The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum: Day Trip #18

This trip was actually a revisit to a museum which I’d last visited some 5 or 6 years ago, prior to this blog’s current incarnation and its series of museum reports. The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum is situated in Thoresby Park, deep in the picturesque Nottinghamshire countryside. Entry is completely free and its displays include the combined collections of:

  • The Queen’s Royal Lancers and their antecedents, namely;
    • 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers
    • 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers
    • 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers
    • 21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers
  • The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry
  • The South Notts Hussars
Entrance to the museum in Thoresby Courtyard – with free entry!

On this visit, I was particularly keen to take a closer look at displays connected to the two local yeomanry regiments; the Sherwood Rangers and the South Nottinghamshire Hussars.


Nottinghamshire’s Yeomanry Regiments:

One of the first things that I encountered on entry was a cabinet which included two ancient yeomanry tunics. The first had white facings and was dark blue in colour with tightly packed rows of silver braiding covering the front of the tunic from base to shoulder – 26 rows of loops and buttons (count ’em). The garment was described as belonging to the Worksop Independent Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, c. 1820.

Worksop Troop, Independent Yeomanry Cavalry tunic, c.1820.

All that silver braiding continues elsewhere on the tunic too, with some Austrian knot detailing on the cuffs and trefoils on the back and even around the sides.

Worksop Troop, Independent Yeomanry Cavalry tunic, c.1820.

The other tunic in the cabinet dated from 1815 and belonged to the Newark Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry. This coat was red with white facings, having three rows of 18 white metal buttons but without all the lace seen on the Worksop cavalry tunic above.

The shoulder scales were made of metal links, in contrast to the Worksop example’s cord braid on the shoulders.

An illustration of the 1798 uniform of this troop was available for purchase in the shop both as a postcard and notebook cover. It shows men of the Newark Troop in front of their home town’s castle ruin and the River Trent. Although the style of the coat (17 years older than the one displayed) is very different, the scarlet colour remains the same. Facings and turban appear to be a shade of orange or gold.


The above image also shows the guidon which remarkably is still in existence and appeared high up on the wall of the museum. The Royal Standard (below) was “presented on the 14th July 1795 to the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry in the name of Thomas Webb Edge and Mrs Lumley Saville. The needlework was her own. The guidon was re-presented to the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry on the 4th May 1840…[and was] always carried by the Newark Troop”.

Some fine needlework there, Mrs Saville!

Tucked away in an alcove elsewhere in the museum, and partially covered by another display propped up against it, appeared to be a Victorian print of a cavalryman. It reminded me of my own collection of Henry Martens series of Yeomanry illustrations, so I took a closer look.

Frustratingly, my close up photos of the title and artist/engraver didn’t come out at all, so I’m left guessing on those details now but I know it wasn’t a Martens. What I do know is that the artwork was a local production, “Printed for the compilers by Stevenson and Co., Middle Pavement in Nottingham” in 1848. This was just a few years after the Fores’ Yeomanry Costumes by Henry Martens were published. The compositional style is very reminiscent of Martens.

Interestingly, the red shako shown in the print was said to be an exact copy of that worn by the Chasseurs d’Afrique. What makes Yeomanry uniforms particularly interesting to me is this freedom that individual regiments could enjoy to mimic and reference other styles, even colourful and ‘exotic’ foreign ones such as this.

Not on display, but the website https://www.britishempire.co.uk has this shako as matching that in the illustration, minus absent cord lines and plume. The missing cord lines have left their mark.

As with my Fores’ prints, this one comes with a dedication; “To Lieut. Colonel Holden, the officers, non comm’nd officers & privates of the Nottinghamshire Cavalry.” A little research informs me that the scarlet shako was adopted in 1847, just one year before the painting was published. The falling plume was black and there are yellow lines of cord on the shako depicted. The hussar uniform is blue, although it appears as a kind of light grey in the faded print. The pouch belt is black and the scabbard suggests a heavy cavalryman’s straight sword rather than a hussar’s curved sabre.

In the same display case as the tunics was this above helmet described as a “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry helmet c. 1837, probably manufactured for the regiment.” This regiment eventually became the Sherwood Rangers. It’s in terrific condition and appears to be made of ‘japanned’ (heavy black lacquered) leather. The horsehair plume is red and there are ventilation bars in the sides of the crest. Under the royal coat of arms gilt badge there is brass bar engraved with the title “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry”. A beautiful object!

The above 1845 shako badge displays the name of the South Notts Yeomanry Cavalry, forerunner to the South Notts Hussars. The hugely informative British Empire blog also has an image of the regiment’s shako with this sunburst design badge in place.

The uniforms shown above were unlabelled. Clearly not lancers, they look to be from the local yeomanry of the late 18th century and being navy must belong to the South Notts Hussars (the Sherwood Rangers wore a striking green hussar uniform). The five braiding loops tunic appears to be Mess Dress with a gold and red waistcoat underneath.

Richard Simkin’s illustration of Nottinghamshire’s two yeomanry regiments grouped together in 1908 as the 17th Yeomanry Brigade.

Incidentally, I have lying around a 54mm metal figure of the South Notts Hussars awaiting some paint, although a different order of dress, it’s five braiding loops closely matching the Simkin illustration seen above. Perhaps sometime soon might be a good time to make a start on it?


The 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers:

The regular lancer regiments in the museum had a varied and dramatic history. The 17th Lancers being particularly well-known for their part in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I think that they possibly have the most recognisable cap badge in the British Army; the macabre skull and crossbones, sometimes seen with the legend “Or Glory”. Seen on their 1815 Light Dragoon shako, it reminds me much of the headgear of the famous Prussian ‘Death’s Head’ Hussars, although they would have looked at the time more like my 13th Light Dragoon figures from 2015.

Their motto ‘Death or Glory’ was a reference to General Wolfe who fell mortally wounded at Quebec, 1759. I still have a “Death or Glory Boys” coaster taken from a visit I must have made to the 17th Lancers museum as a small child when it was still based in Belvoir Castle – looking pretty good after all these years!

More headdress of the 17th was on display, including one which saw use during the famous charge itself:

There is some controversy surrounding which bugle actually sounded the Charge of the Light Brigade, but the one on display in this museum has a very strong claim. The hole smashed through the end was caused by a Cossack piercing it with a lance, attempting (and failing) to pick it up off the ground and to take away as a trophy. An astonishing object in many ways.

An audio recording of a surviving trumpeter who was present in the charge was played on loop in the museum and you can hear it online, Trumpeter
Kenneth Landfried blowing on a Waterloo bugle recorded on wax cylinder in 1890:-

Below: uniforms of the 17th through the ages on display:

  • a replica of the attractive light blue uniform worn in the American War of Independence;
  • an officer’s service uniform from the Zulu War (other ranks had white crossbelts without the silver pickers and plate);
  • a scarlet uniform from the time of George IV, a monarch determined to see all of his cavalry regiments wear red!

The 21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers:

A neat display dedicated to the 21st Lancers concentrated mostly on their famous charge at the battle of Omdurman. This is unsurprising given their relative newness, being formed in 1858 for the East India Company and not brought within the British army until 1862. Three regiments had previously been designated the 21st Regiment.

Being dogged by its lack of battle honours and experience (“thou shalt not kill” was unkindly suggested as the regimental motto), its reckless charge at the Dervish tribesman in 1898 seemed to some to be motivated by a need to restore some honour. Notably attaching himself to this wild charge was a young Winston Churchill of the 4th Hussars.

The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. Photograph: National Museums Liverpool, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24851971

As a reference to its Indian origins when it was part of the EIC’s Bengal cavalry, the 21st Lancers wore French Grey facings, an example of which could be seen clearly in this late 19th Century Full Dress uniform.


The 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers:

The 16th Lancers were known as ‘The Scarlet Lancers” after successfully petitioning to retain the existing scarlet coatee when in 1840 it was ordered that all the Light Cavalry should revert back to the blue uniforms. An example of their unique scarlet lancer coat can be seen below.

The 16th Lancers famous action at the Battle of Aliwal in the Anglo-Sikh Wars was given due prominence. At this action, the regiment charged a Sikh force many times its own size, dispersed their cavalry and then broke the Sikh infantry squares, taking many casualties in the process but doing much to secure outright victory.


The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers:

Concluding this report, this magnificent copper kettle drum below was described as being ‘used by the 5th Royal Irish Lancers’. Being that it appeared in a cabinet dedicated to the 18th century, I presume that this instrument is an antique belonging to the original regiment’s guise as the 5th Dragoons.

Notably, the 5th Regiment of Dragoons was disgraced after being infiltrated by Irish rebels during 1798. It was erased from the army list, with nothing existing for many years between the 4th and 6th cavalry regiments. This mark of disgrace lasted until it was reformed as lancers in 1858. An excellent example of the regiment’s pre-1798 uniform was on display; this lovely c.1745 mitre cap and c.1770 jacket of the 5th Royal Dragoons (note the links on the shoulders very similar to the Newark Troop’s example earlier).

The interesting display included a garment of their adversaries, Sudanese jibbahs, coats made of white cotton with additional patches sewn on.


With the exception of a thriving cafe, Thorseby courtyard seemed largely deserted of shops when I visited, so I wonder if the museum would do better in a much more accessible location, particularly so for those without a car. For those who are able to visit, with free entry and a rich collection of history to be found in nicely presented premises, the Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry museum is highly recommended!

17th Light Dragoons in England c.1800. From a series of drawings by George Salisbury (1795-1848), a former musician serving for 20 years in the regiments. This and a number of other of Salisbury’s paintings of the 17th were available as postcards from the museum shop.

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!