Home Front Helmets

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Dieppe, May 30, 2004.

  1. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    They were not all steel - many of the black ones were a form of Bakelite. When my parents bought a house in Sale in 1952 there was still an ARP one on a hook in the coal house from the previous owner
  2. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    Post #25 shows one of the non-metal variants....that one is compressed paper pulp.....the harder thicker ones often contained wood chips or pulped rags which are often visible to the naked eye.
  3. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    Since bringing out "Helmets of the Home Front" (well over half of stock sold, no second print run planned, ideal Christmas Present, blah blah) there's been an increase in questions, to us at least, about what certain letters stand for....and some of these come with the now-familiar "I-know-what-they-stand-for" claims...which are usually wrong...and sometimes hilarious. Just because someone's managed to find three Military-ish words which just happen to start with the same letters as those on the helmet doesn't mean that's what it is....."ASM" in white on a black helmet is probably something like Armstrong Siddley Motors.....and NOT "Army Sergeant Major".....anything with an "H" at the end is often from a Hospital...and isn't usually "Head" as is sometimes claimed. If the helmet is black with 3-4 letters (often seperated with full stops) and not one of the more common markings (FAP, MOH, RPE etc) there's a good chance that it was used in an institution like a Factory, hospital or similar...and it's more likley to be a place (Company / Hospital etc) than a role title. This doesn't mean that the helmet with "A.B.L." on was just some old bloke's who worked in Anderson, Baker & Lynch (it's made up - dont check it!!...and certainly NOT "Air-raid Bunker Leader or "Ack-ack Barrel Loader" or "Anti Bomb Lookout" etc).....Anderson, Baker and Lynch (don't check it!) might have been a Company which no longer exists (Gracies Guide is a great help for this)...it MAY be the only Company with those initials in the country....which means that ol' Ted's boring old black helmet with "A.B.L" on it (and it's STILL not something exciting like "Assistant Borough Liaison"!!) may just turn out to be one of just 50, 100, 200 perhaps in the entire world..fewer than there were CONTROLLERS, MOHs, Silver (actually "Aluminium" I hear all you book-buyers shout! :) ) helmets in the NFS.

    ...next time you see a black or grey helmet with 3 or 4 white letters on the front don't waste time trying to get "Winston Churchill", "Parliament", "The King" etc to fit the words you have...start looking for factory / company / hospital / Council etc initials and see where that takes you....you may just have quite a rare, albeit visually dull, piece of local history.....

    'just saying.........
    Rich Payne, ARPCDHG and Owen like this.
  4. Listy

    Listy Active Member

    IT just so happens that going through our local Force museum's boxes we found these:

    thought you lot might be interested.
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  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Don't just stand there....Put 'em on and get out on patrol :)
  6. Listy

    Listy Active Member

    Shall I take one of these Police Cutlass' out as well, or stick to our colossal collection of Sticks, head whacking, for the use of,?

    But we're getting side tracked. The helmets.
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  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I think the top one is the original coast guard/ revenue pattern issue cutlass that the original 'peelers' were provided with

    But getting back on course. My parents used to have an old black ARP one found hanging in the coal house of the property we moved into in 1952. It was made of something like Bakelite. My question - how many civilian helmets were non metallic and were all the metallic one of the same quality?
  8. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    I didn’t find any production / sales figures re the non-metallics when we were pulling the book together.......

    I guess you could argue that it wasn’t just “civilians” in that some of them would have been worn by employees of companies.....Companies might’ve bought them for their staff...there’s some examples in the book......

    Re the metallics, there were different grades of metal....but I’m not sure that’s what you meant.
  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I've wondered if the non metallics were a purely psychological morale raising device (rather like the gas masks issued in Bahrain during Gulf War I) and as about as much practical use as a paper bag in Protect and Survive. I'll come back on metallics as it's complicated and getting late
  10. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    During WW1 the Germans produced "Stahlelms" made of compressed fibre for use by 2nd line troops. They still looked threatening but it wasn't a good idea to wear them in heavy rain!
  11. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    The non-metallics were strong...but they arose out of the Govts banning of steel use for non-military applications. Steel was cut and the gap was filled......but “plastics” might’ve been huge had they got the CPH contract......

    I’ve not seen anything about being “placebo”-type kit.
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The official 1918 report on the effectiveness of helmets recommended the Brodie as whilst not being effective in coverage as the Stahlhelm or as comfortable (and stylish) as the Adtian it was ballistically superior to both as a fragment of steel hitting it would tend to be deflected whereas the Stahlhelm tended to shatter and send more steel fragments through the brain whereas the Adrian would just allow a nice neat hole (and leave a lot less work for the mortician.) On this basis the Brodie was retained for the British (and until mid 1942) American army. There was no plastic no matter how strong that would have provided the same protection and this must have been known.
  13. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    We may be at cross purposes here....and I'm sorry if I've misunderstood. My comments relate to WW2 for starters (I don't "do" WW1 helmets)..and don't claim that the plastics were as strong as steel....and it wasn't a matter of whether steel provided better protection as there simply was no steel to use (other than that issue/made by Govt suppliers). Not every civilian received an "official" steel helmet so they sought other sources of head protection which Companies were pleased to fulfill. Churchill was more than happy for plastic to be used on a nationwide scale for the CPH programme but it was production problems and not "protectability" which scuppered that. The tests (of the helmets) themselves were about size of falling objects and their speed (equivalent to height dropped) - these tests included metal as comparators. As a side note, one rarely sees a dented plastic helmet as then tended to crack/fracture.....the pulp ones (wood/paper/linen) did pierce as did the leather ones....but the whole issue wasn't about their strength v a steel equivalent...it was something, when the alternative was nothing. I'd be really interested in anything you have re testing of plastics v metal helmets - I have the results sheets of some tests undertaken (these are summarised & tabulated in our book) but I'm always keen to learn more. Thank you.
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  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Wasn't there something called the Plasfort Helmet which was aimed at the civilian market. I believe that it was worn by telephone operators and the like.
  15. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The local museum in which I was a volunteer researcher until rapidly developing cataracts caused a (hopefully temporary) pause has a helmet that belonged to a nurse in a local hospital - it has her name inside. We had three bombs in the entire war all into open country and I believe hang ups that fell off from bombers returning from Manchester or Liverpool . The helmet is steel. I wondered what was the criteria that decided between a steel or a substitute helmet.
  16. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    Generally speaking one was issued with a helmet if the powers that be deemed it required...for instance First Aid Post staff weren't initially deemed as needing them because they were going to be under cover (in their Posts) and therefore totally safe. Workers who's job required them to go outside got them too....as bits of falling ordinance could hit them as they came down.....forget the roof of the factory coming in! Those who didn't get one officially often acquired them....be they commercially made metal items in the early days or strong-as-steel (as it was claimed) plastic variants, including the Plasfort. Some Companies bought private purchase items for their staff. And then there was the whole 2-helmet debate.....where a Rail Company employee was also a "Special" Copper for instance.......

    Incidentally, despite all my digging, I've yet to establish what / who "Plasfort" actually was.......(ie the Company)
  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    There are a number of accounts of Land Army Girls working in the Kent fields in1940 with bits of aircraft, cartridges etc falling around having to demand them
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  18. 2 Black Bands

    2 Black Bands Active Member

    The view was that built up areas were exposed to the majority of aerial activity...and everywhere else got secondary attention...Wardens covered wider areas albeit with fewer people in, and at least one area formed Utility teams which became Jack-of-all-trades as there weren't enough folk to do all the usual Service-specific team stuff. Your Land Girl story is the perfect example of where the theory went wrong as they were often miles from city bombing threats BUT their work place was underneath the busiest transit route and aerial battlefields.
  19. ChrisR

    ChrisR Senior Member

    Does anyone have any documentary evidence relating to Plasfort helmets being used by bomb disposal personnel, or ARP members involved in bomb reconnaissance?

    I know that with the parachute mines there was a fear that a ferrous object, like a steel helmet, might affect the unexploded (‘magnetic influence’), mines and cause them to detonate. (For example when the Sub-Librarian from St Paul’s Cathedral took a Policeman to verify an unexploded mine had fallen close to the back of the building, the Policeman told Henderson to leave his keys and steel helmet at the gate, to which Henderson responded that it was too late as he’d already been up close to the mine with them.

    I often see them for sale with the words bomb disposal linked to them, but have never seen any evidence to back this up.

    As for who made Plasforts, not sure if this helps but the add below is the Army and Navy Stores advertising them.

    According to the file DSIR 27/22, the manufacturer of the Army and Navy Store's plastic helmets was Messrs Frazer & Glass Ltd. See -

    Another add from a different retailer says the name was ‘registered’.
    And on the helmets themselves they mention a patent.
    So perhaps the Patent Office might hold some information on their origin?

    Other experiments done on Plastic type helmets are mentioned in DSIR 27/22 and DSIR 27/40.
    They include 'black fabric loaded plastic protective helmets' made by Merryweather & Sons Ltd, and a composite material one known as Pernax made by British Insulated Cables Ltd, and a moulded plastic helmet by Efex Ltd.
    Still doesn't really answer the question of the Plasfort name.
  20. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I think that Pemax was an early form of BICON which was an epoxy putty that set rock hard. It was in some ways the precursor to Milliput but harder. BIC and BICC which it later became were early pioneers of epoxys which were used to produce sealants and insulators for high voltage cable installations. You could use it to make a grommit that would set hard and be waterproof, not perish and was non conductive. My Father was an area manager with BICC and he always had some of the stuff in the garage at home
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020

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