The puggaree (or pagri, pugri etc.) was an addition to the headgear of the British soldier primarily being for protection against sword cuts but also protection from the heat of the sun. Just how effective it was in this latter use is debatable. In its many forms it was also a decorative item and was additionally used to distinguish regiments and corps. The cloth wrapped around the crown of the helmet was most commonly folded over in two places: at the front and the rear. However, examples of the puggaree being folded in three, four and six positions are known to have existed. In this article the six seams of the helmet cover are equated to positions on a clock face with 12 o’clock being the rear seam and 6 o’clock being the front seam etc.
The following extract from the diary of Lieutenant Richard Barter, Adjutant of the 75th Foot, illustrates the primary intention of the puggaree:
“In the evening the order was published for the storming of Delhi a little before daybreak the next morning, September 14, and we each of us looked carefully to the reloading of our pistols, filling of flasks, and getting as good protection as possible for our heads, which would be exposed so much going up the ladders. I wound two puggris or turbans round my old forage cap, with the last letter from the hills [Mrs. Barter was then at Kasauli, in the Himalayas] in the top, and committed myself to the care of Providence.” 1
And from Lieutenant Edward Joseph Thackwell, 3rd (The King’s Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons, who was present at the battles of Chillianwallah and Goojerat, and the action at Sodoolspore:
“The propensity of the Seikhs to aim their cuts at the back of the head, was so unequivocally manifested on the 22nd November, that it became an object of consideration to the officers of the army to provide some defence, however slight, for the precious caput. Some officers wrapped rolls of linen cloth round the back of the shako, the folds of which hung down over the back of the shako, affording some protection.” 2
Three Fold Puggarees
The Suffolk Regiment
This regiment had three folds to its puggaree: two on each side and one at the rear. The folds were aligned to the 12, 4 and 8 o’clock seams in the helmet cover. The red and yellow piping was adopted in 1928. 3
According to Captain H.B. Monier-Williams, M.C., writing in 1937, the regiment adopted the triple fold puggaree about 1888 but he gives no precise date nor could he discern the origin of this style. 4
On the 3rd June 1905 the Wolseley helmet was issued to the 2nd Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment, in India. The puggaree was of twelve pleats in three folds. Officers also had a white version for ceremonial parades, but when parading with the men in khaki they wore the khaki helmet. 5 On the 9th March 1907, in accordance with A.G. India letter No. 801/A, the metal badge was discarded and a yellow cloth castle introduced and worn on the left hand side of the helmet. 6 Monier-Williams does not state when the 1st Battalion received their helmets but since they served overseas from 1907 (Malta) to 1927 (Gibraltar) it is safe to assume 1907.
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
This regiment had three folds to its puggaree: two on each side and one at the front. The folds were aligned to the 2, 6 and 10 o’clock seams in the helmet cover.
This photograph clearly shows the puggaree folded in three places; at the front and the sides, lining up with the seams of the helmet. It is interesting to note that the officer seated on the ground does not have the green piping to his puggaree. This green piping was specified officially in the 1929 Clothing Regulations but according to John Mollo, “Photographs of the Regiment taken in Poona in 1925 show this green top [piping].” 7 It is also interesting that this officer’s helmet puggaree appears to have only the usual two folds and the author has two such KSLI examples in his collection – one with piping and one without.
This splendid photo of a private in full marching kit, in India in the early 1930s, clearly shows the side fold and the front fold (indicated by the bulge.)
Four Fold Puggarees
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) * See last paragraph.
This regiment had four folds to its puggaree: one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear. The front and rear folds were aligned to the 6, and 12 o’clock seams respectively in the helmet cover. The side folds fell between the side seams or using the clock face nomenclature at 9 and 3 o’clock.
The above helmet 8 is attributed to Captain, later Major, John Collier Stormont-Darling who fought with the 2nd Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in the Boer War. He was Mentioned In Despatches, awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was killed in action, by a sniper, on the 1st November 1916. 9
* Information has just been provided, 3rd June 2012, that the Wolseley helmet shown above with the four fold puggaree is a “fake” in that the regiment never wore puggarees in such a fashion. This information was provided by an ex-curator of the Cameronians Museum who, regrettably has been ill and therefore, could not respond earlier.
The Cheshire Regiment
This regiment had four folds to its puggaree: one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear. The front and rear folds were aligned to the 6, and 12 o’clock seams respectively in the helmet cover. The side folds were aligned with the side seams at 9 and 3 o’clock. Note that the Khaki Sola Pith Hat, which officially replaced the Wolseley in 1937, had only four seams.
Note that the side folds do not align with the helmet seams but fall at 3 and 9 o’clock respectively.
The Leinster Regiment
This regiment had four folds to its puggaree: one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear. The front and rear folds were aligned to the 6, and 12 o’clock seams respectively in the helmet cover. The side folds were aligned with the side seams at 9 and 3 o’clock.
Six Fold Puggarees
The Highland Light Infantry
This regiment had six folds to its puggaree, aligned with the six seams of the helmet.
“In 1895 the 1st Bn. left Aldershot and sailed for Malta. The shakos of the officers and men, and the feathered bonnets of the band were exchanged for white helmets. These had a brass spike and chain chin strap… officers and warrant officers having a loop at the back of the helmet to take the cap-lines previously worn with the shako. The pagri round the helmet was twisted 6 times (at each panel, front, back and sides) in a pattern peculiar to the regiment.” 11 The 2nd Battalion was overseas from 1884-1902 in India and Ceylon and it is unlikely that they would have used this style of puggaree. No further information is given as to the origin of this “peculiar” pattern, nor as to the dates within which it was worn.
The author would like to thank the curators of the Suffolk Regiment Museum (Mr. Gwyn Thomas) and the Shropshire Regimental Museum (Mr. Peter Duckers), Mr. David Rayner and Mr. Bernard Bough for their generous assistance. Not all regimental museums contacted by the author responded and therefore no assumption can be made that the five regiments in this article are the only regiments to have used an unusual puggaree arrangement.
1Roberts, Frederick Sleigh, Forty-one years in India, From Subaltern To Commander-In-Chief, MacMillan and Co.,1901
2Thackwell, Edward Joseph, Narrative of the Second Seikh War, in 1848-49, Richard Bentely, 1851
3Monier-Williams, Captain H.B., The Foreign Service Helmet, The Suffolk Regiment Gazette, Nov-Dec 1937
7Mollo, John, The Formation Sign, The Military Heraldry Society, FS151, July, 1988
8Bosleys Auction Catalogue, Lot 861, 3rd June 2009
9In conversation with Benny Bough
10McKay & Anderson, The Highland Light Infantry, Uniforms of the Regiment 1881 to 1914, James B. McKay, Glasgow, 1977