Helmet of the Arab Legion

A black cloth covered cork helmet, as used by the Jordanian Army in the 1950s and 1960s. (Author’s collection)

A black cloth covered cork helmet, as used by the Jordanian Army in the 1950s and 1960s. (Author’s collection)

While numerous colonial powers used sun helmets in their respective desert colonies, as well as in post World War I mandates and protectorates, a unique form of sun helmet was used by the local forces in Transjordan – later the Kingdom of Jordan. This respective helmet has no actual name, other than being referred to as the helmet of the Arab Legion, and later the Jordanian National Guard.

 

A Palestine Police Force Kalpak (Authors collection)

A Palestine Police Force Kalpak (Authors collection)

The history of the Arab Legion dates back to the British occupation and/or liberation of Jerusalem in 1917. After the end of the First World War the British established the Palestine Police Force, which took over responsibility for security from General Allenby’s Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (South). This newly formed British colonial police service or a mix of traditional Arab headdress, as well as the Kalpak – a tall wool cap that was based on traditional headdress from Russia, the Caucus and Turkey.

A period photo of the Arab Legion shows the unique helmet was used along side other headdress.

A period photo of the Arab Legion shows the unique helmet was used along side other headdress.

The Palestine Police Force was found to be too small and ineffective, and in October of 1920 Captain Frederick Gerard Peake created a new military force named Al Jeish al Arabi. This translated to the Arab army, but was always known officially in English as the Arab Legion. As with Palestine Police Force a variety of headdress was worn, but a new and unique helmet was introduced.

Another period photo of Arab Legion soldiers wearing various headdress including the unique helmet

Another period photo of Arab Legion soldiers wearing various headdress including the unique helmet

As noted this helmet has no official designation. It is notable for featuring a spike on the top – likely following traditional Saracen helmet design from the medieval period – along with a brim or visor at the front. A neck curtain was worn around the dome of the helmet to help shield the neck of the wearer.

Another view of the helmet in the authors collection shows that it is based on polo helmets

Another view of the helmet in the authors collection shows that it is based on polo helmets

These helmets were produced in khaki as well as black, with the latter being used by the post World War II Jordanian National Guard. Interestingly, it is believed that all of these helmets were produced in London, and more likely based on polo helmets. The example in the author’s collection was made by Hobson & Sons, a maker of military sun helmets as well as polo headgear. These helmets were used as late as the 1950s, when they were removed from service.

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A period photo from 1950 shows King Abdullah (right), the first king of Jordan, standing next to his son Talal, who ruled briefly after Abdullah’s assassination in 1951. Talal was deposed in 1952 and succeeded by his son Hussein. Note that Talal is wearing the ceremonanial helmet of the Arab Legion, while his father wears a Kalpak.

Peter Suciu

 

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