Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was forced into exile at the end of the First World War into the neutral Netherlands. From 1920 until his death in 1941 he lived in the small country estate in Holland known as Huis Doorn, which today is a museum and contains many personal items from the last Kaiser.
Among these items is an interesting helmet – which by all appearances is a British six-panel colonial pattern helmet with typical puggaree cloth wrapping. What makes this helmet particularly unique about this example is that it apparently was “created” by Wilhelm.
The information offered suggested:
Prototype van een tropenhelm, bedacht door keiser Wilhelm II, eerste helft 20ste eeuw
This is translated to:
Prototype of a tropical helmet, coined (created) by Kaiser Wilhelm II, first half 20th century
Certainly this helmet is not a German prototype created by the last Kaiser. More likely it was a gift to Wilhelm (Willie to his family) from his British relatives likely in the 1890s during one of his many visits. Wilhelm II was known to love military uniforms and changed several times a day to suit the occasion or his mood.
While Wilhem II initially supported the British in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), he later reportedly congratulated Paul Kruger, State President of the South African Republic (Transvaal) on a Boer Victory. After the war he reconciled with his British relatives, including his uncle King Edward VII.
No photos seem to exist of the Kaiser in a tropical uniform of either German or British origin. While photos do exist of the Kaiser in a uniform he may have designed himself for his visit to Palestine, these do not suggest he wore a British uniform or helmet. So how the helmet came to be at Huis Doorn is just another mystery left to the ages.
Perhaps the last Kaiser was simply one of the first collectors of Anglo-Indian sun helmets!