Suburban Militarism Day Trip: A Trip to the Tigers

I’ve been busy finishing off the final regiment in my Nappy Cavalry Project, the French 10th Cuirassiers. I took some time out from those cuirassiers recently to visit my local military museum which is dedicated to the Leicestershire Regiment. I’ve been there many times since I was a boy, but it’s always worth taking advantage of the free entry and going in again (I fear that one day government cuts I feel will inevitably take their toll on such cultural treasures and deny them for future generations).

I know from my meagre knowledge of my family’s history that both my maternal grandfather and great-grandfather had served in this regiment (nicknamed The Tigers). Seeing the excellent exhibits to the regiment’s service on the Western Front in WWI and in WWII Burma, offers me a small connection to their experiences. But Suburban Miltarism’s focus has mostly been further back in time, so here’s a few of some of the excellent Victorian and other 19th century exhibits:

A Waterloo era officer's uniform of the 17th Foot.
A Waterloo era officer’s uniform of the 17th Foot.
Afghan weaponry: an ornate Jezail gunl, knife and sword.
Afghan weaponry: a wonderfully ornate Jezail musket, a curved knife and a beautifully made sword.
Ornate, possibly ceremonial, Afghan shields. The plate had an interesting history...
Ornate, possibly ceremonial, Afghan shields at the top. That regimental plate had an interesting history – lost on campaign it turned up many years later in a Kabul bazaar.

The Crimean exhibits are of particular interest to me. There’s a painting on display at the museum by Terence Cuneo depicting the first Victoria Cross won by Sgt Smith of the regiment. I recall seeing this painting there from my childhood! The horror, drama and bravery was brilliantly captured by Cuneo, I always thought.

(c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Crimean War pieces of Russian headgear. The number of the regiment is shown for each.
Crimean War pieces of Russian infantry headgear. The number of the regiment is shown on each.
One of two cannon captured from the Russians at Sevastapol during the Crimean War. These were paraded through the streets of the city on the regiment’s return in 1856 and now reside outside the museum.

The regiment also served in the American War of Independence. landing at Boston on New Year’s Day 1776. It was actively engaged in all the battles of this campaign. Most notable was the Battle of Princeton in 1777 where the Regiment found itself alone and surrounded by the army of General Washington, only extricating itself by the most vigorous hand to hand fightingand multiple charges. The painting below is also on display there:

17th-regiment

There’s also a Kipling poem on display there, his “Danny Deaver” apparently being based on a true incident of the Leicestershire Regiment when it was based in India:

‘What are the bugles blowin’ for?’ said Files-on-Parade.   
‘To turn you out, to turn you out,’ the Colour-Sergeant said.
‘What makes you look so white, so white?’ said Files-on-Parade.
‘I’m dreadin’ what I’ve got to watch,’ the Colour-Sergeant said.
      For they’re hangin’ Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
      The Regiment’s in ’ollow square—they’re hangin’ him to-day;
      They’ve taken of his buttons off an’ cut his stripes away,
      An’ they’re hangin’ Danny Deever in the mornin’.
Just a few final touches still to do those cuirassiers. Seems rather strange that this is the last (but one…) regiment in the project for this year. Full report on these later in the week!

 

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