Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum: Day Trip #10

“For our homes and for our hearths” – Staffordshire Yeomanry motto

I finally made a trip out to a military museum that I’d been intending to visit for some time. The Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum is housed in the Ancient High House in Stafford and I had made plans for a visit last year. Unfortunately, problems with my train meant that I abandoned the attempt. I am glad that I’ve finally completed the trip as the collection was certainly well worth a visit.

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Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry by Richard Simkin, c.1890.

A little regimental history:

The Staffordshire Yeomanry were formed on the 4th July 1794 to counter the threat of invasion posed by revolutionary France. Known as The Staffordshire Regiment of Gentlemen and Yeomanry, they initially wore a red coat with yellow facings, a white waistcoat, white leather breeches and a Tarleton helmet. In 1808 they changed to a blue hussar style jacket, thereby adopting a colour which they would retain into the 20th century.

 

It was soon called out to assist the authorities put down a riot. Indeed, the keeping of domestic order became an all-too-regular occupation right up to the 1860s. It is said that they were called out to maintain civic order on more occasions than any other yeomanry regiment! The Staffordshire Yeomanry variously consisted of up to 12 troops based in towns across the county such as Lichfield, Stafford, Wolverhampton and Uttoxeter, numbering at its peak anything up to just under 1000 men in total.

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Sheet music of Staffordshire Yeomanry ‘cavalry quadrilles’

In 1838, in honour of their work in maintaining order, the new Queen bestowed upon them the title “Royal” and thenceforth the regiment became known as the “Queen’s Own Royal Regiment”. At the end of the century, they supplied men for service with the Imperial Yeomanry serving in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, securing the regiment’s first battle honour in the process, and went on to fight with great distinction in the two World Wars.

The exhibits:

Suburban Militarism (mostly) concerns itself with military history prior to the 20th century, so I’ll review some exhibits from that era. That said, the regiment’s 20th century guidon below was a fine example.

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The regiment’s guidon, displaying battle honours and the iconic ‘Staffordshire knot’ in the centre

Just prior to entering the collection which was housed on the top floor of the ancient building, I was delighted to notice a number of terrific artworks on the regiment. Much of these were by some of my favourite military artists. There were some very fine paintings of the Staffordshire Yeomanry by both Richard Simkin and Orlando Norie, none of which I’d seen anywhere before.

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Watercolours of the Staffordshire Yeomanry by Orlando Norie (Top) and Richard Simkin (Bottom).

Both artists painted the regiment appearing in force, as well as also small studies of individual yeoman as a demonstration of evolving uniforms through the ages. A photograph on display was attributed to Richard Simkin, apparently being used by him as a basis for painting a yeoman in a uniform formerly worn decades earlier.

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The Queen’s Own Royal Regiment of Staffordshire Yeomanry by Richard Simkin

There was also up on the wall a painting of which I was familiar. It is unclear who the artist is (although I’d heard a previous suggestion of it being Norie), but learnt through my visit that it might well be by Henry Martens, whose artworks I’d last seen in the Anglo-Sikh Wars exhibition earlier this year.

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Officers of the Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry, c.1853

Of a number of great portraits depicting yeoman within the museum, two particularly caught my attention. John Stratford (below) served with the 14th Light Dragoons in the Anglo-Sikh Wars, Persia and in the Indian Mutiny, prior to joining the Staffordshire Yeomanry as a sergeant instructor. This remarkable veteran eventually died in 1932 at the ripe old age of 102!

C., M. H. ; Sergeant Major John Stafford (1829-1932)
John Stratford in his Staffordshire Yeomanry uniform. He can be seen wearing his Indian General Service, Indian Mutiny, Punjab and (I believe) Army Long Service & Good Conduct medals.

Below, taken from the back of my purchased book, is an oil painting of Trooper David Riley, sometime builder and joiner turned farmer, wearing his uniform of 1852. He holds an Albert Pattern dragoon helmet with a black plume. The painting is notable for depicting a humble trooper rather than a more senior rank.

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David Riley portrait taken from the book on The Staffordshire Yeomanry by David German and Chris Coogan.

The Staffordshire Yeomanry of the middle of the 19th century had one of the smartest uniforms of any yeomanry regiment, in my humble opinion. The beautiful Albert Pattern helmet with its striking black japanning and ornate silver plate was adopted in 1850. It originally had a black plume surmounted with an acorn decoration but this was changed in 1859 to a white plume with a rosette top. This headdress changeover for all ranks apparently took up to a decade. One sergeant of the Himley Troop observed how he felt the black plume “…somehow or other puts one in mind of a funeral…“; an attitude which may explain the eventual changeover to white!

 

I always enjoying seeing artefacts connected with regimental musicians and bands, so it was good to see the kettledrum banner with its prominent Staffordshire knot under the crown. The silver trumpets on either side in the display were presented to the regiment in 1845, having been funded by public subscription.

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QORR Staffordshire Yeomanry drum banner and silver trumpets.
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Cigarette card by Players

The regiment eventually became hussars and adopted a busby with a red bag and white horsehair plume. Notice the difference between the officer’s busby (left & centre), with a brighter, more extravagant white plume and silver cord, and contrast with the Other Rank’s plainer plume with white cord on the right hand photograph.

 

Uniforms on display demonstrated developments in the tunic and also provided some examples of late 19th / early 20th century mess dress. ‘Pill box’ forage caps had beautiful silver banding and intricate scrolls on the top, which increased in intricacy for the senior ranks. Note the all-red field service cap nestling by the sleeve in the photo top-right. This replaced the pill box style for a time. A long plume holder can also be seen just visible to the right rear of the cabinet in top left photo.

 

And finally, below can be seen some of the accoutrements that took my attention. The officer’s black pouchbelt is adorned with ‘prickers’ for spiking enemy guns, and the trooper’s white pouchbelt and pouch is just below it. The very fine epaulettes on display had gilt Staffordshire knots. One pair of these provided an example of how the officers stored them to maintain good condition (a metal case).

 

Having enjoyed free entry to the museum, I thought it only correct to make a special donation to the Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum and also I purchased a book on the regiment on sale in the shop. The museum comes highly recommended for a visit by Suburban Militarism.

The 19th (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) Hussars

The 19th Hussars began life as the 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry in 1858, having been raised by the East India Company in response to the Indian Mutiny.

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Very soon after, they were absorbed into the British army and became a regiment of the crown. Now designated as the 19th Hussars, they became the acknowledged successor regiment to the original 19th Light Dragoons which had been disbanded back in 1821. During the 1880s, the 18th Hussars fought in campaigns in Egypt and the Sudan, including the battles of Tel-el-Kebir, Abu Klea and El Teb.

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The 19th Hussars in the desert, capturing enemy supplies by Richard Caton Woodville

The 19th later found themselves fighting in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, most notably at the Siege of Ladysmith.

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19th Prince of Wales’ Hussars in 1885 by Orlando Norie

At the conclusion of their service in the Boer War, the regiment formally became known as the 19th (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) Hussars (after the wife of Prince Edward).

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A fine watercolour of a hussar of the 19th. Artist unknown to me.

So, why the history lesson? Because my next figures will represent this regiment. Having a lifelong interest in the Victorian army, it is in this re-formed Victorian-era guise that I’m intending to paint the 19th Hussars. In a return to 28mm scale, I’m using Perry Miniatures British Hussars from their excellent “British Intervention Force” series set in the 1860s.

Perry Miniatures

Inspiration for a choice of regiment to paint originally came from some examples of Richard Simkin’s depiction of the regiment found in my collection.

I’ve just the three hussars to paint as a toe in the water. If I’m pleased enough with the end result, I may expand the regiment. Updates on painting progress to follow…

Somerset Soldiers (Day Trip #9, Part II)

Continuing my report on the Somerset Military Museum, I’d like to showcase next some of the splendid yeomanry uniforms on display. Mounted volunteers were often amongst the most attractively dressed forces in the British army, being less subject to the more practical uniform concerns brought about by foreign campaigning. Examples of Somerset Yeomanry dress on display included;

  • (Left) North Somerset Yeomanry cavalry, officer’s coatee, c.1843.
  • (Right) West Somerset Yeomanry cavalry, officer’s coatee, c.1812.

The coatee featuring a red plastron belonged to The North Somerset Yeomanry. This force was first raised in Frome in 1798, merging with The East Mendip Corps in 1804, and designated the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry in 1814. By the 1880s, the regiment was designated as a dragoon regiment.

The West Somerset Yeomanry was first raised in June 1794 as an independent troop at Bridgwater. In 1812, they were wearing this Light Dragoon style jacket intricately laced with gold braid. Their headdress at the time would have been Tarleton helmets. By the end of the century, they would have been converted to Hussars.

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Mudford Independent Yeomanry Cavalry helmet, c 1831.

One of my very favourite items of headdress was the dragoon-style helmet worn by the Mudford Independent Yeomanry Cavalry a Taunton troop that was disbanded in 1838. Of a steel and brass construction it had a black crest and a Royal Coat of Arms on a sunburst plate. This troop of yeomanry was involved in suppressing the Reform Riot of 1831 then taking place in the town of Yeovil.

“The Mudford Troop of Yeomanry, under the command of Captain George Harbin of Newton Surmaville, assembled the following morning. The rioters were threatening to sack the town and pelted the Yeomanry with stones and other missiles. However the Yeomanry arrested two of the mob and took them to the Mermaid Inn where the magistrates were assembled. The Mermaid Inn was attacked, windows broken, and the rioters attempted to rescue those that had been arrested. Consequently the Yeomanry were instructed to fire “four in the air, and two at the rioters”. One of the rioters was wounded and the crowd dispersed although the Yeomanry had to provide constant patrols to keep the streets clear and maintain order….

Such were the occasionally unglamorous duties of Yeomanry during the 1830s. Being a volunteer force, their lack of experience might be seen to have contributed to an unfortunate incident during the riot where it was noted that;

One of the Yeomanry, a Trooper named Charles Cattle, accidentally shot himself in the leg.

The two scarlet coatees below are examples from the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry. The one on the right is a Sergeant-Major’s coat and the example on the left belonged to Captain Harbin who originally raised the troop.

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The display of Yeomanry equipment was comprehensive enough to include artefacts relating to their horses too. The museum has this 1873 painting by John Alfred Wheeler of ‘May Queen’, a very fine steed belonging to the Bath Troop of the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry.

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‘May Queen’, Bath Troop, North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry by
John Alfred Wheeler – 1873

Items of horse furniture in the above painting could be compared to some real ones on display. In the bottom photo below can be seen an example of the white throat plume.

  • (top left) An officer’s white gauntlet gloves, spurs, pouch (with George V cypher) and shoulder belt,
  • (top right) North Somerset Yeomanry sabretache
  • (bottom) Yeomanry horse tack including decorative ear and bit bosses, a brown leather bridle with white throat plume, also a ‘bit’ with curb chain.

That doughty chronicler of the late-Victorian era British army, Richard Simkin, depicted the Somerset Yeomanry regiments at the turn of the century (then combined into the ‘4th Yeomanry Brigade’) thus;

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West Somerset and North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry by Richard Simkin (1840-1926)

Simkin’s painting shows clearly the different styles of headdress adopted by the two Yeomanry regiments; the West Somerset were dressed as hussars, and the North Somerset dressed as dragoons. Both styles of headdress were also on display in the museum (see below).

  • Below Left: North Somerset Yeomanry officer’s full-dress dragoon helmet, 1851-1914. (Also visible – an officer’s pill-box forage cap 1880 -1904 can be seen behind and to the right. This style of cap can be seen in Simkin’s painting too.).
  • Below Right: West Somerset Yeomanry full-dress hussar pattern busby, c.1881-1900 (also visible – a North Somerset Yeomanry officers staff pattern forage cap 1956-67.)

And that concludes the part II of the report, leaving a measly one more to go! In the final part will be reviewed the Somerset volunteer infantry forces and also a number of drums…

Simkin’s Soldiers

Even as a boy, I’ve always had a keen interest in military art. In pre-internet days (remember those?) often the only way to see such art was in books borrowed from the library. Many favourites I can still recall today; Philippoteaux’s depiction of Waterloo or Fontenoy; Lady Butler’s “Steady the Drums and Fifes”, “The Roll Call” or the charge of the Scots Greys in “Scotland Forever”; Charles Fripp’s “The Battle of Isandlwana” was on my bedroom wall, whilst Terence Cuneo’s painting of Lance Sergeant Smith winning the Leicestershire regiment’s first VC in the Crimea could be seen in my local museum.

I’ve received through the post today a copy of the 1982 book “Uniforms of the British Army: The Cavalry Regiments”, which features many of the watercolour paintings by Richard Simkin. Simkin was a military artist from the late Victorian period whose output was truly prodigious. Whilst in no way perfect, he was far ahead of most of his peers both in terms of quality and historical accuracy. Though not averse to painting action scenes, his speciality was in uniform depictions. He would fulfil commissions for individual regiments or complete a series (as he did in a huge project lasting over a decade for the Army and Navy Gazette).

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Simkins’ depiction of the various uniforms of the 1st Royal Dragoons (a regiment that I painted last month).
17th Lancers, 1814 to 1848.
17th Lancers, 1814 to 1848.
A 'red lancer' of the 16th (The Queen's) Lancers regimen, c.1912.
A ‘red lancer’ of the 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers regiment, c.1912.

Aside from the many fabulous full colour plates of Simkin’s beautiful work, the book is packed with information on the history of uniform development covering all the British cavalry regiments (4 Guards, 7 Dragoon Guards and 21 numbered line regiments).

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Another regiment I painted earlier this year depicted by Richard Simkin; the 13th Light Dragoons (later to become the 13th Hussars)

Perhaps it’s come a little late for the Nappy Cavalry Project as I don’t think I’ll be painting any more British cavalry this year. Nevertheless, I’ll be spending many a happy hour browsing through its pages. This is his depiction of the Royal Horse Guards in 1815. I’ll be presenting my own painted 1/72 scale model versions hopefully a little later this week…

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The Blues. Simkin depicts the officer here wearing high boots, but these would likely have been disgarded on campaign.
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Royal Horse Guard (Officer) dated from 1815.

The Leicestershire Yeomanry Collection (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #4)

For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Leicestershire Yeomanry collection

The Leicestershire Yeomanry collection is based in a museum at Loughborough’s Carillon. The Carillon is an imposing war memorial built during the early 1920s in the wake of the carnage of the First World War. On the outside of the tower are listed the names of the fallen, whilst inside is housed a military museum and a carillon. A Carillon is an instrument consisting of over 24 bells (played with the fists!) usually housed in some kind of bell tower. These are a particularly common feature in the Flanders region of Belgium where in the First World War much of the British army had fought and died, including many local men in the Leicestershire regiments.

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The Carillon War Memorial and Museum

The bodies of many of these locals who’d been killed during the war remained buried, or missing, over in Flanders far beyond the reach of many relatives. Loughborough’s Carillon building was an admirable memorial attempt to at least bring the sounds of Flanders to the townsfolk of Loughborough; a clever connection made to another land where local men had been lost, never to return. It is within this local landmark tower that the Leicestershire Yeomanry collection is housed.

A model of a trooper in the Leicestershire Yeomanry.
A model of a trooper in the Leicestershire Yeomanry.

It’s been longer than I care to remember since I visited the Carillon and I really can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to revisit. The floor which features the Leicestershire Yeomanry collection is accessible up a tight spiral staircase which ultimately can lead visitors right up into the belfry itself in the very top of the tower. The Yeomanry room is small but effective and features lots of artefacts of interest.

Raised in 1794 at the Three Crowns Inn in Leicester by Sir William Skeffington, the regiment was a response to the threat of invasion by revolutionary France. At the time of this emergency, the Yeomanry would have worn the Tarleton helmet common to regular cavalry of the time, and one example was on display.

An example of the early Yeomanry's Tarleton helmet.
An example on display of the early Yeomanry’s Tarleton helmet.
'Naive and stylised' contemporary painting of a long-serving Quartermaster in the 1830s.
‘Naive and stylised’ contemporary painting of a long-serving Quartermaster in the mid-1800s. Notably, he still wears a Tarleton just before the  change to 1850s style shakos.

The Yeomanry went through a number of headgear changes which is explained in detail on the excellent Prince Albert’s Own Yeomanry website, before settling for a while on the 1873 busby.

A busby of the Yeomanry.
A busby of the PAOLYC.

The Yeomanry were formally named “Prince Albert’s Own” Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry (PAOLYC) in 1844, in honour of Queen Victoria’s consort. As a home service force, the regiment was mobilised to enforce public order on a number of occasions. Tackling civil disturbance was never glamorous work – the most notorious example being the Manchester Yeomanry’s debacle at the Peterloo Massacre. Until their contribution to the Boer War effort, public feelings about yeomanry forces could be mixed. However, not being exposed to the same harsh realities of overseas warfare as regular cavalry meant that yeomanry regiments were able to be more decorative and colourful in their uniforms right up into the 20th century.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the PAOLYC were dressed a dark blue uniform of hussars with the aforementioned busby for headgear. Models and photographs of this uniform were on display.

Officer of the LYC.
Officer’s uniform of the PAOLYC.
Photograph taken in 1898 of the LYC.
Photograph of C Squadron of the PAOLYC, 1899. They are wearing informal forage caps instead of busbys.
Ornate Sabretache with the letters LYC for Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry.
Ornate Sabretache with the letters LYC for Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry and the regiment’s prefix “Prince Albert’s Own” in a scroll underneath.

Being intended strictly for home service, yeomanry forces across the country gave volunteers to the newly formed “Imperial Yeomanry” for service in the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the century, the PAOLYC itself submitting two companies.

Boer War service memorabilia.
Boer War service memorabilia.

There was much more to see in the museum on the ground and second floors, comprehensively covering the first and second world wars. Requiring some effort, the top floors gave access to the carillon and its bells for which the great composer Edward Elgar wrote “Memorial Chimes” as the inaugural piece of music. Finally, at the very top (for those without a ridiculous fear of heights like the author), a balcony offered great views over the entire county.

Note: A comprehensive and informative website dedicated to the Leicestershire Yeomanry can be found here and, as with the Carillon Museum itself, is well worth a visit. See also Arnhem Jim blog for a little more info on Richard Simkin’s Yeomanry prints, an example of which is at the top of this post and also in my own possession.