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Dress, Equipment & Weapons

(Southern Africa)

74th Highlanders

Above: The home service dress of the 74th (Highland) Regiment in the 1840s, which provides an obvious pointer as to why the regiment adopted such a radically different service dress when it deployed to South Africa in 1851.  Note in particular that the rank and file of highland regiments were not issued with red shell jackets, but with a white jacket of much the same cut as a shell jacket, which obviously could not be worn for operations in the African bush.  The commanding officer of the day was Lt Col John Fordyce, who ordained that the regiment would wear canvas trooping smocks in the field. Alas he lost his life fighting in the 'Waterkloof' fastness on 6 Nov 1851. His last words were, 'Take care of my regiment'. It  was said at the time of his death that there was no known portrait of Fordyce, but in fact there at least three. The centrally positioned officer in the blue frock coat is Fordyce. He was painted also by the Graham's Town artist Frederick l'Ons and by Thomas Baines, who included a portrayal of the colonel in his oil painting of the Battle of Kroomie Heights. Note that the regimental tartan was Lamont, a better view of which can be seen below.  In practice the trews worn by the regiment would have appeared, at any distance at all, to be dark green with a white overlay, pretty much as you see them above. During an arduous bout of campaigning in hot weather, the white would not have remained visible for long. That's good news if you don't like painting tartan (who does!). You'd be perfectly justified in painting the trews in an appropriate dark green and leaving it t that. 

Lamont Tartan

Pte 74th (Highland) Regiment.

Watercolour by Michael Perry.

 Oil by Thomas Baines, portraying an engagement in the vicinity of Mount Misery & Waterkloof. 

Private 1st Bn. The Rifle Brigade

Plate painted by Alan Perry, one of 40 uniform watercolours done by the Perry tTins, to illustrate Mike Snook's two volume work Cape Warriors, (published by and exclusively available from Perry Miniatures – see their website for details). It might equally portray a member of 1st Rifle Brigade at Boomplaats in 1848, or at any point following the battalion's return to South Africa to fight in the second year of the 8th Cape Frontier War (1852), or in the fight against the Basotho at the Battle of Berea on 20 December 1852. The battalion was primarily armed with the Brunswick Rifle, but a small number of men in each company were also experimentally armed with the Lancaster rifle, which was under consideration as a replacement service rifle. In the event the replacement selected was the Minie Rifle. The battalion returned to South Africa still in possession of its small number of Lancaster rifles, but subsequently also received its due share, (six per company), of the consignment of Minie Rifles brought out by General George Cathcart when he replaced Sir Harry Smith in April 1852.

     The Rifle Brigade wore swallow-tailed coatees of the double-breasted style, with black facings and buttons. The uncomfortable knapsack was largely given up in South Africa and replaced with an improvised blanket pack, in which the greatcoat and blanket were either folded one inside the other - as seen in the plate above - or otherwise back to back. Like the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps, the Rifle Brigade wore black leather equipment. The sword-bayonet provided with the Brunswick was straight-bladed and had a brass cross-hilt. Riflemen did not 'fix bayonets'; rather the word of command was, "Fix swords!" The Brunswick was accurate to 300 yards, safely three times the distance at which line infantrymen (including light regiments) could employ the smoothbore musket with the remotest degree of accuracy.

     Only one company of the battalion, Number 9, participated in General Cathcart's Orange River Expedition of November 1852 to January 1853. The company played a very full part in the Battle of Berea, where it was commanded by Lieutenant Leicester Curzon and formed part of Colonel William Eyre's column. 

Private 12th (The Prince of Wales’s) Royal Regiment of Lancers,

Artist: Michael Perry

In this plate, one of 40 painted by one or other of Alan or Michael Perry, for Cape Warriors, we see a young private of the 12th (The Prince of Wales’s) Royal Regiment of Lancers, (the 12th Royal Lancers for short), clad in his regimental stable-jacket and overalls. The original historical reference informing this plate - likewise the toy versions of it we will manufacture - is the pencil sketches and watercolours of Thomas Baines, who was a jobbing war artist in the 8th Cape Frontier War and actually lived with the 12th Lancers in the field at one point. The blue stable jacket is single-breasted, and features red facings with a yellow lace trim at the collar and cuffs. The blue overalls feature a double yellow stripe down the outside seam. He wears a cavalry girdle, with alternate horizontal bands of yellow and red. His white leather waistbelt is fitted with sword slings, while his crossbelt features a black pouch for carbine ammunition.

     British lancer regiments did not ordinarily carry carbines at this time, but were issued with the P1842 pistol instead, a single shot percussion lock weapon, useless at anything more than about 15 yards. The 12th Lancers, however, were issued with double-barrelled ‘Cape carbines’, much like those in service with the CMR, except that the London Gunmaker Charles Lancaster was tasked to design and manufacture a new rifled version for the regiment. The greater number of these weapons were sent out on HMS Birkenhead and were lost when she foundered off the Cape in the famous maritime disaster of February 1852. A subsequent, smaller batch of 108 carbines were shipped later and would have come into use with the 12th Lancers in good time for the Battle of Berea. Initially, during the war with the Xhosa, the regiment had half its troops armed with lances and pistols and the other half with carbines (and pistols). Afterwards they dropped the lance altogether and in effect became a regiment of carbineers. The lance was re-adopted, across the board, to go north to Lesotho, no doubt because the ground there is much more open than in the Eastern Cape. We cannot be sure whether every man had a carbine of some kind, or whether only half of them did, just as before, but certainly there were not more than 108 rifled Lancasters, since no more copies of that weapon were ever made.

Private 43rd (The Monmouthshire) Regiment (Light Infantry)

Artist: Michael Perry

The 43rd Regiment adhered more strictly to regulations than some of the other regiments serving in Africa at this time. They wore their coatees, but with the light infantry wings and shoulder straps removed. They also stuck more resolutely to the crossbelt equipment, generally eschewing locally manufactured 'belly box' pouches and the like. Although this man is shown in white summer trousers, the 43rd received at least two issues of trousers locally made up in a cloth called 'fustian', which came in a light tan or hessian type colour. Kilmarnock forage caps were green for light infantry of course and were fitted with a patent leather peak. The blanket and greatcoat are neatly folded back to back and carried on the misappropriated shoulder straps of the knapsack, with the mess tin, in its oilskin cover, fastened on top, although equally it was just as often positioned at the back of the pack. The men were armed with P1842 percussion lock muskets, but there were also six brand new Minie rifles per company, which were issued to the best shots. It was possible to shoot accurately to 600 yards with the Minie. The maximum range of the weapon was said to be 900 yards.

Pte Royal Artillery 1846-52

Watercolour by Michael Perry

Pte 7th Dragoon Guards 1846 (7th Cape Frontier War).

Watercolour by Michael Perry.

Below: Advertisement from the Perry Miniatures website (with shopping link).

(Volumes I and II can be bought together or separately).

Here's a great photo of a Mosotho warrior (in the singular), he being a member of the Basotho people (in the plural). The Basotho are the Southern Sotho, and live in Lesotho, while the Bapedi (plural of Pedi) are the Northern Sotho and live in the Northern Transvaal. The photo was taken somewhat later than the period covered by our new Orange River range, but, given that the subject is armed and clad in so traditional a manner, it might as well have been taken in the 1850s.

     Chief Moshoeshoe was the founder of the Basotho, who were an amalgam of tribes and peoples who rallied to him during and after the difaqane (aka mfecane) inter-tribal wars of the 1820s-1830s. Over the next 20 years the Basotho spared no effort to acquire horses and firearms. They succeeded to such an extent that of an army of 10,000 warriors present at the Battle of Berea, about 7,500 men were musket-armed horsemen. About 6,000 of them attacked the British in a single wave...quite a sight. The Basotho fought both from horseback, and in what Colonel William Eyre termed, 'in the Dutch manner', which is to say that at various points they dismounted to use their firearms, in much the same way as the Boers practiced mounted infantry tactics. There was no national army and no regimental system after the fashion of the Zulus. Regional chiefs, many of whom were related to Moshoeshoe, brought in their respective regional followings to a national muster. Such a following might be made up several warbands based on the age-grouping system utilized in circumcision lodges in pursuance of the usual ritual transition to manhood.

     A point to note is that the small, rather scruffy 'Basotho pony', which springs fairly readily to mind, has been bred over the decades since Moshoeshoe's reign. At the period covered by our range the Basotho were mounted on conventionally sized horses and ponies.

     You can see a number of interesting features in the photo. The average Mosotho mixed both European and traditional weaponry. This chap appears to have a double-barrelled weapon, which would be more likely a percussion-lock rifle than a shotgun. He also carries the traditional small and handy winged shield, designed for deflecting throwing assegais, rather than fighting at close quarters. There was no regimentation of shield colours. For the sort of cowskins used in making such shields, google search imagery of 'Nguni cows'.  He has a fearsome long handled battle axe tucked into his loincloth, while he carries a number of throwing assegais, together with a round headed knobkerrie, in a quiver. The quiver is hanging to the front of this chap, but it would more usually be thrown around to rest on the small of the back. His headdress is a ball of black ostrich feathers. There are two other features of the typical Mosotho worth mentioning. One is that many warriors wore a V-shaped wooden or brass neckguard on the upper chest, with its arms splayed either side of the throat. They also wore small daggers slung from the neck on a length of thong.

     There was an important European presence in Lesotho in the form of several PEMS (Paris Evangelical Missionary Society) missions. Christianity was slow to take off, so that in the early- to mid-1850s few of the missions yet had congregations in excess of a couple of hundred people, with men seemingly in a gender minority. Basotho armies did, however, include a proportion of Christian warriors, who often wore hats and discarded European clothing. More generally the Basotho were not big on dressing up - certainly they did not favour showy decoration of the limbs with cowtails after the Zulu fashion. Nor did they flaunt monkey-tail kilts or anything of that sort, just a simple loincloth.

     See the 'Miniatures Gallery' for guidance on how to paint our Basotho figures. 

The 91st (The Argyllshire) Regiment. 

Coatees, yellow facings, blue Kilmarnock with black tourie, crossbelt equipment, with blanket-pack.

Suitable for the 91st in the Zwartkopjes Campaign of 1845, the entirety of the 7th Cape Frontier War (1846-7), the Boomplaats Campaign of 1848, and the opening weeks of the 8th CFW (1850-3). Would also suit any infantry regiment of the 4th Division in the Crimean War. (1854-6).

The 43rd (The Monmouthshire) Regiment (Light Infantry). 

Below L to R: sergeant-major, company commander, subaltern, all in shell jackets. Conventional Line infantry regiments would have blue caps rather than the green worn by light infantry regiments, but other than the caps and the regimental facing colour, all other detail remains the same. 

Privates Cape Mounted Rifles 1850-53

The Royal Artillery. 

These RA figures are painted in campaign dress and the setting is the 1850-3 period. The tan-brown colour of the trousers can equally well depict both leather 'crackers' or fustian cloth. The uniform trousers at this date were blue, but if you wish to game the 7th CFW of 1846-7 be aware that the RA uniform trousers at that slightly earlier date were still grey. 

Facing Colours of Regiments at the Cape

7th (The Princess Royal's) Regiment of Dragoon Guards. Black.

12th (The Prince of Wales's) Royal Regiment of Lancers. Scarlet. 

Cape Mounted Riflemen. Black.

2nd (The Queen's Royal) Regiment. Blue. 

6th (The Royal 1st Warwickshire) Regiment. Blue.

Reserve Bn. 12th (The East Suffolk) Regiment. Yellow.

27th (Inniskilling) Regiment. Buff. 

1st and Reserve Bns., 45th (The Nottinghamshire) Regiment. Lincoln Green.

1st and Reserve Bns., 91st (The Argyllshire) Regiment. Yellow.

43rd (The Monmouthshire) Regiment (Light Infantry).  White.

2nd/60th (King's Royal Rifle Corps). Red. 

72nd (Duke of Albany's own Highlanders) Regiment. Yellow.

73rd Regiment. Dark Green. 

74th (Highland) Regiment N/A, wore trooping smocks in the field. 

1st Bn. Rifle Brigade. Black.

Royal Engineers & Royal Sappers and Miners. Blue. 

Royal Artillery. Red. 

Two beautiful and highly accurate 1/6 scale models. The hand-made uniforms are the work of Eric Crepin-Leblond. They portray the 43rd (The Monmouthsire) Regiment (Light Infantry), clad in the coatee, (top row), and the 6th (Royal 1st Warwickshire) Regiment, clad in the shell jacket. With grateful thanks to Eric for his kind permission to make use of the images.  

Party of the 43rd (The Monmouthshire) Regiment (Light Infantry) on operations in Southern Africa in 1852, drawn from life by a regimental officer.

Typical appearance of a mounted commando or volunteer unit (1830s-1850s). 

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