Category Archives: Polo Helmet

A British-Made Cork Polo Helmet?

The origin and the evolution of the study of some patterns of sun/pith helmets will likely never be fully understood – and there remains much confusion regarding the “polo” style tropical helmets used by the South African military prior to and during World War II. As we’ve previously noted these helmets replaced the British-made Wolseley pattern helmet. Polo style helmets had been field tested during the Ipumba uprising of 1932. By 1935 these were widely in use and replaced the Wolseley.

Research suggests these were made of cork in South Africa and the Netherlands before the war, and gradually replaced by pressed felt helmets made in the UK in 1941-42, as well as pressed fiber helmets made in Canada. But one helmet that was recently acquired seems to be unique in that it appears to be a hybrid British-made/South African example made of cork construction rather than felt but lacking the ubiquitous ventilator cap found on all other South African produced helmets. Continue reading

The Dutch-South African Helmet Connection


South African Artillery in North Africa c1942

For years there has been an argument over the so-called “Polo” style helmet that was captured by German forces and used in the early stages of the campaign in North Africa. This writer actually tried to debunk that these were captured “Dutch” helmets, after a number of sources over the years suggested otherwise.

My argument had been that the Dutch had no African colonies so how could the German military have captured helmets intended for the Dutch Army? Continue reading

The Canadian Pressed Fiber Helmet of World War II


A Canadian World War II era pressed fiber helmet. While it was against regulations many regiments issued these helmets with cap badges. This example features a 21st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Corps cap badge. (Collection of the Author)

While little has been written about the American pressed fiber sun helmet, even less has been written about the versions used by Canada. According to our friend and colleague Clive Law the Canadian Army acquired the “fibre” helmets prior to the outbreak of the Second World War for summer training as a substitute for the more expensive and fragile Wolseley helmet.

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The Fly Girls of the British Empire

Sometimes, research leads to unexpected results. This was the case while trying to find some more photographic evidence for the use of the “Helmet, Cork, Aviation”. Peter Suciu has already written about the two different types of this interwar period Royal Air Force equipment (here) but obviously the helmet was not only used by His Majesty´s Forces but was also popular with civilian users.

Even a book on a civil expedition can be a source for military pith helmets. (Author´s collection)

Even a book on a civil expedition can be a source for military pith helmets. (Author´s collection)

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The South African Soldier (Circa 1940) Recreated

SOUTH AFRICA 1940The Union of South Africa’s entry into the Second World War in 1939 caused much controversy among its divided population, and in particular among Afrikaaners. This was in large part due to General Smuts’ defeat of Prime Minister Hertzog’s call for South African neutrality in parliament.

Given the tense climate, Smuts did not introduce conscription to fill the ranks of South Africa’s military, the Union Defence Force, but instead relied on volunteers. The South African Defence Act also prevented this force from serving outside the borders of the Union. To circumvent this limitation, UDF volunteers took an oath to serve anywhere in Africa which entitled them to wear orange/red strips known as ‘red tabs.’ 1,2

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Pith Helmet with Radiator Grill

Extravagant shape & technical innovation: Barnard´s Patent from 1899. (Author´s collection)

In 1899, London hat maker Walter Barnard of Jermyn Street, St. James’s, patented a fashionable helmet with a metal grill between sweatband and hat to allow ventilation. Here is an example of this helmet and later a variation whose ventilation strip was produced in rubber. Continue reading

The Helmet, Cork, Aviation (22C/13) – Type A Flying Helmet

The Type "A" Flying Helmet (Author's Collection)

The Type “A” Flying Helmet (Author’s Collection)

A lesser known, but still very rare helmet is the inter-war used British Flying Helmet known as the “Helmet, Cork, Aviation (22C/13),” or more popularly known as the Type “A” Flying Helmet. The “helmet, cork, aviation” was introduced in the early 1920s and reportedly issued only to aircrews based east of Malta. Continue reading