Colour of tufts on British caps

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Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby Arteis » 13 Sep 2014 22:58

A wargaming friend has asked the following question on another forum, concerning the tufts worn on British regulars' caps during the 1840s period of the New Zealand Wars:

I have read the dress albert had the tuft as white for grenadiers white over red for line and green for light infantry. I cant find info on the undress hat, did it follow the same convention as I have also seen re-enactors with red tuft and various other lads who have painted them up either red or white. For the 58th I have done white, but it is bugging me at the moment.

Can anyone throw some authorative light on this?
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Re: Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby Josh&Historyland » 16 Sep 2014 01:45

I believe that is correct for the Albert Shako. Fusilier regiments I think would also have white Ball tufts, Rifles I think had black.

As for forage caps and this is principally what the forces in NZ were wearing I think Michael Barthorp holds the answer.

In British Infantry Uniforms from 1660: " In 1834...the men received a plain dark blue knitted cap, dark green for light infantry, with a tourie on top (white or green for flank companies, black for the remainder), and a brass number with, additionally, the appropriate badge for flank companies... The sergeants' caps had peaks ,which, after 1836, were also fitted for the rank and file when serving in India, the West Indies or in the Mediterranean. This plain blue or green cap, called a 'Kilmarnock', was to last for nearly thirty years, though worn in various ways and issued in different dimensions." (pp. 76-77)

There are a few of our members that specialise in the NZ conflict or more properly the Maori Wars. And JF42 is the man to go to in terms of army headgear. There were exceptions of course, for instance the 46th's light company having a red one don't know why, and exceptions are especially in force when it comes to Scottish regiments, But in general I think that should cover it.

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Re: Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby colsjt65 » 16 Sep 2014 11:42

blue knitted cap, dark green for light infantry, with a tourie on top (white or green for flank companies, black for the remainder)


Josh is right quoting Barthorp with this - he's nearly always right. When the flank companies were abolished in 1860, all line companies changed to blue touries.

The problem is, he also says [the exact bit Josh has missed out]
"Some regiments retained the facing colour bands for several years" - does this mean they retained the earlier forage caps, which are depicted being worn by the 1845 Northern War wargame figures and modern drawings, such as in The Colonial New Zealand Wars book, in which case the battalion companies would have the earlier red touries. If it means that the first kilmarnocks for some regiments had a knitted facing colour headband like the earlier pattern, then the battalion companies had black touries.

The only contemporary depictions of Northern War British soldiers are the paintings by Cyprian Bridge and Williams. Unfortunately neither of them were very good artists and even on close examination it's hard to tell what shape the caps are -old style forage cap or kilmarnocks. It really doesn't help that they were painting the 58th regiment, which had black facings.

Puketutu58thdetail.jpg
Puketutu58thdetail.jpg (102.15 KiB) Viewed 1015 times


This one of Puketutu, with the absence of a red dot on top of each cap appears to show they are wearing kilmarnocks with black touries. Black head bands - who knows.

View of the landing of the troops against the Waikadi clearly shows black touries.
Waikadi58thdetail.jpg
Waikadi58thdetail.jpg (115.05 KiB) Viewed 1015 times


One last close up, at Ruapekapeka - The soldier on the right is clearly wearing a cap the shape of the the old forage cap, not the 'pork-pie' shape of the kilmarnock. Once again, the tourie seems to be black.
But, 96th, 99th, which had yellow facings - I have not found any paintings of them that prove what they actually wore in 1845.
This is why I have taken so long to contribute my thoughts to this thread - I simply don't know for sure. Up until a short time ago I assumed that the figures/drawings were correct, but now I'm not so sure.
Bridge-Ruapekapeka-A-079-007detail.jpg
Bridge-Ruapekapeka-A-079-007detail.jpg (74.36 KiB) Viewed 1015 times
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Re: Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby Josh&Historyland » 16 Sep 2014 15:23

Thanks for that cols. Was just filling the gap until you appeared to add something authoritative.

I left out that bit about leftover colour bands Because it said that "Some" regiments retained them for "Several Years" from 1834. Or that's how I read it.

I therefore decided that as he didn't elaborate as to which regiment's did so I'd not comment on something an expert might know for sure. Also I erred on the side of caution, figuring the several years might have expired by 1845, the distinct lack of colour on any hat in those wonderful watercolours you posted leads me to think that even if they had not been issued with the new hats they must have removed the colour band.

Other than that I really couldn't say much more that would be of any help.

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Re: Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby jf42 » 16 Sep 2014 21:26

Personally, I still tread very lightly when it come to undress or forage caps in this period. I think until the Glengarry bonnet was introduced as a universal undress headgear for infantry, it is difficult to generalise.

Once one has quoted 'the rule' as cited by Michael Barthorp from 1834 a whole host of exceptions rise up to challenge it, whether it be regiments clinging to old customs, local variations in foreign posts or adaptation to campaign conditions. The forage cap described in 1834 seems to have been used mainly for guidance while individual regiments continued to do what they pleased or at least responded at their own pace. This can be seen in numerous instances.

Certainly, period illustrations from the 1840s and later show troops still wearing the broad-crowned Scotch-style bonnet (as opposed to what is described as the Kilmarnock or 'pork-pie' -at least by modern commentators- and which Barthorp appears to be describing as authorised in 1834). We see them with and without peaks, ditto coloured bands, with and without oilskin covers, ditto white sun covers.

It really seems best to take it case by case, regiment by regiment. As far as New Zealand is concerned Colsjt65 is master of a spectacular amount of sources, visual and documentary, for the Maori wars. I have to say, that until you pointed it out I would not have spotted tufts/touries on the caps of the troops in the Waikadi painting.

As far as tufts/touries are concerned the situation seems to have been rather more uniform with the main change being from black for line coys to dark blue for the whole battalion after 1859 as flank companies were phased out. As I write I'm not sure about Fusilier undress bonnets, but anyway that's not relevant here, I think. There were also regimental variations to be found for bandsmen. The Scots generally had red touries instead of black or blue.

Josh-
The 46th Light Coy wore a red tuft on all headgear to commemorate a night attack at Paoli Tavern near Philadelphia in September 1777 during the American War of Independence. The 2nd Light Infantry Battalion (of which the 46th 'light bobs' formed a part) were accused by the vanquished enemy of being overly enthusiastic with the bayonet (they had been ordered to extract the flints from their muskets) and informed that in future Americans troops would give refuse quarter to any light infantry they came up with. On hearing this, the 2nd LI, who had been dubbed 'The Bloodhounds' by the enemy, allegedly responded by sticking red feathers in their hats as an act of defiance so the enemy would know who to come to for revenge.

The light company of the 46th Regt apparently kept the custom going after the war ended or at least, when they returned from India in 1833 after 20 years abroad, they were wearing 'a red feather' in their shakos instead of regulation green ball tufts and, when asked by the Adjutant General why this was, that is the story they told....
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Re: Colour of tufts on British caps

Postby Josh&Historyland » 16 Sep 2014 23:13

Ah yes thanks JF the much maligned order from No Flint Grey, and his much meligned soldiers. Thanks for reminding me.

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