Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Isandlwana » 25 Oct 2016 08:03

Stuart,

Can I add this as my Parthian Shot.

The following original photograph from my collection appears in my recent co-authored work - with David Truesdale - Victoria's Harvest.

Image
The surrender of Prince Magwendu kaMpande to the Coastal Column in April 1879.

You will note the variation in stain of the officers' helmets from fairly light in tone to very dark of that worn by the mounted officer. You will also noticed the officer to Magwendu's left is wearing a non-regulation helmet.

Just my opinion again, but given that the colour of mounted officer's helmet is not unlike the same tone as the blue patrol jackets would your panel of collectors/authors conclude it too was blue in colour?

Regards,

John Y.
Not theirs to save the day but where they stood, falling, to dye the earth
with brave men's blood for England's sake and duty...
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby mike snook » 25 Oct 2016 13:25

No, Stuart, patronizing would be me as a professionally qualified historian telling you to look up what 'Confirmation Bias' is. Here's one freely available definition.

'Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.'

The good news is that every human soul is prone to it.

Au Revoir.
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby RobD » 25 Oct 2016 22:04

I have no dog in the fight, and am finding this series of posts to be fascinating! I would love to ask a few Qs:
- has anyone got a brown-dyed Forgeign Service Helmet in their collection?
- has anyone got a blue Navy or navy blue helmet, or seen one?
- what stain was used in the field? I am fully aware how red the earth of Natal (ochre) can stain one's clothes, so to me that is an obvious option; I have read about tea but the colour seems too dark for that
- what does the yellow-shows-like-black effect of 1870s photographic film suggest?
- growing up in Natal in the 1960s we used Condys Crystals (potassium permanganate) to stain almost anything brown, incl. white cloth - is there any mention of this in the sources?

From the posts so far, I am on the brown dyed side of the argument.

Rob
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Stuart_Bates » 26 Oct 2016 02:35

John,

this thread has, I fear, come to its end and rather unsatisfactorily at that. However, I thank you for taking part in such a robust way and providing some wonderful information.

However, it comes down to opinion and who can say whose is right and whose is wrong?

Regards,

Stuart
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Stuart_Bates » 26 Oct 2016 02:38

Mike,

thank you for your insulting post and I shall respond via a PM.

I only sought factual information, do you not consider that you are not immune from "Confirmation bias?"

Regards,

Stuart
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby mike snook » 26 Oct 2016 10:20

Stuart

Talk about hitting balls that have been set up to hit...

Of course I am. But I know and understand how the confirmation bias phenomenon influences the study of history and always contemplate means and techniques by which it can be guarded against in any given subject. Try it out why don't you. It's a key historians' skill.

I also know how publishers and authors adjust photographic images for brightness and contrast to produce crispness for publication. When I pointed that out, it should have served as your 'Eureka moment'. But if confirmation bias drives you to insist that an adjusted photo shows blue, when it is obvious that the original antique photo shows brown, and to decline to believe that there were no ordnance facilities in Cape Town/Simon's Town, nor any gents outfitters either, when I've told you that there were, then there isn't anything else that I can do for you.

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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Stuart_Bates » 26 Oct 2016 10:33

Mike,

I am assuming that you are responding to my PM and am somewhat disappointed that you choose to reply on open forum. I was hoping that we could settle matters in privacy.

However, you have chosen a different course and I see that you have decided to delete my communications without bothering to read them. Now that is a very adult way of dealing with a situation that does not please you. How dare you suggest that there "isn't anything else that I can do for you?" Just who do you think you are?

I shall not continue with this post but will display the PMs.

Regards,

Stuart

From: mike snook
To: Stuart_Bates
Don't bother. You'll be deleted unread from now on.


Those are not blue helmets. It should be obvious that there is no way of proving the difference between blue and brown, if the only thing on the table is a B &W photograph. There can only be circumstantial evidence, so it is futile to demand hard evidence. The absence of a naval officer's helmet is a matter of record. Don't read too much into the word 'fiddled'. I mean fiddled with as in 'adjust Sent: 26 Oct 2016 19:09
by mike snook
Stuart

You offended me by labelling my previous post as patronizing. It was not. It was meant to terminate my embroilment in your conversation on the grounds that there was nothing further to say on my part. I don't know if you were ever an Englishman or are a native-born Australian. if the latter it is a certainty that we use the English language in slightly different ways. Furthermore I am what I am - an ex regular army colonel - so I use language differently to most of my own countrymen even - perhaps slightly archaically. I don't regard anything I said as patronizing - until I did it deliberately in retaliation to make the distinction. My advice is nonetheless sound: beware confirmation bias. You have a brusque style, which can sometimes grate. I try to see past it. I use language differently to you. Try to see past it.ed', or 'tinkered with', (electronically), not fiddled as in some act of intentional deception. All publishers will seek to make a photograph as crisp as possible. This most typically involves adjusting brightness and contrast. You must surely see that any real photograph of that age must look like the one in John's collection. There is, by the way, no greater expert in the world, in my opinion, on AZW photography than John Young.

If you ask an AZW question on VWF and get two AZW experts both of whom also happen to be honorary academic advisers to the forum giving you a contrary opinion to your own, best consider the possibility that you might after all be wrong. I am, to answer your last barb, sometimes wrong and never hesitate to admit it when I am. In the present instance Young and I are right.

I try never to take personal offence, so don't think I have in this instance. The internet inevitability causes disagreements which would not occur if a conversation was taking place face to face. I'm sure this is a good example of the genre.

Best Wishes,

Mike

Patronizing and Insults

Sent: 26 Oct 2016 12:58
by Stuart_Bates
Mike,

you last post was the epitome of being patronizing. In addition, it was insulting. And to use your qualifications to brow-beat me is really poor form.

You say that the original photo has been "fiddled with" any proof of that opinion? There certainly would have been retailers in Capetown but manufacturers? What self-respecting officer would not buy a Hawkes, Hobson's, Ellwood's etc. helmet.

Regardless, my original request has brought forth no factual information and that is OK, but to slight me because I hold a different opinion to you is, or should be, unacceptable. Have you always been right?

Kind regards, (and I do mean that)

Stuart


Sent: 26 Oct 2016 20:12
From: Stuart_Bates
To: mike snook
Mike,

it has never been my intention to pick fights with anyone. I use this forum to both impart and receive information.

Despite the "language barrier" you cite, and if your post was indeed intended to terminate the conversation then it failed abysmally. I am English, born and bred, and find no problem with your military English even if others do.

You say that it is "obvious that there is no way of proving the difference between blue and brown" so why come on so strongly in defence of "brown?" How much could photographers fiddle with a photograph in 1877 and one that is attributed to the NAM? Here I am presuming that the NAM have the original. Where did Robert & Christopher get their caption?

John has provided much valuable information but it still comes down to opinion. Is mine any less worthwhile than yours? "Bigotry" has lost its original meaning but I fall back to that meaning which is the inability to accept a contrary view despite the evidence. Here we have no evidence.

More to follow.

Regards,

Stuart
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Albert J » 26 Oct 2016 12:39

RobD wrote:I have no dog in the fight, and am finding this series of posts to be fascinating! I would love to ask a few Qs:
- has anyone got a brown-dyed Forgeign Service Helmet in their collection?
- has anyone got a blue Navy or navy blue helmet, or seen one?
- what stain was used in the field? I am fully aware how red the earth of Natal (ochre) can stain one's clothes, so to me that is an obvious option; I have read about tea but the colour seems too dark for that
- what does the yellow-shows-like-black effect of 1870s photographic film suggest?
- growing up in Natal in the 1960s we used Condys Crystals (potassium permanganate) to stain almost anything brown, incl. white cloth - is there any mention of this in the sources?

From the posts so far, I am on the brown dyed side of the argument.

Rob


Rob,
I have a field stained officer's helmet pictured here. Note how the normally lighter buff edging has darkened from the stain, as well as areas where the stain has "pooled" as it dried, toward the lower edges. Many of these doeskin helmets had a leather band around the crown of the same buff leather as the edging, when dyed, this would present a sheen, much like polished leather. Condy's would quite possibly have been used in the later part of the 19th century in addition to the other known various methods. In the pics posted in previous posts, I see stained helmets, not Naval blue.

James

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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby RobD » 27 Oct 2016 13:04

Bravo, James
that's exactly what I was hoping someone would show.
The stain on your helmet is definitely too uniform to be earth-ochre, and not red enough neither. It can't be tea, I reckon - certainly my tea doesn't get strong enough to produce that colour on the helmet rim. The staining of the helmet rim being so dark, and the pooling of stain, suggests to me this is a proper chemical fabric dye. But what dye would be to hand in Natal? As such, Condy's Crystals would be my automatic thought. They were a firm favourite in Natal to disinfect water, even in my era [yes, 20th century]. Also are used extensively [even to this day] to soak infected skin / sores. If the medical department had Condy's crystals for these purposes, and traders sold them to the public for water purification, they would have been at hand in the field. What is odd about dyeing with Condy's Crystals is that the solution is pinky mauve but the final colour on fabric ranges from khaki to deep brown. At school we used to bathe in the stuff to get a fake tan. Finally, Condy's Crystals produce a brown colour that is totally colour-fast; it definitely will not run in the rain. And a lot of rain does fall in Zululand and Natal.


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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby Isandlwana » 27 Oct 2016 15:36

Rob,

Although it is not mentioned which agent was used to created the stain, we at least have a contemporary answer to this matter.

Captain H. J. Fletcher Campbell, C.B., R.N. gave a lecture on Naval Brigades to the Royal United Service Institution on June 30, 1882. In this lecture he said "It should be noted that all white articles of dress should be dyed some dark colour, as when white they form a most conspicuous mark for the enemy's riflemen, and can be seen in the distance or in he bush, when a dark-coloured article of dress might have permitted the wearer to remain unobserved; in the fight with the Zulus at Inyezane the blue-jacket were in white with white helmets, and to this may be attributed the great number wounded, nearly ten per cent, of those engaged. The white clothing was afterwards dyed brown, and this renders it less easily discerned than even the jet-black bodies of the natives themselves."

I'm grateful for Petty Officer Tom for the source of this information.

John Y.
Not theirs to save the day but where they stood, falling, to dye the earth
with brave men's blood for England's sake and duty...
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby grumpy » 27 Oct 2016 15:47

I have always been interested in what sepia or grey-tones do to coloured originals. It is a very difficult subject, if only because emulsions and chemicals and processes changed a great deal until the mid 1920s.

The way forward for the protagonists would surely be a literature search?
As in: “after too much brandy we used Lt Smith’s unusual brown helmet as a urinal, much to his annoyance”, or “Lt Smith’s blue helmet marked him out as different; just about all the rest of the unit had tea/mud/Condy-stained versions”.
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby RobD » 27 Oct 2016 17:23

Grumpy has a good idea. Here's some stuff from the interweb:

1. Naval units dyeing with Condy's fluid in 1915: "A fictional though authentic account of the Dardanelles campaign from a Naval stance recounted how naval personnel prepared to serve ashore by soaking their white summer uniforms in Condy's fluid." - see http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forum ... opt-khaki/

2. Marines dyeing with Condy's fluid in 1900: "The Marines also wore khaki and helmets, and had stripes of marine colours (red, blue and yellow) on the helmets to distinguish the Corps. Each batch of bluejackets that were sent to the front, about twelve men in a batch, was allowed two canvas bags to hold spare clothes and other gear, and took three days' provisions and water. The haversacks were all (p. 006) stained khaki with Condy's fluid, and the guns were all painted khaki colour." see http://www.angloboerwar.com/books/33-bu ... -chapter-1

3. Also found that Condy's was used to stain grey horses brown in the Anglo Boer War see https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jIG ... my&f=false

4. And Sister Janet: Nurse and Heroine of the Anglo-Zulu War 1879 says she used Condy's to clean wounds in 1879 (see p107 if you have a copy, or https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RPQ ... 79&f=false if you don't)

My conclusion is from the above, that the Navy and everyone else dyed their helmets in 1879, and that they probably used Condy's crystals to do it - probably.
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby RobD » 27 Oct 2016 17:41

I'm on a roll, but all these refs deal with the Navy [though post-1879]:
[Boxer rebellion]: the uniform the Marines actually fought in was ... made less visible, achieved by dying the white uniforms ‘khaki'. ... for …‘sniping' work. They had already dyed their white tunics khaki in a mixture of Condy's Fluid and coffee...[Field] Regulations also suggested using potassium permanganate. see http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=166879

On 18 June 1900, Capt Kennedy recorded in his diary that ‘Most of us are wearing khaki obtained from the local Volunteer Corps , this is more serviceable than our white uniform, though we have attempted to tone down the latter by soaking it in coffee or Condy's fluid [sic] which has given us many shades of appearance! [ibid]

... the South African war, that the Scots Greys dyed their, horses with Condy's fluid. ... Even the Naval-Brigade, who landed at Simonstown, dyed their straw hats ... see https://www.trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/38948799

[1914] Along the journey the sailors dyed their white duck uniforms a reddish tan by soaking them in a mixture of Condy’s crystals.
see http://mhhv.org.au/wp-content/uploads/A ... Munday.pdf

[1939] ...After a particularly bad strafing from Jap planes, we were ordered to arrange for all white clothes to be dyed khaki. But what with ? .. Condy’s crystals were used and gave us a nice colour see http://www.ozatwar.com/sigint/hmascoonawarra.htm

and so on ad nauseam
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby grumpy » 27 Oct 2016 19:06

to avoid the dreaded confirmation bias you will need to look for "blue helmet" in the relevant period. Mustn't upset anyone.
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Re: Naval Brigades during the Zulu War

Postby mike snook » 12 Nov 2016 18:21

General Order 194, dated 15 Nov 1878, is of relevance and will be of interest:

'Mixture for dying the white helmets of the troops in the field having been received, the Assistant Commissary-General will cause the same to be at once distributed in proper proportions for the use of the different corps wherever now stationed, accompanied by specimen pieces of material giving the approved shade. Commanding Officers on receipt thereof will immediately cause every officer's and man's helmet to be dyed according to the pattern shade.'

(Smith, K., Local general orders etc...relating to the AZW (2005),13).

As ever

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