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29th December 2004A few questions
By Richard
Just watched the film on ITVand have a few questions, and before anyone says anything I know that the film takes a few liberties!
Would Sergeants have worn gold chevrons with scarlet tunics in the Victorian Army?
Did the defenders really fight in scarlet? Ive seen a photo taken after the battle and they appear to be in khaki.
What were the regulations in the Victorian army about facial hair and hair length? Most photos taken of Soldiers at the time appear to show them with much longer hair than would be tolerated today and a lot seem to sport whiskers and even beards, and I know about Pioneer Sergeants being allowed beards but some pictures of Chard show him with a beard.
29th December 2004Adrian Whiting

Sergeants did indeed wear gold lace chevrons on both their scarlet tunics and their scarlet frocks (the looser fitting jacket, which was worn in action on most occasions).

Lance Sergeants would have worn white worsted chevrons rather than gold.

The Line Infantry Sergeants wore their chevrons on the right arm only, point down, above the elbow. There were exceptions, for example Light Infantry, where the chevrons were worn on both arms. In addition they wore a scarlet sash, from the right shoulder diagonally.

The infantry did see action in their scarlet frocks, and in some cases tunics. I imagine the photographs look like Khaki because they are not coloured images.

Ordinarily soldiers were required to shave chins. This did not extend to Pioneers, as you are aware. In addition it did not extend to the upper lip, and by default soldiers grew moustaches. On active service water conservation was critical, and it was commonplace for local Commanders to relax the shaving requirement. Accordingly soldiers grew beards.

I hope this assists,

30th December 2004Richard
Thanks for your reply Adrian. As regards the form of dress worn at the drift, the photo I have seen also shows them wearing side hats and not helmets, were side hats issued in the Victorian army?
30th December 2004Adrian Whiting

Without knowing exactly which photograph you have, I expect that the headdress is the Glengarry - the undress headdress. This is a Scottish item, adopted widely as the undress headdress. It has two ribbon tails from the rear.

I am taking it that your photo is reasonably contemporary, and shows regular British soldiers.


3rd January 2005Richard
The photo I have seen accompanied an article about Rorkes Drift in would you beleive, Mayfair! The photo was also in a book about Rorkes Drift published by Osprey. The photo supposedly is of the defenders of Rorkes Drift taken after the battle. The film is on as I write this and another question springs to mind, were badges worn on the white helmet?
4th January 2005Paul Cubbin
Richard, you are only supposed to say that you read the articles in nudie mags if your mum/wife catches you....don't actually do it. It's that which really makes you go blind.
About the helmet badges, the badge was removed as it presented a nice shiny target in hot countries and was generally only worn on parade. The helmets themselves were also 'dirtied up' and stained with tea, coffee, gravy, whatever came to hand really. Again, this was to make them less conspicuous. I don't know if this was an official direction or just sensible campaigning, but spit-and-polish was relaxed whilst on campaign - most of the veterans, for instance sported huge beards you could lose a wildebeest in! It conserved water (for shaving) and, some said, protected the face from sun glare.
Going back to the Glengarry, it seems to have been the equivalent of today's beret. It was worn instead of the helmet when not actually during action, marching or on parade and was sometimes referred to as 'undress' headgear.
4th January 2005Richard
I was actually 12 when I read that edition of Mayfair, 1973 how the years fly by!And Mayfair used to have some great articles on military history, honest! Anyway thanks for the answer Paul.