We took a bit of a break in the first half of the year, but we’re back and devoted to telling the story of the sun helmet and its place in military history. Stuart Bates and I remain passionate about this topic and we continue to research and explore this fascinating subject with intense zeal.
We’re also interested to hear from our readers.
Once again we wish to thank Benny Bough, Pedro Soares Branco, Enzo Faraone, Dr. Chris Flaherty, Roland Gruschka, James A. Holt, Clive Law, Shea Megale, Piero Pompili and Michael S. for their excellent contributions to this site.
An early 1980s Soviet Afghanka cap of the type used during the summer months in the Soviet Union and by Soviet forces in Afghanistan (Collection of the Author)
While Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union controlled vast territory, in each case it was truly an empire without far off colonies – apart from some brief adventures during the Imperial era and the Soviet’s proxy wars of course. However, the Soviets did utilize a number of summer uniforms including light weight khaki colored tunics and other clothing. Yet it wasn’t until the 1980s that a true form of “summer headgear” was developed.
This was the Afghanka hat – a type of boonie hat – that was utilized by the Red Army following the 1979 Invasion of the Soviet Union. The hat was developed with the other Afghanka uniforms and equipment, which was needed as the rugged countryside of the Central Asian nation was known for its extreme hot daytime temperatures in the summer and its equally bitter cold nights in the winter months. The boonie hat was developed to keep the rays of the sun off the wearer’s head and out of his eyes. Continue reading →
A British-made helmet used by the USMC-led Garde d’Haiti (Private Collection)
The American pressed fiber helmet was used since the 1930s and continues to see use on the shooting range in the USMC to this day. However, its exact origins have been largely forgotten. However, further study and research to the subject reveals that its origins could go back to the late 1920s when the United States was involved in protecting American interests in Haiti.
Apparently too this most American of helmet patterns could actually be based on one of the most British of patterns as well. How this helmet came to be could begin back in 1915 when the USMC began its 20 year reorganization and training of the military of Haiti. Continue reading →
Goggles have been used at least since the American Civil War by Artillerymen and then Railway Engineers. Garnet Wolseley was an observer during that conflict and may have been instrumental in their introduction into the British Army for the Sudan campaigns of 1882-1885. However this article is concerned with “The Newbold Type” used by the British, Americans, Japanese and others. Continue reading →
A Palestine Police sun helmet and kalpak (Collection of the Author)
Following the First World War the British found themselves with new territory carved out of the Ottoman Empire, which included Mandatory Palestine. To help administer this new “mandate” the British formed the Palestine Police Force. It was established on the First of July, 1920 by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel’s civil administration which took over responsibly in Mandatory Palestine from General Allenby’s Occupied Enemy Territory Administration . Continue reading →
In May 1940 the German Army invaded France and six weeks later Paris fell. An armistice was signed between France and Germany, but Charles de Gaulle quickly formed a government-in-exile and created the Free French Forces.
One of the principal units raised was the 1st Free French Division, which was first organized under British sponsorship as the 1st Free French Light Division in May 1941 near Tel Aviv. This unit was issued British equipment including sun helmets – and it engaged Vichy authorities in the Levant (modern day Lebanon and Syria). Units of the division continued to serve with Allied Forces and fought at Bir Hakeim and El Alamein. Continue reading →
Wolseley helmets made of sola pith are indeed rare things. One was described on this website and Chis Mills has shown one in his book*. My reason for presenting a third one now is that it offers some more and different detail, which might give some clues to the circumstances and time of its manufacturing and indeed, proof of its use as a military helmet.