Lithuanian M16/17*

Lithuanian soldier overlooking recently annexed Vilnius 1939*

Special Note: As with the Latvian helmet that I have posted, it was a dilemma deciding whether to put this helmet in the WWII Axis or the WWII Allied sections. Lithuanian history during this period is complex. In truth, it belongs in neither section and there should be separate category for helmets from the Baltic republics. To conserve space on my homepage and for simplicity, I have put the Lithuanian and Latvian helmets in the WWII Axis section. In doing so, I hope to not offend anybody.

General Information: From the 1920s up until the start of the Second World War, Lithuanian soldiers were equipped with refurbished German helmets from the First World War. These were likely left behind by German armed forces which did not leave Lithuania until 1919. Unlike the German helmets used by the Latvian army, there seems to have been less standardization in how the refurbishments were done. There is a hand-made quality to the replacement liners and chinstraps. Some, but certainly not all, Lithuanian helmets from this period had hand-painted shields with the Lithuanian national colors – yellow, green and red. From examination of one other similar Lithuanian helmet I have seen and a small number of period photos of helmets with insignia, these were typically formed with horizontal bands. Some had a concave curve at the top.

Displayed Example: I bought this helmet on eBay in 2016 from a Dutch seller. He said it came out of an old collection in Germany. The helmet is a size 68 and is marked “T.J.” which stands for the C. Thiel & Söhne company of Lübeck.[1] The Model 1891 chinstrap attachment devices used on original 1916/17 German helmets have been removed. A simply-made replacement leather chinstrap is attached with rivets in hole left by the removal of the chinstrap devices. The same type of rivet was used to secure the roller buckle end of the chinstrap. Note that the helmet in the period photo above has a similar type of post-factory chinstrap. The crudely made liner is held in place with split pins backed by washers. I found one period photo that appears to show this same configuration – split pins with washers. The paint appears to be the factory-original application. The hand-painted shield by appearance is entirely original, but has diagonal oriented bands like the German national color decals rather than the more typical horizontal bands that I have seen on a handful of other specimens.

Collector Notes: These helmets are almost impossible to find. The Lithuanian M16 in my collection is the only one I have seen for sale. It is possible, however, that a sharp-eyed collector might be able to find a one of these offered for sale by somebody who does not know what they have. Without a Lithuanian shield, however, it could be difficult to determine if the helmet was really Lithuanian or something else. Look for some telltale features like the removed chinstrap devices, crudely made liners like the one displayed here, and roller buckle style replacement chinstraps. Provenance might be revealing. If you found an odd-duck refurbished German WWI helmet from a Lithuanian source, you might have the real McCoy.

* Permanent Collection

* helmet12781 (aka). “Lithuanian M17.” German Helmet Walhalla. July 8, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2023.

[1] Meland. 2020. pp 10

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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