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Remembered Today:

SA Native Labour Corps


PhilB
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Note that he is wearing a greatcoat. Badges were [and are] worn lower sleeve on greatcoats in some units, so that, if a cape is worn on top, the rank etc. remains visible.

Foot Guards, for example.

A corporal!

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Thanks, Grumpy - that`s new to me. Do you, by any chance, have any interesting photo examples on British troops?

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 10 2008, 04:20 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Taken from Charles Messenger`s excellent book, what exactly do these chevrons signify?

Phil,

An old colleague of mine, John Starling, has researched quite a lot on the Labour Corps and Pioneers (one of his co-researchers is a member here). I seem to recall that much of the Labour Corps foreign labour companies (e.g. Chinese and African coolies/lascars) were organised under 'charge hands' who wore military badges of rank but may not have had military titles per se. Perhaps the fellow member can comment, I do not recall his username.

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This photo shows wearing of chevrons on greatcoats in the usual place in WW1. Was the lower arm placing unusual? It would seem odd if the Guards Division and the South African Labour Corps were the two examples!

post-2329-1210586396.jpg

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As a L/Cpl in a cavlary reg in greatcoat order you wore your stripes on your lower sleve.

as a L/Cpl you stll wore two stripes

Lancer

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 12 2008, 10:59 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This photo shows wearing of chevrons on greatcoats in the usual place in WW1. Was the lower arm placing unusual? It would seem odd if the Guards Division and the South African Labour Corps were the two examples!

Most WW1 photos I have seen show rank on upper arms on dismounted great coats Phil, although the Guards and to a lesser extent cavalry (Line and Household) often do things differently. I think the Labour Corps African might be a charge hand of sorts with rank worn on lower sleeve to indicate his status, but we need a Labour/Pioneer specialist to confirm matters.

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Whilst not wishing to doubt Grumpy`s explanation (chevrons not covered by capes etc), I would point out that most photos show capes worn over uniform without greatcoats. If the cape explanation applies, wouldn`t it apply equally to chevrons on service dress?

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 12 2008, 01:24 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Whilst not wishing to doubt Grumpy`s explanation (chevrons not covered by capes etc), I would point out that most photos show capes worn over uniform without greatcoats. If the cape explanation applies, wouldn`t it apply equally to chevrons on service dress?

Woollen capes were not generally worn over great coats during WW1, but so-called gas capes were, as indeed they were worn over SD. As the vast majority of the Army wore chevrons in the normal place on great coats in WW1 I am inclined to think that the lower sleeve because of capes rationale is perhaps a bit of a red herring and I feel it is more to do with some elements of the Army just wanting to be distinguished by being 'different' to the norm. This attitude has always existed as a direct result of the 'Regimental System'.

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Greatcoat is far more commonly worn, I only have a handful of caped shots.

As to wearing both, and the 'explanation' of rank to show below cape, I am only quoting what a Guards Captain told me.

I now share Frogs' scepticism, now I think more about it, because:

a. even in extremely cold weather, to wear both would be stifling, and

b. not sure ranking would show, as the cape is rather long.

I now have my hands on photos Guards NCO ranking showing, Remembrance Day 2006, also, surprise surprise, RM wearing chevrons in same place!

Will post.

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Have a care good sir! Your document is 'now'.

I have looked up 'then', ie CR 1914,

AND THEN IS AS NOW!

So, I don't know what, anymore!

However, given that a reason is often behind these arcane practices, and given that the drab greatcoat had no cloak available to cover it, whereas the grey great coat did have a cloak .......?

For completeness, as promised, a Guards Lance Sergeant musician.

I also have a RM Sgt, cpl and lcpl, all with rank lower sleeve.

post-894-1210675869.jpg

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There may be a germ of truth in your assertation, G! I do tend to lump capes together - gas capes, groundsheet capes, guards capes and most don`t call for moving of chevrons. But then how do we explain the SA Native Labour Corps man - presumably he didn`t have a guards style cape for his khaki greatcoat?

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I also have a RM Sgt, cpl and lcpl, all with rank lower sleeve.

The practice of wearing chevrons on the lower sleeve of the Grey Great coat is now standardised for all elements of the Army required to wear it (London District and Edinburgh, largely for those on Public Duties). This decision is recent and may well not yet have appeared in the regulations. The decision has been made because of the greater use of regiments and corps other than Guards for Public Duties during the winter season, mainly because the guards strength has been reduced to 5 battalions, of which only 2, plus 2 incremental companies (GG and CG), are available at any one time.

In 1914 only Guards regiments wore the Grey Greatcoat, also for public duties, for which a cape was provided hence the wearing of rank on the lower arm. All other elements of the Army wore the Khaki Greatcoat in 2 patterns, dismounted and mounted, with rank worn on the upper arm.

As regards the SA Labour Corps man, I am almost sure from memory (but need a specialist to confirm) that 'native' elements of the Labour Corps were not afforded military rank titles and it may well be that his chevrons on the lower arm are to reflect this different status. The intention was to ensure than any British Army NCO was automatically superior in status, irrespective of rank.

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That sounds convincing except that the same photo (as in post #1) shows a native sergeant in SD with chevrons on upper arm. If native rank were to "look different" he would have his chevrons on lower arm in SD?

post-2329-1210679683.jpg

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Previously ...... "I am inclined to think that the lower sleeve because of capes rationale is perhaps a bit of a red herring ......"

Now ......"Guards regiments wore the Grey Greatcoat, also for public duties, for which a cape was provided hence the wearing of rank on the lower arm........."

So I have gone from 'cuff rank because of capes' to becoming very sceptical, whilst friend F. has gone in t'other direction.

I have a real problem with the wearing of a cape over a greatcoat and have searched my substantial archive for a photo to no avail. Also, cape length seems to obscure cuffs.

As I say, I really do not have a clue on this one. I bet the Foot Guards don't know either!

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So I have gone from 'cuff rank because of capes' to becoming very sceptical, whilst friend F. has gone in t'other direction.

My earlier comment was relating purely to the Khaki Greatcoat that the SA Labour Corps man is wearing for which capes were never issued and for which therefore the cape rationale was a red herring. I have never disputed that the chevrons are and have always been worn on the lower arm of the Grey Greatcoat worn, until recently, exclusively by the Guards (less Horse Guards). I fail to see any inconsistency in that.

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I was not looking for a dispute.

Do you really believe the cape rationale, though?

Is there, for example, a Foot Guards order of dress which includes both items?

As I say, I just do not know.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 13 2008, 12:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That sounds convincing except that the same photo (as in post #1) shows a native sergeant in SD with chevrons on upper arm. If native rank were to "look different" he would have his chevrons on lower arm in SD?

I agree Phil that the 'looking different' rationale now appears to be spurious. We need that Labour Corps/Pioneers specialist (and member of this site) to offer his opinion. From memory I believe the non-military rank is probably correct, but perhaps it is only below a certain level. It is certainly 'odd' to see rank worn on the lower arm of khaki greatcoats.

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Preparing to duck in the crossfire............................

Reference the Guards and the wearing of chevrons and badges of rank etc on the lower forearm in Grey overcoat order..............

Look back to the Crimean War. The capes were worn with the greatcoat then and, while they covered the arm to about the elbow, the forearm was still visible.

Could this just be something that was done at some time in the past and maintained ad infinitum like so many regimental "traditions"?

Quite what the significance of the chevrons (or is it a single chevron on a lighter backing?) shown in the photo on post #1 is I have no idea.

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I was not looking for a dispute.

Do you really believe the cape rationale, though?

Is there, for example, a Foot Guards order of dress which includes both items?

As I say, I just do not know.

1. Yes I do believe the cape rationale. At the time of the Crimean War the greatcoat with cape was issued to all infantry and was the grey colour now familiar from the Guards. I believe the practice of wearing rank on the lower arm began then although it was not a universal practice and some regiments wore rank on the upper arms. There are photos from the period that illustrate this.

2. The guards were the last to dispense with the grey greatcoat and detachable cape 'combo' some time after WW1 (the cape was folded and carried in the valise straps between the shoulder blades in both Summer and Winter 'Guard Order'). The two were worn together in particularly inclement weather when on guard duty (outdoors) at Windsor (Castle Guard), 'Buck House' (Buckingham Palace) and Jimmy's (St James Palace). It was not necessary for the Bank of England Guard as the sentry boxes were in a sheltered position.

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