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New South Wales 19th Century Fireman's Helmet (Replica)
1.65 Kg - With adjustable Leather Liner
This firefighting helmet is a replica of the originals which were made in Sydney by Rider and Bell Pty Ltd. It was typical of those used by New South Wales fire brigades from the late 1800s until 1964.
In colonial NSW, firefighting was undertaken by volunteer brigades whose ability to respond to serious fires could vary. By the late 1800s it was considered a professional fire-fighting organisation was needed, so on 14 February 1884 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, the precursor to the New South Wales Fire Brigade, was formed in Sydney. Other local government fire brigade boards were also formed at different times during the 1880s.
The traditional English brass helmet, known as the Merryweather type, was originally adopted in England in the 1870s by Captain Eyre Massey Shaw, Chief Officer, of the London Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Captain Shaw had visited Paris in 1868 and seen the French fire fighters there and the helmet was adapted from the ones they wore. This was then subsequently introduced by the various colonial brigades in Australia.
The Merryweather’s various design features comprise holes for ventilation, a peak which saved the wearer’s face from injury should he fall forwards, a comb on the top which deflected falling objects and a skirt at the back for protecting the neck. The decoration of the fire-breathing dragon on the helmet’s comb has both a symbolic and heraldic association. In England before the Norman Conquest, the dragon was chief among the royal ensigns of war, while the London coat of arms is supported by two dragons.
Australian helmets were initially imported from England, with the appropriate brigade title. However, procuring them during the Second World War became problematic. By then, British firefighters were using military style steel helmets while in London in 1936 their brass ones had been replaced with a composite helmets of cork and rubber.
Nevertheless, the Board of Fire Commissioners of N.S.W., which had been established in 1910, decided to continue using the proven brass helmets so, from about 1940 they commissioned the Sydney firm, Rider and Bell Pty Ltd, to make them. In May 1964, the use of traditional brass helmets in NSW gave way to ones made of polycarbonate, although Queensland continued to use their brass helmets until 1970. The new NSW helmets were white-coloured for members up to the rank of senior fireman, yellow for station officers and red for senior offices, ie District Officers, Inspectors, Superintendents, the Deputy and Chief Officer. The new helmets were much more comfortable to wear, were safer as they did not conduct electricity, and cooler.
Source = “Fire News”, No. 2, Vol. 3, 1978.