Been unexpectedly distracted by Rorke's Drift, first love and all that, so I haven't yet dug out my little list of sailing kit. I'll save it for tomorrow now. In the meantime let's see what I can usefully polish off before bed-time:
Yes 'China frock' is the exact phrase. Can't agree that 'frock' and 'coat' mean the same thing, though perversely I don't necessarily think they are actually different things, if you see what I mean! Pedantic I know but quite important because many of these conundrums are all about contemporaneous loose language.
Second part. Yes, India kit, traditionally was white shell jackets and trousers. I have accessed the quantities involved which I will dig out with the rest of my data - but perhaps surprisingly large figures - top of the head...a number like 4 or 5 shell jackets and a broadly corresponding number of trousers...it might be one more than there are jackets...something like that. However, (have you noticed how there is always a 'however'!), this would be the issue to units roulementing (modern yukky word) into India for a long tour of duty in peacetime. That's where the potential for confusion creeps in. This wasn't peacetime and all sorts of units were getting off the boat in Calcutta in all sorts of scenarios. There were the people who had come back from Persia, the people who should have been in China, the people who also should have been in China but who sank half way, people coming from Ceylon, people coming from Mauritius, people coming from England to backfill the two battalions lost to the Crimean War, people coming from England to relieve the next to be released from India but who wouldn't be allowed to go home immediately (older army trick for force generation than I had realised), a tranche of extra battalions, regiments and batteries despatched from England in June as bona fide emergency reinforcements, and ditto despatched in July, plus a constant stream of drafts for all of the above, and finally drafts of new recruits for the EIC European units. I have seen various numbers bandied about but they are all in excess of 25,000 men and some numbers are in the mid-thirties. But it's a big number either way, the obvious point being that one can't conceive of there being an adequate supply of white shell jackets lying around in company warehouses for the chaps to arrive.
The next point to consider is that all the long tour units already in India and staring down the barrel of the Mutiny decide pretty much unanimously, on the Delhi front at least, that the last thing you want to be wearing in a war is a white jacket (an eminently sensible conclusion in my view!). The war also starts suddenly and dramatically with all sorts of usual lines of communication under threat. That said I have been surprised by how unenterprising across the board the rebel side was when it came to harassing, let alone 'interdicting', some pretty tenuous and poorly protected (if at all) British L of C. So 'stuff' does continue to move around after the first panic is over and all the famous names have begun gripping the situation. Anyway, all those white jackets in the care of the commissariat are pretty much useless, though some are compelled to dye them 'khaki' in the way we have already discussed at length.
But what are all those boys who come down from the Punjab wearing? You will recall that we put the 75th in khaki on the frontier well before the mutiny. Was it not 1853 or something like that? Are we really talking dyed white shell jackets? Or are we talking don't for goodness sake write off your nice issued white shell jacket by getting the dhobi wallah to fling it in the mud, but instead let's get these enterprising Indian contractors who follow us around everywhere to knock out some nice flannel shirts with trousers to match, just like the ones wot the locals in these here parts wear (kurtas) and those terribly brisk bearded chaps in the Punjab Irregular Force get their sepoys to wear.
[Minor digression warning: Every regiment had its own native bazaar (the term they used) which followed it around everywhere and where you could buy pretty much buy anything a campaigning chap could need. This was pretty much a formally recognized cog in the wheel of the company's logistic 'system'. However unsystematic such things might appear to us (and indeed the Duke of Wellington in his day!), as far as I can tell, it all seemed to work pretty well...except for the fact that, notoriously, it led to huge crowds of camp followers of various kinds following the troops around in vast unprotected columns tailing back miles. At the end of the day's march, assuming one hadn't died of heat exhaustion along the way, it seems to be the case that Europeans of whatever rank lived, if not extremely comfortably, then at least pretty damned comfortably, (and certainly far more more so than I and my generation ever did in the middle of nowhere!). It seems to me that everybody was very well fed, watered and bedded down without lifting a finger for themselves. One of the vignettes I have come away from my reading with is of groups of regimental officers lolling about forlornly under a knot of trees, perhaps having fought with great gallantry earlier in the day, perhaps even having buried one or two of their chums around tea time, wondering where on earth the mess sergeant can have got to with the mess tent, their servants, personal baggage animals, their dinners and their wine (or, lord forbid, their beer...now you now why Lord Cardigan never condescended to go to India!). I can tell you that it was the 'form' that you had to turn up to mess with your own chair, your own plate, your own wine glass and your own cutlery. Naturally your own man carried such items over from your tent, which you share with good old Carruthers and his similarly large gaggle of servants (bivouacked outside on the ground naturally). But everything else required for a rollicking good dinner was provided and in situ. So it might be hot and bloody, and you might end up smelling and looking like a vagaboand, but it was not very often a hugely uncomfortable lifestyle in an administrative sense. End of quite interesting digression and back to uniforms... ]
There is also the practicality issue or, if you will, prevailing military fashion to throw into the equation. Short jackets with exposed groins are out....tunics...1855 pattern and all that... are now in....though not quite yet in India it seems to me. But the germ of the idea is there: there were plenty of Queen's officers who had been in the Crimea and plenty of Company officers long accustomed to copying or conforming to the direction of travel for the Home Army. Also we have these trooping smocks knocking about the place, by definition, we now know, the personal property of the soldiery. However (you see, there's another one!), if you happen to have been in India for a decade and don't look like going home any time soon, the chances are it might be a bit unreasonable for the CO to suddenly decide 'right lads, trooping smocks on' (lost, worn out, stolen, torn, etc etc).
Then there's the big geography. If you happen to be in sleepy Meerut, hundreds of miles from the frontier, nobody is going to have thought of kitting everybody out in nice cheap locally produced khaki kurtas or flannel shirts. Yet that is where the storm will break. So the chaps in 1st/60th Rifles will fight at Delhi in their green regimental shells because that's what they do as a statement of their identity and espirit de corps. Likewise 6th DG will move off to Delhi in their blue stable jackets and overalls (LD pattern) and brass (HD pattern) helmets. HM 75th on the other hand, who will lead the attack at Badli ke Serai are going to be in white shells, which we know from Barter they dyed khaki en route to their first fight. 1st Bengal Fusiliers for their part we know are in their white blousey shirtsleeves which, (you heard it here first), they dyed khaki on 10 June 1857. Joining the dots I would say that it was a grey version in accordance with some of the Atkinson based prints.
Next there's the question of transition in the field. Just how long are the 75th wearing their dyed (formerly white) shell jackets for? Look at those chaps over there in those nice practical kurta things. We should get some of those shouldn't we? 12 weeks will pass before the escalade. Are they still in shell jackets? Or are they in a complete mish mash? Don't know. But when they get to Agra with Greathed, the relieved ladies are astonished to learn that the 75th who have just marched past them are actually Europeans. Instead they take them for Afghans. That sounds to me like they surely can't be in shell jackets, but in something kurta like. That said, they are given a new issue of clothing as soon as they reach the Alambagh at Lucknow. So if they are still in shells at Agra, they are unlikely to be in anything other than whatever the new vogue is at Lucknow.
Sticking with Delhi Ridge though, there are lots of examples of officers writing letters to their wives (at Meerut or the hill stations) saying send me some of those flannel shirts just like the ones Jones was sent by his wife. Or thanks for the shirts. That sort of thing.
Here's another thing. 1st Bengal Fusiliers we know are fighting in their shirtsleeves. Others follow their example. Here's a popular misconception - that's where the nickname 'dirtyshirts' comes from. Au contraire Blackadder, the actual expression is 'Lord Lake's Dirtyshrts', so it pre-dates the Mutiny by a long march. Next the fact that the fusiliers are fighting in their shirtsleeves is strongly disapproved of by many officers, so there is no widespread imitation of them. Then, Anson dies, Barnard dies, Reed retires to the hills broken, and Archdale Wilson takes command. Chaplain Rotton very emphatically states that Wilson 'made war' on fighting in shirtsleeves. Everybody had to wear a uniform of some kind. The wonderfully vague expression 'fatigue dress' starts to appear in orders. I fancy it is designed to cover a multitude of sins, but precludes shirtsleeves. Question then. What on earth were the 1st Bengal Fusiliers wearing during the escalade? Time to join the dots again. Atkinson shows 1st Fusiliers marching down from the hills in their pristine white shirts and trousers. Later we can see shirts in grey (fits with my 10 June discovery) but there is also that print of an unspecified regimental picket, with flaming grenades appearing as part of the insignia and two officers who look terribly like company infantry officers to me. All the lads are wearing grey (dyed white) shell jackets. So I reckon that the bad boys in 1st BF had been whipped in and actually would have undertaken the escalade in shells, not shirtsleeves. Irritatingly this has to be deduced and is not supported by any single primary source, which in their entirety remain stonily silent about what 1st BF were wearing on the big day.
Let's now consider HM 52nd LI who came down from Punjab with Nicholson a bit later than most others. Everybody knows, don't they, that they wore flannel shirts. That's what all the artwork says. But in fact they dyed whatever they were wearing just before leaving Sealkote. If they are in flannel shirts were they really wearing white flannel shirts for them to be in need of dying? For which act, by the way, the commanding officer expressly sought permission. Or if they were in shells, which on the face of it would seem the more likely, by what means do they end up clad in flannel shirts? Is the notion of their wearing flannel shirts just so much guff? Or was the bazaar behind Delhi Ridge so vast by that stage as to be able to churn out flannel shirts in very large quantities, sufficient to transition whole battalions at a time?
Now, perfectly aware that I have already left a thousand and one questions unanswered, I want to transfer to the Cawnpore/Lucknow front and pose a thousand and one more. But that will have to be for tomorrow....for the present a nice cup of coffee and then bed. Here endeth part one. Adieu.
Dr Mike Snook MBE psc