A Suburban Militarism Day Trip: Part 2

Shortly before my visit, I’d been reading a short biography of the WWI British flying ace Albert Ball. In another pleasant coincidence, this infantry collection also housed a small but affecting display on this fighter pilot! Ball was born and raised from humble beginnings in Nottingham and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps from his original regiment – the local Sherwood Foresters. The most startling exhibit perhaps was the sight of a damaged windscreen from his experimental SE5a aircraft. There was also a shattered, twisted piece of copper carburetter piping (taken from his preferred fighter the Nieuport 17) which also showed clear bullet damage. It was a very dangerous business being a fighter pilot on the western front and, after 44 ‘victories’, Captain Albert Ball finally met his end. One of the message tubes dropped by the Germans into allied lines and containing the announcement of Ball’s death was also displayed.

Ball's Windscreen
Albert Ball’s windscreen taken from (it’s believed) his early version of the SE5a. A bullet has shattered the glass and the manufacturer’s name Avro can be seen.

His portrait was hung on a wall and I purchased a postcard of it for my collection.

Ball VC Portrait
Captain Albert Ball VC, DSO (2 bars), MC, etc.

The 1888 Sikkim campaign, one of the many Victorian ‘small wars’ turned up the artefacts below from the Tibetan army; the ‘Sikkim sword’ apparently wielded by a ‘giant Tibetan’, a telescope, and a silk prayer flag.

TIbetan Sword

From the Indian Mutiny, this fearsome looking Chain Shot was recovered. Chain shot was originally designed for naval warfare, where ships could fire it at the enemy rigging to snag the sails and disable a vessel. It could also be used as anti-personnel ordnance but was generally less effective than grape-shot or cannister. Looks particularly nasty, nonetheless.

Chain Shot

The Boer War era display below had good examples of the British rifle, the Lee-Enfield (bottom right), and the German-made Mauser (bottom left), often considered a superior weapon and particularly lethal in the hands of the skilled Boer marksmen.

Boer War artefacts

More lovely uniforms below; the “Robin Hood Rifles”, a volunteer rifle corps raised in the mid-19th century.

Robin Hood Rifles Uniforms

Finally, I’ve been interested in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 since a young boy. Although the subject doesn’t crop up too often in Suburban Militarism, after years of researching the subject, I’m always thrilled to find new information or exhibits relating to the conflict. Neither the Notts or Derbyshire regiments served in the Zulu War and so I did expect any exhibits relating to the war at the Sherwood Foresters collection. But then I looked up and there, high up on a wall, was a shield, numerous assegais, knobkerries and a carved staff; all apparently the personal property of King Cetshwayo kaMpande of the Zulus himself.

Cetschwayo Shield
Zulu king Cetshwayo kaMpande’s shield, assegais, knobkerries and staff. Perhaps a gift from Lt-Col. J.N. Crealock to his regiment?

Quite how all this regalia came into the possession of the Sherwood Foresters initally confused me. One possibility is John North Crealock, a talented artist whom I suspected to the source of the print in my last post. He was the Commander-in-Chief’s trusted personal assistant during the Zulu War and so certainly had access to such exclusive booty. After the Zulu War, Crealock took over command of what became the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and was promoted full Lieutenant-Colonel There is one other regimental connection to the Zulu War (that I know of). Many officers from different regiments volunteered for ‘special service’ duties at the inception of the war and one of the more famous of these was Horace Smith-Dorrien, then subaltern of the 95th Regt. He lived an eventful life, not the least notable event being his terrifying and miraculous escape from the battle of iSandlwana where he was one of only 5 of 52 British officers to escape the slaughter.

That concludes the “lengthy” report on my very pleasant ‘day trip’ to the Sherwood Foresters Museum. Next time I’m back to the brush and, I fancy, might even have a presentation of what will be the third regiment in my Nappy Cavalry Project…

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