For some time, I’ve had my eye on acquiring one of the many Victorian newspaper illustrations of rifle volunteers from the movement’s heyday in the 1860s through to the end of the century. It was an abstract concept until Mark from Man of Tin drew my attention to such a print on display over his painting desk. It looked so good that it convinced me to do likewise.
The image I’ve chosen featured in a recent post and is taken from The Illustrated London News, September 1963. The caption reads: Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath: Lady Suffield presenting the prizes won at the Norfolk Rifle Association meeting.
I chose this one because of my interest in military volunteers from Norfolk, being a county I lived in years ago. What’s more, the illustration is a good scene of Victorian volunteer soldiery together with depictions of men and women of the local community taking a keen interest in proceedings. The dark-coated men lined up are from the local Volunteer Rifle Corps.
To either side are the mounted Norfolk Light Horse in their scarlet coats, wearing black dragoon helmets with falling white plumes, a force which I posted about earlier this year. This short-lived formation were attached to the local rifle corps. Other mounted military men in the distance appear to be officers wearing a variety of headdress and I can even make out a hussar.
The mounted man in the foreground appears to be an infantry or militia officer.
In the centre with the cocked hat could even be the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk which at the time of this event would have been Thomas Coke’s son**.
And so, the artistic militarisation of my household walls continues…
Last year, I complained in a post about my inability to source another R.J. Marrion-inspired yeomanry figure after being comprehensively outbid on an auction site for one. The bidder fortuitously – or perhaps graciously – withdrew their winning bid and the figure came into my possession.
After making such a terrible fuss back in September over acquiring it in the first place, I thought it about time to finally commit some paint to the figure. So here he is, mounted on a plinth in the same manner as the rest of my Marrion Men.
About the uniform:
The figure is based on an R.J. Marrion illustration on the front cover of “The Yorkshire Hussars” by L. Barlow and R.J. Smith. This was the third edition of the Ogilby Trust series, “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914”. This man is described in the footnotes as being an ‘Officer, Undress, 1852’.
I have a 1846 print of an officer of this regiment displayed in the house. It displays the officer in his Full Dress finery, quite a contrast to the plainer Undress version that I’ve painted.
The Undress uniform worn by my figure was first adopted in 1834. Barlow and Smith describe it in these terms;
Officers adopted a new Undress frock coat in 1834 (shown on the front cover). It had a roll collar and 6 black olivets down the front, two at the waist behind and two cloth-covered buttons at each wrist. It was worn with a crimson waistcoat showing at the neck…and, after 1850, with a scarlet, silver braided waistcoat.
In quarters, and when the men were in stable orders, only the crimson and gold Hussar sash was worn with this garment; when on duty, the Full Dress pouch, sword belt (worn under the sash) and the black sabretache were worn.
Barlow and Smith also describe the overalls being adopted at the same time;
In 1832 new cloth overalls of a dark grey mixture — the shade being practically black — were issued, with a single broken bias lace stripe for the officers, and white for the men.
Some further changes occurred around 1850. Although “the same Undress frock coat and overalls were worn as in 1834”, the cap was now as seen on my figure. Barlow and Smith;
A scarlet cloth forage cap with 1 and half inch silver Granby lace band and the York Rose in outline in triple silver braid on the crown.
I think my cap looks more crimson, than scarlet… but never mind!
Barlow and Smith again;
The dress pouch-belt was worn with a black patent leather pouch, the flap edge of which was bound with silver, with a silver York Rose in the centre;
Originally, not paying close enough attention to the text, I painted my ‘black patent leather pouch’ in red blindly following the inaccurate example of another painted version of this figure which I found on the internet. I’ve now corrected it using “glossy black” for the patent leather, which is maybe a tad too shiny?
…the sabretache was plain black, with a silver Rose; slings and sword knot of black leather.
So here’s how the figure compares to Bob Marrion’s illustration:
These ‘Marrion Men’ are as rare as hen’s teeth, it seems, though I try to keep scouring the auction sites for examples. Until and if any more appear, this Yorkshireman remains the last of my Bob Marrion tributes. Other figures in the series can found here;
Last year, I posted on my discovery of a painting hung on the wall of the ‘unstately home’ Calke Abbey. I realised that the scene depicted the band of the Derbyshire Yeomanry whose existence my guide to mounted bands suggested was unproven. At the time, I wondered what the parade could possibly have been for. Thankfully, some enquiries I made with the Melbourne Historical Research Group bore fruit thanks to the informative reply by a Mr Philip Heath.
Mr Heath informed me that;
“The location of this scene is Derby Road, Melbourne. The house on the right is Conery House , formerly known as the Poplars (as seen in the painting), built in the 1830s. The people in the windows may well be the Robinson family who lived there at the time. The house is still there, on the corner of Queensway opposite Sainsbury’s.”
Mr Heath continues:
“I first saw this painting when it was reproduced in Howard Colvin’s “Calke Abbey; A Hidden House Revealed” (1985), page 97. The caption in the book suggests that it shows the recent wedding of Sir Vauncey and Isabel Adderley being feted at Melbourne. As they were married on 20/4/1876, I’ve never doubted that interpretation. Although the Calke estate had few tenants in the parish of Melbourne, there was a connection with Calke and Melbourne through all the Melbourne tradesmen that found work at Calke, and there are framed “loyal addresses” from the people at Melbourne, given to the family on landmark occasions.”
So there you have it. The Derbyshire Yeomanry’s mounted band was leading a procession which was celebrating the marriage of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe of Calke Abbey and Isabel Adderley. A natural consequence given the regiment’s close association with the Harpur family and the Derbyshire Yeomanry.
However, it seems any excessive pride I may have had in my sleuthing is somewhat misplaced. I now realise that other conclusive evidence of the mounted band must have since come to light since R.G. Harris’ wrote his words on the Derbyshire Yeomanry band. The DYC’s own website actually includes photographic evidence (although no reference is made to the painting of the procession). Furthermore, the image also shows kettledrums and drum banners included, which I’ve circled below. All this information must have been unavailable to Ronald G. Harris at the time.
The DYC Drum banners were crimson with a rose in gold under a crown and is shown in the Players cigarette card series with a wreath and a scroll.
I want to thank Mr Heath and the Melbourne Historical Research Group and also end with a few words about the now sadly deceased Ronald G. Harris, who authored that yeomanry mounted band book in the 1980s. Currently up for sale on eBay are some of his extensive research material and archive (most being well out of my modest budget unfortunately). Much of his archive material is completely unique and remarkable, a throwback to an era when research had to be carried out without easy reference to the internet by committed military history enthusiasts like Mr Harris.
When this Regiment was raised in 1685, it was designated “Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment”. The title was changed when George I came to the throne, this time to “The 8th Foot”. The drawing shows a Sergeant wearing the uniform of 1828.
Number 7 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
The 16th Regiment of Foot, of which we show a private in 1828, was raised in 1688. In 1782, the regiment received the county title of “The Buckinghamshire Regt”. The Hertford Militia became a battalion in 1881 when the regiment became known by its present title.
Number 6 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
The first Battalion became the 30th Foot (Cambridgeshire) Regiment in 1782 and it was amalgamated with the 59th Foot (Nottinghamshire) Regiment in 1881 to form The East Lancashire Regiment. The drawing shows a Private of the old 30th Foot in 1815.
Number 5 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
This time of year, I get to enjoy two days of opening presents. With my birthday being on the same week as Christmas Day, if I’m lucky, I tend to end up with plenty new model kits and books. Time for a quick overview of some of the military related gifts that I’ve received this year.
Firstly, following on from the very pleasing painting of Strelets French Army Sledge Train figures earlier this month, at my suggestion for a birthday present I’ve been kindly supplied with set 2 of this series. It will probably be December 2019 before I even think of getting to work on them, however.
I’ve also come into ownership of two boxes of RedBox’s Ottoman (or Osman) infantry: namely the elite Yeniceri (Janissaries) and Eyalet troops. They are really great quality figures for sure and I’m now committed to developing Ottomania – my Ottoman Turkish army project.
Apropos of this, my father-in-law was visiting a military bookshop in Birmingham recently and asked if there was anything I’d like for Christmas whilst he was there. I mentioned a book on Ottoman armies by the peerless Osprey to further assist my Ottomania project and it seems he took the idea and ran with it!
Written by David Nicolle and illustrated by Angus McBride and Christa Hook, no less than three books on the topic were unwrapped on Christmas Day;
The Janissaries (Elite series No.58)
Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774 (Men-at-Arms series No.140)
Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1775-1820 (Men-at-Arms series No.314)
A bit more reading material – something that I’ve wanted for a while is the now well-out-of-print book by R.G. Harris on “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms: Volume 1”. Harris was one of the contributors to some of the books in the essential Ogilby Trust “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series in the late 80s / early 90s.
This 1972 edition has that evocative musty smell of old bookshops and features 32 terrific full page and full-colour illustrations by Edward A Campbell. I was interested to read in the preface that Campbell was responsible for the artwork in the 1931 Players cigarette card series Military Headdress, which I am well familiar with from my own collection.
Campbell’s paintings were based on ‘painstaking research’ of which most apparently is sadly unpublished. Even more tragically, the preface informs me that “the author of the text is preparing a second volume on the Yeomanry which will incorporate a further selection of Captain Campbell’s work…”, yet I can find no evidence that Volume 2 was ever published.
So much to read, so much to paint, but so little time. I really need to get on with some chores, not to mention hours of overtime that I need to do. What’s that quote? “Starve your distractions – feed your focus!”. Trouble is, I rather prefer the distractions…
I was discussing children’s books with my daughter recently and thought back to some of my favourite stories from my own childhood. One of these which came to mind was a book called “Fattypuffs and Thinifers“. The story is about two children, brothers, called Edmund and Terry who are physically very different to each other – one is quite overweight and the other is particularly slim. The good friends descend on a journey deep into the earth to discover two feuding nations living there; the chubby, slovenly, easygoing and happy ‘Fattypuffs’ and their enemies across the ocean – the extremely skinny Thinifers whom by nature are punctual, well-organised, stringent and rude. The lands operate a kind of body shape apartheid and the two brothers get separated.
Despite its title, I think the tale is much more than 1930s-style body shaming. In many ways, it must be seen as the opposite. The moral of the story seems to be about acceptance of difference and how much more is achieved through the embracing and blending of such differences. The conflict described in the book is also a skit on the absurdity of the kind of nonsensical international dispute which had led to the terrible slaughter of World War I. This cataclysm had happened just a little over a decade before it was published. The book’s author was a former French army officer, an Anglophile called Andre Maurois, who had spent the Great War as a Liaison Officer and translator to the British Army.
For a preposterous children’s story, the narrative suddenly takes a very dark turn at one point, starkly describing the cruelty and horror of warfare as seen from the eyes of one of the two ‘surface dwelling’ children:
He heard the shells going W-H-I-I-I-Z over his head and suddenly exploding with a terrific C-R-U-M-P. He saw his Thinifer friends cut in half by fragments of steel (although they were so thin there was scarcely anything of them to hit). In the evening he heard aircraft zooming over the camp, and for the first time in his life he realised that an aeroplane was not always something to look up at and admire… As they advanced, they saw villages destroyed by gunfire, women and children wounded, little boys who had lost both father and mother.
Clearly, the author, an ex-poilu, was under no illusions about the horrors of war and was keen to help his young readership understand that too. Trenches which had loomed so large in the imagination of the Great War survivors feature in Maurois’ book.
In macabre – almost surrealist – humour, he amusingly describes how Fattypuff engineers solved the problem of fitting their rotund soldiers into narrow trenches which could still offer them protection from shellfire.
“The difficulty about these trenches, as the surface dwellers dig them” continued the Marshal, “is that they are much too narrow for an ordinary Fattypuff to be able to get into them. On the other hand, the wider they are the less use they are as protection. But the head of the Corps of Engineers, General Sappapuff, has invented a sort of globular trench, narrow at the top and rounded at the sides, which solves the problem. The only objection to it is that it can only be entered at either end, so that it is not possible to make a mass sortie. However, as we only intend to fight a defensive war, this is of no importance. On the contrary.”
Uniforms of the Fattypuff and Thinifer armies:
Looking at the book now, I’m particularly interested in the illustrator’s interpretation of their uniforms. The book’s characters in my own copy are brilliantly depicted throughout by Fritz Wegner, a Viennese-born illustrator who lived in London and died as recently as 2015. He was just one of a number of illustrators who, over the 90 years since the book’s first edition, have attempted to illustrate the military uniforms of the Fattypuff and Thinifer armies in their conflict with one another.
The very first edition of Fattypuffs and Thinifers in the English language however featured full colour images by Jean Bruller, a French artist and writer who produced his own absurd illustrated novels, even clandestine ones published during the Nazi occupation of his country. His early depiction of the two forces is radically different from what would follow. The Thinifer soldier is shown in a green uniform with what appears to be a pointed helmet, perhaps with a white cloth covering. He has black knee-length boots and red cuffs.
His heavyweight adversary is in a distinctly pink-looking red uniform. That may be down to the printing ink rather than the original intention but his puttees suggest differently, being more distinctly red. In addition to those puttees, the style of the rest of his uniform is distinctly modern (for 1930) with ammunition pouches, green identification flashes on his lapels and some kind of white headgear which may well be a steel helmet.
The book which I remembered from my childhood had the cover below. It’s an earlier edition of the one currently in my possession and was also illustrated by Fritz Wegner. It shows the two adversaries in the book in their full military attire; two proud soldiers of the Fattypuff and Thinifer armies (you can probably guess which is which). It shows the Fattypuff general wearing a more distinctly red-coloured coat than the Bruller version. He also wears orange-striped white riding breeches and brown Hessian boots. His hat is a gold-edged bicorn worn in transverse Napoleon-style. A sun or yellow flower badge with red centre is seen on the front. He wears an orange sash over his shoulder tied in a knot at his side.
His thin adversary meanwhile wears what appears to be a kind of navy-coloured hussar dolman with gold braid. A white pouch belt is just visible. The illustrator depicts two straggly coat tails as well. His riding breeches are red and he wears knee-length riding boots of black leather. Signs of his rank can be discerned in the ornate trefoil scrolling on the sleeves. The headdress appears to be some kind of very tall black shako with a red plume. Being senior officers, both soldiers feature extensive gold aiguillettes and large, frilled epaullettes.
In the book, the author does briefly describes the Fattypuff officer’s uniform;
…At this moment, a Fattypuff officer with a magnificent gold-embroidered, red uniform entered the audience chamber.
This basic description certainly seems to match most of the repeated depictions shown across other editions of the book, (pinkish looking original version aside). It seems that Wegner’s brilliant illustrations inside the book have been retained in following editions with only cover designs being subject to interpretation by new illustrators. This has meant that in effect, Wegner’s original 1960s uniform designs have been the template for subsequent illustrators ever since though, as we will see, this has not entirely stifled new interpretations of the Fattypuff and Thinifer uniforms.
Fattypuff coats are reliably reproduced in red across other various covers too, although the uniform detail is subject to different interpretations. I was unable to locate a description of the Thinifers uniform within the pages of my book but, no doubt thanks to Wegner, these with equal regularity are depicted as being dark blue or black, once again with the sole exception being Jean Bruller’s original illustrations in green.
Wegner revisited his cover illustration for a later edition. This later depiction (below) of both the Thinifer and Fattypuff coat colours shows that he broadly kept faith with his original 1960s uniform designs. The Fattypuff officer below however now has a blue-coloured sash. He has also adopted Thinifer-style yellow braiding on his coat and now wears yellow breeches with red stripes instead of the earlier white with orange version. Coat tails are now visible and the vaguely yellow plume has become a falling white over red affair. Gone is his bicorn hat and his headgear is now a black shako which is reminiscent of an Albert Pattern shako. Both colour and style of cuffs remain the same.
The Thinifer family scene below shows the soldier in a very similar form of dress to the previous edition. The navy-blue coat with yellow braiding, the red breeches (now with added yellow stripe) and the tall black shako with red plume all accord with the previous version. Facings are now red, not yellow, although we might assume this could be accounted for by individual regimental distinctions. White plumes are also visible and the white pouch belt has been dispensed with (or could this be an adaptation for the off duty ‘walking out’ order of dress?!)
The following 2013 edition by Vintage Publishing below has a cover which still reasonably closely reproduces the uniform of the Wegner books. The illustrator, Kristyna Lytten, has chosen to retain the original Wegner style of headdress (Fattypuff bicorn and Thinifer Shako) with broadly similar coat colours. However, she has now coloured the headdress to match the coats with even their plumes adopting the strict red / blue colour scheme. The Thinifer soldier retains his hussar-style braiding and now once more with a white pouch belt. There’s something curiously naval about the men’s dress, an effect further emphasised by the appearance of two ships in the harbour seen in the background.
I think [Jean Bruller and Fritz Wegner’s illustrations] are great. In fact the illustrations by Wegner are in the new version. I would have loved to have been asked to illustrate the interior illos to. But Wegner’s illustrations and F&T really do come hand in hand, it would almost be a shame to discard them. And I think children and adults alike will find them very humourous. I know I did.
With Wegner’s illustrations remaining in the pages, it explains the general continuity adopted by successive new cover artists. A more radical redesign can be seen in the distinctive style of Sean Sims who has a number of interesting variations. The Fattypuff’s headdress is now some kind of a shako or large cap with a yellow band and featuring a white Maltese cross centre. He wears no sash, adopting instead a white crossbelt and black waist belt. Facings are black. The Thinifer general meanwhile has adopted the kind of bicorn previously worn by the enemy in both previous illustrations and has even gone so far as to mimic the Fattypuff officer’s central yellow/red flower also! The navy-blue of the Thinifer uniform appears now to be very dark, very possibly black. Gold braiding loops are still visible, the waist belt is yellow and facings are red. Riding breeches have remained red and the familiar black riding boots are also still there.
Unfortunately, I am unable to identify the illustrator of the cover of the next edition. It’s a very detailed illustration which shows the Thinifer officer wearing a style of spiked helmet which almost certainly based on the German Pickelhaube. His navy-blue uniform has now become a light or sky blue. The uniform retains the familiar yellow braiding loops on the chest, straggly coat tails and also the frilled epaulettes. However, he wears curiously naval knee-length trousers with white stockings and buckled shoes. So we have mid-17th century naval legwear strangely juxtaposed with early 20th century infantry headgear! And if that doesn’t make those of us with an interest in military uniforms discombobulated, we note that he also on this occasion wears a cavalryman’s white gauntlet gloves!
The Fattypuff officer that he is jabbing an accusatory finger at has now brought back the old black bicorn with an added red feather plume. The familiar flower device on the hat has the same colours but is now reversed. Also back in fashion are the black Hessian boots and the orange sash tied at the side. His coat appears to be in the late 18th century style rather than the 19th century tunic seen on other covers. Such an attachment to antique military equipment could explain their eventual defeat at the hands of the Thinifers!
Today, more conscious of judgemental attitudes to body types and difference, we might consider that the terms ‘Fattypuff’ and ‘Thinifer’ derogatory. Certainly, Andre Maurois has lots of fun playing with how the uniformly similar body shapes of the two societies play out in their respective societies’ culture. However, the key message of the story is really one of acceptance and inclusiveness as the Fattypuff and Thinifer nations join together to form the United States of the Underground. Older generation Thinifers are suspicious and xenophobic, but the younger people embrace the different qualities and culture of the Fattypuffs as the inhabitants intermingle and, increasingly, intermarry.
In 2013, Tygertale blog suggested that this postwar children’s story could be read as an anticipation of the European union’. In 2018, it now reads more like an epitaph. We exist today in a world resurgent with nationalism and xenophobia. As such, one can only take comfort from the positive and peaceful coming together of two such very different peoples described in Maurois’ tale.