Pith helmets in El Paso

Pith helmets worn by members of the 17th Lancers (one of the antecedents to my regiment, the Queen's Royal Lancers) having been ambushed at Modderfontein during the 1900 Boer War.

Members of the 17th Lancers (one of the antecedent regiments to the Queen’s Royal Lancers, whom I joined) wearing pith helmets or having had them fall off after being ambushed at Modderfontein during the 1900 Boer War.

Pete, Drew and I stood in front of the hotel’s reception desk.

“Are you from England?” Inquired the manager. Having told him our dark secret he asked us to wait and went into another room. We looked at each other.

When he returned he was wearing a pith helmet with a big smile on his face. He discussed the British Empire and seemed to take a particular shine to Drew. Eventually we managed to get our room keys but only after it was agreed he would make us breakfast in the morning.

Finding a Mexican-styled option for dinner wasn’t hard, El Paso being right on the U.S.-Mexico border. My main memory of the following bar crawl was Pete and Drew high tailing it and leaving me getting chatted up by a guy in a bar.

I’ve never been approached by women on nights out, just gay men occasionally. I’ve never been too sure what to make of that, though I suppose one should be flattered–better than no attention at all. After making my excuses to the attentive gentleman, I found Pete and Drew both looking very pleased with themselves.

Next morning we crawled out of our beds rubbing our eyes to find the manager cooking breakfast in the downstairs kitchen, wearing an apron and the pith helmet, of course.

He chatted on merrily–primarily to Drew–as we ate our meals and discussed our plans for the day.

This led to us gathered round a napkin as the manager drew a map on it showing us where it was safe to walk in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico at the time and within walking distance across a bridge spanning the Rio Grande river.

Admittedly as bumbling tourists we’d be without the usual protective mod cons we were used to such as body armour, rifles with under-slung grenade launchers and an ability to call in close air support, but it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity…