Category Archives: Boxer Rebellion

The French-Vietnamese Leaf Hat


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

Imperial Chinese Army Wicker Hat/Helmet


We’ve previously covered the origins and evolution of the conical hats of Asia – noting that these were used in China, Japan, Vietnam and even the Philippines. In past articles we’ve also explored how these were used by colonial military forces, including the Hong Kong Police under British rule.

One other important use of these wicker/straw hats/helmets was during the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century and even early 20th century when these were used in its Imperial Army. These were the de facto headdress for the Imperial Chinese Army Infantry until it took on a more western influenced appearance. Continue reading

Marchand and the Race for Fashoda


A contemporary newspaper from 1898 that shows the meeting of Marchand and Kitchener

While there are many “eminent Victorians” in British military history the French have fewer such characters. One largely unknown outside of France was Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand, who led the French expeditionary force during the Fashoda Incident.

Born in Thoisssey, Ain during the Second French Empire in 1863, he participated in the French conquest of Senegal and was wounded at the capture of Diena by the French in 1889. He explored the sources of the Niger River and even tracked the source of the Nile. Continue reading

The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part II – Khaki’s Use Throughout the French Empire of the Third Republic


French soldiers in Madagascar – While officers retained the traditional blue tunics, the ranks wore khaki jackets and shirts

While its origins lay in British India, the use of khaki was not limited to the British Army. By the end of the 19th century most of the nations of Europe that had colonies overseas had begun to utilize similar colored “tropical” uniforms. One interesting irony is that in many cases European officers and NCOs were outfitted with their “European” style uniforms, while colonial troops wore the khaki colored ones. Many of these colors were never officially deemed “khaki” but the colors were extremely close in practice.

It was Britain’s traditional enemy – and later its closest ally – that soon adopted khaki throughout its global empire.

Continue reading

The French Colonial Pattern Helmet

The Model 1886 French sun helmet – a pattern known as the “sugar loaf.”

The Model 1886 French sun helmet – a pattern known as the “sugar loaf.”

Just at the colonial pattern sun helmet remains an iconic image of Britain’s “Soldiers of the Queen,” this style helmet was worn by the French forces in far flung conflicts. And whereas the British pattern seemed to evolve with numerous nuances and differences in a plethora of patterns and variations, the French military relied on basically two colonial patterns. Continue reading

Austrian Sun Helmets – The Empire That Didn’t Look For a Place in the Sun

An example of an Austrian sun helmet that was likely used on the Palestine Front in World War I.

An example of an Austrian sun helmet that was likely used on the Palestine Front in World War I.

As we noted previously in regards to the Czech sun helmets, it might seem apposite to consider that a landlocked nation in Central Europe would have need for a sun helmet. But while the Czechs were a unique case, one must remember that the Austria of today is much different from the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the late 19th and early 20th century. Continue reading