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 →
A pith helmet in the capital of the British Empire might not seem that odd at all. A helmet made of pith with a London maker/retailer stamp does seem a bit more odd – especially when one considers that the majority of helmets produced in Great Britain were in fact made of cork. As we’ve noted cork and pith are two distinct materials, and English hatters opted for cork, which came from nearby Portugal; while we have found that Indian hatters worked with sola pith, which was more common in the subcontinent.
There are no doubt countless exceptions to the rule, and both Roland Gruschka and I have discovered Wolseley helmets that seem to have been made in India. This is interesting as the Wolseley was a helmet largely produced in cork. Shortages of the material in World War I resulted in helmets with straw bodies as noted by two examples in my colleague Stuart Bates’ collection, and during World War II shortages of cork resulted in helmets being produced out of pressed felt. Continue reading →
One great irony of the era of imperialism and European colonial empires is that the French reached their colonial zenith as a republic. In fact an overseas empire was seen as a way of restoring the prestige of France following the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. As we’ve noted in past articles the French utilized their own style of “colonial” pattern helmet. Continue reading →
For years there has been an argument over the so-called “Polo” style helmet that was captured by German forces and used in the early stages of the campaign in North Africa. This writer actually tried to debunk that these were captured “Dutch” helmets, after a number of sources over the years suggested otherwise.
My argument had been that the Dutch had no African colonies so how could the German military have captured helmets intended for the Dutch Army? Continue reading →
A Palestine Police sun helmet and kalpak (Collection of the Author)
Following the First World War the British found themselves with new territory carved out of the Ottoman Empire, which included Mandatory Palestine. To help administer this new “mandate” the British formed the Palestine Police Force. It was established on the First of July, 1920 by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel’s civil administration which took over responsibly in Mandatory Palestine from General Allenby’s Occupied Enemy Territory Administration . Continue reading →
In May 1940 the German Army invaded France and six weeks later Paris fell. An armistice was signed between France and Germany, but Charles de Gaulle quickly formed a government-in-exile and created the Free French Forces.
One of the principal units raised was the 1st Free French Division, which was first organized under British sponsorship as the 1st Free French Light Division in May 1941 near Tel Aviv. This unit was issued British equipment including sun helmets – and it engaged Vichy authorities in the Levant (modern day Lebanon and Syria). Units of the division continued to serve with Allied Forces and fought at Bir Hakeim and El Alamein. Continue reading →
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.