The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures: From Omdurman to El Alamein Book Review

If anything captures the essence of the final decades of Empire it is the Wolseley Helmet; this iconic headdress being worn by soldiers, sailors and airmen of the British Empire in tropical outposts throughout the first half of the twentieth century. At first glance these helmets are much of a muchness, but closer inspection reveals a myriad of different variations in the hats themselves and even more variety in the pugarees and badges worn on them. As with so much of British Imperial history, the Wolseley Helmet slipped into obscurity for decades, this book is the first published work on the subject and is likely to remain the ‘bible’ for collectors for many years to come.Wolseley200Stuart Bates and Peter Suciu’s book, The Wolseley Helmet in Pictures: From Omdurman to El Alamein’, is a lavishly produced book on this most obscure of subjects. It combines a mixture of period photographs with detailed images of surviving examples from private and museum collections:untitledaThe photograph reproduction is superb and one photograph in particular, a mule dressed in boots, Wolseley Helmet and 08 webbing, is almost worth buying the book for on its own! The original photographs are a nice mixture of on campaign photographs that show the helmets in use and studio photographs that allow them to be seen in greater detail:untitledbWhilst the photographs are superb and make up the majority of the book they do not stand in isolation, a well researched text accompanies them setting out the evolution of the headdress, variations in manufacture, obscure experimental types and the helmet in Australian, Canadian and foreign use. It is however the sheer breadth of examples that makes this book so special, with numerous regimental variations, officers and other ranks and even photographs of the only two known survivors of WW1 economy Wolseley Helemets made from straw.

The focus of the book is the army, the RAF and Royal Navy only have a single example for each service, however as the helmets used by them were basically only of a single type, this is not a problem. Alongside pictures of the helmet, other illustrations show some of the range of side flashes and badges:untitledcThis book is a nice companion piece for the authors’ other work on Military Sun Helmets of the World, this book covers the British Woslely Helmet, the other takes a broader worldwide look at all military sun helmets in a myriad of designs and is more generalist. Sadly this book, published n 2009, seems to be hard to get hold of now; I tracked my copy down to the Gloucester Regiment Museum’s online shop which seems to be the only stockist this side of the Atlantic. As with many high quality militaria books this is not a pocket money purchase but I felt £29.99 was a good price for a limited run book that covers such an interesting and obscure area of collecting. If you have an interest in the uniforms and headdress of the British Army I cannot recommend this book highly enough, but I would imagine stock is now very limited so it would not be wise to hang around!

The book is available here.

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