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Chuffy07

Help needed ID-ing unit flash on pith helmet

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Chuffy07

Hello,

The attached is a photograph of a relative George Baker. Unfortunately I have very little information on George.

In order to glean some information, is anyone able to identify the flash on the pith helmet and therefore give me an

idea in what part of the World this photograph may have been taken.

I realise it is asking a lot but any help would be gratefully received.

Kind Regards,

Gavin

post-59122-0-04737200-1306666063.jpg

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wainfleet

My guess is Army Service Corps. He is wearing the 1903 patt belt with ammo pouches and bayonet, typical of that corps' equipment. Could also be Army Ordnance Corps, and possibly Royal Engineers, but unlikely to be Artillery as I don't think they were issued with bayonets (not 100% sure about that).

His jacket has the typical Indian-made "italic brackets" pocket flaps, so he is likely either to be in India or to have come from there.

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FROGSMILE

Hello,

The attached is a photograph of a relative George Baker. Unfortunately I have very little information on George.

In order to glean some information, is anyone able to identify the flash on the pith helmet and therefore give me an

idea in what part of the World this photograph may have been taken.

I realise it is asking a lot but any help would be gratefully received.

Kind Regards,

Gavin

Gavin, it is difficult to ID Foreign Service (Wolseley Pattern) helmet flashes (the pith helmet was a later pattern and different shape) because the type of black & white film used at that time distorted coloration so that it was all but impossible to discern even a shade, let alone a colour. That said we are left with a 2 colour flash with colours that appear different enough to be distinct from each other. The ASC flashes were blue and (golden) yellow, the AOC red, blue red, and both RA and RE were equal bands of red and blue and blue and red (i.e. reversed from right to left) respectively. It is difficult to say which of these it is save for the fact that it seems unlikely to be blue and yellow, or red, blue, red, which leaves the RA and RE. However, as both Territorial Line infantry in hot climes and cavalry units were using the same helmet and equipment, there are no end of units that this man might be from. It seems significant though that he does not appear to be wearing either puttees, leather gaiters (or even spurs), which makes these latter less likely and takes us back to RA and RE. I have never seen RA without leggings of some kind so on the balance of probability RE seems more likely, although with what little is visible we can never be definitive.

He is wearing almost a full set of 1903 Pattern Bandolier Equipment, as opposed to just the belt and ammunition pouches. Issued in the period following the Boer War, it seems that the Pattern 1903 equipment wasn't very good, at least as an infantry equipment. It was uncomfortable to wear, time consuming to put on and off, and the items being carried were not easily accessible in the field. Indeed within five years, the Regular Army were re-equipping with Pattern 1908 Web Equipment. Bandolier Equipment was used to upgrade units of the Territorial Force, all of whom had been previously equipped with leather equipment of earlier patterns. Pattern 1903 does not seem to have been terribly popular in the infantry and probably the last widespread use of Bandolier Equipment was by a Territorial unit, the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, who landed in Gallipoli wearing it. The Pattern did however, continue in infantry use in the Great War, with Colonial infantry units campaigning in Africa and also many of the Indian Army infantry units on the Western Front.

For use by the cavalry, though, it seems to have been much more acceptable and Pattern 1903 continued in use as a cavalry and second line equipment. Although the entire equipment does not seem to have been overly popular, the bandoliers themselves, especially the five pocket version, are commonly seen in period photographs. They had become the distinguishing mark of the mounted soldier. Thus Drivers of the Corps of Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers also wore bandoliers, but of the 50 round type, whereas cavalrymen all wore the 90 round version (i.e. with ammunition pouches rear as well as front). The belt alone, however, was very popular and has remained in use to as late as 1999.

Coming back to your photograph, it is noticeable that the equipment looks pristine and well polished in a relatively dark colour when compared with his boots. It is almost as if he has worn the equipment and bayonet purely to pose for the photograph. The bayonet is the long ('sword') type issued specifically for the 1903 pattern Short, Magazine (fed) Lee Enfield. This does not tell us much as the SMLE was issued to all arms, including the RA and RE, although the latter were issued with one per man, plus a bayonet, whereas only so many SMLE were issued to each RA battery, and no bayonets, and this was the same with ASC and AOC.

Overall then, the RE seem the strongest contenders for your photo, but for reasons that I have tried to convey one can never be positive with so little evidence on display. Given his KD uniform and the fact that it is a studio portrait photo (which requires infrastructure), I would say that the location was probably Egypt or India.

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Chuffy07

Thank you both for your very detailed replies.

They have given me 'food for thought' and will no doubt be very helpful.

Kind Regards,

Gavin

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