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1879 Pith Helmet
tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Hi there,
I'm interested in talking to more knowledgeable people about the shape of a British pith helmet as used in the Zulu war. Now I realize that this topic has probably been done to death, and that the helmet was varied and diverse depending on the manufacturer, but if anyone is interested I'd like make a fresh start. First off it would be great if anyone has a photo of a Zulu War Pith helmet from a museum. Even better would be anyone who actually owns one and has taken photos.
I'm based in Australia so my access to information is fairly limited here. I will post some photos of Pith Helmets held at the Australian War memorial, but my best guess is they are Boer War period.
Finally I'd also like to hear recommendations as to who sells the most accurate Pith Helmet currently. There are many helmets on Ebay but few are the right shape.
It would be great to create a resource with this information available, and I've only seen old posts with a lot of generic information.

Hope to hear from the experts soon.

Tony
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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I don't answer for all of the regulars on this site and perhaps not even for the majority of them, only as just another colonial like yourself who wouldn't mind learning more than he already knows. That having been said, I don't believe that any topic has been "done to death" and it's a MOST excellent thing when a "noob" joins an old thread and even more excellent when he/she starts a new one.

1: No synthetics obviously
2: No "one size fits all" Adjustments in the headband are right out.
3: When viewed from behind, the sides are notably flat without any flair about the rim.
4: Six panels! Four panels are common in the contemporary American pith helmet, but are very, very rare in the British version. I recall some did exist however, but don't expect to be able to afford one of them as they're VERY collectible.
5: Squared off back.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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[img][/img]

Boer War Helmet, Australian War Memorial. Apologies for the quality but the lighting in the Victorian section is rather poor.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Adelaide Lancers Helmet. I can't confirm it but I imagine this helmet would be fairly close to the ones used by the 17th Lancers. The 2nd Helmet is NSW Artillery. The 3rd is unknown but again from the Victorian period. All are from the Australian War Memorial.[img][/img][img][/img]
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Fascinating photos. Oz appears to have some nice items in their museums! Not to state the obvious, but the first image clearly shows the flaring about the rim that suggests a late Victorian foreign service helmet Notice also that the brim in the front comes to rather more of a point than those on the other three helmets and the pagree of course. Of the set of three helmets, I'd suggest that the first is a pretty stereotypical mid-Victorian shape, the second actually has the shape of a typical home service helmet rather more than that of a foreign service helmet, and the third? Well, if that isn't an American helmet than it's shape certainly suggests that its pattern was influenced by the same. That's an evocative piece and I wouldn't mind having at least ten minutes alone with it in a dark room. Frankly, I don't think that belongs to the Commonwealth at all, but who am I to argue with a museum.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Excellent points and obviously the right people to talk to. I would love to see a photo of an original Zulu War British Pith Helmet, as I can only show what I've found in Australia...And I know they are not comparable to the actual piece. I've also been going through old posts and looking at sites on what is now available to buy as a replica Zulu War Helmet, and I may need help finding other alternative sites. Sadly the best site was Thin Red Line, which no longer sells the helmets. These are the sites I've found so far and are still current:
http://www.villagehatshop.com/british_foreign_service_zulu_war.html
http://www.buycostumes.com/British-Pith-Helmet/34259/ProductDetail.aspx
http://www.tagsafari.com/item/h-013-1387_cavalry+pith+helmet_hats#
http://www.hatsandcaps.co.uk/Pith-Helmets-C_pith_helmets/
http://www.ecamo.co.uk/surplus-military-clothing/24th-regiment-British-pith-helmet.html
http://www.ima-usa.com/British-Victorian-colonial-pith-helmet-white-m-1871.html
http://www.thehistorybunker.co.uk/acatalog/_British_Army_Victorian_Era_19th_century_headgear_and_helmet_plates.html

Not feeling they are an accurate representation, any suggestions?

Cheers
Tony
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peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 863
Location: UK
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I know nothing about headgear so it's always nice to see examples. Thanks for sharing.

Peter
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1326
Location: Wales
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The History Bunker seems to be a great site.

Do the Diehards have the correct style helmets and if so where did they get theirs (The Thin Red Line?)?


The Diehards

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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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We get them made from Charles Owen & Co of Wrexham, cost is around 130. They are flexible, and have the correct rounded peak. Its a case then of getting the tea bags out and staining.

I do not know if they are available in singles as we order a large quantity to order.

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Neil
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Thanks for that. That is great information to know as I'm sure the Diehards wouldn't accept anything less than accurate. Judging by the first reply these helmets fit the description. Unfortunately most of the pics on the internet show currently "for Sale" pith helmets, and so far I haven't found a museum pic of the actual items.

As a side note I thought I should start my collection of pith helmets recently and have now bought two on ebay. They weren't the right shape for AZW but the second one was a Vietnam made khaki pith. It was quite cheap but the wrong shape, so I thought I'd give it a go and risk a shape change. I was willing to have a disaster the first time, but with a too wide, flared shape I had nothing to lose. I soaked the whole helmet in hot water for an hour and then effectively squashed the shape with a splint of rubber bands. The helmet coped with the compression on the sides and actually looks much better. There wasn't any noticeable damage to the helmet and the only thing that detached was the sticker saying "Made in Vietnam". I will post pictures, not that they are that incredible.

Still watching the net for the next pith. One came up on ebay recently purporting to be an original Zulu War pith but I stopped bidding when it reached $800aus. I'm determined to own a correct shape pith one day.

Tony
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Those are nice! Notice in particular the somewhat "blunt" look to the front and the flat sides? And clearly in view are the squared off backs that early on fell out of favor in the evolution of the "foreign service helmet". I went through the links you posted, line by line, but I'm afraid the results were something like: "No, too much rim; No, to pointed in the front"; Yadda. yadda. These helmets (thanks again, Neil) work for me and the price isn't too far out of line if you've got to have one quickly. On the other hand, like proper assegai, a few of the real deal helmets are still sleeping out there and might be had for short money.

A couple of caveats:
1) Officer grade foreign service helmets are quite a bit more variable than those of OR's and might exhibit some exaggerations of the basic shape. They could have, for example, more "kip" (angle of the profile lines of the front and back) or more width in the back. Further, they may even be covered in a much finer weave of linen or perhaps even doeskin (leather) rather than the coarse canvas of the regular issue helmets.
2) The Foreign Service Helmet is not simply a white version of the Home Service Helmet! They each have a distinctive shape and neither would be mistaken for the other in a black and white photograph.

Good hunting! There is an online site that sells the real items, but the seller knows his stuff and asks their value. I'll track it down and post it for your enlightenment, but if you're looking to actually buy, then you had best have a deep pocket.

The good news is that in OZ, you've got an inside track on the bargains. Purchasing from the UK is prohibitively expensive since they all have already learned what they're selling.

And watch Canada as well as there are some good deals still coming out of that particular frontier colony. Do you "Ebay:ca"? Sometimes sellers only post a listing on that site but not on the US Ebay site. That can translate into better bargains for you.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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[img][/img]

This is the cheap Vietnam made Pith. The helmet was quite wide and by pulling in the sides I also managed to reduce the flare, but obviously not enough. The puggaree should be replaced, but unfortunately I don't have a source of alternate ones. I removed the dodgy chin strap and may have a second go at changing the shape.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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This is actually the first one I bought on ebay. It's not pith and the interior has Tattoo written on it. It has a Kings Own Malta Regiment badge. This shape is even more extreme than the other one and unfortunately the front is cracked which you can see in the three quarter shot. I had to replace the strap around the helmet and at present it has a temporary one. The search for the perfect pith continues.
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tonyjen1


Joined: 27 Mar 2011
Posts: 19
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Neil Aspinshaw wrote:
We get them made from Charles Owen & Co of Wrexham, cost is around 130. They are flexible, and have the correct rounded peak. Its a case then of getting the tea bags out and staining.

I do not know if they are available in singles as we order a large quantity to order.


Contacted Charles Owen & Co and asked them about whether they still sell and manufacture the helmets. This is part of their prompt and courteous reply:

We do still manufacture the helmets that you require, and there is a minimum order quantity of 50 helmets.
If you require a smaller quantity than 50 helmets, it is possible for us to add them to an order for another customer, although we do not currently have any orders being processed. This would make it difficult for us to give you a delivery time if it is for a small quantity, and for larger quantities the delivery time is 4-6 months.


They replied within a day of my enquiry. They also asked for a picture of the helmet or a physical example to work from.

So not necessarily the easiest path to procuring a helmet, but it is possible. We just have to find out if the Diehards are considering an order or if someone (or many )is about to make an order. Does RDVC have 50 members that want a helmet? (or alternately is there someone with an extra helmet out there they'd like to sell).

Will put up some scans of Zulu War helmets to give an idea of the variety. These will be from photos of the period. I think the Diehards have nailed the authentic look though.

T
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The Lt.


Joined: 04 Sep 2005
Posts: 634
Location: Kittery, Maine USA
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Thought this would also shed some light............The Lt.

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1879 Pith Helmet
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