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Nov 7, 2011

Medieval Mondays: The kettle hat, humble helm of the medieval soldier

While movies and novels generally focus on the exploits of medieval knights, it was the simple footman who did most of the fighting in medieval battles. Clad in chainmail or leather armor, and armed with spears, axes, flails, and very few swords, they were the humble grunts who bore the brunt of battle.

But they weren't faceless. In fact, their faces could be clearly seen because they didn't wear the cumbersome and restricting closed helms of the knights. One of the most popular helmet types for the regular foot soldier was the kettle hat. You can see a few in the medieval manuscript illustration above. The most clear example is the fellow climbing the ladder to the right.

The kettle hat had a broad brim to protect from attacks from above, whether from horsemen or objects dropped from castle walls. This brim also helped protect the eyes from rain. You don't want water in your eyes when you're in hand-to-hand combat! Cheap and quick to make, the kettle hat was popular from the 11th century through the Middle Ages. It was even turned upside down and used as a cooking pot!

The kettle hat was revived in the First World War by several armies and used by the Commonwealth forces through World War Two. Below is a postcard from World War One showing a kettle hat not much different than the Medieval type.



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