German East African Sun Helmet

GermanColonialNavySunHelmet

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.

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Staff Officer Bombay Bowler

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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

Summer Dress Helmet of the New York State National Guard, 23rd Infantry Regiment

NGSNY1s

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

The Japanese Bamboo Helmet

JapaneseBambooHelmet

As has been noted the Japanese sun helmet went through several stages of evolution before and notably during World War II. One factor was the ability of manufacturers to acquire the supplies and materials. Helmets that were made of straw and even helmets that were essentially cloth and felt with little in the way of an frame apart from Sanada tape – but one unique and disputed variation is the bamboo helmet. Continue reading

USMC Prototype?

USMC-Prototype1

At the recent Show Of Shows (SOS) in Louisville a fascinating helmet was found – and to say I’ve never seen anything like it would be an understatement. It appears to be a commercial/civilian sun helmet likely from the 1930s. It features a USMC EGA (Eagle/Globe/Anchor) stamp on the front, and the faint remnants of a USMC stamp on the inside rear visor. Continue reading

An Interesting Photo

British Officer GroupClick on the photo for hi-res.

This photograph was sent to me by a fellow contributor that is clearly a mixture of young and old (and rather portly) British “officers.” Interesting to note the “pips” on the soldier seated far right and the brass buttons on most. Also note the variations in the tunics of these British soldiers, and the fact that Sam Browne belt’s do not sport holsters nor sword frogs.

What isn’t so clear is when or where this photograph was taken. Obviously we can narrow it down to the latter decades of the 19th century based on the uniforms, equipment and notably the helmets – the “where” is the other mystery. The terrain appears generally flat without much foliage, but is this South Africa, the Sudan, India or elsewhere?

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An Interesting Goggle Type

‘FOUR WAY’, ‘FOLDING LENS’ or ‘SPLIT LENS’ TYPE

1900s Motoring and Early World War I Flying Goggles, World War II Japanese Type 5 Dust Goggles, WWII Russian Tank Goggles, Chinese Tank Goggles, RAF Split Lens &etc.

Figure 1, Pre WWI United States Air Corps pilot wearing folding lens goggles

Figure 1, Pre WWI United States Air Corps pilot wearing folding lens goggles

This goggle type has its roots in France, with most references relating them to ‘early French types’. The earliest advertisement sighted for this kind is dated 1904. They may have been a development of the 19th century ‘Railway Spectacle’ with protective glass side panels (Fig. 3). They could be folded into a very compact shape and allowed good peripheral vision. Continue reading