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Remembered Today:

Cavalry Unknown in a Long White Coat


laughton
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Craig suggested I ask this question in a separate topic. Here is the topic that generated the question:

Unknown 2nd Life Guards: Harlebeke NBC Plot 17 Row A Grave 17

 

The Concentration Report did not carry forward the fact that this unknown 1914 casualty (death) of a soldier of the 2nd Life Guards was wearing a "long white coat" when he was exhumed. Does anyone have any ideas as to why a Cavalry Trooper (no indication he was a medic) might be wearing a long white coat?

 

doc1816252.JPG

 

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Hmm, interesting, maybe it was a light kahki coat, and had bleached somehow through the length of time in the ground?

Otherwise, no clue!

 

Chris

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Dear All,

The clearest thing seems to have been the identity of the Registration Officer with the flowery signature: namely Richard Stiles...!

Kindest regards,

Kim.

Edited by Kimberley John Lindsay
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It sounds to me like he might have been wrapped in a white sheet of some kind as a rudimentary shroud, which after 10-years in the ground may have looked like a coat, especially to an unfamiliar eye.  As a mounted man the sheet might perhaps have been something to do with a horse covering, but this is all mere speculation of course.

Even medical officers, let alone orderlies did not wear white coats (making a very stark target) in the front line.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Interesting. Not sure if the Lifeguards had a wartime coat that may have been in khaki or dyed to a khaki colour from their original red??? which may have become bleached over a period of a decade in Belgium soil. Cavalry is really not my thing which is to my shame given my family ties to 2nd Life Guards over some considerable time.

 

 

Andy

Lifeguards coat 2.jpg

Edited by stiletto_33853
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They had a mounted pattern drab woollen greatcoat and a rubberised cape, but nothing that would have faded to white, Andy.

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1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:

It sounds to me like he might have been wrapped in a white sheet of some kind as a rudimentary shroud, which after 10-years in the ground may have looked like a coat, especially to an unfamiliar eye.  As a mounted man the sheet might perhaps have been something to do with a horse covering, but this is all mere speculation of course.

 

The Germans used shrouds but only to bury "fresh" dead (not reburials). But in order for someone to be buried in a shroud, he would have had to be undressed (to recuperate his uniform and equipment), which he was not (as he wore his uniform). I would also think of some kind of cavalry cape as thought by stiletto.

The shrouds were also of very thin fabric (and later of some kind of paper), so they wouldn't have been mistaken for a long coat.

 

Jan

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Dear All,

The clearest thing in all this melancholy business seems to have been the identity of the Registration Officer with the flowery signature: namely Richard Stiles...!

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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5 hours ago, AOK4 said:

 

The Germans used shrouds but only to bury "fresh" dead (not reburials). But in order for someone to be buried in a shroud, he would have had to be undressed (to recuperate his uniform and equipment), which he was not (as he wore his uniform). I would also think of some kind of cavalry cape as thought by stiletto.

The shrouds were also of very thin fabric (and later of some kind of paper), so they wouldn't have been mistaken for a long coat.

 

Jan

 

Jan, at first most British soldiers were buried in their blankets, but an order was issued forbidding the practice as a waste of valuable resources. When I referred to a ‘shroud’, I did not mean a purpose designed, thin type, but a makeshift one utilising some other item of equipment (such as a tarpaulin or cape), hence my use of the qualifying term ‘rudimentary’.  Issued coats were drab (dark khaki) wool and did not fade to white.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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I met a pal of mine from the RCMP for lunch today and I was telling him of this case, as he is another military history buff.

 

He immediately said "He was probably wearing a Duster".

 

I had no idea what that was but looked it up on Google and he said - that's it! He said they always got them from the Americans. Very popular in the mid-west dating back to the 1860's. The name is derived from keeping the dust off the cavalry uniforms. The Guard probably picked one up to keep the mud off his uniform.

 

I responded - but the Americans were not in the war until 1917? He said, they were always trading kit, particularly in the cavalry. They were always white (as in linen)!

 

duster10.jpg

 

You can order one even today - a cavalry trench coat:

 

http://www.fwrd.com/product-maison-margiela-cotton-nylon-cavalry-trench-in-beige/MMAR-MO26/

 

MMAR-MO26_V1.jpg

Edited by laughton
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I have heard of the ‘duster’, a garment closely associated with the American West and ranchers/cowboys.

Reflecting back on a hobby of studying British Army clothing (and insignia) for well over 40-years I cannot recall reading, or seeing images of a ‘duster’ used by British soldiers in either, the 2nd Anglo/Boer War or the First World War.  I will be extremely interested if anyone can provide any proper evidence that such a garment was worn, especially during 1914, and especially by a member of the Sovereign’s fastidious Household cavalry.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Trench coat being worn by a soldier I believe to be WW1period.( Attached.)

Don't  know when trench coats came out? Seems a little odd, as you said FROGSMILE, that a Life Guardsman would be allowed to wear one?

Unless of course he was just buried with it over him?

 

Chris

 

0275.jpg

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5 minutes ago, Dragoon said:

Trench coat being worn by a soldier I believe to be WW1period.( Attached.)

Don't  know when trench coats came out? Seems a little odd, as you said FROGSMILE, that a Life Guardsman would be allowed to wear one?

Unless of course he was just buried with it over him?

 

Chris

 

 

 

I think any coat, cape, or tarpaulin might have been used as an expedient shroud, Chris.  I’m not aware of any such coat as that in your picture being on general issue in 1914, especially to cavalry.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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I agree FROGSMILE, if it were 1916/17 then possibly could have a trench coat, but not in 1914, and being a Cavalry chap as well.

Just odd that they have written 'coat', if it were a shroud or something, surely they wouldn't have written that down.

It is an odd one.

 

Chris

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1 hour ago, Dragoon said:

I agree FROGSMILE, if it were 1916/17 then possibly could have a trench coat, but not in 1914, and being a Cavalry chap as well.

Just odd that they have written 'coat', if it were a shroud or something, surely they wouldn't have written that down.

It is an odd one.

 

Chris

 

Yes it seems puzzling, but I think we need to bear in mind that the exhumation and reburial staff in 1924, ten years after the war, was made up largely of women and older men who would not necessarily be familiar with all uniform items, and much of the cloth that had been underground for that length of time, along with decomposing body matter, had been rendered barely recognisable.  What was written by the exhumation officer was not always accurate (and probably a best guess).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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34 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

 

Yes it seems puzzling, but I think we need to bear in mind that the exhumation and reburial staff in 1924, ten years after the war, was made up largely of women and older men who would not necessarily be familiar with all uniform items, and much of the cloth that had been underground for that length of time, along with decomposing body matter, had been rendered barely recognisable.  What was written by the exhumation officer was not always accurate.

True, true, I think as you said FROGSMILE the shroud of some description seems more likely the case on this one. 

All interesting stuff though

 

Chris

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WWI Trench Coat Project Images: https://www.pinterest.ca/costumiersaurus/wwi-trench-coat-project/

 

They all appear Circa 1918. Would a member of the Household Cavalry be more likely to have access to these garments than the regular army soldier? 

 

The Classy Rise of the Trench Coat - Smithsonian site: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/trench-coat-made-its-mark-world-war-i-180955397/

This I did not know:
 

Quote

The color khaki, which came to dominate British military uniforms, was the result of lessons learned in India; the word “khaki” means “dust” in Hindi. 

 

Khaki = Duster

 

That article takes the coat back to pre-war days.

 

Was he wearing Major Hugh Dawnay's coat? Remember, they don't refer to a sheet or shroud, they clearly say a coat. Only a coat has arms.

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Trench coats and British Warms were available in the various Army & Navy kit catalogues from the get go, it seems.  I can't find the one I wanted but as evidence of good will here is an example.  All the names we associate with this type of coat, like Aquascutum or Burberry were offering them.  The question is, would something as "regimental" as the Lifeguards allow a trooper or NCO to wear one, on campaign?  Or did an officer sacrifice his, to enshrouds one of his boys?

IMG_0591.JPG

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It’s impossible to know the truth of this.  It seems unlikely to me that the Major would give up his coat even if he had particular affection for the trooper concerned, he would have had great use for one in the first two Winters of the war and gaining a replacement was not an early prospect.  What would have been left of the garment in order to identify it precisely after 10-years rotting in the ground seems debatable.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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To be clear, this question was asked "out of interest" as it appeared to be an interesting puzzle. It is not, as suggested, part of an investigation into who was wearing the "long white coat".

 

My interest in this specific case was:

  1. Why did the GRU not show that information on the COG-BR when it was clearly on the SPEC-EX (Special Exhumation Report).
     
  2. Was there any knowledge of cavalry men wearing "long white coats"?
     
  3. Would a member of the Army Medical Corps be wearing such a garment at the front lines?
Edited by laughton
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