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The Story of the Sun Helmet Continues

Since launching MilitarySunHelmets.com over two years ago Stuart Bates and I have continued our study on the history and development of the sun helmet. We have also been helped along the way.

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.

This story won’t end anytime soon.

Peter Suciu
January 2014

The Origin of the Pressed Fiber Helmet – In Perspective

SalesmanSample6Recently a potential one-of-a-kind item surfaced on eBay. It was a “salesman sample” of the American pressed fiber helmet. What made this particular find so interesting is that it was truly a salesman’s sample in that it wasn’t full size. So why exactly was a one-quarter scale helmet created?

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The Art of War: The Cat on the Hat

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“Trench Art” has existed long before the horrors of the First World War, and it was commonly known as “soldier art” for centuries. Probably for as long as soldiers marched off to war they created pieces of art and personalized their equipment.

While American soldiers also came home from the “Over There” at the end of the First World War with painted steel helmets, by the Second World War the practice of decorating a helmet was frowned upon – although personalization made a comeback on the helmet covers during the Vietnam War.

One helmet pattern that has been seen to have gotten the personalized touch was of course the American pressed fiber sun helmet, as we noted in our article “The Art of the Helmet.” Now another fascinating example has come to light – and for lack of a better name it is simply “The Cat on the Hat.” Continue reading

The President in the Pith Helmet

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In his life Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. wore many hats in a figurative sense – he was an American politician, author, naturalist, soldier, explorer, historian and of course was the 26th President of the United States. He was known for his exuberant personality and was born to a wealthy New York City family; he was a sickly child who suffered from asthma but grew into a man with a “cowboy” persona and robust masculinity. He attended Harvard College, was New York City Police Commissioner and resigned from the U.S. Navy Department at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War to help form the famous Rough Riders – a unit made up of wealthy Easterners and Western cowboys.

While he didn’t wear a sun/pith helmet when in the military – at the time the American Army and USMC did use the Model 1887 pattern helmet – he would don the safari style helmet after he left the White House. Continue reading

Headdress of the Royal West African Frontier Force

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The Royal West African Frontier Force was a multi-battalion field force, which was formed by the British Colonial Office in 1900 to help garrison the West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. It was originally designated the “West African Frontier Force,” and in 1928 received the royal patronage – becoming the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).

On formation it comprised the Gold Coast Regiment, Northern Nigeria Regiment, Southern Nigeria Regiment, the Sierra Leone Battalion and the Gambia Company. The parade uniform of the RWAFF was a distinctive one and consisted of khaki drill shorts with red fezzes, along with scarlet “zouave” style jackets edged in yellow and red cummerbunds. Artillery units wore a blue jacket with yellow braid, while engineers wore red jackets with blue braid. British officers originally wore sun helmets, and later a bush or slouch hat. Continue reading

Vented International Hat Company Helmet

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During the Second World War the St. Louis, Missouri-based International Hat Company, formerly the International Harvest Hat Company, produced the “pressed fiber” sun helmet for the United States Army, Marines and Navy. Tens of thousands of these were produced by International Hat Company based on the pattern developed by Hawley Products Company.

It is well-known, and widely established, that the United States Marine Corp used the International Hat pith helmet as both combat gear, as well as a standard part of the Marine Corps training uniform. In both roles the helmet had one major drawback – it didn’t provide adequate ventilation to the wearer’s head.

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The American M1880 Officer’s Sun Helmet

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While the “sun” or “pith” helmet originated in India its apparent value in protecting a wearer from the dangers of the sun was enough to convince numerous military planners to follow suit and introduce similar helmets. While the French may have adopted a sun helmet in 1878 this was soon followed by the Americans – who adopted a helmet pattern in 1880.

As we have noted, the Model 1880 helmet was the first style of helmet adopted by the American military, and reportedly only some 6,000 were produced. As with the later patterns this helmet features a four-panel construction. One unique variation of this helmet was the officer pattern – which is believed to have been a private purchase item.

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Universal Pattern Helmet to the Lorne (Scots) Rifles

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The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment) is today a Primary Reserve Infantry regiment of the Canadian Army .The Lorne Scots originated in Brampton, Ontario in September 1866, as the 36th “Peel Battalion of Infantry,” and was redesignated as the 36th Peel Regiment in May 1900, as The Peel Regiment in May 1920 and The Peel and Dufferin Regiment in April 1923. In December 1936, it was amalgamated with The Lorne Rifles (Scottish) and redesignated The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment).

The first Scottish connection was made in September 1879 when the Halton Rifles were reviewed by His Excellency The Marquis of Lorne and permission was received in 1881 to redesignate the 20th Halton Rifles as the 20th Halton Battalion Lorne Rifles. Continue reading