As previously noted the conical hat – known as the “nón lá” or leaf hat – was in fact widely used in the Vietnam and neighboring regions throughout the 19th century by farmers and soldiers (including bandits) alike.
What is unique about the Vietnamese nón lá is that it has its own origin, based on a legend to the growing of rice in the region. This tells of a giant woman from the sky who protected humanity from a deluge of rain, and she wore a hat made of four round shaped leaves to protect her from the rain – and that inspired farmers to stitch together their own style of helmet. This has evolved over the centuries and various styles have become common in the different parts of Vietnam. Continue reading →
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 →
Before we launched this website it began with the 2008 book Military Sun Helmets of the World. Our friends at Naval & Military Press in the UK are now offering the last copies of this work – the first of its kind on the subject of tropical sun helmets – for a deep discount.
While the bulk of the fighting in the First World War occurred in Europe, notably on the Western Front, the conflict was truly a “World War” as soldiers fought in distant parts of the globe. One of the more colorful tales involved those of Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who commanded the German colonial forces in German East Africa – today Tanzania.
During this campaign the Germans relied on field-made equipment, and utilized every piece of arms and ordnance at their disposal. Von Lettow-Vorbeck increased the strength of his military force by recruiting German colonists and from the indigenous population, but also by requisitioning a full company of sailors from the SMS Königsberg. It is possible the above helmet was used by one of those sailors.
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 →
New York fielded a number or National Guard and militia units at the tail end of the 19th century, and many of these units fought with distinction in the American Civil War and then with the regular army during the First and Second World Wars.
One such unit was the New York State National Guard, 23rd Infantry Regiment, which was active from 1863 to 1957. It began as the 23rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment before becoming the 106th Infantry Regiment in World War I. As with other National Guard State of New York units, the 23rd Infantry Regiment would have been outfitted in the same basic uniforms and equipment of the regular army. Many of these items were made in New York and New England during the 19th century. Headgear including helmets was a slightly different story. Continue reading →