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Help with identification please


Billy Robertson
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Hi. Thanks for allowing me to join the forum. I was hoping someone could help identify the uniform and rank of one of my great uncles (I'm not sure which one as there were several brothers from the same family who served). I have tried to identify the cap badge without success. It also looks like his epaulettes have two pips. Would greatly appreciate a steer in the right direction. 

Great Aunt Mary Wilson with Brother William_2.jpg

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7 hours ago, Billy Robertson said:

Hi. Thanks for allowing me to join the forum. I was hoping someone could help identify the uniform and rank of one of my great uncles (I'm not sure which one as there were several brothers from the same family who served). I have tried to identify the cap badge without success. It also looks like his epaulettes have two pips. Would greatly appreciate a steer in the right direction. 

Great Aunt Mary Wilson with Brother William_2.jpg

He is a private soldier of Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers).  The two pips that you see are the two part shoulder titles worn by soldiers of the regular and war raised battalions of fusilier regiments.  That regiment was one of a few that had two parts to their cap and collar badges to reflect their twin lineage.  The 1st Battalion had previously been the 87th (Prince of Wales’s) Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion the 89th (Princess Victoria’s).  Thus the top part of the badge was Princess Victoria’s coronet and the lower part a fusilier grenade with the Prince of Wales’s feathers and an Irish Harp. It was the county regiment for Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan, with its depot at Gough Barracks in Armagh.  The regiment took great pride in its forebear’s (87th’s) capture of a Napoleonic Eagle at the Battle of Barossa, whose image it featured on regimental buttons, collar badges, and later patterns of shoulder title (which with typical Irish humour it irreverently nicknamed ‘Quails’).

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Edited by FROGSMILE
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Brilliant. Thanks very much for the speedy response and the information. I'm puzzled as to why my great uncle, a Glaswegian from Bridgeton would join the Royal Irish Fusiliers, when there were so many Scottish regiments in the area. Excuse my ignorance, but would the Royal Irish Fusiliers have recruited in the Glasgow area, or was it just a case of you went where you were told?

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2 hours ago, Billy Robertson said:

Brilliant. Thanks very much for the speedy response and the information. I'm puzzled as to why my great uncle, a Glaswegian from Bridgeton would join the Royal Irish Fusiliers, when there were so many Scottish regiments in the area. Excuse my ignorance, but would the Royal Irish Fusiliers have recruited in the Glasgow area, or was it just a case of you went where you were told?

In July 1881 each regiment had allocated to it its own specific recruiting areas when the regiments were given names instead of the numbers that they had had previously.  However, it wasn’t really until WW1 that that system took true effect and previously most recruits had come from large cities all over Britain and Ireland, where army recruitment was generally more successful.  Prewar the men who asked to join their local regiment usually did so, especially if they had friends, or family connections, but men with no ties were often sent by the recruiting sergeant to those units that they knew were particularly in need of men based upon regularly published lists.

Thus when the war started most battalions were a mix of local men and men from anywhere else in the then United Kingdom.  Some battalions had many local men and others had few, depending upon their individual circumstances.

Once the effects of mass casualties began to be felt between 1914-1916, the recruiting and training system struggled to cope, and by late 1916 it was increasingly the case that on a needs must basis men who arrived in drafts of reinforcements at infantry base depots in France (to receive some acclimatisation), were subsequently sent on to whichever unit(s) had the most urgent need for men.

By 1917 the Irish Regiments had a particular problem because there was no conscription in Ireland and the numbers of volunteers had dropped markedly for a range of reasons.  As a result men from other parts of the then U.K. were increasingly sent as part of the mix of reinforcements to Irish units.

Glasgow was one of the populous cities that sent a disproportionate number of it’s citizens to British infantry regiments of all types, and not just its local regiments, the Highland Light Infantry, and the Cameronian’s (Scottish Rifles).  Even kilted, highland regiments, sourced many of its soldiers from Glasgow.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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14 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

Each regiment had allocated to it its own specific recruiting areas in July 1881 when the regiments were given names instead of the numbers they had previously.  However, it wasn’t really until WW1 that that system took true effect and previously most recruits had come from large cities where army recruitment was more successful.  Prewar the men who asked to join their local regiment usually did so, especially if they had friends or family connections, but men with no ties were often sent by the recruiting sergeant to those units that they knew were particularly in need based upon regularly published lists.  Thus when the war started most battalions were a mix of local men and men from anywhere else in the then United Kingdom.  Some battalions had many local men and others had few.
Once the effects of mass casualties began to be felt between 1914-1916 the recruiting system struggled to cope and by late 1916 it was increasingly the case that on a needs must basis men who arrived in drafts of reinforcements at infantry base depots in France (to receive some acclimatisation), were sent to whichever unit(s) had the most urgent need.  By 1917 the Irish Regiments had a particular problem because there was no conscription in Ireland and the numbers of volunteers had dropped markedly for a range of reasons.  As a result men from other parts of the then U.K. were increasingly sent as part of the mix of reinforcements to Irish units.

Glasgow was one of the populous cities that sent a disproportionate number of it’s citizens to British infantry regiments of all types, and not just its local regiments, the Highland Light Infantry, and the Cameronian’s (Scottish Rifles).  Even kilted, highland regiments, sourced many of its soldiers from Glasgow.

Fascinating. Thanks again. That should be enough information to help me try and track down which one of my great uncles it was. Really appreciate your help. 

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1 hour ago, Billy Robertson said:

Fascinating. Thanks again. That should be enough information to help me try and track down which one of my great uncles it was. Really appreciate your help. 

He looks quite young in the photo.  Men from Glasgow certainly joined some of the regiments’ that recruited predominantly in the North of Ireland, where over centuries many Ulster Scots had settled and embedded their cultural and religious traditions.  The Royal Irish Fusiliers was one of these, although it also recruited men from the South too.  Certainly recruiting sergeants in Glasgow were sending young men across on the Ferry to Belfast to join regiments whose HQ and depot was there.  Think of Rangers fans and you’ll have grasped where they were coming from.

 I wonder if he joined early on, or was a conscripted enlistment later in the war?

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Once I find out more information, I'll keep you posted. Probably just sheer coincidence, but it turns out the family are predominantly bluenoses!! 😂😂👍

 

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1 minute ago, Billy Robertson said:

Probably just sheer coincidence, but it turns out the family are predominantly bluenoses!! 😂😂👍

 

Well fancy that 🤔

P.S. I’ll be interested to learn of your findings.

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2 hours ago, Billy Robertson said:

Will keep you posted. Cheers. 👍

I forgot to mention that he’s holding a swagger stick.  Traditionally each soldier was required to carry a swagger stick when ‘walking-out’ from barracks, or camp.

Unlike officers civilian clothes were not permitted for soldiers and so their uniform was specially checked for smartness before they left the unit ‘lines’ (so-called because barracks accommodation or tents were laid out in lines).  This was to maintain a unit’s reputation for good discipline.

Swagger sticks were to give an air of smartness and occupy the soldier’s hands.  They were not issued at public expense, but purchased at a heavily subsidised rate via profits from the canteen. Good quality examples had a nickel silver end embossed with regimental crests.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Good stuff. The funny thing is, I happened to stumble upon 'Bargain Hunt' on TV the other day and one of the items attracting the attention of the team, was an old swagger stick. I'd never heard of it before, but here I now am, hearing about it twice in a matter of days. 

One final question. Is the lanyard he is wearing through his epaulette, of any significance? Would that normally have been attached to a holstered pistol or was it more of a ceremonial thing for the photo?

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57 minutes ago, Billy Robertson said:

Good stuff. The funny thing is, I happened to stumble upon 'Bargain Hunt' on TV the other day and one of the items attracting the attention of the team, was an old swagger stick. I'd never heard of it before, but here I now am, hearing about it twice in a matter of days. 

One final question. Is the lanyard he is wearing through his epaulette, of any significance? Would that normally have been attached to a holstered pistol or was it more of a ceremonial thing for the photo?

The lanyard was issued to every soldier along with an army clasp knife (folding blades) and each soldier was supposed to keep it in his top left breast pocket.  Many soldiers shortened the lanyard by plaiting it. 

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Edited by FROGSMILE
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The group of four you posted, Frog, looks like it could be a father and three sons? Difficult to think of another reason for such a group.

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10 hours ago, PhilB said:

The group of four you posted, Frog, looks like it could be a father and three sons? Difficult to think of another reason for such a group.

Yes it is Phil.  The father was the Colour Sergeant Instructor of Musketry so hence his First Class tunic with extra gold lace on collar and cuffs.  One son a drummer and the other two with service companies, although one looks like a boy entrant.  I’ve often wondered what happened to them all as the photo was around 1910 I think.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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2 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

The lanyard was issued to every soldier along with an army clasp knife (folding blades) and each soldier was supposed to keep it in his top left breast pocket.  Many soldiers shortened the lanyard by plaiting it. 

Another mystery solved. Thanks again. Will keep you posted as to my findings. 👍

 

 

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10 hours ago, Billy Robertson said:

 

I’ll be especially interested to learn as it’s a fine photo.  He seems quite young and yet is very well turned out, suggesting he already has some service in.  It makes me wonder if he might have joined as a regular. 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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