I recently received a copy of a photograph apparently of a soldier of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The photo shows the husband of my Great Aunt Clara.
My mother had written on the back of the photo:
Great Uncle Jim Baddley, Great Aunt Clara’s husband. Taken when he was in the Boer War cavalry.
At first glance, Great Uncle Jim does indeed wear clothing associated with a cavalryman. I can see a bandolier across the chest, riding breeches, what is possibly a riding crop, and spurs are visible on his boots. However, a look at the photograph lead me to suspect that he was not a cavalryman at all and furthermore that it post-dated the Boer War.
Firstly, the peaked cap was introduced to the British Army in 1905, three years after the end of the Boer War. The Service Dress 1905 pattern cap can be seen worn by the men in the photograph below which shows British Territorial Force gunners and a breech loading 5-inch howitzer, apparently taken around 1908-1914.
The cap badge, although not clear and set at an angle, seems to closely match the badge of the Royal Artillery. Great Uncle Jim’s cap badge can be compared to an example of a volunteer Royal Artillery badge below. The regulars had a very similar badge to the one shown but instead of the scroll displaying the word “volunteers” under the crown, it had the RA motto “Ubique” (“everywhere”). It’s impossible to see from the old photograph exactly which it is.
The photo doesn’t appear to show a Boer War-era uniform in some other respects too. If Jim is of the Royal Artillery, then images of artillerymen from that war that I’ve seen seems to show them mostly wearing Slade-Wallace style equipment, although I have seen a photograph of a Horse Artillery troop wearing bandoliers too. Incidentally, I made a version of a bandolier last year for my local ‘scarecrow festival’ entry -the Michael Morpurgo inspired “Straw Horse”. With only room for four oversized pouches on the belt, it was a little less than historically accurate – an inaccuracy that I’m sure few noticed!
The one visible in my Great Uncle’s photograph is most likely to be the post-Boer War 1903 Pattern Bandolier:
“The British personal equipment used in the Second Boer War had been found to be deficient for a number of reasons, and the Bandolier Equipment was introduced as a stop-gap replacement. The equipment was made of brown leather and consisted of five 10-round ammunition pouches worn over one shoulder on a bandolier… It soon proved to be unsuitable for infantry use, but was used throughout the First World War by cavalry and other mounted troops.”
The bandolier was “used by cavalry and other mounted troops” – the equestrian aspect of artillery uniforms at this time can be explained as a consequence of the horse still being the main method of transporting the guns.
The uniform in the above example of an RA gunner clearly does match Great Uncle Jim’s down to the white lanyard cord hanging down on his left shoulder. While white plaited lanyards were also worn by cavalrymen, the lanyard was also an essential piece of equipment for an artilleryman:
Members of the British Royal Artillery would wear a lanyard with a key attached to allow them to adjust the fuses of explosive shells. Keeping this key close to hand in a tense situation could only be achieved with the help of a lanyard attached to their uniform.
According to one old RA regiment association, the shoulder on which the lanyard was worn depended on the date;
There is no certainty about this, but the change from the left shoulder to the right probable took place at about the time of the Great War, when the bandolier was introduced, because it was worn over the left shoulder. But there are some who insist that 1924 was the date of change, when the sloping of rifles over the left shoulder would soil the white lanyard.
In this photo at least, that change had yet to happen.
So, it’s a photograph clearly taken after the Boer War of a man in a uniform which appears to be of the Royal Artillery. I’d like to find out more about my artilleryman relative. I have previously written about some of my other relatives at the time of the Great War including my Great Grandfather and also Great Uncle Jack who was sadly killed at the Battle of Loos, 1915.