Thursday 17 July 2014 by Dianne Rutherford. 8 comments
Collection, Military Heraldry and Technology, First World War uniforms

This is the third in a series of blogs about First World War uniforms and covers the basic aspects of the Australian Imperial Force headwear during the First World War.

The most distinctive and recognisable article of clothing worn by the Australian soldier was the khaki felt slouch hat. This item of headwear had been worn in Australia for some years before the turn of the century and was also popular elsewhere in the world. A similar hat was worn by the New Zealanders, the Canadians, the US Army, the Ghurkhas, and even the colonial German troops during the First World War, but it is very strongly identified with the Australian Imperial Force.

The slouch hat was first adopted in Australia by Colonel Tom Price in 1885 as the head dress for the Victorian Mounted Rifles, which he commanded. Originally it was worn looped up on the right hand side. The hat was widely worn by Australian troops during the Boer War, and in 1903, after Federation, it was universally adopted for the Australian Commonwealth Army.

First World War slouch hat with wool puggaree and rising Sun badge. First World War slouch hat with wool puggaree and rising Sun badge. REL/03153

During the First World War, the slouch hat was normally worn with a plain wool khaki puggaree (hat band) and the Australian General Service (‘Rising Sun’) badge on the looped up (left) side, and with a leather chin strap. However, some soldiers wore pleated cotton puggarees, some from their pre-war militia service. Many Light Horse units wore emu plumes. This began as a Queensland tradition but spread to most Light Horse units during the war. There were some exceptions, one was the 6th Light Horse Regiment, who wore a wallaby fur puggaree.

 

 

RELAWM17393B Light Horse slouch hat with pleated pugaree and emu plume. The pugaree may have come from a cork helmet. It is not uncommon to see Light Horseman wearing that style of pugaree or pre-war militia pleated pugarees.

 

Reinforcements for the 6th Light Horse Regiment, wearing wallaby fur puggarees. Note that some of the men also have British Service Caps hanging off their greatcoat shoulder straps. Reinforcements for the 6th Light Horse Regiment, wearing wallaby fur puggarees. Note that some of the men also have British Service Caps hanging off their greatcoat shoulder straps. PB0271

 

While some people think Australians only wore the slouch hat, in fact they wore a variety of headwear during the war. Early in the war, the British Service Cap (also called the peaked cap) was issued along with the slouch hat and was worn by large numbers of men and in fact most of the 1st Division landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 was wearing the cap rather than the slouch hat. This hat was found to be inadequate at Gallipoli for coping with the sun, so separate “sun capes” (also called sun flaps, sun protectors, sun shades, neck capes, neck protectors, neck covers, neck curtains or neck shades) were also worn, attached to the cap by studs, hooks and eyes or by other means. Some "Summer peaked caps" were made with a sun cape built in, which could be folded up and secured at the front of the cap when not in use.

AIF Private wearing a British Service Cap c 1915. AIF Private wearing a British Service Cap c 1915. P07391.001

British Service Cap. British Service Cap. REL32938

British Service Cap with leather trim. British Service Cap with leather trim. RELAWM12250.001

British Service Cap with attached sun shade as worn at Gallipoli. British Service Cap with attached sun shade as worn at Gallipoli. RELAWM13577

Loose sun cape used at Gallipoli. Loose sun cape used at Gallipoli. RELAWM13239

REL/15749 Summer peaked cap with inbuilt sun shade.

REL/01090 General Sir John Monash's British Service Cap.

 

Even within the British Service cap there was a degree of variety – most were made of wool, with or without leather trim around the peak but full leather versions also existed, which were worn by despatch riders and motor transport personnel. There were also waterproofed cap covers for despatch riders. Some Australians taken prisoner by the German were issued with uniforms dyed black which had a matching black service cap with a brown band.

Despatch rider's leather British Service Cap. Despatch rider's leather British Service Cap. REL40048

Tan leather British Service Cap. Tan leather British Service Cap. RELAWM05432

Waterproofed cap cover for despatch riders. Waterproofed cap cover for despatch riders. RELAWM13238

Signaller on a despatch bike, wearing a leather British Service Cap. Signaller on a despatch bike, wearing a leather British Service Cap. P10550.021

Black prisoner of war British Service Cap. Black prisoner of war British Service Cap. RELAWM05406.003

Prisoner of war uniform. Prisoner of war uniform. P09591.006

 

Soldiers were issued with a "cap, comforter" (basically a knitted rectangle item with fold down ear flaps). As the war continued they also wore hand knitted beanies and balaclavas made at the home front. These were usually knitted in dull colours, such as khaki, black, and shades of brown and grey.

Portrait of two men wearing "cap, comforters". DA11477

REL/01742 Hand knitted balaklava

 

Three soldiers in winter clothing, one wears a balaclava. Three soldiers in winter clothing, one wears a balaclava. P06950.001

Men in winter clothing. The two men in the foreground are wearing beanies. Men in winter clothing. The two men in the foreground are wearing beanies. E00153

 

Sun helmets (Wolsley pattern cork helmets) were also worn by Australians, particularly in Egypt before the Gallipoli campaign and by many Light Horsemen at Gallipoli.

Sun helmet. Sun helmet. RELAWM09710

Three soldiers in a Light Horse trench at Gallipoli, note that each man is wearing a different type of headwear. Three soldiers in a Light Horse trench at Gallipoli, note that each man is wearing a different type of headwear. PS1684

 

Between 1916 and 1918, on the Western Front, the Australians wore the British issue Brodie pattern steel helmet as head protection while in the trenches.

British Brodie pattern helmet. British Brodie pattern helmet. REL/00985.001

 

Members of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) wore forage caps (side caps) on the ground and soft leather flying helmets in the air.

Member of the AFC wearing a forage cap. Member of the AFC wearing a forage cap. P00824.006

Custom made AFC forage cap. Custom made AFC forage cap. REL/01345

An example of a fur lined leather flying helmet. An example of a fur lined leather flying helmet. REL/01351

 

Comments

Elwyn Crawford

Richly illustrated, most informative thank you very much, look forward to sharing this information

partha mukherjee

great collection for the world." beautiful for your collection"

Tracey

Do any of the above hats contain asbestos? I have a couple of 'British Service hats, a 'brodie'hat and sun helmet. I do not know who they belonged to, but was going to use them for 'costumes' but am concerned about the presence of Asbestos.

Dianne Rutherford says:

Dear Tracey, the only ones we are aware of is that the First World War British "Brodie" style helmets (as worn by Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc) usually have an Asbestos disc in the top interior of the helmet. If you are concerned about this, please check the internet or yellow pages for environmental hazards specialists and they can identify whether your item has Asbestos or not.

Nola Tegel

where tin hats worn at Gallipoli Thank you Nola Tegel Ifor

Dianne Rutherford says:

Hi Nola, no, steel helmets were not worn at Gallipoli. Cheers Dianne

Jim T

The 2nd AIF wore the slouch hat at a very distinct angle and back off the forehead. The classic image of this is the famous photo of newly graduated officers Reg Saunders and Tom Derrick. It seems the entire AIF wore the slouch hat in this manner. Unlike the current TV promo for the Gallipoli centenary which has the slouch back to front

bryce ivey

Were any hats made by the Brisbane hat co for ww1 or ww2 please help

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