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The Story of the Sun Helmet Continues

A New Year and new information continues to be uncovered on the sun helmets. It has been nearly four years since Stuart and I launched the site, and we have discovered facts and offered new insight into this most fascinating of subjects.

We’re always 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 2016

Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince

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Few military forces wear the sun helmet as its primary headdress, but one exception is that of the small military power of Monaco. All together only 255 soldiers serve in Monaco’s military (the Force Publique) – making its military the third smallest in the world after Antigua and Barbuda, and Iceland – and of those 119 officers and men make up the Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince (Prince’s Company of Carabiniers). Many of the NCOs and soldiers are local, but the officers generally served in the French Army or Republican Guard. Today the unit’s primary headdress is a white summer helmet based on the French 1878 pattern.

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Headdress of the Transjordan Frontier Force

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Formed in April 1926 as a para-military border guard to defend the northern and southern borders of the Transjordan, this unit was also an Imperial Service regiment. It drew its cadre from the Arab Legion, and replaced the disbanded British Gendarmerie, which itself had been founded following World War I to protect Transjordan. The unit was led by British officers, who typically donned sun helmets or visor caps – while the locally raised troops wore the Ottoman-styled kalpak, a type of headdress that was also worn by the Palestine Police Force and Arab Legion. Continue reading

The New Zealand “Lemon Squeezer”

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Less well-known than the Australian slouch hat, the New Zealand campaign hat – known as the “Lemon Squeezer” – has since World War I been closely linked to the Kiwi soldier. The iconic hat was introduced by William George Malone, an officer in the New Zealand Military Forces, and issued to soldiers serving under his command in the 4th Battalion of the Wellington (Taranaki) Rifle Volunteers. The hat was adopted by Malone’s unit as it was meant to mirror the outline of Mount Taranaki on New Zealand’s north island.

The hat, with its tall peak allowed “run off” in the rain, proved popular with the Wellington Regiment. It was then adopted by the rest of the New Zealand Infantry Division on January 1, 1916 – by which time it had already seen its baptism of fire half way around the world. Continue reading

The Malagasy Pith Helmet of the Merina Kingdom

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An Imperial Guard Helmet of the Malagasy Kingdom from the reign of Queen Ranavalona III. This is the only known surviving example and it is in the Musee de l’Armee in Paris

The French invasion of Madagascar in 1897 ended the Malagasy Protectorate, but this brief war could also be the first time that forces on both sides worn sun helmets. It is just one part of a strange and somewhat fascinating story of the fall of the Merina Kingdom, two English adventurers and the annexation of the island nation. Continue reading

Art of the Helmet Revisited

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Back in late 2012 we offered a quick look at how the American pressed fiber helmets were used as a canvas for some very talented artists. One of the helmets that we included was one from Wake Island, which featured a number of signatures. Now some new, and fascinating, information has come to light on the helmet from a reader. Continue reading

Israeli Army ‘Hitelmacher’ Hat

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Side view of the Hitelmacher. Even more appealing when it retains a straight shape. (Collection of Alex Ben-Arieh/Historama.com)

Though the Israeli Army earned glory on the battlefield in 1948, it came into being during a period where militaria started to lose its national uniqueness. Under the influence of Eastern and Western alliances, and more efficient production processes, armies began to adopt homogeneous, if boring, accessories and equipment such as mass-made nylon patches, conventional uniforms and plain, generic helmets.

During the 1947-49 War of Independence, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and its forerunners sported ‘sock hats’ (“Kova Gerev” – in Hebrew) from local manufacture or leftover British Army stocks. However the army also succeeded in receiving a uniquely styled hat in sufficient quantities that its presence also left its mark on the identity of the army: the ‘Hitelmacher’ hat. The Hitelmacher bears a semblance to a kepi in the style of a Finmark hat, but when affixed with the Army’s emblem, it also exhibits a ceremonial elegance.

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A Japanese War Trophy

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With the fall of Hong Kong on December 25, 1941 and Singapore on February 15, 1942 the British suffered two of its greatest setbacks in the Far East during World War II, with the latter being described by Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the “worst disaster” in British history.

Some 80,000 men were captured at Singapore and untold equipment with it. Today it is possible to encounter British sun helmets (and even steel helmets) that were possibly captured by the Japanese in either Hong Kong, Singapore or in the later invasion of India. However, as it is all too easy to add a Japanese cap star to a helmet these should be viewed with suspicion at the very least. One has turned up that does have all the right signs that indicate that it is likely the “real deal.” Continue reading