File No.: Battle Relic # 32
Title: "World War Two British Despatch Rider Helmet found in Eindhoven"
Investigation made at: The Netherlands
Period Covered: 18SEP1944 - 14APR2022
Date:  10AUG2022
GPS Location: 51°26'10.1"N 5°28'59.0"E
Case Classification: Description of a World War Two British Steel Despatch Rider Helmet
Case Status: Case Closed

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On 19APR2022 this agency received information from the Municipality of Eindhoven that during renovation of a crossroads in the center of the city a British Helmet of WW2 was found on Oude Stadsgracht ("Old City Moat").
City Archeologist Peter de Boer wrote to us:
"As you have likely noticed, the city is working on the redevelopment of the midtown area (replacement of sewage systems and refurbishment of the public space). This is combined with Unexploded Ordnance Disposal (the IDDS Explosives company) and archeological research (the BAAC company). During research a British paratrooper helmet was found in the filling of the muted city moat (location Oude Stadsgracht). It will be conserved as an archeological discovery and will therefore be kept in the archeological depot. During [earlier city projects] you have indicated that you’d appreciate being kept in the loop about these kinds of finds. Well, here it is! I haven’t held the item myself and therefore don’t know if the hole is a bullet hole or if it has simply rusted through. It has been determined as British but […] reading about Market Garden only American airborne troops of the 101st would have been deployed around Eindhoven? Do you have an explanation for this?"
This interesting discovery and our efforts in describing it and researching its likely history is reported here.

Attached to the city archeologist’s e-mail were several photographs of the helmet as it was upon discovery. They show a round metal helmet shell covered in dark soil consistent with the matter that had been found on nearby sites where the old city moat used to be. Also during a recent visit to the redevelopment site on Oude Stadsgracht, prior to the discovery of the helmet, we had observed a pile of this black soil.

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The helmet found on Oude Stadsgracht in Eindhoven

That same day we replied the archeologist’s e-mail that "judging from the shape of it, we conclude that it is indeed a British helmet. Whether it is a British paratrooper helmet, official designation Helmet Steel Airborne Troops (HSAT), we can't determine however. The British Army in World War Two had 3 types of helmets with a round outer metal shell: the HSAT helmet I mentioned (and within that type, three different sub-variants), the despatch rider helmet and the tanker helmet. Attached are a compilation of 6 clippings from photos taken in Eindhoven on 18SEP1944; the day the city was liberated by American paratroopers and British troops of 30th Corps."

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Clippings 1 & 2 show para helmets, 3 & 4 are despatch rider helmets and 5 & 6 are tanker helmets.

The soldiers wearing paratrooper helmets in Eindhoven belong to the so-called “seaborne tail” of the British 1st Airborne Division.
The majority of this division airlifted to Arnhem by parachute and gliders and these seaborne troops traveled with the ground forces of the operation to join their division if Operation "Market Garden" would develop as planned. The despatch riders and tankers belonged to units within 30th Corps. The outsides of their helmets are mostly identical; Its interiors consisting of the linings and chinstrap suspensions differ per type and are unique.
We requested a photo of the inside of the helmet telling that although it appears damaged extensively, the type of suspension of the interior may render clues as to the specific type.
The request was forwarded and on 21APR2022 Christian, Project Leader / Advisor Detection Unexploded Ordnance of the IDDS Company wrote: "Below is a photo of the interior of the helmet in question. At this time the helmet is in the hands of the construction contractor and will be transferred to the archeologists of the BAAC company. If desired Sander [of the BAAC company] can surely help you if you wish to see the helmet."

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The interior of the helmet found on Oude Stadsgracht in Eindhoven

On 22APR2022 Sander, Project Leader / Quality Manager at BAAC, wrote: "I have asked our archeologist René [of the BAAC company] to inform you when he is at the site to enable you to come and see. I suspect that this will be after next week. We will then take the helmet to our office quick in order to start the preservation."

Investigative leads

While waiting for news from the BAAC company we visited the construction site on 25APR2022.
One of the workmen let us within the fenced off site and stated that he had been present when the helmet was found on Thursday 14APR2022. He told us that the helmet was found at approximately 3 meters (9.8 ft) deep in a former moat. He pointed to the location where it was found and said a British 25 pounder shell had been found there also. On a mobile phone he showed us a photo of the primer of the shell which had the year 1943 on it.

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Workman pointing to spot where the helmet was found

On 12MAY2022 we visited the location on Oude Stadsgracht again and met René, Project leader Archeology with the BAAC company. He told us that during the preservation process, the British helmet showed small jagged saw tooth ("shark teeth" in his words) elements on the inside. These may be parts of the liner suspension. He explained that the helmet was found together with a lot of debris of bricks which had been used to fill in the moat that ran along Oude Stadsgracht. Where the moat crossed Stratumseind (Eindhoven's "bar street") there used to be a bridge. Later that day a World War Two German helmet was found at the site of where that bridge was, close to its southern abutment.

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Location where the German helmet was found on 12MAY2022

At the end of the day René provided photos of that German helmet (shown above) and also of the exterior of the cleaned British helmet:

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The location where the German helmet was found paints a good picture of the location where -and the conditions under which- the British helmet was dumped in the old city moat. Unfortunately the excavation and subsequent refurbishments of the city’s sewer system is destructive for the subterranean archive.
For example, a day later, on 13MAY2022 we found the bricks in the abutment destroyed and on 16MAY2022 the former moat was filled with old timber from times when it was still in use.
A few days later the excavation site was filled in with soil again.

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1) Brick abutment destroyed on 13MAY2022

2) Timber found in the former city moat on 16MAY2022

3) A concrete sewage hub with manhole is installed and the moat filled in with clean sand on 18MAY2022

HSAT, RAC & DR Helmets
As described, the British Army in WW2 issued three types of round steel helmets; the HSAT for paratroopers and glider soldiers, the RAC helmet for armored troops and the DR helmet for motorcycle riders.

Helmet Steel Airborne Troops
This combat helmet was worn by paratroopers and members of airlanding units. It was introduced in WW2 by the British Army and was also used by other Commonwealth armies. It continued to be used post-war until the early 1980's. As with the similarly shaped RAC helmet and despatch rider motorcycle helmet, it was initially manufactured by Briggs Motor Bodies (BMB) at Dagenham.
The HSAT saw 4 different variants or types:

P Type Helmet
The first prototype variant was used during the Bruneval Raid on 27-28FEB1942. The first steel helmet was produced by BMB in 1941 and it is estimated that only 500 to a 1000 of them were made. This type, sometimes referred to as the "Bruneval Helmet" featured a non-magnetic manganese steel shell with a rubberized rim and a lining with interior padding that was similar to the German M36/40 design.


The improved helmet was introduced in 1942 featuring a similar shell design, but with a thick vulcanized fiber band rim that clearly distinguishes it from the German model, along with a four-point leather chinstrap system and a band of Sorbo rubber for padding.

Third pattern featuring the same leather chinstraps and a steel rim instead of the fiber rim. Issue started in OCT1942.

Fourth pattern featuring the three-point webbing chinstrap. This variant was also used after WW2, and was phased out around the time of the Falklands War.

Telltale signs for this type of helmet are the larger holes to accommodate screws that can be used to adjust the leather chinstraps in the 10 and 2 o’clock positions the P and all HSAT types.
The HSAT Mk I and Mk II helmets typically feature a single screw at the 6 o’clock (neck) position whereas the P Type and HSAT have two holes for adjusting its two leather neck straps.

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From left to right:
HSAT "P" or "Bruneval" helmet in the Airborne Museum at the Hartenstein in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands;
HSAT helmet with fiber rim at the Hartenstein;
HSAT MkI helmet at the Hartenstein;
HSAT MkII helmet at the Ciney, Belgium military show

Royal Armoured Corps Helmet
This combat helmet was worn by Armoured Troops. As with the similarly shaped HSAT, it was initially manufactured by BMB. It was introduced in WW2 and was issued to commonwealth countries in the post-1945 era up to the Falklands War. The RAC helmets came with the same suspension and liner from the Brodie helmets and later the elastisized suspension and liner from the MkIII helmet. Many were converted to be used as a Paratrooper Helmet.

Telltale signs for this type of helmet are:
- the hole in the top of its dome to allow the liner to be bolted into it;
- the riveted swivel bale attachments for the fabric chinstrap at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions.

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From left to right:
Six images of a RAC helmet from the private collection of Battle Detective Wilbert
Note screw hole in apex of the helmet
RAC troopers wearing tanker helmet in Holland Spring 1945

Despatch Rider Helmet
This helmet was introduced after it was determined that the old paper-pulp motorcycle helmet was not safe enough. The army used the existing rimless parachutists helmet shell and coupled this with a new liner to make it suitable for use on a motorbike. The distinctive feature of the helmet is the leather "curtain" that goes around the neck and under the chin.
Telltale signs for this type of helmet are the small rivets for attaching the padded liner at the 10, 2, 5 and 7 o’clock positions; hence no holes at the 6 o’clock (neck) position.

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From left to right:
Two despatch rider helmets at the Ciney, Belgium military show
Despatch rider helmet on sale on eBay
Despatch rider laying his head to rest in his helmet

Description of the Oude Stadsgracht Helmet
On 17MAY2022 the restoration expert of the BAAC company reported on his work:

"The helmet shell isn't magnetic anymore and has been impregnated [with preservation material]. Also, I have been able to make the original colors visible again. The helmet has been painted over a number of times. Very remarkable is the Dutch flag which is painted on one side. On the rear a black surface became visible. Something might have been written on it, perhaps a chalked number?
I suspect that we are dealing with a British (Canadian is possible as well) despatch rider helmet; you might say a motor cycle courier. Because of the painting it is very special.
That same day an article about the discoveries in the old moat was published in the Eindhovens Dagblad daily newspaper.

Judging from the two rivets on the side of the helmet we agree with the restorer that we are dealing with a despatch rider helmet. We again asked to be allowed to see the inside of the helmet. 

Finally, on 08AUG2022 we visited the BAAC company's office and were able to hold and photograph the British despatch helmet together with the German M40 helmet found in the same Oude Stadsgracht moat. 
We saw that the helmet features the rivets on the inside typically of despatch rider helmets.
The painted Dutch flag make this helmet and how it ended up in the old moat, an unsolved mystery.
Did it belong to a dispatch rider of Dutch descent or a member of the Royal Dutch Princess Irene Brigade who arrived in Eindhoven after 18SEP1944 as part of 30th Corps?
Was the flag painted on the helmet after the liberation of Eindhoven?
Did it end down in the moat during the 19SEP1944 bombing raid of the city by the German Luftwaffe?
Our readers are encouraged to share their thoughts on the possible background of this remarkable Battle Relic.

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The helmet photographed from all sides
Note Dutch national flag on side and black square on front

The telltale rivets on the inside leave no doubt that this is a despatch rider helmet

The German M40 helmet which was also found in the Oude Stadsgracht moat

Origin and route of helmet?
To which unit did the wearer of the helmet belong and how did it end up in a moat in Eindhoven?
Dwayne, Conflict Archeologist / KNA- Materials Specialist at BAAC wrote to this agency:
"Now, the flash [the black rectangular painted mark on the helmet] appears to have the number '111' applied on it. It seems possible to me that we are dealing with a flash of the HQ of the 2nd Battle Group of the [Dutch] Princess Irene Brigade. Therefore, my colleague’' theory that it is a helmet were a flag was painted on for a victory parade, seems illogical to me. "
Dwayne went on to wonder how a helmet of the Princess Irene Brigade ended up at this location in Eindhoven assuming that it was lost by the wearer during the 19SEP1944 Luftwaffe bombing raid on the city. The Princess Irene Brigade arrived in town not before 20SEP1944.
We, in turn, informed him that the Princess Irene Brigade used the British color coding system for vehicle markings in 1944.
We provided Dwayne with an analysis of tactical vehicle markings of the unit on (black and white) photographs taken in the Netherlands in the last years of World War Two.

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British tactical markings on Dutch Princess Irene Brigade vehicles in the Netherlands 1944 – ’45

A marking with '111' would have been painted on a red triangular background. We had never seen these markings painted on helmets. But that applies to the little Dutch flag as well and therefore nothing can be ruled out in this matter.
In theory the helmet may have belonged to a point man in the 2nd Battle Group who arrived in Eindhoven days before the Brigade crossed the Belgian border on 20SEP1944. It is not impossible that the helmet ended in the moat after 19SEP1944. It was filled in years after the bombing raid allowing for objects to be discarded in it just as the German helmet found nearby.
Online Dwayne had found a document in which Brigade HQ markings are indicated with a black rectangle and a photo showing a Princess Irene Brigade dispatch rider with a vehicle marking with '109' painted on his DR helmet.

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Princess Irene Brigade dispatch rider of Brigade HQ in The Hague 1945. Note ‘109’ on helmet and motorcycle fuel tank

Dwayne: "I think that the PIB hypothesis is the most logical so far. "
We agreed that the photo proves that vehicle marking have indeed been painted on DR helmets.
We found that that ‘109’ refers to Brigade HQ whose vehicle marking had a black background:

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Dutch Princess Irene Brigade tactical markings in color
(Decals to be applied on scale models)

Because of the number '111' we advised conducting a paint analysis with the use of a stereoscopic microscope or a pyrolysis gas chromatography to establish if the black background has always been black or of it may have been red originally.
Dwayne let us know that the "… paint really seems to be black although some types of paint can be discolored by acid in the soil. Therefore it may as well have been red. Due to the preservation process I do not think it is possible to establish the original color or to conduct a chemical analysis…"
Therefore the origin and route of this battle relic remains a mystery.
The painted Dutch flag and the rectangle with "111" on it, make this helmet and how it ended up in the old moat, an unsolved mystery.
Did it belong to a dispatch rider of Dutch descent or a member of the Royal Dutch Princess Irene Brigade who arrived in Eindhoven after 18SEP1944 as part of 30th Corps?
Was the flag painted on the helmet after the liberation of Eindhoven?
Did it end down in the moat during the 19SEP1944 bombing raid of the city by the German Luftwaffe?
Our readers are encouraged to share their thoughts on the possible background of this remarkable Battle Relic.

The despatch rider helmet, along with the German helmet and other relics dug up during the city's maintenance works were on display in the Sint Catharina Kerk church in the center of Eindhoven in September 2022.
We went inside the church and examined the display about military heritage in Eindhoven's "subterranean archive":

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The Municipality of Eindhoven also issued a brochure about this relic, the German helmet and military heritage found in the city's soil in general.

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