British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

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British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby VictorianEra » 22 Nov 2016 01:36

Hello everyone. Yesterday I purchased an Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Foreign Service Officer's Tunic/Doublet from the Boer War period, and I decided I wanted to make a new topic to discuss foreign service tunics. What were officer's foreign service tunics used for around the Boer War period? As I understand it, foreign officer's tunics were used for everyday use at camp and bases and such, not sure, though. As far as my knowledge extends, British Officers wouldn't wear red uniforms into battle past the mid 1880's and especially not during the Boer War as red would be easy targets for the expert marksmanship of the Boers. The seller said it was a un-lined, lightweight tunic for everyday use for hot climates in places like India and South Africa. What would officers wear with this type of tunic? On other foreign service tunics similar to this, I've seen officers wearing pistol belts and haversacks, etc as if going into battle. Would officers wearing this red foreign service tunic such as this one only use this for everyday wear around the camp/base and for patrolling, etc, or do I have the period wrong and it may be from before the Boer War? I hope some people may be able to provide some much needed information on this type of uniform. Included I have a picture taken from the website, of the Officer's Argyll and Sutherland tunic I just purchased (hasn't arrived yet). Thank you for reading.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby jf42 » 22 Nov 2016 10:59

Greetings.

This garment looks to be an adaptation of what was termed a 'frock', which was the version of the red coat, made of lighter, less fine cloth (unlined kersey or serge), and intended to be worn as working dress and in the field. It was introduced when the skirted tunic replaced the tailed coatee at the end of the Crimean war; the cut of the frock and its details changing subsequently over time.

For kilted Scottish regiments, the form of the frock differed somewhat, being cut away in front to accomodate the top of the sporrran. In the late 1860s a specifically Scottish form of the frock began to be worn- some times referred to as the 'Stewart pattern'- which had decorative detail added to the cuffs and hip pockets, intended to recall Highland dress of an earlier period, similar to the detail on the Full Dress 'doublet'- (the Highland equivalent of the English /Lowland regiments' tunic, introduced in 1855.) Most notable were the so-called 'gauntlet' cuffs. it was made regulation in 1873.

What is notable about the 'Stewart' frock illustrated here is that, whereas the regulation frock had gauntlet cuffs that were self-coloured, i.e. the same scarlet colour as the coat, this frock has cuffs in a solid yellow, the facing colour of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, matching the collar which also has more decoration than the standard frock.

In India and other hot weather stations, the 'Stewart' frock was for a time adapted to be worn instead of the heavier Full Dress Doublet. In this instance, not only have cuffs in facing colour been added but also collar detail similar to that on the Full Dress doublet.

A garment such as this is likely to have been worn only for formal parades, rather than on daily duties or in the field, when the plainer frock or the patrol jacket (a whole other subject) would have been worn. Indeed, the last time the scarlet frock was worn in the field as general issue was on Wolseley's Egyptian campaign in 1882 (although it was still in evidence in the Sudan both in 1885 and 1898).

There have been a number of threads on VWF discussing the 'Stewart' frock. The detail may get a little obscure at times but there are lots of illustrations and photos.


viewtopic.php?f=19&t=10783&p=55297&hilit=frock+Stewart#p55297

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=10081&p=50160&hilit=frock+Stewart#p50160

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=10783&p=55260&hilit=frock+Stewart#p55260
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby VictorianEra » 22 Nov 2016 16:47

Thank you so much for your assistance. Do you happen to know what would be worn with such a 'Steward frock' in the case of mine? As you said it may be an adaption for full dress purposes in hot weather climates, instead of the heavier full dress doublet, so could this particular frock have the same items to go with it that go with a full dress doublet, such as a kilt, sash, buff leather belt and cross belt, plaid, bonnet, etc. or some other things that would make it a little less formal, such as a pith helmet, sam browne, etc? I want to eventually add a couple of items on this to make it a little display, but I don't know what else would go with it.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby gordon92 » 23 Nov 2016 00:11

As an augmentation to jf42's fine elaboration on the scarlet frock as worn by Scottish regiments, the Highland and Lowland regiments used this garment differently. The Highland regiments wore this frock only on foreign service as an alternative to full dress. Thus, many of the accoutrements that were worn with the full dress doublets (e.g. crossbelt and sash) are also to be seen with this frock. In the image below notice the 2 A&SH officers in the middle of the back row and one sitting in the front row wearing the scarlet frock. The Lowland regiments also wore this frock in undress at home until 1902 in addition to its utility on overseas service as described for the Highland regiments. The undress jacket for the Highland regiments was the white drill jacket.

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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby jf42 » 23 Nov 2016 01:05

Gordon, thanks for that amplification. I am wondering, is there a distinction to be made between the scarlet 'patrol frock', as seen in the 2A&S Hldrs photo, with four flapped pockets, and what I shall for the time being continue to call the 'Stewart' frock, in terms of the orders of dress in which each was worn.

I am thinking in particular of the well-known photo of the Gordons officer in charge of the Highland Mounted infantry company, wearing a scarlet patrol frock with yellow facings on collar and cuffs

I am also having a moment of doubt. Did Scottish officers' frocks always have facing colours on the cuffs- regardless of whether they were used for dress or undress?
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby VictorianEra » 23 Nov 2016 02:01

I think I've sparked (or re-sparked, as previous topics on this exist) an interesting topic. Just to clarify, as you both said different things, is this a "working dress" frock or a full dress frock in hot climates? Did other highland regiments other than the A&SH use this type of "stewart frock" for the same purposes, and would look like this, only with different colour facings depending on the regiment? The Lowland regiments would also use something like this or exactly like this, but only for undress purposes, as I understand it? Please correct me if I've mixed up some of your words, this is just a relatively new topic to me and there is still a level of confusion. Until just recently, I didn't even know this type of tunic/frock even existed. Many thanks for your help so far, you two.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby jf42 » 23 Nov 2016 12:39

As Gordon has indicated, the orders of dress in which regulation and adapted frocks were worn differed according to individual regimental practice. That discussion is ongoing- (and could ongo for a fairly long time)

As far as the facing colours are concerned, the answer would depend on precise dating. In 1881 as part of the Childers regimental reforms it was decided to standardise infantry facings on a national basis, with yellow chosen as the Scottish national colour. The exception to this format was that so-called 'Royal' regiments retained the blue facings that had been traditional since the C17th. In the case of the Highland regiments, that applied to the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders; with the Seaforth, Gordon and A&S Highlanders wearing yellow facings.

As it happened, this didn't represent a dramatic change, since of all the constituent regiments selected to form the new Highland regiments in 1881, the 'Royal' regiments aside (42nd RHR & 79th QOCH) only the 78th Ross-shire Buffs did not previously wear facing colours in some shade of yellow.

In terms of the Princess Louise's (Argyll & Sutherland) Highlanders' hot weather postings, between 1881 and 1891 the 1st A&SH served successively in South Africa (1879-86), Ceylon (1885-86) and Hong Kong (1886-91). They went out to South Africa in late 1900 and remained there until 1903.

THe 2nd Battalion were in India from 1891 to 1907. After which they went to South Africa for three years (by which time this frock would have been obsolete.)

[Information taken from http://web.archive.org/web/200801180413 ... 091ASH.htm]
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby VictorianEra » 23 Nov 2016 17:11

The seller said the frock was from the Boer War period. Perhaps 1st Battalion in that case? According to the seller, the frock was found in a trunk with several items (all of which were sold previously before I could buy them, except for the frock itself). Those items included a buff leather belt (perhaps for full dress purposes?) a sam browne, glengarry and kilt. What year did these type of frocks come into use, for the Highland regiments, or at least the A&SH?
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby Frogsmile » 23 Nov 2016 17:46

Frocks are a minefield, as JF42 has implied. You need to be very careful how you interpret these garments, as there are several factors to consider. In the first place, you should note that the descriptor 'frock' was used for several garments, with a generic meaning of loose fitting, lined or unlined (both were used), frogged or unfrogged, 'patrol', or not patrol, chest pockets or no chest pockets, facings, or no facings, blue, green or scarlet, serge, kersey, or tartan (the latter meaning a specific weave and not, as later used, a plaid pattern).

Having covered 'frock' we then have to consider whether it is specifically for Foreign Service, as in Foreign Service Frock, general (or 'field') purpose, as in a type common to many regiments and worn in barracks and the field, or 'regimental' frock, with unique styling according to regiment, so patterns were quite a fluid thing and some officers might have little 'extras' providing they could not be seen. For example both, the HLI and the Cameronian's, had their own special patterns (as did others), the former in blue and the latter in green. Dress Regulations are key and should be consulted as a first stage. The 1897 Regulations detail each regiment's pattern, where they differ, or explains the generic garment where it is common to several regiments.

It's really important to understand that for officers at that time things did not come off-the-peg and all garments were made to unique measurements by his tailor (usually a gentleman's outfitter, but also by bazaar tailors - 'dhurzis' (or Darzis)- overseas). Ergo, as well as garments stipulated by army Dress Regulations, there were also garments made up locally when at foreign stations, and commanding officers largely had a free hand as to how they stipulated the style, providing it was common (i.e. 'uniform) to his battalion. In such circumstances there were cases where the 1st battalion of a regiment wore a different garment to the 2nd battalion. This was especially common if the battalions pre-1881 number and existence was entirely different to that of its other battalion.

It is unsurprising that you are confused VictorianEra, as there is no simple answer to give you. In short you need to examine each regiment that interests you, individually.

One final, but very significant point is that battalions on so-called 'foreign service', in India and associated stations (e.g. Ceylon, Ionic isles, etc.) followed both Dress Regulations from home, as mentioned above, and also Indian Regulations where things differed for reasons of climate or operational necessity. This applied to both officers and other ranks and meant that when a mixed force of home (i.e. from Britain) and Indian (native and european) troops was sent to fight in places such as the Sudan, the army could have a very mixed appearance indeed. In such cases frocks and jackets of home and Indian patterns (as well as regimental) would be seen.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby gordon92 » 23 Nov 2016 21:28

jf42 wrote:Gordon, thanks for that amplification. I am wondering, is there a distinction to be made between the scarlet 'patrol frock', as seen in the 2A&S Hldrs photo, with four flapped pockets, and what I shall for the time being continue to call the 'Stewart' frock, in terms of the orders of dress in which each was worn.

I am thinking in particular of the well-known photo of the Gordons officer in charge of the Highland Mounted infantry company, wearing a scarlet patrol frock with yellow facings on collar and cuffs

I am also having a moment of doubt. Did Scottish officers' frocks always have facing colours on the cuffs- regardless of whether they were used for dress or undress?


As Frogsmile has previously noted, any thoughts regarding standardization of officers' scarlet frocks for Scottish regiments are a minefield. Based only on my own observations of actual examples plus photographic evidence, I would say that there is no significance to the many variations seen in number pockets, facing colours on cuffs, facing colours on collar, and gauntlet or pointed cuffs. Specific configurations were battalion specific likely controlled by the whim of the CO and to a lesser extent by individual officer choice. There was much more standardization on ORs' red frocks which generally had only hip pockets and facing colour only on collars until 1912 after which cuffs acquired the facing colour.

A further complication on the use of scarlet frocks by Highland regiments is that officers did take full dress with them on foreign service. So, when the frock was used on parade versus the full dress doublet is unclear in my mind and probably was battalion specific. My own personal surmise, backed up somewhat by photographic evidence, is that there was a declining use of scarlet serge frocks by officers of Highland regiments after 1900 in favor of the full dress doublet. Indeed, at the 1911 Delhi Durbar only doublets are seen on Highland officers in photos of that event that I have been exposed to. It is my supposition that the decline in use of of the scarlet serge frock was related to the increased adoption of the white drill frock for hot weather review order from the late 1890s onward. I would stress that the aforementioned thoughts are applicable only to officers of Highland regiments and are not necessarily to be taken for the British Army as a whole.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby gordon92 » 23 Nov 2016 21:44

VictorianEra wrote:I think I've sparked (or re-sparked, as previous topics on this exist) an interesting topic. Just to clarify, as you both said different things, is this a "working dress" frock or a full dress frock in hot climates? Did other highland regiments other than the A&SH use this type of "stewart frock" for the same purposes, and would look like this, only with different colour facings depending on the regiment? The Lowland regiments would also use something like this or exactly like this, but only for undress purposes, as I understand it? Please correct me if I've mixed up some of your words, this is just a relatively new topic to me and there is still a level of confusion. Until just recently, I didn't even know this type of tunic/frock even existed. Many thanks for your help so far, you two.


Tricky questions, VictorianEra. See my immediately previous post for some of these answers. The "working dress" from about the 1870s onward was the khaki drill frock. The scarlet (officers) or red (ORs) serge frock was generally used only for review order, i.e., parades. As other posters have previously noted, the scarlet/red frock was still occasionally seen on campaign as late as 1898 when it was intended to make a special impression on the enemy. Yes, there were different color facings depending on the regiment (royal blue for Black watch and Camerons, yellow for Gordons and A&SH and before 1900 for HLI and Seaforth, buff for HLI and Seaforth after 1900). Correct that the Lowland regiments used the scarlet/red serge frock for undress at home pre-1902.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby Frogsmile » 24 Nov 2016 12:25

I spent a little time perusing dress regulations (officers) and clothing regulations (other ranks) last night and it is worth noting a few specific points.

Firstly, in the 1897 edition of dress regulations the only time the term 'frock' is used is for a double breasted, upper garment in blue cloth with velvet facings. All other upper garments are single breasted and whether of blue 'cloth', or 'serge', or scarlet serge, frogged or unfrogged, and sometimes described as 'Patrol', are described as jackets. Conversely, in the 1894 clothing regulations there is frequent mention of frocks as alternative wear to tunics. Thus frock is a much more common term for other ranks.

Secondly, a generic garment (scarlet serge patrol jacket) is described for infantry, mentioning chest pockets (only), 5 buttons and pointed cuffs, collar and shoulder straps in facing colour. It is telling that whereas variations are then described under light infantry and rifles, there is no description or stipulation for highlanders, making it clear by omission that these regiments adopted undress jackets of their own, regimental preference.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby jf42 » 24 Nov 2016 16:16

gordon92 wrote:
VictorianEra wrote: . The "working dress" from about the 1870s onward was the khaki drill frock.


I have the impression that while frocks/jackets of drab or khakee were intermittently ordered for troops in India from 1858 onwards (details not entirely clear), the sourcing and production of this clothing seems to have remained at regimental level with results that were generall found unsatisfactory, in terms either of smartness, comfort or durability.

In the intervals when khaki clothing was not officially ordered, drab clothing for field operations would be improvised by staining white summer clothing by various exotic means with which most of us will be familiar, while other experiments were tried for expeditionary forces sent out from Britain, beginning with the Ashanti expedition of 1873-74. Results, again, met with varying success; as did an experimental drab uniform for home service trialled in 1884, notoriously exciting the disapproval of the Queen herself

Although I have yet to see chapter and verse, conventional wisdom states that, with the patenting of a permanent chemical khaki dye by Albert Gatty in 1885, khaki drill was finally established as the working and field dress for troops in India circa 1886. In 1896, khaki drill clothing was also established as regulation uniform for troops at home being sent on foreign service.
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby VictorianEra » 24 Nov 2016 17:11

I would now agree with what you guys said that this subject is quite a minefield. As I communicated before, I am very confused. Focusing on specifically the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, around pre-1900, could this have been used as the officer's full dress whilst in hot climates such as India and South Africa, instead of the full dress doublet, being more heavy and probably warmer? Would it depend on which battalion, what season it was? As jf42 said,

In terms of the Princess Louise's (Argyll & Sutherland) Highlanders' hot weather postings, between 1881 and 1891 the 1st A&SH served successively in South Africa (1879-86), Ceylon (1885-86) and Hong Kong (1886-91). They went out to South Africa in late 1900 and remained there until 1903.

THe 2nd Battalion were in India from 1891 to 1907. After which they went to South Africa for three years (by which time this frock would have been obsolete.)


Both being in hot climates, 1st battalion from 1879-1886 in hot climates (South Africa, Ceylon) then from 1886-91 Hong Kong, and then after that hot climate in South Africa until 1903. As I said before, the seller said it was Boer War period (i've had seller mistakes in the past, but I don't know enough about this to support or reject that idea, other than that this was used in hot climates), and the 1st Battalion fought in the Boer Was so could this had used around the Boer War period as full dress while in the hot climate of South Africa? And the second battalion in India from 1891-1907, so could this also had been used in pre-1900 in India? When roughly did these start to fade away and not be used anymore? I say pre-1900 just to be safe, but does anyone have any clues as to when this started to fade away? Were these obsolete by time the Boer War, or were still being used, just started to decline and eventually by 1910-11 was not used at all and was obsolete by then?
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Re: British/Scottish Foreign Service Tunics/Frocks

Postby gordon92 » 24 Nov 2016 19:52

VictorianEra wrote:I would now agree with what you guys said that this subject is quite a minefield. As I communicated before, I am very confused. Focusing on specifically the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, around pre-1900, could this have been used as the officer's full dress whilst in hot climates such as India and South Africa, instead of the full dress doublet, being more heavy and probably warmer? Would it depend on which battalion, what season it was? As jf42 said,

In terms of the Princess Louise's (Argyll & Sutherland) Highlanders' hot weather postings, between 1881 and 1891 the 1st A&SH served successively in South Africa (1879-86), Ceylon (1885-86) and Hong Kong (1886-91). They went out to South Africa in late 1900 and remained there until 1903.

THe 2nd Battalion were in India from 1891 to 1907. After which they went to South Africa for three years (by which time this frock would have been obsolete.)


Both being in hot climates, 1st battalion from 1879-1886 in hot climates (South Africa, Ceylon) then from 1886-91 Hong Kong, and then after that hot climate in South Africa until 1903. As I said before, the seller said it was Boer War period (i've had seller mistakes in the past, but I don't know enough about this to support or reject that idea, other than that this was used in hot climates), and the 1st Battalion fought in the Boer Was so could this had used around the Boer War period as full dress while in the hot climate of South Africa? And the second battalion in India from 1891-1907, so could this also had been used in pre-1900 in India? When roughly did these start to fade away and not be used anymore? I say pre-1900 just to be safe, but does anyone have any clues as to when this started to fade away? Were these obsolete by time the Boer War, or were still being used, just started to decline and eventually by 1910-11 was not used at all and was obsolete by then?


It is worthwhile to note that in the 1911 Dress Regulations for Officers, there is no longer any mention of a scarlet frock. Thus, by that time the scarlet frock officially had no function for officers.....not so for ORs. Nonetheless, I have seen examples of officers' scarlet frocks offered for sale with dates on tailors labels around 1910. I can only deduce that in some regiments this frock continued in use unofficially as an undress garment during cold weather at overseas stations possibly at the option of individual officers. The image below shows the Colour party of the 2nd Batt Black Watch at the 1911 Delhi Durbar. Notice the officers in full dress doublets and the Colour sergeants in red frocks.

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