Officer's colonial pattern helmet : Lieutenant A E Bilton, Victorian Military Forces

Place Oceania: Australia, Victoria, Charlton
Accession Number REL/18984.003
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Helmet
Physical description Buff leather, Cork, Cotton drill, Gilded brass, Leather, Silk
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made c 1893 - 1901
Conflict Australian Colonial Forces, 1854-1900

Cork helmet, colonial pattern, covered in white buff leather sewn in six sections with white leather trim around edge of brim. The helmet badge is of the type worn by officers of the Victorian Military Forces from 1893-1901. The badge is made in two parts. An eight-pointed star in white metal forms the background of the badge. Over this lies a gilt brass laurel wreath surmounted by Queen Victoria crown. At the centre is a square cross with five stars which represent the Southern Cross with a voided surround encircled by the words ‘PRO DEO ET PATRIA VICTORIA’ (FOR GOD AND COUNTRY). The spike is made of gilt brass with an acanthus leaf pattern base. The puggaree is made of white plain weave silk fabric and has seven folds. The chin strap is made of gilt curb-link brass chain hand-stitched to white coloured leather. There are brass hooks on each side for attaching the chin strap. The fabric lining the interior crown of the helmet is a natural cotton drill while the interior of the brim is a dark green twill wool fabric. The hat band inside the helmet is made of a cream leather machine stitched to a red silk plain weave fabric. Red drawstrings provide adjustment to the hat band. ‘BEST LONDON MANUFACTURE’ is stamped in gold lettering around the brass collet on the inside of the helmet. An original paper label adhered to the hat band states the size as ‘6 5/8’. The helmet also has a fabric cover made of a khaki drill cotton. The cover's puggaree is made of a plain weave cotton khaki fabric and has seven folds. Instead of being made from one long length of fabric and folded as a puggaree normally is, it has been made of two separate pieces of fabric which have been folded and stitched into the centre front and back seams of the cover. The puggaree has then been top-stitched to the cover along the vertical seam lines. A handstitched casing has a drawstring for tightening the cover over the helmet. A hole has been left in the crown so it can fit over the collet. A helmet button covered in the same drill fabric has a brass threaded rod which screws into and covers the collet.

History / Summary

Approval was given on 6 January 1888 for the formation of the Victorian Rifle Volunteers. Members were predominantly drawn from rifle clubs in various country districts. On 5 March 1889 the name of these units was changed to Victorian Rangers. Members of the Rangers were provided with rifle, bayonet, waistbelt and other leather accessories but had to provide their own uniform made to the authorised pattern. Lieutenant Alfred Elgin Bilton was born around 1856. He died at the age of 84 in 1940. He was by profession a chemist and lived in Watson Street, Charlton, Victoria. On 15 October 1891 he was appointed a Lieutenant on probation in the Victorian Rangers and confirmed on 15 April 1892. He was placed on the Retired List in 1901. Bilton was likely to have been a member of F Company formed on 8 July 1889, drawn from men in Charlton, Inglewood and Wedderburn. While associated with other material worn by Lieutenant A E Bilton of the Victorian Rangers, white helmets were not worn by Victorian Rangers as part of their uniform. Until April 1894, Rangers wore brown felt hats looped up on the right hand side held in place by a lion's head brass badge, the puggaree being a three-fold pleat of khaki fabric. From 1894 Rangers wore khaki cloth helmets. White helmets with gilt spikes were worn by Headquarters staff including military clerks, medical and militia ambulance corps and by Garrison Sergeant Majors. The motto on the helmet badge dates it to 1893 or later.