Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby L. Braden » 19 Jun 2014 23:52

P.S. According to Macdonald (Why Gordon Perished), the Sussex men ridiculed the idea of wearing red, and were probably embarrassed by their ridiculous appearance in the ill-fitting coats; but would this have been an acceptable justification for disregarding Gordon's suggestion and disobeying Wolseley's instructions? The only acceptable excuse might have been that the objectionable coats were lost with the steamers; for even though Wilson initially noted that the "kits" were saved, he later noted that they were partially looted on the riverbank by some of the Sudanese. However, if the coats were stored as part of the kits, how could he have justified their not having been worn; and if the coats were to be worn only during the triumphal entry into Khartoum, is there any evidence for that? Finally, I can find nothing in Gordon's writings that specifically requests the appearance of soldiers in red coats - merely the appearance of British soldiers - so who's idea was that?
This red-coat matter would be insignificant if it weren't for the fact that much was made of it at the time and ever thereafter.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby L. Braden » 20 Jun 2014 19:16

There's a watercolour by Capt. Trafford, depicting several unidentified soldiers (presumably Sussex men) wearing red coats and blue pants in the encampment at Korti in March of 1885; and in another painting, Trafford depicted men in tarbooshes and turbans, and one faded figure that appears to be wearing a sun helmet, aboard one of Wilson's steamers under fire. (royalsussex.org.uk.)
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby t100 » 28 Jun 2014 01:02

The photo of the Camerons that sparked this debate is available online from the Royal Collections at http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501744/the-queens-own-cameron-highlanders-leaving-darmali-february-26th-khartoum-1898. It is captioned "The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, leaving Darmali, February 26th". This is clearly the original caption as they have put the additional information in square brackets. It is part of an original album http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501956/khartoum-1898 of photographs of the 1898 campaign taken by Francis Gregson. The other well-known photographs of the Camerons in khaki are actually from the same album/photographer, but are dated August 1898 e.g. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501807/leaving-wad-hamed-the-queens-own-cameron-highlanders-khartoum-1898, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501934/camerons-disembarking-at-assouan-khartoum-1898, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501808/leaving-wad-hamed-captain-mclean-and-g-company-khartoum-1898, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/2501809/leaving-wad-hamed-private-arthur-watts-private-smith-private-macdonald-khartoum. Looking at the context of the album, I don't think this leaves much doubt that the photo of the Camerons in red was indeed taken in 1898.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 28 Jun 2014 11:32

Bravo.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 29 Sep 2014 17:21

Great!
That finally settles the matter for me: Red Coats were actually worn on active service by the Camerons in the early Sudan campaign 1898
This is great news for figure modellers !
A marching Jock in red Highland tunic, Khaki Cover on helmet, khaki spats and Lee-metford rifle would definitely make an innovative appearance on the shelves of any figure shows!
May I just suggest any such adventurous figure painters to have a copy of this thread ready to show the judges! :lol:

Cheers!

Mark
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Gordon's remark to his Italian lieutenant, Romolo Gessi
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 27 Oct 2014 17:22

HI!

..and here is one more Red Coat Mistery photo...!

I received this from my friend Mark Reid.
This picture (if captioned correctly) was taken by Melton Prior at Fort Gabut (ie: Gubat ?) in January/February 1885 and it shows a very interesting officers group .

This image provides fascinating information about the actual appearance of British officers in the Gordon relief Expedition.

In particular:

- The wide variety of helmets, including both regulation issue Foreign Service helmets and slightly different types of "precursors" of the yet to come "Wolseley helmet"! Some of the helmets have neck curtains.

- The very faded appearance of the Grey jackets, most of them faded to the same tone of the corduroy khaki trousesrs/breeches!

- Red Coats definitely worn by the two officers standing on the extreme right and quite possibly also by the second officer from left (unless in his case it just might be a somewhat darker grey tunic). The first officer from the left is also wearing collar badges.
Interestingly, the second officer from left (if caption is correct) is Count Gleichen himself , the famous author of the first hand "classic" account "With The Camel Corps Up The Nile" - the very first book I ever read on the Sudan campaigns and THE BOOK that sparked my interest for the Victorian Era Colonial Warfare in general !
I am pretty sure taht in his account Gleichen mentioned that only one officer (from the Royal Marines, if I remember correctly) persisted in wearing his Red Coat in the desert, inevitably attracting enemy fire in the process ! in this photo (if caption is correct) he appears to do just the same (although in a more relaxed and obviously safer circumstance!).

Really a nice photo!
Thanks , Mark!

Ciao!
M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 27 Oct 2014 22:27

Could somebody say something about where this item has popped up from and account for the caption please .

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Mark A. Reid » 28 Oct 2014 02:34

Mike et al:

As the " source "of this image I probably owe Members an explanation. It appeared on the British Medals Forum and, after contacting the original poster, I was told that it had appeared in a magazine produced by the Coldstream Guards. Further requests for more details came to naught, I'm afraid, so we are left with an image with no clear source and probably speculative caption.

Might the individuals identified in this photograph provide some clue(s) to its actual location and probable date?

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 28 Oct 2014 09:40

Was the Guards Museum one of avenues explored? They might be able to cast some light. The image and mix of uniforms certainly looks right for the stated period.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 28 Oct 2014 12:06

The officer Craufurd wasn't in GCR, though he was in the Sudan. In my assessment his presence indicates that this isn't a forgery, but at the same time also suggests that it wasn't taken where it purports to have been taken. Craufurd was a SSO (listed as such in Colvile and his subsequent AL entries - I looked at 1895). Quite what his job was I couldn't presently say - though for want of time I haven't embarked on a full scale hunt for him in my library. For that reason and because you don't just take one team photo and have done with it, when you are in a setting where history is manifestly being made around you, (where are the rest of the set?), I don't believe that this was taken at Gubat.

Another supporting reason for the assessment is precisely the fact that at least one red coat, (possibly two), is being worn. It wan't just Gleichen who found Maj. Bill Poe's red coat worthy enough to write about. It was a remarkable thing to do in the face of the enemy, suggesting by extension of course that this isn't in the face of the enemy. There are a number of officers missing who would one expect to be present if it was at Gubat - the other Dawson brother, Lt Col Bonham and Lt White of the RMLI. Additionally one or the other of Lt Col Sir Wm Gordon-Cumming or Lt Robert Wolrige-Gordon is also missing. The Gordon part of the caption having been fluffed in some way, my guess is that that's Wolrige-Gordon. Sir William was probably having a game of bacarrat with the duffers in HCR somewhere! [To be serious....I say that because the 'Gordon' here looks like quite a youngish bloke, hence more consistent with a lt than a lt col]. There is however a lurker....a fifteenth officer where only fourteen are named. I would guess at a junior guy...so of my list of candidates perhaps White of RMLI.

The gentlemen of GCR are substantially unarmed....not very likely I feel at Gubat where there was an expectation of major attack at any moment. Finally Melton Prior made his living by scribbling and sketching not by photography. If any one of the warcos with the Desert Column had a camera we would know about it (or at least I flatter myself that I would!).

This has been taken because a group of officers notable for recent deeds of dering do have met up with a camera and spotted the opportunity to have the composition of the brotherhood recorded for posterity. As is always the way in soldiering no regimental officers mess remains consistently composed for very long....leaving aside the other obvious omissions, the CO. Boscawen, evacuated sick with fever, the adjutant Charlie Cruthley, evacuated minus a leg unhappily, and Dr Magill, evacuated with a hole in his anatomy acquired at Abu Klea.

If asked, I would place this during the retreat. The furthest forward I would conceive of is Jakdul Wells on the way back. If I had to bet my pension on something, I'd go for Korti. Further back than that...also distinctly possible. There were stone redoubts everywhere. This was a big war in the age of professionalisation remember and gone were the days when a chap could sit around in his tent enjoying the sun without building a socking great defence work of some kind. Of course for the reasons to do with composition of the group already described, there is no way on earth that this was taken on the way forward.

I agree with jf that year and dress are consistent and that the place to look for the original is most likely the Guards Museum. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that those are not greys but a new issue of khaki. I believe that Craufurd is wearing corduroy breeches, as is Romilly on the right frame, but that D'Aigular does not have on breeches but something which exactly matches his frock. It is possible that the only man in an original grey frock is Eyre Crabbe. Faced with the choice of betting my pension on whether Gleichen is wearing red or blue (working only on the colour as we see it), I'd try and wriggle out of the bet. Fred Romilly is in red.

There is nothing exciting about the red coats (or coat). It is recorded history that GCR carried its red coats in its zuleetahs and that individuals did start wearing red coats on the way home, as their greys wore out or became too grubby to be seen in polite company.

Charles Townsend is holding a souvenir shield. Am I seeing a couple of double-barrelleds in the right foreground?


Nice though....just not that far forward.

When somebody shows me the photo of Lord Charles Beresford waving farewell from the 'quarterdeck', as he liked to call it, of the Safieh, I'll believe there was a camera at Gubat. Until then I'll place greater reliance in the existence of unicorns.

As ever

M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 28 Oct 2014 18:46

mike snook wrote: bed, there is no way on earth that this was taken on the way forward.

I agree with jf that year and dress are consistent and that the place to look for the original is most likely the Guards Museum. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that those are not greys but a new issue of khaki. I believe that Craufurd is wearing corduroy breeches, as is Romilly on the right frame, but that D'Aigular does not have on breeches but something which exactly matches his frock. It is possible that the only man in an original grey frock is Eyre Crabbe. Faced with the choice of betting my pension on whether Gleichen is wearing red or blue (working only on the colour as we see it), I'd try and wriggle out of the bet. Fred Romilly is in red.

There is nothing exciting about the red coats (or coat). It is recorded history that GCR carried its red coats in its zuleetahs and that individuals did start wearing red coats on the way home, as their greys wore out or became too grubby to be seen in polite company.

Charles Townsend is holding a souvenir shield. Am I seeing a couple of double-barrelleds in the right foreground?



Curiously, Mike, I was looking at the frocks of some of the officers, principally those with 'proto-Wolseley' helmets, which show breast pockets with very obvious flaps and seem to be a of a lighter weight of fabric and wondered if it might be khaki drill. Then I noticed that at least two officers with 1877- type sun helmets also had breast pockets with flaps, then thought I detected vertical detail on all these frocks which might be Norfolk jacket type pleats, started to get confused about Indian khaki, the Royal Irish etc and lost the will to live. I decided it would be much simpler to see a lightweight grey serge cloth in play, given that we know some officers definitely wore privately made frocks with breast pockets, and dismissed the matter.

Question: are we able to make any general observations about units whose officers were more likely/ known to have worn proto-Wolseleys or was it simply a matter of personal choice.

Question: who would have been wearing khaki drill on the Nile axis in 1885 other than officers who had come from India?

Question: Are those Norfolk style pleats or not ?
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 28 Oct 2014 19:26

The first and foremost hurdle is exactly that....first.....how do we know that the names on the caption and the photo go together? Is it really GCR on the Nile, or is it one of the Guards Bns in the Second Suakin campaign? Such a photo would have done an awful lot of hanging around somewhere. But until we know where, and just how the identifications of individuals were arrived at, there has to be a provenance issue. It's possible that there is a watertight account of these matters, but if there is, I for one would like to hear it.

It's my belief that the greys must have been close to running out during the course of the Nile Campaign, after everybody had passed through and received an issue, because they did actually run out during the mounting phase of the 2nd Suakin show....so the Guards, for example, didn't get any. They got khaki....strangely enough.

They are certainly Norfolk pleats on Eyre Crabbe's jacket. The helmets...hmm....private purchase at the hot weather hat shop in Cairo? One of the officers kit outfitters in London? Indian Army? The mixture of the two helmets suggests very strongly that they weren't being issued to this unit, if unit it is.

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M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Albert J » 29 Oct 2014 18:09

I have been looking over this photo the last couple days and I too believe it might be mis-captioned with regard to location. I don't believe we are seeing any gray frocks though, Norfolk or other types/cuts,(with regards to the lighter colored frocks in the photo) but instead the first issue of the Guards khaki frock. While it appears that Eyre Crabbe has pleats to his frock,I believe this is the "puckering" of the material caused by crossed arms.The lining and padding to the interior of the khaki frock ,running vertical and parallel to the front opening, would have the same effect.Re: the padding...much the way some Guards full dress tunics were padded to give shape to less "robust" wearers.

As jf42 points out, breast pockets and hip pockets...and of a design differing from the gray serge. The pockets are also un-pleated.I also see what appears to be two buttons on some of the cuffs.Though I cannot place a date for the issue of the frock in the fantomark/Mark Reid post, It was identical to that worn by the Guards officer's in the Sudan 1898, and during the early stages of the 2nd ABW. Shown below is a pre 1898 Grenadier Guards khaki frock with and without waist belt. I suspect what we're seeing in the fantomark post regarding Gubat,is the first issue of this frock. Note the puckering that could be mistaken as Norfolk pleats in a copy of an old photo with a washed out highlight.

Also pictured is a group of officer's of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards taken at Modder River 1899 for comparison. Note that the upper edge of the breast pockets are in line with the third button of the frock. The upper pockets edge of fantomarks pic lay in line between the 2nd and 3rd button, as in the pic of the original frock.

Mike Snook: I see a bayonet lug for the sword bayonet on the right hand rifles barrel band(Martini Henry), however, the other could be a side by side shotgun.

James
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 29 Oct 2014 19:27

Very persuasive, James. I had got as far as spotting what I thought might be an 'English' or '2nd Suakin' khaki frock without breast pockets on the standing figure with 1877-style helmet fourth from the right and also perhaps on the man with ditto helmet half-hidden in rear rank at centre.

What assumptions can we make about the darker-?serge- frocks, which appear to be of two distinctive shades, lighter at camera left (1) darker at camera right (2), all with the standard 1877-helmet?
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Albert J » 29 Oct 2014 20:24

jf42 wrote:Very persuasive, James. I had got as far as spotting what I thought might be an 'English' or '2nd Suakin' khaki frock without breast pockets on the standing figure with 1877-style helmet fourth from the right and also perhaps on the man with ditto helmet half-hidden in rear rank at centre.

What assumptions can we make about the darker-?serge- frocks, which appear to be of two distinctive shades, lighter at camera left (1) darker at camera right (2), all with the standard 1877-helmet?


jf42: The standing figure fourth from right, I see the outline of the lower right breast pocket.I Can't see anything of the obscured figure other than a dot, perhaps a pocket button, too far to his left to be center? Could be a speck of dust too.

As far as the darker frocks the only observation I can make, obvious as it may be, is the figure to the right, Scots Guards, buttons in threes, and what could be a thistle badge to his collar. Perhaps a Guards version of the earlier undress India pattern frock? :?
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