Category Archives: South Africa

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

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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

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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.

Continue reading

Shako of the British South Africa Police (BSAP)

Shako

An interesting cousin to the South African polo style sun helmet is the shako used by forces of the British South Africa Police (BSAP), which was the paramilitary police force of Rhodesia. It was created as a force of mounted infantrymen in 1889 by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company. It was originally known as the British South Africa Company’s Police and run directly but the company. Continue reading

Guardia Nacional/Fuerzas de Defensa de Panama Sun Helmet

Guardia-Nacional1The tropical climate of Panama is one where sun helmets are truly practical. Thus it is not surprising that the Panamanian Defense Forces did use some American pressed fiber sun helmets prior to, and even during, the December 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama known as Operation Just Cause.

This operation occurred to depose Panamanian leader, general and dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega  – the nation’s Maximum Leader – and to safeguard American lives and interests in Panama. Continue reading