Uniform help please.

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Uniform help please.

Postby GaryD » 07 Feb 2012 06:04

Greetings, I'm not much of a uniform buff and so I come here asking your help. I am a corporal with the Canadian Military Engineers, and thus would like to have a Victorain period uniform of my proper rank and station for display and occasional use at Victorian antique shoots. I am not concerned with Montreal based Militia, uniforms, just British regular forces.

Any advice and details about R.E. uniforms, accoutrements etc for expeditionary field dress would be greatly appreciated. I have done a fair amount of internet research (which is how I came across this site), but only occasionally find anything other than officers and then it is usually just privates or lance corporals. The period I am primarily interested in is 1880-1900, (yes I understand there was a change of uniform about 1885 to the Khaki).

Pre 1885, how did Engineer NCO dress differ from other army trades? It is my current understanding that the standard uniform would be the red 5 button melton wool tunic with black collar-gold trim only where it joins the red tunic, black cuffs with a single loop of piping (knot?) and red unadorned epaulettes, back of tunic with two splits. Pants are a dark (Navy?) blue with wide red piping, material unknown to me. Rank on upper right arm ( no chevron=private, 1=lance corporal, 2=corporal, 3 and some other object likely a crown=sergeant). meritorious conduct and long service chevrons lower left arm (on what basis were these awarded?). Pillbox hat for regimental dress (adornment for rank and station I haven't a clue), white 1871 pattern pith helmet expeditionary forces. Is this correct, and is there anything I am missing?

Once the khaki uniform was adopted, was there any variation or distinction between the Engineers and any other Army professions?

Thanks so much in advance.
Gary
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby trooper » 07 Feb 2012 09:28

The uniform you describe is the serge tunic, the full dress is shown on the attached. The private in full marching order is wearing the serge. The lace is yellow, not gold, except for warrant officers. The facings are dark blue, not black. When khaki was adopted there was no basic difference from the rest of the army except in badges etc. I have other illustrations which i can post should you desire them. Trooper
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby Frogsmile » 07 Feb 2012 14:11

I concur with Trooper, who has it spot on and the man in marching order is equipped exactly as per the period that you wish to portray. At that time the RE did not use the term Lance Corporal and a man with a single chevron was known as a Second Corporal. Together with the RA Bombardier and ASC Second Corporal, the position was a substantive rank, unlike the Lance Corporal (used principally by the infantry), which was an unpaid appointment and thus a probationary position. The RE Corporal wore two white worsted chevrons on the upper arm.

Notice that the shoulder strap was initially of twisted yellow cord (gold for sergeants and above).
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby grumpy » 07 Feb 2012 17:46

RW of 1848 described an award of additional pay and ‘distinguishing marks’ for good conduct for eligible corporals and below (except corporals of the Household Cavalry) who enlisted or re-enlisted on or after 1st September 1836. A distinguishing mark was issued for each completed period of five years enlisted service without entry in the Regimental Defaulters Book during the last two years of those five. Up to six marks could be gained after a total of 30 years, each worth 1d, so that such service was worth half as much as the daily rate of pay for a private soldier. This was achieved after a sequence 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years. Continuous good conduct (as opposed to undetected crime in the last two years before a mark) enabled the last three badges to be accelerated to 18, 23, and 28 years. Service over 18 years of age was to count, with a bonus for the Battle of Waterloo (an additional two years credit) and three years for every two of actual service in the East or West Indies if enlistment was before 1st December 1829.

Two sources suggest a variation in the qualifying periods by 1860; The Victorian Army at Home by JR Skelley and the MHS Bulletin quoted above, but they disagree in the number of badges possible: the former says that badges could be awarded at 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33 and 38 years, whereas the latter (quoting an Account Book printed in 1865) stops at 28 years. The RW 1866 published the shorter list and also confirmed acceleration by two years for the last three badges for continuous good conduct. Again, soldiers under sergeant were eligible, and those junior to corporal of the Household Cavalry were added. In subsequent editions, this latter rank became corporal of horse. There is no note of the method of wearing of the badges, and such a note does not appear until 1881. The next RW (1870) makes yet another change, to 2, 6, 12, 18, 23 and 28, with acceleration by two years for the last three badges. These periods remained virtually unchanged until near-modern times, but there are suggestions that the left sleeve became the preferred one c.1875. Around this time, there was certainly some confusion as to the correct mode of wearing, culminating in the positioning of the badges on both sleeves for good measure, as shown in Carman’s Dictionary of Military Uniform on a 3-badge Northumberland Fusilier. In 1878 the warrant leaves the eligible ranks and the periods unchanged, and also grants an extra year’s credit to the garrisons of the Indian Mutiny sieges at Lucknow and the Alumbagh. There was in 1881 (as in so many other subjects under the Cardwell reforms) a major rewrite of the warrant with regard to Good Conduct Badges and Pay. Beginning with Paragraph 914, it noted that the badge is a high distinction conferred under the rank of corporal, 2nd corporal or bombardier as a token of ‘Our Royal approbation of good conduct’, to be marked by a chevron worn on the left arm (upper or lower not specified, but photographic evidence since the Crimean War confirms the lower sleeve). The periods, each associated with an increment of 1d, were 2, 6, 12, 18, 23 and 28 years, again with the possibility of two years acceleration for the last three.

Here it should be noted that there are some differences in the qualification periods taken from the official source and Skelley, op cit. He writes that the awards date from 1832, not 1836, and this meticulous book goes on to quote several sources at odds with the warrants and gives full references for these documents. There is little point in listing the differences here: either these sources are wrong, or they describe small variations occurring between successive warrants. Similarly, EM Spiers lists in The Late Victorian Army the qualifying periods for 1870 and 1876 but in this case, because they are at variance with virtually simultaneous warrants, they have been discounted. Spiers does add a most interesting tabulation of the percentages of soldiers holding one or more badges at different times from 1870 to 1898. In summary, about 10 to 20 men in 100 held one badge, rather fewer held two, about five in 100 held three, and the number with six badges was vanishingly small, never many more than 100 soldiers in the entire army.

FROM MY ARTICLE IN THE mhs JOURNAL
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby GrantRCanada » 07 Feb 2012 22:20

Greetings and Welcome, Gary! (Unless mistaken, I know Gary well!)

Grumpy and Frogsmile will be able to provide more detailed information (or correct me if I am steering you wrong) but for pre-khaki "expeditionary field dress" you may even want to consider a "serge frock", which was one step below the serge tunic, and thus commonly worn on campaign .... simple 5-button pattern without lace or piping, and thus likely less expensive to acquire than a serge tunic. Probably more comfortable and practical for wear during shooting events, too .....

Drop me a line, and i will send you a pdf file of the complete 1881 Regulations for the Supply of Clothing and Necessaries to the Regular Forces - which spell out the items of clothing and personal kit for Other Ranks .....
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby GaryD » 08 Feb 2012 02:52

Thanks guys or your replies, (hey Grant imaging meeting you in a place like this :lol: ) Troope,r I would very much like to see any other images you have, these are great, but they do bring up questions. The problem I have been having with images such as the ones you have provided are that I am immediately wary of the detail, particularly as they pertain to field dress? The reason for this being that in the first image the Private is depicted carrying a MLM or MLE, and the later pics the Sgt is clearly holding a Sht.LE . With the MLM not being adopted until 1888, and the subsequent Sht.LE not being adopted until 1902, these images suggest to me they are indicative of parade dress not what would be worn in the field, (such as it would be out of place if I were to wear service dress (DEUs) rather than operational dress (CADPAT) during my daily routine and astonishingly so if I were in Afghanistan) and the helmets would indicate homeguard rather than expeditionary. Am I wrong? Would it be accurate to assume that parade dress in the 1890's would be suitable field dress a decade earlier?


Thanks again for the education, I'm looking forward to further discussion.
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby Frogsmile » 08 Feb 2012 22:13

GrantRCanada wrote:Greetings and Welcome, Gary! (Unless mistaken, I know Gary well!)

Grumpy and Frogsmile will be able to provide more detailed information (or correct me if I am steering you wrong) but for pre-khaki "expeditionary field dress" you may even want to consider a "serge frock", which was one step below the serge tunic, and thus commonly worn on campaign .... simple 5-button pattern without lace or piping, and thus likely less expensive to acquire than a serge tunic. Probably more comfortable and practical for wear during shooting events, too .....

Drop me a line, and i will send you a pdf file of the complete 1881 Regulations for the Supply of Clothing and Necessaries to the Regular Forces - which spell out the items of clothing and personal kit for Other Ranks .....


Grant the full dress 7-button tunic of that period was made of melton, as opposed to serge and finely tailored to fit the individual, much as Foot Guards full dress still is today. Conversely, the frock (in later decades referred to as a patrol jacket) was made of serge, usually had 5 (or on some patterns 7) buttons and was loose fitting, in order that it could fit over underclothes and (in theory) a woollen cardigan. It was made in both scarlet and dark blue versions and was usually unlined, although a man could have a lining retro-fitted in certain specified circumstances, especially connected with India, where it was used in lieu of the more fragile full dress melton tunic.
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby Frogsmile » 08 Feb 2012 22:22

GaryD wrote:Thanks guys or your replies, (hey Grant imaging meeting you in a place like this :lol: ) Troope,r I would very much like to see any other images you have, these are great, but they do bring up questions. The problem I have been having with images such as the ones you have provided are that I am immediately wary of the detail, particularly as they pertain to field dress? The reason for this being that in the first image the Private is depicted carrying a MLM or MLE, and the later pics the Sgt is clearly holding a Sht.LE . With the MLM not being adopted until 1888, and the subsequent Sht.LE not being adopted until 1902, these images suggest to me they are indicative of parade dress not what would be worn in the field, (such as it would be out of place if I were to wear service dress (DEUs) rather than operational dress (CADPAT) during my daily routine and astonishingly so if I were in Afghanistan) and the helmets would indicate homeguard rather than expeditionary. Am I wrong? Would it be accurate to assume that parade dress in the 1890's would be suitable field dress a decade earlier?


Thanks again for the education, I'm looking forward to further discussion.


Gary, to pin down field dress for the period you are interested in you would be best advised to look at the Anglo/Egyptian war of 1882 and the early stages of the Anglo/Sudan war in 1884-85. There are images covering both of these conflicts in the relevant sections in this forum.

In both cases the scarlet frock was worn by some of the units, albeit alongside grey and khaki experimental uniforms, together with the foreign service helmet and use of the Martini Henry Rifle (later in the decade replaced by the Lee Metford). One version of the frock had a vertical Norfolk pleat down each side of the breast and backbone, although this does not seem to have been the most common type worn.

The uppermost image that Trooper posted, of a sapper in Marching Order, is correct for any theoretical conflict on the European continent at that time (late 1880s, early 1890s). All in all the scarlet (as opposed to experimental grey and khaki) uniform had not changed much from that famously worn in the Anglo/Zulu war of 1879. The 5-button frock in either, scarlet or blue, was pretty much universal.
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby GrantRCanada » 09 Feb 2012 06:52

Gentlemen:

I'm not sure whether I should post this here (since it arises from efforts to supply Gary with some period photographs of Royal Engineers Other Ranks in "campaign dress") or if I should start a new thread in the Weapons and Equipment forum .....

Anyway, one of the images I have turned up for him is a photo reproduced on page 41 of Osprey Men-At-Arms No. 201, "The British Army on Campaign 4 - 1882-1902" captioned as a RE Corporal and Sapper kitted out for the Ashanti Expedition, 1896.

In looking at it, it suddenly struck me that both of these chaps are wearing a lanyard ..... presumably for a revolver, although no revolver or holster can be clearly seen. (The Sapper does appear to have something on his waist belt on the left side, positioned ahead of of his bayonet, to which the lanyard leads ..... but it is largely concealed by his arm, unfortunately.)

I do note that both men are wearing the type of leggings which my references indicate were for mounted service, so if they were mounted, I wonder if on this campaign they were issued revolvers in addition to carbines (which the caption says were Martini-Metfords.) Does anyone know? Or can anyone offer any insight to what else they might have which needed to be secured on a lanyard? (The only thing I can think of offhand is a folding knife .... but the type of lanyard and the area to which it leads seem wrong for that.)

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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby trooper » 09 Feb 2012 07:41

The lanyard of the sapper appears to lead to his haversack. I would doubt that a revolver would be thus carried. As the troops are equipped for mounted service is it not possible they have been issued with a jacknife with the famous tool for removing stones from horse's hooves? With the lack of pockets the haversack is the most likely place to carry such an item and the lanyard would obviate having to open the haversack and rummage. Trooper
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby GrantRCanada » 09 Feb 2012 19:14

Trooper:

By Jove, I think you've got it!

I don't know why, but I had a complete mental block in recognizing that as the haversack! The strap across the chest is certainly obvious enough .... :oops:
(Fixated on the lanyard totally, I guess.)

Yes, that ubiquitous (appropriate adjective, in relation to the Royal Engineers, eh?) British service folding knife, with the "big pointy thing" which served so well as a marlin spike in naval service, and as a hoof pick (or ration tin punch, or whatever) in land service, is precisely the bit of kit I had in mind in expressing my final thought above.

Since pictures add so much to postings (in my view, at any rate) I'll toss in this image saved from the War Relics Forum .... one of a set of images posted by "Blackpowder44" showing his jack knife collection. The top knife (with the tip of the "spike' cropped off) is identified as dating from 1880. The others are apparently 1913 or later .....
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby Frogsmile » 09 Feb 2012 21:45

For what it is worth I too feel that the lanyard is attached to the issue clasp knife, which at that time was not issued to all arms, but was most certainly issued to sappers as a personal item of equipment.
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby Albert J » 10 Feb 2012 02:01

I too agree with with Trooper, and Frogsmile that the lanyard is retaining the issue Jack knife. The gaiters the sappers are wearing were worn by most ranks of the 1896 Ashanti Expedition. They were also worn on the Ashanti Expedition of 1874 as insisted upon by Sir Garnet Wolseley who played a major role in the development of the uniform for that campaign. More practical than wearing cloth puttees that would tend to snag constantly in the underbrush of the area of operations.
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Attached: Victorian Jack Knife with issue lanyard of thin white worsted cord, Sheffield blade.
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Re: Uniform help please.

Postby jf42 » 10 Feb 2012 21:03

I can't find the images just at the moment but I seem to remember clasp knives, lodged in special pockets on the field uniform jacket, figured prominently in press illustrations of the 1874 expedition as well. Does this also reflect some distinctive aspect of campaigning in the jungles of the Gold Coast?
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