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The Story of the Sun Helmet Continues

It has been three years since we launched MilitarySunHelmets.com, and we don’t expect things to slow down in 2015. 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.

This story won’t end anytime soon.

Peter Suciu
January 2015

A Helmet of the 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles

Helmet frontThe helmet is attributed to Major James Skitt Matthews, born in 1878 in Wales, and died in 1970 at the age of 92 in Vancouver. James Skitt Matthews was a well known figure around the Vancouver area, and was appointed Vancouver’s first archivist in 1933. He was also a much respected historian of the city and amassed a huge collection of photos relating to Vancouver. In his early life he joined a local militia unit in 1903 and at the outbreak of war in 1914 was transferred to the Regular Army and fought with The Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles throughout 1916 to 1918 during World War One. His tough no nonsense style made him something of a hero to his men in the trenches. Continue reading

The Songkok – The Headdress of Maritime Southeast Asai

Songkok1

Often misidentified as a fez, the “songkok” is a different type of headdress that has been worn by both soldiers and civilians alike in South Asia. Today it is a type of headdress widely worn in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and even in parts of the Philippines.

The songkok is likely based on the fez, where it spread to South Asia by Ottoman sailors. A type of songkok was also worn in parts of the Ottoman Empire and even parts of Africa. So while there is a connection between the fez and songkok and these headdresses are similar in that there is no brim and the shape and height of the hats are quite different. Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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

Teddy

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.

Continue reading