Iron Duke Miniatures

Iron Duke Miniatures

'eDamn the heat and the flies! 

 
                                                                                                       HISTORICAL NOTES
                                                  TRANSORANGIA & THE ORANGE RIVER SOVEREIGNTY (1845-1853)
 

Dress, Equipment & Weapons
(Southern Africa)

Private 1st Bn. The Rifle Brigade

Plate painted by Alan Perry. Like the other watercolours shown below, it features in Dr Mike Snook's two volume book Cape Warriors, published by Perry Miniatures and available exclusively from that company; there is a link to their online shop further down the page. The plate 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 in 1852, to fight in the second year of the 8th Cape Frontier War and subsequently against the Basotho at the Battle of Berea  (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 at that time was still under consideration as a replacement service rifle. In the event the replacement actually selected was the Minié 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 Minié Rifles brought out by Lt-Gen. The Hon. George Cathcart, when he replaced Sir Harry Smith as Governor of Cape Colony 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, whereby 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.

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), 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 later than the period covered by our new Orange River range, but even so 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, to the extent that in 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, under Lt-Gen the Hon. George Cathcart, in a single wave...quite a sight. They fought both from horseback and in what Colonel William Eyre called, 'in the Dutch manner', which is to say that at various points they dismounted to use their firearms on foot, 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 Moshoshoe, brought their regional followings in to a national muster. Such a following might be made up several warbands based on the age grouping used in circumcision lodges for 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 has a double-barrelled weapon, more likely to be a percussion lock rifle than a shotgun. He also carries the traditional winged shield, which is very small and designed for deflecting throwing assegais, rather than fighting at close quarters. He has a fearsome long handled battle axe tucked into his loin cloth, while he carries a number of throwing assgais, 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. The item looked a bit like a boomerang. They also wore little daggers around the neck, slung on the chest with a bit of string or 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 and few of the missions had congregations in excess of a couple of hundred people. Basotho armies would however include a proportion of Christian warriors, who generally wore hats and discarded European clothing. More generally the Basotho were not big on dressing up - they did not favour showy cowtail decorations on the arms and legs after the Zulu fashion. No monkey tail kilts or anything of that sort, just a simple loincloth. Moshoeshoe's 'great place' (capital) was a mountain top stronghold called Thaba Bosiu, just a few miles outside modern day Maseru.

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.

Consolidated Image Gallery