Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

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

Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 29 Oct 2014 22:51

Sorry chaps...I was with the doc yesterday and an optometrist today who tells me the thing floating around inside my eye is going to be there for 4-6 weeks, so for the time being I'm pretty shot for looking at things in close up detail. Today I'm looking through a jellyfish shaped like New Zealand, only back to front. I can see they've got clothes on and pointy hats. So that's over and out from me for the time being. No expressions of sympathy please!

As ever

M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 30 Oct 2014 00:52

Albert J wrote:
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.


Well, I think I may need to go to Dr Mike's optometrist but my impression was (a) isn't that his right hand? and (b) -maybe

Albert J wrote: 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? :?
James


And there I was thinking "Perhaps 7-button frock with one missing, wear and tear and all that......"


And Dr Mike, as for you, sir, just pull yourself together and snap out of it, man!
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 30 Oct 2014 10:47

I'll do my best sir. For the present....
:wink: I look a bit like this.

M

PS. I too thought it was a missing button.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Albert J » 30 Oct 2014 10:49

jf42 wrote:Well, I think I may need to go to Dr Mike's optometrist but my impression was (a) isn't that his right hand? and (b) -maybe


Below the hand. Also, I see a fob chain running from his second button to his left, perhaps to the left breast pocket? (I brought the pic into photoshop to pick out the details)

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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 31 Oct 2014 19:18

I shall have to bow to photoshop.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 03 Nov 2014 17:31

HI!

If we assume that captions are wrong and it's not Gubat, but still these are Guards Officers, then I am also inclined to think the photo must have been taken somewhere during the retreat down the Nile, or after.

We know that once supplies of the old Grey/Khaki were used up , replacements of the new Sand/Khaki were issued . So these could well be early examples of Sand/Khaki uniforms, with the obvious presence of a couple of Red Coats .

The shield appearing in the pic. held by one of the officers would seem to support the view that the photo was taken on or near the Nile. the shield may have been a souvenir from the Abu klea or Abu Kru battlefields (or simply purchased from a friendly riverine Arab!).
This type of shield does not appear to be of the style as carried by Fuzzie Wuzzies.
The "Riverine Tribes " / Dinka type shield in the photo was quite common on the Nile , but definitely rare in the Eastern Sudan.
These "Riverine" shields were to be seen in a variety of types and sizes (the one shown in the attached pics is just one of them), but they nearly always had an oval shape and a central pole.

PS. rgardless of the possible inacccuracy of the captions , it is refreshing news to see a new photo of this campaign having surfaced - even if not thanks to Melton Prior's camera!
Thanks, Mark. Bravo!!

Cheers
M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 03 Nov 2014 21:08

One other possible clue to the fact that these Guards officers were probably not in the Eastern Sudan theatre of operations at the time the "Gubat" photo was taken could be possibly evinced from these 2 well known photograps of the Grenadier Guards taken at Windsor and at Suakin.

I can not comment about the other 2 Guards battalions in the Guards Brigade in the second Suakin campaign (1st Coldstream and 2nd Scots Guards) , but for sure no officers in the 3rd Grenadiers in either photos had any of the "proto-Wolseley" helmets seen in the "Gubat" photo.
The helmets worn in the Windsor photo , taken before departure, are clearly the same style as those seen in Suakin photo.
In fact most of these Guards officers' helmets would seem to be of a slightly different pattern than the "issue" 1877 Foreign Service pattern, being of a visibly more generous size - but definitely no proto-Wolseley seen among the 3rd Grenadiers !
Of course it is theoretically possible that a few individual officers may have replaced their issue helmets with proto-Wolseleys once in the Sudan (prsumably from Egyptian outfitters) , but , given the relative brevity of the campaign , I think this would be highly unlikely.
The genearlly held opinion about these early precursors of the Wolseley helmets , occasionally popping up in 1880s photos, is that they were privately purchased in the UK.

Incidentally, the Suakin photo also comes handy to show the differences in various styles of these early Khaki jackets: just have a look at the presence/absence of breast pockest and the different styles of the pockets' flaps!
(Members of the figures modelling scene would be surprised... I still remenber a "big-wig" judge at a modelling competition a few years ago solemnly proclaiming that straight pocket flaps on khaki tunics were not seen until well after the Boer War !!! He should just have a look at this 1885(!) photo to change his mind! )
One other interesting feature are the many shades of khaki: quite surprising considering the relatively short time these officers had been serving in the Sudan by the time the photo was taken!


M
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 04 Nov 2014 11:46

Hi, Mark. Yes it is interesting to have a new picture to tease us, particularly in this transitional period. I am only a beginner in the topic of the Sudan and have been learning a great deal from this thread. With regard to the question of whether the photo that prompted the latest stage of this thread was taken on the Nile or the Red Sea, what I am wondering is whether the khaki frocks of the officers are items more likely to have been made at home prior to departure for Suakin or to have come up the Nile with the rations when the 'grey khakee' wore out.

Two key questions, to my mind, would be a) whether there were officers' models of the English khaki, with breast pockets, on the shelves of the Ordnance stores at Pimlico, and b), once an officer was in the field whether there were channels open and available whereby he could have privately made replacement clothing forwarded to him. The possibility of off-the-shelf being modified farther up the line is another question to consider.

I note that when the Camel Corps were reviewed by Queen Victoria following their return to Southampton in July 1885, they were reported to have "paraded in their campaigning kits, the Heavies in khakee, the Guards' Corps in scarlet. The men looked sunburnt, healthy and soldierlike. The parade was by no means of holiday character. The kits were in many cases dilapidated and the helmets discoloured and the whole appearance of the men testifying to hard work and privations."

In that limited example, at least, the English khaki appears not to have been available to those elements of the Nile expedition.

If the evidence of the shield is not 100% conclusive, I guess that leaves the possibility open that the photograph could have been taken on the Suakin front and that the officers are wearing khaki frocks made for them before they departed. The variation in colour might then be explained by the sourcing of khaki clothing from different suppliers at home, long before anything like uniform shades were specified officially.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 04 Nov 2014 18:09

Hi, jf42!

Glad to read that you too have an interest in the the Sudan Campaigns!

As far as uniforms are concerned I too find this transitional period quite fascinating!

There is not a 100% guaranteed safe reply to your a) and b) questions!

Officers no doubt has several options as far as their choices of campaign uniforms: these would include : tailor made uniforms (made in the UK and/or Egypt), issue officers uniforms and , occasionally, modified/unmodifed other ranks uniforms. Civilian items such as privately purchased corduroy breeches or trousers were also relatively common .
Each individual campaign outfit t was often the varied and combined result of Army Regulations , regimental "fashion" , local circumstamces and personal choices.
A minimum standard of uniformity at regimental level was probably desirable, but this was not as strict as may be expected.

For example it is a known fact that in the 1885 Eastern Sudan campaign the Berkshire Regiment was only partly resupplied with the new Sand Khaki suits. So the regiment had both Grey and Sand Khaki uniforms at the same time!
One would imagine that the clothing would be redidtributed at Company level to guarantee a minimum of uniformity and that officers should have tried to conform - but of cousre there is no gurarentee that they all did!

In addition in the Zulu War (ie only five/six years before the Sudan campaigns) some officers of infantry regiments having served in the field for several cosecutive years (such as th 24th foot) must have been quite understandably short of decent looking uniforms and it is known that a few officers resorted to wearing other ranks tunics - generally with no rank badges at all!.
At the same time surviving "proper" Officers Campaign uniforms (ie. the so called India Pattern Tunic) and Patrol jackets were also to be seen worn in the field "side by side" by officers of the same regiments.

It is always very difficult to generalise and, whenever possible, conclusions and assumptions should be based on photographs.
Contemporary accounts also occasionally provide useful written information. For example , from Galloway's "The Battle of Tofrek" , we learn that rank and file in the Berkshire Regt.were equipped with Dust Veils and Goggles.
Unfortunately, the habit of several 19th century writers of describing indifferently both the Sand version and the Grey version of khaki uniforms simply as "Khaki" admittedly does not help!
I believe the well known group photo of 2nd Life Guards photo I am herewith attaching again was taken after the return of the regiment from the Sudan. The uniforms look in very good condition, so if the photo was actually taken after the return to England , they must be the new sand Khaki. Again ,there are minor differences in officer uniforms' details: 2 officers with pockets having straight flaps, and two other officers with no pockets at all!


As far as the Grenadier Guards are concerned , however, it is known theat they were outfitted in the new sand khaki for the 1885 Eastern Sudan campaign. The photo of the Suakin Guards Officers group I posted yesterday provides both sound basic information about the GG Officers' general appearance , as well as highlighting interesting differences in minor individual details , such as presence/absence and different styles of pockets - obviously the result of personal choices, purchases from different outfitters etc.

Resupply from the UK or Egypt, as you mention, was certainly possible. However I believe that the 1885 Eastern Sudan campaign
was perhaps too short for that.


Back to the "Gubat" photo, personally I would give some weight to the presence of a "Riverine Shield" in order to assess location.
True, we can not rule out the possibility of a Riverine shield ending up in the Suakin area for whatever reasons. However the most natural assumption for a riverine shield's location would seem to me to be the River Nile!
Attached is a photo of a different Dinka/Riverine shield. As you can see, the oval pattern (as opposed to the round fuzzy wuzzy style - pic also attached) is quite evident. In addition some warriors at Abu Klea and Abu Kru were certainly equipped with this style of riverine shield.

Finally, if you are interested in going deeper with regard to uniforms of these period, both of Mike Snook's Sudan books will provide most of the information you would need on the 1884-1885 Sudan campaigns.
In addition, Mark Reid's book "The Army of the Khedive" will give you plenty of information about the Egyptian army during The Sudan Campaigns era.

Ciao!

Marco
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 13 Nov 2014 16:12

Hi- Mark. Thanks for that. I was intending to gather a survey of images of 1882 grey 'khakee' frocks and 1884/5 'English' sandy khaki- but have not had the time.

It dawned on me, meanwhile, that I have been proceeding on the unconscious assumption that the 1882 grey frock, issued after the Arabi revolt had been defeated, had Norfolk jacket pleats but that is not correct. I was misled by images in my mind of a very fine Coldstream Guards officer's frock in a rather smart smoky grey serge or flannel.

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=3726&p=14221&hilit=coldstream+sudan#p14221

Now I have snapped out of that misapprehension, I believe I am I right in thinking that while some officers had frocks made along those lines. the issue grey frock of 1882 was plain fronted. How many officers wore the issue frock is another question.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby fantomark » 27 Nov 2014 18:09

HI!

No worries... There were so many individual variations at this "transitional" period regarding officers uniforms' details (pleates, collars, pockets, materials, colours, etc) that it is virtualy impossible to keep a record of all types and or trying to guess what was actually worn in specific situations, unless supported by reliable and correctly captione photos - which are of course rather scarce!

(And, of course this is particularly true for any oficers' "custom made" privately purchased items - and even more so for pith helmets!)

Ciao!

Marco
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby jf42 » 01 Dec 2014 09:09

We'll get there.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby rd72 » 28 Feb 2016 21:08

Hello all,

Despite the age of this thread, I didn't see it fitting to start another.. I hope that these additions are worthy of it's resurrection, even for a moment.. These are from the Navy and Army Illustrated, March '98... Showing what I could safely say are frocks in traditional colours used in the deployment phase of the Sudan Campaign. These were taken in Alexandria..

Image

Image

Image

Image
Cheers,
Rob
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby mike snook » 28 Feb 2016 21:48

Good one Rob,

Helmets no longer dyed on an ad hoc basis, but pre-coloured on issue methinks. (And worn with valise equipment unblemished). Do we have any grasp on a date when that started happening. I am minded of an 1884 ILN (or Graphic) plate of a factory in Pimlico colouring helmets for either the Nile expedition or the Suakin show, but quite what the workers were doing in the detail is obscure (at least in my mind!).

As ever

M

PS. I can almost hear the dreadful cat-a-wailing in the last picture. That will bring Reid out of the bushes....sorry the icy frozen wastes where nothing can live except Canadians.
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Re: Red Coats in the Nile Expedition 1898

Postby Mark A. Reid » 28 Feb 2016 22:59

Sorry for the delay in replying Mike, I was out feeding the polar bears and putting the wolverines out for the night. Great images Rob, thanks for sharing with us.

Music criticism aside, the last image merits some comment. It appears to show three stalwarts of the Egyptian Army giving piping lessons to an itinerant, travelling Scotsman wearing a heavy, lined doublet somewhat inappropriate to the North African climate, perhaps he's new in town?? But seriously, the piper on the left hails from a Sudanese infantry battalion and wears a pale blue Zouave uniform with yellow piping. The other two are Egyptian soldiers in khaki and may belong to the 4th Egyptian infantry Bn. whose pipe band also featured in The Graphic c. 1898, marching around a mess dinner. The only splash of colour they have is their blue puttees, and red tarboush of course.

By the way Mike, reference above, they aren't really polar bears, we just dust a few local black bears with icing sugar and it completely fools the Welsh tourists. Oh wait, I think I hear yet another rising chorus of " Land of my Fathers " now, must be another tour bus. Why do they always have flashlights attached to their hats ...?

Cheers,

Mark
-24 degrees C. windchill here by the way.
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