Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

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Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby marinamaral » 04 Dec 2017 16:53

Hello! My name is Marina Amaral - I'm a digital colorist specialized in the colorization of historical black and white photographs. I'm currently working on a book in which we're going to talk about the Second Anglo-Afghan War, and I have to colorize the photo below. I'm not an expert, so I decided to turn to you and ask if somebody can help me identify the uniform colors. I know that's not an easy task, but any advice would be much appreciated.

Thank you so much.

"AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 06: A photograph of a group of Afghan chieftains sitting beneath the walls of a fort, taken by John Burke [1845-1900] in about 1878. This photograph is from an album entitled 'The Afghan War, Attogk to Jellalabad, Gandamak and Surkhab'. In the centre of the group sits a British political officer, Captain Tucker. A cross between a scout, a diplomat and a spy, part of his job would have been to contact local forces and get them to support the British war effort. A pioneer of photography in India, John Burke began working in Peshawar, as an assistant to the commercial photographer William Baker. Baker took up photography on retiring from the British Army in 1861 and Burke himself had worked as an apothecary in the Royal Artillery. When Baker stopped working in 1873 Burke carried on, recording the evolution of the Indian Raj in the late nineteenth century. Burke accompanied the British army on its advance into Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War of 1878-1879. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)"


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Last edited by marinamaral on 05 Dec 2017 14:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby jf42 » 05 Dec 2017 10:06

Greetings Marina. An interesting image. Do you have any details as to time and place ithe photograph was taken?

The only person wearing uniform is the bare-headed European officer, although this is not regulation uniform but an example of the unofficial khaki field dress that was still being worn during this period. Because they were unofficlally sourced, using a range of dyeing or staining techniques, the colour of a given uniform in a black and white photograph can only be estimated.

My guess, from the apparent texture and shade, is that it could have been a sort of warm' biscuit' brown, described at the time as 'drab'. While knowing nothing about the context of this image, it occurs to me this officer might a member of the Corps of Guides who were among the first to wear a regulation khaki uniform. This tended to the drab brown, as opposed to the more typical khaki familiar from later periods.

The only other figures wearing what might be a form of military clothing are the two men standing at rear left, whose appearance is subtly distinct. The military connection is indicated by the issue accoutrement belts with a leather pouch, although that is not conclusive evidence. However, taking that cue, it is possible to interpret the thigh-length shirt they wear as a khaki kurta, an item worn initially by 'irregular' native units recruited to serve in the frontier areas bordering Afghanistan. These might be of a grey-yellow colour, closer to the more familiar shade of khaki, although for the reasons mentioned above there could be considerable variety in shades and colours.

The rest of the men appear to be in 'civilian' dress, that is the everyday garb of the region- (apart from the individual top right wearing a coat with bright buttons). The weaponry is miscellaneous and in general antiquated by 1880 standards, and there are miscellaneous items of European-style accoutrement. Whether these are simply armed villagers or some sort of irreguar local auxiliary, I couldn't say. A forum member with better knowledge of this area may be able to give you better information.

If you enter 'khaki' or 'early khaki' into the Forum search engine, you will find a number of previous threads discussing the early forms of khaki worn in India. These contain images that will give you an idea of the range of colours and shades that came under the heading of 'khaki' between 1850 and 1880. There is also discussion of native dress adapted for military use and also at least one link to paintings made by travellers that show traditional dress worn in the Punjab and frontier region in the mid-C19th. Some of the discussions are quite far ranging, but it is worth scrolling carefully through, as you should find a good deal of useful information gathered there.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby acanthus » 05 Dec 2017 11:12

I would agree with jf42 regarding the distinct possibility that the officer could be Corps of Guides.

I also note the two men standing second and third from the left are very likely wearing uniform, in particular the chap third from the left who appears to have colour facings on his collar and cuffs, the collar being of the style worn by Indian officers of the Guides; and he seems to be wearing military style belt equipment, what looks like the light cavalry hilt of his sword at his left side, and he also appears to be wearing puttees.

I suggest that these two chaps are both wearing uniform (possibly one cavalry and one infantry), and the difference in the style of tying the turbans would not be unusual for the Guides which were quite a mixed bunch.

In terms of comment by jf42 regarding the colour of the Guides uniform, I would add that if they are in fact men of the Guides, the facing colour would be Red on the collar and cuffs of the chap third from left.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby marinamaral » 05 Dec 2017 14:02

jf42 wrote:Greetings Marina. An interesting image. Do you have any details as to time and place ithe photograph was taken?


Thank you so much, that is very helpful! The information that I have: AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 06: A photograph of a group of Afghan chieftains sitting beneath the walls of a fort, taken by John Burke [1845-1900] in about 1878. This photograph is from an album entitled 'The Afghan War, Attogk to Jellalabad, Gandamak and Surkhab'. In the centre of the group sits a British political officer, Captain Tucker. A cross between a scout, a diplomat and a spy, part of his job would have been to contact local forces and get them to support the British war effort. A pioneer of photography in India, John Burke began working in Peshawar, as an assistant to the commercial photographer William Baker. Baker took up photography on retiring from the British Army in 1861 and Burke himself had worked as an apothecary in the Royal Artillery. When Baker stopped working in 1873 Burke carried on, recording the evolution of the Indian Raj in the late nineteenth century. Burke accompanied the British army on its advance into Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War of 1878-1879. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby marinamaral » 05 Dec 2017 14:03

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your help.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby RobD » 05 Dec 2017 15:10

I notice the European officer is bare-headed and his the upper face is pale but the lower half is tanned. This indicates he usually wore something like a foreign service helmet when outdoors. [A hat will do the same, and I imagine a turban will too].

You'll characteristically see soldiers with half-tanned faces in informal Boer War photos- the portable Kodak box camera being introduced in 1888.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby jf42 » 05 Dec 2017 16:59

Marina- Getty captions are not always the most helpful.

It turns out this is a photograph of Captain L.H.E. Tucker of the Bengal infantry who was serving as a Political Officer in the area of the Khyber Pass district during the 1878-80 Afghan war.

This is a summary of his service over that period. He is referred to here as 'Major,' presumably having been promoted.
Major L.H. Tucker. 1878-80.jpg
Major L.H. Tucker. 1878-80.jpg (69.18 KiB) Viewed 157 times


and a detail from operations for which Tucker was Mentioned In Despatches in the London Gazette in 1879
Zakka Khel January 1879.jpg
Zakka Khel January 1879.jpg (103.67 KiB) Viewed 157 times


The contemporary captions read 'Khyber Chiefs and Khans with Captain Tucker, Political Officer." Some have the location added "in Jamrood Fort."

Jamrud was at the southern end of the Khyber pass, to the west of Peshawar on the strategic route linking the Punjab and Afghanistan, which we know was Tucker's area of responsiblity. This detail helps us identify the group of men with Captain Tucker. Some captions describe the local men as 'Afghans' but they might be better described as Pathan or Pashtun, who comprised numerous tribal groupings that transcended political borders, as they do today. These men are likely to be of the Afridi, who both co-operated with and fought the British in equal measure during the period of British rule over the North West Frontier of India.

There is a 'fully zoomable' but poorly captioned version of the photograph here:
http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex ... 54000.html

I attach two 'zoomed' close-ups of Tucker and of the men who we might reasonably think were his soldier escorts (regiment as yet unknown). The close-up shows the faint bands of 'lace' across Tucker's chest. Somebody better informed about the uniforms of the Bengal Infantry will be able to suggest what colour those bands might have been, bearing in mind, Tucker was not wearing regulation uniform.

Captain L.H. Tucker, Political officer, Jamrud circa1878.jpg
Captain L.H. Tucker, Political officer, Jamrud circa1878.jpg (77.49 KiB) Viewed 157 times

Sepoy & Sowar  Jamrud c.1878 Tucker..jpg
Sepoy & Sowar Jamrud c.1878 Tucker..jpg (82.81 KiB) Viewed 157 times
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby acanthus » 05 Dec 2017 20:14

jf 42,

The enlarged images are really good, and reference Major Tucker, his tunic also has pointed cuffs and in his left hand he is holding a sword, and the hilt certainly looks like that of a Staff Officers Mameluke with Ivory grip plates and the cross-guard type hilt. He's also wearing a revolver in holster, with a lanyard attached to the pistol; you can see the lanyard hanging across the front of the holster; the upper loop around his neck, you can see it hanging down the front of his tunic either side.

Just a suggestion, but it may well be a buff coloured tunic with lace of the same colour, the buttons might be plain.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby jf42 » 05 Dec 2017 21:18

I think lace of the same colour- and cuffs- would be unlikely. It seems probably that the lace is of a colour that the photographic process of the time could not reproduce with tonal accuracy. For instance, yellow would show as an apparently dark colour. Flat lace of this sort is interesting, as the braid associated with patrol jackets might be more common, although the majority of officers are seen wearing more practical frocks with breast pockets and Norfolk pleats.

I now notice that the right hand of the two Indian soldiers to the left, in contrast to his colleague's simple kurta, is wearing a more substantial garment which, in addition to a turn-down collar and cuffs, both with ornamented detail, also seems to show faint signs of lace across the chest as well. Regimental distinctions of the Native regiments is a subject with which I have little aquaintance, and I don't have Carman's book on Indian Army uniforms to hand.

Whether this indicates he was in a different unit, perhaps a cavalry sowar rather than infantry, or merely of more senior rank, I am not sure. The comparison with the detail on Tucker's khaki frock might just be coincidence.

Whether the Guides were employed in what- technically- was a rear area, escorting a Political Officer, I am not sure, although at times Tucker does seem to have been covering a lot of ground, and had an extensive parish. Perhaps Guides were exactly the sort of men he needed to watch his back and sound out local feeling.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby acanthus » 05 Dec 2017 21:52

jf42,

The Guides Cavalry Indian officers did have braiding across the front, and I see what you mention, so he's very likely to be a Guides man, you are absolutely correct as regards uniform colour in old photos, very hard to tell the specific colour.

The Guides base was quite near the Afghanistan border and they would of known the territory very well.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby jf42 » 06 Dec 2017 00:00

If you look carefully you can see the detail on the uniforms of the Native Officers here. The British officers wear coats in the style of Patrol jackets with braid loops.

Stewart & Batty with Native Offrs QO Guides c.1879.jpg
Stewart & Batty with Native Offrs QO Guides c.1879.jpg (134.18 KiB) Viewed 137 times

For comparison here are officers of the Guides in plainer frocks but still compartively smart, for the photographer after the durbar at Gandamak.

QO Corps of Guides Afghanistan 1878.jpg
QO Corps of Guides Afghanistan 1878.jpg (46.81 KiB) Viewed 137 times
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby acanthus » 06 Dec 2017 00:52

jf42,

Exactly, as far as I'm concerned the collar detail is near identical to that on the uniform of the chap in question in the Tucker photo; in my view, Corps of Guides without question.
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Re: Can somebody help me identify those uniforms?

Postby t100 » 06 Dec 2017 08:15

I think lace of the same colour- and cuffs- would be unlikely


On "drab" uniforms in the Indian army, the lace and braid was often also "drab" according to regulation, so I think Acanthus's suggestion is good. However, as drab lace is a very different material from drab cloth, it never looks the same, but might be slightly darker, lighter, yellower, greyer, etc., etc. than the main material.

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