TYPES OF VOLUNTEER & YEOMANRY (1902) #21
From the cigarette card set “Types of Volunteer and Yeomanry”, issued by W H & J Woods Ltd of Preston in 1902.
From the cigarette card set “Types of Volunteer and Yeomanry”, issued by W H & J Woods Ltd of Preston in 1902.
Continuing my report on the Shropshire Regimental Museum, in this second part I’ll be now looking at the local Rifle Volunteers, the Shropshire Volunteer Artillery and the Shropshire Militia.
Most of the artefacts relating to these local military units of Shropshire were based in the imposing Great Hall of the castle.
One of the most pleasing finds was the above print of a Rifle Volunteer competition in the 1860s. Regular visitors to Suburban Militarism may recall that last year I embarked on a project to model four separate Victorian Rifle Volunteer Corps (the Cheshire Greys, the Robin Hood Rifles, the 3rd London Rifle Volunteers and the Post Office Rifles). During this time, one of the things I researched was what a volunteer rifle range might look like. The above print (click here for a larger image) of Wimbledon Common illustrates many of the features I was speculating about at the time, including:
For those taking part in such competitions, success could earn the eternal gratitude of one’s officer and comrades, not to say acquire a little local celebrity. So it was for Sergeant Roberts of the 12th (Wem) Rifle Volunteer Corps whose performance at said Wimbledon Common earned him the epithet “The Champion Shot of England”! It also engendered this effusive ‘illuminated address’ by his grateful Captain and colleagues:
A little further on in the museum, I found an example of what might lie in store for those riflemen who did not pay sufficient “strict attention to drill and rifle practice” with as much diligence as Sgt. Roberts – namely, a wooden spoon! This was “probably a booby prize for the worst shot” in the 2nd Shropshire Rifle Volunteers…
Another of the museum’s fine manikin displays portrayed two local volunteer troops of the Victorian era; specifically men from the two Volunteer Battalions of the Shropshire Regiment. The 2nd Volunteer Battalion wore a grey uniform with black crossbelts and facings. His marksman’s badge of crossed rifles can be seen above his left cuff. His weapon is a Snider-Enfield.
The 1st Volunteer Battalion was represented by its preceding formation, the 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps. The uniform dates from the 1880s, around the time of the Childers Reforms which first linked the Rifle Volunteer Corps more closely with the county infantry regiments. The 1st Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps wore scarlet tunics and white facings, therefore looking much like the regulars.
It was great to see county volunteer forces so carefully and skilfully depicted in this display by the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Rifle Volunteers may not have seen any active service prior to the Anglo-Boer War, but they were a significant part of the military and social history of Shropshire.
In the display below of the local Administrative Battalions, the ‘drab’ dress of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion was complemented by dark green braid and black facings and crossbelts. The 1860s shako features a hunting horn badge with the number 48 (being the order of precedence for the Shropshire Rifle Volunteers). Post-1880, both Volunteer Battalions have adopted the dark green Full-Dress helmets. The other ranks uniform to the left is awash with medals, proficiency stars, etc.
Like the yeomanry, bandsmen would have been a part of self-respective Rifle Volunteer Corps. I spotted this large drum belonging to the second corps below:
The national Militia force expanded during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars but, by the time of their conclusion, a single regiment of Shropshire Militia existed. The established system of maintaining the Militia by local ballot was unpopular, poorly enforced and numbers were in decline.
In 1852, service in the Militia became voluntary – closer to the TA of today. The attraction of experiencing army life and wearing the smart uniform must have been attractive to many. Particularly so, as the uniform was very similar to the regulars of the time.
In 1881, as part of sweeping reforms, the Shropshire Militia came under the newly established King’s Shropshire Light Infantry regiment and was designated the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, K.S.L.I. At the same time, control of the Militia was taken from the Lord Lieutenant and appointments and training came under the War Office instead.
To support the large number of Rifle Volunteer Corps being established in 1860, the importance of mounted infantry and artillery formations to support them was recognised. This wasn’t always easy to achieve as horses and cannons are more complex and expensive formations to maintain. Nevertheless, in Shropshire, the 9th (Shrewsbury) Rifle Volunteer Corps was converted to the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in July 1860. Initially, there were a formation of ‘heavy artillery’ and performed exercises at Long Mynd, an area of heath and moor in the Shropshire Hills. The site of the battery and magazine is still apparently identifiable even today.
The museum had a number of objects relating to this formation including this Full-Dress pouch:
The Full-Dress uniform of a sergeant of the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery could be seen in its entirety (below). The Shropshire RHA was formed in 1908 as a consequence of the formation of the new Territorial Force. They were one of only six volunteer corps to be designated as being prestigious Horse Artillery.
Below is a portrait held in the museum of the first commander of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteers, Colonel William Field, wearing a fur busby with white plume. In the distant background can be just about seen some gun limbers and horses. The town of Shrewsbury is in the distance. His fine grey charger also featured in the museum. Following its demise, the beloved animal had its hoof converted into an inkwell, now in display!
To encourage proficiency, prizes were awarded to provide an incentive, a common enough concept for volunteer forces. For the SAV, the winning battery each year would take the ”Skill at Arms’ trophy shown below. An image of an artillery team in action can be seen embossed on the front.
The Full-Dress headgear of the 1st Shropshire Artillery Volunteers in the 19th century was this shako. Note the metal ball instead of a spike at the top the helmet, and also the artillery piece appearing under the Royal Coat of Arms.
Complimenting last year’s purchase of the book “Riflemen, Form!” on the Victorian Rifle Volunteer movement, I bought a copy of “A History of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps”, a newly published and detailed account by Derek Harrison, available in the museum shop online. Perfect bed-time reading for me there!
A (thankfully) short, final post on this exhaustive report to come, in which I include some personal thoughts about the museum.
Folly – noun; plural noun: Follies. A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose.
Having been a member of the Victorian Military Society for more years than I’d like to admit, I’m always keen to explore any museum or collection which furthers my interest in the topic. Last year, during my summer holiday to Dorset, I visited Nothe Fort; a Victorian coastal fortification just down the coast from where I was staying.
Weymouth, being a seaside resort, might not be an obvious place to find a fort. This coastal fortification, built to protect Portland Harbour, was one of the so-called Palmerston’s Follies. Suburban Militarism visited and reported another of these ‘follies’ a couple of years ago at Hurst Castle, opposite the Isle of Wight.
In 1869, Napoleon III’s France began work on the construction of “La Gloire”, an Ironclad battleship. This was in part a deliberate challenge to Britain’s naval dominance, but it was also a response to the experiences of the Crimean War amongst other conflicts. The industrial revolution had changed and improved coastal artillery design improving range, accuracy and damage. As France signalled an ironclad challenge to the ‘wooden walls’ of Britain’s peerless navy, British coastal fortifications suddenly took on an importance they hadn’t had since Napoleonic times.
In 1860, a Royal Commission set up by Prime Minister Lord Palmerston sparked a multi-million pound coastal defence development programme. Nothe Fort was part of this response, being completed in 1872. Unusually for the time, it was built by the Royal Engineers and not by private contractors, which had gone bankrupt shortly before commencement. The fort’s walls were 13ft thick at casemate level (the level of the guns) and 50ft thick at the lower magazine level! The twelve casemates originally housed:
Built by Victorian armament giant Armstrong, these were large and powerful cannon for their time, requiring a team of 18 men to service each gun. In 1892, all the 9 inch RMLs and three of the 10 inch RMLs were replaced by an even mightier gun;
Below is a summary of some of these mighty Victorian Armstrong guns, some of which were installed at Nothe Fort or displayed in model form:
On entering Nothe Fort, I was immediately confronted by one of these 64 pounder guns. Armstrong’s 64 Pounder Cannon was the first Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) gun to enter British service.
It is mounted on a wooden carriage with thick rope stays. Aiming was facilitated by iron wheels which ran along an iron track in the floor. The shells can be seen bottom left in my photo above.
Two of them were installed in the fort specifically to protect the harbour entrance, hurling their 64 pound shells across the harbour and Weymouth Bay. They were in service from 1872 before being finally declared obsolete by 1908.
Four of the casemates originally housed these 9 inch guns. One can see how much larger it was when comparing this model with the above model of the 64 pounder and crew. Unlike the 64 pounder, it is housed on an iron carriage to better cope with the increased weight and power. No replica or original of the 9 inch gun exists in the fort today, aside from this model.
The 10 inch RMLs took up six of the casemates and were initially the largest guns in Nothe Fort until replaced by even larger calibre guns in the 1890s. The above model of the nine men of the Royal Artillery servicing the gun show them in shirt sleeves with pillbox hats. More men would be down in the tunnels of the magazine level supplying the crew with shells and cartridges. No replica or original existed in the museum.
The massive 12.5 inch RML gun is a reproduction but is brilliantly impressive nonetheless, giving a real impression of the weight, size and sheer power of these monsters. The casemate which houses it had manikins dressed in period uniforms to provide a good impression of how the men of the Victorian Royal Artillery would have looked at this time.
During this period, the Royal Artillery was divided into three arms, named respectively the Royal Field Artillery (RFA); the Royal Artillery (RA); and the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). It would have been the RGA (as specialists in siege and coastal artillery) which would have manned Nothe Fort, perhaps with some assistance from the local Artillery Volunteer Corps.
In 1892, all the 9 inch RMLs and three of the 10 inch RMLs were considered obsolete and replaced by these more powerful 12.5 inch guns;
The manikins also helped to demonstrate something of the processes involved in serving such a large cannon. One of the manikins is pictured below wheeling the canvas-wrapped charge, packed with explosive, up to the muzzle and the massive ramrod can be just seen lying on the floor. Another man wheels over the heavy 818 pound shell. The embrasure is covered by a mantelet, a thick rope curtain, which would have been fully closed when loading the cannon and intended to protect the men from counter-battery fire, shrapnel and snipers.
Men of the Royal Garrison Artillery were required to sleep and live on the gun decks. Nothe fort gave a nice impression of life in the barracks. The thin walls on the side facing the inner courtyard were quickly removed during gunnery practice and could remain so for days at a time. Consequently, their living quarters were liable to be somewhat open to the elements on one side – most unpleasant in winter time!
The fort was particularly informative when it came to explaining how the guns were served with the constant flow of ammunition required to keep the enemy at bay. It all happened below the gun deck deep, down the magazine level’s tunnels which circumnavigated the whole fort.
The magazine level had the potential to be a source of total disaster for the fort. The very slightest of sparks could ignite the black powder stored there and destroy the fort from the inside. The risk was very real and the Royal Artillery took great precautions to prevent it from happening.
Lamps were kept in special sealed cabinets embedded in the walls to prevent the naked flames becoming ignition sources and reaching the powder. Furthermore, the small room where black powder was stored and cartridges prepared were kept strictly separate from the rest of the fort. It was accessible only via a “shifting lobby”, a changing room where men would have to divest themselves of all their usual clothing and change into white clothing containing no potential sources of sparks instead (no metal buttons, badges, etc.). Heads were covered with cloth caps and even the shoes were canvas as hobnails in the soles could create tiny sparks on the floor.
Men were not allowed to pass from one side of the lobby whilst wearing their usual uniform. Above we can see RGA uniforms in one lobby already hung up on the wall, their owners already changed and at work in the shifting lobby accessible through a side door.
Once the cartridges were prepared, they were cased for safety and passed to the corridor through a small hatch low in the wall.
Thereafter the charges were transferred carefully to a winch and hauled up to the gun deck. The shells were also separately winched to the gun deck from the nearby shell store.
Shells did not need anything like the same level of precaution as the charges as they contained no explosive material.
The heavy 12.5 inch shells, due to their great weight, had to be lifted up to the gun deck via special mechanical winches.
Once the shells and cartridges were up on the gun deck, the gun crew would load them and continue to pour fire upon those enemy ships!
Nothe fort was built with what was the deadliest industrial armaments then available. It was industrial armament developments which soon brought about its demise, however. Naval technology put the balance of power once more back into the hands of the ships. Whilst even the most powerful Armstrong coastal gun could lob a shell 3.5 miles, a dreadnought battleship could hurl far more destructive shells at a much greater distance, meaning the fort could be destroyed by distant battleships with impunity.
Palmerston’s follies showcased the immense fire power of a leading industrialised nation. They projected a Great Britain both brimming with confidence and yet at the same time fearful that its international pre-eminence would be challenged. These fortifications may have proved to have been follies, but their 21st century role as museums of coastal defence makes this military history nerd very content indeed.
Now back to those French WWI 1914 infantry which are coming on apace but are likely to be delayed this week due to domestic circumstances. Updates will follow when ready…
Now in receipt of the two other gun crews of Victorian Royal Artillery figures by Perry Miniatures, I realised I needed to get a little more serious about how I put these things together. I needed to be historically accurate and fully understand the drill and workings of a Victorian-era Royal Artillery battery in receipt of a new-fangled breech-loading Armstrong cannon.
Except, I didn’t.
I just got carried away producing my little diorama without doing enough research. A classic failing of mine, modelling enthusiasm over diligent research. I think the Armstrong may have been painted in a certain colour, though I was uncertain enough over which colour that I just left it as natural wood (something I’d seen previously in one image of the gun on the internet).
Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased with how the first Armstrong 12 pounder and gun crew have (nearly) turned out. I think I’ll paint the cord which was pulled to fire the cannon. You will notice that I added some cotton wool for a smoke effect and may add a tiny bit more coming out of the breech itself from the charge. There are also some implements still to add to the scene: the sponge and the handspike have yet to be added (I’ve been advised where thanks to Paul from Bennos Figures Forum) and the spongeman could really use a bucket to dip his sponge into, but this didn’t come with the set. I might try and make one. The thing is: I’ve stupidly lost the sponge rod! (so I might have to fashion one of those too)…
Nevertheless, historical queries and stupidly lost equpment aside, I’ve really enjoyed putting this artillery team together. New scale (28mm), new era (Victorian), new material (metal), and a new arm (artillery), have made for a fresh challenge.
Images of what I’ve done so far are below. I’ll post ‘finished’ photos in the future, until then, I’m on to painting the next gun teams! I think they look okay.
I’ve returned from my holiday away much refreshed. I was hoping that my holiday by the sea might allow me to visit the Royal Marines museum in Southsea. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get time for that but instead did enjoy a number of other military history related excursions, in addition to all the sun, sea, sand and horses that made up the vacation. Yes, you read that correctly – being based in England’s New Forest meant lots of wild ponies (which offered some further colour guidance in my Nappy cavalry project).
Being based in Milford on Sea, I was but a short boat ride away from Hurst Castle, a Tudor castle that was expanded considerably during the Victorian era in response to French naval expansion. Situated on the end of the long sandy spit, the castle guards the approach of any naval craft passing between the Isle of Wight and the mainland (the key port of Southampton being just around the corner). This fort is one of Palmerston’s Follies, so-called as these coastal defences instituted by the Prime Minister were never used, the French threat having faded with their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
It’s hard not to be awed by Victorian coastal defence. Upon entering Hurst Castle, I was immediately struck by the sight of some 38 tonne muzzle-loading cannon. These monsters hurled shells across the Solent weighing up to 820lbs which took 12 men up to 6 minutes to load.
Being muzzle loaders, loading the shells from the front required the gunners to move the cannon back on steel sliders until there was room enough to do it. In the 1870s, this required operating a huge sponge to damp down the embers in the barrel, then loading the charge of gunpowder weighing 130lbs, followed next by a copper band spacer. By the turn of the century, a cordite charge would later make things a little lighter and therefore easier.
Finally, the enormous shell was loaded into the muzzle with the aid of a mechanical lifting mechanism.
There must have been nearly fifty of these gunports around the castle, housing 10 of these 38 ton cannons and many more of various calibre. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of whatever punishment they were capable of dealing out through them, ironclad or no ironclad!
Before Lord Palmerston instigated his grand designs, it was a polygonal (12-sided) Tudor fort, built by Henry VIII to counter the Catholic threat following his break with Rome. Like Palmerston’s version, it was never seriously tested, although a stray Spanish vessel was wrecked by a storm on to the nearby beach during the Armada threat. It thereafter had periods of both ruin and refurbishment. At the end of the English Civil War, this Parliamentarian stronghold was notably the last prison of the captive King Charles I, before he eventually left for London and the executioner’s block.
There were some interesting displays around the old fort on local casualties from the world wars and an impressively eclectic display of weaponry. Mercifully, I won’t go into any great detail about here except to share some more pics:
Just a few more military-related nuggets to share in a future post that I discovered whilst on holiday. Thereafter, due to family and work commitments, there may a brief hiatus before I can finally get back at last to the modelling!
I mentioned in a previous post that I’d share some pics on my Napoleonic Swedish army project and, as good as my word, here they are! As stated before, I found the box when retrieving some Christmas decorations. They were purchased for me (at my cheeky suggestion) by Mrs Lentonist as a 2013 Christmas present from a brilliant local model shop that was (tragically after 20 years) closing down and selling stock cheaply. The sculpting certainly isn’t HaT’s best, but they are easy to paint and look good – I like to think – with paint on them.
What I like about this issued from HaT are the range of types of infantry available; from guards, to infantry of the line, to jager. Furthermore the Swedes were an eccentric lot when it came to Napoleonic military fashion, a consequence of necessity (they were not a wealthy at the time and held on to old stock) and eccentricity (on the part of their then ruling monarch). For a man that does painting for display and not for wargaming, the wide range in the box is a boon. Often unfairly overlooked for their military involvement during the Napoleonic period, the Swedes were nonethelesss still active participants. They faught the Russians, the Danes, the Norwegians and the French themselves during this era, most notably at Leipzig in 1813 under their new king Charles XIV, formerly known as one of Napoleon’s ex-marshalls; Bernadotte! Bernadotte began a dynasty that remains on the Swedish throne even today and his military adventures with the Swedish army were to herald the end of warfare for his country; a nobly proud record that continues up to the present day.
Anyway…first off – the line infantry:
The Guard Grenadiers feature next. Note the perculiar crest coming over the tall helmet, a feature that moves about at various angles to the helmet in the Swedish army.
Next up, the Life Guard. There are only about 12 of these in total in the box. I’ve painted them with the ceremonial white gaitors rather than campaign black. Note the curious crest that seems to feature at a 45 degree angle to the front rather than the straight-over versions of the Guard Grenadiers.
Now for the first of the two sharpshooter units; the Varmland Sharpshooters. These were the only Swedish Jager unit apparently and feature their crest at right angles to the front of the helmet:
And next up, the Finnish variety of sharpshooters. Finland was a part of Sweden during the Napoleonic period and I understand their troops tended to feature grey uniforms. They have a dark green busby with upturned peak (and yes I painted the required ‘dark green appearing as almost black’ headgear, actually using dark green mixed with black paint…)
And finally, one of the two artillery units that I’ve made. I’ll add a pic of the other howitzer unit as soon as I’ve added a finishing touch (i.e. a bucket!).
And that’s it for now. I’m about half way through the 100 strong infantry box and the artillery box too. There are four cavalrymen primed and awaiting the first lick of paint. Oh, but I got a little distracted the other week by painting up a few more of my Crimean war Sardinian Infantrymen – which I might show off on this blog soon too as the next ‘Featured Figures’! And then there’s my contribution to the group build project to start work on…
It’s a productive start to 2015 here at Suburban Militarism. My very best to everyone.