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.

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

Going Dutch

Whilst painting those marching Dutch militia figures, I’ve been in discussion over their intended use in the Benno’s Figures Forum group build project “The Road to Arnhem”. We were unable to uncover any evidence of militia being based around Arnhem and so have decided instead to offer some regular infantry; specifically the 5th Infantry Regiment which was actually raised in Arnhem. In 1815, it was reorganised into the 12th Line Infantry Regiment in time for Waterloo, and it is in this guise that I’m going to paint it.

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Dutch National Militia figures

So, while I am eagerly waiting for a box of HaT Dutch Infantry to come through the post, my militia (who are most disappointed to miss out on their chance to go into ‘action’) have had their final attention with the brush. A search of the loft for this militia also unearthed a couple more boxes of Dutch-related Napoleonic troops; more of the aforementioned militia, and some Dutch and Belgian Light Dragoons also by HaT. I couldn’t resist having a go at the cavalry too, and so the 4th Dutch and the 5th Belgian Light Dragoon regiments are also being painted. I’ve definitely ‘gone Dutch’.

Here is the finished marching Dutch National Militia.

Early HaT figures were impressive when released 15 or more years ago, but the sculpting suffers a little in comparison with other more recent manufacturers. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge getting them up to ‘display standard’, but I’ll do my best. I’ll post some progress photos as soon as I’m able to make a start on those regular Dutch infantry.

 

 

Militia Men

Having completed my submission of Dutch cyclists for the Bennos Figures Forum 2016 Group Build, I was about to turn my attention back to the Warwickshire Yeomanry that I’ve been painting. However, Jan from Benno’s Forum indicated he’d be interested if I had any further ideas for the group build. So, that got me thinking…and painting.

A few years ago, I bought some Netherlands Militia figures by HaT from which I painted a handful of figures.

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I thought that maybe there could be a place for these soldiers marching down the ‘Road to Arnhem’. I’m using the marching figures, a natural pose for travelling alone a road, and have cut off their bayonets as they are not supposed to be in action. I’m still waiting to hear if there’s a space for including these figures in the FIGZ display in Arnhem, either way I’m always very happy to revisit some Napoleonic 1/72 scale figures. So happy, in fact, I’m minded to get back to tackling some more Nappy cavalry. I have a few sets unpainted from last year’s project (Russian hussars, French Grenadiers a Cheval, Dutch / Belgian Light Dragoons, etc).

A few words on the Dutch militia:

The Netherlands militia in this HaT set are wearing the uniform used at Waterloo with stovepipe shakos. Being militia (a mixture of volunteers and conscripts) rather than regular infantry, they were not considered to be the most reliable infantry in Wellington’s force. Nine militia regiments featured in the Netherlands Infantry Divisions. At Quatre Bras, however, they fought very determinedly against increasingly superior French forces, taking heavy casualties in the process. At Waterloo, much of the militia was kept out well of the way on the flank with the exception being those in Bylandt’s brigade which took a mauling from being exposed on the ridge to French cannon. As the French main attack developed in mid-afternoon, 1st and 2nd Netherlands brigades were brought over to the main army position on the ridge. In so doing, their blue uniforms almost led to their being raked with British musket fire, most observers initially believing them to be French!

Towards the end of the battle, the remaining two Netherlands infantry brigades were sent to help repel the final attack of the French Imperial Guard. Colonel Detmer’s 1st brigade which included 4 regiments Dutch militia wildly charged at Napoleon’s beaten Old Guard “with shakos on the top of their bayonets”.


The last time I painted some of these figures, I had barely been painting 1/72 scale soldiers for more than a couple of months. So it’s interesting to see how my style has developed since then. I’m still working on the new ones, but the older figures stand up pretty well, I think. Here’s a few pics from my old website, which I was using before the provider went bust.