By the end of the 19th Century, officers of the Portuguese “Armada Real” (Royal Navy) were in great need of some sort of tropical headdress. Unlike other ranks, which were supplied with large brim straw hats for tropical climates, officers had nothing to wear but their peaked caps, made hotter and heavier by the regulation white covers.
This situation changed in 1894, when officers were issued a sun helmet (fig. 2), intended for “warm climates, especially during the day”. This helmet was made of cork “or any other light material”, covered with white “alpaca” (a type of cloth made of the fur of the south American mamal alpaca, or Vicugna Paco). The peaks were lined with either green silk or green “alpaca” and the the skull was lined with a “light tissue”. A cover of white linen was to be worn at all times and the helmet was fitted with a white leather chinstrap held in place by two small British style “anchor” buttons (figs. 3, 4 and 5). The dress regulations determined the dimensions of the helmet (table 1).
The 1894 pattern was modified in 1903. The leather chinstrap was replaced by a white cotton cord (which was, in fact, sometimes used since 1894…) and the use of the white cover was made optional. This later change had great impact: as the use of the cover was mandatory in 1894, many of these helmets were not covered in the regulation white “alpaca”. In 1903, as the use of the white cover became optional, the helmets simply had to comply with the regulations, as the removal of the cover would give away any non-regulation colour (figs. 6, 7, 8 and 9).
The 1903 helmet was used until the fall of the Portuguese Monarchy, in 1910. It was still worn, with new “anchor” buttons stripped of their Royal crown, in the first years of the republic. It was officially replaced by a Wolseley style helmet in 1913 (see The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures, by Stuart Bates with Peter Suciu), but some were still worn during the Great War (fig. 10).