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Now here is an M16 helmet shell I bought In Albert for three reasons:

1. I like having things that can be tied to specific historic event, and this one is from the Somme area.

2. I like the way it looks and the fact that the original chinstrap fittings are present.

3. It made me nostalgic and reminded me of myself as a child. I'll elaborate on that further down...

Now, before being picked up some years after the war this helmet has been lying upside down, tilted at about 30-40 degrees. The rust inside it and the holes where it is rusted through tells the story. I suppose the leather liner and chinstrap will have been so rotten when found that the finder discarded it. Whatever happened to the helmet, and possibly the wearer will have been dramatic as there is a crack on the right side by the rivet for the chin strap. It is a large size, stamped st. 66.

Now what made me nostalgic is the "restoration work" done to it. As a child growing up in the battlefields of the extreme north east of Norway where Germans and Russians fought in September 1944 I would find lots of German helmets up in the mountains. I would then "restore" them as best I could being a child with no prior knowledge of restoration work. I'd soften the dried up liners and chinstraps with Vaseline, remove rust using phosphoric acid and a steel brush, I'd marvel whenever original paint came out from under the rust. I'd use oil to prevent further rust... So, not by the book, but the best I could do with what I had at hand and what little I knew. But it was exciting and interesting and gave me lots of joy and a fascination for objects that are part of history. It probably made me who I am today.

And I imagine this helmet being found by a boy like myself... It has not been restored by anyone doing it for resale. The rusty spots on the outside have been coated so it would not rust more by someone who used the materials available. The oh so familiar smell tells the story. Mineral tar. As the layer is so thin I am certain that the boy will have diluted it with turpentine or white spirit so it would not be a thick and ugly layer. I can easily imagine the boy doing this, seeing him, as myself, saving a piece of history in his own way, eyes glittering with a child's fascination.

So, the minute I saw this helmet I was taken back more than three decades, and felt that I was sitting in the sun on the outside stairs brushing away on an old helmet I'd just found, and I just knew that this was the product of a boy like me... I felt... Recognition... I had to buy it, and just handling it brings a tear to my eye. Not because it is the most fabulously preserved collectible in the world, - it certainly isn't, but because it reminds me of a good time long gone and the boy that was me.




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