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 →
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?
Wolseley helmets made of sola pith are indeed rare things. One was described on this website and Chis Mills has shown one in his book*. My reason for presenting a third one now is that it offers some more and different detail, which might give some clues to the circumstances and time of its manufacturing and indeed, proof of its use as a military helmet.
The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) charging at Lucknow.
During the Indian Mutiny both Full Dress and Undress headgear was worn. Cavalry, as shown above, initially adopted a turban wound around the base of the metal helmets but how effective this was is debatable. Infantry soon adopted the Havelock cover, named after its creator Major General Henry Havelock, which covered both the cap/shako and included a neck curtain. Cavalry soon adopted a full quilted cover. Continue reading →
The turban, the traditional headdress of India, is often an object of confusion. As previously noted in our study of the Arabian headdress known as the keffiyeh, the two are often confused. And while they may have a shared origin, and both are made from cloth these two are very distinct. Continue reading →
The Waziristan Campaign (1936-1939) was a series of operations by a combined British and Indian force intended to restore Imperial Prestige in the Waziristan region of the Northwest Frontier of British India. Early reverses of the British by tribal Lashkars caused widespread insurrection among Wazirs, Mahsuds, Bhittanis, and Afghans under the leadership of the mysterious Fakir of Ipi. At the height of the campaign, 60,000 imperial troops were garrisoned on the frontier in towns like Razmak, Bannu and Wana. Continue reading →
William Stephen Raikes Hodson, founder of Hodson’s Horse, wearing a crested Ellwood’s helmet c1850s.
Ellwood and Sons were among the first, if not the first, English helmet manufacturers to supply the Indian trade and specialized in felt headgear for officers of the Honourable East India Company’s army and later the British Army in India. Their helmets were in use in India during the 1840s but with the advent of cork helmets, especially those of Hawkes & Co., declined in use from the late 1860s onwards. Continue reading →