The Girl I Left Behind Me

An interesting metal soldier figure came up on an auction site recently which I immediately recognised as being a recreated scene from a painting. The canvas in question is “The Girl I left Behind Me” by Victorian artist Charles Green (1840–1898).

The Girl I left Behind Me by Charles Green, Creative Commons.

The original canvas is fairly large and hangs in the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester and postcards of this painting are available in the shop. In fact, I remember that I sent one of these very postcards to a hobby friend in Germany.

The painting has many elements of the very narrative and (to some modern eyes at least) somewhat mawkish style of Victorian art. We see troopships awaiting in the distance as loved ones and locals take their leave of the departing regiment. An old fella shakes the hand of one young soldier, while a consoled young lady looks down at her baby in sorrow as if already widowed. The headgear suggests these Napoleonic-era soldiers are off to Belgium for the coming Waterloo campaign, or perhaps for the latter stages of the Peninsular War.

Waterloo shakos waved aloft. Green, Charles; The Girl I Left behind Me; Leicester Arts and Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-girl-i-left-behind-me-81029

I believe there are some errors with the uniforms; the drummer boys should be in reversed colours to the troops, for example. I like how the artist contrasts these regimented, marching drummer boys with the running of the kids alongside them at play, reminding us that while they are called to battle they are still essentially children.

The colour yellow seems to be a feature of the young women in the crowd, I notice, which puts me in mind of the old song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”. Wikipedia says of the song:

The song/poem “She wore a yellow ribbon” has appeared in various forms for at least four centuries. It is based upon the same general theme: A woman of destiny is under some sort of test or trial as she waits for her beloved to return. Will she be true to him?

All of which seems to be the central theme of the painting. The centrepiece of the painting is the young lady (in yellow dress) clinging to her beloved as he marches off to war. The fortune of their relationship appears to hang in the balance as his death in war, and her fidelity at home, threatens its future.

Get to the point, Marvin!

Oh yes, the figure I saw was a 54mm recreation of this couple in Green’s painting. There are minor differences of course, but the composition and their poses are near identical. It is by El Viejo Dragon Miniatures, a Spanish manufacturer which seems to specialise in ladies wearing rather less clothing than our regency lady here! Curious that a Spanish manufacturer has recreated it.

The auction listing states that this model is of “a soldier in the Inniskilling 27th foot and his sweetheart around 1814 before Waterloo. Hand painted in Ulster by Rainey Miniatures.” 

The paint job is quite nicely done, though overall the shading appears a little ‘grubby’ for my tastes. I would also have wanted to recreate the scene in Green’s painting more closely with the yellow dress and the soldier’s white breeches, etc. Perhaps the painter was unaware of the inspiration behind this scene or, more likely, they wanted to create a more meaningful and local scene for themselves, and so set it in Ulster.

Unfortunately, the price for the figure is a little more than I want to pay, the family ‘war chest’ just won’t take any more model soldier purchases of late!

Wait. There’s an option to ‘Make Offer’? ….I really shouldn’t, or my own ‘girl’ will place her arm around my neck – and not in a fond way either!


The Song:

“The Girl I left Behind Me” is a folk song said by some to date back to the Elizabethan era and is commonly associated through the ages with being played whenever soldiers left for war and set sail. Consequently, the title of the painting was drawing on a tune traditionally associated with the drama it was depicting.

The tune, incidentally, aside from being the title of a painting showing troops heading to Belgium in 1815, can be heard playing in the 1970 film Waterloo at the moment when Wellington orders the whole Allied army forward in victory.

O ne’er shall I forget the night,
The stars were bright above me
And gently lent their silv’ry light
When first she vowed to love me.
But now I’m bound to Brighton camp
Kind heaven then pray guide me
And send me safely back again,
To the girl I left behind me.

Girl Soldier: The Death or Glory Girls

Continuing to keep an eye out for anything relating to the Soldier Girls postcard series, something popped up recently for auction which, though not the same, bared many similarities. It was a postcard with a listing which included the associated words; “Ellam?, Political, Comic Postcard, 1900s, Suffragette, Votes, Women” and was titled “Our Future Army”.

The postcard shares many similarities with the Girl Soldier series. Beautifully illustrated, it features a lady wearing an authentic Full Dress British cavalry uniform from around the year 1900.

The composition is much the same too; a plain (albeit dark) background with a single soldier standing in a relaxed pose. There’s no artist signature on the card however. Although the auction listing queried Ellam’s name as artist, I’m not convinced it’s William H. Ellam’s style, which veered more towards the cartoon.

Right: a female Life Guard by Ellam and Left: a 17th Lancer by an unknown artist

On the back, there are even less clues. No publisher information of any sort, so apparently not an Ellanbee (Landecker and Brown) publication. The only indication is “Series 531”, suggesting even more of these ladies were produced. I wonder if this postcard was even an ‘official’ publication.

The series title Our Future Army is open to interpretation. When titled Soldier Girls, we can assume that series was intended to be patronising / amusing; a play on the established concept of “soldier boys”. Being so similar, was Our Future Army intended to be comic also? Again, the auction listing suggests so. Is it a snide warning of a shockingly feminised future? Or, presuming this was produced around the same time as the campaigning for women’s suffrage, could it possibly even be a celebratory invocation of future of gender equality?

As with the other “Solder Girls”, our lady lancer is a confident and relaxed individual. I’d say that there seems nothing overtly patronising, amusing or incongruous about the image to modern eyes; just a woman in uniform (although the Troop Sergeant Major may have something to say about that extravagant hair-do).


The Uniform:

N.B. Much detailed information on this uniform, as so often, has come courtesy of the fabulous Uniformology website:

The illustration is of an officer of the The 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers. She wears the distinctive lancer’s cap with the ribbed cloth on the top (called a trencher) being white for the 17th regiment. The extravagant drooping white feather plume is swan.

An earlier version of a Czapka of the 17th Lancers circa 1854 (The Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum)

The tunic’s dark blue, as are the overalls which feature double white stripes. Two rows of brass buttons and a white plastron are on the front of the tunic. The piping seen around the tunic edge is in the same white facing colour. There’s a gold lace shoulder belt with silver picker plate and boss (though I can’t make out the chains). Gold cap lines are passing under the gold shoulder cords (although I can’t make out a brass button which would have had the famous ‘Death or Glory Boys’ skull and crossbones upon it – or should that be Death or Glory Girls?). With no silver rank markings visible, I’m calling this lady a 2nd Lieutenant.

From the design of the 3 bar hilt, it appears she’s holding an 1822 pattern Light Cavalry Sword, though I’m not certain the sword knot should be white. The white gauntlet gloves here were worn both mounted and, as in this case, dismounted.

All in all, I’d say it’s pretty darn accurate! I wonder why the illustrators of Soldier Girls and Our Future Army would go to such lengths to accurately reproduce uniforms like this if the intention was to create a postcard solely for comic amusement? The listing description suggests something of this modern ambiguity; in some way “political” yet at the same time “comic”, albeit including the term “Suffragette”, though positively or derisively I’m not entirely sure from the illustration.

Whatever the intention, this 21st-century collector likes it. It’s a skilful and accurate illustration of a 17th Lancer’s uniform c.1900 and is also (to my eyes) a realistic and respectful portrayal of a woman wearing it. And so, Our Future Army takes its place in the slowly growing gallery of my “Soldier Girls” collection.

Another Marrion’s Man?

My “Marrion’s Men” series features 54mm yeomanry figures whose sculpting appears to be based closely on illustrations by the great military artist R.J. Marrion. All of these illustrations are featured on the covers of a series of books called “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914”, all of which were published between 1980 and 1992.

It now seems I may have discovered another 54mm yeomanry figure seemingly inspired by Bob Marrion’s illustrations from this series. This figure could be said to have been hiding in plain sight, being still freely available for sale from Tradition of London! The figure is of a yeoman from the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry.

Officer, Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry by Tradition of London.

Number 6 book in the series is on the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry by L. Barlow and R.J. Smith. Bob Marrion’s illustration of this officer appears on the back cover, alongside a sergeant and a mounted kettledrummer.

The authors state simply that it depicts “an officer in Field Dress in 1900”. The illustration itself is based on a photograph appearing inside on Page 14 showing a Major J. Rutherford wearing the same uniform while mounted.

“Fig. 14. Major J. Rutherford in Mounted Field Dress at Hightown Camp, 1900. He wears the new felt hat and the original pagri is just visible. The 1896 serge frock is worn with Undress white belt and slings and the pantaloons have gold stripes; knee boots. The sabretache with gold ornament, introduced about 1895, can also be seen.”

The pose on Tradition’s 54mm figure is not identical but is very similar and the uniform appears to be the same in all details. There’s no sabretache and sword (not to say any cigarette in hand either), also the stone distance marker on which the officer nonchalantly places his foot has been replaced by Tradition by a wooden box.

Despite all that, I think the clear and unmistakable similarities mean that for me it still qualifies as a newly identified “Marrion’s Man”.

Order placed with Tradition of London! 🙂

A Portrait of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry

Being always interested in the colourful array of Napoleonic yeomanry, I recently noticed a striking painting up for sale. It’s a contemporary oil painting of an officer of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry which I thought pleasing enough to share.

Portrait of An Officer & His Mount, Surrey Yeomanry by Augustus S. Boult

In the distance can be seen the whole regiment lined up as well as a separate group nearby. They wear white over red plumes while the officer wears red. One of this group is presumably intended to be a trumpeter wearing a darker (navy?) coloured coat, a Tarleton possibly with its crest being topped with red, and also being mounted on a grey. His instrument might possibly just be discerned being held in his right hand.

From the heavy pall of smoke to the left distance, a significant battle seems to be in progress – a fanciful invention for a regiment whose duties were principally limited to policing civil unrest!

Pattern 1822 Light Cavalry Sabre and scabbard

I was initially unsure of the year it was painted but the sale description suggested the officer has drawn a Pattern 1822 Light Cavalry Sword. This trusty weapon was to remain in use in the British army up until 1896 and in some yeomanry regiments well into the 20th century.

The regiment was disbanded briefly at the end of the 1820s. Given the sword pattern, the Napoleonic-era uniform and Tarleton helmet, it seemed likely that it must have been mid-1820s, prior to any subsequent uniform change. Yeomanry could be slow to adopt changes in military fashion from the regular forces as the cost of adopting new uniforms would usually come from the regiment’s own colonel and benefactor. A portrait of a quartermaster from the Leicestershire Yeomanry, for example, shows him still wearing a Tarleton helmet in the 1850s!

Portrait of an Officer of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry
 , 1823–1823

A little research soon threw up another Boult painting of a Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry officer. This portrait is dated 1823. Presumably both the paintings being commissioned together and is therefore likely the same date as the first canvas. This painting depicts the officer in a more dynamic pose, firing his pistol, seemingly as he rides hurriedly back towards his lines away from the enemy! To the distance right, another line of light blue Surrey yeomen can be seen. Notably, the trouser on this officer is of a light blue or blue-grey colour rather than the apparent black in the first portrait.

Also in the saleroom is this 100mm Die-Cast figure of Colonel Lord Leslie of the Surrey Yeomanry Cavalry, the regiment’s founder. Dying in 1817, this is not the same as the officer in the painting.

And the painting of the Surrey Yeomanry continues to this day as seen on this pub sign (depicting a later incarnation of the regiment). On Dorking High Street is a pub which was named in honour of Lord Leslie back in the early 19th century, the Lord being a former neighbour.

About the artist:

I can’t find much information about the artist Augustus S. Boult beyond what appears on auction sites. It appears that he specialised in painting equestrian, country and hunting subjects and painted at least some other cavalry portraits. It appears that he had a relation (possibly a son), Francis, who followed in the same tradition, painting very similar subjects but seemingly non-military. Augustus Boult died in 1853.

The Illustrated London News, Sept. 26th, 1863…

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.

A spare frame and a cheap picture mount does the job nicely.

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…


** Incidentally, this week it was announced in the Eastern Daily Press that Norfolk has appointed its first female Lord-Lieutenant of the county in 470 years of the role.

Marrion’s Men #5: Officer, Yorkshire Hussars

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.

Detail from my 1848 print of an officer of the Yorkshire Hussars by Henry Martens.

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;

A little more on the Derbyshire Yeomanry Mounted Band

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.

Entrance of the Procession into Melbourne on the 10th May 1876 by John Gelder (1816 – 1885) ©National Trust Images

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.”

The scene of the parade today, the house then known as “The Poplars” just visible through the trees to the right.

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.

A 1794 musical score that I found in Calke of “Two marches composed by Joseph Haydn for Henry Harpur Bart. and presented by him to the Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire”.

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.

Blurred and indistinct; a ghostly image of the Mounted Derbyshire Yeomanry at Aston Camp in 1890. Photo: The Derbyshire Yeomanry Association.

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.

Calke Abbey © National Trust / Ian Buxton, David Midgelow, Brian Birch

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #7

7. The King’s Regiment (Liverpool)

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).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #6

6. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment

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).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #5

5. The East Lancashire Regiment

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).