While many South American countries adopted sun helmets that were based on the British Foreign Service Helmet and the French Model 1878 pattern sun helmet, we would be remiss to describe these as “colonial pattern” helmets – notably as many of Latin America’s nations were actually former colonies of Spain. Thus while the helmet was the high domed pattern these were worn by the fully autonomous and independent government armies and military styled police forces – not by a colonial force.
What is unique about these South American helmets too is that little has been documented on their use, and even where these helmets were made isn’t entirely clear. This example above dates from the late 19th century or early 20th century and certainly does feature lines that show a British and French influence. It is a six panel helmet and features the Uruguayan military styled police badge on the front.
Over the years little has been published on the American pressed fiber sun helmets, and we’ve tried to fill in the gaps. Recently an item came up for auction that should help fill in some of the blanks.
This was what appears to be a mold/press for the Hawley designed helmet. The metal is too heavy to be aluminum, but isn’t magnetic so it is likely some form of pot metal. It is heavy/strong enough for stamping of the lightweight helmets.
It is with great sadness that we share the news that our good friend Clive Law, owner and operator of Service Publications in Canada, has passed away. Clive suffered a massive stroke a week ago and sadly did not recover.
Clive was one of the most knowledgeable collectors of Canadian militaria, and was the author of several noteworthy books. Clive was a dear friend and he will be truly missed.
As previously noted the conical hat – known as the “nón lá” or leaf hat – was in fact widely used in the Vietnam and neighboring regions throughout the 19th century by farmers and soldiers (including bandits) alike.
What is unique about the Vietnamese nón lá is that it has its own origin, based on a legend to the growing of rice in the region. This tells of a giant woman from the sky who protected humanity from a deluge of rain, and she wore a hat made of four round shaped leaves to protect her from the rain – and that inspired farmers to stitch together their own style of helmet. This has evolved over the centuries and various styles have become common in the different parts of Vietnam. Continue reading →
Before we launched this website it began with the 2008 book Military Sun Helmets of the World. Our friends at Naval & Military Press in the UK are now offering the last copies of this work – the first of its kind on the subject of tropical sun helmets – for a deep discount.
While the bulk of the fighting in the First World War occurred in Europe, notably on the Western Front, the conflict was truly a “World War” as soldiers fought in distant parts of the globe. One of the more colorful tales involved those of Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who commanded the German colonial forces in German East Africa – today Tanzania.
During this campaign the Germans relied on field-made equipment, and utilized every piece of arms and ordnance at their disposal. Von Lettow-Vorbeck increased the strength of his military force by recruiting German colonists and from the indigenous population, but also by requisitioning a full company of sailors from the SMS Königsberg. It is possible the above helmet was used by one of those sailors.
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. Continue reading →