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Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The British Bobby Helmet

I was strolling through a small Ontario town last weekend. About half way down the street I tapped my wife on the shoulder and said: "hold on a minute, I just want to pop into one of these stores and pick up an authentic South Shields Police helmet".

I am sure it must be the sort of thing that most people do on a sunny spring holiday afternoon in Canada.

So I turned around and walked into a nearby store and, sure enough, they still had just one South Shields Police helmet left on their shelves. I pulled out my wallet, paid the shopkeeper and took home my prize.

"Lucky me" I thought. If had wanted a North Shields Police helmet I would have been out of luck today.

For anybody who is not familiar with the geography of north-east England, I should point out that North Shields and South Shields lie on opposite shores at the mouth of the River Tyne.

My choice was South Shields because one of my favourite customers is a lady from that town who now lives in Orangeville, Ontario. After many long years living in Canada she still speaks with a strong Geordie accent. She was absolutely thrilled when I showed her the police helmet from her home town.

So You Think You Know British Bobby Helmets?

I thought I could recognize a British police helmet without any trouble. It has a distinctive shape, a shiny badge at the front and, you know, a "thing" on top. I did some quick research on my acquisition and found out that there is a lot more to the British police helmet than I had thought.

If you would like to know more there is an excellent, highly informative FAQ on the subject on the constabulary.com website. Visiting that site I learned that there are at least three main styles of British police helmet. The principal distinguishing feature seems to be what type of "thing" adorns the top of the helmet.

My helmet is a home office standard type and will be on display at the store from tomorrow. No, you can't try it on.


  1. I am a retired UK cop, now living in Georgetown. I brought with me to Canada my old helmet and a flat cap, complete with diced band (the checkered band that runs around the cap). This helmet bears what we called a "comb", being a fireman's helmet-type adornment which runs from the top of the helmet all down the rear. I also served in a force which had the plain helmet, and know of forces which had a spike at the top. None of them (helmets)stayed on for long in a fight, or when chasing someone. I believe they were army surplus originally: in the 1800's, following the Boer Wars and similar. Soldiers wore them to make them look taller to the enemy.

  2. Thank you Mike. One of my ancestors served in the Norfolk Regiment of the British Army. A photo of him shows him wearing what looks like a bobby helmet with a spike on top. There is a real military helmet of that style on display at Sandringham.