The Mysterious Lt. Dr. Humphry By James Katzenstein January 23rd. 2013.
A number of years ago I was attending a Military Show in Patterson, NY and came upon the tables of one of my favorite dealers who always has some wonderful items and groupings. There I spied an interesting British MKII. The helmet was part of a grouping that also included an officer’s hat, dress uniform and a wristwatch, less its band. The group had come out of New England and I was intrigued enough to make a deal and bring my new prize home.
Now being a longtime collector of steel helmets and military hats, I have always preferred pieces with a provenance. Little bits of information like serial number, name, unit flash painted on the helmet actually do make these pieces talk.
As I started to examine my new treasures, a mystery started to unfold. The Officers Hat was manufactured by Wm. Scully of Montreal. But this was no ordinary offers hat, it was made of fine felt or mohair, unlike most hats I have owned or examined. It had Royal Medical Corps buttons on the side for the chinstrap and oddly, an American Eagle front device affixed to the front.
To add to the mystery, I noted the Dress Uniform was manufactured by M. Herbert Ltd, 404 University Tower, 660 St. Catherine St., West Montreal Order 1728 Date 6/1/1940. To my delight, there was also a name, Lt. Dr. S.P. Humphry. However, there was another unusual, though not uncommon detail; this Canadian made uniform had United States Army buttons.
At this point of my investigation, I find that I am in possession of custom made clothing that belonged to a doctor. Humphry was obviously well educated and wealthy enough to become a doctor. On top of that his uniform and hat are of the finest quality.
I now had two other parts of the puzzle left, the wrist watch and the helmet. The watch offered nothing other than it was a Westclox. The helmet on the other hand was what attracted me to the grouping in the first place. The shell was marked M.G. II, H.B.H 1939 and a liner marked 7, Helmets Ltd. 1939 which, indicates a British made helmet. The best however is the outside of the shell is painted a desert tan.
So now I have a real mystery. I have a finely made Canadian Hat and named Uniform with American buttons and Cap device. I also have a MkII helmet with paint that indicates it may have been used in North Africa, Abyssinia, Italy or Greece. Unlike the South African MKII with the sloppy brushed on sand colored paint, this had a nice sprayed on application of paint and a different hue.
Was Lt. Dr. Humphry one of those Americans who went to the aid of Britain, via Canada, a year and a half before the entry of the United States into the War?
Did he serve in the Canadian or British Army and transfer into the United States Service later on?
Does the paint on the helmet indicate use in some of the early campaigns of The British Army?
The evidence seems to point in this direction. Perhaps a sharp eyed reader can fill in more of the details of the mysterious Lt. Dr. Humphry who left clues on an adventure across many countries and continents when the World was in great peril.