Infantry- Forge wagons

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Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 18 Jul 2017 08:02

Greetings all. I should be grateful for information as to whether, generally speaking, an infantry regiment would include a forge wagon in its train. I am thinking particularly of the earlier years of the C19th.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Redcoat 57 » 24 Jul 2017 20:57

I have never seen a mention of a blacksmith on an infantry battalion establishment so I would assume that there would have been no need for a forge wagon. Blacksmiths appear in Royal Engineers and the Royal Military Artificers establishments, and you get farriers in the cavalry and artillery, so if anyone had a forge wagon it should be these guys!

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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby colsjt65 » 24 Jul 2017 22:03

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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Frogsmile » 24 Jul 2017 22:20

Armourer sergeants were on the establishment of infantry battalions since the Napoleonic wars. From the outset they were expected to be able to make all of the relatively simple metal parts of the issue musket and thus required a field deployable forge.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Peter » 25 Jul 2017 04:17

Further to colsjt65 and Frogsmile:

Standing orders for the Third, or King's Own Regiment of Dragoons, 1803, pp 42 / https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id= ... 1up;seq=58 – 43

General Regulations and Orders for the Army, 1811, p 69 / https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id= ... 1up;seq=99
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 25 Jul 2017 08:21

Thanks to you all. Most helpful. My interest lay in the origin of references found circulating on the internet, not especially credible to be sure, to the role of the pioneer sergeant as blacksmith in an infantry battalion. The need for protection "from the heat of the forge" is offered as one explanation for the custom of the pioneer sergeant wearing a beard, which we have discussed elsewhere on VWF.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Frogsmile » 25 Jul 2017 16:08

jf42 wrote:Thanks to you all. Most helpful. My interest lay in the origin of references found circulating on the internet, not especially credible to be sure, to the role of the pioneer sergeant as blacksmith in an infantry battalion. The need for protection "from the heat of the forge" is offered as one explanation for the custom of the pioneer sergeant wearing a beard, which we have discussed elsewhere on VWF.


My take on the beards is that we simply emulated the grizzled and rather iconic pioniers among Napoleon's old 'Les Grognards'.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 25 Jul 2017 22:25

Indeed so. The French influence does indeed seem to be key. What I find intriguing, is how and when it took effect. How many opportunities were there to watch French Sapeurs in parade turnout, marching at the head of their regiments. it was before 1793, presumably. Encounters in the field, such as they might have been, were likely to have been less influential.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Redcoat 57 » 25 Jul 2017 23:55

A really interesting thread - I had no idea the Sergeant Armourer did forge work! The question of the Pioneer Sergeant's beard is even more interesting. I know their was a lot of French influence on military fashion, but how and why did this influence spread? In all the memoirs I have read the rank and file seem to have nothing but contempt for the French - so did the mania for all things French come from the senior ranks?
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 26 Jul 2017 10:13

The rank and file, of course, had no say over the design of their uniforms. Inspecting officers made comments in their reports such as that regarding the 65th Regiment in 1784, "Hats cocked in a foreign manner." "Foreign'" of course, meaning 'French. There were repeated complaints that hats and caps were "so small as not to cover the head." (33rd Regt, 1791). Generations of British soldiers have favoured diminutive hats perched impractically at a jaunty angle.

French taste dominated fashion in general, although Prussian influence was important in military fashion, for instance the more skimpy, 'slimline' uniforms adopted in the second half of the C18th.

Despite continued grumblng of inspecting officers, It seems that until stricter regulations were enforced at the turn of the century, many decisions relating to uniform details rested in the hands of the Colonels or their Lieutenant Colonels- facing colour, button lace, hat feathers, light infantry caps, forage caps, etc. In particular this included showy elements such as the regimental band and pioneers dressed up to march at the head of the regiment, which depended on how much the Colonel was prepared to spend on his regiment.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Jul 2017 10:40

jf42 wrote:Indeed so. The French influence does indeed seem to be keyl. What I find intriguing, is how and when it took effect. How many opportunities were there to watch French Sapeurs in parade turnout, marching at the head of their regiments. it was before 1793, presumably. Encounters in the field, such as they might have been, were likely to have been less influential.


I dont think it is that complex, JF. One did not need to see Sapeurs (German states - Pioniers) in 'parade turnout' to see the key features of apron, axe, crossed axe badge and beard. This was their field dress too. Napoleon preferred every unit to have a detachment of sapeurs in addition to any separate corps of engineer construction specialists, with the latter often provided by aligned States such as the Netherlanders. Thus they were ubiquitous in the French Army and its acolytes and British soldiers and their officers would have seen them quite frequently I believe.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 26 Jul 2017 21:12

Yes, Indeed but, a bearded sapeur with axe and a stained leather apron would have been less distinctive than the same soldier in the finery shown in that wonderful selection of illustrations you have posted- an image which I am thinking would have been seen less by British soldiers and officers.

It wasn't the workaday role and equipment of the sapeur that was distinctive. British pioneers also wore aprons and carried axes for the much the same practical intent as the French sapeurs and on campaign a bearded man, or one unshaven at least, would not have stood out particularly.

It is the figure of the sapeur decked out in an exagerated form of his working dress, marching at the head of the parade as a focus of regimental display,with whitened apron and polished axe, and the fairly/ entirely impractical bearskin cap, that I am curious about. I wonder how often British soldiery got to see that image on campaign against Johnnie French.

Indeed, it seems that the figure of sapeur in some Garde regiments had no relation to the practical work we might associate with the role, but was enjoying a privilege granted to old soldiers who were not going to be promoted, by allowing them the distinction of marching at the head of the regiment on parade. Meanwhile in the field they marched and fought in the ranks

However, there is evidence of sapeurs of the Bourbon Royal army (described at that date as 'ouvriers') in parade finery as early as 1780; in this case a member of the Garde Suisses. At that stage he only sported exagerated 'Burnside' whiskers, which supports the idea that in terms of display the sapeurs were effectively über-grenadiers, following the fashion of wearing moustaches that had survived in German armies while the French and British in the main went clean shaven.

I have seen a modern illustration, dated 'c.1787,' of a 7th Royal Fusilier pioneer decked up in similar fashion. He wears a bearskin fusilier cap and white feather, with flankers 'wings', a brown or black apron pinned up on the right, and he carries an axe at the shoulder and a slung fusil. He has powdered hair and a set of fine black whiskers. I should like to know what contemporary information or images the illustration is based on. There are contemporary models evidently based on the same source.

French Ouvriers (sapeurs/ port-haches) in the infantry were done away with after the Revolution but reinstated in 1793 and from illustrations it seems this was the time that the full beard started to be worn. It does seem however that the French have no clearer idea than we do how the custom started.

I suppose that over the long period of the French wars, it is likely that the fashion of the bearded sapeur/pioneer simply 'caught on' among some British regiments. Certainly, by 1811-12 it was in evidence.

This article is informative regarding the French side of the story:

http://horsegrenadiers.blogspot.co.uk/2 ... terie.html

As a footnote, this observation recorded in 1815 gives an amusing perspective on the British side:

COGITATIONS OF A VAGABOND:—By the authority of the King’s Commission. During the occupation of Paris.
Collated by the Author of “ Frank Orby [COLONEL WILKIE]

(Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 6-7 Vol VI Jan 1-June 30 1838. Washington)

SAPEURS--—ln the French army, the portion of the regimental force under the name of sapeurs, seem to claim rather a dignified position and carriage; considerable taste is manifested in giving full display to their implements and tools, and they march with flowing beards, axe in hand, in front of their corps, with a good deal of pretension. In the National Guard there is much dandyism about the Pioneers; they wear false beards, have fine white leather aprons, and are chosen for their athletic appearance, very different from the dirty, snivelIing-looking wretches we have at the head of our regiments on the march, who are the mere slates [SIC] of the quarterrnaster. In our service, we encumber the unfortunate pioneer with a firelock, bayonets, belts, pouches, and ammunition, which he never, by any accident, makes use of.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Frogsmile » 08 Aug 2017 11:41

jf42 wrote:Yes, Indeed but, a bearded sapeur with axe and a stained leather apron would have been less distinctive than the same soldier in the finery shown in that wonderful selection of illustrations you have posted- an image which I am thinking would have been seen less by British soldiers and officers.

It wasn't the workaday role and equipment of the sapeur that was distinctive. British pioneers also wore aprons and carried axes for the much the same practical intent as the French sapeurs and on campaign a bearded man, or one unshaven at least, would not have stood out particularly.

It is the figure of the sapeur decked out in an exagerated form of his working dress, marching at the head of the parade as a focus of regimental display,with whitened apron and polished axe, and the fairly/ entirely impractical bearskin cap, that I am curious about. I wonder how often British soldiery got to see that image on campaign against Johnnie French.

Indeed, it seems that the figure of sapeur in some Garde regiments had no relation to the practical work we might associate with the role, but was enjoying a privilege granted to old soldiers who were not going to be promoted, by allowing them the distinction of marching at the head of the regiment on parade. Meanwhile in the field they marched and fought in the ranks

However, there is evidence of sapeurs of the Bourbon Royal army (described at that date as 'ouvriers') in parade finery as early as 1780; in this case a member of the Garde Suisses. At that stage he only sported exagerated 'Burnside' whiskers, which supports the idea that in terms of display the sapeurs were effectively über-grenadiers, following the fashion of wearing moustaches that had survived in German armies while the French and British in the main went clean shaven.

I have seen a modern illustration, dated 'c.1787,' of a 7th Royal Fusilier pioneer decked up in similar fashion. He wears a bearskin fusilier cap and white feather, with flankers 'wings', a brown or black apron pinned up on the right, and he carries an axe at the shoulder and a slung fusil. He has powdered hair and a set of fine black whiskers. I should like to know what contemporary information or images the illustration is based on. There are contemporary models evidently based on the same source.

French Ouvriers (sapeurs/ port-haches) in the infantry were done away with after the Revolution but reinstated in 1793 and from illustrations it seems this was the time that the full beard started to be worn. It does seem however that the French have no clearer idea than we do how the custom started.

I suppose that over the long period of the French wars, it is likely that the fashion of the bearded sapeur/pioneer simply 'caught on' among some British regiments. Certainly, by 1811-12 it was in evidence.

This article is informative regarding the French side of the story:

http://horsegrenadiers.blogspot.co.uk/2 ... terie.html

As a footnote, this observation recorded in 1815 gives an amusing perspective on the British side:

COGITATIONS OF A VAGABOND:—By the authority of the King’s Commission. During the occupation of Paris.
Collated by the Author of “ Frank Orby [COLONEL WILKIE]

(Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 6-7 Vol VI Jan 1-June 30 1838. Washington)

SAPEURS--—ln the French army, the portion of the regimental force under the name of sapeurs, seem to claim rather a dignified position and carriage; considerable taste is manifested in giving full display to their implements and tools, and they march with flowing beards, axe in hand, in front of their corps, with a good deal of pretension. In the National Guard there is much dandyism about the Pioneers; they wear false beards, have fine white leather aprons, and are chosen for their athletic appearance, very different from the dirty, snivelIing-looking wretches we have at the head of our regiments on the march, who are the mere slates [SIC] of the quarterrnaster. In our service, we encumber the unfortunate pioneer with a firelock, bayonets, belts, pouches, and ammunition, which he never, by any accident, makes use of.


I am sorry for the delay in replying to this JF, I became distracted and it slipped my mind.

I found the above information of great interest and I now realise from the narratives that you have sourced that even in Napoleonic times there was a great degree of 'show' in the way that pioneers presented themselves. Thinking about it in the cold light of day it is pretty obvious that marching to war/campaign in a long and heavy apron was not likely as a realistic prospect. I enclose an image of a French pioneer from the Second Empire that shows a more realistic form of campaign dress.

Turning to the showy aspect, this was a big part of the shop front presentation of the regiment in which I served, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who seem (probably during Queen Victoria's reign) to have developed the custom of leading a battalion parade with the regimental goat and pioneers, as a body, in front of the band. Most other infantry regiments did similar things, but seemingly not to the same degree of combination.

Incidentally, on another thread there has been mention of the beard worn by the pioneer sergeant and I was interested to note when looking through some photos of battalion pioneer sections in the late 1860s and into the 1870s (seemingly all based in India), that many men within the section had beards, and not just the sergeant.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby jf42 » 11 Aug 2017 19:52

Frogsmile wrote:

I am sorry for the delay in replying to this JF, I became distracted and it slipped my mind.

I found the above information of great interest and I now realise from the narratives that you have sourced that even in Napoleonic times there was a great degree of 'show' in the way that pioneers presented themselves. Thinking about it in the cold light of day it is pretty obvious that marching to war/campaign in a long and heavy apron was not likely as a realistic prospect. I enclose an image of a French pioneer from the Second Empire that shows a more realistic form of campaign dress.


Indeed. In fact, I believe the Garde Imperiale of the 2nd Empire, when push came to shove, genrally left their bonnets de poil in barracks and went into the field wearing their natty bonnets de police.

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Frogsmile wrote: Turning to the showy aspect, this was a big part of the shop front presentation of the regiment in which I served, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who seem (probably during Queen Victoria's reign) to have developed the custom of leading a battalion parade with the regimental goat and pioneers, as a body, in front of the band. Most other infantry regiments did similar things, but seemingly not to the same degree of combination.


I would have expected no less from a corps Royal +Welsh + Fusilier ( and not forgetting the bally 'Flash')

Frogsmile wrote: Incidentally, on another thread there has been mention of the beard worn by the pioneer sergeant and I was interested to note when looking through some photos of battalion pioneer sections in the late 1860s and into the 1870s (seemingly all based in India), that many men within the section had beards, and not just the sergeant.


Yes. I seem to remember that did come up once or twice here on VWF, and in one photo, I recall, not even the Sergeant.
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Re: Infantry- Forge wagons

Postby Frogsmile » 12 Aug 2017 09:53

jf42 wrote:
Frogsmile wrote:

I am sorry for the delay in replying to this JF, I became distracted and it slipped my mind.

I found the above information of great interest and I now realise from the narratives that you have sourced that even in Napoleonic times there was a great degree of 'show' in the way that pioneers presented themselves. Thinking about it in the cold light of day it is pretty obvious that marching to war/campaign in a long and heavy apron was not likely as a realistic prospect. I enclose an image of a French pioneer from the Second Empire that shows a more realistic form of campaign dress.


Indeed. In fact, I believe the Garde Imperiale of the 2nd Empire, when push came to shove, genrally left their bonnets de poil in barracks and went into the field wearing their natty bonnets de police.

gardegren13.jpg



Frogsmile wrote: Turning to the showy aspect, this was a big part of the shop front presentation of the regiment in which I served, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who seem (probably during Queen Victoria's reign) to have developed the custom of leading a battalion parade with the regimental goat and pioneers, as a body, in front of the band. Most other infantry regiments did similar things, but seemingly not to the same degree of combination.


I would have expected no less from a corps Royal +Welsh + Fusilier ( and not forgetting the bally 'Flash')

Frogsmile wrote: Incidentally, on another thread there has been mention of the beard worn by the pioneer sergeant and I was interested to note when looking through some photos of battalion pioneer sections in the late 1860s and into the 1870s (seemingly all based in India), that many men within the section had beards, and not just the sergeant.


Yes. I seem to remember that did come up once or twice here on VWF, and in one photo, I recall, not even the Sergeant.


You perhaps inadvertently imply that the RWF were a dressy regiment and yet my experience was that it was extremely conservative and strict about dress.
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