Tag 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

Shako of the British South Africa Police (BSAP)


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

Winston in Pith Helmets


Winston Churchill in Bangalore, India in 1898. He is wearing a colonial pattern helmet.

Winston Churchill in Bangalore, India in 1898. He is wearing a colonial pattern helmet.

Sir Winston Churchill wore many hats in his life. He was a writer, scholar, soldier, politician, painter and above all English gentleman. Winston as he was often known by friend and foe alike was a Victorian soldier of the Queen, a First World War Lord of the Admiralty and, of course, during the Second World War the Prime Minister.

His most famous hat was his Bowker, but he also sported a Homburg hat as often, and as a soldier wore visor caps and in France in World War I a steel helmet. But of course we remember Mr. Churchill in many a sun helmet! Continue reading

The South African Soldier (Circa 1940) Recreated

SOUTH AFRICA 1940The Union of South Africa’s entry into the Second World War in 1939 caused much controversy among its divided population, and in particular among Afrikaaners. This was in large part due to General Smuts’ defeat of Prime Minister Hertzog’s call for South African neutrality in parliament.

Given the tense climate, Smuts did not introduce conscription to fill the ranks of South Africa’s military, the Union Defence Force, but instead relied on volunteers. The South African Defence Act also prevented this force from serving outside the borders of the Union. To circumvent this limitation, UDF volunteers took an oath to serve anywhere in Africa which entitled them to wear orange/red strips known as ‘red tabs.’ 1,2

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