Author Archives: Stuart Bates

An Interesting Photo

British Officer GroupClick on the photo for hi-res.

This photograph was sent to me by a fellow contributor that is clearly a mixture of young and old (and rather portly) British “officers.” Interesting to note the “pips” on the soldier seated far right and the brass buttons on most. Also note the variations in the tunics of these British soldiers, and the fact that Sam Browne belt’s do not sport holsters nor sword frogs.

What isn’t so clear is when or where this photograph was taken. Obviously we can narrow it down to the latter decades of the 19th century based on the uniforms, equipment and notably the helmets – the “where” is the other mystery. The terrain appears generally flat without much foliage, but is this South Africa, the Sudan, India or elsewhere?

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Naval Brigades, Zululand, 1879

Royal Navy Officers wearing blue helmets. Far right of the photo shows a seaman also wearing the blue helmet. (Photo courtesy National Army Museum)

Royal Navy Officers wearing blue helmets. Far right of the photo shows a seaman also wearing the blue helmet. (Photo courtesy National Army Museum)

I must state at the outset that this article was inspired by Tim Reese (Tim’s website) who questioned my description of the blue helmets worn by the Royal Navy as being standard Foreign Service Helmets with blue cloth covers (see Sun Helmets in the Royal Navy). On closer inspection that is obviously not the case. They are blue cloth helmets in their own right. Tim and I are in disagreement as to the “flared” helmets worn by two of the officers: Tim positing that they are the product of rough wear and storage; I say that they are too symmetrical and in good condition for that to be true. It remains a moot point. Continue reading

Full and Undress Headgear in India

The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) charging at Lucknow.

The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) charging at Lucknow.

During the Indian Mutiny both Full Dress and Undress headgear was worn. Cavalry, as shown above, initially adopted a turban wound around the base of the metal helmets but how effective this was is debatable. Infantry soon adopted the Havelock cover, named after its creator Major General Henry Havelock, which covered both the cap/shako and included a neck curtain. Cavalry soon adopted a full quilted cover. Continue reading

The Gloucestershire Back Badge

Battle of Alexandria 1801During the Battle of Alexandria in 1801 the 28th Foot (North Gloucestershire) Regiment was attacked from behind by the French. The commanding officer Lt. Col. Paget then gave the famous order “Rear rank, 28th. Right about face.” With consummate discipline the rear rank turned to face the attacking French and at short range fired one devastating volley which caused heavy casualties and forced the enemy’s withdrawal.

For this action the regiment was allowed the distinction of wearing badges on both the front and rear of the head-dress. Only the two regular battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment, formed by the amalgamation of the 28th and 61st Regiments which occurred as a result of the Cardwell/Childers reforms of the British Army in 1881 were allowed this distinction. Militia and Volunteer battalions were not allowed this distinction. Continue reading

Royal Corps of Signals

A Royal Corps of Signals (RCS) radio party in Quetta, India 1932. (Photo Peter Suciu)

A Royal Corps of Signals (RCS) radio party in Quetta, India 1932. (Photo Peter Suciu)

The Royal Corps of Signals was formed in 1920 however prior to that date the Royal Engineers provided a communications system during the Crimean War and the Abyssinian War of 1867 brought further active experience for the telegraphists and signalers of the Royal Engineers. 1

Note the white/blue armband worn by the signalers in the above photograph.

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A Berkshire Lad Revisited

A Wolseley helmet provenanced to Private Frederick G. Rance of the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. This helmet was manufactured by Percy Ayses & Co. (Author’s collection)

A Wolseley helmet provenanced to Private Frederick G. Rance of the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. This helmet was manufactured by Percy Ayses & Co. (Author’s collection)

Last year I wrote a companion article to this one, A Berkshire Lad, but have in the last week been contacted by the family of Pte. Frederick G. Rance. I sensed the import and could not but return the helmet to the family to complement the other memorabilia which they have preserved. Continue reading