Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

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    tug1970

    Name : Tug
    Age : 46
    Location : Devon, UK
    Registration date : 2011-12-23
    Number of posts : 5

    Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

    Post by tug1970 on Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:26 pm

    Hi,

    I have a rather interesting helmet to share with you, I hope that perhaps some of you out there may have some ideas / theories / feelings or even facts about the origins of this helmet.  I've no doubt some of you may have already stumbled across this helmet before either on another forum or on a dealer's website where it remained for a long period until the time came for it to move on!  Surprised 

    As a collector of WWII British Airborne the helmet appealed to me, it is also a nice example of an Australian conversion which involved the removal of the two piece leather chinstrap and the fitting of the webbing chinstrap in this case a WWII period strap.  The conversion was achieved by drilling another hole in the centre rear of the helmet to accommodate a swivel D hanger as demonstrated in the photograph below.





    I was intrigued by the vivid colours of the camouflage which would seem to suggest to me it was for use in jungle / tropical environments and theatres of war.  The scrim net itself was also very interesting and I didn't recognise this particular weave at all although it was pointed out to me at the time by a hugely knowledgeable friend of mine, Mr Ollie Lock, that this was in fact of Australian origin and after further research he was proved to be absolutely correct.......I almost hate to say it!!  Laughing 

    The general feeling is that this helmet was used within the RAR or SASR either during the Australian involvement in the Malayan Emergency from around 1956-1960 or perhaps even the Vietnam War 1962-1973.  As of yet I haven't found any photographic evidence on the web of this type of helmet being used in these theatres although it is accepted that many of these converted helmets existed and were used within the Australian Airborne and Special Forces.



    Australian converted 1942 British HSAT (Helmet Steel Airborne Troops) Fibre Rim  












    Manufactured by BMB (Briggs Motor Bodies) of Dagenham, Essex.  Dated 1942




    Examples of the Australian 'Sweat Rag' 1950's-1970's


    'Sweat Rag' used by 4717601 Peter James Winter during his service in Vietnam with 7 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) from February 1970 to March 1971.





    'Sweat Rag' associated with the service of 235080 Robert John Fletcher who served with 2 RAR in Malaya between 1955 and 1957 commanding rifle and mortar platoons.





    HSAT camouflage incorporating the 'Sweat Rag'









    Below are a few more examples of the 'Sweat Rag' in use.




    A cheeky Private Ross Jeffrey of Launceston, Tas, wearing his sweat rag, normally worn around the neck, as a mini skirt. Private Jeffrey, a member of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), had spent the day working in the hot sun at Fire Support Base (FSB) Balmoral and was wearing his sweat rag in a bid to cool down. Note he is carrying his helmet.





    South Vietnam. 1968-11-09. Sweat rag bound around his head, Corporal Les Fraser of Glebe, NSW, holds his M60 machine gun and stays alert in preparation for the unexpected when guarding the perimeter of Fire Support Base (FSB) Lion, the forward operational base of Headquarters Company of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF). Headquarters Company had moved into the field for Operation Capital, a reconnaissance in force in the Thua Tich area of Phuoc Tuy Province, about twelve miles north-east of Nui Dat.





    Private Len Murdoch of Toowoomba, Qld (left), wearing a sweat rag cap and an armoured vest, has his face blackened for a night patrol by his friend Private Fred Goodare of Bankstown, NSW. Both are members of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR).



    Osprey Books 'Vietnam ANZACs' artists impression.






    So there you have it, I hope you have enjoyed the thread........something slightly different that I think warrants further investigation but is proving difficult.  Hopefully something will surface and we can shed some light on the history of this rather unusual WWII helmet so please feel free to jump in with any thoughts you may harbour.

    I was clean shaven when I started writing this thread, I now have a full set  Shocked 



    Brgds

    Tug



    filupe
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    Location : Oz
    Registration date : 2009-02-16
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    Re: Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

    Post by filupe on Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:06 am

    Welcome Tug,

    Thanks for a very interesting post! The Aussie sweatscarf is quite rare to obtain now, even down under. I think the pic of the guys in Korea are using the WW2 era scarf which have the simple square weave.

    As for the helmet, I think it might have been used by either the Parachute Training School, the SAS Company of the Royal Australian Regiment i.e. the precursor to the Australian SAS Regiment, or the Reservist 1st Commando Regiment. AFAIK these were the only para qualified units in the Australian army post-WW2 - 1976. As you are probably already aware, there was an Australian version of the Denison done in jungle green, dated early '60s. This would complement that helmet wonderfully.

    By Vietnam the norm seems to been US type M1 helmets, sometimes covered in the distinctive Aussie 'scrim' as illustrated in Lyles book, but just as often not.

    Are there any copies of 'Denison' left? Went on a book binge a few weeks ago and seem to have missed out on this ...

    tug1970

    Name : Tug
    Age : 46
    Location : Devon, UK
    Registration date : 2011-12-23
    Number of posts : 5

    Re: Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

    Post by tug1970 on Thu Dec 19, 2013 11:36 am

    Hi Filupe,

    Thanks for the information, really good stuff and very interesting.  I'm afraid I have little knowledge of the Australian forces and militaria so its good to get a guiding hand from somebody slightly more familiar with the subject.  Something to work on I guess and too be quite honest something I would like to pursue further especially collecting. Do you think a helmet would have had this much attention paid to it for use at a Parachute training school, usually I'd expect something standard like the first HSAT featured in the thread. I think this is a very personal item, a soldier has spent some time on this just like the young Paratroopers of today who still strive for that 'Ally' look.

    So, do you have the Denison that will compliment the helmet??  Laughing 

    Still copies of 'Denison' knocking around, there is a good steady flow of them going out.  I have a few signed by Flt Sgt Les Kershaw, RAF Glider Pilot (Op Varsity) so they are quite special.
    Of course now the 'British Airborne Headdress' book is out now as well, each compliment the other.  Some great helmets in there from Arnhem/Oosterbeek all with provenance.........really fantastic stuff from huge collections in Holland, the Airborne Assault archives and reserve collections including personal items donated by veterans.

    Links below............bit naughty by what the hell!!  

    'British Airborne Headdress'

    'Denison'

    Brgds
    Tug

    filupe
    MODERATOR
    MODERATOR

    Location : Oz
    Registration date : 2009-02-16
    Number of posts : 1033

    Re: Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

    Post by filupe on Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:47 pm

    It is indeed a very personal item. Helmets were not the norm for the Australian Army post WW2, field headdress usually consisted of the slouch hat or bush hat. I think you're right in that it probably isn't a PTS item, personnel in the 'Special Action Forces' such as the SAS Coy and Commandoes had a much wider latitude in personalising their field equipment (and indeed still do!) I'm wondering if perhaps the helmet's original owner had previously served in British Airborne Forces and imported their helmet camming techniques.

    I do have an Australian OD Denison in my collection, however, they are not impossible to get locally and do come up from time to time. Many of the ones I have seen are in unused condition. I have seen period photos of members of the SAS Coy wearing them in '61.

    tug1970

    Name : Tug
    Age : 46
    Location : Devon, UK
    Registration date : 2011-12-23
    Number of posts : 5

    Re: Australian converted British HSAT fibre rim (Malayan Emergency / Vietnam War)

    Post by tug1970 on Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:51 am

    Yes I think its true of all the force and perhaps most noticeably with Para Reg, the more of a sweat you are the longer the smock, the great pride in the helmets although I believe the Para helmet as we know it has been withdrawn and issued for jumping only...........thats what I heard.  But the personalization of the helmets continues, its almost a throw back to those iconic Arnhem photographs that perhaps unwittingly they try to mimic.  Huge smocks, netted and camouflaged helmets, the band around the rim almost like the fibre rim........obviously offers other protection but its that look.

    So maybe your theory of a soldier previously serving with British Airborne Forces is very plausible indeed.  There are some excellent examples in the new 'British Airborne Headdress' book of various Para helmets from WWII right through to the present day.  I absolutely love that huge sense of pride, camaraderie and historical attachment the modern day soldiers display and there is a great photograph of a 3 Para Sgt who assisted with the book wearing a WWII webbing chinstrap on his helmet.  They also still exercise this mutual respect and connection with the WWII German Fallschirmjäger with some wearing Fallschirmjäger splinter pattern helmet covers!

    Basically the possibilities and speculations are endless but none the less hugely interesting.

    I was a Submariner and funnily enough I went to great lengths to wear and shape my cap into that WWII style, I also had a U-boat Flotilla emblem on my nomex overalls which came out for casing crawls and weapon loads etc. even though the Skipper wasn't that keen on it!!  Very Happy   But as I say this type of thing extends throughout the forces probably more so in the more elite units.........Submarine Service being one of them  lol!   Well, the SBS and SAS lads thought we were mad...........which I found almost comical considering what they did to get onboard!!!  Laughing  But I learnt how to clear the mess of SF, just tell them the reactor was behind that bulkhead and there was a huge gamma shine coming off it.........yep, never seen anyone so pleased to get back down the bomb shop before!!

    Do you have those period phots of the SAS Coy wearing the Denison in '61 and a photo of your Denison?

    Brgds
    Tug

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