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Problems of 2 NZEF



We started the war with the usual New Zealand head-dress of the high-crowned felt hat. At an early point it appeared that there would be some difficulties over future supplies; and in the opinion of some senior officers in the First Echelon, the felt hat was not a good headgear for a sandy country. This engendered some emotion in other senior officers, who claimed that the war would be lost if we did not continue to wear our beloved hats. In the summer of 1940 the First Echelon was issued with genuine tropical helmets. The Division then went to Greece in a combination of simpler helmets (‘Bombay bowlers’) and the ‘fore-and-aft’ British cap, the reason being that these were the normal wear of British troops, and that it was easier for us to draw them from British depots than to persist with a separate hat. Thereafter we adhered to British usage, first the ‘fore-and-after’ and then the beret. Troops in Maadi retained the New Zealand hat for a long time, as reinforcements always arrived so equipped; but in general the hat became rarer, and we even shipped some consignments back to New Zealand.

A good deal of sentiment attaches to our ‘funny hats’. It seems likely that we were a bit hasty in abandoning them, although it is true that they get sticky and dirty, are not suitable for use in cars and trucks, and are quite useless for members of armoured regiments. We could not help noticing that felt hats were the universal wear in South-east Asia.