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#WomensWork100: E Day Helmets

Posted on: 6th March 2018 By:

For International Womens Day, alongside the First World War Centenary Partnership, we are celebrating the work women did during the First World War.

There were many factories in St Albans during the First World War and today we are focussing on the women who worked at E Day & Company making around 750,000 helmets.

E Day & Company was a straw hat manufacturer and in August 1915 they received their first government contract to make 100,000 straw helmets in 10 weeks. These helmets were made for troops in tropical countries. Previously helmets had been made of sola pith or cork but in the early years of the war cork was difficult to obtain and so the government turned to straw.

In 1916, with new supplies of cork available, E Day opened a new department specifically to make cork helmets. They hired Thomas Noblett, an experienced helmet maker, to train the women and within a few months were able to turn out helmets by the thousands.

In 1918 the government placed orders across the country for 669,075 helmets and urgent demands were sent out to factories. In St Albans the women of E Day & Company, with the consent of the Home Office, worked on a night shift for six weeks to fulfil the demand.

Over the course of the war the company also expanded to make Aviators’ headdress, motorists’ caps, gloves & waistcoats, gold embroidery for Naval badges and “articles made from Erinoid”, a plastic developed in Germany.

In 2016 St Albans Museums acquired a helmet made by E Day & Co for our collection. It is believed to be one of only three surviving helmets made by the company. The helmet bears the ‘Brecknockshire’ badge, the Territorial Battalion of the South Wales Borderers.

Visitors will be able to see this example of women’s work in the new St Albans Museum + Gallery when it opens this summer.