Dress, Equipment and Weapons
(India & Afghanistan)
(India & Afghanistan)
British infantry skirmishing with tribesmen during the 1st Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842.
The white tufted 'wings' on the shoulders of the coatee indicate that these are either men of a specialist light regiment, or in one of the 'flank' companies of a conventional line regiment. Theoretically the light company was the most expert in skirmish tactics, but the grenadier company was never far behind and, in any case, the order had been given in 1833 that commanding officers were henceforth to train all their companies to skirmish, as well as keeping up their mastery of the close order drill of course.
UNIFORMS OF THE BENGAL ARMY IN 1841
[Reference: Bengal Army Dress Regulations as cited in the Bengal and Agra Annual Guide and Gazetteer (1841 Edition)].
Listed in the order: Corps, Uniform Colour, Facing Colour, Type of Lace.
Artillery and Engineers
Bengal Artillery, blue, scarlet, gold.
Bengal Engineers, scarlet, dark blue, gold.
Governor-Gen.’s Bodyguard, scarlet, dark blue, silver.
Bengal Light Cavalry (BLC) Regiments
1st BLC, 2nd BLC, 3rd BLC, 4th BLC, 6th BLC, 7th BLC, 8th BLC, 9th BLC, 10th BLC, all have French grey coats, with orange facings and silver lace. 5th BLC functioned as the sole exception to the generality in that it had black facings.
European Infantry Regiments
1st European Regt., scarlet, sky blue, gold
2nd European Regt., scarlet, white, gold
Sappers and Miners
Bengal Sappers & Miners, scarlet, dark blue, gold
Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) Regiments
In all cases BNI Regiments had scarlet coats and gold lace, so that only their facing colours are listed below.
WHITE: 1st BNI, 5th BNI, 9th BNI, 11th BNI, 12th BNI, 20th BNI, 22nd BNI, 24th BNI, 35th BNI, 55th BNI, 56th BNI,
YELLOW: 2nd BNI, 4th BNI,8th BNI, 21st BNI, 41st BNI, 42nd BNI, 47th BNI, 48th BNI, 53rd BNI, 54th BNI, 61st BNI, 62nd BNI, 63rd BNI, 64th BNI, 65th BNI, 66th BNI, 67th BNI, 68th BNI, 69th BNI, 70th BNI,72nd BNI, 73rd BNI, 74th BNI.
BRIGHT YELLOW: 3rd BNI, 18th BNI.
DARK GREEN: 6th BNI, 7th BNI, 10th BNI, 13th BNI, 19th BNI, 23rd BNI, 28th BNI, 29th BNI, 38th BNI, 39th BNI, 45th BNI, 46th BNI, 51st BNI, 52nd BNI.
BUFF: 14th BNI, 16th BNI, 30th BNI, 31st BNI, 49th BNI, 50th BNI, 57th BNI, 58th BNI.
FRENCH GREY: 15th BNI, 17th BNI.
BLUE: 25th BNI, 40th BNI.
RED: 26th BNI, 27th BNI.
BLACK: 32nd BNI, 33rd BNI, 71st BNI.
SCARLET: 34th BNI.
LEMON YELLOW: 36th BNI, 37th BNI.
PEA GREEN: 43rd BNI, 44th BNI.
SAXON GREEN: 59th BNI, 60th BNI.
Local Corps. Coat, facing colour, lace.
Calcutta Militia red, buff, silver.
Ramgurh Light Infantry green, black, silver.
Hill Rangers red, dark green , silver.
Nusseree Battalion [Gurkhas] dark green, black, black.
Sirmoor Battalion [Gurkhas] dark green, black , black.
Kemaoon [sic] Battalion [Gurkhas] dark green, black, black,
Assam Light Infantry green, black, black.
Mhairwarrah Local Battalion red, dark green, silver.
Sylhet Light Infantry green, black, black.
Arracan Local Battalion green, black, black.
Assam Sebundy Corps green, black, black.
Hurrianah Light Infantry green, black, black.
Bengal Horse Artillery in 1846, officer left, private right.
[Anne S. K. Brown Collection].
There was no marked change in BHA dress between the 1st Anglo-Afghan War and the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War.
Irregular Cavalry Regiments in Kabul 1841-2,
'Walker's Horse' (Composite):
1st Bengal Irregular Cavalry (Skinner's Horse). Yellow alkaluk. Saddle cloths quartered yellow and red. Black jackboots. Breeches probably white or cream.
4th Bengal Irregular Cavalry. Yellow alkaluk, red 'pyjama' trousers and black jackboots. [See illustration below]. Certain irregular cavalry regiments armed half the men with lances; the illustration suggests that 1st BIC was one such.
4th Bengal Irregular Cavalry. L to R; sowar, native officer and British officer.
Shah Shoojah's 2nd Irregular Cavalry ('Anderson's Horse'). Alkaluk colour uncertain: best guess red.
The Envoy's Bodyguard. Red alkaluk with mustard yellow pagri-turban. A single resalla (troop), which was probably part of Shah Shoojah's Contingent. Appears from an illustration to have been armed with lances.
Kabul Regiments' Facings and Battle Honours
5th BLC. French Grey. Black facings. Battle Honours: Nil.
1st BIC. Yellow alkaluk. Battle Honours: BHURTPORE.
4th BIC. Yellow alkaluk. Battle Honours: Nil
HM 44th. Yellow facings. Battle Honours: THE SPHINX, EGYPT, BADAJOZ, SALAMANCA, PENINSULA, BLADENSBURG, WATERLOO, AVA.
5th BNI. White facings. Battle Honours: BUXAR, DELHI, GUZZERAT, DEIG.
37th BNI. Lemon yellow facings. Battle Honours: SERINGAPATAM, BHURTPOOR.
54th BNI. Yellow facings. Battle Honours: Nil.
DRESS DETAILS OF REGIMENTS IN SCINDE
[Work in Progress]
9th Bengal Light Cavalry. A regular light cavalry regiment of the Bengal Army. The full dress headgear was a dragoon pattern bell-top shako, in black leather with gold Maltese Cross device and white plumes, which in the case of ordinary sowars did not have a peak. The dress jacket was in French grey (more a light blue), and heavily laced on the chest, in the hussar style. The facing colour, orange, was worn at the collar and cuffs and trimmed in silver lace. Contemporaneous paintings are to said to quite often show the purported 'orange' of the facings as quite close to scarlet. The dress overalls were dark blue with a double stripe astride the seam in white for the men and silver for the officers. Overalls were worn with black shoes. The sword and steel scabbard were suspended from a white leather waistbelt and sword slings. The pouch-belt came in white leather with a black ammunition pouch at the rear. Officers' undress consisted of a dark blue stable jacket, adorned with a row of silver studs, trimmed in silver lace around the bottom edge and either side of the studs. The collar and pointed cuffs were orange and trimmed in silver lace. The overalls were similarly dark blue. The officers' sabretache was dark blue with abroad silver trim and featured an embroidered regimental device in the centre. The painting by George Jones of the Battle of Hyderabad, a work of which Sir Charles Napier is known to have approved, portrays members of the 9th Light Cavalry in the right foreground. The officers are shown in full dress, with shakoes, while the sowars are wearing their full dress tunics with a broad-crowned watering cap. Battle Honours: BHURTPOOR.
3rd Bombay Light Cavalry. A regular light cavalry regiment of the Bombay Army. French grey jacket, heavily laced in silver in the hussar style, with white facings trimmed in silver lace at the collar and cuffs. Dark blue overalls and black shoes. White leather waistbelts and sword slings, with steel scabbard. Pouch belt in white leather with black ammunition pouch. Officers' undress consisted of a French grey stable jacket, adorned with a row of silver studs, trimmed in silver lace around the bottom edge and either side of the studs. The collar and cuffs were white and trimmed in silver lace. Undress overalls were French grey with a single broad stripe of silver lace. Battle Honours: NIL.
Poonah Auxiliary Horse. An irregular cavalry regiment of the Bombay Army. Yellow alkaluks, probably with a red trim on the chest (or a gold lace trim in the case of officers), red turban, black jackboots. Alkalkuks were green by 1856 and very possibly prior to that. Battle Honours: NIL.
Scinde Irregular Horse. [See illustrations below]. Green alkaluks with a red trim on the chest for sowars or an ornate silver lace trim for officers. Red turbans, red kummerbund, black jackboots and white or cream breeches. Officers wore green breeches, initially with a double stripe of silver lace, but artwork (see below) suggests that this might have changed to a double red stripe by 1849. Sowars' breeches also became green at some later point. The sowars' saddle cloths were quartered in green and red. [See illustrations below]. Officers wore a heavy dragoon style helmet in silver, which in full dress was worn with a black horsehair plume. It seems that the helmet was worn in the field, although in hot weather it was customarily swathed in a (probably red) pagri. There is a surviving example of an officer's alkaluk in green with a silver lace trim. Native officers did not wear the ornate hussar style full dress uniform sported by the European officers (illustrated below). It is possible that the European officers might have been more inclined to wear alakaluks in the field, in order to preserve their (doubtless expensive) full dress rig. Battle Honours: NIL.
Scinde Irregular Horse
Top Left: Sowar, c. 1840. Top Right: field officer and sowar at Goojerat, (1849), wearing cold-weather poshteens over the green alkaluk.
Bottom Left and Bottom Right: Officers in full dress c. 1849. The regimental history recognises the possibility that the painting on the right might portray the regiment's long time commandant John Jacob. After the Scinde Campaign the original regiment was sub-divided into two, 1st and 2nd SIH, over both of which Jacob continued to preside.
[Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library].
Below: detail of George Jones' painting of the Battle of Hyderabad featuring SIH sowars.
HM 22nd (The Cheshire) Regiment of Foot. Red swallow-tailed, single-breasted coatee; with buff facings at the collar, cuffs and shoulder straps; cuffs slashed with bar of red cloth and 4 x brass buttons boxed round in white lace; white lace trim to shoulder straps and collar; on the chest horizontal bars of white lace, with bastion ends; white turnbacks at the coat tails; white forage cap cover; trousers 'Oxford mix'), with a thin red stripe running down the seams. NCOs rank chevrons were in white worsted tape. In the flank companies chevrons were worn on both arms, but only on the right arm in the battalion companies . At the outside edge of the shoulder straps the centre companies wore raised crescents of white worsted, whereas in the flank companies the shoulder straps ran down the shoulder to meet ‘wings’ of white lace, prominently surmounted with a tufted crescent of white wool that ran over the top of the shoulder from front to rear. Drummers wore tufted crescents over wings of ‘drummer’s lace’ of the approved regimental pattern – most typically this was white lace flecked with the facing colour. The same flecked lace was used on the chest of a drummer’s coatee and also ran up the front and rear seams of his sleeves. It was also used to trim the facing colour on the collar and shoulder straps. Bugles, also carried by drummers, had cords and tassels in the regimental facing colour. Cross-belt equipment came in buff leather but was pipeclayed white. The ammunition pouch on the right hip was black. Bayonet scabbards were black leather with a brass tip. Haversacks were natural canvas. The knapsack was in black leather, with white leather carrying straps. The mess-tin cover came in black leather and was secured to the top of the knapsack with a white leather strap.
SNCOs' coattees were plain and double breasted. The SNCOs sash was crimson with contrasting horizontal bands of yellow. SNCOs wore a combined sword and bayonet frog on the left hip, suspended from the right shoulder belt. The sword scabbard was black with a brass tip.
Officers are unlikely to have worn coatees and shakoes, because they were extremely expensive private purchases. Instead they would have preferred officers' pattern forage caps and either scarlet shell jackets or blue single-breasted frock coats. The officers' shell jacket had a plain round collar and plain pointed cuffs in the facing colour, with a row of close-spaced gilt buttons/fasteners running down the front.
Battle Honours: NIL.
Bombay Native Infantry (Generally). Red swallow-tailed, single-breasted coatee, displaying the facing colour at the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs; white lace trim to shoulder straps and collar; on the chest, horizontal bars of white lace with square ends; white turnbacks at the coat tails; flared shako, which in the case of all the Indian personnel, including the native officers, did not have a peak; in the field the shako was most often worn inside a cover, whether of white cotton or black oilskin. During the winter months 'Oxford mix', trousers, with a thin red stripe running down the seams, were worn. In the summer months white cotton trousers were substituted, but that was outside the campaigning season of course. A lota drinking vessel was carried on top of the knapsack, in lieu of the mess tin carried by European regiments. All other equipment items as per HM 22nd.
1st Bombay (Grenadiers) Native Infantry. White facings. Battle Honours: MANGALORE.
8th Bombay Native Infantry. White facings. Battle Honours: NIL.
21st Bombay Native Infantry. Pale yellow facings. Battle Honours: NIL.
Bombay Horse Artillery.
Madras Sappers & Miners.
Officer, Bombay Horse Artillery, 1846, by Harry Payne.
Organization of Native Infantry Regiments.
In the 1840s a 'native' [Indian] infantry regiment of the Bengal Army had a complement of 25 'European' [British] officers, consisting of 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant colonel, 1 major, 6 captains, 10 lieutenants (including the adjutant), 4 ensigns, 1 surgeon and 1 assistant-surgeon (the latter a junior doctor's rank also), together with a matching complement of native officers promoted from the ranks. The most senior of the Indian officers was the subedar-major, who while he was treated as a venerable figure was nevertheless counted junior to any European officer when it came to the operational command of troops.
The regiment subdivided into 10 companies, each of a hundred men, lettered from A to K (excepting J). A was the grenadier company and B the light company. Companies were commanded by European captains or lieutenants, assisted by a number of European and Indian officers in the respective subaltern grades. Such was the demand for staff officers and political officers that regiments almost never had their full complement of captains actually serving at regimental duty. It was commonplace for a European lieutenant to command a pairing of two companies and by means unusual that one or more of the ensigns might be required to do so. It follows that subedars must often have functioned as company commanders.
Companies were subdivided into 4 sections. Two sections formed a 'sub-division' (half-company). A section was commanded by a havildar (sergeant), assisted by a naick (corporal). The equivalent of the colour-sergeant in a British company was known as the 'pay-havildar', whose duties were by no means exclusively related to pay. There was usually at least one lance-naick in the company. The only European NCOs in the regiment were the serjeant-major and the quartermaster-sergeant, answering to the adjutant and quartermaster respectively, albeit the QMS also doubled up as a drill sergeant, in which latter capacity he too answered to the adjutant. In the Bengal Army all promotions came by strict seniority, as a result of which the native officers were almost always well past their prime; indeed the most senior subedars could be in their sixties. Additionally the Bengal Army fielded a high proportion of high-caste brahmins and was held to be far more fixated with matters of caste than the armies of the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
Cold Weather Clothing in Afghanistan
The standing orders cited below show that greatcoats were an everyday item of kit in BNI regiments, just as they were in British regiments. After the fall of Kabul, the invading British army was subdivided between units that would be returning promptly to India and units that would be remaining in Afghanistan to support Shah Shujah's regime. A general order issued in Kabul in September 1839 instructed the COs of all units remaining behind to submit indents sufficient to permit each man under their command to be issued with a pair of gloves and 2 pairs of 'worsted stockings' (socks). In addition units in "Jelallabad, Ghuznee and Cabool [sic]" were to indent for a long-sleeved poshteen (sheepskin coat) per man. [Ref: Maj. W. Hough, A Narrative of the March and Operations of the Army of the Indus 1838-9, p. 266.]. There is no reason to think that any of these arrangements failed to come to pass, nor to believe that the items were not passed on when units rotated in or out of these garrisons.
Extracts of Standing Orders for the Bengal Native Infantry
(as extant in 1841)
SECTION XXV. BAGGAGE.
1. Every man, on a march, is to carry the following articles, neatly packed in his knapsack: an unga, one pair of white trousers, the fatigue or cloth pair being in wear, (according to the season,) a dotee, a tawa, a small durree or carpet for sleeping on, about 6 feet long by 3 feet broad, and also a piece of pipeclay; this will leave room for a chudder, should the man wish to carry one. A lota, not larger than what will contain a seer, is to be strapped on the top of the knapsack, with the string for drawing water rolled up inside the lota; this is to be called light marching order.
2. Heavy marching order is to include a great coat, or blanket, rolled up, and strapped on the top of the knapsack, with a pair of shoes inside the knapsack. The knapsacks are to be neatly packed, and carried well upon the back, clear of the pouch.
3. Every corps should parade, at all seasons, once or twice a month, in light or heavy marching order; the companies should be inspected, and the corps, in the cold season, should be marched a few miles.
4. As it is of importance, that the men should, on all occasions of actual service, march as light as possible, the carriage for the great coats being provided for, except in cases of emergency, the only articles they should be permitted to take, in excess to those in the knapsacks, are a dotee and an unga, with 3 seers of pots, amounting altogether to 4 seers per man.
SECTION XXVI. REGIMENTAL NECESSARIES.
1. Every man is to be furnished, as directed in General Orders, with:
One pair of fatigue trousers.
Three pair of white trousers.
Three ungas or jackets.
A great coat.
A set of beads, with clasp.
2. The undermentioned articles should also be produced at the inspection of necessaries: one pair of light shoes, sewed with thread and not with thongs, to be reserved for parade duties, besides the pair in wear.
One dotée, besides that in wear.
One pouch cover, black.
One cap cover, black.