Staff Officer Bombay Bowler

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As the British Army had phased out the Wolseley helmet completely after World War II, staff officers, brigadiers and general officers had to make due with other forms of tropical headgear when serving in remote stations such as Singapore, the British West Indies and the various African colonies before independence.

There appears to be a brief resurgence of Indian pattern helmet including the Bombay Bowler in use by some British officers serving in tropical stations. This would be a bit ironic as the first sun helmets used by British forces originated in India – but of course the Wolseley does remain in use for the Royal Marines, while other cork helmets have been used for ceremonial purposes for units such as the Gibraltar Regiment.

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A side view shows the classic “Bombay Bowler” with the leather chinstrap going over the helmet. The flash has been sewn to accommodate the chinstrap.

What makes this particular recent find interesting is that it is a post-World World II Bombay Bowler that features a flash to a staff officer or as likely a brigadier in the Royal Artillery. This helmet also features a slightly “upgraded” liner, which would indicate that someone of means wanted a more comfortable helmet.

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A piece of higher quality leather has been sewn over the lower quality headband – possibly to provide greater comfort to the wearer. This suggests someone of means may have purchased this particular helmet.

The RA flash features a queen’s crown so this dates the helmet to post-1952 – and likely could be of been something used by an officer in the Malay Crisis or other Cold War Era conflict. It could have been used from Cyprus to Singapore but it is impossible to know for sure.

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A close-up of the flash – this features the red/blue colors of the Royal Artillery and the queen’s crown.

Peter Suciu

April 2017

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