Heritage100

Royal Navy Officer’s Pith Helmet

Pith helmet in tin

A pith helmet made for an officer in the Royal Navy..., which has never seen service or even been worn

A pith helmet made for an officer in the Royal Navy in the Second World War, complete with tin carry-case, which has never seen service or even been worn.

It was designed and produced by the famous Gieves & Co. tailors, now Gieves and Hawkes.

The pith helmet was a popular design for both soldiers and civilians living and working in the tropical parts of the British Empire, and is still an iconic piece of uniform today as well as being instantly recognisable around the world.

The military division (Navy) is indicated by the black band underneath the decorative wrapping (known as the puggaree); an Army officer’s would have been red. Sadly, in this case, the officer’s name has been lost to history, although one can still see the remnants of the label on the tin case. Many cases with pith helmets have names labelled or painted on.

Quick Facts

  • Made in London
  • Made by Gieves & Co.
  • Date made 1939-1945
  • Made of tin (case), cotton, silk, leather, paper, and other metals.
  • Made for the Royal Navy

Facts

  • Pith helmets, which have their origins as far back as the 1840s, are still in use by both civilians and various military organisations around the world today. They were favoured by such iconic figures as Lawrence of Arabia, but the British Army formally abolished the ‘tropical helmet’ for active use in 1948. However they are still used by the Royal Marines as formal dress.
  • The early versions of pith helmets were made of cloth covering a structure of cork or pith, hence the name, but by the Second World War this practice had ended and only the style remained.

Did you know?

Gieves and Hawkes is one of the oldest, continuous, British bespoke tailors - Hawkes Ltd having been founded in 1771 - and still have their establishment at No.1 Saville Row in London.

Gallery

Pith helmet top view
Lawrence of Arabia pith helmet

Things to Do

Come to Fort Brockhurst and try on contemporary military headgear and uniform.

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