74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

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74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby Burgher » 24 Jan 2014 09:24

Inspired by the famous Kroomie Forest illustration (http://www.nam.ac.uk/online-collection/ ... 62-06-32-4), I have always been intrigued by the uniform worn by the 74th in 1851. Mainly because it showed an officer that realised they had to adapt to the environment and because Boer style "veldtschoens" were worn. viewtopic.php?f=72&t=2315 Their involvement in the Birkenhead tragedy also plays a part.

From the regimental history: "Colonel Fordyce saw that the ordinary equipment of the British soldier was in no way suited to African campaigning, and while at Fort Hare he made a complete change in the appearance of the regiment. The dress bonnets, scarlet tunics, black pouches, and pipe-clayed cross belts, were put away in the quartermaster's stores. Common brown leather pouches and belts were issued, while an admirable substitute for the tunic was found in the stout canvas frocks of which a couple are served out to each soldier proceeding on a long sea voyage. These had been carefully preserved when the regiment landed, and now, with the aid of copperas and the bark of the mimosa bush, were dyed a deep olive brown colour, which corresponded admirably with that of the bush, and was the least conspicuous dress of any regiment in the field, not excepting the Rifle Brigade and 60th, both of which corps had a battalion engaged. The cuffs and shoulders were strapped with leather, and this rough-looking but most serviceable tunic was worn by both officers and men as long as they were actively employed in the field. The forage cap, with a leather peak, completed the costume."

My question, was the foarge cap a normal Highland bonnet with a leather peak added?
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby jf42 » 24 Jan 2014 10:12

Burgher, there has been recent discussion of this topic on the forum reviving a thread from last year:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=7898&start=60

The phrase in the passage you quotes that refers to " the forage cap" suggests that the troops wore the standard blue, so-called 'hummle' bonnet made of felted blue wool with diced band, which was then adapted for bush fighting. There still seems to be some question as to the dimensions of this forage cap in the case of the 74th: whether it was high-crowned like a shako or low-crowned, more like a kepi.
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby Josh&Historyland » 24 Jan 2014 13:08

There's a great illustration in Osprey's British army on campaign of one of these guys.

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby jf42 » 24 Jan 2014 15:07

Here is Mile Snook's reflection on the matter from the thread cited above:

mike snook wrote: At the beginning of the decade the entire 74th Highlanders (all ranks) added (shako?) peaks to the same diced, touried Hummel, which they did not cover, to fight in the Waterkloof and Kroomie under Fordyce. They did not wear the socking great tall diced hats (not dissimilar to the eccentric hats in the photos at Edinburgh Castle) which a couple of Osprey and is it Barthorp (?) plates show them in. Such a thing was worn by the Seventy....something...second...perhpas (it'll come to me) in the 6th CFW of 1835-6 ish, bur not by the 74th whose hats were much more dinky, peaked, and often appeared, given the extreme weather up there on the heights, much like a Scottish kepi. They are in my view collapsed or played out hummels incapable of retaining their upright shape, a weathering process which the troops would have assisted through casual disregard of equipment care (done a bot of that myself), or pursuit of infantry high fashion in the field (done a bit of that too).
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 24 Jan 2014 22:46

The rest of the plate is broadly accurate but the hat I think is not. I go for a blue Hummel, in size not dissimilar to the Kilmarnock, diced band, red tourie, with a peak added, well weathered and beaten up by hard use. Not the tall, starched 75th Highlander thing from the 6th War.

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby Burgher » 25 Jan 2014 15:25

Thanks All. This is exactly why I asked the question. Most modern (Osprey, Barthorp etc) show high crowned caps:

Image

While the drawings done by Thomas Baines (who was there), shows a flatter arrangement:

Image

Remembering artist license always play a role, I tend to agree with Mike that it was a flatter type of cap.

Any idea what the dicing looked like? Woven or loose coloured bands sewn together?
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby Burgher » 25 Jan 2014 15:28

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 27 Jan 2014 04:07

Dear Burgher

The illustration above is first class in my view and exactly portrays what I was getting at. Where does it come from as a matter of interest? Did you do it yourself? That is an accurately portrayed hummel (ie pretty much a kilmarnock but with a bit of a overhang of the hat band, and without the stiff, elongated, elevated middle shown in the Osprey. Actually mostly we see prints of that retreat from the Kroomie thing, rather than the original. In the original Baines's I have seen in the flesh, (there are half a dozen rarely seen ones in a private collection I have been fortunate enough to peruse), one comes away with the idea more of the lone figure above, than the chaps retreating down the Kroomie. Ultimately I don't think the two portrayals are inconsistent; pretty much the same thing, (albeit Baines has been a bit idle). The Osprey version, however, would be inconsistent with the Baines, in a way that the new portrayal above is not.

Worth adding that the weather was 'orrible in the Waterkloof/Kroomie, with lots of rain and even snow and ice at times. I would imagine such headress would have suffered a terrible beasting and very quickly have lost any stiffness - or its neat upright appearance - hence what the representations that I sometimes see (usually under a magnifying lass) which remind me somehwat of a kepi like appearance. I imagine that after a good overnight soaking and a day's sunshine hats of this sort might well have been prone to shrinkage(?).

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby jf42 » 27 Jan 2014 09:11

Burgher wrote:

Any idea what the dicing looked like? Woven or loose coloured bands sewn together?


As indicated by a number of images on this thread, experimental historians have in recent years worked on the premise that the bonnet and diced head band were knitted and felted of a piece. Certainly, it was not the only method of construction and a separate knitted band of unfelted wool can be seen in evidence on military bonnets, both hummle and feathered from the 1850s to the present day. If you scroll back through this post you will see what appears to be evidence for both methods.

argylls-museum-glengarry.jpg
argylls-museum-glengarry.jpg (18.11 KiB) Viewed 3320 times


Not sure about the first of these two images from an extremely flawed Osprey book on the Black Watch circa 1971, The caption suggests this is in fact the base of a feathered bonnet minus ostrich feathers but in truth we don't know when the 42nd stopped wearing dicing on the hummle bonnet (presumably before 1851).

Hummle bonnet 42nd circa 1854.png
Hummle bonnet 42nd circa 1854.png (301.83 KiB) Viewed 3320 times


Offr 42nd 1854.png
Offr 42nd 1854.png (499.91 KiB) Viewed 3320 times


mike snook wrote:
Worth adding that the weather was 'orrible in the Waterkloof/Kroomie, with lots of rain and even snow and ice at times. I would imagine such headress would have suffered a terrible beasting and very quickly have lost any stiffness - or its neat upright appearance - hence what the representations that I sometimes see (usually under a magnifying lass) which remind me somehwat of a kepi like appearance. I imagine that after a good overnight soaking and a day's sunshine hats of this sort might well have been prone to shrinkage(?).


While weather, wear and tear would have its effect and the Kilmarnock forage cap was not necessarily designed for extended wear in the field- in principle the shako was intended to served that function- the blue felt material was 'pre-shrunk', as they say of denim for blue jeans, shrinking being an integral part and purpose of the felting process (That would be an argument for having integral felt dicing, to avoid the diced band shrinking, which a knitted band might tend to do).

More research needed!
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 27 Jan 2014 14:56

Roger out on the hat.

Just noticed the butttons on the ship's smock. I had assumed that such a thing would be slipped on over the head and wouldn't have buttons ...but I have no evidence for that....it was just an idea conjured in my mind by the word 'smock'. Do we have pukka evidence one way or the other on that issue?

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby jf42 » 27 Jan 2014 17:16

Mike- this thread discusses that subject with some useful photographic records of what appears to be a boat smock worn by Guards contingents in Scutari, 1854 and of Bengal Fusiliers wearing smocks/frocks in Lucknow 1858

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=7004&p=29585&hilit=bengal+fusiliers#p29585
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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 11 Oct 2014 19:18

Dear Burgher at al

Was there ever an answer to where did that picture of the 74th man come from?

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby jf42 » 11 Oct 2014 23:10

MIke- if you mean the last coloured study of the 74th man biting a cartridge, a quick google drop suggests this might be the source of the painting-

http://www.warriorsfortheworkingday.com/bushfighter.htm

and some information about the artist. I had a feeling he might have done some stuff for Osprey but apparently not-

http://www.azincourt2015.info/paulprofile.html

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 12 Oct 2014 08:23

Thanks jf.

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Re: 74th Highlander "Bush Fighters"

Postby mike snook » 21 Nov 2014 13:24

This is where I now am with the 74th's hat in 1851-3. I believe it to be a perfectly ordinary blue Kilmarnock, with red tourie, a diced band and a locally manufactured peak in black leather. The square-ish brown leather peaks that have crept into illustrations of the 74th were certainly part of the 72nd's headdress in 1834-5, but there is no evidence that I am aware of that brown peaks continued to be used thereafter.

The picture in the thread above, of the retreat from the Kroomie Heights, is not an original Baines. It is incorrectly attributed as such on the jacket illustration of Milton's Edges of War. It is in fact an aquatint by J Harris, after Henry Martens, after a sketch by Baines. So it is twice removed from being an eyewitness portrayal, and it is that which I believe accounts for the style of hat shown there. I believe it to be an essentially spurious portrayal.

Does anybody have any thoughts or evidence which would be at variance with that interpretation?

PS

While I'm on the subject I've rather lost faith in the idea of patches on the shoulders of the 74th's smocks.

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