The ‘boonie’, ‘giggle’ or bush hat has been a staple of operations in the jungle and tropical areas for the last seventy years. It is light, folds up easily and offers protection from sun and rain. Virtually every army in the world who operates in these conditions uses this type of hat in every variety of camouflage and it has spawned thousands of civilian copies. However over seventy years ago during World War Two it was the Indian Army who first created this type of hat and tonight we are looking at an example of this very earliest hat in jungle green. Up to this point the Empire had moved from impractical pith helmets to the pressed felt slouch hats. These were fine to a point, but they lost their shape when drenched and could not easily be stowed in a pocket. Their replacement was much simpler:The hat is made of jungle green cotton and the multiple layers of fabric give it a quality feel (unlike many items of Indian kit). The brim is quilted and circular rows of stitching help the brim to keep its shape; vents in the crown of the hat provide ventilation:While the characteristic loops of this type of cap allow foliage to be threaded through for camouflage:Inside the cap are a number of stamps, including the size ‘M’:
The Indian army acceptance stamp can be made out just above this, it is clearer in the flesh, and I believe it dates the hat to 1945. These hats can be seen in many late war photographs of operations in the Far East, such as this photograph of troops of the 2nd Battalion, Frontier Force Rifles, 26th Indian Division, manning 3 inch mortars at their newly established strongpoint just outside the British held sector of the town of Medan in Sumatra. September 1945 where the officer is clearly wearing an Indian made bush hat:This hat makes an interesting contrast with the 1944 pattern jungle hat we looked at here. Both were made in the same year, but the Indian example is simpler and slightly cruder- as might be expected with the more primitive manufacturing capability in the Indian sub-continent.