Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

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Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby sjwalker51 » 08 Sep 2014 17:38

Other than the usual french grey uniform jacket worn by the BLC in 1857, was there an alternative undress/summer version that might have been worn - I thought I'd seen some pictures somewhere, but it may have just been of mutineers that had adopted civilian or non-regulation garb instead. Any suggestions/leads?

Thanks in anticipation
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby Frogsmile » 11 Sep 2014 17:50

sjwalker51 wrote:Other than the usual french grey uniform jacket worn by the BLC in 1857, was there an alternative undress/summer version that might have been worn - I thought I'd seen some pictures somewhere, but it may have just been of mutineers that had adopted civilian or non-regulation garb instead. Any suggestions/leads?

Thanks in anticipation


The undress jacket after 1847 was a French Grey stable, or shell jacket (previously it had been dark blue, matching the pantaloons worn with full dress pre-1847). Facings were mostly burnt orange in colour and silver lace bordered the collar, front of the jacket and v of the pointed cuffs, with the front fastened via hooks and eyes and decorated with beading. On the shoulders were epaulettes comprising brass scales and a crescent end. Pantaloons were also French grey after 1847. Head dress was either, the full dress shako with cover, or the undress peaked forage cap with cover. See smaller images enclosed.

It might well be that in the intense and frenetic campaigning of the mutiny dress standards became more relaxed, but it is best to read individual histories to establish who wore what and when. There is no doubt that dress was influenced by the many irregular (Sillidar style) cavalry units that were formed at that time, who generally wore a much more practical, native style of uniform. This e-book might be of use in that regard: http://www.forgottenbooks.com/books/Cha ... 1000063755

The enclosed image shows Captain Charles Gough of the 8th Bengal Light Cavalry (a regular unit) in the dress that he apparently wore during the mutiny, which appears to be a dirty white (perhaps dyed) summer uniform. He was at the time with the Corps of Guides. The painting represents the incident that led to his award of a Victoria Cross when he went to the aid of his own brother, a fellow officer in the regiment. The adoption of practical uniforms is clear, as can be seen also in the painting of Hodson, who also originated with the Bengal regular cavalry.
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Relic of many a fight and siege and sack, it points a moral and adorns the back.
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby Ben Giffard » 11 Feb 2018 23:38

Hello Everyone,
I wonder if I could ask for your help and advice? I am trying to identify the uniform in this photo - apologies for the quality but it is the best I have been able to get it. The photo was taken in India and sitter was in the 10th Bengal Light Cavalry and later in the 20th Hussars, but this does not look like the Hussars uniform - as far as I am aware. So I was wondering if this was Bengal Light Cavalry, or possibly one of the intermediate regiments that cavalry officers passed through on their journey from the 10th to the 20th. There was the HEIC 2nd Bengal European Light Cavalry, next the identical name but with the word 'Light' dropped. Then in 1861(?) came the 20th Light Dragoons, and finally in 1862 they were renamed 20th Hussars. That's if I have got it right. The album this came from was taken by an amateur photographer and one of the few photos with a date gives it as 1857 - so it fits with this transitional period.

I've had to reduce the size of the photo to meet the uploading requirements but looking at my copy of the original one thing to point out is that the fabric of the dark jacket is quilted and you may be able to make out the vertical stitching in vertical parallel lines about 3/4'' apart. This quilting also applies to the sitter's left sleeve. What springs to mind is the fabric used in some fencing jackets. Hopefully you will be able to make out the rest of the details from my uploaded image. There are trousers of a paler colour with a board stripe in an even lighter colour. Looking at the jacket, rather than being cut off horizontally across the waist as one might expect, you can see its line curving round down the sitter's left hand side. I'm also intrigued by what the sitter is holding. I've seen cigars, swagger sticks and the like but this is a decorated box with curved ends. In a photo with a military theme, what might this be? It's shape and size might suggest a box for keeping a fan or fans but does this fit in with the photo of a uniformed officer? Not sure!

Anyway, I'd be fascinated to hear your views on which uniform this is, not least because it would help date the photo. Many thanks! Ben
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby mike snook » 12 Feb 2018 01:57

Ben

I'd be happy with attaching 1858 or something around about that to it. More hunch than anything concrete. I don't think you'll get too far with identifying the rig as a neat or regulation version of a particular regiment's dress. It is definitely on the 'informal' side.

The quilted jacket in the photo is not a uniform item as such, or at least it's not a regimental item. It is probably red. I have seen one or two accounts in which officers describe having such jackets made up. I fancy the trousers might well be regimental overalls (of the undress type) for a Bengal Light Cavalry Regiment - French grey (not quite sky blue) with a broad white welt. I can't think of an another colour combination in use over the 1857-8 period that would fit the bill quite so readily.

Overthrown EIC Officers dressed like pirates over the course of the 1857-58 drama - in pretty much what they pleased. In many cases they were obliged to skedaddle in what they were standing up in, so it's not as if they had too much say in the matter. They often had to scrounge changes of clothing from friends, acquaintances and kind souls. Since they no longer had regiments they could hardly be gripped for being in non-regimental attire.

A touch more uniformity was maintained in regiments that did not turn, (which does not include any of the ten BLC regiments). The EIC European regiments and the Queen's regiments were also pretty piratically inclined, but doubtless in their case there were times when the commanding sahib had a fit of the vapours and stipulated certain essential regimental basics were to be worn. At Delhi for example there was a clamp down on fighting in shirtsleeves when Brig Archdale Wilson succeeded to the command.

10th BLC was stationed at Ferezopore immediately before and during the Mutiny. It did not mutiny on 15 May, when the infantry regiments in that station turned. The sowars did however lose the plot at a significantly later date - August 19. About 200 men got away to Delhi and would have been there when the city was stormed by the British the following month. Do you have a name for your man? I have a list of 10th BLC officers as at May 1857 if that is any use.

I expect you are able to rule it out on the original but when I first looked at the photo I thought that the mystery object was the arm of the chair.

Best Wishes

Mike
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby Frogsmile » 12 Feb 2018 13:50

I have little to add to Mike's detailed explanation, but would just like to say that the type of quilting shown, invariably padded with kapok (of Indian origin), was a speciality of Indian tailoring for cold weather and worn by both HEIC and Queen's regiments in the colder climes of the North West Frontier and other, elevated parts of British India. As well as keeping cold winds out, and providing insulation, it seems to have given a small degree of protection from sword cuts. I enclose images of a later pattern, worn in the 1870s, to give a clearer idea of construction and the favouring of a double breasted closure.
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby mike snook » 12 Feb 2018 15:31

I wonder whether the jacket is blue, which would look a bit smarter with BLC overalls than would red. (Though I have only seen red ones referred to in memoirs etc). Vide below (I think).

Are these things known as "meerzai" I wonder Frogsmile? The reason I ask is it looks a bit more readily flammable than conventional cloth and there is this passage in the memoirs of Col Francis Maude VC RA [Capt Maude at the time]:

As to my own clothing, I began with a "meerzai" or scarlet cotton tunic, over which was the regulation cartouche belt and black pouch, leather strapped regimental overalls, and forage cap with white cover and pugree. At our third fight the "meerzai" took fire, and I narrowly escaped being severely burnt, so fell back on some tussore-silk coats, which were nearly white, and could be easily washed.

(Maude & Sherer, Memories of the Mutiny, (London, 1894), vol i, 38).

I do like the preliminary to this passage, which runs:

"Havelock was greatly scandalized at Eardley-Maitland's 'get-up'...."

(E-M was Maude's only RA subaltern). Maude notes that E-M had to cut around and get a new uniform made up in blue as soon as they'd recaptured Cawnpore! That's what happens when you 'scandalize' (great word) crusty old brigadiers!

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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby Ben Giffard » 12 Feb 2018 18:30

HI Mike and Frogsmile,

Many thanks to for your replies. Frogsmile, the quilted jacket looks very much what my sitter is wearing so thank you uploading those images. Your jacket has different fabric round the cuffs compared with the rest of the jacket and looking back at my photo it looks like there is perhaps five inches of a darker smoother material round the cuffs. I think I can also make out an upper patch pocket - maybe with three buttons on it.

The sitter in my photo is Charles Cotton. I don't have much information regarding his time in the HEIC BLC but after the Mutiny and with the publication of Hart's the picture gets a lot clearer. I am puzzled by one thing though. I know from GHD Gimlette's 'A Postscript to the Records of the Indian Mutiny' that Charles Cotton was present in Ferozepore at the start of the Mutiny. But he was not a recipient of the Indian Mutiny Medal. Any thoughts or suggestions as to why that might be? Best wishes to all,

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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby mike snook » 12 Feb 2018 19:23

Ben

You've probably got these snippets already but for the sake of it:

There is family type data, including his children, (whose places of birth will to some extent trace his movements around India) here:

https://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=wtree&id=P4682

He is also mentioned in the rank of Lt in 10th BLC in a piece about some levee or other in the London Evening Standard of 4 Jul 1850.

The entire October 1862 gazette of officers from 2nd Bengal European Cavalry to be officers in 20th Hussars is here (including Capt Cotton).

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/Edinburgh/issue/7263/page/1526/data.pdf

Regiment was not involved in the two bouts of unpleasantness with the Sikhs and he had two daughters by the time of the Mutiny. He might conceivably have had a rather dull time of it, such that there is not much to find. His captaincy in 10th BLC dates to 23 Nov 1856, while the Standard (above) has him as a Lt in 10th BLC in 1850, (but doubtless he started before that). One would presume he was in 2nd Bengal Europeans from 1859 (which is when I think they formed) to Oct 62. You're question I imagine is where the divil was he between August 57 and joining 2nd BEC in 1859. I'm damned if I know. Good luck!

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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby ED, in Los Angeles » 12 Feb 2018 21:17

Ben Giffard asked,

"The sitter in my photo is Charles Cotton. I don't have much information regarding his time in the HEIC BLC but after the Mutiny and with the publication of Hart's the picture gets a lot clearer. I am puzzled by one thing though. I know from GHD Gimlette's 'A Postscript to the Records of the Indian Mutiny' that Charles Cotton was present in Ferozepore at the start of the Mutiny. But he was not a recipient of the Indian Mutiny Medal. Any thoughts or suggestions as to why that might be? Best wishes to all,"

Ben,

Entitlement to the Mutiny Medal was not given by simply being in British India at the time of the uprising. To qualify for the medal, you either had to be on a campaign, which most likely qualified you for a clasp, or engage the enemy, in a non campaign area and receive the medal with no clasp. According to "Spink", some of the Bengal Light Infantry were awarded the Mutiny Medal, no clasp. Your man Cotton, just did not see any action that could be verified and so, no Indian Mutiny Medal.

ED
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Re: Bengal Light Cavalry uniform question

Postby Ben Giffard » 13 Feb 2018 02:02

Ed - many thanks. As you explained I suspect the simplest and dullest explanation is the right one. No action so no medal! Best wishes, Ben
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