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headgardener

3 Gordon Highlanders, circa 1914? Are they bandsmen?

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headgardener

I have 3 separate photos (which I found together) of some Gordon Highlanders, but there are several details about their uniforms that puzzle me and I'd be grateful for any thoughts or advice.

The images were taken at a studio in Aberdeen, and appear to date from about 1914 imho. The men all appear to be wearing Slade-Wallace belts, so I'm guessing that they're volunteers in a Gordon Highlanders service battalion or a TF battalion. I also suspect that they are sailors in civilian life as the first card (signature looks like 'W. Craggill') is marked "Chief" (presumably Chief Engineer), the second which is signed 'W.B. Hird' is marked "2nd Engineer", while the third is signed 'Eric Ward' and is marked "Cook". There are no other annotations.

They are all wearing plain Glengarries, kilts, sporrans, hose and spats. Ward is wearing a full dress doublet while Craggill and Hird appear to be wearing frocks. Craggill and Hird are also wearing plaids. Ward's jacket has 3 inverted chevrons on the lower left sleeve which I associate with a bandsman, and I can't see them being good conduct chevrons as he doesn't seem old enough to have served that long. They're all taken in the same studio, apparently at the same time, but the props in Ward's photo are different.

The presence of the plaid makes me think they're bandsmen, but I can't find any reference to them in Seton ("Pipes of War").

I've looked for MIC's but can't find any of them, and am now thoroughly perplexed! Does anyone have any thoughts on this....?!

post-55685-0-53942000-1419019243_thumb.jpost-55685-0-18790200-1419019253_thumb.jpost-55685-0-62453400-1419019262_thumb.j

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FROGSMILE

I have 3 separate photos (which I found together) of some Gordon Highlanders, but there are several details about their uniforms that puzzle me and I'd be grateful for any thoughts or advice.

The images were taken at a studio in Aberdeen, and appear to date from about 1914 imho. The men all appear to be wearing Slade-Wallace belts, so I'm guessing that they're volunteers in a Gordon Highlanders service battalion or a TF battalion. I also suspect that they are sailors in civilian life as the first card (signature looks like 'W. Craggill') is marked "Chief" (presumably Chief Engineer), the second which is signed 'W.B. Hird' is marked "2nd Engineer", while the third is signed 'Eric Ward' and is marked "Cook". There are no other annotations.

They are all wearing plain Glengarries, kilts, sporrans, hose and spats. Ward is wearing a full dress doublet while Craggill and Hird appear to be wearing frocks. Craggill and Hird are also wearing plaids. Ward's jacket has 3 inverted chevrons on the lower left sleeve which I associate with a bandsman, and I can't see them being good conduct chevrons as he doesn't seem old enough to have served that long. They're all taken in the same studio, apparently at the same time, but the props in Ward's photo are different.

The presence of the plaid makes me think they're bandsmen, but I can't find any reference to them in Seton ("Pipes of War").

I've looked for MIC's but can't find any of them, and am now thoroughly perplexed! Does anyone have any thoughts on this....?!

attachicon.gifCraggill.jpgattachicon.gifHird.jpgattachicon.gifWard.jpg

They are very correctly dressed as Gordon Highlanders for merchant seamen out on a spree and dressed up as soldiers for a lark, so I think that scenario is unlikely.

It is quite feasible for the lower photo to be a man correctly with three good conduct badges, as at that time service as a boy (including band-boys and boy-drummers) counted for colour service. That privilege was later lost. Badges of rank and appointment were worn on the right sleeve in full dress so the badge is not that of a pipe or drum major. I agree that this latter is wearing a full-dress doublet and the other two undress frocks.

If they were bandsmen, drummers or pipers (the latter two are not 'bandsmen') they should have been wearing shoulder wings (although not always in undress frocks) and yet I also agree that the plain glengarries and shoulder plaids would normally indicate pipers. The plaid brooches are not of the pattern worn by sergeants (who also wore shoulder plaids - see enclosed picture of such a brooch) and that might offer a clue.

I enclose an image of a Gordon Highlander correctly dressed for walking-out before WW1 for comparison, as well as a piper and a drummer (the latter two in India and so wearing modified (extra piping) frocks in lieu of full-dress doublets, as per regulation).

post-599-0-91875800-1419020881_thumb.jpg

post-599-0-61877500-1419021517_thumb.jpg

post-599-0-93081400-1419023983_thumb.jpg

post-599-0-31725300-1419024004_thumb.jpg

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Ron Clifton

Hello headgardener

I don't think they are bandsmen, because of the absence of shoulder wings, shown very clearly in the last two of frogsmile's pictures.

Ron

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rolt968

I wonder if these come from a little earlier than you suggest. Perhaps the last days of the Militia and Volunteers in the early 1900s perhaps.

R.

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FROGSMILE

I wonder if these come from a little earlier than you suggest. Perhaps the last days of the Militia and Volunteers in the early 1900s perhaps.

R.

Yes I think they could well be from a Militia battalion. The Plaid brooches with stone (citrin?) centres often have provenance from an earlier (pre-Cardwell) Militia unit.

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gordon92

I think FROSMILE's assessment of seamen out on a spree is correct. If they were bandsmen (or pipers) the front fall of the full scarf plaid would have been folded back over the shoulder to avoid interference with the playing of whatever instrument they were carrying. Drummers would be wearing a fly plaid.

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rolt968

I think FROSMILE's assessment of seamen out on a spree is correct. If they were bandsmen (or pipers) the front fall of the full scarf plaid would have been folded back over the shoulder to avoid interference with the playing of whatever instrument they were carrying. Drummers would be wearing a fly plaid.

If that name really is Craggill, I would tend to the same view. There are very few Craggills in the 1901 and 1911 censuses. None are in the northeast of Scotland.

R.

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4thGordons

I think FROSMILE's assessment of seamen out on a spree is correct. If they were bandsmen (or pipers) the front fall of the full scarf plaid would have been folded back over the shoulder to avoid interference with the playing of whatever instrument they were carrying. Drummers would be wearing a fly plaid.

I think he says seamen on a spree is unlikely! I agree I think these are genuine Gordons.

FWIW I think these are earlier than 1914.

I have some similar pictures - will look through them and post some comparisons

Chris

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4thGordons

Here are some similar ones from my small collection.

Plaids seem much more common in the earlier 1900-1910 images than later.

One thing that does distinguish the original photos are the plain (undiced) glengarries.

You will see that one of my photos (no2) maybe from the same Aberdeen studio (cf table) and the first one might be the same plinth/backdrop (but with a bench added) as the third! (might be the same doublet come to that if it is dress up time! although I as I say I don't think it is)

post-14525-0-92501400-1419105088_thumb.j post-14525-0-32325100-1419105089_thumb.j post-14525-0-62858200-1419105089_thumb.j

post-14525-0-10134800-1419105090_thumb.j post-14525-0-49098500-1419105090_thumb.j post-14525-0-82001400-1419105090_thumb.j

Chris

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rolt968

Having looked at all the photos posted so far; aren't the kilts on the original first two men a bit short?

R.

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4thGordons

Having looked at all the photos posted so far; aren't the kilts on the original first two men a bit short?

R.

Maybe the chap in the middle of the first three - but even with that there is a fair bit of variation in my collection....

EG: these two!

post-14525-0-81968500-1419105882_thumb.j post-14525-0-14287500-1419105883_thumb.j

Chris

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FROGSMILE

I think he says seamen on a spree is unlikely! I agree I think these are genuine Gordons.

FWIW I think these are earlier than 1914.

I have some similar pictures - will look through them and post some comparisons

Chris

Yes, I was indeed suggesting that the men in the original photo are unlikely to be seamen out on a spree. That said, it is not impossible that they are merchant seamen or Aberdonian fishermen from a large motorised trawler who had previously, perhaps in their youth, been members of a Militia battalion with the obligation after basic training of only a 2-week annual camp. I think that the pattern of plaid brooch is probably significant.

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rolt968

Thanks Chris. That's very interesting. I thought that regimental tailors and sergeant majors were a bit fussier about the regimental length of the kilt.

Incidentally the first of the last two pictures you posted has a plain glengarry. Do you know why?

R.

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4thGordons

Incidentally the first of the last two pictures you posted has a plain glengarry. Do you know why?

R.

No. Generally pipers have plain glengarries (but with Blackcock feathers) of course.

In wartime plain glengarries were issue issued (and I have a group picture with a mix of plain and diced) It also seems that one battalion (can't recall which but one of the service battalions I think) almost always had plain.

I still think the original picture (and the one I just posted) are probably pre war but I do not know why the plain glengarry.

Chris

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rolt968

You will see that one of my photos (no2) maybe from the same Aberdeen studio (cf table) and the first one might be the same plinth/backdrop (but with a bench added) as the third! (might be the same doublet come to that if it is dress up time! although I as I say I don't think it is)

Chris

Both your photos 1 and 2 are from the same studio as the original three photos. If you look carefully behind the bench in your first photo you will see the fake stairs on the back cloth in the first two original photos.

Interesting. 5 Market Street, Aberdeen would actually be close to the docks, but it would also be close to Castlehill Barracks.

R.

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headgardener

Thank you Frogsmile, Rolt, Gordon92, Ron, and Chris for your interest in these pics! I know relatively little about the nuances of Scottish uniform, so I really appreciate your comments. Particular thanks to Frogsmile and Chris for posting some really excellent photos of some Gordon Highlanders.

When I made the remark about suspecting that they were seamen in civilian life, I meant that I suspected that they were volunteers of some kind (TF or Kitchener) rather than imagining that they had simply raided the dressing up box - their uniforms seem too complete for that.

Do the frocks date the photos in any way? What about the plaids - were they worn by the rank and file at certain times? What about the Slade-Wallace belts? I was seeing the mismatched frocks and doublet, and the slightly short kilts, and the belts and was thinking Kitchener recruits. I was forgetting the absence of hackles effectively ruled out them being pipers. The photos are indeed taken in Cosway studios, so it is the same studio as the 1st and 2nd photos posted by Chris (the table is the same as that in Craggill and Hird's photos, and the ornamental stand is the same as that in Ward's photo).

I have 2 further observations and would welcome your comments on them:

Firstly, If they were militia or pre-war volunteers then that wouldn't fit with the GC chevrons on Ward's sleeve, surely?

Secondly, Something that Frogsmile said about merchant seamen got me thinking - I checked the Mercantile Marine medal index on TNA but found nothing, then I checked the Royal Fleet Reserve index and found a William Craggill b.1882 from Hull, and a William Berryman Hird b.1889 who was also from Hull and whose service number was in the same series as Craggill's. According to the annotations on the cards, 'W. Craggill' was 'Chief', and 'W.B. Hird' was '2nd Engineer'. The only Eric Ward that I could find was b.1899 and was from Ludford, in Lincolnshire. The Craggill and Hird in the RNR must be the same men as are shown in these photos.

Btw, if you look closely at Craggill's signature, you'll notice an annotation just below it. This appears to be the word 'Chief' written in the same hand that wrote the word 'chief' on the reverse of the card, which is also the same hand that wrote '2nd Engineer' and 'Cook' on the back of Hird's and Ward's. If they were also sailors at the time these photos were taken, then which Gordon Highlanders unit were they serving with....?!

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gordon92

I think he says seamen on a spree is unlikely! I agree I think these are genuine Gordons.

FWIW I think these are earlier than 1914.

I have some similar pictures - will look through them and post some comparisons

Chris

You are right, Chris; I misread Frogsmile's sentence, so I will retract that statement.

Nonetheless, they are definitely not bandsmen as suggested in the OP.

I think the original photos depict soldiers of a Gordon VB (and possibly TF after 1908). In the first two photos, the subjects are wearing red serge frocks (or possibly green). The regular Highland battalions only wore these frocks overseas and never at home.

The solid glengarries remain a perplexing element. Prior to 1908 at least two of the VBs wore black and orange diced glengarries with the others wearing the red-white-green dicing per the regular battalions. There is some possibility that the orange-black dicing may be imaged as solid. I defer to the imaging experts on this one. Chris?

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FROGSMILE

You are right, Chris; I misread Frogsmile's sentence, so I will retract that statement.

Nonetheless, they are definitely not bandsmen as suggested in the OP.

I think the original photos depict soldiers of a Gordon VB (and possibly TF after 1908). In the first two photos, the subjects are wearing red serge frocks (or possibly green). The regular Highland battalions only wore these frocks overseas and never at home.

The solid glengarries remain a perplexing element. Prior to 1908 at least two of the VBs wore black and orange diced glengarries with the others wearing the red-white-green dicing per the regular battalions. There is some possibility that the orange-black dicing may be imaged as solid. I defer to the imaging experts on this one. Chris?

VBs and TF were not, before WW1, permitted to wear good conduct badges, as they were the province of regulars. VBs and TF had their own system of equivalent badges (diamonds and stars) for many years until eventually, during WW1, it was decided that in the interests of a unified Army the TF could start to wear the same good conduct badges (stripes) as regulars.

It is true that after 1902, regulars did not generally wear scarlet frocks at home, but that did not apply to the Militia/Special Reserve battalions. I am unsure whether or not Militia/Special Reserve were permitted to wear good conduct badges, but as they did not wear the VB/TF equivalents it seems possible that they did.

Slade Wallace belts remained in use for a long time and their appearance in the photo bears no significance. Full shoulder plaids were worn by sergeants and pipers (drummers with the smaller fly plaid as mentioned), but not by the general rank and file.

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gordon92

VBs and TF were not, before WW1, permitted to wear good conduct badges, as they were the province of regulars. VBs and TF had their own system of equivalent badges (diamonds and stars) for many years until eventually, during WW1, it was decided that in the interests of a unified Army the TF could start to wear the same good conduct badges (stripes) as regulars.

It is true that after 1902, regulars did not generally wear scarlet frocks at home, but that did not apply to the Militia/Special Reserve battalions. I am unsure whether or not Militia/Special Reserve were permitted to wear good conduct badges, but as they did not wear the VB/TF equivalents it seems possible that they did.

Slade Wallace belts remained in use for a long time and their appearance in the photo bears no significance. Full shoulder plaids were worn by sergeants and pipers (drummers with the smaller fly plaid as mentioned), but not by the general rank and file.

Well, it seems we are unsuccessful so far in making all the moving parts in the three photos mesh.

I would discount the plaids as significant. Other than bandsmen and pipers (which the first two subjects are not), there would be no reason that anyone below a first class staff sergeant would be officially wearing a full scarf plaid. Those shown are almost certainly photographers props. This includes the first photo in post #9 by 4th Gordons where I also think the doublet is a prop; notice that it is apparently too tight for the last button to fasten, and the sporran is mounted too high.

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hazelclark

Apropos of nothing adding to this thread, it looks like the Gordons all went to the same photographer. If you look at my Avatar (think that's what it is called) my great uncle might be sitting in the same room as the others, although his seat looks a bit "jerry-built".(wobbly)

Hazel C.

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4thGordons

Well, it seems we are unsuccessful so far in making all the moving parts in the three photos mesh.

I would discount the plaids as significant. Other than bandsmen and pipers (which the first two subjects are not), there would be no reason that anyone below a first class staff sergeant would be officially wearing a full scarf plaid. Those shown are almost certainly photographers props. This includes the first photo in post #9 by 4th Gordons where I also think the doublet is a prop; notice that it is apparently too tight for the last button to fasten, and the sporran is mounted too high.

I'm not sure I agree re the plaids. Whilst uncommon they do show up in photos in which everything else is "regulation" I think the issue is that the Volunteer Battalions (and to some extent the later TF Battalions) did not always apply the same "regulations" regarding dress - for example here is a volunteer battalion (titles are visible) man with a plaid. (note this photo is interesting because it appears to be an early panchromatic image)

post-14525-0-29589900-1419124413_thumb.j

Chris

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4thGordons

And just to add to the confusion... what about this one

Dated 1913 - what is the sporran pattern here? (also note plaid brooch) - appears to be a piper but....

post-14525-0-14886800-1419124756_thumb.j

Chris

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gordon92

Chris

Your VB Pte is wearing a fly plaid. A fly plaid was worn by ORs in full dress review order. Sergeants had the additional embellishment of a front fall on the fly plaid. Only First Class Staff Sergeants and Warrant Officers plus bandsmen (except drummers) and pipers wore the full scarf plaid in full dress.

I do not know what to make out of your piper with the strange sporran. Probably from aVB based upon his unkempt appearance.

Mike

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headgardener

Thanks again Frogsmile, Chris, Gordon92 and Hazel C...!

Just to summarise the information as I understand it:

The uniforms appear to be genuine.

The plain glengarries and the plaid are unusual given that these men are not pipers, but neither is exceptional (there are other examples of them being worn by non-pipers)

Slade-Wallace belts do not date the photos, nor do the frocks.

These men appear to belong to some form of part-time or reserve unit, and the fact that Ward is wearing long service chevrons would rule out TF or Volunteers. Presumably all other aspects of uniform would be consistent with them belonging to the SR or Militia.

If Hird's date of birth was 1889, then judging by his appearance in the photo in post #1 he would have been no younger than about 20 (probably older, I'd say - maybe more likely about 22 or 23), in which case the photos must date from no earlier than about 1908/09, and perhaps as late as 1911/12 (or maybe even later). Does anyone have any thoughts as to how these approximate dates would fit with these uniforms assuming that they are SR or Militia......?

Edit: I just realized that Hird would be too young to be a Special Reservist, surely?

I won't be able to download their service records until tomorrow at the earliest, hopefully they may provide some further context. Their RNR service numbers indicate that they served with the RNR Trawler Section (which could match the fact that they were from Hull as well as the fact that these photos were taken in Aberdeen). The Trawler Section came into being in 1910, btw.

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FROGSMILE

I'm not sure I agree re the plaids. Whilst uncommon they do show up in photos in which everything else is "regulation" I think the issue is that the Volunteer Battalions (and to some extent the later TF Battalions) did not always apply the same "regulations" regarding dress - for example here is a volunteer battalion (titles are visible) man with a plaid. (note this photo is interesting because it appears to be an early panchromatic image)

attachicon.gif8.jpg

Chris

Yes I agree 100% with what you say about the (shoulder) plaids and your rationale behind it.

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