Replacing the Shako in 1878 The Home Service Helmet was introduced into the British army as required headwear for the majority of British line infantry excluding the Fusiliers regiments.
The design of the Home Service helmet originates from the 1840’s when Foreign Service helmets were introduced Into the British army. Known as Pith Helmets, they offered great protection from the sun with a swept-back brim. The overall design of both helmets was inspired by the German Pickelhaube from the Franco Prussian War.
In the “Dress Regulations for the Army 1900” – The official War Office publication for dress regulations, it describes the Service Helmet as “cork covered with blue cloth, peaks front and back stiffened and covered with cloth. Front peak bound with metal 3/16 inch wide, back peak with patent leather 1/8 inch wide. Above the peaks going round helmet a cloth band”. It further describes the “Curb Chain chin straps 5/8 inches wide and strap lined with patent leather backed with black velvet” as well as the incorporation of a Bronze spike measuring 1 3/4 inches.
It is worth noting that the Spike on top of the helmet was replaced with a ball when worn by engineers, artillery and various administrative and other corps. Other adjustments to the helmet include the cloth of the helmet being made green for light infantry regiments.
Other Ranks wore an inferior quality helmet as the officers’ helmets were purchased privately. The main difference’s being the Other Ranks helmets being the quality such as the chin chain having only leather backing with no velvet. Other differences include, the brim being bound in leather all round, the cruciform base being one-piece and often only being attached by two lugs, the helmet plate being of brass rather than gilt and the spike being set into the cruciform base rather than sitting “proud” of it.
Located in the centre of the helmet was the Helmet plates, these consisted of three basic designs which were an eight-pointed star surmounted by a crown, for Rifle Regiments a Maltese Cross surmounted by a crown, and the Royal Coat of Arms. Similarly, with the helmet design the plates also differed for officers who had a three-piece construction consisting of a rayed backing star, the garter and wreath with a “universal” scroll for the regimental name, and a centre device.
In regard to The Worcestershire Regiment the helmet plate has seen various changes across the years. The original 29th regiment officers helmet plate which was used from 1878 to 1881 had a Gilt with the ’29’ on a black leather background in the centre of the Garter. Following the formation of the Worcestershire Regiment in 1881 which combined the 29th, 36th, Militia and Volunteers. The plate used the ‘Tower’ motif of the Militia, the star of the 29th and the motto ‘FIRM’ from the 36th. From 1890 to 1901 officers of the regiment used a helmet plate depicting the imperial crown at the top, this was later updated in 1901 to 1923 to depict the St. Edward’s crown instead.
With the general adoption of khaki for field dress in 1903, the helmet became purely a full-dress item, being worn as such until 1914.
The museum currently has 14 Home Service helmets within its collection compromising of various dates, two of which can be seen on display at the museum as well as a variety of helmet plates showing the progression of The Worcestershire Regiment.