The Royal Artillery at Queens Fort, Bloemfontein 1848-1854

For all discussions relating to the Seventh, Eigth and Nineth Cape Frontier Wars fought between 1846 and 1878.

The Royal Artillery at Queens Fort, Bloemfontein 1848-1854

Postby Burgher » 10 Apr 2012 15:30

Not quite Cape Frontier, but very close...

As an inhabitant of Bloemfontein I have always been intrigued by the city’s British origin and in particular the old British fort that later served as HQ for the Orange Free State Artillery Corps (OVSAC). I have been re-enacting the OVSAC for some time and have now decided that my next re-enactment impression would be a Royal Artillery NCO as they would have appeared in the fort in Bloemfontein from August 1848 to February 1854.

Background History

Bloemfontein was officially founded in 1846 by Major Henry Douglas Warden as a British outpost in the Transoranje region. On 3 February 1848 Sir Harry Smith, governor of the Cape Colony and high commissioner, declared the district between the Orange and the Vaal rivers, the Orange River Sovereignty with Warden appointed British Resident.

The Boers living in the area, who had trekked from the Cape to get away from British rule were not amused and therefore they called on Commandant-General Andries Pretorius of Blood River and Congela fame to assist them to regain their independence. In June 1848 Pretorius marched with a commando of around a thousand men to Bloemfontein and evicted Major Warden and his armed escourt from their small barracks in Bloemfontein.

In August 1848 Sir Harry Smith, marched on Bloemfontein to re-instate the British Resident. On 29 August Smith, with 500 British soldiers, 250 Griquas levies and three 6-pr guns at his disposal, scattered Pretorius’s dwindled force of 300-750 Boers at Boomplaats, thereby clearing the way to Bloemfontein. To protect Bloemfontein from any possible future Boers attacks a stone fort was constructed on a low hill overlooking the town. The fort was named Queen’s Fort and was defended by a detachment of Royal Artillery with some 6-pr field guns and later a few antique 9-pr naval guns mounted on siege carriages.

A few years later after colonial policy changed, the region was handed back to the Boers under the Bloemfontein Convention and it became the Orange Free State Republic (1854–1902). The Union Jack was lowered under gun salute and the occupying forces marched back to the Cape Colony leaving the Boers in possession of the fort and the four old 9-pr “Warden” guns.

View of Bloemfontein from the fort during the 1860s:
Image

Dress

It seems gunners and NCOs preferred the undress shell jacket when on service in South Africa. I will thus go this route with a peaked cap. Does anyone have info on the shoulder straps and cuffs?

RA gunner at Congela, 1842:
Image

Accoutrements

The RA pattern waist belt and frog is well documented in Pierre Turner’s excellent Soldiers' Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900. So also the canteen and haversack of the period.

The cartridge pouch seems to have been a white buff pouch with a crown ornament. Does anyone have details on these?
I could only find the attached drawing:

Image

The black pouch with gun ornament only came into use in the early 1850s and would not have made it to the furthest British outpost in SA for some time.

The cap pouch was a white buff pouch carried on the waist belt.

Armament

Pattern 1842 percussion musket artillery carbine with socket bayonet.

Any further suggestions???
User avatar
Burgher
Participating Member
 
Posts: 169
Joined: 27 Jan 2012 11:44
Location: Bloemfontein, South Africa


Re: The Royal Artillery at Queens Fort, Bloemfontein 1848-18

Postby Burgher » 25 Jun 2012 15:27

After a few weeks of bugging Peter Winfield (thanks Peter!) I can update this post:

D Alastair Campbell's "The Dress of the Royal Artillery" states that on the 22nd December 1831 a shell jacket was approved for officers for wear in certain Colonies. Dark blue cloth, plain scarlet collar and cuffs, cuffs pointed on upper part of sleeve, gilt studs, hooks and eyes from bottom of collar down the front, gold four plaited cord shoulder strap with two loops at the bottom, breast lining black silk. From 1838 an embroidered grenade to be worn on the collar similar to that on the frock coat.
The other ranks shell jacket was dark blue, single breasted, with a plain stand up scarlet collar, scarlet cuffs, and yellow shoulder cords, buttoned down the front with about 12 buttons and with a button on each sleeve.

Knight/Embleton's RA gunner at Congela, 1842 (Osprey: The Boer Wars 1, 1836-1898) shows a square scarlet cuff with two buttons - see previous post.

Barthorp/Turner's RA gunner (Osprey: British Army on Campaign 1, 1816-1853) shows square scarlet cuffs with one button each and with a slit:
Image

The 1847 painting (see previous post) as well as the Fostens (Thin Red Line) shows plain blue cuffs with a button on the side seam:
Image

The shoulder cords were yellow worsted and probably four plaited. Some sources state 12, other 14 buttons.
User avatar
Burgher
Participating Member
 
Posts: 169
Joined: 27 Jan 2012 11:44
Location: Bloemfontein, South Africa


Return to Cape Frontier Wars 1846 -1878

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest