British MKII

Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum B5950

General Information: The British MKII was helmet most widely used by British soldiers in the Second World War. Ultimately twelve million were produced from 1938 to 1944.[1] Commonwealth countries Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa each produced their own version of the MKII. The MKII, or copies thereof, continued to see service in several countries well past the end of the war.

As Britain geared up for war, old stocks of First World War vintage MKIs were retrofitted with a new style liner and chinstrap. Starting in 1938 the War Office ordered new helmet following the old pattern and equipped with the new liners and chinstraps. The British MKIIs were produced by five companies and were stamped with the initials of each as follows:

                Briggs Motor Bodies Ltd. of Dagenham (BMB)

                Joseph Sankey & Sons of Bilston (JSS)

                Fisher and Ludlow Ltd. of Birmingham (F&L)

Rubery Owen Co. Ltd. of Leeds (Ro&Co)

William Dobson & Son of Birmingham (WD)[2]

Canadian MKIIs are common in the American collector market and can be distinguished from their British brethren by stamps on the rims as follows:

                Canadian Motor Lamp Company (C.L.C/C)

                General Steel Wares of Toronto (G.S.W.)

                Aluminum Goods Ltd. of Toronto (AG/C)

In addition, General Steel Wares won a contract to produce helmets for the Air-Raids Precautions Service (ARP) using mild steel. These were stamped DP&H, which strangely stands for Department of Pensions and Health. The helmets produced in the other Commonwealth countries had distinctive external features that distinguish them from British and Canadian produced pieces.[3]

The manufacturers of the MKII liners marked these with the date of manufacture, the size, and the initials to identify the company.

Displayed Example: The somewhat difficult to read date on the rim of this helmet is 1939. It bears the F&L stamp of the Fisher and Ludlow Ltd. company. The liner is dated 1940. The last two digits of the date are hidden behind an arm of the black rubber piece attached to the crown of the helmet. The black liner band is marked a size 7 and the manufacturer initials are J.C.S.

Interestingly, you can see the outline of a small rectangle embedded in the rough, anti-reflective paint. This would have been a spot for a “flash” or unit identification which was subsequently removed. The two-colored net was made in Canada.

Collector Notes: Earlier versions of the MKII have a bit more cachet among collectors although there is not a huge price difference. The Belgians produced their own version of the MKII in the early post-WWII years and these are sometimes fobbed off as British WWII pieces. The Belgian MKIIs are readily identified by their reddish cross pieces that hold the liner against the helmet shell. Although not standard, many wartime MKII have flashes or other insignia to identify units. These markings, naturally, can be of great interest to collectors.


[1] Marzetti, P. pp306

[2] Marzetti, P. pp307

[3] Lucy, R pp10-11

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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