Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 13 Apr 2013 11:00

UI!

By contrast, all images of the Seaforth Highlanders (the only other Highland Battalion in the British Brigade) going up the Nile show all ranks in the usual khaki.

Cheers!

Marco
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 13 Apr 2013 11:45

Perhaps the Camerons CO had memories of service in the previous Egypt & Sudan campaigns, when as a junior officer he and his men had shivered their way through the spring nights, Maybe he remembered the value of the serge frocks they wore in 1882-85 and thinking that the new khaki drill was not up to the job, took appropriate measures. And maybe he DID have sentimental recollections of Ginnis!

But what would the Sirdar have said?
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 13 Apr 2013 13:30

Yes, all this is quite possible.
I just was not aware that as late as 1898 British troops could still bring along red frocks on campaign.
Probably this was the exception rather then the norm, but still occasionally it did happen : as you mentioned we know about Ashanti 1896; the battle of Firket, and I have al least one photo showing British infantry landing is South Africa in 1899 in red frocks , with officers wearing wolseley helmets..

Ciao!

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 13 Apr 2013 18:40

It is interesting to note that apart from from five years or so between 1887 and 1892, the 79th had spent best part of 20 years on service in Gibraltar, Malta or Egypt and the Sudan prior to going up the Nile in 1898 and indeed had been in Egypt since 1897 (http://www.regiments.org @ http://web.archive.org/web/200712162159 ... /079-1.htm).

It seems unlikely, therefore, that the red frocks can be explained by a delayed issue of the khaki Foreign Service clothing- unless paradoxically battalions at home received this clothing first and the Camerons did not receive theirs until they were on the march. Incidentally, the IWM website identifies your OP photo as the Camerons preparing to leave Darmali for Atbara. Of course that could be erronious labelling as these things often are. Or I could be mistaken in my interpretation. It has happened on occasion.

The 1st Seaforths had come out from Aldershot to Malta in 1897 after 15 years stationed in the British Isles. By the same token that might explain their up-to-date KD frocks.

For some reason, I have only just spotted the picture from the Graphic that you posted yesterday, Marco. I bet you'll start finding other images thick and fast now.

What were the Camerons doing marching by the Nile at Wadi Halfa? Had they stopped for the night on the train journey south? And can you identify the bundles that the men are carrying under their left arms? Bedrolls being taken to be deposited with transport, perhaps? (Grasping at straws here) Or are they, perhaps, loosely folded greatcoats being carried a short distance for the same reason although would they not have been folded more neatly or wrapped en banderole even for a short march, ready for quick, orderly loading? After all, standards had to be maintained. Curious. An intriguing detail.


x
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Mark A. Reid » 13 Apr 2013 18:59

Ciao Marco;

Thanks for more great images.

I think that the comments made by both yourself and jf42 make perfect sense. Temperatures in the desert can drop pretty low, comparitively speaking, and a good woollen frock would help keep the men warm at night. There may also have been some vestige of what was regarded as appropriate wear. Is it possible that the Colonel felt that khaki was akin to " working dress " and was, therefore, only to be worn whilst actually " At the Front? " I have no proof of this, of course, but could certainly imagine a senior officer wanting his troops to look like soldiers as long as they could before entering the sordid fray of battle.

My apologies if I frequently ( always? ) add comments about the Egyptian Army to these discussions on the British Army, but I thought it might be of interest to mention that elements of the Egyptian Cavalry travelled upriver on the Nile whilst still wearing their coloured ( Home Service/Full Dress ) breeches. Whether this was done to keep out the cold or to retain a soldierly appearance is unknown to me but certainly a point of comparison. The Graphic contains a drawing of Egyptian Cavalry actually engaged against the dervishes whilst still wearing these blue breeches ( with white stripe ) but whether this is accurate or simply artistic licence is debatable. Certainly some photographs of them in 1898 depict them wearing complete khaki. It may also be that this branch of the Army sought to retain some distinctive item of uniform to allow them to retain their unique identity, not unlike Highland regiments continuing to wear heavy wool kilts while marching in 45 C. degree heat!

Kaimakam Haggard DSO wrote that on one night march in the Sudan in the late 1880's, troops of the 1st Egyptian Infantry Bn. wore their blankets en banderole over their khaki tunics. No mention of greatcoats, however. As already pointed out, it does get " cold " in the desert, although living in Canada, where there is still snow on the ground outside my flat, reminds me that such adjectives are often a question of degree!

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby seaforths » 01 May 2014 10:40

Hello Everyone,

I am very sorry to relate but the subject photograph is NOT of the 1st Camerons in the 1898 campaign, but rather of the first Sudan Campaign of 1882-1886.The 1st Battalion which was the resident British battalion in Cairo had arrived there from Inverness in Khaki in 1897 and in khaki they remained for the 1898 campaign when they were rushed down to the Sudan to join Lord Kitchener with the Warwickshire Regiment. The Red frock was abolished in 1894. I'll have a look at my complete 7 volume history of the Camerons when I get home tonight. But I'll leave you with this photo as food for thought of Captain Mclean, G Coy, all in Khaki, marching alongside his men on the way to either to the Atbara or Omdurman. There was only KD in this campaign.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby seaforths » 01 May 2014 16:11

PS What proves this to be the 1882-86 campaign and not 1898 is the helmet of the officer; in 1898 all officers would have had the Wolseley helmet like Captain McLean. The shape of the helmet here is like the rest of the men, this is didn't happen in 1882. I am surprised James didn't pick up on this.

I knew this photo was mis-captioned as I remember seeing in 1982 an exhibition of the Egypt/Sudan Campaign (being the 100th Anniversary) of Wolseley's campaign and seeing this photo. The Sam Browne belt was made by the saddlers of the 1st Battalion in Gibraltar in 1882 (Taken from the History of the Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) pg 159)
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 01 May 2014 17:41

And yet....

fantomark wrote:HI!

I have just found one more image (based on photographic evidence) of the Camerons going up the Nile in red frocks, which I have herewith attached.
It appeared in the Graphic, March 12 1898.

Does anybody know of any other British regiment going up the Nile in red frocks in 1898?

Cheers!

Marco


I would hesitate to challenge Seaforth's informed and detailed observation but I am troubled a little by the officer's frock with breast pockets and and more by the crispness and spontaneity of the snapshot. This doesn't seem to me to be an image from the mid-1880's.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby seaforths » 02 May 2014 00:01

Volume 2 The Historical Records of the Cameron Highlanders Pg 288, Note 30: (published 1909)

79th Uniforms in the Soudan Campaign, 1898

"Officers All ranks wore the store pattern white helmet with khaki cover (no puggaree) for the first part of the campaign. During the second half Wolseley pattern was worn, khaki, with a blue patch 3 in. by 1/1/2 in. sewn horizontally on the puggaree on both sides of the helmet. Sam Browne belt, with leather scabbard, glasses, haversack, water-bottle, revolver, and whistle, all over the khaki drill jacket. Mounted officers wore khaki breeches, khaki breeches, khaki puttees, spurs, and light cavalry sword with brown sword knot. Company officers wore khaki spats, sgian dubh, kilt, with undress sporran and white tassels. In most cases the cross-hilt was worn with the broadsword."

I think this is the authority that should be accepted over the caption. In the preceding note, it gave a detailed breakdown for the 79th in their 1882 campaign but with the red frock and green puggaree on the helmet which went out of abeyance by 1898. About the caption, it's quite well known on several examples for popular consumption (like in the previous page of showing the British line in redcoats) that artistic fantasy took the imagination and inspired errors. These artists were not experts on the dress regulations of the 79th and am surprised that any serious modeller would take that as an authority. I did modelling myself until some years ago until a bad virus robbed me of my vision. I always used photos from the Navy and Army Illustrated as the authority in such matters.

Hope this quells the speculation.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 02 May 2014 07:44

Seaforth, with respect to your knowledge of the subject and the reference you provide, it's not the caption, it is the image itself which poses the question. As I said, it seems too crisp and spontaneous for a photo of 1882-86 and I find that intriguing.

It is interesting to note that the quotation from the 1909 'The Historical Records of the Cameron Highlanders' remarks:

seaforths wrote: "Officers All ranks wore the store pattern white helmet with khaki cover (no puggaree) for the first part of the campaign. During the second half Wolseley pattern was worn..."


and you add:

seaforths wrote:.... In the preceding note, it gave a detailed breakdown for the 79th in their 1882 campaign but with the red frock and green puggaree on the helmet which went out of abeyance by 1898.



There is no puggarree on the helmets in the OP photo. Could this be an image from the 'first part of the campaign'? That still wouldn't explain why the Camerons are wearing the red frock- the question with which this thread began.


seaforths wrote: ...it's quite well known on several examples for popular consumption (like in the previous page of showing the British line in redcoats) that artistic fantasy took the imagination and inspired errors.


Point taken, but the press image in question is based on a photograph and was drawn by Frank Craig who also drew the image of the Seaforths in khaki posted subsequently by Mark. Moreover, details shown like the messy bundles carried by the men are not stereotypical, so I think the likelihood of artistic fantasy and crowd-pleasing error is less. Besides, khaki had a whiff of exciting up-to-date modernity about it, drab though it might be. Why try to 'airbrush' that out on given images from the front?

The question remains, if the OP photo wasn't taken on the advance up the NIle in 1898, and if it is not an image from 1882-1886 when was it taken?

Anomalies like this, which challenge expectations, are the life blood of the forum and give us much pleasure. Please don't quell us just yet!
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby seaforths » 02 May 2014 08:20

Hi there,

All points well taken, and I must admit it's a rather annoying photograph.

I was not in doubt about what we are trying to discern here; it's certainly the photo not the caption. The lynchpin to answering if this picture is whether 1882/1898, I think I may have found the answer, notwithstanding your knowledge of photography of which I have none. If you take a close look at the front of his helmet, you will see a what looks like the helmet badge as mentioned in the 1882 reg. For me, that nails it as this was not on the 1898 campaign officer helmets. But now, what bugs me about this, and its only a technical point, but significant, is that he has the crosshilt fitted instead of the basket on his sword. He may be an exception, but I doubt it, officers didn't wear want they wanted. The 1882 regs. stipulated that all officers, less mounted; Colonel, 2/in.c, Adjutant, would have their swords mounted with the basket, not the crosshilt which was just becoming prevalent as the undress choice for active service.The mounted officers would have 1821 pattern cavalry officer's hilt.

I guess the only way to solve this is for me to call Colonel Fairrie at RHQ, Cameron Barracks and ask. He wrote a history of the Regiment 20 years ago and he is third generation Cameron Highlander so I'll let you know what I find.

Cheers,

Yahya

PS, I'll shealth my sword and desist to quell. :D
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Albert J » 02 May 2014 11:06

seaforths wrote:Hi there,

All points well taken, and I must admit it's a rather annoying photograph.

I was not in doubt about what we are trying to discern here; it's certainly the photo not the caption. The lynchpin to answering if this picture is whether 1882/1898, I think I may have found the answer, notwithstanding your knowledge of photography of which I have none. If you take a close look at the front of his helmet, you will see a what looks like the helmet badge as mentioned in the 1882 reg. For me, that nails it as this was not on the 1898 campaign officer helmets. :D


Seaforths,
Thanks for sharing some insightful history of the Cameron Highlanders. What you see as a "badge" is the shadow of the officers left hand upon the khaki cover of his FSH. I agree with jf42's observations regarding the "feel" of the photo itself, and tend to lean toward the first part of the '98 campaign as it's timeline. Note also that most are wearing khaki covers on their foreign service helmets, not typical of the earlier '82 campaign, and the breast pockets to the undress serge "doublet". Perhaps a magnification of the stack of rifles would help to pinpoint the time frame more precisely. That being said, the officer's water bottles, made by The SW Silver and company, cinch it for me as being 1898. Also note the use of khaki spats as opposed to the white or "oatmeal" colored spats of the '82 campaign.

Welcome to the forum Yahya. (same Yahya who purchased a sword from me?)

James
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby roconn » 19 Jun 2014 02:41

The discussion on the red coats to be used for the last thrust at Khartoum ......
A letter from Sir Herbert Stewart OC the Desert Column dated Jakdul January 14th 1885

"My Dear General,
I have endeavoured to give you everything up to this point officially, but I write one line privately to tell you everything is going on swimmingly except as to time. ...............

I am much obliged for the 29 red coats which arrived quite safely"

[i]Footnote* For the use of the detachment intended to proceed to Khartum with Sir Charles Wilson

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 19 Jun 2014 09:37

That is an intriguing detail.

Having just finished Mike Snook's 'Beyond the Reach Empire' (Feeling exhausted, rather dirty and strangely thirsty as well as acutely aware of the limits of my own resilience and courage), I take the liberty of drawing attention to his account of the Royal Sussex contingent, assigned to accompany Colonel Charles Wilson in the 'dash' from Metemmeh to Khartoum and being unable to find their own red frocks after the excitement of the advance across the Bayuda desert. Whether those were the red coats that Stewart had acknowledged arriving safely at Jakdul, I unable to say.

General Wolseley, following Gordon's suggestion, IRRC, had ordered that the steamer contingent should wear red frocks to announce the presence of British troops- apparently in the fond hope that this might cause the instant dispersal of the Mahdist hordes. The Royal Sussex resorted to borrowing red frocks from guardsmen in the Camel Corps who, not surprisingly perhaps, still had theirs safely stowed in their baggage.

It is Mike Snook's contention that the Royal Sussex probably never wore the borrowed red frocks, preferring to remain in their own serviceable, less visible, grey serge frocks while running the gauntlet of Mahdist riflemen on their foray up the Nile. The totemic red coats remained in the hold of the Bordein, ready to be broken out when the Royal Sussex men disembarked triumphantly at Khartoum. That moment never came and the frocks may well have ended up at the bottom of the Nile, perhaps a suitable comment on the wishful thinking that underpinned Wolseley's Nile campaign.

Needless to say, we have no record of the Guards' reaction to the loss of their frocks.

(Thanks Mike)
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby L. Braden » 19 Jun 2014 20:28

According to Col. Wilson and others, they tried them on previous to departure (e.g., Wilson: "some of the tunics of the Life Guardsmen were rather too much for the Sussex"); but neither he nor Capt. Trafford, nor evidently anyone else who was present, stated that they wore them thereafter.
Beresford, for whatever his much-later account is worth, noted that the tunics "were far from being a regimental fit" and that the soldiers spent the night before departure "folded in their red tunics, bivouacked on the bank", thus merely implying that they wore them on departure rather than only on the previous night in order to keep warm.
The general assumption has always been that they wore them either throughout the voyage or near the end of it, when in sight of Khartoum; but where's the eye-witness evidence?
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