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DateOriginal Topic
5th December 2004DEMOB
What happened to there kit when a soldier was demobed at the time of the zulu wars?
Could they keep anything at all?
Would there uniforms be passed on, or burnt?
I certainly kept some bits when i was demobed. "Not the Zulu wars!"
5th December 2004Adrian Whiting

On discharge, soldiers were permitted to retain "the necessaries in their possession, boots or shoes, drawers, fezzes, turbans, gloves and serge waistcoats" . They were not permitted to retain any othger items of uniform clothing. These requirements were set out in the relevant edition of the Clothing Regulations.

Soldiers were issued "personal" and "public" clothing. On discharge they were due a proportion of the value of the personal clothing that would remain unissued to them, on account of their discharge. they were also entitled to the proceeds of the sale of their part used personal clothing. These items went to contractors, but had to be altered in a way that made it clear they were no longer in service before the contractor could sell then on. Many may have seen the practice of slashing tunics in recent years.

The rules became more complex for recruits who were discharged, but basically they received no such entitlements.

Used public clothing - greatcoats for example, were re-used. In fact Commanding Officers were entreated to retain stocks of worn uniforms for fatigue duties.

I hope this assists.

5th December 2004Martin Everett

The same was not true of officers who by and large purchased their own uniforms and accoutrements. This is why many more officers' uniforms have survived and occasionally come up for auction. We have on loan almost the complete uniform of Lt Franklin who is buried at Helpmekaar.

5th December 2004Kris

Was the regulation strictly adhered to? I have a photo of Pte Robert Tongue some years after his demob and he's actually wearing his belt, the 24th buckle can be seen quite clearly

6th December 2004trevor
Thanks for that chaps.
Very informative.
6th December 2004Peter Ewart
I find all this rather interesting. Adrian, is the "serge waistcoat" the same item as the serge tunic/jacket?

I enjoy (and sometimes need to) date photographs as precisely as possible, although in some cases only an appoximation is possible. However, in the case of a photograph of a soldier, if the exact parameters of a man's period of engagement are already known, one can at least calculate an earliest and latest date for a photo of a uniformed soldier and attempt to narrow down the time by concentrating on additional clues, military or otherwise, although my knowledge of uniforms and their accoutrements pales beside the expertise of others.

However, do the above notes mean that a time-expired man could present himself before a camera in a guise which was reasonably close to that in which he had appeared when serving? Tunic (with stripes but minus badges?) & medals, etc., would go a long way towards a passable show at the time and serve to mislead someone a century hence! It would also mean that the latest possible date for a photo would have to be revised forward.

Have I misunderstood the point above? Or was it, perhaps, common for time-expired men to pose for a mock-up snapshot?

Many thanks for any more details and, hopefully, clarification from one or two of you.

6th December 2004Kris

the photo I have is not a mock up in uniform, but a picture of Robert Tongue in civilian clothes. His jacket is unbuttoned and his 24th belt buckle is clearly visible which means he must have kept it when he left the army having served his time which is why I asked was the regulation strictly adhered to or were the men at liberty to purchase some of the items they had used?

7th December 2004Trevor
I don't think your question should be wether the men were "at liberty" But more like did they" take a liberty" aquiring some of the items?
And the answer to that would most probably be YES! l speak from personal experiance of when we were demobed. We grabbed what we could. Like any soldier who has served, at any time! They earned it.
7th December 2004Adrian Whiting

The serge waistcoats were issued to Rifle Regiments - the Rifle Brigade, the Kings Royal Rifles, the Scottish Rifles and the Royal Irish Rifles. They were issued one per two years. They are not the same item as the tunic or frock.

I expect that Trevor is entirely right in suggesting that many items were retained despite the regulations. Personal clothing that was due return and then remained unaccounted for would be the subject of assessment - the most likely outcome being a deduction from the man's pay unless he could give a satisfactory account for its loss - I expect the Victorian soldier was just as adept as his present day compatriot when describing just how necessary it was for the item to have been lost, without the cost falling to himself !


7th December 2004Richard
When I left the RAF a few years ago I was allowed to keep quite a few items of kit. Stores didnt want things like shirts,boots and shoes etc. And being pedantic the phrase"demob" refers to men who were called up for national service between 39-60. When they finished their national service they were demobilised and placed on the reserve.
9th December 2004Peter Ewart
Kris & Adrian

Many thanks for those clarifications above. It seems to me that, one way or another, a time-expired man could retain quite a bit - if not almost all - of his uniform if he particularly wanted to. And if he had no good or recent photo of himself from the period of his engagement and was proud of his service, then it seems quite likely that he may take the opportunity of having a studio photo done once he was out of the army, as usual ensuring any medals and stripes were prominently visible.

This is something I had probably largely overlooked in the past when trying to date photos - and, in all in all, is probably bad news in that it immediately widens the period in which a picture may have been taken (other things being equal, such as alternative available clues) and will introduce unwelcome difficulties, especially if a location or photographer's name is present.

Many thanks again for your advice.

10th December 2004Alan Critchley
One thing I'm not sure about. The many Martini Henrys which are around. Where do they come from? Apart from Army stores which are selling off obsolete weapons, is this the only way they have become available? I have one from SA.

10th December 2004TREVOR
Good question that Alan!
Weapons in my experiance were allways strictly monitored and checked in.
But in saying that! There is that case this week of a squaddie back from Iraq, walking out the camp with a weapon.
11th December 2004Richard
I was amazed that a mate of mine was allowed to keep his watch, but walking out with a weapon!!
11th December 2004Adrian Whiting

As Service firearms were superceded they generally went into storage as second class arms. These would then be held for any sudden need to arm greater numbers of men. The British Government also tended to make them available for Colonial Governments, who may have had neither the funds nor the militray need for the latest smallarms development. From there they would be sold of in public sale. Many military MHRs bear the "S" sale mark that shows this. Of course, at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, the Government was keen to support the development of rifle clubs, so the concept of civilians possessing former service rifles was not the issue for Government that it is for today's.

Alongside this, the Gun Trade manufactured many MHRs to the service pattern, for Volunteers, which again received Government support at the time.

Essentially, all the actual service rifles that we now have in our own collections will have been sold off as obsolete at some point, as you suggest.