as they did use a white mark. I was SO certain! It just goes to show you should assume nothing and double check everything. So, although I'm pleased I'm also a little embarrassed. I've looked at the usual suspects German sections and see my mistake in techicolor. I will have to amend the above........... Thank you, both, very much.

    Having just taken a closer look at the WWH site, I'm feeling a little better as it seems the Germans copied the Belgian M51 shell (which is a slightly revised in shape version of the US M1) rather than directly copy the US original. Likewise, the liner.
    Last edited by JBR; 05-06-2015 at 08:17 PM.

  6. #6
    JBR
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    Sorry about the delay in replying, Opex. I was a bit surprised to discover, thanks to austromunga, that the first shell is in fact German - a copy of the M51, too! It's so obvious now I know! I've tried to establish which nets and covers were used on M51s and would appreciate your comments - anybody else's too, of course. Here are my examples, all of which I believe (at the moment, antway) to be Belgian:

    These two nets were intended for the M49 (Brit Mk2 copy), I believe. The darker one is cut down a bit to fit the M51. Both have a strong smell of preservative and came from a Belgian surplus dealer about 5 years ago:

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    This net is of lighter material and non-smelly OD No3-ish colouring. I've seen several photos of Belgian troops using these in conjunction with one cloth cover or another - usually ex-US, sometimes jigsaw:

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    This one is of grey synthetic material and I've seen one photo (on the Belgian collector's site mentioned above) of a soldier using it:

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    This single sided cover I believe to be intended for the German made para helmet or the later ballistic fibre helmet but stand ready to be corrected:

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    This last is the double sided US style jigsaw cover without markings that may be a semi-official issue produced by the army supply facility, possibly the Ypres one:

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  7. #7

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    Glad I could point out your great find JBL!!!!! I have two M56 myself!! Which I too only discovered its true identity by stumbling across the excellent Bundeswehr helmets thread on here!!! One has the original 56' dated liner...and another to match the linerless shell is presently in the post!!
    Nice selection of covers and nets for your M51's !! .... The first jigsaw one, is elasticated... Correct!!??? And the American style one is something I have been unsucssesfull in picking up for my Belgian M 51!!! So well done there too!!!

  8. #8
    JBR
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    Thanks, austromunga. I wonder how many I've passed over the years without recognising them? Congratulations on finding 2! - and securing a liner for the empty one. I'm going to have to keep an eye open for a correct liner myself, of course. WWH mentions that ex-M56 liners were refurbished for parade use but that later they were remanufactured for the purpose - these later examples being slightly bigger than the originals, which might be a problem. Returning to the M51, the first jigsaw cover is elasticated. The US style one I bought from a dealer at the War & Peace Show some years ago (5?). I'm not sure what nationality he was although he seemed to speak French. I also bought a nice Dutch M34 Police helmet from him. The cover was in a box of mixed M1 covers, as I remember, probably mostly US. I think it cost 6 but I might be mis-remembering. There was more than one anyway. Subsequently, I've tried to establish it's status and online results range from a fantasy item to made in army workshops. Lately, I'm swayed by the site mentioned above which seems to say that current thinking (among Belgian militaria collectors?) is that it's too good quality to be a fantasy item and that it is most likely home made by the Belgian Army (as opposed to out-sourced from industry). I'd appreciate having the opinions of other forum members such as yourself.

  9. #9

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    Your first Elasticated example also would also seem to be hand made!!! and of weeded out uniform offcuts...( not olive on the inside!! ).... could well have been for the LLA1 West German Para helmet!! as the pics of my later composite helmet issue labelled Seyntex made 1994 dated example clearly show just how an official item is made....extremely well !!
    and it also has three Velcro tabs to help affix it to the helmet!! and i couldn't resist a quick pic of my Belgian M51 with balls and moon camo cover held on with rubber inner tube as issued !!!
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  10. #10
    JBR
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    Yes, I thought my elasticated cover might be for the para helmet. It does fit the M51 reasonably well. I used to have a medium size Danish issue B826 composite helmet and this took the cover but only after a struggle! In spite of the tightness, though, it seemed to be designed to fit the composite's form rather than the M1 shape, hence my speculation on that. Of course, being relatively crudely made, perhaps it's asking too much to expect a perfect fit. I like the balls & moon camo cover - presumably a parka hood? I don't have one, as yet.

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