Buttons & Fez

For all discussions relating to the Egyptian and Sudanese campaigns fought between 1882 and 1898.

Buttons & Fez

Postby Annapolis » 05 Oct 2016 01:33

Folks: I'm weighing the possibilities of putting together a uniform impression of an English officer serving in the Khedive's army in the 'run-up to the '98 Nile campaign. I really like to take the time and effort to make this happen. What are the possibilities of finding enough coat buttons correct to the period to make this work? From what I can see in photographs, they are slightly domed with a star and crescent. I don't know how long the style in use in the 1880's - 1890's continued in use? Does anyone have a lead to a source? Cuff buttons may be even more of a challenge.

The second question is the colour of the fez? The colour in lithographs is that oxblood red on sees still in use in fraternal organizations. But, did different Egyptian branches or regiments have different colours -- red, black, white etc.? How about the tassel colours? Anything anyone can share would be much appreciated. ----- Needless to say, a photograph of such a jacket and trousers in anyone's collection would be super.

Thanks, Annapolis
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Mark A. Reid » 05 Oct 2016 16:26

Hello Annapolis;

Congratulations on considering a seldom-seen re-enactment character, may I wish you every success with your decision. But first, to answer your questions, insofar as I can;

1) Suitable buttons can be found regularly on eBay, and I would suggest looking at some of the European manifestations like eBay.fr, etc. As you noted, the design is quite straightforward, a Crescent and a Star, and this was used throughout the Ottoman Empire so there were literally millions of these produced. You will find a wide variety of manufacturers identified on the reverse of the buttons, from Vienna, to Constantinople, to Birmingham. The standard tunic size was 40 ligne, or 1 inch, with variations for breast pockets, shoulder straps and even cuffs. I blush to remember that I once had a lovely matched pair of these latter but had them gilded and made into cuff-links ... Sorry. This pattern appears to have been worn by all branches of the Egyptian Army except the Artillery who, for at least a part of the khedivial period, wore a special pattern, somewhat akin to that of the Royal Artillery, featuring a field gun under a crescent moon and star. These are extremely rare and are seldom seen on the market. The picture below features this last design ( bottom ) as well as the standard pattern and a slightly better quality pattern which was generally reserved for officers.

If you have no luck, and can find someone to cast copies in resin, etc. then I would be happy to loan you samples of the various sizes. Let me know what you think.

2) Regarding headdress, the proper name in Egypt was tarboush, as opposed to a fez which is generally of a soft, almost floppy composition. The tarboush came in one colour only for public servants, dark red. It was produced in the tens of thousands with a factory in Austria providing 40,000 each year to the Egyptian government alone. Many more were, of course, produced in Egypt too. The tassel was at one time dark blue for officers and black for everyone else but the latter colour seems to have eventually become the standard. We must remember that the headdress was regularly blocked and steamed and the tassel was removed and then sewn back on afterwards. Each unit had its own set of blocks, etc.

A good example should be available on-line, and for the post-1890 period should be about 135 mm in height.

When the Egyptian Army ( EA ) was re-organised in 1883, the first British officers were allowed a certain flexibility in their dress but the Khedive soon clamped down and insisted that his Army was to remain an Ottoman force. Henceforth, all ranks were to wear only the tarboush, Ottoman ranks were re-instated and Muslim holy days were to be scrupulously observed. It is recorded that one exception occurred at the Battle of El-Teb in 1884 when one British officer insisted on wearing his white foreign service helmet with a red pagri. By 1898 it would appear that this stricture was somewhat relaxed and at least some British officers attached to the EA appear in photographs wearing a Wolseley helmet, often bearing a brass Crescent and Star badge on the front. The famous photograph of the emir Mahmoud at the Atbara shows a British officer, presumably of the Xth Sudanese Bn. wearing such a combination with the addition of a black-coloured flash to match that worn by his soldiers.

Anyway, I've probably prattled on far too much, my apologies. If I can be of any assistance then please let me know. Good luck with the proposed re-enactment.

Cheers,

Mark
Attachments
EA Buttons.JPG
EA Buttons.JPG (100.12 KiB) Viewed 474 times
VWF - Xth Sudanese Bn. at Atbara - Copy.JPG
VWF - Xth Sudanese Bn. at Atbara - Copy.JPG (59.05 KiB) Viewed 474 times
Last edited by Mark A. Reid on 07 Oct 2016 19:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Annapolis » 07 Oct 2016 05:14

Mark: thanks ever so much for your very considered reply. It has reinvigorated my morale in putting together this impression. Don't be surprised if I'm back often asking advice. So, let me press my luck and begin the process. Are you aware of any current-day photos of Egyptian Army tunics etc in collections or museums that I might develop patterns from? It would be easy if the uniforms were modified after 1882 or so to comport with British patterns -- but I suspect that may be too easy for me! Annapolis
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Mark A. Reid » 07 Oct 2016 19:54

Hello again;

Delighted to hear that my comments were of some interest, please feel free to contact me if you think I can help in the project.

In answer to your question, No, I'm not aware of any 19th century tunics that are extant in private/public collections. However, there is no need to reinvent the wheel as the pattern of service dress tunic appears to have been similar, in general design and cut, to that worn in the British and Indian armies at the time. By that I do not mean to imply that there was a single pattern for all regiments, arms, armies, etc. but that it was similar to contemporary examples worn by other British officers. Again, much will depend on the period that you choose but I have attached a detail from an image at Durham University that shows what I would call a typical British officer serving in the Egyptian Army of the late 1880's. He wears the standard tarboush and khaki uniform tunic with stand collar & white collar insert, Sam Browne belt, and is armed with a private purchase revolver ( and lanyard ) on a separate strap and an Infantry pattern sword. The brown leather gauntlets appear to have been an affectation of British officers in Egypt and the Sudan as I cannot see any efficacy in wearing them when it was 122 degrees F. outside! Unseen in this detail, he is wearing tan-coloured breeches and riding boots, with a notched "V" at the front, as well as spurs.

Whilst this was typical dress for the late 1880's and 1890's, another order of dress might also appeal to you, essentially an all-white version of the above which was worn as standard service dress until the EA adopted khaki in late 1885, early 1886. For a few years afterwards it seems to have been worn contemporaneously with khaki, although probably reserved for garrison where camouflage and laundry services were less important. The same accoutrements, etc. were worn with this uniform.

In addition to the Star and Crescent buttons, you will need to acquire the proper Egyptian rank insignia which, at this time, consisted of brass insignia variously composed of the khedivial crown, five-pointed stars and, when of general rank, crossed sword and baton. Again, these can occasionally be found on eBay but stick with the plain old brass versions, avoiding the later confections that include coloured felt and metals. If all else fails, then I would be prepared to loan you a set for casting, etc.

I hope this has been of some help. To give due credit for the images, the detail of the single officer is from the University of Durham, who allow unrestricted use of the image as long as they are credited. The other detail, showing the two EA Artillery officers, is from my own collection. I only include it to highlight the similarity in uniform between the British and Egyptian officers, as well as to contrast this peacetime smartness with the more " used " appearance of the first officer.

Anyway, have a look and let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Mark
Attachments
SAD A89-22 - Copy.tif
SAD A89-22 - Copy.tif (498.14 KiB) Viewed 417 times
VWF - EA Artillery School Khartoum 1910.jpg
VWF - EA Artillery School Khartoum 1910.jpg (146.02 KiB) Viewed 417 times
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Annapolis » 09 Oct 2016 22:58

Mark: this is indeed a treasure of direction. And, you have anticipated my next level of questions -- e.g, rank insignia. (I do a captain's, being the highest rank I ever attained in the 1960's). I must say, the ca 1910 picture and your interest have propelled me past misgivings. Also, I have, indeed, been leaning to a white uniform, simply because I have a khaki tunic for an Omdurman impression (attached), and a grey/blue-grey jacket for the 1885 Camel Corps (Guards) impression -- and perhaps more substantively, local history here suggests that several Maryland Confederate soldiers entered the army of the Khedive after 1865.
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Mark A. Reid » 10 Oct 2016 03:31

Hello again;

It appears that your photos have disappeared but, no doubt, they will eventually appear!

Yes, it seems that about 50 former American officers served in the Khedive Ismail's Egyptian Army between 1869 and 1882 and, indeed, many of them had former service in the Confederate Army. None of these men served at such a low rank as Captain/ Yousbashi however and all British commissioned officers who joined post-1882 were given the minimum rank of Major/Bimbashi. ( I hasten to add that I must have mislaid my field marshal's baton early on and never rose above the exalted rank of Captain myself! ) The only British exceptions were a few former NCO's who were given commissions in the Egyptian Army ( EA ) and usually started as subalterns.

It is important to note that all of these American officers had long left the Khedive's service by the time the British took over the raising of the new EA in early 1883. If you wanted to portray a Confederate officer of the 1870's then a very different type of uniform would be required, and would certainly cost a great deal more money in tailoring bills.

I will see if I can chase down some photos of British officers in the white uniform, 'though this will probably limit your interpretation to the late 1880's or very early 1890's. If I recall, a white tunic could be worn with either white or coloured nether wear. Will try and post some later tonight.

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Buttons & Fez

Postby Mark A. Reid » 10 Oct 2016 04:14

Herewith a couple of details from late 1880's photographs depicting British officers in the EA in white uniforms. As you should be able to discern, these are essentially white versions of the khaki Foreign Service tunic with a stand collar and five buttons down the front, with brass rank insignia on the shoulder straps and a Sam Browne belt. Both images are courtesy of Durham University by the way. One chap wears light khaki breeches whilst the other probably sports white trousers and matching front-buttoning cloth leggings. Plenty of trade for the local dhobi wallahs anyway!

I hope this helps in your decision making.

Cheers,

Mark
ps; No prize for guessing the identity of the seated fellow lurking behind the grand moustache!
Attachments
VWF - Suakin.tif
VWF - Suakin.tif (243.81 KiB) Viewed 382 times
VWF - Suakin 2.tif
VWF - Suakin 2.tif (255.65 KiB) Viewed 382 times
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