The Soviet helmet collecting community was blessed in 2016, with the publishing of the book “The History of the Russian Steel Helmet” by Russian author Ivan Karabanov. I cannot recommend this book enough to those interested in Russian helmets. The book offers the first scholarly look at Imperial and Soviet Russian helmet development from 1916-1945. Drawing on original factory design and development information, Karabanov’s book does an excellent job of chronicling helmet development. This effort is supported by a host of period photos of helmets in the factory and field, as well as contemporary photos of helmets from contributing collections. All of these sort out the details and nuances of the various helmet models. I highly recommend it.
That said, no reference work such as this is every really 100% complete. As the body of knowledge grows, errors can be corrected, omissions can be filled, and more details can be offered. In that spirit, I have a couple of helmets in my own collection that can add to Karabanov’s body of work. I offer a look at these in this first Frontovik Militaria Blog post. Hopefully this will be the first of many.
The first specimen I would like to share is this Ssh-39. This helmet is fairly typical of early LMZ production, and is sized 2A and dated 1940. I offer this Ssh-39 because it has a liner material type not shown in the above mentioned reference work, that is a white synthetic leather liner. The first production batches of Ssh-39s have a white, undyed, natural leather liner. The liner progressed to the full synthetic Kirza material, as shown in the book, in several colors. This white, imitation leather is an additional liner material not shown. Interesting is the N.K.V.D. controlled factory stamp to the reverse of the liner. It is not certain at which manufacturing tier this stamp originated. It could be a sub-factory making the liner components, or the leather material supplier.
This particular helmet was a German captured specimen that was reissued into Luftschutz service by evidence of the Luftschutzgestezt stamps that have been added to the liner. Unknown to me prior, but revealed during the photography for this blog post, is that this helmet also had a Luftschutz decal on the front of the dome at one time.
The second helmet I share is a very interesting Ssh-40. This helmet is rather unattractive at first look. The crude red star, rough over paint, and ersatz chinstrap certainly do not help the eye appeal from a collector’s viewpoint. However, it is the details that make this an important specimen. This helmet is in the standard, 6-rivet configuration of the Ssh-40. It is interesting because under the over paint, it retains the very bright green factory color of Ssh-39 production. Similarly, the interior shows the same ink stamp typically found in Ssh-39 helmets produced by LMZ. This stamp is dated 1941. This Ssh-40 appears to be representative of the transitional period at LMZ when Ssh-40 production was beginning and Ssh-39 production was coming to an end.