Category Archives: World War I

The Ottoman Sun Helmet

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Photo: Imperial War Museum

Today the sun helmets and other tropical headgear utilized by the Ottoman Empire before and during World War I remains somewhat of a mystery. One factor that is so few pieces have survived and the photographic evidence suggests that a variety of patterns were used.

Our colleague and friend Dr. Chris Flaherty chronicled the various patterns for these, but now a new photo and some insight from the Imperial War Museum may shed a bit more light on the Ottoman “Sun Helmet.” Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part I – 1887-1921

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1887-1911 Colonial Predecessors of the Army Sun Helmet

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Initially a trademark of the British and French colonial look, the wearing of pith helmets spread worldwide from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. However, despite of this worldwide fad, Japan was slow in coming to see any need for such gear. That was because being a late comer to the game of Imperialism, Japan did not hold any tropical colonies.

But even so, the well-travelled Japanese Navy must have felt obliged to match the colonial style dress code when making port calls at tropical colonies of the European empires. Thus the Imperial Japanese Navy introduced a sun helmet already in 1887, nearly 40 years ahead of the army. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet (1915-1945)

MilitarySunHelmets.com presents a very special article by author Nick Komiya on the development and evolution of the Japanese sun helmet.  We thank Nick for allowing us to republish this detailed study on the Japanese tropical helmets. This was originally published on the War Relics Forum.

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In my past research on helmet covers, I came across quite a few documents discussing sun helmets, as they were often tested together in the same tropical test sessions in Taiwan. So when a recent question popped up about an early model sun helmet, I had a chance to review my files and thought I could have the whole picture of sun helmet development with only a little more digging for missing links. I was actually finishing a new complete history of the IJA’s pay book, but due to the lack of one early sample to study and confirm a couple of details, I had to shelve the project for later completion and was in search of a handy project instead. Continue reading

The New Zealand “Lemon Squeezer”

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Less well-known than the Australian slouch hat, the New Zealand campaign hat – known as the “Lemon Squeezer” – has since World War I been closely linked to the Kiwi soldier. The iconic hat was introduced by William George Malone, an officer in the New Zealand Military Forces, and issued to soldiers serving under his command in the 4th Battalion of the Wellington (Taranaki) Rifle Volunteers. The hat was adopted by Malone’s unit as it was meant to mirror the outline of Mount Taranaki on New Zealand’s north island.

The hat, with its tall peak allowed “run off” in the rain, proved popular with the Wellington Regiment. It was then adopted by the rest of the New Zealand Infantry Division on January 1, 1916 – by which time it had already seen its baptism of fire half way around the world. Continue reading

West Indian Soldiers in the Great War

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Soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment on the Albert to Amiens Road, September 1916

The West India Committee, one of the leading British-Caribbean charities operating in the UK, has strived to recognize the contribution made by Caribbean soldiers to the Allied effort during the First World War. Continue reading

A Helmet of the 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles

Helmet frontThe helmet is attributed to Major James Skitt Matthews, born in 1878 in Wales, and died in 1970 at the age of 92 in Vancouver. James Skitt Matthews was a well known figure around the Vancouver area, and was appointed Vancouver’s first archivist in 1933. He was also a much respected historian of the city and amassed a huge collection of photos relating to Vancouver. In his early life he joined a local militia unit in 1903 and at the outbreak of war in 1914 was transferred to the Regular Army and fought with The Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles throughout 1916 to 1918 during World War One. His tough no nonsense style made him something of a hero to his men in the trenches. Continue reading

Headdress of the Royal West African Frontier Force

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The Royal West African Frontier Force was a multi-battalion field force, which was formed by the British Colonial Office in 1900 to help garrison the West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. It was originally designated the “West African Frontier Force,” and in 1928 received the royal patronage – becoming the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).

On formation it comprised the Gold Coast Regiment, Northern Nigeria Regiment, Southern Nigeria Regiment, the Sierra Leone Battalion and the Gambia Company. The parade uniform of the RWAFF was a distinctive one and consisted of khaki drill shorts with red fezzes, along with scarlet “zouave” style jackets edged in yellow and red cummerbunds. Artillery units wore a blue jacket with yellow braid, while engineers wore red jackets with blue braid. British officers originally wore sun helmets, and later a bush or slouch hat. Continue reading