davesmedals wrote:Can anyone tell me if this uniform is common or rare?
It is extremely rare and is a 7-button Full Dress tunic for a Colour Sergeant of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the RWF between 1881 and 1902. Before 1881 it was the Denbighshire Volunteer Rifle Corps and after 1908 it became the 4th (Denbighshire) Battalion the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The Volunteer Battalions tunics were distinct from other battalions of a regiment in that they had Austrian knots on the cuffs. Badges (stripes and crossed flags etc) were in silver wire as opposed to the gilt wire of the Regular and Militia battalions. The battalions designation was also emboidered in white worsted on the shoulder straps. At that time other ranks did not wear the parent regiment's famous Flash of ribbons worn by officers on the back of the collar, although this was adopted by the soldiery after the Great War (see illustration).
Each year a return of efficiency was made to higher authority showing the number of 'drills' (as training sessions were called) a man had attended. For each 5 years (later 4) that a man was shown on the list as "efficient" he was awarded a star to place above the Austrian knot on his sleeve. Five or six stars is unusual, but seven is absolutely extraordinary!
Colour Sergeant was the highest rank that a Volunteer could achieve having joined as a Private, as the positions of Quartermaster Sergeant and Sergeant Major were, together with the permanent staff instructors, reserved for Regular soldiers. There was one Colour Sergeant per company of a Volunteer Battalion and usually 8 companies (A to H). He was responsible for the discipline, stores and pay of each company and the company commander's right hand man.
The sash is of the Serjeants pattern and made of worsted wool and is unusual in that it is fitted with a brass ring, which is non-standard and something that I have never seen. There was also a Staff Serjeant's (later Warrant Officers) pattern made of herringbone silk. The tunic has Victorian General Service buttons rather than the regimental pattern that was adopted later.
I enclose a similar tunic for a Corporal of Volunteers in the Durham Light Infantry by way of comparison. As a non-Royal English regiment the collar and cuffs are white, as per regulation, and you can see the Austrian knots and positioning of efficiency stars are slightly different. I also enclose 2 contemporary photographs, one of a RWF Volunteer Colour Sergeant (of the same Battalion - note the 4-point star for a volunteer sergeant's 'proficiency certificate') around 1905-06, and one of Royal Sussex Regt Volunteers at annual camp, probably before 1902.