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The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) headwear 1914-1918

This is thethird 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.

Sours: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/australian-imperial-force-aif-headwear-1914-1918
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CEF Cloth Headgear
Other Ranks Service Dress Cap

When the British Other Ranks five-button Service Dress (SD) jacket was introduced in 1902, it was not accompanied by a matching cap. By 1905 the need was identified and a cap was introduced for wear with the SD jacket. The cap was made from the same wool as the five-button SD jacket and constructed very similar to the colored forage caps worn up to that time, but was made of the same drab wool as the SD jacket including the front visor. The Model 1905 SD cap was never intended to be a universally issued piece of clothing, as the highland and Guard units were to retain their own traditional forms of headdress.
The cap was manufactured with a very stiff flat top and rather small and somewhat pointed front peak which was covered in the same drab wool as the top and sides. The underside of the visor was not covered in wool revealing the green lacquered cardboard. Originally the top laid very flat (almost horizontal) but by 1912 the front had been raised by way of a small stiffener to give a smarter appearance. A narrow brown leather chinstrap with brass sliders was fitted to the side and retained with brass buttons. The original intent was completely functional, as the strap was designed to retain the cap on the wearers head in battle or in inclement weather.
Canadian Other Ranks Service Dress Cap

The Canadians manufactured Model 1905 SD cap was in most respects identical to the British version. In retrospect, it is hard to comprehend that British and Canadian troops wore this cap in battle on the Western front until the introduction of the steel helmet in 1915 -16. This example was worn by a member of the 31st Infantry Battalion from Calgary Alberta.

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For ventilation, two pairs of brass grommets were located on the underside of the top along the sides. The liner was typically black cloth with a brown or black leather sweatband. One of the first alterations made during the war was the removal of the spring stiffener from the inside of the cap. This was almost certainly an unofficial modification at the beginning, but was officially sanctioned in June of 1915. While other forms of headdress were issued through and even after the war, the SD cap with few modifications survived well into the 1960s.

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British Winter Forage Cap, the "Gor Blimey"

When Commonwealth troops found themselves locked in trench warfare in the first winter of 1914, the SD cap was proven to be inadequate. Although troops were issued with a balaclava it could not be worn under the SD cap. The answer to this need was the rapid introduction of the "Cap, winter, Service Dress' known as the "Gor Blimey". The cap was never intended to be worn in the UK and only authorized for wear by troops on active service. The "Gor Blimey" appears to have been disliked by the Command Structure for its lack of military appearance, but liked by the troops for its relaxed look and functionality.
The Winter forage cap was made from the same drab wool as the SD cap but did not have rigid stiffening to the top, body, or visor. It was heavily padded and lined with quilted shirt material. It had an external neck flap that when not in use folded up onto the top of the cap and secured with a cloth slider. For this reason, there was no leather chinstrap.

It appears that in May of 1916 when the Helmet Steel Mark 1 became individual issue, the winter forage cap was withdrawn from service although it was not completely withdrawn until 1917. As helmets would now be worn at all times in the front lines, and allowed the wearing of a balaclava underneath, the need for a front-line winter cap was redundant. Although never manufactured in Canada, it was popular with Canadian troops. This press photo shows a Canadian being decorated wearing the "Gor Blimey".
Model 1916 Soft Cap

The approval of a Service Dress soft cap that could be folded and carried in a pack to replace the stiff SD cap was approved in March of 1916. Unlike the winter forage cap which was generally banned for wear outside of the front lines, the Model 1916 soft cap had more of a military appearance and could be worn in rear areas as well as the UK. The Model 1916 SD soft cap is known by several names, including the common collector term "Trench Cap" although the official designation of the cap remained "Service Dress Cap", the same designation as the stiff Model 1905 SD cap. The term "soft" only appears in the occasional supply documentation, and may not have been official. The issue of the SD soft cap seems to have been coordinated to coincide with the introduction of the "Helmet, Steel, Mark 1" in May of 1916 as individual issue and the withdrawal of the British winter forage cap. The stiff Model 1905 SD cap still remained on issue, but was no longer intended to be worn on active service in France.
The SD soft cap was made of the same drab wool as the stiff Model 1905 SD cap and fitted with a brown leather chinstrap secured by brass buttons, although black leather chinstraps are occasionally encountered. The primary difference, was the complete absence of an stiffener in the cap band, top, or visor. The front visor was now made completely of cloth with visible rows of reinforcement stitching. The stitching was also placed around the circumference of the cap band for strength. This example was worn by a Lance Corporal in the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles from Sherbrooke Quebec.

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The cap originally was manufactured from drab wool but by 1918 it was being manufactured in drab denim. This example of a Model 1916 soft cap was worn by a member of the Eaton's Machine Gun Battery. It is manufactured from denim which is believed only to have been used in 1918. It utilizes a black leather chinstrap with Canada buttons and has a black lacquered interior.

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The interiors of the soft caps are generally found with an all black lacquered cloth interior, black lacquered lining with a cloth sweatband, or with an all cloth interior. The cloth interiors are found with in plan cloth usually WD broad Arrow stamped, or with circular or diamond stitching. There were two brass grommets under the top on each side for ventilation. The photo below when enlarged will show two examples of soft caps.
On the left is a wool cap with a tan cloth lining on the top, but white cloth on the sides including the section under the top where the grommets are located. This cap is marked on the tan cloth lining with a black ink stamping "WD" with a broad arrow. On the right is a denim 1918 cap with the complete interior including the top and sides in black oilcloth with a British "WD" and broad arrow marking in white paint.

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Canadian Winter Forage Cap

The date of introduction for the Canadian Pattern Winter Forage Cap is not known, but most examples are dated 1916. The correct name for this cap was: "cap, forage, drab, winter" as the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force Appendix 5 Quartermaster-General's branch Routine Order Nr. 1097 states that each man would be issued a: "cap, forage, drab, winter". Special thanks to my good friend Roger Roy for his research which discovered this information.

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The cap was made with a soft, heavily padded top and a small stiff, cloth covered cardboard visor similar to the SD cap. Examples examined are all manufactured by Anderson Clothiers in Toronto.

The cap had ear flaps that could be folded down in inclement weather which were secured in front by cloth chin strap with one button. As a result, there was no leather chinstrap fitted.

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On the Canadian Pattern Winter Forage Cap, the complete interior including the top and the sides, are tan/grey quilted flannel. The top (the crown) on this cap displays the zigzag quilted stitched pattern invariably found on this pattern. The interior on this example is stamped with a blurred "C" with a broad arrow. The green underside of the cardboard visor can be seen here. There were no ventilation grommets on this pattern of cap.
The Canadian pattern soft trench cap being worn by Private Hart of Toronto Ontario. Although Private Hart was killed in France, he is also wearing a Canadian seven-button Service Dress jacket which would have been exchanged for a five-button SD jacket prior to going overseas.

There is no evidence that I am aware of, that these caps were ever worn in the Western Front as most surviving photos appear to have been taken in Canada prior to going overseas, or of men with the Siberian Expeditionary Force (SEF). It is possible that other than in Siberia, this cap was limited to use in Canada.
Modified Canadian Winter Forage Cap

The Canadian answer to retiring winter forage caps from service appeared to be a modification to the Canadian pattern winter forage cap into a version of the soft cap.
These modified caps are identical to the Canadian pattern winter forage cap in that they are manufactured with a soft, heavily padded top khaki wool body yet retain a stiff, cloth covered cardboard visor. Every example I have encountered appears to have started life as a Canadian Pattern Winter Forage Cap manufactured by Anderson Clothiers in Toronto in 1916, but were factory altered to have the ear flaps removed.

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Officer's Service Dress Cap

The officer's Service Dress cap was introduced in 1902 along with the officer's Service Dress tunic. The cap was manufactured with a very stiff flat top and rather large flat front peak which was covered in the same drab material as the top and sides. The undersides of the visor are usually also covered in matching material. A brown leather chinstrap (wider than the OR's strap) with leather sliders was fitted to the sides and retained with brass or wooden buttons.

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Officers were required to purchase their own uniforms and equipment so the officer's tailored caps can be encountered in brushed cotton, wool, or khaki twill and are generally found with a large variety of interiors. This example was worn by an officer in the 10th Infantry Battalion (10th Canadians) from Calgary Alberta.

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Caps can be found with or without grommets for ventilation. Liners often come with tailor's labels such as this example from "London & Co Hatters, Established 1790 111 Regent Street London". Linings are often silk, and typically quilted in a circular pattern. Caps are encountered with sweatbands made of leather, suede, silk, or velvet.
A Canadian officer wearing the Officer's field service cap.
Officer's Trench Cap

The officer's trench cap has ear flaps with a cloth chin strap that can be folded down for inclement weather. The water-proof rain cover is fitted for the top of the cap and is removable. Even with the cloth strap to the front, they were usually fitted with a brown leather chinstrap with leather sliders and retained with brass buttons. This example was worn by an officer from the 26th Infantry Battalion from Saint John New Brunswick.

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A Canadian medical officer wearing the Officer's trench cap.
Glengarry

The Glengarry is arguably one of the oldest forms of military cloth headdress in use. When the Service dress jackets were introduced in 1903, highland units continued to wear their traditional headgear even after the introduction of the Model 1905 SD cap. They are traditionally made from all dark blue wool or dark blue wool top with a diced pattern such as red/black/white along the lower half. Typically, a leather strip was sewn along the bottom edge on 1st war examples. Cap badges were worn, often with feather hackle and/or a swatch of tartan behind the badge.

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The CEF issued both blue and and khaki Glengarries, although the Khaki version was not known to be worn outside of Canada and was discontinued in 1916. The examples shown here are a Glengarry worn by Captain Joe McPeake from the 236th Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties) from Fredericton New Brunswick and an issued khaki Glengarry worn by a member of the 42nd Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders) from Montreal Quebec. Period photographs show that the the Black Watch Other Ranks usually wore the Balmoral in Canada and the Tam o' Shanter overseas.

Photo used with the kind permission of
Ted Harris

The Khaki Glengarry was not worn outside of Canada and was discontinued in 1916. However, the CEF appears to have briefly issued khaki Glengarries as shown in this photograph of Private Herbert George Laight of the 42nd Battalion.

Although in this photo Herbert G. Laight is not wearing collar badges, his service records held by his family indicate that he was in fact, with the 42nd Battalion CEF. He is clearly wearing a khaki Glengarry with a five-button jacket in this photograph. Note that his jacket has no rifle patches.
Balmoral

Prior to and even after the introduction of the Service Dress jackets in 1903, some highland units wore a Balmoral in blue cloth with or without a diced band, similar to a Glengarry. Cap badges were worn, often with feather hackle and/or a swatch of tartan behind the badge. A wool pom-pom was worn at the top and at the back, was a silk or cloth ribbon 'tie' that was to be made into a knot and bow.
The issued khaki Balmoral was introduced during 1915 and made of same drab wool with a plain cloth lining and a leather sweatband, similar to the Canadian Model 1905 SD cap. The khaki Balmoral was a relatively stiff form of headdress and not soft. They are usually good quality and have a strip of leather sewn along the bottom edge. This example is dated 1916 and was worn by a member of the 85th Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) from Halifax Nova Scotia.

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Tam o' Shanter

The 1915 issued khaki Balmoral was determined to be unsuitable for use on active service and was replaced in 1915 by the famous Other Rank's "Tam o' Shanter". The Tam o' Shanter was a very large drab bonnet and designed to be worn by all highland units.

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A khaki wool pom-pom was worn at the top and cloth ribbon 'tie at the back. Although the The Tam o' Shanter was issued to Canadian highland units, it was never manufactured in Canada. All Tam o' Shanters were manufactured in the UK. This example was worn by a member of the 185th Infantry Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) from Nova Scotia.
Wolseley Pattern Sun Helmet

This 1916 dated Model 1902 Wolseley pattern sun helmet was made of cork and covered in khaki cloth and manufactured by William Scully of Montreal. This example was worn by Driver Ethert Clair Lutes of the 65th Battery Canadian Field Artillery R.C.H.A..

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Other Cloth Headgear
Troops in Canada were often issued a fur cap during the winter. It was full bodied and shaped somewhat like a side cap.
Stetson

The 19th Alberta Dragoons were known to have worn a Stetson hat during training in Canada, but possibly not overseas as I have never seen a photo that could be ID'd as having been taken in France.

"Gor Blimey"

A Canadian version of the British Winter Forage Cap, the "Gor Blimey" is known to have existed, similar to the British version, but secured on top with a button, not a slider. This may have been an experimental cap until the Canadian Winter Forage Cap was approved.

Sadly, I have no photographs of any of these last two caps to show here. Back to the CEF Clothing Index 
Sours: https://www.kaisersbunker.com/ceftp/caps.htm
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Gor Blimey! The WW1 British Winter Service Dress Cap, 1914-1916

Me father was a fireman, now what do ye think of that?
He wears gorblimey trousers and a little gorblimey hat,
He wears gorblimey stockings and a little gorblimey coat,
Me father is a fireman on an Elder Dempster boat.
                                             —English folk song, ca. 1898

Great Britain had one of the world’s best-trained and best-equipped armies when Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914. The King’s soldiers carried one of the best rifles in the world, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE). They carried their load in the most modern and efficient accouterments, the Pattern of 1908 (P08) Webbing. And, they were one of the few national forces to wear any form of camouflage uniform, the khaki Service Dress (SD).

THE SERVICE DRESS UNIFORM

When Great Britain’s first troops arrived on the continent to defend against the advancing German juggernaut, they were wearing the 1902 Pattern Service Dress tunic and trousers. The woolen jacket had two breast pockets for personal items and the soldier’s AB64 Pay Book, two smaller pockets for other items, and an internal pocket under where the First Field Dressing was kept. Rifle patches sewn above the breast pockets provided protection from the load-bearing kit and rifle. Sewn-in shoulder fastened with brass General Service buttons allowed enough space to accommodate a brass regimental shoulder title.

THE SERVICE DRESS CAP

The Service Dress included a stiffened visor cap made of the same material. The cap had a very stiff flat top and a small, slightly pointed front peak (visor). The same khaki wool as used on the top and sides of the cap covered the top of the peak whereas the underside was not covered.

When first introduced, the top of the Service Dress cap sat very flat—almost horizontal. By the time troops sailed for Europe, however, a small stiffener had been added to the front of the caps, giving the tops a more sloped appearance.

Each Service Dress cap had a leather chin strap secured by two General Service buttons. Though issued with a stiffener in the crown, photographic evidence reveals that during the first winter of the war, many soldiers opted to remove it.

But any attempt the soldiers made to make the cap more comfortable were not adequate to fend off the cold during the winter of 1914-1915. The inadequacy of the SD cap quickly became apparent. The accompanying “cap comforter” (balaclava) was difficult to wear with the SD cap. Regardless, it didn’t provide much protection against the cold weather.

WINTER SERVICE DRESS CAP—GOR BLIMEY

Great Britain needed to derive something to keep her soldiers’ ears warm. The crisis led to the rapid design and introduction of the “Cap, winter, Service Dress”, but to the troops in the trenches, it became universally known as the “Gor Blimey” (“Gor Blimey” is a variation of “Gawd Blimey” or “Cor Blimey”. They are all a corruption of the oath “God Blind Me”).

The Winter SD cap was made from the same drab wool as the standard cap. Rather than a rigid stiffening in the crown, sides and visor, however, the Winter SD cap was a “soft” cap featuring heavy padding and quilted shirt material lining.

The wearer obtained extra protection from the elements by lowering the cap’s external neck flap. When not in use, the flap was folded up onto the top of the cap and secured with a cloth slider. The winter cap was issued with a companion waterproof cover. Made of khaki oilcloth, the cover had an attached neck flap that tied up to the crown when not in use. The winter cap may not have afforded the smartest appearance, but to the soldiers in the cold, front lines, the new cap was a warm, welcome addition to their kit.

General Register Office (GRO) 377 27/11/1914 authorized the first issuance of the winter cap. It was never intended, nor authorized, for wear in the UK, but rather, only for troops on active service. Soldiers who were still in England were required to wear the standard SD cap. Only those designated for overseas service were to receive the winter cap. Soldiers assigned permanently to the Lines of Communication in France did not receive the winter caps.

The following winter, the British high command continued to rely on the Gor Blimey and authorized the wear of the cap in France when it issued GRO 1201 on October 11, 1915, authorizing the winter scale of issue for the winter of 1915/1916. Though the troops liked the cap’s relaxed look and functionality, the Gor Blimey was extremely unpopular with the Command Structure who regarded the cap as ungainly and distinctly un-military.

Despite its unpopularity with the British high command, wear of the Gor Blimey continued until the fall of 1916. However popular with the troops, warfare had necessitated serious changes to the Brits’ headgear. As a result of mounting head injuries, British High Command adopted the “Helmet, Steel Mark 1” for individual issue in May 1916.

The helmets were to be worn at all times in the front lines. For warmth, the balaclava reemerged as a useful garment. Because of this combination when the winter of 1917 descended, there was no need to issue a front-line winter cap. Though still worn by some troops during the winter of 1916/1917, the cap was officially abolished. There was no mention of the winter cap in the amendments to winter scale of issues for the spring 1917.

With the issue of the steel helmets came a companion cap, known as the “Cap, soft, Service Dress.” The new cap replaced both the SD cap and winter cap. Despite the replacement of the winter cap, the waterproof cover designed for it continued to be issued with the new soft cap.

Portrait Gallery of Gor Blimey caps

Army Service Corps with Gor Blimey DSC_0092
Gor blimey raincover DSC_0169
DSC_0016z

CONCLUSION

By the winter of 1917/1918, the cap affectionately referred to by its wearers as the “Gor Blimey” had faded from the fields of France. Because it was issued to only frontline, combat troops, the utilitarian cap came to symbolize the plight of Great Britain’s soldier in the field.

Commonly seen in the trenches during the winters of 1914, 1915 and 1916, today winter caps are extremely rare and found only in the most advanced WWI collections. Original examples fetch $2,500-$3,250, though great care must be exercised to insure a cap was not one made for theatrical purposes in the 1920 and 1930s. The latter are easily recognized linen or muslin lining with little or no padding. 

However, the fortunate few who can add a winter cap to their collection are certainly entitled to exclaim, “Gor Blimey!” 

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John Adams-Graf ("JAG" to most) is the editor of Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine.

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