Elmetti Modello 1931 e 1933

Helmets of the Model 1931 and 1933

During the early 1930’s the Italian armed forces are still equipped with several variants of the Adrian helmet. Besides the fact that the Adrian design becomes obsolete, the Fascist regime wants to equip the army with a helmet of a pure Italian design. Inspired by the helmets of the Roman legionaries, engineer Guido Rosso of the Arsenal of Turin designs in 1931 the first modern Italian helmet; the Elmetto Modello 1931 (Helmet Model 1931).
This rugged helmet of pressed steel is experimentally issued to the regiment "Granatieri di Sardegna", the Pontieri del Genio (Sapper Engineers) and the Corpo Militare della Croce Rossa Italiana (Military Corps of the Italian Red Cross). The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (National Security Volunteer Militia) is subsequently issued with the helmet where the wearing of the Helmet Model 1931 is first mentioned in the regulations of the M.V.S.N. from 1935. The Helmet Model 1931 is never used at the front.

The helmet shell has two ventilation holes on the top, protected by a small comb. The liner is made up of three leather sections and a leather strap which are attached to an aluminum inner ring. This inner ring is secured to the shell by means of four pins; at the front, back and on each side.
The chinstrap consists of two leather parts, colored in grey-green for the Regio Esercito (Royal Army) and black for the M.V.S.N., which by means of a buckle can be unified.
Helmets of the Royal Army have a grey-green color and are fitted with a black stencil. The Helmet Model 1931 as worn by the M.V.S.N. is black with a gold stencil at the front.

The Helmet Model 1931 has two major shortcomings. The helmet is uncomfortable for the wearer and the liner is badly positioned in respect to the helmet shell so that the wearer may come in contact with the helmet shell.
Engineer Guido Rosso therefore develops an improved version of the Helmet Model 1931; the Elmetto Modello 1933 (Helmet Model 1933).

Elmetto Modello 1933
Helmet Model 1933
The Elmetto Modello 1933 (Helmet Model 1933) would become, from the moment of its introduction in 1933, the standard helmet of the (Royal) Italian Army and remained in use for more than 60 years.
The Helmet Model 1933 is officially inaugurated on the 29th of November 1934 as set out in Circular N. 915. Smalteria e Metallurgia Veneta s.p.a. (SMV) delivers the first production series with production numbers starting with a B and the distribution begins on an experimental basis in 1935. This is followed by the actual distribution to the armed forces in 1937 starting with the officer corps as described in Circular N. 539.

The shell of the Helmet Model 1933 is manufactured in three sizes.
The first size: for liners with sizes 59-60-61, has a shell height of 16.3 cm
The second size: for liners in sizes 57-58, has a shell height of 15.5 cm
The third size: for liners in sizes 55-56, has a shell height of 15 cm
The shell of the Helmet Model 1933, stamped with a serial number consisting of one or two letters usually followed by two digits, equals to that of the Helmet Model 1931, however the two ventilation holes on the upper side and the protecting comb disappeared and have been replaced by a vent hole on each side and one at the back.

The Helmet Model 1933 is manufactured with three different types of vents.
The first type is a round split pin 14 to 14.5 mm wide and 2 mm high which on the inside is anchored with two arms. The vent hole in the pin is 3 to 3.5 mm. The two arms proved to be very weak, so it around 1938 a new version is introduced. This version is 14 to 15 mm wide, 2 mm high and has a small edge. The embedding takes place with four, six or eight arms. The vent hole is 3.5 mm. The third version is 13.5 to 14.5 mm wide and 3 to 3.5 mm high. The vent hole is 4 mm. This type is introduced late in World War Two, but is also the standard on postwar Helmet Model 1933 productions.

The interior is completely changed in comparison with the Helmet Model 1931 to cope with the earlier shortcomings. A not entirely circular steel inner ring (which is marked with the size of the leather liner) is attached by the split pins of the ventilation holes to the helmet shell. By means of rivets and three aluminum connection pieces, two of which form the chinstrap mountings, this first inner ring connects to a second fully circular inner ring.
The liner itself is made out of leather in a brown, black or whitish color and consists of eight flaps which are united with a leather rope, which offers the possibility to adjust the liner. The liner is stitched at the back in a "=", "Z" or "X" pattern and may be marked with a size and an arsenal stamp.
The chinstrap of the Helmet Model 1933 is the same as that of the Helmet Model 1931 and is grey-green (Royal Army) or black (M.V.S.N.) colored. The chinstrap and its rectangular mountings are regularly marked with an arsenal logo, the production year, a crown or the coat of arms of the House of Savoy.
Some Helmet Model 1933’s which are provided to the "San Marco" in North Africa are equipped with fabric khaki chinstraps.

The helmet shell is sprayed before the helmet is assembled. Helmets of the Royal Army are painted in grey-green or a variation thereof depending on the production period and the arsenal. A black stencil could be placed at the front side. The Helmet Model 1933 as worn by the M.V.S.N. and the Carabinieri (until 1939) are black with, respectively, a golden or silver stencil at the front.
In the M.V.S.N. regulations of 1941 a distinction is made between Blackshirts which are part of an army unit and which are not. The first wear a helmet in grey-green, the second in a black color. Wearing a Helmet Model 1933 in a grey-green color by the M.V.S.N. had however already been authorized since 1939. The helmets in a grey-green color could be equipped with a black stencil.
Troops sent to the African front often repainted their helmets in a sand color, while on the Russian front a white paint was applied during the winter months.
Helmets of the Regia Marina (Royal Navy) are sprayed in grey-green or grey. They are equipped with a yellow crowned anchor stencil.
Helmets of the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) are sprayed in grey-green or blue-gray. Copies of the Corpo Aereo Italiano, which was stationed in Belgium, have an eagle at the front and a tricolor with a Fasces at the left or the right side of the helmet.
Helmet Model 1933’s used by the Repubblica Sociale Italiana are painted grey or have their original grey-green color. In both cases a camouflage scheme could be added on top. Original stencils could be maintained as long as any reference to the House of Savoye was removed. Several Republican stencils could be mounted on the helmet as well as SS emblems.
During and after the Spanish Civil War, the Helmet Model 1933 is used by the Spanish forces. The helmet is mostly used by the Spanish Air Force. These examples are repainted blue-grey and equipped with air force stencil.
Examples used by the Spanish army, with or without a stencil, are often repainted in a brown color. Many helmets are fitted with a badge holder which in some cases has been removed.

The Alpini and Bersaglieri have two types of feather holders at their disposal (for each corps different in terms of the exact model). The first was a simple feather holder which is soldered to the helmet. The second is a clip which could be shoved around the helmet shell and then could be fixed. The version of the Alpini is worn on the left, that of the Bersaglieri at the right.

Variants
Several parade helmet variants of the Helmet Model 1931 and the Helmet Model 1933 are manufactured. Although similar in form, they are made of lighter materials such as aluminum, leather and pressed cardboard. These helmets are especially popular with senior officers and are worn during parades and ceremonies.
With the introduction of the Helmet Model 1933 many parade helmets of the Helmet Model 1931 are converted by removing the comb instead of buying a new Helmet Model 1933 in order to reduce the personal expenses.
Helmets of officers are during special occasions equipped with a silver plume holder which carried a white plume. The fastening mechanism of this plume holder varies depending on the material of the parade helmet. The most common mechanism for helmets made out of aluminum, leather and pressed cardboard are two buttons on which the plume holder slides and anchors itself.
Helmet Model 1933’s equipped with four ventilation holes and a dark green fabric chinstrap are examples provided to members of the civil protection organizations.

Sources:
Le uniformi metropolitane del Regio Esercito dalla riforma Baistrocchi all’inizio della Guerra Mondiale 1933-1940; S. Coccia; 2005
Uniformi e distintivi dell’Esercito Italiano 1933-1945 ; P. Marzetti; 1981
Mussolini’s Soldiers; R. Trye; 1995
cascoscoleccion.com/italia/ital33.htm
Elmetto Modello 1933 del Ejército Español
Elmetto Modello 1933 del Ejército Español
Helmet Model 1933 of the Spanish Army
Elmetto Modello 1933 in Grigio-Verde
Elmetto Modello 1933 in Grigio-Verde
Helmet Model 1933 in Grey-Green
Elmetto Modello 1933 in versione desertica del Genio
Elmetto Modello 1933 in versione desertica
Helmet Model 1933 in a desert version