South African MKII

Indian Soldiers WWII*

General Information: The South African Mark II was basically a clone of the British MKII. It can be readily distinguished from its British cousin by the three holes drilled or punched into the back rim. The purpose of the holes was to accommodate a neck flap, but there is very little period photographic evidence of the MKIIs being used with this accessory. The Transvaal Steel Pressing Syndicate produced 1.5 million of these helmets. Many were exported to India. The liner bands are marked Jager-Rand along with the year of manufacture and the liner size.[1] The helmets were most often finished with a rough textured sand color paint, but some were also painted green.

Displayed Example: This is a classic example of a South African MKII in its factory original condition. The liner band is marked “1942” and bears the size stamp “6 7/8.” The net is an Indian made type. Interestingly, the original owner of the helmet wrote his name in Hindi script in the interior dome section. This MKII, therefore, was issued to an Indian soldier. I was drawn to this piece because to me it represents the vital and generally underappreciated role of troops from the Indian subcontinent in World War II.

Collector Notes: Large numbers of these helmets were manufactured and they are not very difficult to find. The prices tend be at the lower end of spectrum for helmets of the Second World War. As recently as 2014 I bought two MKIIs from an army surplus store in South Africa. The cost of the postage was almost as much as I paid for the two helmets. These helmets are often identified as “British Desert Rat” helmets, which is true enough because both South African and Indian Army soldiers serving in the British 8th Army would have worn this type. It should be pointed out, however, that the South African MKIIs were not used by soldiers from Great Britain or other Commonwealth countries, with the exception of New Zealand 2nd Division troops who embarked without helmets and were equipped with British MKIIs and some South African MKIIs.[2] Both the South African and Indian armies used this helmet for many years after the end of the Second World War.

* Citation sought

[1] Marzetti. 2003. pp 363

[2] Anderson, Terry. “NZ Lt Colonel Mk II Helmet.” 10th post. Helmnet (private website). August 21, 2022. Accessed October 6, 2022.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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