The Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry Collection: Day Trip #11

Finding myself in Norfolk for a couple of day’s holiday, I took the opportunity to visit the Muckleburgh Collection near Weybourne. Situated right on the north Norfolk coastline, it is the site of a former military camp dedicated to training anti-aircraft personnel. This privately owned museum today houses many impressive exhibits of 20th century artillery, armoured vehicles, heavy tanks and missiles, etc.

But it also contains the largest collection of exhibits from the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry and, eschewing much of the modern military hardware on display, it was this collection that (unsurprisingly) attracted Suburban Militarism for a brief visit.

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Yeomanry guidons mounted up on the wall. Left is a fairly ancient guidon of the Yarmouth Troop of Yeomanry.

In preparation for the visit, I referred to two books in my possession; Volume 12 of the “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series on the Norfolk Yeomanry, and the excellently written 2012 book “The Loyal Suffolk Hussars” by Margaret Thomas and Nick Sign.

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“The Loyal Suffolk Hussars at the Centenary Review, Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds, 1893.” A large canvas already familiar to me as featuring on the dust jacket to a book I’d been reading.

The gallery was a wealth of information and exhibits. It was unfortunate, however, that many of them were grouped behind a large glass partition in a separate area. The lighting was good however and one had to admire at a slightly greater distance than this military history nerd would have liked.

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Exhibits (behind glass partition) relating to the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry (and other local volunteer units)

The Norfolk Yeomanry had an intermittent history, coming in and out of existence a number of times since its establishment. Forming and reforming thereafter in various guises until finally disbanding in 1867. It was not until after the Boer War in 1902 that the Norfolk Yeomanry was again re-raised as the King’s Own Royal Regiment. This was thanks in no small part to the keen interest and patronage of His Majesty King Edward the VII, the regiment’s own honorary colonel.

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Loyal Suffolk Hussars officer’s shabraque with Field Service caps of the Norfolk (yellow) and Suffolk Militia Artillery.

Such influence enabled it to resist the encroachment of khaki and also saw it involved in a number of prestigious royal escort duties. This re-raised KORR had a unique and attractive full dress uniform which included this glorious black-japanned helmet with a warm yellow falling plume, an ordinary ranks helmet that I found on display. Within the partitioned area, I later spied an officer’s version of this helmet with a central star inside the laurel wreath. To the left of the photo below can just be seen some yellow cord aiguilettes, possibly used by a bandsmen of A Troop.

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The distinctive yellow facings could be seen on displayed mess jackets and also on an unusual lancer-style coat with this stark yellow plastron with Full Dress pouch (left). This unusual Levee Order tunic featured laced facings was worn between 1903-1914. The mess jacket on the right partially conceals an intricately ornamented cream mess vest underneath.

The Norfolk Yeomanry for a short time (1901-1904) switched to this Colonial Pattern helmet with a brass spike. Ordinary ranks had a plain drab pagri wrapped around the helmet, while officers were distinguished by a blue version as seen in the helmet I discovered below.

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Unlike their northern brethren, the Suffolk Yeomanry managed to more or less maintain a constant presence since its inception, in part relying on recruiting additional troops from neighbouring counties whose yeomanry had disbanded, such as Norfolk. By 1855, the title of “The Loyal Suffolk Yeomanry” was in use, with the adopted uniform being of a rifle green hussar style uniform to match (see below). This later became navy blue with red facings, a colour which would also appear on their caps.

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Suffolk Yeomanry jacket (officer)

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Examples of their busbies (red bags and white plumes) were displayed, together with officer’s epaulettes and undress headgear such as the red coloured pillbox and field service caps. The yellow cap seen below with the GviiR cypher is of the Norfolk Yeomanry.

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Some of the most interesting helmets on display were the behind glass partition. These included a Tarleton in fine condition from the green-coated Norfolk Rangers (c.1789), a helmet of the Swaffam Troop missing its crest and badge (c.1798), an officer’s imposing bicorne hat, and three fine Suffolk Yeomanry Cavalry helmets from around 1815 (centre left photo).

Always a pleasure to discover interesting artworks and images on the walls of a collection, aside from the large canvas already mentioned, some others that caught my eye included these below.

  • Left: An oil painting of the Suffolk Artillery Brigade Militia parading with their artillery pieces just visible lined up in the background.
  • Right: A fine watercolour of the King’s Own Royal Regiment (Norfolk Yeomanry) in camp around the turn of the last century.

Also, these interesting images of:

  • Norfolk Volunteer Artillery mounted on a limber, photographed on Mousehold heath, 1895.
  • A very old pencil sketch of the ‘favourite charger of Major Edgar’ (Colonel of the Suffolk Yeomanry), found in a local market.

A number of accoutrements caught my eye including a fine brass pouch belt buckle of Norfolk’s Clackclose Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry (1796). Some of the exhibit labels confused me though; the labels for the Norfolk Yeomanry and the 3rd Norfolk Rifle Volunteer Corps belt buckles below appear to have been mixed up!

A visit to a yeomanry collection is incomplete without seeing some ornate sabretaches and this collection had plenty to view. The red Loyal Suffolk Hussars sabretache developed to include a reference to being the Duke of York’s Own. Other examples included the Suffolk Borderers (bottom left) and the Norfolk Light Horse (centre bottom) which were a mounted corps developed out of the Rifle Volunteer movement in 1860 and which lasted until 1867.

Finally, a particular interest of mine of late is the colourful and decorative yeomanry bands and it was pleasing to see the Norfolk Yeomanry’s own represented in the form of yellow cord aiguilettes, two drum banners and a pair of gilt embossed kettledrums. Note the portrait of an Norfolk Yeomanry officer wearing that Levee Order dress uniform mentioned earlier (left).

On a very final note, your reporter was delighted to find in the collection a whole separate room of model soldiers, more on this perhaps in another post…

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Riflemen, Form!

Form, Form, Riflemen Form
Ready, be ready to meet the storm!
Riflemen, Riflemen, Riflemen form!

“Riflemen, Form!” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


The next figures that I’ll be tackling here at Suburban Militarism are some more from the very wonderful 28mm manufacturer, Perry Miniatures. It’s a return to plastics at this scale, which is something I haven’t attempted since my Warwickshire Yeomanry figures. I’m also hoping to paint yet more volunteer troops, this time using Perry’s Zulu War British Infantry.

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Often in visits to military museums I’ll come across examples of Rifle Volunteer tunics or helmets and I thought it about time I explored a little more about this Victorian phenomenon. Hence, my current reading material, the highly informative Riflemen Form: A Study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859-1908  by I. F. W. Beckett. Rifle Volunteer Corps were first established in 1859, partially as a response to the occasional public ‘invasion panics’ such as the concern over the threat posed by Napoleon III’s France. Such paranoia was stoked by ‘future war’ invasion novels such as “The Battle of Dorking”, which was even subtitled “Reminiscences of a Volunteer”.

Additionally, the growth in support for a rifle volunteer movement was a recognition of the small size of the British regular army relative to its European rivals. Furthermore, most of the British army was often overseas garrisoning the empire and not in a position to immediately counter any invasion. There was a so-called ‘Blue Water’ school of thought which placed faith in the peerless Royal Navy to prevent any invasion. However, the movement eventually managed to elicit parliamentary support for its establishment in 1859, though the government was careful to avoid any significant cost to the exchequer, the emphasis firmly being on the ‘voluntary’ aspect of the corps!

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The Zulu War British infantry set produced by Perry Miniatures,  in addition to the “Foreign Service” pattern helmets used on campaign, also come supplied with ‘Home Service’ pattern helmets. The main difference between these helmets being the Home Service helmets having regimental plate appearing on the front and also the retention of the spike on top. I thought this useful addition could provide the means to create some reasonable examples of men found in some of the Victorian Rifle Volunteer Corps, many of which sported Home Service pattern helmets such as the Volunteer helmets below.

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Helmet of the 1st Cheshire rifle volunteers, c.1878. Uniform was grey with scarlet facings.
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Helmet of the 2nd (Earl of Chester’s) Cheshire RVC. Uniform was scarlet with buff facings.
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Helmet of the 3rd Cheshire Volunteer’s Battalion. Uniform was scarlet with white facings. A ‘Cheshire Greys’ field service cap is right.

Being a mass movement of volunteers, there were a plethora of local Rifle Volunteer Corps (R.V.C.s) established all around Britain. The county of Lanarkshire alone, for example, raised up to 107 separate corps; Lancashire raised 91; Middlesex raised 50 and Cheshire 36. The latter is significant because a recent visit to the Cheshire Military Museum has inspired my decision to paint rifle volunteers. My first batch of figures will depict a rifle volunteer uniform I saw there; namely the 1st Cheshire R.V.C. also known as the ‘Cheshire Greys’.

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Tunic of the 1st Cheshire R.V.C.

British Rifle Volunteer Corps wore a range of uniforms which reflected the somewhat disparate and localised nature of their formation. The majority wore scarlet tunics, similar to the regular infantry at the time. Also very popular, however, were grey or dark green uniforms, a reflection of their broadly intended role as light infantry marksmen and also a practical recognition of the challenges facing the British army as it approached the 20th century. My chosen 1st Cheshire R.V.C. adopted a uniform of grey with red facings. Interestingly, Beckett’s “Riflemen, Form” informs me that;

“…in March 1883, a War Office Colour Committee recommended the grey uniform of the 3rd Devon Rifle Volunteers… as the pattern for the new service dress, but in the event, Indian Khaki was preferred.”

So it seems that the late-Victorian British army came surprisingly close to looking much like the grey-uniformed rifle volunteers that I’m endeavouring to create!

A couple of examples of the 1st Cheshire R.V.C. grey Home Service pattern helmets were on display in the Cheshire Military Museum, as was the officer’s tunic (left pic below). Perry Miniatures’ officer figures from the Zulu War set should allow me to mimic the braiding on this to some degree.

I’ve chosen six figures and an officer for my first group of volunteer rifles and have a vague idea of grouping them into some kind of basic diorama. I’m no diorama creator, so I use the phrase advisedly! The figures come with separate arms and heads which require gluing onto the bodies, offering opportunities for varied poses. I’m not the best at model assembly either, I admit, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll post updates on my progress…

 

Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum: Day Trip #10

“For our homes and for our hearths” – Staffordshire Yeomanry motto

I finally made a trip out to a military museum that I’d been intending to visit for some time. The Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum is housed in the Ancient High House in Stafford and I had made plans for a visit last year. Unfortunately, problems with my train meant that I abandoned the attempt. I am glad that I’ve finally completed the trip as the collection was certainly well worth a visit.

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Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry by Richard Simkin, c.1890.

A little regimental history:

The Staffordshire Yeomanry were formed on the 4th July 1794 to counter the threat of invasion posed by revolutionary France. Known as The Staffordshire Regiment of Gentlemen and Yeomanry, they initially wore a red coat with yellow facings, a white waistcoat, white leather breeches and a Tarleton helmet. In 1808 they changed to a blue hussar style jacket, thereby adopting a colour which they would retain into the 20th century.

It was soon called out to assist the authorities put down a riot. Indeed, the keeping of domestic order became an all-too-regular occupation right up to the 1860s. It is said that they were called out to maintain civic order on more occasions than any other yeomanry regiment! The Staffordshire Yeomanry variously consisted of up to 12 troops based in towns across the county such as Lichfield, Stafford, Wolverhampton and Uttoxeter, numbering at its peak anything up to just under 1000 men in total.

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Sheet music of Staffordshire Yeomanry ‘cavalry quadrilles’

In 1838, in honour of their work in maintaining order, the new Queen bestowed upon them the title “Royal” and thenceforth the regiment became known as the “Queen’s Own Royal Regiment”. At the end of the century, they supplied men for service with the Imperial Yeomanry serving in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, securing the regiment’s first battle honour in the process, and went on to fight with great distinction in the two World Wars.

The exhibits:

Suburban Militarism (mostly) concerns itself with military history prior to the 20th century, so I’ll review some exhibits from that era. That said, the regiment’s 20th century guidon below was a fine example.

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The regiment’s guidon, displaying battle honours and the iconic ‘Staffordshire knot’ in the centre

Just prior to entering the collection which was housed on the top floor of the ancient building, I was delighted to notice a number of terrific artworks on the regiment. Much of these were by some of my favourite military artists. There were some very fine paintings of the Staffordshire Yeomanry by both Richard Simkin and Orlando Norie, none of which I’d seen anywhere before.

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Watercolours of the Staffordshire Yeomanry by Orlando Norie (Top) and Richard Simkin (Bottom).

Both artists painted the regiment appearing in force, as well as also small studies of individual yeoman as a demonstration of evolving uniforms through the ages. A photograph on display was attributed to Richard Simkin, apparently being used by him as a basis for painting a yeoman in a uniform formerly worn decades earlier.

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The Queen’s Own Royal Regiment of Staffordshire Yeomanry by Richard Simkin

There was also up on the wall a painting of which I was familiar. It is unclear who the artist is (although I’d heard a previous suggestion of it being Norie), but learnt through my visit that it might well be by Henry Martens, whose artworks I’d last seen in the Anglo-Sikh Wars exhibition earlier this year.

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Officers of the Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry, c.1853

Of a number of great portraits depicting yeoman within the museum, two particularly caught my attention. John Stratford (below) served with the 14th Light Dragoons in the Anglo-Sikh Wars, Persia and in the Indian Mutiny, prior to joining the Staffordshire Yeomanry as a sergeant instructor. This remarkable veteran eventually died in 1932 at the ripe old age of 102!

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John Stratford in his Staffordshire Yeomanry uniform. He can be seen wearing his Indian General Service, Indian Mutiny, Punjab and (I believe) Army Long Service & Good Conduct medals.

Below, taken from the back of my purchased book, is an oil painting of Trooper David Riley, sometime builder and joiner turned farmer, wearing his uniform of 1852. He holds an Albert Pattern dragoon helmet with a black plume. The painting is notable for depicting a humble trooper rather than a more senior rank.

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David Riley portrait taken from the book on The Staffordshire Yeomanry by David German and Chris Coogan.

The Staffordshire Yeomanry of the middle of the 19th century had one of the smartest uniforms of any yeomanry regiment, in my humble opinion. The beautiful Albert Pattern helmet with its striking black japanning and ornate silver plate was adopted in 1850. It originally had a black plume surmounted with an acorn decoration but this was changed in 1859 to a white plume with a rosette top. This headdress changeover for all ranks apparently took up to a decade. One sergeant of the Himley Troop observed how he felt the black plume “…somehow or other puts one in mind of a funeral…“; an attitude which may explain the eventual changeover to white!

I always enjoying seeing artefacts connected with regimental musicians and bands, so it was good to see the kettledrum banner with its prominent Staffordshire knot under the crown. The silver trumpets on either side in the display were presented to the regiment in 1845, having been funded by public subscription.

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QORR Staffordshire Yeomanry drum banner and silver trumpets.
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Cigarette card by Players

The regiment eventually became hussars and adopted a busby with a red bag and white horsehair plume. Notice the difference between the officer’s busby (left & centre), with a brighter, more extravagant white plume and silver cord, and contrast with the Other Rank’s plainer plume with white cord on the right hand photograph.

Uniforms on display demonstrated developments in the tunic and also provided some examples of late 19th / early 20th century mess dress. ‘Pill box’ forage caps had beautiful silver banding and intricate scrolls on the top, which increased in intricacy for the senior ranks. Note the all-red field service cap nestling by the sleeve in the photo top-right. This replaced the pill box style for a time. A long plume holder can also be seen just visible to the right rear of the cabinet in top left photo.

And finally, below can be seen some of the accoutrements that took my attention. The officer’s black pouchbelt is adorned with ‘prickers’ for spiking enemy guns, and the trooper’s white pouchbelt and pouch is just below it. The very fine epaulettes on display had gilt Staffordshire knots. One pair of these provided an example of how the officers stored them to maintain good condition (a metal case).

Having enjoyed free entry to the museum, I thought it only correct to make a special donation to the Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum and also I purchased a book on the regiment on sale in the shop. The museum comes highly recommended for a visit by Suburban Militarism.

Militia, Volunteers and Kettledrums (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #9 Part 3)

To your (no doubt) relief, this is my final instalment on my visit to the Somerset Military Museum. In the first two posts, I showcased exhibits relating to the regular infantry (Somersetshire Light Infantry) and also to the mounted volunteer forces of the county (North Somerset and West Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry). In this third post, I’m taking a look at the county’s Rifle Volunteers and Militia, and also focusing on that mainstay of any military band – drums!

Firstly, below is a tunic featuring a cross-belt from the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Somersetshire Light Infantry from the period 1881-1902. This was a period when Britain’s Rifle Volunteers were first reorganised to be formally attached to their associated county’s line infantry regiments.

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Major’s tunic, 2nd Somersetshire LI. c.1881-1902

Rifle volunteers were a creation with origins going back to 1859, at a time when Britain was alarmed by the growing threat of Napoleon III’s France. These Rifle Volunteer regiments commonly adopted muted uniform colours such as dark green or grey, in the fashion of other rifle specialists (such as Britain’s own Rifle Brigade or King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Following the Childers Reforms of 1881, these Rifle Volunteers became formally attached to line regiments as numbered volunteer battalions. Hence the original Somerset Rifle Volunteer Corps (formed in 1859) became the 2nd and 3rd Battalions Somersetshire Light Infantry in 1881. They retained their distinctive grey uniform for some years to come, it seems. It has been said of the reforms that many in the regular army were pleased when such ‘amateurs’ didn’t readily adopt scarlet, confirming them as being distinct from the ‘proper’ professionals!

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  • Above: Officer’s coatee, North Somerset Local Militia Light Company c.1808-16.

The genesis of the formation of the militia was Anglo-Saxon and it existed in various forms throughout the centuries. In response to the Napoleonic emergency, seven Somerset local militia regiments were raised early in the 19th century from pre-existing volunteer units, eventually culminating in the establishment of the 1st Somerset Militia. Militia were generally dressed in a manner similar to other regular infantry line regiments.

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The Prince Albert’s (Somersetshire Light Infantry) c.1908 by Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927)

In 1908, the Haldane Reforms saw existing reserve forces, such as the militia and yeomanry, reorganised once more. The yeomanry and rifle volunteers became part of the new “Territorial Force”, whilst the militia were formed into the “Special Reserve”. Great military artist Richard Caton Woodville, himself a member of the Berkshire Yeomanry, was commissioned in 1908 to produce a series of portraits depicting this new Territorial Force, including his painting of the above Somersetshire Light Infantry battalion.

Lots of splendid examples of volunteer and militia headdress were on show in the museum, including some examples below:

  • Below Left – Volunteer Battalion, Somersetshire Light Infantry officer’s forage cap c.1883-1901
  • Below Right – 2nd Administrative Battalion, Somerset Rifle Volunteers, Home Service pattern helmet, c. 1876-1901.

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Also below;

  • Below Left – 3rd Administrative Battalion, Somerset Rifle Volunteers, Pill-box forage cap, c.1860-80
  • Below Right – 13th (Frome) Rifle Volunteer Corps, Shako, c. 1860-70. Note the green colours.

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And there were also some militia headdress demonstrating various changing styles of shako worn throughout the 19th Century;

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Various headdress of the Somersetshire Militia.

Finally, concluding the report of the Somerset Military museum, I’d like to showcase some war drums! My photographs below exhibit some of their fine drums on display which included (clockwise from left);

  • Firstly, a drum formerly used on campaign by the 1st Battalion Somerset LI in the 1st Anglo-Afghan War, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and in South Africa! It’s condition can be compared with the more pristine East Somerset militia’s drum. The 1st battalion’s drum can perhaps, given its astonishing history, be readily forgiven for being a little more faded and worn.
  • An East Somerset Local Militia drum, c.1808. Inscribed with the name of the regiment and a George III cypher.
  • A West Somerset Yeomanry kettledrum, c.1854. A beautiful object, its worn and fading paintwork tells of how it was presented to the WSYC by the Hon. Col. Portman.
  • A North Somerset Yeomanry kettledrum, c.1889. Bearing the crest of this yeomanry regiment, it would have been one of a pair carried over the sides of a strong horse.

Regarding that North Somerset Yeomanry kettledrum in the photo above (bottom right), my copy of Barlow and Smith’s “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series on the North Somerset Yeomanry reveals an 1889 photograph of a kettledrummer with his  two instruments atop a large grey drum horse.

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North Somerset Yeomanry kettledrums and drum horse, c.1889.

Kettledrums were often carried with a regimental banner placed over them. However, in the photograph no drum banners are shown and the authors can find no evidence that they were ever carried by the regiment, though certainly it seems that the West Somerset Yeomanry did, as can be seen shown in the cigarette card below issued by Players.

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Another photograph in the book shows the North Somerset Yeomanry Regimental Band posed together with their instruments, including the two kettledrums, and dated 1908. Presumably, the kettledrum in the museum is one of these depicted here. The band would have been dressed similarly to the rest of the regiment; blue forage cap with white band, blue serge coats, white collars and blue overalls with double white stripes.

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The kettledrums on display with the North Somerset Yeomanry Regimental Band, c.1908,

And with all that history now ‘drummed’ into you, I’ll sign off until next time!

Marvin.

Somerset Soldiers (Day Trip #9, Part II)

Continuing my report on the Somerset Military Museum, I’d like to showcase next some of the splendid yeomanry uniforms on display. Mounted volunteers were often amongst the most attractively dressed forces in the British army, being less subject to the more practical uniform concerns brought about by foreign campaigning. Examples of Somerset Yeomanry dress on display included;

  • (Left) North Somerset Yeomanry cavalry, officer’s coatee, c.1843.
  • (Right) West Somerset Yeomanry cavalry, officer’s coatee, c.1812.

The coatee featuring a red plastron belonged to The North Somerset Yeomanry. This force was first raised in Frome in 1798, merging with The East Mendip Corps in 1804, and designated the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry in 1814. By the 1880s, the regiment was designated as a dragoon regiment.

The West Somerset Yeomanry was first raised in June 1794 as an independent troop at Bridgwater. In 1812, they were wearing this Light Dragoon style jacket intricately laced with gold braid. Their headdress at the time would have been Tarleton helmets. By the end of the century, they would have been converted to Hussars.

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Mudford Independent Yeomanry Cavalry helmet, c 1831.

One of my very favourite items of headdress was the dragoon-style helmet worn by the Mudford Independent Yeomanry Cavalry a Taunton troop that was disbanded in 1838. Of a steel and brass construction it had a black crest and a Royal Coat of Arms on a sunburst plate. This troop of yeomanry was involved in suppressing the Reform Riot of 1831 then taking place in the town of Yeovil.

“The Mudford Troop of Yeomanry, under the command of Captain George Harbin of Newton Surmaville, assembled the following morning. The rioters were threatening to sack the town and pelted the Yeomanry with stones and other missiles. However the Yeomanry arrested two of the mob and took them to the Mermaid Inn where the magistrates were assembled. The Mermaid Inn was attacked, windows broken, and the rioters attempted to rescue those that had been arrested. Consequently the Yeomanry were instructed to fire “four in the air, and two at the rioters”. One of the rioters was wounded and the crowd dispersed although the Yeomanry had to provide constant patrols to keep the streets clear and maintain order….

Such were the occasionally unglamorous duties of Yeomanry during the 1830s. Being a volunteer force, their lack of experience might be seen to have contributed to an unfortunate incident during the riot where it was noted that;

One of the Yeomanry, a Trooper named Charles Cattle, accidentally shot himself in the leg.

The two scarlet coatees below are examples from the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry. The one on the right is a Sergeant-Major’s coat and the example on the left belonged to Captain Harbin who originally raised the troop.

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The display of Yeomanry equipment was comprehensive enough to include artefacts relating to their horses too. The museum has this 1873 painting by John Alfred Wheeler of ‘May Queen’, a very fine steed belonging to the Bath Troop of the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry.

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‘May Queen’, Bath Troop, North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry by
John Alfred Wheeler – 1873

Items of horse furniture in the above painting could be compared to some real ones on display. In the bottom photo below can be seen an example of the white throat plume.

  • (top left) An officer’s white gauntlet gloves, spurs, pouch (with George V cypher) and shoulder belt,
  • (top right) North Somerset Yeomanry sabretache
  • (bottom) Yeomanry horse tack including decorative ear and bit bosses, a brown leather bridle with white throat plume, also a ‘bit’ with curb chain.

That doughty chronicler of the late-Victorian era British army, Richard Simkin, depicted the Somerset Yeomanry regiments at the turn of the century (then combined into the ‘4th Yeomanry Brigade’) thus;

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West Somerset and North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry by Richard Simkin (1840-1926)

Simkin’s painting shows clearly the different styles of headdress adopted by the two Yeomanry regiments; the West Somerset were dressed as hussars, and the North Somerset dressed as dragoons. Both styles of headdress were also on display in the museum (see below).

  • Below Left: North Somerset Yeomanry officer’s full-dress dragoon helmet, 1851-1914. (Also visible – an officer’s pill-box forage cap 1880 -1904 can be seen behind and to the right. This style of cap can be seen in Simkin’s painting too.).
  • Below Right: West Somerset Yeomanry full-dress hussar pattern busby, c.1881-1900 (also visible – a North Somerset Yeomanry officers staff pattern forage cap 1956-67.)

And that concludes the part II of the report, leaving a measly one more to go! In the final part will be reviewed the Somerset volunteer infantry forces and also a number of drums…

Somerset Military Museum (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #9)

Happily, while on my way back home from holiday I managed to detour and visit the Somerset Military Museum in Taunton. The gallery is a part of the wider Museum of Somerset and contains a collection which covers the following regiments:

· The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s)
· The Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry
· The West Somerset Yeomanry
· The North Somerset Yeomanry
· The Somerset Militia, Rifle Volunteers and Territorials
· The Light Infantry and its successor regiment, The Rifles

You will note the above mention of militia, rifles, volunteer and yeomanry, which is something of a particular interest of mine and I wasn’t to be disappointed. I was particularly impressed by the museum’s emphasis on letting the exhibits take centre stage and the whole gallery was very well stocked with uniforms – so I was a particularly happy boy!

Painting of the Sortie from Jellalbad by Daniel Cunliffe
The Sortie from Jellalabad, a painting by Daniel Cunliffe (1801-1871)

Near the entrance to the gallery is the above painting by Daniel Cunliffe which depicts the Siege of Jellalabad, First Afghan War (1838-1842). In it, the 13th Light Infantry are depicted capturing sheep and cattle as part of a successful sortie from Jellalabad in which they were besieged. I was already familiar with some other paintings by Cunliffe, so was pleased to see this one. Another painting that would have been wonderful to view but was unfortunately absent on the day (I think away on loan) was Lady Butler’s “Remnant’s of an Army”. This was the great artist’s iconic depiction of William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jellalabad as the last survivor from the 1842 retreat from Kabul.

The city of Jellalabad in Afghanistan played an important part in the history of the 13th Regiment, the name eventually featuring on their cap badge in recognition of their valour in the conflict. The museum displayed a marvellous uniform worn by Captain George Talbot (below left) of the 13th Light Infantry which he would have been seen wearing on parade in Jellalabad. Also displayed (below right) was a fearsome Afghan dagger taken at the fall of Ghuznee in 1839 and a fabric skullcap worn by the 13th’s Captain George Mein during his captivity.

Taken captive by Afghan leader Mohammad Akbar Khan during the retreat from Kabul, Captain Mein was held for 9 months alongside other British survivors (men, women and children) which included Lady Florentia Sale, the incredibly brave and defiant wife of the regiment’s colonel, Sir Robert. Quite a bit of history seen by that little cloth cap! Large portraits of General and Lady Sale were on display, depicted by the artist George Clint (1770-1854).

The 13th Regiment fought all over the world including the Crimea, Burma, India and South Africa (latterly in both the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars). During the Zulu campaign, Major Knox-Leet of the 13th won a Victoria Cross during the disastrous battle of Hlobane and the following day his regiment fought hand to hand with Zulus in the desperate battle of Khambula. The regiment’s band led the British army advance (in square formation) at the concluding battle of Ulundi . The museum had artefacts from the Zulu campaign on display including a Martini-Henry rifle, some Zulu weaponry (see below) and King Cetshwayo kaMpande’s pipe!

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Heavy Zulu iwisa (knobkerries) with a isihlangu (ox-hide shield) taken during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.
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Bust of Lt John Chard of Rorke’s Drift fame. He was not of the 13th Regiment, being a Royal Engineer, but was a local Somerset man.

Anglo-Boer War exhibits included a Boer carving, a century old chocolate box given to troops (with the chocolate still in it) and this helmet below belonging to Corporal Mabey wounded at the battle of Tugela Heights in 1900. Note the hunting horn symbol on his rather campaign-weary pith helmet; an iconic symbol of light infantry troops.

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As I’ve mentioned, the museum was particularly blessed with uniforms such as this sergeant’s from the late 19th / early 20th century. Surrounding it were khaki uniforms and examples of NCOs and officer’s mess uniforms.

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On the right in the photo below can be seen an officer’s sword and scabbard which was carried during the 1st Anglo-Burma War (1824-26), 1st Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) and the Crimean War of 1854, possibly even present during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Few soldier’s swords can claim to have been quite so well-travelled! The sword with the white handle belonged to Lt-General Snow, a former colonel of the regiment.

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You may spy in the above photograph a 1930s Gramophone record which featured the Somerset Light Infantry’s suitably jaunty regimental march called “Prince Albert’s”, performed on record by their band. I believe this march featured in the 1968 film “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

Coming up in Part 2 of this post; drums, headdresses and lots of colourful volunteer uniforms abound…

Anglo-Sikh Wars Exhibition (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #8)

My local museum is currently housing an exhibition dedicated to the Anglo-Sikh Wars 1845-1849. I’ve been a member of the Victorian Military Society since the age of 14 and so was naturally thrilled when I heard of this exhibition coming to my home city. Having been able to pay a visit to it today, I can say that it was well worth the anticipation.

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Anglo-Sikh Wars Exhibition 2017: Battles, Treaties and Relics.

Leicester has a particularly close relationship with India, both historically and culturally. The Leicestershire Regiment was known as ‘the Tigers’ due to its lengthy service in India, and the city’s successful Rugby team is called the same. Today, the city of Leicester has one of the highest populations in the UK of people from the Indian subcontinent (including Sikhs) and these have contributed greatly to the city’s distinct cultural development into the 21st century. With these ties in mind, it makes Leicester an ideal venue for such an exhibition.

When the Anglo-Sikh Wars began, the Sikh army had been equipped and trained in the style of European armies of the time. A number of Napoleonic war veterans came over from Europe to assist ruler Ranjit Singh in creating a well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid fighting force. They were largely successful, but it still remained a European-Sikh hybrid as some of the army retained Sikh traditional dress, weapons and fighting methods due to cultural and religious resistance to the new ideas.

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One of the first exhibits to catch my eye was this ‘foul weather’ czapka below from an officer of the 16th Lancers. The ‘foul weather’ aspect being presumably the black weather-proofing covering the headdress in favour of any other adornment or colour. The chain chinstrap could be unclipped from the back and then reapplied under the chin to a fixing on the side whenever necessary. The 16th Lancers won fame due to repeated charges made at the battle of Aliwal in the First Anglo-Sikh War. Here they successfully charged and broke the Sikh infantry squares which had been arrayed to receive cavalry in the European manner.

The next item of note was another example of military headdress. This wonderfully ornate cloth headpiece was ‘worn by officers at the battle of Aliwal’. Presumably, the curatorial staff are referring to the Sikh officers here, but it doesn’t specify which particular arm of the Sikh (or Khalsa) army. It might be a cavalry officer’s headpiece. Sikh cavalry consisted of a regular force trained in the European style of warfare, and a more irregular force known as the Gorchurra who were made up of the nobility and gentry of the Sikh kingdom. The Gorchurra resisted the European style military dress so I’m guessing that this fancy piece might be a feature of the Gorchurra?

One of the artefacts on display was already familiar to me as I’d seen it last year in Worcester during another Day Trip, it being on loan for this exhibition from the Mercian Regiment Museum there. A Sikh prince, or other high-ranking officer may well have worn this coat (below left and centre). The extremely detailed braiding at the back of the jacket could now be seen by me thanks to it’s relocation. It’s a terrific item and looks like it could easily be from the British army; albeit as a vastly more elaborate version than the peculiarly plain example worn by an officer of the 53rd regiment on the right.

Some battlefield relics I found particularly interesting, such as the piece of red cloth “cut from the sleeve of a Colour-sergeant of the 53rd Regiment mortally wounded on the battlefield of Sobraon Feb 10th 1846 and given at his request to Major Thomas Mowbray“. The scarlet still remains vivid against his sergeant’s stripe even to this day.

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This Sikh artilleryman’s sword was another battlefield relic, the inscription on the blade records how it was found lying close the body of a cornet in the 16th Lancers after the battle of Aliwal, 1846.Anglo sikh wars exhibition (22)

Not all battlefield relics were of a military nature, though. A British officer’s bible taken into the battle of Chillianwallah was on display as was this Sikh manuscript was found at the battle of Ferozeshah. The item contained compositions by Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth Sahib. Lying below it can be seen two sharp circular Sikh Chakkars (war quoits) and deadly-looking Tulwars (swords) taken during the wars.

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Below can be seen two British army swords, the larger being an infantry officers sword. The smaller is an 1821 pattern Light Cavalry Sabre as used by a Sergeant in the 16th Lancers. The exhibition included reports of how inferior the blunt British cavalry sabres were when compared to the razor-sharp Sikh versions.
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There were a number examples of hand-drawn maps on display, these were sketches of battlefield and siege dispositions. I was also pleased to see reproductions of contemporary paintings on the war a number of which were by the artist Henry Martens depicting actions at the battles of Ramnuggur, Sobraon, Mudki and Aliwal. The artist Henry Martens could even possibly be a source for a later post, I think.

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“The 62nd Regt on the 2nd Day of Ferozeshah” by Henry Martens

Congratulations are to go to the Sikh Museum Initiative, The Newarke Houses Museum and the many others involved in making this exhibition happen. It remains on until the 4th July 2017 and comes very well recommended by Suburban Militarism!

Military Treasures in an Unstately Home

A brief visit to Calke Abbey and gardens in Derbyshire today offered up some pleasant surprises relating to military history. Calke Abbey is billed by the National Trust as “the unstately home”, being left in the somewhat run-down state that it was found in when transferred to the charity. The house was owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years until it was passed to the Trust in 1985 in lieu of millions of pounds of death duties.

Consequently, a tour of the house reveals a delightfully cluttered and eccentric collection of hidden treasures gathered over past centuries, scattered across its gloomy rooms with peeling paintwork. It was in amongst all this that a number of military items came to my attention.

In one room was a huge collection of rocks, fossils, ancient artefacts and other ephemera. In amongst all these cabinets I spied some Crimean War medals presumably taken from a Russian soldier, and also a button from the Russian 22nd line infantry regiment. Also in this room were a couple of brass buckles from the early incarnation of the Derbyshire Yeomanry, a regiment I’d seen displayed in a visit to Derby last year.

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Buckle of the Derbyshire Volunteer Cavalry c.1794.

I suspect that the local yeomanry had been officered by the Baronet whose family seat was at Calke Abbey. Command of the yeomanry regiments at the time of the Napoleonic wars were often given to the aristocracy. Indeed, the wonderful old library contains a number of tomes relating to the operation of yeomanry forces, all but confirming the commanding of the regiment by the Harpur family heirs. The online catalogue includes:

  • Instructions for the use of yeomanry and volunteer corps of cavalry. (1803)
  • By His Majesty’s command. Just published, Rules and regulations for the sword exercise of the cavalry. (1796)
  • List of the officers of the several regiments and corps of fencible cavalry and infantry of the officers of the militia; of the corps and troops of gentlemen and yeomanry; and of the corps and companies of volunteer infantry. With an index. (1796)
  • An elucidation of several parts of His Majesty’s regulations for the formations and movements of cavalry. (1808)
  • An elucidation of several parts of His Majesty’s regulations for the formations and movements of cavalry. (1824)
  • A manual for volunteer corps of cavalry. (1808)

Upstairs in the sprawling mansion, I located part of the uniform of the Derbyshire Yeomanry Cavalry, a jacket I believe from the late 19th century;

Made from blue wool cloth with scarlet trimmings by Stokes and Co of Derby, the gilt metal buttons are cast with the Derbyshire Yeomanry crest. The remaining red-striped dark blue trousers and black boots were due to be also displayed sometime later this year. I suspect that the uniform is similar to this one, a heavy dragoon-style, depicted in my wonderful yeomanry regiments book with plates by Richard Simkin;

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Derbyshire Yeomanry c.1900 by Richard Simkin.

Displayed alongside the uniform was this fascinating artefact; a musical score of marches written for the Derbyshire Yeomanry by famous composer Joseph Haydn, no less, for Sir Henry Harpur the Baronet and his “Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire embodied in the year 1794”. The very pleasant piece of baroque classical music is on youtube.

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Haydn’s marches for the Derbyshire Yeomanry!

And that wasn’t all. In a child’s playroom, of all places, I found another piece of exotic weaponry. Behind some marbles and beside a cot was a shield. To me, it was an unmistakable design which was commonly seen during the Victorian army’s campaigns in the Sudan during the 1880s and 1890s. I asked the helpful assistant in the room who admitted that she wasn’t sure about the object, but on checking the catalogue found that it was only listed as being a “Round primitive shield made of thick, light-coloured animal hide. Possibly elephant hide.” Furthermore, the assistant showed me some spears in the same room which may have been associated with the shield. To me, they looked more like assegais than the examples of the broad bladed spears I’ve seen from the Sudan. But if that shield wasn’t from the Sudan campaign, I’ll eat my hat! I do wonder how this war booty may have ended up in an aristocratic child’s playroom in Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

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The Calke Abbey elephant-hide shield.

So, some interesting nuggets of militaria made for a pleasant surprise. Suburban Militarism has taken a particular interest in Yeomanry Cavalry regiments of late, so to find some items related to the Derbyshire Yeomanry was a real boon. I’ve not been idle on the painting front, however. Evidence of my modelling activities to come soon.

 

 

 

 

Warring in Worcestershire (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #7 – Part 2)

…Continuing my previous post on my visit to the Worcestershire Regiment and the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry museum, I thought I might showcase some of the many examples of headdress on display.

To begin at the very start, one of the very oldest exhibits in the museum was this Tarleton helmet of the early Worcestershire Yeomanry. The Tarleton was a light dragoon helmet popular with the British army at the turn of the 18th/19th century. It’s certainly a grand design with its thick bearskin crest, polished black leather, and leopard-skin turban held in place by brass chains (the pattern has faded in the photo). The same helmet was worn by other yeomanry regiments with small differences in design and colour of turbans.

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Tarleton Helmet of the Worcestershire Yeomanry

Following on from the bell shako in the 1830s (see previous post), the Worcestershire Yeomanry later adopted a Heavy Dragoon-style helmet with a white and red plume. The crest incorporates gaps on the side for ventilation, essential on a hot day.

A change to the uniform of hussars brought with it the busby headdress with a red bag and, for the officers, this dramatic, tall red plume.

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Yeomanry’s busby

As the Worcestershire Yeomanry prepared to send its sons off to the Anglo-Boer War, they were each presented by Lady Dudley with a replica Pear Blossom to wear in their khaki slouch hats. One of these touching presentations was on display with its brief dedication still attached (“…to wear on entering Pretoria”). This tradition continued when they served in First World War Palestine, the yeomanry wore a stitched version of the pear blossom became their badge in their Wolesley pith helmet (see below).

Finally, moving beyond the period of history usually covered by Suburban Militarism, there was also the helmet below worn by the yeomanry in their final days as a horse mounted regiment. This thick cork hat was known as the Topee and was employed in hot or tropical climates and I was delighted to find one on display.

I mentioned the wonderful Worcestershire Rifle Volunteers uniform and headdress in the previous post, but there was also two other helmets on display in the same case. On the left is the rifle volunteers undress cap with a bugle-horn badge (a symbol universally used by light infantry troops); and on the right is a French-style shako with a green ball plume.

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Contrast with this version of the shako worn by the militia, an 1861 pattern;

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A few remaining items of headdress that took my interest. The hat on the top left is an unusual cap called a Broderick. It was based on a German design (possibly Landwehr?) and used for a brief period between 1904-1908.  Next to it is the khaki service pith helmet used by the Worcestershire Regiment during the Boer War, is much more familiar. It’s dull and dusty colouring was essential to avoid being a victim of Boer sniper fire out on the veldt. It contrasts nicely with the more formal version with spike in the bottom photo.

And finally, there was a significant display on the action of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry at Huj in Palestine. Having just announced that my figures are now on display at the Warwickshire Yeomanry museum, it’s perhaps appropriate to finish on this topic. Aside from fascinating artefacts such as the Wolseley helmet already depicted, there was a moving story of a yeomanry officer who later became a vicar. On Remembrance Day 1946, Jack Parsons (who won a Military Cross as a Lieutenant in the charge at Huj) performed a sermon in his new calling as a vicar. In he service, he used the bible as his inspiration in pledging to take his old yeomanry sword and a Turkish one and together remake them as a ploughshare. The new ploughshare was used to sow and grow wheat for communion. Now, that’s what I call ‘up-cycling’. The remade plough was on display together with the remaining two sword hilts; a nice coda to the Huj story, I thought.

Well, that’s enough history and museum talk. Back to the modelling soon…

Worcester Warriors (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #7 – Part 1)

Having had a week away from work, I promised myself (with my good lady’s consent) a day trip out to a regimental museum. Having recently visited the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum to deposit my figures into their care, I fancied a trip out to their sister regiment; namely the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Yeomanry collection in Worcester’s City Museum & Art Gallery.

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Uniforms of the Worcestershire Yeomanry. Left; c.1837 scarlet tunic and shako. Right; trooper’s hussar uniform with the undress Pill-box hat c.1892. Background painting by W.J. Pringle depicts an 1838 review of the Yeomanry.

Aside from the yeomanry, within the museum were other non-regular army units including the local Worcestershire Artillery, Militia and Volunteer units associated with the Worcestershire Regiment. The same collection also houses exhibits from the regulars comprising the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, and of course its previous guises comprising the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot and the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot.

Worcestershire Yeomanry, Militia, Rifles and Volunteers uniforms:

The history of the county’s Yeomanry Cavalry from 1794 is told by the museum right up to its amalgamation with the Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1956. Like the Warwickshires, the Worcestershire Yeomanry initially sported a light dragoon style uniform with a Tarleton helmet. Their jacket was scarlet, rather than the Warwick’s French Grey, with blue facings. On entering the museum, I was immediately faced with this splendid re-creation of the uniform below.

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Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry circa 1794.

They eventually adopted the bell-top shako in the 1831, a Heavy Dragoon helmet in 1850, and by 1871 a dark blue hussar style uniform replete with busby.Much of these wonderful uniforms and helmets were on display in the case below:

As the yeomanry were only raised for service on home soil, when the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 created a dire need for more cavalry a new national force was raised from volunteers drawn from the national yeomanry regiments; the Imperial Yeomanry. Two companies of yeomen from the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Yeomanry signed up to serve in the IY, earning the regiment’s first battle honour. Following this conflict, they briefly adopted an apparently unloved lancer uniform inspired by the Australian New South Wales lancers who attended Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897.

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Lancer style uniform with red plastron which could be turned back to match the khaki,

In WWI, the regiment served in Palestine (alongside the Warwickshire Yeomanry) and took part in their spectacular and successful cavalry charge of Turkish lines at Huj. A particularly effective model, I thought, of a yeomanry trooper during this campaign was on display;

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A fine life-size model of a yeomanry trooper circa 1917 in Palestine, looking suitably dusty and thirsty.

In the mid-19th century, the yeomanry cavalry also had an attached artillery force dressed in blue coats. Evidence of their existence came to light recently when these 6 pounder and 3 pounder cannonballs were dug up near the base in Hewell Grange. The artillery detachment was finally disbanded in 1871 with the guns being sent on to Woolwich.

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Whilst chatting to the helpful lady at the gift shop, I noticed a truly enormous canvas above her depicting an 1838 review of the Yeomanry. Upon this could be seen the distant artillery detachment firing a salute. Just prior to this review, the regiment had been newly honoured by the young Queen Victoria who had awarded them the prefix “The Queen’s Own”.

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A white plume of cannon smoke can just be seen in the centre of this fantastic canvas by local artist W.J. Pringle, evidence of the yeomanry’s artillery detachment in action.

The Worcestershire Militia pre-dated the establishment of the yeomanry by a very long time indeed. In fact, the local militia’s precedents go back to the forming of the Fyrd during the Anglo-Saxon era. The militia was commonly called upon during national emergencies such as the Spanish Armada in 1588 and later in the English Civil War during 1642–1651. It was formally re-established in 1770, uniforms and other exhibits being on display from this era. After the 1881 Childer’s reforms, the two county Militia battalions were classified as the 3rd and 4th Battalions (to join the 1st and 2nd regular battalions) of the Worcestershire Regiment. I noticed that the Worcestershire Militia was depicted in another nice painting on display, showing them drilling on the south coast in readiness for an expected invasion by Napoleon.

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Militia officer’s 1830 pattern tunic with 1816 pattern shako.

Rifle Volunteer organisations were another element of national defence forces, and these saw a boom in the 1850s and 1860s, Worcestershire being no exception. The Worcestershire Rifle Volunteers came into being in 1859 with their battalions eventually becoming the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment. I think these dark green uniforms sported by the rifle volunteers at this time are particularly fine. The prospect of wearing such a rifleman’s uniform would possibly have been enough to make me sign up, I think, were I proficient with a rifle!

The 2nd part of this Day Trip report will look more closely at headgear on display, amongst other things. Until then, there’s still three more uniforms I wish to show! From right to left; an 1860s officer of the 29th Foot uniform with french-style shako; a wonderfully ornate Sikh jacket captured on the battlefield of Ferozeshah, 1st Anglo-Sikh War 1845; and an 1815 pattern officers coat belonging to a Lt. Colonel of the 36th Foot.

Part 2 of this Suburban Militarism Day Trip to follow…