Finnish/Austrian M17*

Finnish soldier with a winter camouflaged M17*

General Information: The German WWI style helmets were the main type used by the Finnish army in the 1920s and 30s and through the First Winter War. After this period a surprising variety of other helmets were secured, but the German WWI models continued to be used throughout the war and into the early post-war period. These helmets were German WWI surplus pieces (Model 1916, Model 1917, or Model 1918), Austro-Hungarian Model 1917s, or possibly Czechoslovakian produced vz.20s, or Austrian post-WWI M17s. The Finns procured 70,000 helmets of this type.[1]

Displayed Example: The available forensic evidence indicates that this helmet was a World War One Austro-Hungarian helmet produced by the company Stanz und Emaillierwerke Adolf Westen, in what is now Celji, Slovenia[2]. The manufacturing code for these helmets was “AW,” but one characteristic of helmets from this company is that the code and size strikes were faint, or sometimes not visible, as on this piece, which has no visible imprints. Like all other Austro-Hungarian helmet manufacturers, Stanz und Emaillierwerke Adolf Westen produced only on size – 64cm in this case. We can tell by the size of step on the side lugs that this is a size 64. The chinstrap hooks are the particular type found on AW helmets. The remaining original section of chinstrap with the roller buckle is Austro-Hungarian WWI production. The leather pads could be Austro-Hungarian made, but the cloth pockets are not characteristic of this type, so these would likely have been Finnish replacements. The split pins are not the normal type seen on Austro-Hungarian helmets, so these too are likely Finnish replacements. One curious thing, however, is that there is no trace of the brown paint that was used on Austro-Hungarian helmets during the First World War. If this was indeed a wartime produced Austro-Hungarian helmet, we need to assume that the original paint was completely stripped before it was painted green.  As mentioned, leather liner pads are likely original factory manufacture, but they have been repaired. The repairs are typical of what you often see on Finnish wartime helmets.[3] While the chinstrap section on the wearer’s left is factory original, the section on the right is a replacement – by appearance period original. The Finns were very frugal and were adept at repairing and reissuing equipment. There is a lot number on the dome, “L 1 3 2.” Strangely, the lot number is repeated on the forehead section. That is something I have not seem before. The “L” stands for the Lapp company of Rottenman (Austria) which supplied steel to A. Westen for their helmets – yet another indicator that this is a AW helmet.[4]

The dome of the helmet is stamped “Inf.2 8./K.K.R.”  This stands for Karjalan Kaartin Rykemtti 8th Company 2nd Battalion.  The English translation of the unit name is Karelian Guards Regiment.  Karelia was the contested area between Finland and the Soviet Union.  The unit was posted to the Finnish town of Viipuri.  After the Winter War Viipuri was given to the Soviets as part of the terms of the peace treaty of 1940.  The unit was officially disbanded in 1940.2 The Finnish army applied unit numbers on equipment until 19352, so the Karelian Guards Regiment stencil would have been applied in 1935 or earlier. There are numbers stitched into the liner pads. I do not know for what purpose. There are initials “MS” in red on one of the liner pads and a red “M” in the dome of the helmet. This would likely be the original owner’s initial(s).

The helmet came from the collection of a now deceased Finnish collector. I bought it from Dragoon Militaria, a Finnish militaria store.

Collector Notes: A large cache of surplus World War Two Finnish helmet hit the market a few years ago, including many German WWI models, and these interesting helmets can be had for a modest price. Almost all of these helmets were refurbished post-WWII. The refurbishment involved refitting the helmets with leather liner bands and three liner pads of the German First World War style. The helmets were repainted a matt olive color. It is very difficult, however, to find one of these helmets in its original WWII state. The post-WWII refurbished helmets have washers behind the split pins. That, in addition to the post-war liners, is a quick identifier of post-war helmets.

* Permanent Collection

* “From the front line to the home front 1939-1945: Radio The team leader speaks on the radio.” Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive. The Finnish Defense Forces. Source: SA-kuva. Accessed June 9, 2022

[1] Roudasmaa. 1996. pp62

[2] Cilli is the German name for Celji. In Italian the city is referred to as Cilli or Celie.

[3] Soininen, Rami. Personal communication. May 2015

[4] Osio, Ariberto. Personal communication. November 21, 2022.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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