Straw Wolseley Helmets

A straw Wolseley dated 1915 and made by E. Day of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. The straw weave is clearly visible beneath the cotton drill covering. This example is to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (Author’s collection)

A straw Wolseley dated 1915 and made by E. Day of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. The straw weave is clearly visible beneath the cotton drill covering. This example is to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (Author’s collection)

As with the Colonial pattern of Foreign Service Helmet which preceded the Wolseley cork was the original material used, but because of wartime shortages of cork and the increased demand alternative materials were sought.

Colonial pattern helmets were manufactured from wicker with sola pith and from cork with felt to compensate for shortages of cork. Both straw and felt were used in the manufacture of Wolseleys with felt being used up to 1942. Only two straw Wolseleys are known to survive and are in the author’s collection.

This shows the interior of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry straw Wolseley. The maker’s label of E. Day of St. Albans is visible as are the soldier’s name (Private V. Morris), his regimental number (1230), “M.GUN SECTION K.S.L.I.” and “SINGAPORE SS 20/11/15.” (Author’s collection)

This shows the interior of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry straw Wolseley. The maker’s label of E. Day of St. Albans is visible as are the soldier’s name (Private V. Morris), his regimental number (1230), “M.GUN SECTION K.S.L.I.” and “SINGAPORE SS 20/11/15.” (Author’s collection)

Note the method of fixing the ventilator cap into straw, and felt, helmets which consisted of four tabs affixed to the cap which were passed through a securing plate and then bent over to hold the cap in place. This method was used because the straw construction was insufficiently strong to support the brass collet method used in cork helmets.

An unidentified hat factory in St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Probably pre WWI.

An unidentified hat factory in St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Probably pre WWI.

St. Albans, Hertfordshire, was once an important centre of the straw plaiting and hat-making industries, as was nearby Luton in Bedfordshire. By the 1930s most of the straw hat factories had closed down because of changes in fashion and foreign competition and the St. Albans straw hat industry went into terminal decline.

The second straw Wolseley also made by E. Day of St. Albans and also dated 1915. This example is to Private Archibald C. Black of the Royal Army Medical Corps, although originally of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (Author’s collection)

The second straw Wolseley also made by E. Day of St. Albans and also dated 1915. This example is to Private Archibald C. Black of the Royal Army Medical Corps, although originally of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (Author’s collection)

The interior of the R.A.M.C. straw Wolseley with the soldier’s name and R.A.M.C. clearly visible as is the maker’s label of E. Day, St. Albans. Note that this example does not have a plate through which the securing tabs of the ventilation button pass before being bent over.

The interior of the R.A.M.C. straw Wolseley with the soldier’s name and R.A.M.C. clearly visible as is the maker’s label of E. Day, St. Albans. Note that this example does not have a plate through which the securing tabs of the ventilation button pass before being bent over.

Stuart Bates

4 thoughts on “Straw Wolseley Helmets

  1. Jonathan Murray

    Hi Cathey
    I have beeb doing some research and have come across your name in relation to collection arms. I believe you have a regimental dirk of the 78th…and perhaps others. I am always on the low out and would be interested to know if you were a seller? Thanks and regards – Jonathan

    Reply
  2. Stuart BatesStuart Bates

    Hello Jonathan,

    I am sure that you realise that this is not the proper method of contacting someone. Better to get an email address from the About Us… page and I could have passed your own email address and request on to her.

    Regards,

    Stuart

    Reply
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