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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

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

The Canadian Pressed Fiber Helmet of World War II

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A Canadian World War II era pressed fiber helmet. While it was against regulations many regiments issued these helmets with cap badges. This example features a 21st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Corps cap badge. (Collection of the Author)

While little has been written about the American pressed fiber sun helmet, even less has been written about the versions used by Canada. According to our friend and colleague Clive Law the Canadian Army acquired the “fibre” helmets prior to the outbreak of the Second World War for summer training as a substitute for the more expensive and fragile Wolseley helmet.

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The Wolseley Helmet of Major George Henry William Baird, Seaforth Highlanders.

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Major George H. W. Baird was born on 10 January 1903. He married Catherine Augusta Forester on 22 January 1931. George Baird was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire, England.

George Baird was a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military College and was gazetted as a 2nd Lt in the Seaforth Highlanders on 30th August 1923. In October of 1928, Lt. G. H. W. Baird was selected for service on Staff and was appointed A.D.C. to the Governor & G.O.C. in C. (General Officer Commanding in Chief) Gibraltar. I believe this is the time period when he purchased this helmet. Continue reading

Mystery Solved – Victorian British General Staff Officer’s Foreign Service Helmet circa 1884-86

HeaderThe subject of this article is a Foreign Service Helmet that I acquired 10 or so years ago from an antique mall in Canada. The seller did not represent it as anything in particular. It was just an old military helmet and plume with no provenance. Since that time it has been the focus of much frustration, as I have tried to nail down exactly what it is. I must thank my new friend Stuart Bates, for his “dog with a bone” attitude in helping me finally identify it, with certainty! Also thanks to Clive M. Law, Benny Bough, and my old friend Douglas N. Anderson, for their assistance and contribution in this effort. Continue reading

The Luftwaffe Sun Helmet

LuftCrewWhen the German army headed to North Africa and other tropical regions during the Second World War it utilized the sun helmet. The Luftwaffe, Germany’s air arm, followed ground units to the Mediterranean theater where it made up a significant portion of the “Afrika Korps,” and included the Fliegerführer Afrika.

The Luftwafffe personnel, who included air crews, Flak troops and support units were equipped with a variation of the Model 1940 sun helmet. Continue reading