Category Archives: Flashes

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. Continue reading

Polish Sun Helmets of World War II

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As we have previously noted many nations that had no colonial empires had soldiers don sun/pith helmets at various times. One of the more unique examples of this is Poland – a nation that didn’t even exist as an independent land for almost 150 years.

After achieving independence in 1918 and fending off an invasion by the Soviets in 1920 the nation of Poland was again occupied by invaders again in 1939. With the nation occupied by the Germans – as well as the eastern portion of the nation essentially annexed by the Soviet Union – many Poles fled to Great Britain to continue the fight to liberate their nation. The terms of the Allied Forces Act 1940, which was an Act of Parliament passed in late 1940, gave legal authority for the recognized sovereign governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland – all of which were under German occupation – to raise, equip and maintain independent armed forces on British soil.

These Polish soldiers eventually formed the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division, and headed to the Middle East where they joined Free French soldiers in liberating pro-Vichy French Syria and Lebanon. This Division later served with General Montgomery’s Eight Army in North Africa, and throughout this campaign was outfitted in British tropical uniforms and sun helmets.

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The Wolseley Helmet of Major George Henry William Baird, Seaforth Highlanders.

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Major George H. W. Baird was born on 10 January 1903. He married Catherine Augusta Forester on 22 January 1931. George Baird was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire, England.

George Baird was a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military College and was gazetted as a 2nd Lt in the Seaforth Highlanders on 30th August 1923. In October of 1928, Lt. G. H. W. Baird was selected for service on Staff and was appointed A.D.C. to the Governor & G.O.C. in C. (General Officer Commanding in Chief) Gibraltar. I believe this is the time period when he purchased this helmet. Continue reading

Royal Corps of Signals

A Royal Corps of Signals (RCS) radio party in Quetta, India 1932. (Photo Peter Suciu)

A Royal Corps of Signals (RCS) radio party in Quetta, India 1932. (Photo Peter Suciu)

The Royal Corps of Signals was formed in 1920 however prior to that date the Royal Engineers provided a communications system during the Crimean War and the Abyssinian War of 1867 brought further active experience for the telegraphists and signalers of the Royal Engineers. 1

Note the white/blue armband worn by the signalers in the above photograph.

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A Berkshire Lad Revisited

A Wolseley helmet provenanced to Private Frederick G. Rance of the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. This helmet was manufactured by Percy Ayses & Co. (Author’s collection)

A Wolseley helmet provenanced to Private Frederick G. Rance of the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. This helmet was manufactured by Percy Ayses & Co. (Author’s collection)

Last year I wrote a companion article to this one, A Berkshire Lad, but have in the last week been contacted by the family of Pte. Frederick G. Rance. I sensed the import and could not but return the helmet to the family to complement the other memorabilia which they have preserved. Continue reading

Helmet Flashes in the British Army

Some of the weird and wonderful shapes of helmet flashes often encountered on Foreign Service Helmets and Slouch Hats.

Some of the weird and wonderful shapes of helmet flashes often encountered on Foreign Service Helmets and Slouch Hats.

The British army has long used khaki coloured uniforms for its troops. This goes as far back as the Indian Mutiny and possibly before with some regiments of the East India Company’s army. The introduction and use of khaki into the British army is generally attributed to an army officer named W.S.R. Hodson, who later founded the irregular light cavalry, Hodson’s Horse. Continue reading