Category Archives: India

Helmets are not new under the Sun

ILN Oct 23 1847 Helmet smaller

From the Illustrated London News of October 23, 1847 (Author’s collection)

One of the great mysteries regarding the origin of the classical “colonial pattern” sun helmet is how it obtained its distinctive shape, one that was truly of Anglo-Indian origin, but which was copied throughout the world. Continue reading

Staff Officer Bombay Bowler

BBowlerGO1

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

An Interesting Photo

British Officer GroupClick on the photo for hi-res.

This photograph was sent to me by a fellow contributor that is clearly a mixture of young and old (and rather portly) British “officers.” Interesting to note the “pips” on the soldier seated far right and the brass buttons on most. Also note the variations in the tunics of these British soldiers, and the fact that Sam Browne belt’s do not sport holsters nor sword frogs.

What isn’t so clear is when or where this photograph was taken. Obviously we can narrow it down to the latter decades of the 19th century based on the uniforms, equipment and notably the helmets – the “where” is the other mystery. The terrain appears generally flat without much foliage, but is this South Africa, the Sudan, India or elsewhere?

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Another Indian Wolseley

Pith Wolseley Title

Wolseley helmets made of sola pith are indeed rare things. One was described on this website and Chis Mills has shown one in his book*. My reason for presenting a third one now is that it offers some more and different detail, which might give some clues to the circumstances and time of its manufacturing and indeed, proof of its use as a military helmet.

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An Indian Wolseley?

IW2The story of the Wolseley helmet is well documented, but occasionally even we come across something a little different. In this case it is a helmet that has the basic shape of a Wolseley and at first glance could possibly be dismissed as a “child’s helmet.”

The story gets interesting however. This helmet, which is a bit of a cross between a Wolseley and a polo style helmet, was apparently made in India. Moreover, while we have noted that the English helmet makers principally worked in cork with the Wolseley – with straw and felt also serving when there were shortages of cork – this Wolseley style helmet is made of sola pith!

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Full and Undress Headgear in India

The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) charging at Lucknow.

The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) charging at Lucknow.

During the Indian Mutiny both Full Dress and Undress headgear was worn. Cavalry, as shown above, initially adopted a turban wound around the base of the metal helmets but how effective this was is debatable. Infantry soon adopted the Havelock cover, named after its creator Major General Henry Havelock, which covered both the cap/shako and included a neck curtain. Cavalry soon adopted a full quilted cover. Continue reading