One man's tunic is another man's coat! So this is a terminology thing...
The marine on the right of three is wearing a 'shell jacket' not a 'coatee'.
I was slightly bamboozled, Grant, by the phrase 'unpopular and short-lived double breasted coatee'. Prefixed with those adjectives don't you mean double-breasted 'tunic', rather than 'coatee'. The reason I say that is that I've never heard of the db coatee being any more unpopular than any other (single-breasted) coatee, whereas the db tunic was definitely not liked and almost fleeting, it was that shortlived in service...what 1855-6 only, I seem to recall? By contrast the db coatee was around for a good old while.
It's perhaps worth a few random notes on the prevalence or otherwise of the DB coatee in the Army. In the line infantry the db coatee was worn by officers and, from the mid to late 1840s (I have the exact year here somewhere), by sergeants and above, but never by the men in the ranks, whose coatee was single-breasted with bars of white lace. In the Foot Guards and Rifles, however, everybody wore db coatees, without bars of lace (except for bandsmen and drummers doing their own thing as usual). RA likewise db. I seem to recall the Sappers and Miners might also have had db coatees, but wouldn't swear to it. I doubtless will have missed some minor corps. So it's interesting that the RM conformed to the Guards and Rifles in their conventions vis a vis coatees, rather than to the line as one would expect.
I'm not sure about those light blue trousers with red stripe in the second image, (the stripe in particular), although I would be open to persuasion.
1855 was the year the RM became RMLI, significant of course in that it is after the Crimea but before the Mutiny.
In the Mutiny the RM in Captain Peel's brigade were definitely in red. (Cadet Watson's memoirs, pp 51 & 90). So the question then becomes shell jackets or tunics? In the first of Watson's references he refers to the contingent as a whole in their 'red coats'. Hmm...theoretically at least he would/should have said 'red jackets' had they been wearing shells. So this at least hints at 'tunics'. In the second mention Watson uses 'jacket' when referring to an RMLI officer - suggesting (pretty strongly?) that he was wearing a shell jacket. Then it's necessary to say that just because the officers were wearing shell jackets, it doesn't mean that the men necessarily were. What any of them had on their legs is anybody's guess. My own guess would be white trousers rather than dark blue with red welt. The Shannon had departed England bound for tropical service anyway, had already been to Hong Kong (where it picked up 200 marines under Lt Col Lemon), and had then returned to Calcutta. The brigade then proceeded up the Ganges in several contingents, passing the EIC's major ordnance depots on the way. My conclusion would be that they must at least have had the option on white trousers and, if forced to a wager, I would indeed go for white.
I'm curious, Simon, why you would advance P1851 Minies and not P1853 Enfields? I cannot recall any other instance where a newly arrived unit used P1851s - which doesn't make it impossible - but I have read an awful lot of Mutiny stuff and am pretty good at remembering the curious exception to the general rule, wherever such things crop up. I can tell you for sure that even the follow-on division of Peel's brigade, which was made up of 150 or so merchant seamen mustered at Calcutta by Peel's first lieutenant, was equipped with Enfields. It is noteworthy that Peel's log of the journey upriver refers constantly to turning the men out to undertake 'carbine drill'. 'Carbine' was a more ambiguous word, then, than it is to us now, and was sometimes used interchangeably with 'fusil', which of course is a much longer-barrelled weapon than a cavalry carbine. I think this might hint at the use of the two-band (shorter) Enfield by the small arms equipped naval ratings in the leading division of the brigade. Whether the 50 odd Marines with Peel used 2-band or 3-band (full length) Enfields I could not say for sure. Again if forced to wager I would go for 3-band. The headress would certainly have been a covered Kilmarnock with curtain. Whether it had a peak or not is anybody's guess.
There is a well known portrait of Peel, with a soldier directly behind him and sailors to his left rear. The soldier is in a red tunic. His equipment includes a 20-round expense pouch, which was part of the new Enfield equipment. He also has a white covered Kilmarnock with peak and curtain. However - I think I have seen it suggested that this is a member of HM 53rd and not a Marine. As with all paintings they should be treated with suspicion anyway - until one is clear on just how close (if at all) the artist was to the war or the witnesses to the war. Otherwise you end up with the travesty of the 78th Highlandes dress occasioned by the artist Desanges.
So the totality of the hard evidence in respect of Peel's RMLI appears to be 'red', which I suppose at least has brevity to commend it! Circumstantial evidence would say Enfields, white trousers, covered Kilmarnock and curtain. Delighted if there is more data out there, but I certainly haven't found it.
P.S. Not that keen on the expression 'havelock cover'. I'm aware that some ACW re-enactors like to talk about neck curtains as 'havelocks', but the provenance of such a phrase or descriptor in the British service is I think questionable. 'The havelock' (definite article), in as much as the term ever had any definite or bona fide meaning, was a non-regulation peaked and covered forage cap, fitted with a stiff neck guard, that the eponymous general used to wear. It was not either a cover or a curtain.
PPS. All very boring I know, but I think one of the problems that VMH suffers from is a standardized vocabulary. Certainly it took me donkey's years to work out what some of these terms actually meant!
Last edited by mike snook
on 27 Oct 2016 18:57, edited 1 time in total.
Dr Mike Snook MBE psc