C-TYPE, FIRST PATTERN
Type C, first pattern, leather flying helmet
Stores Ref. No. 22C/449-452
The arrival of the new generation of moulded rubber oxygen masks, replacing the now inadequate and obsolete Type D mask, called for an improvement in flying helmet design. The rather bulky Type B helmet of Battle of Britain fame had to slowly step aside for the Type C which was more stramlined and easier to mass produce due to its fewer parts. Arriving in 1941 the new design was to remain in service in different configurations for almost two decades, well into the jet age.
The rear-elasticized dark brown leather shell was lined with chamois and due to the contoured neck and brow allowed for greater movement of the head, improved noise insulation and increased wind resistence while providing a comfortable and snug fit.
The first pattern of the Type C featured a leather chin strap with « Bennet « buckle, a rear centre buckled leather goggle retaining strap and four lateral (two on each side) further goggle retaining straps were closed by means of stud fasteners.
Two stud fasteners on each side allowed a Type E oxygen mask to be fitted. Later on three stud fasteners were fixed on the left side and a hook on the right to accommodate the more recent Type E*, Type G and Type H masks with their improved webbing harness straps. Earphones were to be inserted into sewn-on black rubber cups while kapok filled chamois rings (round shaped on the first series of helmets, then oval for improved sound insulation) allowed for more wearing comfort.
Thus the first series of Type C helmets were « unwired », as were all British flying helmets until 1944, with all radio communication stored seperately. If needed, earphone receivers were simply popped into the « telephone holders » while the microphones for transmissions were integrated into the oxygen masks.
Mk Va* flying spectacles
Stores Ref. No. 22C/166
The Mk V family of flying spectacles had been specifically designed for aircrew flying maritime patrols relying on perfect eyesight to spot enemy shipping or submarines. Early detection was essential and such missions were often very long and tiring, consisting in searching the monotonous sea and horizon for endless hours in often hazy and glaring conditions.
Recognising the need for such special eyeware to enhance visual acuity, the Air Ministry ordered immediate production immediately after the outbreak of the war.
The first models started to be introduced in June 1940 and featured lightweight brass wire frames with laminated glass lenses, celluloid side shields and a polarizing flip-down screen.
Starting with conventional spectacle arms (with the Mk V / Ref. No.22C/150) which became increasingly uncomfortable during prolongued wear, the improved Mk Va (Ref. No. 22C/156) now featured an accessory kit to allow the spectacles to be attached either by means of snap fasteners fitted to the short folding arms and to small brass plates to be sewn to each side of the flying helmet, or by means of a leather and spring elastic goggle strap which attached to the wire frame of the spectacles.
The Type Va* featured here was identical to the variation above, but was equipped with Polaroid lenses to improve visibility in bright sunlight.
Type E* oxygen mask (replacement mask body)
Stores Ref. No. 6D/624
The Type E* (or E-Star) oxygen mask integrated improvements to overcome the issues encountered with the type E, but represented anyway only an interim solution while awaiting the new Type G mask already under development. The mask body was now redesignated with the Stores Ref. No. 6D/624 and had a new valve arrangement which solved the freezing problem by ducting the exhaled air separately from the incoming oxygen. Furthermore, an anti-suffocation valve was installed on the left side of the mask, allowing outside air to enter the mask and mix with the oxygen when flying at low altitude. Such inspiratory valves were subsequently also installed in successors like the type G and Type H masks.
Finally, a new elastic webbing harness attached the mask to the helmet by means of three snap fasteners on a strip of leather on the left and a hook and eye arrangement on the right. The mask could now be easily detached and installed by the wearer even whilst wearing gloves.
This mask is equipped with a Type 28 carbon microphone (10A/12572) and connected to the helmet's Type 16 receivers (10A/12401).
The untreated natural rubber body of this specimen had deteriorated during the decades, becoming misshapen and showing increasing cracks and melting areas. With attempts to conserve the mask in its original integrity having failed and bearing the imminent risk of the other components being affected, the mask was eventually restored by installing a replacement rubber body while retaining the original fittings.
WWII era photographs sometimes show the Type E/E* without the corrugated rubber hose, the mask being used as a microphone carrier, only. This seems to have been the case especially in warmer theaters of war like the Western Desert or the Mediterranean where air combat was generally fought at lower altitudes, thus eliminating the need for onboard oxygen supply systems.