Tel Aviv, Israel 61321
|Pre-state Israeli Steel Helmet:|
|Here is an interesting piece of history. Whereas some of us know that Israel used to manufacture her own car (the fiber-glass shelled 'Susita' and 'Carmel', from 1959 to 1979), fewer of us know that for a brief time she (well, Pre-State Israel - or, 'Eretz Israel') also manufactured her own steel helmets.
|The sample here is a British-styled helmet with a rivet on each side to hold down the chin strap hoops, and a rivet at the top to support the liner. And that's where the similarities end: this helmet, unlike the British Mark 2 (mk II) and other British or foreign variations of it, lacks the crimped metal edging.
Side view of the helmet. At a distance the bolts look 'British'.
|On the underside, the rivets are British-styled spilt-rivets holding down the chin stap hoops, but the webbing is entirely domestically produced. A nice touch is the imprinted name of the factory, "Pleese Ltd." (the name means 'Brass' in Hebrew), in Hebrew and in English on the leather chin-strap - one language on each flap of the strap. Also note the ring lines around the crown of the shell, from the rudimentary manufacture.
The "Pleese" factory, located in the city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, was also the firm that manufactured the "Kofer Ha'Yishuv" ("[Jewish] Community Money") tokens which were used for donations for defense and eventually also for commercial purposes, and the 25 Mils series of 1948-49 - Israel's first coins.
Side-shot of the top, with the front insignia visible. The top bolt is different from the British version. Notice the round lines from the stamping around the crown.
|A finishing touch to this specific piece is the presence of a folded-up copy of a 4-page German-language newspaper in the sweatband (to bulk it up against the wearer's head): the paper is "Blumenthal Neuste Nachtrichten" from 28 May 1941. The helmet has no date, so the paper may help us date it. The headlines of the bulletin announce the sinking of the Kriegsmarine's battleship "Bismark" the previous day, together with sub-piece calling it "Revenge" for the sinking of the HMS "Hood" the day before.
The "Blumenthal" bulletin was one of 2 German-language papers in the 'Yishuv': this paper began as a series of translated articles, called the "Private Correspondenz des Siegfried Blumenthal" ('Private Correspondence of Siegfried Blumenthal'), published towards the end of 1935 in Tel Aviv. The following year it was renamed the "Blumenthal Neuste Nachrichten" ('Blumenthal's Latest News'). The paper eventually became the "Yediot Chadashot" ('Latest News'), the only German-language paper in Israel, and ceased publication altogether in 1973.
|The insignia on the front of the helmet is composed of two parts: underneath, the stylized text says "H.A.G.A. Ramat-Gan", and above it is an emblem of a red Star of David with 4 Hebrew letters. The complete insignia identifies the helmet as belonging to the 'Haga' - Civil Defence - force of the city of Ramat Gan; the emblem above is the organization's symbol - the letters are abbreviations of what the text below says. The emblem seems to incorporate the symbol of the 'Magen David Adom' - the Red Star of David (Israel's version of the Red Cross) - a red outlined Star on a white background.
A close-up of the edge, which lacks the crimped metal edge of the British mkII.
|Some form of 'Civil Guard' existed in Eretz Israel and Israel since before the Second World War. In its first form, a "Mishmar Ezrakhi" (civil guard) was formed in 1938 by the Tel Aviv municipality, as a voluntary organization for crises and emergencies. The organization received many volunteers who were engaged in keeping order at rallies and assisting new immigrants.
A close-up of the liner edge and rubber padding. Notice how the main bolt cuts through the length of leather for the chin-strap - the strap runs along the sides of the shell.
|During the Second World War the Guard's duties were expanded to cover civil defence responsibilities ('Hagana Ezrakhit' - or 'Haga'), and the dissemination and enforcement of civil defence procedures. The Guard, for instance, participated in rescue work during the Italian air bombardment of Tel Aviv on 9 September 1940 (in which 100 people were killed) - the Italians bombed Palestine several times between 1940-41. During the war the Guard was absorbed into the Jewish community's ('Yishuv') defence force, the 'Hagana', as a separate arm of it.
A close-up of the bolts holding down the chin-strap hoops - British in appearance.
|The Guard reformed so that during the 1947-49 War of Independence it provided guards for checkpoints and provided reinforcements. It also continued to fulfill a civil defence ('Haga') function during aerial bombardments, clearing debris and even organized transporation and housing for residents between Tel Aviv and Yafo.
General shot of the liner: green leather sweatbands, dark brown leather chin-strap, and white fabric padding at the base.
|Ambulance donated by the American Jewish Labor Committee evacuates a wounded Jewish fighter, 1947-48. Note the helmetted soldier in the center (back to the wall) with the large round white spot on the back of his helmet and a barely visible Star of David - very likely this was a similar emblem to that of the Haga helmet in this study, and quite possibly identical to the "Magen David Adom" steel helmet shown further down below.|
An attempted close-up of the stamped Hebrew letters of the manufacturer 'Pleese' on the chin strap, with the letters 'L' and 'I' visible.
A copy of the membership card of the Palestinian (Hebrew) version of the British ARP - Air Raid Precaution - organzation, shown on this card also as 'Haga' (in Hebrew); from the Haifa branch, 1942.
|The "Civil Defense" ('Haga') Corps of the IDF was created in May 1948, and a separate voluntary "Civil Guard", under the auspicies of the Police was established in 1974.
|For further comparison, here is another scarce example of a 'Pleese' factory made steel helmet for the Jewish equivalent of the Red Cross organization - the "Magen David Adom". As with the example above, this one is also in a British/Brodie-style maufacture, from one sheet of metal, though unlike those foreign versions there is again no manufacturer's stamp on the inside rim of the helmet itself - like a date. Judging by similarities between the two example however, I would date this one to the 1940-1942 period (when Eretz Israel-Palestine was under the greatest threat during the Second World War).|
|The emblem of this helmet also differs from the "Haga" example above. Although both are painted in the same enamel colors and feature the same basic red Star of David on a round white field, this Magen David Adom version looks cruder in design and has no extra text surrounding the emblem, and only features a unit number in black. What is also interesting here is the style of the writing: not Eretz-Israeli/Bauhaus modern (in the style of that time, as on the "Haga" helmet) but rather "east" European numerals - if not Germanic-looking altogether. (That style of writing is not Eretz-Israeli/Israeli, and is most commonly found on central-European/German materials of the 1930's to late/post-war 1940's.)|
|Physically this "Magen David Adom" helmet is very similar to the "Haga" helmet, though there are a few differences: both lack the crimped edge of a British Mk II or American Brodie helmet; both have a single rivet on either side of the helmet's rim plus a supporting bolt on the top; both even exhibit light rings around the helmets' steel from the production run. However, more than the "Haga" example shows, this "Magen David Adom" helmet is more thickly painted and in a slightly darker green color; the "Haga" helmet is in matte green paint. The top bolt here is also maker-marked.|
|The top bolt of this helmet is stamped "Crescar Ltd"; the bolt on the "Haga" helmet is blank.|
|A side-view of the helmet: identical in shape to the "Haga" example above.|
|The overview of the helmet's inside shows the degree of the paint's thickness - and lack of smoothness. Here the paintwork looks cruder than on the "Haga" example, and layers of the paint are clearly visible along the edges. Otherwise the liner looks identical to that on the "Haga" helmet though the green leather sweat-band may be darker on this example here. This overview also reveals that the whole chin-strap loop is visible on either side, whereas on the "Haga" helmet only the rivet is visible; the rest of the attachment is obscured there by the liner.|
|A close-up of the chinstrap reveals identical assembly to the "Haga" example above - with one long piece of brown leather held in place by the puncture formed from the top bolt (here the cord is actually broken at the bolt), and that one flap of the cord has the factory name in English and the other with the name stamped in Hebrew. With more detail visible now, note the modern style of the lettering in both languages.|
|A close-up of the chin-strap loops and the rivet which hold each in place: this is a Canadian-style split-rivet, as opposed to the round knobby British/American-style found on Mk II and Brodie helmets.|
|A close-up of the chin-strap loops themselves - virtually identical to those on the "Haga" helmet.|
|A close-up of the helmet liner: from what is visible it looks similar to a British Mk II liner from the same period.|