Hall Rees diving helmet

In the early 20th century the increased use of submarine warfare led to an increase in the number of accidents and losses. To boost the morale of the crews two Royal Navy Officers (Capt. Sidney Stewart Hall and Fleet-Surgeon Oswald Rees) collaborated with Siebe Gorman Ltd to create a submarine escape apparatus. It consisted of cloche-shaped, single-port helmet and jacket with compressed air supply or oxylithe ‘air purifying’ system. Very few survive as they were scrapped when it was superseded by the Davis Submerged Diving Apparatus (DSEA) in 1927.

A more robust shallow water diving version was developed although it was not manufactured in large numbers as Standard dress was generally preferred. Only a handful survive, one of which is in the Diving Museum although our example is without its original twill covering and jacket.

The Hall Rees shallow water diving helmet featured in two silent movies, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) and Wet Gold (1921). Perhaps it has even influenced recent movies – it looks remarkably similar to some little yellow animated characters known as Minions.

(on loan from C Shepherd and family)