mike snook wrote:Give me a few days Darrell and I'll stick some recommended reading up on the Iron Duke website, (which should not prevent anybody else chipping in here with recommendations in the meantime.....)
mike snook wrote:Darrell
I think quite highly of it, though there are, as perhaps one might reasonably expect, things with which I do not agree. Most notably the portrayal of the 78th Highlanders after the Desanges paintings is wrong. Col (at the time Capt) Francis Maude RA VC, who was there, states emphatically in his memoirs that, 'kilts were not worn'. The tartan, which might conceivably have been worn by some officers in the form of trews, was Seaforth of Mackenzie. French states Cameron.
It is, however, a hugely difficult area. I like to say that 'the answer is always out there', but Mutiny uniforms is an area where this is not invariably true. People were irritatingly bad at recording dress in their memoirs. The best you get is fleeting references and one liners. So you have to work across a vast array of sources, even to begin to cobble together any sort of wider picture. Then you come to direct contradictions, which are particularly annoying and not infrequently drive you back to square one.
Art work is often a red herring, as with Desanges. Crealock,(later Lord Chelmsford's military secretary in Zululand) obnoxious as he was, was at least a talented artist and present during the Mutiny, but only for the Central India campaign of 1858, not for the better known events of 1857. He is one of few authentic sources. One even has to be careful with Atkinson who was there at Delhi. For example I have seen a portrayal by him of an incident in which a mutineer stuck his head out of a window only to be grabbed by the hair and chopped with a kukri by a Gurkha. In one edition the Gurkha, who is wearing a tunic, is shown head to foot, including his forage cap, in a golden colour of khaki. But one of the secrets of getting to the bottom of it all is knowing what the original item of dress actually is. Well in this instance the forage cap was rifle green: it is simply impossible to dye a 'rifle green' (loitering close towards black) hat to a golden yellow. So there's your first clue: this might be an Atkinson but it has to be wrong. Sure enough I've also seen the same Atkinson coloured completely differently. In the second version the hat and tunic are indeed rifle green and the trousers grey! But the uninitiated or less painstaking might die in a ditch defending the notion that the Kumaon Gurkhas were definitely clad from head to foot in golden yellow khaki. One of the things I am playing around with at the moment is that the Atkinson portrayal of the 75th attacking at Badli-ke-Serai isn't the 75th at all, but rather 1st Bengal Fusiliers who also, (little known fact), attacked at Badli-ke-Serai on the flank of the 75th. Atkinson portrayed the fusiliers over and over again, but apparently he suddenly felt moved to take in the 75th. Not so sure actually. But importantly I can't prove it - so that needs to be stated up front, (as I now have).
Then one has to consider the seasons; another complicating factor. It was obnoxiously hot in the summer. If you flew to India today and got off the plane in the winter you probably wouldn't notice it was winter. But I can say of my own experience of living in hot climates for extended periods that your body gradually adjusts to local conditions. Thus in your first winter you might think the locals are being a bit cissy about the drop in temperature, but in your second winter, you will feel it as badly as they do. So there were summer and winter orders of dress. The former was white. The latter home service dress. The Mutiny of course straddles both. I can't immediately think of a set of memoirs which says in the summer we wore precisely this, and on such such a date regimental orders said we should change to precisely that. Fortunately I happen to know that the date of change was typically about October. Well that's all well and good, except for then you have to be sure which regiments actually had access to their baggage/home station and which did not! For example the people who relieved Lucknow in September and remained there until November, when Campbell came, had nothing but the clothes on their backs when they passed through the Ballie Guard gate. (Cor they must have been ripe smelling by November, poor devils!).
Then you have the China Expedition factor, four or five regiments with a combination of their own special 'brown holland' uniform, with home service uniform in their kits. You can get (as I have) to the point that you know they have forage caps and shakos both with white covers, in their kits. But which did they wear in and around Lucknow? Did they all wear the same thing? Were they a complete mish mash, one regiment doing one thing, and another regiment doing another? If so, which regiment did what?
That leads fairly nicely into the whole issue of perpetuating the myth. That goes on a lot. One illustrator, or more accurately the historian behind him, takes a guess. The next thing you know the guess has been repeated three or four times across several different art forms (including by other illustrators) as if it were 'gospel'. A good example of this had been played through here: one of Barthorp's books for Osprey included a plate showing the 91st Highlanders in South Africa. It's an interesting and different looking order of dress: so it has been copied, to my certain knowledge at least four times, by makers of larger scale model soldiers. It features a curious bonnet with a diced band (which I happen to know on the basis of an eyewitness watercolour was indeed worn by the 72nd Highlanders in South Africa more than a decade earlier). So the guys I feel sorry for are not so much the makers of the model soldiers, but those wonderfully artistic people who sit down for months on end to paint them to such extraordinary standards, on the assumption, (to which they are entitled, having parted with good money), that they are historically correct. The diced band would be particularly fussy and difficult to paint as you well know. Then they enter them into competitions and all the rest of it - people are amazed by their talent; other people agonize over judging the competition - and so on. All well and good....except that the start point is completely wrong. The 91st didn't have any Scottish features to their dress at that time at all. The illustration is spurious, the models are spurious and that would be heartbreaking to the people who spent so much time trying so hard to get something right which never existed in history. So that's a long winded explanation of perpetuating the myth. The movie Zulu is the all time villain of all time in that regard. No matter how hard those of us who (foolishly) pick up the pen try, we can never defeat the mass mythology perpetrated at every turn by those who make films. That is all the more lamentable an occurrence when the real history is actually much more dramatic than any feeble screen portrayal (vide Rorke's Drift/'Zulu' and Isandlwana/'Zulu Dawn').
So back to where we started. Mutiny dress is an exceptionally wooly area to begin with. Even to get close one has to work really hard. John French succeeded is getting close and must by definition have done a great deal of work to get there, so I admire the effort he made. He is mostly but not invariably right, but he also get things wrong: vide 78th Hldrs, as earlier described. Sometimes, when agonizing over some obscure issue, I ask myself does it really matter? Does anybody apart from me care? But the answer is always the same. Yes it does matter and yes there are people who care. I am presently reassembling the Battle of Berea. It's not easy, but British and Basotho boys died that day (20 Dec 1852), because it was their duty to do so, and we owe it to them to be able to say 'this is what happened and where I am pointing now is where it happened.' That is important and when we stop believing that, I fear we will have made the final plunge into philistinism. On the Mutiny I do what I can, but there will be areas where I am wrong too. At least nobody will be able to say 'he didn't try'. I can see that John French tried, so yes I endorse his book (but not its every detail).
johnpreece wrote:This is quite a fun page. The nearest thing to finding a dusty bookshop in the lanes of an English market town that the Internet can offer.
https://archive.org/details/texts?and%5 ... ads&page=1
I would like to thank Maureene for introducing me to the entirely new (to me) world of internet library collections. It is astonishing and very rewarding though time consuming.
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