The rank Farrier Sgt

For general discussions on the British Army of the Victorian era or specific regiments.

Re: The rank Farrier Sgt

Postby Roaming Roberts » 01 Apr 2017 02:54

My Grandfather was a Saddler Sergeant.
Could anyone tell me what duties that would have required of him?
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Re: The rank Farrier Sgt

Postby Frogsmile » 10 Apr 2017 12:09

Roaming Roberts wrote:My Grandfather was a Saddler Sergeant.
Could anyone tell me what duties that would have required of him?

The Saddler Sergeant was responsible for a team of saddlers within a regiment. He had thus worked his way up from being a saddler at the lowest rung of a specialised career ladder, although he would first have had to learn his duties as a soldier and cavalryman. The saddlers are responsible for making and maintaining the harnesses, saddles, and bridles for their regiment. Qualified saddlers had (have) a special badge, in the shape of a 'bit' that was worn on the arm and made of gilding metal (a brass alloy), drab worsted thread, or bullion wire, depending upon which type of uniform it was to be fixed. Sergeants wore the badge above their stripes.

Each cavalry mount (known in Victorian times as a "Trooper" - officers mounts were known as "Chargers") was fitted with a specifically (bespoke) tailored saddle that stayed with them throughout their army service. This fitting was referred to a “remount” and the fit was constantly maintained and adjusted for each horse throughout its years of service.

It took (and still takes) 60 hours to create a military saddle from scratch, and the same design was used on each saddle made according to the pattern used (these changed over the years, the last I think being 1902). Traditionally, the saddlers only had 20 minutes to fix any broken leather in the bridle, or saddle, etc. when the horse was involved in action, so sturdy, simple saddles were important.

You might find the following of interest:

"Cavalry saddle trees (frames) were made of hardwood, entirely uncovered, and consisted of side-boards, with a front and rear arch or fork attached by mortises, and the underseat (also known as a wolf or straining strap) strung between them. The underseats were made of thick strong leather about 10 to 15 inches (25-38 cm) long, and roughly 4 inches (10 cm) broad at the hind arch, narrowing toward the front arch, usually secured by nails. Rawhide lacing ran along both sides of the underseat to the side-boards. The saddle seat, crafted of leather, padded and quilted, draped over the tree and underseat. There were variations in design between the branches of the mounted branches of the British army, in particular between the heavies and lights, but the above description outlines the basic saddle used during the Crimean War, and retained by some cavalry regiments up until the mid 1860s. However, the initial issue all-purpose saddle arrived in 1856. This new saddle was still a wood arched saddle with flaps, crafted to carry a total weight of about 220 lbs (100 kg). It served through the campaigns of the 1860s and 70s, and used by some territorial home guard (yeomanry) units until the end of the 1800s. The shape of the saddle brought the cavalryman closer to the horse, allowing improved contact between the rider’s legs and flanks of the animal. The previously applied stuffed pad was replaced with felt fastened to the side-boards and a blanket, alleviating the heat and stress suffered by the horses."

"A new saddle came into use in 1872, known as the Flat Iron Arch model; the first to be constructed with metal arches. It proved an utter disappointment, the arches spreading, which led to the seat resting on the horse’s spine. Experiments with metal led to the Angle Iron Arch saddle of 1878, which was trialled by the 1st Dragoon Guards and 17th Lancers during the Anglo-Zulu War (1879). It failed too, the men preferring the old wooden arched saddles. In the early 1880s steel was used instead on iron, leading to more improvements, and in 1891 the Steel Arched Universal Pattern Saddle Mark I appeared, followed by the Mark II (1893) and the Mark III (1898). These saddles were a success, with single piece seats, high cantles, and wider flaps, making them more similar to an English hunting saddle."

I enclose some images of military saddles, including one from the excellent website that is run by forum member the ironduke1.
Review4.jpg (113.08 KiB) Viewed 124 times
cavalry-saddlers-19th-century.jpg (166.5 KiB) Viewed 124 times
cor673.jpg (80.76 KiB) Viewed 125 times
42_-_ORs_Horse_Furn_1.jpg (141.23 KiB) Viewed 125 times
Last edited by Frogsmile on 14 Aug 2017 18:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Farrier Sgt

Postby Harry83 » 24 Apr 2017 07:39

Arfer wrote:The Farrier Sgt still lives on in the modern army. The Kings Troop RHA and the Household Cavalry still have farriers.

They still wear the horseshoe trade badge. The Household Cavalry Farriers still carry the large axes when mounted on ceremonial duties.

The Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire runs the training courses for the Farriers.

In my time in the Kings Troop it was a pleasure to see such skilled craftsmen continuing an age old trade in this modern age.


Fascinating! I'm surprised the role hasn't been civilianized in this day of age. Great to see that the Army have retained the role.
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