Girl Soldier: The Death or Glory Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Uniform:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century: The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons

A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963. 


#20: The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons

“Our picture shows a sergeant of the “Inniskillings” wearing a small badge above the chevron representing Inniskilling Castle. The regiment, raised in 1689, received the above title in 1690 and amalgamated with the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1922.”

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Sites of interest about the Inniskilling Dragoons:

The Enniskillen Castle Museum tells the story of the town of Enniskillen’s two regiments, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

Some 10 years or so ago, I painted some Waterloo-era Inniskilling Dragoons from the 25mm Prince August home-casting range. I will upload some photos one day…

A good summary of the regiment’s history here on the website “British Cavalry Regiments of the 19th Century”.

British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century: The 17th Lancers

A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963. 


#19: The 17th Lancers

“Raised in 1759 as Light Dragoons, this regiment was then converted to lancers in 1822. In 1922 it was amalgamated with the 21st lancers to form the 17th/21st Lancers. Round about the date 1830, an officer of the 17th Lancers would have worn this uniform.”

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Officer, 17th Lancers, c.1830.


Sites of interest about the 17th Lancers:

National Army Museum page on the 17th Lancers, known as the Duke of Cambridge’s Own and nicknamed the ‘Death or Glory Boys’.

The truly excellent museum of The Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry includes many terrific exhibits and uniforms on the 17th Lancers, its precedents and sister regiments. It’s based in Thoresby Park which is near Perlethorpe in  Nottinghamshire. I wish now that I’d posted a Suburban Militarism Day Trip post about this after my visit…

I have painted some 17th Lancers from Strelets’ Crimean War range. I will upload some photos one day but until then here’s the Plastic Soldier Review of the figures.

Finally, something different. A YouTube video featuring the music of the regimental Quick March “The White Lancer”!