Category Archives: Indian Mutiny

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

The 59th Regiment Madras Native Infantry

Illustrated London News, July, 1857. (Author’s collection)

Illustrated London News, July, 1857. (Author’s collection)

The above illustration, from the Illustrated London News, July 1857, piqued my interest because my main area of collecting is British military headdress; however that soon became of lesser importance. The above engraving is captioned “59th Regiment Madras Native Infantry – Sketched at Hong Kong” and its accompanying text states –

Illustrated London News, July, 1857. (Author’s collection)

Illustrated London News, July, 1857. (Author’s collection)

Continue reading

The Mysterious Helmet of General Irvin McDowell

Irvin-McDowell

While it is widely accepted that the sun/pith helmet most certainly originated in India, it remains a point of conjecture whether the sun helmet traveled not to Europe but to America, where it found its way to the first battlefields outside of the Indian subcontinent during the American Civil War.

Some sources suggest that the 4th New Hampshire Infantry may have worn a “pith helmet” or sun helmet to protect the soldiers from the intense southern sun during its campaigns in Florida, but what remains much more of a mystery is exactly what Brigadier General Irvin McDowell (above left with General George McClellan) may have worn at the Battle of Bull Run – the first major engagement of the war between the states. Continue reading

Straight to the Point: The History of the Spiked Helmet

A 1905 era Canadian Militia sun helmet with the badge of the 57th Regiment, Peterborough Rangers.

A 1905 era Canadian Militia sun helmet with the badge of the 57th Regiment, Peterborough Rangers.

Many colonial pattern sun helmets featured a spike at the dome, a feature reminiscent of the German “Pickelhaube” (Pointy Hat). This traditional of wearing a spike is one that appears to originate in the 1840s, and while a helmet with a spike on top is traditionally associated with Prussia and later Germany, the truth is that many nations including the United States, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Chile all were among those that utilized the decorative spike. Continue reading

Some Notes on the Indian Wicker Helmets

This style of the wicker helmet was called the ‘K’ Pattern and is c1896. (Author’s collection)

This style of the wicker helmet was called the ‘K’ Pattern and is c1896. (Author’s collection)

Helmets made of wicker were in use in India from, at least, the 1850s and lasted into the early 20th century with units despatched to the Second Anglo-Boer War from India. These helmets and their cork Colonial equivalents were replaced by the Wolseley pattern in the first years of the 20th century and this was completed by 1910. Continue reading

Mr. Julius Jeffreys F.R.S.: A Victorian Eccentric

These figures are taken from a talk given to the Royal United Services Institute (R.U.S.I.) in 1860 whose subject was ON IMPROVEMENTS IN HELMETS AND OTHER HEADDRESS FOR BRITISH TROOPS IN THE TROPICS, MORE ESPECIALLY IN INDIA. These drawings, of a civilian hat, were selected to illustrate, up front, the impracticality of this eccentric’s proposed implementation of his theories.

Julius Jeffreys, a Victorian doctor, was an HEIC Staff-Surgeon of Cawnpore and Civil Surgeon of Futtehgurh in India during the 1820s and 1830s. He was a prolific author, traveler, inventor and a champion of the welfare of British troops serving in India and the Tropics. However, although his theories were often of great merit the execution of them was sometimes quite impractical to say the least. One has to add to that his inability to express himself in a concise and readable manner, to which this author can attest having ploughed through a good deal of this man’s turgid prose. Continue reading