The Canadian Provost Corps
1939 - 1946
During the Second World War a wide variety of headdress was worn, depending on Dress Regulations, weather, and local dress instructions. When wearing Service Dress, Officers generally wore the Service Dress cap or occasionally the Field Service cap. Other Ranks in Home War establishment units in Canada wore either the Service Dress cap or Field Service cap until 1944, when the khaki beret was adopted. Motorcyclists wore a variety of dispatch rider's helmets.
Service Dress Hats
Staff Officer's Service Dress Cap
Note the special cap badge worn only by Brigadiers and Colonels
Officer's Doeskin Service Dress Cap
Officer's Worsted Service Dress Cap
Officers provided themselves with Service Dress caps of varying quality. Most were made of fine wool worsted or barathea material similar to that of the Service Dress uniform. Some Officers purchased superior quality hats made of a soft felted material known as doeskin. Senior Staff Officers of the rank of Colonel and above wore a scarlet band on the cap.
Other Rank's Service Dress Cap
A prewar pattern hat, the Service Dress Cap or "SD Cap" (also known as Forage Cap) was worn early in the war by many soldiers. It was considered by some to be the mark of an "old soldier" or Regular. By 1941, Dress Regulations reserved the SD Cap for wear only by Provost. It was worn with both Service Dress and Battledress, but only in Canada. By 1943 it had been officially replaced by the Khaki Beret, but it could still be seen in wear until the end of the war.
Although Provost had resisted wearing a red cap cover on the Service Dress cap, references were made in official correspondence to it's wear by Provost Companies in Western Canada. There is anecdotal evidence, supported by a few poor quality photographs, of the red cap cover being worn in Italy by a composite Provost section for a period of about one month. In any case, supplies of "Caps, Forage, Covers, Scarlet" were held by Canadian Ordnance stores until they were declared obsolete in 1947.
Serge Field Service Cap
The Field Service Cap was the standard issue soft hat for Other Ranks until late 1942, when it was replaced by the Khaki Beret. It was worn in Canada and Overseas by all ranks. The Other Ranks pattern was made of a rough wool serge, Officers tended to purchase better quality caps made from the same material as their Service Dress uniform.
Coloured Field Service Cap
Around early 1943, Coloured Field Service Caps were authorized for off duty wear by Canadian army Officers and Other Ranks. Each Regiment and Corps had an authorized pattern of colours, the Canadian Provost Corps cap had a red body, a navy blue flap, red peak and red crown. The cap had silver or white silk piping for Officers and white piping for Other Ranks. Buttons were brass Canadian General service pattern. The illustrated example cap was made by William Scully Ltd. Montreal.
As this was a private purchase item, it is unlikely that many Other Ranks acquired one of these hats.
More information on Coloured Field Service Caps may be found at Service Publications
Photo Credit: Service Publications
The Coloured Field Service Cap in wear.
Khaki Drill Hats
Officers Khaki Drill Cap
A cotton Khaki Drill cap of Service Dress pattern was purchased by some Officers for wear with the Canadian Khaki Drill uniform. This pattern of cap appears to have been worn only in Canada.
Khaki Drill Field Service Cap
Other Ranks were able to acquire cotton Khaki Drill Field Service caps for wear in Canada. These were identical in cut to the wool F.S. cap.
Officer's Winter Cap
The wartime Officer's Winter "Yukon" style hat was made of fine wool serge or barathea and was trimmed with rabbit fur. Prewar Officer's winter hats were sometimes worn, these were made of sealskin or unplucked beaver fur. It does not appear that the cap badge was normally worn on this hat.
The Other Rank's version of the winter "Yukon" Cap was made of wool fabric similar to that of the greatcoat. As with the Officer's version, the flaps could be pulled down to protect the ears. This cap was worn only in Canada.
Winter Ski Cap
The Ski Cap was worn by all ranks, often as a more stylish alternative to the Yukon Cap. Made of heavy wool and felt lined, the flaps could be pulled down to protect the ears. This cap was worn only in Canada.
The headdress most commonly seen in wear by Provosts is the khaki beret. It did not come into general wear by Canadians until late 1942, and for the first year of issue, was worn primarily overseas. It was worn with battledress and with the Khaki Drill uniform by all ranks. Unlike postwar berets, the wartime beret did not have a built in stiffener to assist in positioning the cap badge. Very often a piece of cardboard or celluloid was worn on the inside of the beret behind the cap badge to raise the front of the beret and present a smarter appearance.
The beret worn by Officers was identical to that worn by the Other Ranks. The cap badge was normally bronze or gilt. This particular example was worn by Major L. Fourney and has a bronze cap badge.
Khaki Beret. Note the cloth badge backing is stitched in place.
RCMP Provost khaki beret.
Mark II Steel Helmet
The standard Canadian Mark II steel helmet was usually worn by Provost when under direct fire, or according to local dress instructions. It was worn with or without a camouflage netting. Regulations permitted a distinctive square red over black flash to be painted on the left side of the helmet by Provost. Alternatively, a Provost Corps badge in the form of a decal was sometimes applied to the left side.
Front and back views of an unissued Provost Corps helmet decal.
The Sun Helmet was another article of prewar headwear issued to Canadians during the summer months. Dress Regulations prohibited the wearing of badges or flashes on the Sun Helmet, however many examples of badges being worn exist. The Provost Pattern flash is red over black, made of wool and measures 1 5/8 inches (41.2mm). The Sun Helmet was worn only in Canada and by Canadians in Bermuda.
Late Pattern Dispatch Rider's Crash Helmet
Some helmets may be found painted with a black rectangle with a red MP in the center. White rank insignia was often stenciled or painted on the left side.
Dispatch Rider's Leather Hat
An RCAF Type B flying helmet that has been modified by the addition of a synthetic fur brim. Worn by LCpl A.D. Mackenzie No. 41 Provost Company.
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