Warring in Worcestershire (Suburban Militarism Day Trip #7 – Part 2)

…Continuing my previous post on my visit to the Worcestershire Regiment and the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry museum, I thought I might showcase some of the many examples of headdress on display.

To begin at the very start, one of the very oldest exhibits in the museum was this Tarleton helmet of the early Worcestershire Yeomanry. The Tarleton was a light dragoon helmet popular with the British army at the turn of the 18th/19th century. It’s certainly a grand design with its thick bearskin crest, polished black leather, and leopard-skin turban held in place by brass chains (the pattern has faded in the photo). The same helmet was worn by other yeomanry regiments with small differences in design and colour of turbans.

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Tarleton Helmet of the Worcestershire Yeomanry

Following on from the bell shako in the 1830s (see previous post), the Worcestershire Yeomanry later adopted a Heavy Dragoon-style helmet with a white and red plume. The crest incorporates gaps on the side for ventilation, essential on a hot day.

A change to the uniform of hussars brought with it the busby headdress with a red bag and, for the officers, this dramatic, tall red plume.

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Yeomanry’s busby

As the Worcestershire Yeomanry prepared to send its sons off to the Anglo-Boer War, they were each presented by Lady Dudley with a replica Pear Blossom to wear in their khaki slouch hats. One of these touching presentations was on display with its brief dedication still attached (“…to wear on entering Pretoria”). This tradition continued when they served in First World War Palestine, the yeomanry wore a stitched version of the pear blossom became their badge in their Wolesley pith helmet (see below).

Finally, moving beyond the period of history usually covered by Suburban Militarism, there was also the helmet below worn by the yeomanry in their final days as a horse mounted regiment. This thick cork hat was known as the Topee and was employed in hot or tropical climates and I was delighted to find one on display.

I mentioned the wonderful Worcestershire Rifle Volunteers uniform and headdress in the previous post, but there was also two other helmets on display in the same case. On the left is the rifle volunteers undress cap with a bugle-horn badge (a symbol universally used by light infantry troops); and on the right is a French-style shako with a green ball plume.

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Contrast with this version of the shako worn by the militia, an 1861 pattern;

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A few remaining items of headdress that took my interest. The hat on the top left is an unusual cap called a Broderick. It was based on a German design (possibly Landwehr?) and used for a brief period between 1904-1908.  Next to it is the khaki service pith helmet used by the Worcestershire Regiment during the Boer War, is much more familiar. It’s dull and dusty colouring was essential to avoid being a victim of Boer sniper fire out on the veldt. It contrasts nicely with the more formal version with spike in the bottom photo.

And finally, there was a significant display on the action of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry at Huj in Palestine. Having just announced that my figures are now on display at the Warwickshire Yeomanry museum, it’s perhaps appropriate to finish on this topic. Aside from fascinating artefacts such as the Wolseley helmet already depicted, there was a moving story of a yeomanry officer who later became a vicar. On Remembrance Day 1946, Jack Parsons (who won a Military Cross as a Lieutenant in the charge at Huj) performed a sermon in his new calling as a vicar. In he service, he used the bible as his inspiration in pledging to take his old yeomanry sword and a Turkish one and together remake them as a ploughshare. The new ploughshare was used to sow and grow wheat for communion. Now, that’s what I call ‘up-cycling’. The remade plough was on display together with the remaining two sword hilts; a nice coda to the Huj story, I thought.

Well, that’s enough history and museum talk. Back to the modelling soon…

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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, after intense lobbying, these were established with patriotic fervour on a wide scale from 1859 onwards. 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…