Tag Archives: National Army Museum

New jackets for the artillery

(This post revamped and extended August 30.)

My revisionist trawl through the dress of the King’s German Legion (ten pages so far, artillery and engineers still to come – menu to your right) has thrown up some small surprises along the way; the more you think you know, the less you really do.

What jackets, for example, did artillery officers adopt with the great uniform shift of 1811-12? All the secondary sources seem to show something with an extended lapel and bags of heavy gold embroidery, often including a loop diagonally at the top, as here in what I think must be a photo from an old JSAHR.

Interesting then that three period tailor’s books show instead for “Foot Artillery” officers a blue jacket with a pointed “strap” lapel, with scarlet facings, turnbacks included, and gold Russia braid loops terminating in crow’s feet. Versions here [below] are from Stothard’s “Rigementals” (Anne S K Brown), a copy of the Hawkes pattern book, and the Buckmaster “Old Regulation” book (the last two at the National Army Museum, with thanks to Ben Townsend for sharing images). There are slight variations: Hawkes shows eight loops in the length of the lapel but the others nine, the scrappy Buckmaster sketch loses the outer two crow’s feet over the buttons at the rear hip, while Stothard alone shows both rear and side seams, and so on. But the broad extent of agreement is impressive. [Click images for slides / enlargements.]

The relative economy of the braid means that this has to be an undress jacket, and it was indeed worn, as shown by this detail from an Occupation print (Le Bon Genre 83) – ten loops down the lapel, but otherwise a perfect match. Two other period images of what may be a variant version of this jacket are attributable to the KGL, and will be discussed on their forthcoming Artillery page.

Le Bon Genre

If this was the undress, what of the dress version? Of the three tailor’s sources, Hawkes alone appends this note: “The Dress Jacket richly Emb[roidere]d with Gold.” And indeed, I find in the Meyer ledger [see KGL pages and posts passim] that a lieutenant of a foot battery of the King’s German Legion ordered in 1814 “An embd Regtl jacket”.  “Embroidered” here has to mean hand embroidered gold loops, doesn’t it? An expensive option, which set our lieutenant back almost £20 – a cool £1280 in today’s money, according to one online historical inflation calculator.

Hamilton Smith

On a related tack, what’s this [above] that Charles Hamilton Smith shows in his 1812-ish chart for the Horse Artillery? Red lapels with braid loops – “unaccountably” according to the commentary by Philip Haythornthwaite, who rightly denies that such a thing was ever worn. Though the crow’s feet, or eyes or whatever, seem to be at the wrong edge of the lapel, this image has to be related to our foot artillery officers’ jackets above, even though it shows what Smith thought the other ranks were supposed to wear. Could it be that a proposed Horse Artillery pattern crept in, only to be dropped by the Clothing Board after Smith’s chart had gone to press?

So it seems, for William Stothard’s notebook also contains, without commentary, this fascinating drawing [below] of a new pattern jacket for officers of the “Horse Artilleory”[sic], in full 1811 light dragoon style, complete with rear pleats and fringe, and a strap lapel with braid loops as per the foot artillery. It becomes obvious that the light dragoon lapel (one button in the top strap, then a gap, then the rest) is the missing style link that explains the form of our foot artillery jacket lapels, both braided and laced.

Stothard’s “Horse Artilleory” jacket (Anne S K Brown Collection, Brown University Library)

So what became of the “”Horse Artilleory” jacket? In the event and by whatever rationale, this slightly left-field idea of the Prince Regent’s was quietly kicked into the long grass, and the RHA kept a proud grip on their existing multi-looped dolmans, as retained even today by the King’s Troop.

As a postscript, here’s a related puzzle – a detail from a watercolour by Denis Dighton in the Royal Collection, dated 1813, showing gunners of the Royal Artillery in lapelled jackets modelled on those of their officers, complete with a diagonal loop of lace at the top. (The lace in this image has a goldish cast but can only be intended for yellow, surely? The shape of the loops – square ended, pointed or perhaps even bastion – is not really clear. The inverted lace triangle on the rear skirts is an odd touch, too.) Such jackets were never worn, so why does Dighton show them? As a record of a proposed pattern for the other ranks that never saw the light of day?

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Even more light company style, continued …

Several earlier posts here (links below) have looked at the distinctive cavalry-oriented styling of light company officers’ jackets, chiefly in the Militia. On the premise that someone out there might be as curious about this fashion as I am, here are a couple more examples, both of the North Gloucestershire Militia, and both from the Hawkes tailor’s book at the National Army Museum. (Thanks to Ben Townsend for access to these images. Click to enlarge.)

First up is a double breasted jacket (dark blue facings) with two rows of 15 buttons, embroidered motifs on collar and pointed cuffs, and unusual bastion pointed turnbacks edged in a narrow blue velvet ribbon. The drawing has been updated with a pencil scrawl: “This Jacket wrong, altered to SB 3 Rows Buttons  twist holes on each forepart.”

And sure enough, a later page shows the new single breasted pattern. This sports three rows of 18 “worked” holes, but with only 15 buttons on the outer rows, instructions being given for the top three to “die” under the wing and strap, which is not fully shown in the drawing. The pointed cuffs bear four buttons, one on the blue cuff and three above, with holes as inverted chevrons. The wings are specified as scarlet embroidered in silver, and silver embroidered bugles mark the turnbacks.

As a bonus, a pencil sketch tucked into the corner shows the accompanying waistcoat. (Such waistcoats are rarely pictured.) This is captioned: “White Quilting waistcoat trim’d Russia Braid sugar Loaf Buttons.” I assume the braid was white. The drawings shows 21 buttons (so 63 in total) , loops terminating in a crow’s foot, and three “eyes” in the braiding to the front of the collar. You can’t have too many buttons on a good waistcoat.

Previous posts on this topic show comparable jackets for the Manchester Local Militia,  the Beverley Volunteers, the Sheffield Local Militia and South Gloucestershire Militia. What appears to be a similar jacket for the 21st Foot is discussed here.


Life imitates Gillray

On a recent visit to the Guards Museum (excellent, well cared for, many wonderful items) I came across a copy of James Gillray’s 1787 print The March to the Bank, in which the piquet guard tramples its way catastrophically over the unfortunate populace, old and young, rich and (mostly) poor, on its daily march to the Bank of England. The print is larger than I’d imagined, and full of wonderful detail; Gillray was a draughtsman of extraordinary virtuosity. (Explore the detail microscopically here.) It’s a savage and tasteless piece of humour; witness the juxtaposition of the burglar’s (beggar’s?) broken leg with the nipple and thigh of the fashionable woman to his right. I felt bad for chuckling at the boot planted indifferently on the baby’s head.

bdr-248558
Mickey-takes of the Militia are common in eighteenth century satires, but this relies on an equally traditional distrust of standing armies. It summarises perfectly popular resentment of professional brutalism at the disposition of a foppish plutocracy. Gillray shows some sympathy for the common soldiery, who are only doing their job, reserving his real venom for the posturing dandy of an officer. But wait a minute – where have I seen that goose stepping subaltern before?

cowell
Ah, here he is, in Sir William Beechey’s portrait of Captain John Clayton Cowell of the 1st Foot, now in the National Army Museum. Yes, the same over sized cockade, the same fly-away hair and ridiculous ruffle; the same jutting elbow and sinuous hip; the same extended, almost effeminate, show of leg, and the same dinky turned down boots. But at circa 1796 this post-dates Gillray’s satire by almost a decade, demonstrating that, in this case, life conforms to art. Sometimes not even Gillray could beggar reality.