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British uniforms India 1914


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A recent discussion around the Colour sergeant badge on the various uniforms authorised for the British Army in India have had me scratching around.

Can kind people help fill a few gaps?

As this is the Great War Forum, I want to concentrate on 1914, to provide a base-line. The idea is that, using the Indian Clothing Regs and reputable sources, I describe AND ILLUSTRATE each item of uniform and, if the material is forthcoming, the Public items, the accoutrements, and the weapons. Again, as a base-line, the start has to be the most numerous, the infantry.

Please can you good people supply illustrations, preferably dated or a good approx. of 1914, of Other Ranks in uniform, India ...... even in shirt-sleeve, or shorts, and especially wearing the more esoteric items of issue like cholera pads, sunglasses, balaclavas?

Herewith a taster of my start-up ....... no illustrations with it:

British Infantry Clothing India 1914

The British component of the Army of India was financed in part by the Indian Government, and the very substantial cost was subject to strict control. This is nowhere more obvious than in the published Army Regulations India Volume XI Clothing 1914. Previous editions were published in 1904 and 1909, so continuity and changes can be traced.

These notes concentrate, but not exclusively, on the most numerous British soldiers, the non-kilted Scottish, non-Rifles Infantry of the Line. The historical context includes the general desire c. 1905 to move from worsted and bullion badges of rank and trade towards gilding metal [brass] as an economy, the decision recorded by the RACD on 1st April 1898 that the ACD India would introduce British Skill-at-Arms badges [i.e. worsted], the need for many suits of clothing to allow for frequent washing [dhobying], the decision to use gilding metal badges on Khaki Drill Frocks of 1st January 1907, and the permission, expressed variously in different editions, for Commanding Officers to sanction the issue or conversion of garments for climatic or recreational purposes at no net cost to the Exchequer.

Soldiers came from Home, and eventually returned [if they did not die, retire or buy their discharge] in the trooping season, which was from xxxx to xxx. There was dispensation to make sensible use of existing garments in both cases: extra warm linings for the thinner Indian Pattern garments for Home, and conversion on arrival in India. There was a complicated system of quarterly money allowances for Personal Clothing but if a soldier through neglect was unable to maintain the requisite items in serviceable condition, he was required to make up the difference.

Dealing with the outer garments first, the Indian pattern scarlet frock was for wear on formal parades, at Court Martials and other full dress occasions as ordered. It was similar to the frock worn on Active Service in the Zulu War of 1879, and the basic design is at Figure 1. The frock was unlined, and loosely fitted, fastening with five, occasionally six buttons [usually by 1914 General Service buttons but some regiments and some senior soldiers may have clung to regimental patterns, as at Home]. In contrast to Home, there were only two qualities of Clothing issued, with the first quality to what might loosely be called staffsergeants and above, not to sergeants as such and below. There were many regimental variations in ornamentation such as the amount of braiding [piping] added, the addition of drummers lace and wings [Figure 2], and bandsmens wings. In general, senior non-commissioned officers had most ornamentation, as might be expected. An example is at Figure 3. Three pairs of gilding metal shoulder titles were issued: these had become universal by about 1907, the last exception being the Drab [Home} Service Dress [sD]. A pair of gilding metal collar badges was issued for the scarlet frock, except for Rifles, Ox and Bucks LI and HLI. No collar badges were provided for any other Indian clothing. Full sergeants and above wore the scarlet worsted sash with most orders of dress: certainly with the scarlet frock and the white frock, and some photographs show groups wearing the sash with khaki drill frocks. There appears to be no provision for a higher quality silk sash for Warrant Officers. Rank badges on the right arm only conformed to British Home patterns on the scarlet frock, worked in gold [bullion and lace] for full sergeant and above, and including the colour-sergeants crown, crossed Union flags and chevrons. Lance-sergeants and below had white worsted rank lace, as did the recipients of Good Conduct badges, worn lower left sleeve, the first for two years, then additionally for 5, 12, 18, 23 and 28 years. These no longer attracted extra pay. Badges of Appointment, Skill-at-Arms, Instructors and Qualification on the scarlet frock usually conformed to Home pattern as issued there for the scarlet tunic, those in worsted were worked on cloth of the colour of the frock. Whereas drummers and buglers [LI] were not supposed to wear appointment badges on the Home tunic, worsted drum and bugle badges were prescribed, and worn, on the Indian scarlet frock.

Best if quality scans of illustrations were offered via a PM so that this thread is not cluttered with asynchronous items: leave me to assemble the bits please!

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A recent discussion around the Colour sergeant badge on the various uniforms authorised for the British Army in India have had me scratching around.

Can kind people help fill a few gaps?

As this is the Great War Forum, I want to concentrate on 1914, to provide a base-line. The idea is that, using the Indian Clothing Regs and reputable sources, I describe AND ILLUSTRATE each item of uniform and, if the material is forthcoming, the Public items, the accoutrements, and the weapons. Again, as a base-line, the start has to be the most numerous, the infantry.

Please can you good people supply illustrations, preferably dated or a good approx. of 1914, of Other Ranks in uniform, India ...... even in shirt-sleeve, or shorts, and especially wearing the more esoteric items of issue like cholera pads, sunglasses, balaclavas?

Herewith a taster of my start-up ....... no illustrations with it:

British Infantry Clothing India 1914

The British component of the Army of India was financed in part by the Indian Government, and the very substantial cost was subject to strict control. This is nowhere more obvious than in the published Army Regulations India Volume XI Clothing 1914. Previous editions were published in 1904 and 1909, so continuity and changes can be traced.

These notes concentrate, but not exclusively, on the most numerous British soldiers, the non-kilted Scottish, non-Rifles Infantry of the Line. The historical context includes the general desire c. 1905 to move from worsted and bullion badges of rank and "trade" towards gilding metal ["brass"] as an economy, the decision recorded by the RACD on 1st April 1898 that the ACD India would introduce British Skill-at-Arms badges [i.e. worsted], the need for many "suits" of clothing to allow for frequent washing ["dhobying"], the decision to use gilding metal badges on Khaki Drill Frocks of 1st January 1907, and the permission, expressed variously in different editions, for Commanding Officers to sanction the issue or conversion of garments for climatic or recreational purposes at no net cost to the Exchequer.

Soldiers came from Home, and eventually returned [if they did not die, retire or buy their discharge] in the trooping season, which was from xxxx to xxx. There was dispensation to make sensible use of existing garments in both cases: extra warm linings for the thinner Indian Pattern garments for Home, and conversion on arrival in India. There was a complicated system of quarterly money allowances for Personal Clothing but if a soldier through neglect was unable to maintain the requisite items in serviceable condition, he was required to make up the difference.

Dealing with the outer garments first, the Indian pattern scarlet frock was for wear on formal parades, at Court Martials and other full dress occasions as ordered. It was similar to the frock worn on Active Service in the Zulu War of 1879, and the basic design is at Figure 1. The frock was unlined, and loosely fitted, fastening with five buttons [usually by 1914 General Service buttons but some regiments and some senior soldiers may have clung to regimental patterns, as at Home]. In contrast to Home, there were only two qualities of Clothing issued, with the first quality to what might loosely be called staff–sergeants and above, not to sergeants as such and below. There were many regimental variations in ornamentation such as the amount of braiding ["piping"] added, the addition of drummers' lace and wings [Figure 2], and bandsmens' wings. In general, senior non-commissioned officers had most ornamentation, as might be expected. An example is at Figure 3. Three pairs of gilding metal shoulder titles were issued: these had become universal by about 1907, the last exception being the Drab [Home} Service Dress [sD]. A pair of gilding metal collar badges was issued for the scarlet frock, except for Rifles, Ox and Bucks LI and HLI. No collar badges were worn on any other Indian clothing. Full sergeants and above wore the scarlet worsted sash with most orders of dress: certainly with the scarlet frock and the white frock, and some photographs show groups wearing the sash with khaki drill frocks. There appears to be no provision for a higher quality silk sash for Warrant Officers. Rank badges on the right arm only conformed to British Home patterns on the scarlet frock, worked in "gold" [bullion and lace] for full sergeant and above, and including the colour-sergeants' crown, crossed Union flags and chevrons. Lance-sergeants and below had white worsted rank lace, as did the recipients of Good Conduct badges, worn lower left sleeve, the first for two years, then additionally for 5, 12, 18, 23 and 28 years. These no longer attracted extra pay. Badges of Appointment, Skill-at-Arms, Instructors and Qualification usually conformed to Home pattern as issued there for the scarlet tunic, those in worsted were worked on cloth of the colour of the frock. Whereas drummers and buglers [LI] were not supposed to wear appointment badges on the Home tunic, worsted drum and bugle badges were prescribed, and worn, on the Indian scarlet frock.

Best if quality scans of illustrations were offered via a PM so that this thread is not cluttered with asynchronous items: leave me to assemble the bits please!

I think this is a great idea Grumpy and will contribute some photos I have of ORs in white tropical dress, which I believe was used as a de facto alternative full dress in the summer months at tropical stations, including India. In the photos I have seen it seems that all the normal paraphernalia that went with scarlet ceremonial was also worn with whites, including sashes, collar badges and gold bullion lace on scarlet chevrons, plus proficiency and good conduct badges.

Incidentally, I do not believe that soldiers were just left to get on with "maintaining the requisite items in serviceable condition" via the "complicated quarterly allowance". The Army was and to a degree still is (albeit less so) an enormously paternalistic institution and the management of kit and equipment was overseen by platoon sergeants to a degree that would be unacceptable today. Right up until relatively recently (1980s), unit standing orders required regular kit checks when a mans complete AB 1157 (personal equipment holding) was checked for both its completeness and serviceability, i.e. wear and tear.

The 'small kit' items were, after an initial 'free issue', replaced via the 'deficiencies' process that arose from kit checks. This process involved the sergeants regularly checking a man's full kit, often via a bed layout, or in the field on a blanket, or groundsheet. The items 'deficient' (known as 'diffy') from a man's kit list (AB 1157) were then replaced via a visit to the QMs store, where the missing item was "issued on repayment" (and receipted via the soldiers signature) and the sum concerned directly deducted from pay as part of what was collectively known as 'stoppages'.

All other items (i.e. publicly funded entitlements) were checked for wear and tear and, if found to be unserviceable, the item would be 'exchanged' during the same visit to the QMs that addressed 'deficiencies'.

Some QMs preferred to keep deficiencies and exchanges separate, as whereas there was no limit on replacing deficiencies (as these were paid for by the soldier), there were limits set based on calendar periods (per quarter) on the number of items that could be exchanged for 'free'.

Diffies and exchanges became the bane of both a soldier's and platoon sergeant's life. The former had to unpack and repack his kit on a disconcertingly regular basis and the latter had to keep note of anyone who had entitlement (i.e. free issue) items on the cusp of unserviceable, but awaiting exchange, in order to meet the limits set upon each unit QM. Usually the battalion's quota (i.e. quarterly entitlement) was broken down by company, per month, in order to ensure fair apportionment for all, although this inevitably led to inconsistencies and finger pointing between one company and another.

For larger and more expensive items each QM was permitted powers of 'conditioning' and 'write off' although these had to be countersigned by the CO and had a set limit according to the size and nature of the unit. In active service conditions the amount was increased, although in both cases a battalion 'board of officers' (enquiry) was necessary before the amount concerned could be 'conditioned', or 'written off'. During this latter process CQMS, platoon sergeants and even soldiers themselves were called to give evidence, which was painstakingly noted down and recorded with the results attached to the 'findings' of the board and submitted for audit.

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Graham Stewart

post-7376-0-70385100-1308920229.jpg

Just trying this for size - a Clr/Sgt & QMS, 1st Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers, India pre-war. I've just introduced a new resizer so hope it works OK.

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I think this is a great idea Grumpy and will contribute some photos I have of ORs in white tropical dress, which I believe was used as a de facto alternative full dress in the summer months at tropical stations, including India. In the photos I have seen it seems that all the normal paraphernalia that went with scarlet ceremonial was also worn with whites, including sashes, collar badges and gold bullion lace on scarlet chevrons, plus proficiency and good conduct badges.

Incidentally, I do not believe that soldiers were just left to get on with "maintaining the requisite items in serviceable condition" via the "complicated quarterly allowance". The Army was and to a degree still is (albeit less so) an enormously paternalistic institution and the management of kit and equipment was overseen by platoon sergeants to a degree that would be unacceptable today. Right up until relatively recently (1980s), unit standing orders required regular kit checks when a mans complete AB 1157 (personal equipment holding) was checked for both its completeness and wear and tear.

The 'small kit' items were, after an initial 'free issue', replaced via the 'deficiencies' process that arose from kit checks. This process involved the sergeants regularly checking a man's full kit, often via a bed layout, or in the field on a blanket or groundsheet. The items 'deficient' (known as 'diffy') from a man's kit list (AB 1157) were then replaced via a visit to the QMs store, where the missing item was "issued on repayment" (and receipted via the soldiers signature) and the sum concerned directly deducted from pay as part of what was collectively known as 'stoppages'.

All other items (i.e. publicly funded entitlements) were checked for wear and tear and, if found to be unserviceable, the item would be 'exchanged' during the same visit to the QMs that addressed 'deficiencies'.

Some QMs preferred to keep deficiencies and exchanges separate, as whereas there was no limit on replacing deficiencies (as these were paid for by the soldier), there were limits set based on calendar periods (per quarter) on the number of items that could be exchanged for 'free'.

Diffies and exchanges became the bane of both a soldiers and platoon sergeants life. The former had to unpack and repack his kit on a disconcertingly regular basis and the latter had to keep note of anyone who had entitlement (i.e. free issue) items on the cusp of unserviceable, but awaiting exchange, in order to meet the limits set upon each unit QM. Usually the battalions quota was broken down by company, per month, in order to ensure fair apportionment for all, although this inevitably led to inconsistencies and finger pointing between one company and another.

For larger and more expensive items each QM was permitted powers of 'conditioning' and 'write off' although these had to be countersigned by the CO and had a set limit according to the size and nature of the unit. In active service conditions the amount was increased, although in both cases a battalion 'board of officers' (enquiry) was necessary before the amount concerned could be conditioned or written off. During this latter process CQMS and even soldiers themselves were called to give evidence, which was painstakingly noted down and recorded.

Thank you: I didn't mean to imply that the soldier had in any way to have dealings with the quarterly allowance except when his perceived needs exceeded it, and then a deduction from pay followed.

Yes, the white suit was indeed the 'hot weather hot station' equivalent of the scarlet. The only omission that I have detected was collar badges were not worn on whites ..... 2ndRWF for example.

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Graham Stewart

post-7376-0-10202200-1308929005.jpg

4716 Clr/Sgt J. Roberts, 1st Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers in whites, minus collar badges as mentioned, sadly his rank badge isn't as clearly visible as one would like. This gentleman actually died in India on the 25th May 1908.

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post-7376-0-10202200-1308929005.jpg

Clr/Sgt Northumberland Fusiliers in whites, minus collar badges as mentioned, sadly his rank badge isn't as clearly visible. This gentleman actually died in India prior to the war, but I haven't got his details with me.

Graham super shot! I also have my eyes on your weird drummers' lace shot for regimental extravaganzas!

I have an album of the Cheshires a few years before 1914 where each company paraded to have its portrait done wearing a different order of dress ...... except whites, as it clearly was chilly at the time! I shall dip into this Cheshires treasure trove for illustrations of course.

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Graham Stewart

post-7376-0-40882700-1308934289.jpg

The Sgt Major, with another Clr/Sgt and a long serving Bandsman standing behind them.

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Tyneside Chinaman

Grumpy hello,

Great idea I will scan what I have and email them direct as with the Guards photo's. I am no longer willing to post photo's on the forum as other members are reposting them, eg the Gds MG Bn chap with Grenadier guards titles on his arm, without an acknowledgement.Without wanting to get into silly arguments it is easier not to post but I fully support your efforts and you are welcome to use anything I can send.

regards

John

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Grumpy hello,

Great idea I will scan what I have and email them direct as with the Guards photo's. I am no longer willing to post photo's on the forum as other members are reposting them, eg the Gds MG Bn chap with Grenadier guards titles on his arm, without an acknowledgement.Without wanting to get into silly arguments it is easier not to post but I fully support your efforts and you are welcome to use anything I can send.

regards

John

John, many thanks, and I know your material is superb!

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Thank you: I didn't mean to imply that the soldier had in any way to have dealings with the quarterly allowance except when his perceived needs exceeded it, and then a deduction from pay followed.

Yes, the white suit was indeed the 'hot weather hot station' equivalent of the scarlet. The only omission that I have detected was collar badges were not worn on whites ..... 2ndRWF for example.

Thanks Grumpy, my point was really to make clear that the soldier was very much overseen in terms of exchanging worn items of uniform, rather than about his having any intimate involvement in the quarterly allowance.

As regards collar badges on whites, as we have discussed several times before it is not uncommon (then or now) for regulations to be thwarted. See attached a Col Sgt from DWR. As well as collar badges, he also has a very large rank badge in terms of its depth, top to bottom, rather like Graham's man above, which leads me to surmise that both are wearing the crossed flags badge above their stripes (although they 'might' also be large crossed rifles, but this seems less likely).

post-599-0-57707900-1309030221.jpg

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And just to show it's not a one-off, a Sgt from the King's Own.........

post-599-0-56428500-1309031014.jpg

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Grumpy hello,

Great idea I will scan what I have and email them direct as with the Guards photo's. I am no longer willing to post photo's on the forum as other members are reposting them, eg the Gds MG Bn chap with Grenadier guards titles on his arm, without an acknowledgement.Without wanting to get into silly arguments it is easier not to post but I fully support your efforts and you are welcome to use anything I can send.

regards

John

John, I have tried to PM you, but to no avail. Can you please PM me with your email address?

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Many thanks for contributions. I have decided on this approximate order of dealing with uniforms India c. 1914:

scarlet, white, KD, blue patrols, kd with shorts, shirtsleeve order, greatcoat, winter dress, mounted infantry, and the Rifles and Scots differences.

Please PM if you have any contributions, dates as close to 1914 as possible.

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Hello Grumpy,

The photo below was taken in Chandigarh in the Punjab. Date given at the bottom is 1912. Sadly there are no Regimental insignia to be seen to identify the unit. Someone might know wwho was in the Garrison at that time though.

post-7141-0-78097400-1309177418.jpg

Frogsmile will like this one. It answers a question about shorts posed in another thread a few weeks ago. All but one of the chaps visible in this shot are wearing shorts. Note the wide variety of shirts being worn. Only two appear to be as issued. The rest are a mixture of converted issue shirts, the addition of a collar was very common usually chopped from the tail, cotton and flannel round neck vests, and what look like white linen shirts worn by a couple of soldiers. Note the standing figure right, who seems to have dispensed with his shorts and is wearing cotton underpants!

Also note the chap at the back who is pulling his rifle through. He has a small chest pocket added to his shirt, as does the standing soldier left in what looks like a white linen collar attached shirt.

The use of hosetops is interesting too. They seem darker than the blue-grey socks then issued. I would suspect they are purpose made and in khaki judging by the relative shade. Note that two men are wearing the India pattern sun helmet. Lastly, another of Frogsmile's interests, note the money belts being worn here. Nearly all are wearing variations. Essential for holding up the shorts it seems!

Regards

Tocemma

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One from my Grandfather's collection. I have no idea who it is but I'd guess that he's a colleague of Granddad's from the RFA. 25th Battery left England in March 1910 and returned in January 1914 so it must be between those dates.

unusualuniform.jpg

Keith

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There's another photo here. It's of F Subsection, 25th Battery taken at Lahore in 1913, according to the board at the front. I'd guess that it would have been taken as a last opportunity before they came home. I'll scan it at a higher resolution if it's any use.

Keith

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Hello Grumpy,

The photo below was taken in Chandigarh in the Punjab. Date given at the bottom is 1912. Sadly there are no Regimental insignia to be seen to identify the unit. Someone might know wwho was in the Garrison at that time though.

post-7141-0-78097400-1309177418.jpg

Frogsmile will like this one. It answers a question about shorts posed in another thread a few weeks ago. All but one of the chaps visible in this shot are wearing shorts. Note the wide variety of shirts being worn. Only two appear to be as issued. The rest are a mixture of converted issue shirts, the addition of a collar was very common usually chopped from the tail, cotton and flannel round neck vests, and what look like white linen shirts worn by a couple of soldiers. Note the standing figure right, who seems to have dispensed with his shorts and is wearing cotton underpants!

Also note the chap at the back who is pulling his rifle through. He has a small chest pocket added to his shirt, as does the standing soldier left in what looks like a white linen collar attached shirt.

The use of hosetops is interesting too. They seem darker than the blue-grey socks then issued. I would suspect they are purpose made and in khaki judging by the relative shade. Note that two men are wearing the India pattern sun helmet. Lastly, another of Frogsmile's interests, note the money belts being worn here. Nearly all are wearing variations. Essential for holding up the shorts it seems!

Regards

Tocemma

What a superb photo Tocemma, as predicted I love the shorts, varied shirts and money belts. A real treasure trove of a photo, thank you for posting it. I think that the hose tops might even be dark blue. These were a common colour and used by many 'Royal' units including battalions of the KAR and also the RWF, although I am unclear as to the dates that they were adopted..

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post-7141-0-59781600-1309208699.jpg

Private Sells, 5th East Surrey Regiment. This Battalion arrived in India on 2nd December 1914. Pte Sells's suit has been to the dhobi wallah a few times judging by the seams. So let's put this photo sometime in early 1915. His KD is typical of privately purchased, Indian made KD with pointed pocket flaps. Once again hosetops are worn in a mid tone colour. I would think his India pattern sun helmet is privately purchased too. Note the fancy quilting on the fabric.

I once had an ordnance issued India pattern helmet dated 1916. It was of plain cotton exterior in a pale shade somewhat greener than the issue KD which tended towards an orangey buff colour when newly issued. Note also the flash on the helmet, which on the original print looks to be an embroidered East Surrey, with a brass numeral 5 pinned above it. Note there is just a simple band around this helmet and no puggaree. Best walking out rig no doubt.

Tocemma

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Slightly outside Grumpy's timeframe (well two years actually) but I like this picture. No3 Platoon, 1/1st Brecknockshire Battalion, South Wales borderers, Mhow, India 1916.

post-7141-0-00817800-1309212464.jpg

Some interesting shirts here again. Some including the Platoon Sergeant, with shortened sleeves finished with white tape edging. Note the use of chevrons, right sleeve only, in shirt sleeve order. These were attached either with hooks and eyes or press fasteners. There is one soldier with a collar attached shirt, which has two chest pockets. Clearly these were tolerated even in an otherwise fairly uniform turnout. The same chap also has a money belt. Interesting that the practice of tucking in the collar of the shirt was well established by this time (and also seen in the earlier 1912 photo), but odd that some have done this and others have the collar buttoned up. This tucking in of the open collar was usual until the end of WW2 and the issue of collar attached ORs shirts.

I also like the (presumably) bugler, third from the right back row. Note that he has a green bugle cord tassel pinned to the left shoulder of his shirt. The cord disappearing down to his right side and the bugle. Most are wearing the waistbelt from the 1903 bandolier equipment, but I don't know if the complete equipment was being used by this Battalion, which was from August 1915 part of the 5th (Mhow) Division until the end of the war. The Officers have their swords.

Again the hosetops, but looking darker this time. There are a number of interesting hairstyles on display here too!

Tocemma

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Cheshire, H Coy, Quetta in winter dress, 1902 but I have nothing nearer 1914 for this dress. They wear the coat, warm, British, issued as Public Clothing, one per man, to each soldier at Quetta [only]. On campaign, spectacles, sun were also authorised.

post-894-0-89875300-1309276830.jpg

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detail .... note the coat ........

The Cheshires SNCOs used pale rankings on dark, the cpls and below [and GC badges] dark on light. The dark may well be scarlet.

post-894-0-84268900-1309279747.jpg

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1908-200509 A/Sgt Robert G Stone, 1/4th Btn, Royal West Kent Regiment. Photograph dated August 1918. He was entitled to the IGS medal with bar, Afghanistan, NWFF 1919.

Thanks to all: I shall be pestering you all for high res. scans for the finished thread, for which I will start a new thread and publish in large chunks, if that suits you.

I have the various Indian Field Service Regs. etc which describe scales of public gear etc for campaigning.

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Grumpy, I have a large, hand-tinted photograph of my Grandfather in his formal blues, with a white solar topee on a table beside him. It has a gold chinstrap(?) running from under the brim over the top, near a round-ended finial. I've always understood that it was taken in India but it may be a little earlier than you're looking for. In it he's still a Gunner but he was a Bombardier when he came home. It's a swine to photograph because it's behind glass but I'll have a go if you think it would be useful.

Keith

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Rockdoc: I need to stick to infantry to give a spine to the project, and then deal with the exceptions will clearly include RA and RE. I will therefore come back to you as and when. Thanks for offer in meantime.

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