I have a large head- sadly its true! This means it is often hard to find original headgear in a size to fit my enlarged bonce and sometime a reproduction is the only way to go. The problem comes when I need an iconic piece of headgear that has not been nicely reproduced as in the case of the iconic British jungle slouch hat. Therefore when an original example came up in a huge 7 3/8” size I grabbed it with both hands!The slouch hat, or ‘hat, fur felt’ to give it its official designation, began to be seen in use from around 1942 onwards. The hat is made of a jungle green coloured compressed wool fur felt, with a tan pugaree wrapped around:Note the two grommets for ventilation. At the front the pugaree has a distinctive ‘v’ shaped dip:The side of the hat is held up by a press stud:This was originally done on parade to allow the rifle to be carried on the slope, it was only after the introduction of coloured divisional patches sewn to the brim that it became common to do this on active service. This hat has a brass Royal Army Service Corps cap badge on the upturned brim:
The inside of the hat has a leather sweatband fixed, but these are often missing:It’s hard to make out, but there is a date stamp for 1943 and the size of 7 3/8”:These hats were very popular as they were comfortable and good protection from both the sun and jungle downpours. The design had been in use in various forms since the mid nineteenth century- the Yeomanry in the Boer War and the Australian Army had both used it extensively. It was as a replacement for the wholly inadequate solar topee that it was to find fame as the headwear of the army in the far east. These hats were not just used in the jungles of the far east however, Major Michael Barton was involved in the Abyssinian campaign in Africa:
Early on I had discarded my ridiculous topee, insisted upon by the War Office before leaving the UK and wore a felt ‘slouch hat’ with a wide brim. It was sometimes clipped up on one side. They were comfortable, gave some protection to face and eyes from the sun and, when occasionally necessary in Africa, were more or less waterproof. They were the regular headgear of the Askaris. However the climatic conditions had changed somewhat and as it looked as if the war up here was beginning to tail away, I wrote home to Bates and requested a cap. It duly arrived.