CHINA BOAT COATS

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CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 24 Aug 2014 22:26

Dear All

I am interested in hearing of any primary sources which establish that the regiments of the diverted China expedition of 1857 (which is to say HM 23rd (RWF), 82nd, 93rd Hldrs and 90th LI) actually wore 'china boat-coats', (a buff-brown single-breasted frock in a 'holland' cloth purportedly with universal red facings), beyond the first major ordnance depot they came across moving upcountry from Calcutta. I except from this the 93rd for which there is a reasonable enough case to be made. But what about the others?

Has anybody seen an account which establishes that the boat-coats were worn in action at Lucknow? Please provide a reference, or at least a clue to get me on the right trail, if you have.

I'd also like to be convinced that there was a central plan which provided these four battalions with the item in England prior to their embarkation. I'm also slightly uncomfortable with the expression 'boat-coat'. Where does this come from? The dress for trooping was linen smocks and trousers. These 'boat-coat' items were intended as a land service uniform, so how has so nautical sounding a tag become attached to them?

Three coys of the 90th LI aboard HMS Transit were shipwrecked in the Far East, lost everything, and following their recovery to Calcutta and beyond were certainly re-uniformed in Indian clothing, so don't worry about them.

Thanks in advance for any contributions

Regards

Mike
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 26 Aug 2014 22:42

I appreciate I may be the only one in the world who cares about china boat coats (!)....alright it's obscure stuff I grant you...but I thought I'd give my post another ting-a-ling to see if there is anybody else....

M
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby rd72 » 27 Aug 2014 05:27

Oh, I care, Mike, I just don't know enough about them to be able to comment at the level at which you are asking ... I find the myriad of Mutiny uniforms (or non-uniforms) and uniform modifications fascinating and so complex. A classic product of a "Regimentally" based Army, no?

The level (or depth) of discussion about this, the other "khaki" threads, and the "Who carried what" thread are keeping me slaved to this blasted machine. .. I wish I could add more... Sorry.
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby jf42 » 27 Aug 2014 08:34

Mike, we care.

I happened to find this on Monday. I know it isn't precisely what you're after but you can't deny it's an authoritative source and at least indicates that the notion that the China service 'blouse' was supplied to the expeditionary force before departure from Blighty is not a 20th century assumption.

From Sir Frederick Roberts [C-in-C Madras Army].

Ootacamund, April 17th 1882

I see that you have appointed an committee to consider the best colour of uniform for service. I shall be interested in the result. My own idea is that for a volunteer army such as ours an attractive uniform is necessary' at the same time, we require something like what is known as "khaki" in India for rough work and service.

This was recognised as long ago as 1857, when the troops ordered from England to China were supplied with a khaki-coloured blouse, which could be worn over, or without the red coat as might be found desirable.

Guided by this principle I have just settled the long discussed question as to the most suitable dress for the Madras Army. It will, I think be found useful, and it certainly is a great improvement on the present uniform.



The life and correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C. E. Childers, 1827-1896 (1901)

p.79 -80

https://archive.org/details/lifecorresponden02chiliala


It is moderately interesting that Roberts make no reference to boats.

I imagine you have encountered commentators referring to the brown coats/frocks/ blouses being supplied in anticipation of the China expedition having to fight its way up the river to Tientsin and Peking and therefore continuing to spend a considerable proportion of time on board ship or, indeed, propelling themselves in boats. No place to be wearing a red wool 'doublet', you might think, although Roberts assumes these would have been brought along and the two worn together if the task or weather required. I would hope the 93rd, if they had arrived, might have left their feather bonnets with the baggage but, who knows?

I have to express my growing curiosity as to why none of these troops were issued with the red serge frock that is supposed to have been on the books from 1856.
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 27 Aug 2014 21:21

Thanks for caring chaps! You see...that's interesting straight away isn't it? We are talking about something which goes on over a tunic, which surely cannot be another tunic. Imagine how uncomfortable that would be. Besides, a 'blouse' is not a tunic, a frock or anything of that sort.

What it does sound like is the trooping smock, a la 74th in the Eastern Cape (1851 and onwards) and the Guards Bde in the Black Sea (1854), which item we have discussed before, and for which we have seen the photographic evidence. Since then, by the way, I've also seen an ILN rendering of that Guards photograph. Now, thinking back to the Lt Sankey sketch in that Osprey British Army on Campaign production, (I forget which volume), the illustration which in large part started me on this trail, what we see is a big wooly 78th Higlander, seated, wearing an item which would indeed pass muster as a trooping smock or a 'blouse'. It is, however, an item of Indian manufacture, and not the same item to which Lord Roberts is referring, (for which evidence I thank you), since the 78th, as we all know, was not a China-bound unit. We have speculated before that such items were possibly obtained in the workshops of the recaptured and reinvigorated Cawnpore, or, I would now add, from the large HEIC military depots on the Calcutta-Cawnpore line of communications. I have found several references to people being issued with clothing at Chinsurah for example. Our 78th man wears the interesting sun-shade style 'helmet', (wrong word, but it will have to do for the want of something more appropriate), that we have discussed before. Standing behind our highland friend is a member of HM 90th. All well and good so far. This second figure is wearing what looks like substantially the same item, or rather style of item, as the 78th man. It is a slightly different shade but has plain facings, round cuffs and an unadorned collar, in a contrasting colour which could indeed be red (and I would wager is red). It also has unadorned shoulder straps which might or might not be present on the 78th man, depending on how you interpret the odd wrinkle near his shoulder. As to a collar, well one just can't tell what might be under the vastness of a 78th Regiment beard (!)....but he definitely does not have decorated or coloured cuffs. I conclude, not unreasonably, therefore, that it's not at all the same item as the 90th man and is probably open throated with a fall down collar of the sort one might customarily expect of such 'smock' style items. Now, here's the rub, what our 90th man is most definitely not wearing is a nice neat single-breasted tunic or frock item with buttons, such as appears in all other modern illustrators' renderings of what purports to be the China boat-coat. At present I just can't find any history which legitimately underpins the conventional tunic/frock style interpretation of the item. What I am remembering now, is passing references to what an ugly and coarse upper body item the officers and men of the 93rd were wearing in the first of Campbell's Lucknow campaigns (ie 2nd Relief). I begin to think I might stand a getter chance of finding a unicorn in my garden than a compelling primary reference to a 90th Regiment 'boat coat' which looks anything like a tunic.

Interesting.

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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby jf42 » 27 Aug 2014 22:39

Mike, for ease of reference (since you don't appear to have them to hand) here are what would seem to be the most detailed descriptions of the 93rd's 'tops'- to keep the term as neutral as possible.

They come from Recollections of a Highland subaltern, during the campaigns of the 93rd Highlanders in India, under Colin Campbell, lord Clyde, in 1857, 1858 and 1859 Lieut.Colonel W.Gordon-Alexander, late 93rd (1898)
<https://archive.org/details/recollectionsah00alexgoog>

Apologies for slightly inconsistent citations.

Calcutta 21st September 1857

On embarking the men had been provided with very ugly loose brown coats of some stout cotton material, with red collars and cuffs, originally meant for the boat work that was expected of them in the China War; but they were worn by them throughout the operations for both the relief and capture of Lucknow and the subsequent campaign in Rohilkand, and lasted very well. The officers, however, had been advised to furnish themselves with similar coats, made of alpaca, which were by no means so serviceable, as I shall hereafter have to relate. We wore, therefore, throughout the whole of the subsequent fighting the regimental Highland dress, including that most useful feature of it, the feather bonnet, and these brown coats with red facings, officer and sergeants wearing in addition their Highland sashes, to distinguish them from the men.


p.54 The officers and men of the 93rd Highlanders were dressed throughout these operations in kilts and feather bonnets, our brown China Expedition loose coats with red facings, with our rolled great-coats slung across the right shoulders and under the left arms of the men and the left shoulders of the officers.

Flank March to the Sikandarbagh November 15th 1857 p.66

...all the English Infantry [wore] pith helmets and dust coloured cotton clothing, I think. The 93rd wore the regimental Highland dress and feather bonnets with the brown China Expedition coat, and both officers and men their rolled great-coats, haversacks and water-bottles.

The storming of the Sikunderabagh p.106

Colonel Ewart emerged from the gateway, without any head-covering, carrying a colour, his face and brown tunic covered with blood, and begrimed , like all of us with smoke and dust…

I found that the 'beautifully light' alpaca 'China Expedition' brown coat had almost entirely disappeared off my back, the red cloth collar, with the sleeves and red cuffs attached to the collar by the shoulder straps, and the pocket on the left breast, also holding onto the collar by some stout seams, being all that remained of it, so that, unless I had taken the precaution of putting on my scarlet shell jacket under the alpaca coat, I should have been coatless, yet not in shirt sleeves."


You'll see that your question about Lucknow would appear to be answered. I haven't quite digested your analysis of the Sankey watercolour (From memory- Barthorp's British Army on Campaign. Vol 3 1856-1881) but Col. Gordon-Alexander would seem to be describing something more substantial than a pimped-up trooping smock. Bear in mind the khaki worn over red frocks on NWF late 1870s-early 1880s, perhaps drill, certainly serge Norfolks. Just to fill out the picture for others reading this, in 1893 Pte William Martin, late 93rd, referred to "twilled cotton coats, of a dark straw colour, with red facings" in his anonymous memoir At the Front, By One Who was there.

I shall be fairly incommunicado for the next few days. I shall look forward to seeing how the story has developed. If I have time I'll post an image from Stuart Bates 'Sun helmets' site showing an 1857 engraving from ILN or Graphic showing 59th at Hong Kong in practical service dress designed by their go-ahead CO. Check it out. One man is in a smock.
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 28 Aug 2014 16:35

Having returned to HQ to eyeball the Sankey sketch up close and personal, I find that I have mis-remembered the contrasting colour of the collar and cuffs on the 90th man. In fact it is impossible to distinguish between the colour of his collar and the rest of his garment, while he cannot be seen to have round cuffs at all. It is because all the artwork has them that I imagined them to be there; but in fact they are not. My mistake. It might not be a China boat coat, then, but simply an unregulated style Indian smock which he has donned because his boat coat is played out. His smock does have a shoulder strap, secured with a button, though it is not the only such portrayal I know of, so can be considered tolerably consistent with the notion of it being an Indian smock. The collar, however, appears to be round like a tunic/frock, though this guy too has a beard and has dropped it onto his chest in such a fashion that it's impossible to be sure. If it is a round military collar, then that is not consistent with any other rendering of an Indian hot weather smock I have ever seen. So we arrive at that age old conundrum, is that a typical portrayal of his regiment, or is he in some way exceptional - the odd man out.

There would seem on the basis of the Gordon-Alexander quotes to be some substance to the 'boat coat' label, though it is not of itself evidence that this was a designation which was either formal or in common usage contemporaneously. But that's in the close pedantry and not that vital. He certainly, I agree jf, makes it sound like it could be a 'coat', as he prefers to put it, cut in the tunic/frock style. Having already acknowledged that the 93rd was the one regiment where I have seen concrete enough evidence for the boat coat, G-A doesn't resolve my broader question about whether or not the other three regiments fought in them at Lucknow. I am most interested in the 90th and the Sankey sketch still says to me 'I am not wearing what all the illustrators show me in'. So that question remains. Let me now introduce one of the mentions of Chinsurah, which comes from the Regimental Records of the 90th Regiment, by Alex M. Delavoye, London 1880. Delavoye is designated on the title page as 'Captain 56th Foot, (late 90th LI)'. He is not listed in his own book amongst the officers of the regiment in 1857, so is a secondary source, albeit one who doubtless enjoyed ready access to those who had been there. Here is what he says about his regiment's arrival in India, (bearing in mind that we are talking the seven companies that made it directly to Calcutta and excluding the three under Major Barnston, including Captain Wolseley's, who were long delayed by the foundering of HMS Transit, [an apt if not overly imaginative name for a troopship!]):

'...and Calcutta about the 21st of July. The 90th was immediately transferred to river steamers, and went on to Chinsurah at which place it stayed a week....After receiving its camp equipment and light clothing, the regiment proceeded up the Ganges....'

So that's all very vague, but enough in my mind, taken in combination with the Sankey sketch, to raise the question '90th Regiment in boat coats at the relief of Lucknow says who?' Hence my quest for some concrete evidence.

The whole set of goings on about Lucknow are hugely complicated, because there are three separate 'campaigns' in which the city was the focus of attention. People, regiments, wings and companies come and go hither and thither. The season also changes twice (in order of dress terms), between the high summer of 57 and the early summer of 58 which means that every fleeting reference in an already huge array of sources has to be backtrailed to establish its chronological, operational and geographic context. Very tedious. The 93rd are in the second and third campaigns, (Campbell's favourite boys of course). I am doubtful on that basis, noting that G-A was remembering events of 41 years earlier, whether the line, relating to November 57 (second relief), '...all the English infantry regiments [were in] pith helmets and dust coloured clothing' is altogether legitimate, in respect of headdress particularly. The airpipe helmet was not generally worn at this period in fact, but started to appear on the heads of certain infantry regiments in the following year when G-A would have seen it about the place a lot more than formerly. There are enough Beato photographs around from 1858 to show that the norm around Lucknow was still the covered forage cap or covered 55 shako, rather than helmets. I mention this en passant because I wouldn't want anybody to be misled into reading that particular allusion as gospel. Of course he follows up his remark with 'I think', recognising some personal doubt in the matter. Additionally I have references to red coats being worn at that time. As I read it, some are still in 'khaki' (the practice not the colour, as I like to say), and some are in red home service dress (those who have it) because it's turned colder. I have pinpointed the precise date in October 57, in the course of earlier discussions here, on which the 9th Lancers changed out of their white stable jackets into their winter blues.

So the question remains....90th and other China regiments (excepting the 93rd - case proven) in boat coats, says who? Additionally, are we really sure this item is cut as a tunic? In respect of the latter aspect, jf, I accept your Gordon-Alexander evidence moves things along in favour of a yes, albeit I'd still welcome something more conclusive. I have about 20 new books arriving this week and will report back if any of them provides new intelligence. Come to think of it, some of them are coming from India and may not be that sharp on parade!

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Mike
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 24 Sep 2014 20:16

Well here I am 20 new books later, a wiser but sadder man. Sadder because in all that frantic reading, I still haven't found anything which puts China boat coats on the backs of the 90th Light Infantry - nor any other regiment for that matter saving the dear old 93rd. So I bring it back to the top of the pile, for one more plea. Can anybody help with this? Just one convincing primary source will be a start.

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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby Waggoner » 24 Sep 2014 20:48

Mike,

Do I gather from this that you have successfully defended your dissertation? If so, congratulations!

My unit of interest, 2nd Bn MT, was also diverted from the China expedition and I would be interested to know how they were uniformed. I wonder if they were also included in the "boat coats" issue?

All the best,

Gary

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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 25 Sep 2014 01:25

Thanks Gary; it was a firm but calm defence, not unlike Rorke's Drift I like to think!

Yes, 2nd Military Train are certainly also at issue. I recall I did make a note about the unit the other day. So I'm going to go and fetch my scrappy little note book from wherever I last discarded it, to see if I can read my ever worsening handwriting. I'll report back shortly.

As ever

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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 25 Sep 2014 03:27

No, Gary, sadly not a uniform related note, it turns out, but an organizational one. I simply noted that they were organized into two squadrons and were mounted on the horses of the 8th Madras Cavalry.

Much more usefully, however, I have just followed up on another lead (Jones-Parry, an officer of Madras Fusiliers) and can now put HM 23rd (RWF) in 'China frocks' at Lucknow in March 1858. We like this very much; not only an unequivocal reference to the item, but also an indication as to its cut; 'frock' implies a very definite cut or style. It occurs to me that the Gordon-Alexander man talks of the officers wearing a quite separate item to the men, an alpaca coat, so that just because he happens to have a shell or doublet on underneath, it doesn't necessarily follow that the rank and file garment was any form of over garment. Maybe it was indeed a nice, (relatively) neatly tailored tunic.

But that's all a bit too easy for Mutiny matters. My little notebook also states that Majendie at one point observes that the RWF were in red. It's too late now to go sniffing after that, so I'll look tomorrow evening (guests for lunch first!). He might possibly be referring to the November operations, when it was a bit colder and the 9th Lancers, for example, reverted from white to blue in accordance with the seasons. But that's both the 93rd and 23rd in boat coats which is a bit more compelling, especially since I recall in the dim mists of memory seeing a picture of the 2nd MT in a covered Kilmarnock with curtain, home service trousers and what I had formerly (before I realised they were a China bound unit) taken for a khaki tunic. If memory serves me correctly that image is around a lot in black and white, but I have seen a colour version somewhere. It may possibly be tucked away in my image library. So that's something else to do tomorrow. Still nothing on HM 90th LI though, apart from the reference in their historical record work to them being issued with light clothing as they passed through Chinsurah.

Finally, and I know jf will be interested in this, about a week ago I found an itemised list of exactly what clothing was issued for trooping voyages, together with an indicative price list by item...because believe it or not the men had to pay for it! That rather explains why thrifty Scots (forgive the cliche) like the good old 74th would still have had the items in their kit when they marched to Grahamstown on the Cape Frontier. I will stick my list up tomorrow. In the meantime, 'Night night all', well, except in Her Majesty's western territories, that is, where I hope you have a lovely afternoon and evening ahead of you.

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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby jf42 » 25 Sep 2014 09:59

Mike, I am relieved that you have been able to track down more evidence to fill out the picture regarding the 'tops' provided -allegedly- provided for the force originally bound for China in 1857. Bottles of valerian drops were being nervously passed from hand to hand.

Is 'China frock' the phrase that Jones-Parry used for the 23rd's upper garment at Lucknow? It does correspond with Gordon-Alexander's description of loose, brown 'China Expedition coats'.

Regarding Delavoye's reference to 'light clothing' received by 90th at Chinsurah in July 1857, how do you think that corresponds with Charles Wicken's being "served out with an Indian kit" when the shipwrecked companies of the 90th arrived at Chinsurah in August 1857? These latter presumably arrived in the frocks made up with 'cloth' provided in Singapore (Were these, I wonder, made up to the model of the traditional 'trooping frocks'; to replace the China coat that we might suppose was part of their equipment on board Transit and perhaps still worn by some; none of the above?). We of course still have to puzzle over the anonymous footnote in Wickens' journal, published in JSAHR Vol 35 1957, stating that the 'India clothing' was "white jacket shirt and trousers."

With regard to those prudent Scots getting maximum use out of their smocks (Scotsmocks?), in the summer I had been puzzling over the mechanics of this Circular issued in June 1861 by the Commander-in-Chief India who had recently approved of a white tunic for troops in India, which stated that "no farther provision of Khakee suits for draughts is to be made, and that the ordinary sea kit canvas frocks should be issued instead. …where any Khakee suit may remain in store, or have been ordered of the tradesmen they must be supplied the men as part of their sea kit, and Sir Hugh Rose has been informed that the men on landing in India are to be allowed to wear them out."

I now understand that 'provision' and 'issued' in this context did not mean that the 'khaki suits' and 'ordinary sea kit canvas frocks' were provided gratis but at the soldiers' ('draughts') expense, which later would become an issue when the khaki re-introduced in the 1880s was so unpopular with the troops.
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 26 Sep 2014 01:49

jf

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.

M
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 26 Sep 2014 19:20

Right, lets trot out the ship's kit.

This is a footnote at p. 390 of The History of the Indian Revolt, London, 1859. Author is signed GW at the preface of my first edition but it's a chap called George Dodd. It is a very credible and comprehensive work and very contemporaneous. Although it's the top and bottom of the list we are most interested in, I'll trot it all out for the sake of completeness.

A return was prepared by order of parliament, of the odds and ends composing what was called the sea-kit of English soldiers going out to India, the cost at which they were estimate, and the mode of paying for them:

Articles/ Price

Two canvas frocks at 3s,3d (jackets substituted for frocks in the case of sergeants) 0 6 6
One pair canvas trousers 0 3 4
One neck handkerchief 0 0 8
One pair shoes 0 6 0
Three pounds of marine soap at 7d 0 1 9
Two pounds of yellow soap at 7d 0 1 2
Nine balls pipeclay 0 0 9
One quart tin pot, with hook 0 1 0
One scrubbing-brush 0 0 8
Three tins blacking 0 1 0
One clasp-knife 0 1 0
One bag in lieu of haversack 0 0 10
Needles and thread 0 1 0
Three pounds tobacco at 2s, 8d 0 8 0
Two flannel belts 0 2 0
Two check shirts, at 2s, 6d 0 5 0

Total 2 0 8

'The prices' as the return tell us, 'are unavoidably liable to variation, but those in the above list will serve as a general standard for guidance. These extra necessaries are paid for by the men to whom they are issued, out of pay advanced for the purpose. Tobacco is issued to such men only as are in the habit of using it; and if any man be provided already with any of the above articles, and such are in a serviceable condition, a duplicate supply is not given.' It will at once be understood that the ordinary equipment of the soldier is not here mentioned; only the extras for the sea voyage being included. The 'nine balls of pipe clay' constitute perhaps the worst item in the list.


More later. I'm sorry that the prices won't maintain their columnar dressing as I typed them out. For the sake of clarity and the young, the figures are obviously arrayed in threes as pounds, shillings and pence.

M
Last edited by mike snook on 26 Sep 2014 21:35, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: CHINA BOAT COATS

Postby mike snook » 26 Sep 2014 19:31

While I'm at it, my man Dodd says that the estimate of British troops landed at Calcutta by the end of 1857 was 23,000, with others in unstated numbers (obviously nothing like as big) ashore at Bombay, Madras and Karachi.

M
Last edited by mike snook on 26 Sep 2014 21:36, edited 1 time in total.
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