Italian M16/20

Nationalist troops during the Battle of Guadalajara 1937. Note the soldier in front wearing his helmet backwards.*

General Information: During the Spanish Civil War, soldiers from both sides wore a variety of helmets. One common type used predominantly by Nationalist forces was the Italian Model 1916/20. These were refurbished First World War Model 1916 helmets or post-war produced Model 1916/20s. One easy way to distinguish between the Italian M1916s in their original wartime configurations and the post-war type is that the post-war helmets had a liner with a grey-green felt section visible between the leather liner and the helmet shell. The post-war helmets were painted a lighter color of green, had green chinstraps, and often had riveted versus welded crests. Italian M16s in their original World War One configuration are relatively rare, and as far as I am aware, were not sent to Spain. All the Italian M16 and M16/20s used in the Spanish Civil war were the post-WWI type. Often these helmets were refitted with Spanish liners and chinstraps. In the early post-Civil War period some were fitted with brackets to accommodate a Spanish Nationalist eagle badge. Sometimes these badges were welded directly to the helmet.

Displayed Example: I got this helmet from the late, great helmet collector Joe Godfrey. What drew me to this piece was that it is in above average condition. Most helmets of the Spanish Civil War are in rough shape. It was refurbished, by appearances, during the Spanish Civil War period. The liner is an Italian post-WWI type and the chinstrap is a Spanish replacement. At one point the helmet had a pair of holes in the front to accommodate a badge. This would likely have been done during the 1920s or early 1930s when frontal badges were commonly used by Italian soldiers. The holes would have been subsequently covered over before being issued during the Spanish Civil War.

Collector Notes: Italian M16 helmets are not very difficult to find and they tend to be modestly priced. Spanish Civil War used pieces are typically found in fair condition and it can be a challenge to find complete examples in top shape. Be wary of collector-applied painted insignia, such as fake “Flechas Azules.”

* Studnitz, H.G. von. 1937. Die grosse Winterschlacht um Guadalajara: Tankabwehrgeschütz in den vordersten Infanterielinien. Bundesarchiv. Bild 183-2006-1204-500. Germany.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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