of the German East Asian
In December 1900 the East
Asian straw hat was officially replaced with a tropical helmet
Ludwig Bortfeldt of Bremen. It was a
khaki covered cork helmet with rubber front and rear peaks, the
latter was split into five segments and could be folded upwards. It
had an imperial eagle
on the front
and a hatband in arm of service colours. Pinned onto the right side of the
hatband was a large imperial cockade. The helmet came with a
One curious variation
of the East Asian tropical helmet was the tropical shako.
It was made to the same rough flat-topped shape as the Jäger shako, but made of
khaki covered cork and with the
same rubber folding rear brim as the standard Bortfeldt helmet. It also had the
same eagle, cockade and removable neck shade as the
tropical helmet. It
was worn by the East Asian Jäger (with a green hatband,
they were disbanded in 1901), East Asian machine gun units attached to
the infantry (with white hatbands) and to East Asian train troops (with
blue hatband). The tropical shako was not a success and was
replaced by the field grey Bortfeldt 1904 helmet soon after. I have
so far not seen an example in a period photograph (Please
contact me here if you have one). It remains a rare
Here are some interesting notes from
the owner, "It is heavier than I would have expected. It is made
from thick and sturdy cork that 120 years ago I could see taking
a beating. It doesn’t feel fragile. I’m fairly sure the wear
near the top vents was caused by polishing the brass
fittings. There are two small pin holes on the left of the body
which look as if something else was mounted there. Was it ever
regulation to cockades to the other side? In the same photo with
the pin holes, if you look directly below the blue band is
slightly raised. There is a thick brown leather band that is
strapped under that band. Not sure what that is there for.
Stability maybe? Also the blue band is made from a cotton or
some other linen, not wool as the bands most seen on the 1900
sun helmets. The Wappen is fitted using spread butterfly wings
clips though the forehead. You can see there are horizontal
threads that in the area where the plate is pushed through.
These are the mounting loops that would have been used for
clothes pin style mounting of an eagle. I don’t dare remove the
front plate since the butterfly wings seem brittle with use and
age. In the close up of the eagle you can see one of those loops
popping out from behind him between his left wing and the
feather coming off his neck. There is no marking on the helmet
itself other than the Bortfeldt embossing on the leather head
band. The neck cover does have a Nice clear BAO 1902 stamp
1900 Bortfeldt Tropical Shako
for the East
Asian Train Company
Photo © JH Collection
Issue stamp on the inside of the neckshade.
B.A.O. 1902 for the East Asian clothing depot, Bekleidungsamt
The split pin holding the Eagle in place.
Inside of the helmet pommel bearing the
maker's name, Ludwig Bortfeldt, Bremen.
Inside of the helmet showing the leather
hatband bearing the maker's mark, Ludwig Bortfeldt, Bremen.
Photos © JH Collection
Thanks very much to JH for sharing these
photographs with us. Please respect his generosity by not reproducing
them further without accreditation.