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Brian Wolfe

British Police Headgear (***MODERATORS' RECOMMENDED)

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Thanks Ian. The red silk also indicates an officer's version. With a different helmet plate it would be an army helmet. A very nice piece of headgear.

In Mervyn's book the Glamorgan helmet is also of the army style.

Stuart

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My quick thoughts on the matter are this... uniforms of the mid-19th century were evolving. The Russians were actually the first to introduce a spiked helmet (Pickelhaube), and the Prussians (more accurately than Germans) adopted a similar helmet. The Russian helmet was in fact inspired by the Tatar helmets of the 13th and 14th century. As Stuart and I have also noted the air tube helmets originated in India, and those appear to have been based on the cavalary helmets used in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars.

I like to think that the spiked helmets, which were used by dozens of nations in Europe, South America, even by the United States, were not so much everyone copying the Prussians/Germans as much as a shift away from one fashionable type of headgear, the shako, to something different. Much has been made that all these nations were so impressed by the Prussians victories against Denmark, Austria and France that nations wanted to adopt a similar look. I really don't believe it is as simple as that.

One thing I see is that by the 1860s, when the spiked helmets were being introduced, is that the last of the Napoleonic Wars officers were old men or dead. The military planners in the 1860s were either very young men or missed the last great series of wars. Thus of course they wanted to leave their own mark. Likewise, the police likely wanted to keep in line with military fashion.

The colonial pattern sun helmet was being used by the guardians of the British Empire, so why wouldn't the police at home use a similar helmet, one that matched their dark uniforms. This was industrial era Great Britain where the air was full of soot and dirt, and so a black uniform would be far more ideal than a white uniform or helmet.

That's what I have to add. But I just think too much is made that the German pickelhaube inspired every other spiked helmet.

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A Cheshire Police Shako. I think that Cheshire were the last force in England to wear the shako. They were worn up 1935 when one of Sir Jack Beck's first acts was to abolish them. Ian

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Ian,

what is the construction of the shako? It would appear to be Melton cloth to the exterior, or is it felt, but what is the shell made of. I wonder just how waterproof these shakos were or if they had a foul weather covers as the army did.

Stuart

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To add to Stuart's post (#11) here are two drawings based on actual photographs showing the tube vent helmet. These are from the Osprey, Elite series, #71, "Queen Victoria's Commanders.

The first, in the red tunic, is Lieutenant Robert Rogers, HM 44th Regiment; China 1860.

The second, in the blue tunic is, Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell, GCB, The Indian Mutiny, 1857-58.

Regards

Brian

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To add to Stuart's post (#11) here are two drawings based on actual photographs showing the tube vent helmet. These are from the Osprey, Elite series, #71, "Queen Victoria's Commanders.

Good illustration of the air tube helmet. I've seen two of these personally that are in the collection of colleague in London. The illustrations suggest these are much more like the later foreign service helmet than they actually are however.

I tend to think these were inspired by the cavalry helmets of the era, and as I mentioned the spikes just appeared as a style change. Maybe everyone saw the point at the same time! :whistle:

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Good illustration of the air tube helmet. I've seen two of these personally that are in the collection of colleague in London. The illustrations suggest these are much more like the later foreign service helmet than they actually are however.

I tend to think these were inspired by the cavalry helmets of the era, and as I mentioned the spikes just appeared as a style change. Maybe everyone saw the point at the same time! :whistle:

Ouch, good pun Peter.

Regards

Brian

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I seem to recall reading that the style of helmet and furniture adopted by each force was frequently influenced by the military pedigree of the Chief Constable of the time. Former infantry officers went for spikes; artillery types for ball tops and so on.

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Nick - I would certainly agree with that observation. Some of the early Chief Constables thought they had been given their own private armies.

The County of Worcester in the 1870's were actually changed to a green uniform by their ex-army man. The famous incident was the Chief Constable -

who applied to the Home Office for a detachment of field artillery - this was to shell rioters. The Home Office finally took control - which is why there are only three approved styles of helmets.

I have shown this helmet before - I believe it to be the Chief Constable of Birmingham in the 1880's - the helmet plate is solid silver. However, as Stuart has pointed out - just look at the similarity to Line Officers' blue helmets. (I think the chain has been replaced - it would have been silver)

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Nick,

that straw helmet must be vary rare indeed. What date do you put on it?

BTW: I have the only two straw Wolseleys known to still exist and dated 1917.

Stuart

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The straw helmets were worn in the post Great War era until the early 1930s. They were abandoned because the Home Office wanted less variation in uniform style between the forces.

Luton was unique in that it had a borough force until 1947 when it was merged with Bedfordshire Constabulary. In 1964 Luton became a County Borough and was so entitled to have its own force again. It was reformed on January 1st 1964 but in July of that year the Home Secretary used his powers to dissolve the force on the grounds of "efficiency". The County Borough Council appealed through the courts but to no avail as the new Police Act sealed the force's fate.

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Hello Nick,

I've only seen a photo of one of these before and that was in Mervyn's book. Thanks for posting such a rare item here on the forum.

Regards

Brian

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Here is a helmet from the former Newcastle-Upon-Tyne force - the side roses are missing. The city's force was unique amongst English forces in abandoning the "tit" helmet in the early 1960s and switching to a very Scottish style of cap.

Edited by NickLangley

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Here is the Newcastle SD cap. Perhaps the force thought that the Sillitoe Tartan might be too Scottish and adopted an alternative band design instead.

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Nick,

Was that white traffic helmet for real or an April Fools?

I can imagine the poor probationer being forced to wear it!

I remember an old advertising poster at Hendon in the bar advertising the straw helmet. I thought it was just a name I never would have guessed it was actually made of the stuff.

The Luton helmet looks like something a ploughman would have worn in Somerset. Incredible stuff.

Does the Northumbria Force have the tit back or have they gone the way of so many Forces and adopted the flat cap. I hope not a real gripe with me is the wearing of a flat cap. Its not more comfortable and they both get knocked off in a tumble....ahem time to step of the soap box.

Craig

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Nick,

Was that white traffic helmet for real or an April Fools?

I can imagine the poor probationer being forced to wear it!

I remember an old advertising poster at Hendon in the bar advertising the straw helmet. I thought it was just a name I never would have guessed it was actually made of the stuff.

The Luton helmet looks like something a ploughman would have worn in Somerset. Incredible stuff.

Does the Northumbria Force have the tit back or have they gone the way of so many Forces and adopted the flat cap. I hope not a real gripe with me is the wearing of a flat cap. Its not more comfortable and they both get knocked off in a tumble....ahem time to step of the soap box.

Craig

The traffic helmet was definitely for real. Other forces tried jackets with flashing lights on them.

As for the straw helmet it was a victim of the Home Office's desire for standardisation. Many, many US agencies wear basket weave hats in hot weather to this day. Northumbria Police adpted the comb style helmet which looks particularly inappropriate with the modern police fashion of very cheap wicking t-shirts and cargo pants that leaves most UK forces, in the inimitable words of Terry-Thomas, looking like an "absolute shower".

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