Having recently purchased this Wolseley helmet, I was intrigued as to why it appears to have never been worn. Some initial investigation of the name inside W.D.Wroe, 10th Lincolns, led me to “The Grimsby Chums”, one of the tragically named Territorial “Pals Battalions” so often decimated on the World War One battlefields. Having never been sent to any of the theatres of War in Egypt or Mesopotamia, I wondered why W.D. Wroe would have had a Wolseley Helmet and why it was in such good condition.
Wilfred Dent Wroe was born in Burnley, Lancashire in 1884, he never married and lived in Baston, Lincolnshire where he was employed by Lincolnshire Borough Council as an Elementary School Teacher. After the outbreak of war in 1914, a 1000 strong 10th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment was raised and based at The Earl of Yarborough’s Estate in Brocklesby, some 10 miles outside Grimsby. Here W.D.Wroe along with the other men of the Grimsby Chums would train from Winter 1914 to Spring of 1915, and in May 1915 the Battalion had its passing out parade and took its place in the British Army. The Battalion now moved to Ripon in North Yorkshire for Musketry training, followed quickly by another move to Sutton Veny, Wiltshire in early August of 1915 as part of the 101st Brigade, of the 34th Division. Here is where I found the clue to the Wolseley helmets unused condition. During training a rumour started that the Division was being sent to the Dardanelles Campaign, tropical kit was quickly issued to the whole Division, but as it turned out the rumor was false and the Division would instead be later ordered to the Somme in France.
At some point presumably W.D. Wroe thinking he had little time before the Dardanelles Campaign, must have hurriedly placed an order to Harrods in London for the Wolseley. As to whether he took the Wolseley to France with him I don’t know, but the condition of the helmet would suggest not. It looks as if the helmet has almost certainly never been worn to any great degree or if, indeed, at all.
On the 8th April the battalion started marching to Eperleques (ten miles north-west of St. Omer), arriving there on the 12th. It rested and trained till the 5th May, when it moved by rail from St. Omer, detraining at Longeau, and marching to Rainne- ville (ten miles north-east of Amiens), and on the 2 1st to Dernan- court, on the Somme. After occasional tours in the front line, the battalion went into the trenches on the 28th June for the last time before the opening of the attack against the German positions on the Somme. On the 29th Lieutenant W.D. Wroe, of C Company, was killed by shell-fire.
The Wolseley Helmet is as stated in practically unworn condition. Retailed by Harrods, and probably made by Gamages, a major London department store and military outfitter known to supply Harrods with items of military attire. The helmet is, as one would expect from Harrods, of the highest quality, and has a doe skin edging as opposed to most of the Officers’ Wolseley helmets I’ve come across which have leather edging. There is some light mildew spotting to the crown inside, but apart from that the helmet is pristine.
Sources: The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914 – 1918, by Maj-Gen C.R. Simpson.
Grimsby’s Own: The Story of the Chums,by Peter Chapman.