Finnish/Hungarian M38


Historical Background: On the 30th of November 1939 Russia invaded Finland. Part of the Russian rationale for the invasion was that Finland had been part of Russia before the disintegration of the Russian empire, and by rights should be part the Imperial Russia’s successor, the Soviet Union. An ostensible aim of Russian aggression was to liberate “Red Finns” who were allegedly desirous of being united with their communist brethren in Russia. The Russians executed a false-flag operation to justify its invasion by shelling the Russian town of Mainila and then claiming that the shelling had been done by Finns. The Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin, anticipated an easy victory over a weaker adversary. Celebratory music was commissioned to be performed by marching bands parading through Helsinki. Despite overwhelming numbers of troops and armor, airplanes and other materiel, the Russian advance was stymied by determined resistance by the Finns who fought like lions to preserve their independence and avoid falling under the rule of a despotic regime. Russian forces were hindered by poor morale of soldiers, bad leadership, and inept tactics. Despite hostilities among countries in Europe, public opinion throughout the world was briefly united in support of the brave and tenacious Finns. The Finns suffered horribly from the Russian onslaught and ultimately had to surrender territory to secure a peace treaty with Russia, but they maintained their independence and won the admiration of the rest of the world.

Does this sound depressingly familiar?

General Information: In January of 1940 Finland tried to order helmets from Germany, but the order was redirected to Hungary. The redirection was likely because the Nazi government asserted strict neutrality during the Winter War in an effort to adhere to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact between the Soviets and the Germans.

Two factories manufactured the Hungarian Model 1938 helmet: MÁVAG (Magyar Királyi Vas, Acél és Gépgyárak) in Budapest and Magyar Waggon és Gépgyár in Győr. The latter is sometimes referred to as simply “Győr.”  These two facilities produced 75,000 helmets for export to Finland[1]. The Finnish export version of the M38 differed from the domestically used helmets in a couple of ways. The Finnish M38s were painted green whereas the Hungarian M38s were a mustard brown color for armed forces and blue for civic-used models. In addition, the export helmets were marked either “DM” or “DR” for the MÁVAG and Győr helmets respectively. The helmets made for use in Hungary were marked “MÁVAG” or “GY.”[2] There are exceptions to this rule as some helmets marked for Hungarian use were also sent to Finland. The reverse, however, is not true. As far as I know, none of the DM and DR marked helmets were used by Hungarian armed forces. The helmet size stamp was adjacent to the maker marker. Finnish export helmets lacked the Hungarian royal crown stamp that was an element of the stamps on the ones made for Hungary. As with all M38s, there is a clip on the back of the helmet for attaching it to a backpack.

Displayed Example: Collectors who know me will recognize this helmet as the avatar that I use for collector forums. It is meant to represent my interest in combat helmets from different countries. I wanted people to look at it and think, “Oh there’s another German helmet. But wait a minute, it’s got a hook on the back, a different location for the liner rivet and no decal. Must be something else.”

I got this from German Helmets Inc. in 2006. In his description on his website Ken Niewiarowicz, the owner of the dealership, wrote that this helmet was the “nicest example of the Hungarian M38 that I’ve ever seen.” I myself have never seen a better one, so this may be the best surviving example. It is marked “DR 66” indicating a size 66cm made by Magyar Waggon és Gépgyár in Győr.

Collector Notes: The great majority of these helmets were refinished by the Finns after the Second World War. The refurbishment involved removal of the original factory-installed liners and their replacement with German-style three-pad liners attached to a leather band. The refurbished helmets were repainted a matt olive-green color. If you are willing to accept a post-war refurbished specimen, then the Finnish-used Hungarian M38 helmets are not very difficult to find and are relatively inexpensive. They are actually easier to lay hand on than the M38s used in Hungary. Finding a Finnish M38 in its factory original condition, on the other hand, is a worthy challenge and you can expect to pay significantly more for one of these. Note that the helmet is sometimes referred to as the M35/38.

* “The so-called Mannerheim submachine guns in JP1.” Aittojoki, Ristisalmi. From the front line to the home front 1939-1945. August 8, 1941. Finnish Defense Forces. Finnish Wartime Photographic Archive. Accessed April 27, 2022.

[1] Roudasmaa. 1997. pp62

[2] “WWII Hungarian Maker Marks.” German Helmet Wallhalla II. Post #10. December 27, 2011. . Accessed May 3, 2022.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: