This is a rare example of a fairly well preserved Middlesex regiment peaked hat.
It comes with its leather strap but unfortunately it lost both buttons.
The badge at the front is exceptionally well preserved.
The lining of the hat is made of good quality brown leather stamped ‘(-illegible word) – 23 British Manufacture, size 7’.
Inside there is another blue ink stamp that reads ‘AIF 510’.
All these markings make the story of this hat a very interesting one.
The AIF comes from ‘Australian Imperial Force’. The First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) was the main expeditionary force of the Australian Army during World War I. It was formed on 15 August 1914, following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, initially with a strength of one infantry division and one light horse brigade. The infantry division subsequently fought at Gallipoli between April and December 1915, being reinforced by a second division which was later raised, as well as three light horse brigades.
After being evacuated to Egypt the AIF was expanded to five infantry divisions, which were committed to the fighting in France and Belgium along the Western Front in March 1916. A sixth infantry division was partially raised in 1917 in the United Kingdom, but was broken up and used as reinforcements following heavy casualties on the Western Front. Meanwhile, two mounted divisions remained in the Middle East to fight against Turkish forces in the Sinai and Palestine.
The Middlesex regiment was also assigned to both Egypt front and Western fronts in the same periods. The 3rd Middlesex Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 85th Brigade in the 28th Division in January 1915 for service on the Western Front before moving to Egypt in October 1915 and to Salonika in December 1915.
The fact that the piece is made in Britain, bears the Middlesex badge but is stamped AIF, can indicate the fact that it was assigned to an Australian chap that was reassigned as temporary reinforcement or that it has been reused. It can also be a friendship ‘token’ exchanged between a member of the Australian infantry battalion and one of the Middlesex. The second assumption is somehow hard to sustain as the badge was clearly attached to the cap before the lining was stitched in (and we can safely assume that it was there since its make).
The good quality silk lining may indicate that the piece was used by an officer on NCO.
There is a reference regarding an inter-war alliance maintained between the 57th Australian infantry battalion with the Middlesex Regiment as a result of their cooperation during the Great War. (Festberg, Alfred -1972-. The Lineage of the Australian Army. Melbourne, Victoria: Allara Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85887-024-6.)
The piece has quite a number of moth holes around and some mould, which is to be expected from a piece that old. Please see the pictures.