Monday, 16 April 2018

Enlistment advice in 1897

I'm not convinced that the following 'advice' from "one who has tried it" would have persuaded many a likely lad to join the army. The extracts below are from a larger article published in the Navy & Army Illustrated in 1897. Entitled "To those about to enlist", the anonymous author who, reading between the lines, was almost certainly a cavalryman, was certainly frank.

On pay...

"You will not be overpowered at the extent of your wealth as a private soldier. Month in, month out, you will be lucky to draw five shillings a week after deductions for mess allowances, barrack damages, renovation of kit, etc. How you will invest all this great sum is a matter on which I shall not presume to offer you any advice. You can easily get rid of it at the canteen, and will find a considerable number of jolly fellows to assist at that operation. You can expend it in improving your menu, or can put it in the regimental savings bank. You can gamble it away, or perchance increase it at cards - I do not recommend either— or send it home to your friends. Personally I found I required all my pay, and a little more, to keep me in grub. A beneficent nation allows you three-quarters of a pound of meat and one pound of bread per diem, and anything else you require you must pay for yourself. The meat varies as to quality— occasionally it is excellent, less often it is not fit for human consumption. As a rule the bread is fairly good. Groceries and vegetables come out of the mess fund, to which you pay a certain sum from your pay, whether you wish it or not."

On promotion...

"Don’t be in too big a hurry for promotion. If you merit it, you are bound to gain it in the Army, sooner, perhaps, than in any other walk of life; and remember that when it comes it will not be a bed of roses. Every step higher incurs certain responsibilities and the first step of all is the most important.

"A lance-corporal is the hardest worked, most abused, and unhappiest man alive. Remember when you get that stripe sewn on your sleeve that yesterday you were plain Private Tommy, and don’t fancy yourself Adjutant-General all in a moment. You will have a roughish time at first, especially with the men who were your equals yesterday, and now is the time to show what you are made of. You will require courage, tact, firmness - in a word, a strong heart - if you are to be a success as Lance Jack. The men watch you, and those above watch you, and you had better watch yourself closest of all." 

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Militia - enlistment, discharge and re-enlistment

The militia was regarded by many as a training ground for the regular army but without the full-time commitment demanded of a career soldier. As usual, the Army Book for The British Empire, published in 1893, contains some very useful information on enlistment into the militia, discharge from it, and re-enlistment.

Supply of men (a) Recruits
The recruit is enlisted for six years, and for the county in which he is raised. A militiaman, if under the age of 45, may engage for a further period of four years and may be re-enlisted for a period of four years up to the age of 45. He may not be transferred to the militia of another territorial regiment without his consent, but an infantry militiaman may be removed, if required, to any other battalion of the territorial regiment to which he belongs.
(b) Discharges
On termination of engagement by purchase, on conviction of felony, and as invalids, the discharge of militiamen may be carried out by officers commanding a militia unit without reference to higher authority. Discharges for misconduct (other than felony) must be referred to the general officer commanding the district.
(c) Enlistment into other Forces
If a militiaman wishes to enlist in the army or navy during the period of his training, he obtains from his commanding officer a "conditional discharge" pending his being released from his engagement. When not up for training or drill, a militiaman wishing to enlist into the army or navy can be attested at once.

A recruit enlisted for a militia unit receives no bounty on enlistment, but receives a bounty varying from £1 to £1 10 shillings on dismissal to his home from recruit drill, preliminary drill and training, under certain rules which are laid down. A militiaman receives an annual bounty of £1 on the expiration of his annual training, under certain restrictions. Every sergeant of militia who has joined on discharge from the army as a non-commissioned officer receives an annual bounty of £3 on the expiration of each training intended to stimulate non-commissioned officers of the regular forces to join the militia as sergeants.

Every militiaman on re-engagement receives a bounty of £1 10 shillings and an annual bounty of £1 10 shillings on expiration of training. Men who enlist for the militia after discharge from the regular army, army reserve, navy or marines receive a bounty of £1 10 shillings. A militiaman enlisted or re-enlisted for the militia reserve receives a bounty of £1 in advance for each year of service in the militia. A militiaman who, when up for drill on enlistment, preliminary drill or training, enlists into the regular army, receives a bounty of £1.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

National Library of Scotland - military resources

Have I mentioned lately what an extremely useful resource for military historians, the National Library of Scotland has become?

For a start, the material has been digitised to a high quality specification from original material held at the National Library. The image above is taken from Hart's Annual Army List for 1913 and there are many such volumes which can be easily accessed. Here' a list of Army Lists from 1839 to 1915, and clicking on any of the links on this page opens up further links. There are also separate sections for the Royal Navy 1913-1940 and the Royal Air Force 1919-1945.

The National Library of Scotland's War section can be accessed by clicking on the link. This then opens up a number of different categories of which the Army Lists (noted above), Rolls of Honour and military maps are arguably the most interesting.  The military maps include First World War trench maps 1915-1918 and maps of Belgium from the Second World War.

Best of all is that this is a free resource, digitised by the National Library of Scotland and made freely available to a worldwide audience.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Nafziger Orders of Battle collection

From the finding aid, updated in 2012:

"This collection was provided through the generous donation of George Nafziger to the Combined Arms Research Library. The Nafziger Orders Of Battle Collection contains a compilation of 7985 individual orders of battle from 1600 to 1945. It began with George Nafziger’s interest in Napoleonic Wars, and steadily grew to other areas because of the gaming public's interest in these highly detailed historical orders of battle. Sources range from published works to actual archival documents, which represent the largest single source. Nearly all orders of battle break down to the regimental level. The availability of strength figures and artillery equipment varies from period to period."

I've known about this collection for a while and was using it again this morning to look at British Army stations in the 1890s. Most of these transcripts are taken from lists published in The Army & Navy Gazette which itself can be accessed via the British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast.  The Nafziger list is useful though becuase the index and the individual PDFs are easily searchable and acan also be downloaded.

The Nafziger finding aid is here. Click on the individual links within this document to download the lists.

Sunday, 25 February 2018


Not army, but I couldn't resist re-publishing this piece on flogging in the Royal Navy in the 1860s. The original article was first published in The Navy & Army Gazette on the 6th July 1901:

Apropos of the paragraph on the sea term “Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter,” a correspondent, Mr Douglas White, writes: “Unfortunately I have witnessed a good many men flogged, and also boys, as I joined the Navy in 1862. All men were flogged across the back, and were tied up to a grating that was lashed to the main rigging and to ring bolts on the quarter-deck, and were naked to the waist. The chief boatswain's mate gave the first dozen and the other boatswain's mates according to seniority. It was called 'facing the Carpenter's looking-glass' as the carpenters rigged the gratings. Boys were the only ones that were flogged over the breech of a gun. The boys' cats had only five tails instead of nine. Before a man was made a boatswain's mate, or as soon as he was, he had to practise flogging in the boatswains' store-room over a hammock lashed up. I saw flogging on board the 'Fisguard,’ the ‘Wellesley,' and any amount of men and boys in the 'Conqueror' in the years 1862-63-64-65. The ‘Conqueror' was paid off at Sheerness at the end of February or the beginning of March, 1866, and I never saw any one flogged after that. I may also say that the term ‘Introduced Io the Blacksmith’s Daughter’ meant being put in irons. I left the Navy in 1887, and was a captain of the maintop and a seaman gunner."

Image re-appropriated by alamy who claim copyright.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Chelmsford School of Science & Art - Great War memorial

A nice discovery today at the Lord Ashcroft Building library, Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford. This memorial was originally unveiled in 1923 and located in the Frederick Chancellor building on Victoria Road South. The building still exists but has been re-purpsoed and will presumably be flats soon, or a gym,

This memorial plaque is really quite lovely and commemorates the following individuals:

2nd Lt Eric Bainbridge; Royal Flying Corps
2nd Lt Hugh Brown; 9th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Rifleman Robert Hodgson; Royal Fusiliers
2nd Lieutenant Alick Horsnell; 7th Suffolk Regiment
Lt Harry Mann; 178 Bde, Royal Field Artillery
Pte Frank Newell; 2/15th London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles)
L/Cpl Charles Taylor; 23rd Royal Fusiliers
Lt Cyril Thompson; 18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)
Spr Frederick G Thompson; 11th Signal Coy, Royal Engineers
Robert Turnell; 52md Sqdn, Royal Flying Corps

A panel next to the memorial gives more information:

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sufferin' suffragettes! There are FREE records on Findmypast

Findmypast has just published a collection of suffragette records and they're free of charge to registered users. To complement this important rlease, Findmypast is also making its census records and birth marriage and death records freely available as well. But you'll need to hurry!

The suffragette records are FREE until the 8th March but the census and BMD records are only free for a week, until the 8th February. So even if you don't have a suffragette in the family, you'll still be able to find your First World War ancestors in the civil and census records.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Training the soldier to ride

The article below was first published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 11th February 1899 under the heading, Military Equitation. To a non-rider like myself, it is quite technical in places, but it does give a good idea of what a recruit had to undergo. And remember too, that being able to ride a horse was not a prerequisite when it came to enlisting in mounted units other than the yeomanry. The photo above shows riders at the top of their game, from left to right: 5th Lancers, 10th Hussars and 12th Lancers.

"The following remarks on the education of mounted recruits are intended to supplement those recently made on the training of Army horses. People invariably applaud the collective good horsemanship of a smart cavalry regiment, as well as the skill and address of individual experts in the arena of a tournament; but there is in general no conception of the pains required to bring men and horses into perfect and harmonious working order. The patient and skilful training of the young horses would be entirely thrown away if the riders were not taught, with equal care, how best to perform their share of the work.

"In order to become an efficient soldier on horseback, the recruit must, first of all, be a soldier on foot. He must learn prompt obedience to the word of command. His body must be balanced, his shoulders thrown back, and his muscular powers developed; in short, he has to be “set up”. The proper poise of the rider gives the horse the best chance of escaping a sore back, broken knees, and undue fatigue; the correct position of the shoulders is essential to closeness of seat in the saddle, while the flexibility and muscular development, the foundation of which is acquired on foot, enable the man to accommodate himself to the horse’s movements, and to direct them in all circumstances.

When the recruit is placed on a horse, he should be exactly on the weight-carrying centre of the animal’s back. In that position there is at once a minimum of disturbing motion, and a maximum of facility in the application of the “aids” by means of which the rider compels the horse to move in any direction and at any pace. It is, therefore, of the greatest moment that the saddle should be so constructed as to keep the soldier’s weight on that part of the back, and likewise that the recruit should perfectly understand the use and proper fitting of his horse’s saddlery in all its parts.

"After he has gained some confidence at the walk, trot, and canter, with stirrups, he is taught to ride without stirrups. This is a very trying exercise, especially on a rough horse, but it is the surest road to a safe seat. It teaches the rider to adapt himself to all the paces of the horse, and makes balance a second nature. Balance is the true foundation of all good riding; the man who has it does not require the help of the bridle to keep him in his place, but is, on the contrary, erect and independent, master of himself and of the horse he bestrides. The muscular power of the rider comes, of course, to his assistance when pressure of the leg or a tight grip of the saddle is necessary; but even then it is on balance that he mainly depends for the due control of his horse and the effective employment of his weapon.

"The meaning of the “aids” is defined in the authorised manual to be “the motions and proper application of the bridle-hand and legs, to direct and determine the turnings and paces of the horse.” For instance, in answer to the question, “ What aids are required in turning right or left About?” the following is laid down, and must, like other instructions, be remembered and repeated by the recruit : “ A stronger feeling of the inward rein, and a stronger pressure of the inward leg, supported by the outward leg and rein, the horse turning on his centre, fore and hind feet describing a circle.” On cantering, the recruit is taught to have a stronger feeling of the inward rein and outward leg; that is to say, if ordered to canter round the school, or in a circle, to the right, he will apply the right rein and left leg more strongly, and vice versa. He is also shown that by this use of the aids he can prevent his horse from cantering “false” or “disunited,” the former of these terms meaning the leading with the left leg when cantering to the right, and vice versa, and the latter the leading with the off fore and near hind, and vice versa.

"In “ shoulder-in,” the recruit learns to lead with the outward rein, while the inward preserves the bend. His inward leg presses the horse to cross his legs, and his outward keeps him up to the hand. In the “passage,” on the other hand, the inward rein both bends and leads. These movements are essential to the quick and smart performance of mounted duty, and they ensure the obedience of the horse to the indications of the rider’s will, frequently enabling him to gain the advantage over an adversary who is not so well mounted and drilled. The skilful application of the rein and spur produces movements which would be impossible for untrained horses, and, what is more, the state of training into which cavalry horses are brought, fits them for moving in the ranks with flexibility and order. In military schools fancy exercises find no favour, and are not according to regulation; but our present exercises form the foundation of our cavalry efficiency. Only a small portion of the drill has been touched upon, the object being to convey to the uninitiated some slight idea of what is necessary to the production of an efficient military horseman."

Clothing the British Army in 1899

The following extracts, and illustration, were first published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 28th January 1899.

"Every material used in clothing our soldiers is of the very best quality. It has often been remarked that a deserter never has any difficulty in exchanging his boots, shirt, and other articles of clothing that are not actually distinctive parts of his uniform, the reason being that they are of so much better quality than those he gets in return. The greatest care is taken in the selection of material, and endless pains are bestowed upon the making of the garments. Vast quantities of foot and head gear are bought ready-made, £233,000 a year being paid for boots and leggings, £50,000 for head gear, and £27,000 for other articles bought ready-made. But by far the greater part of the “goodly garb” a British soldier wears “ starts into shape and being” from the shears in the Royal Army Clothing Department at Pimlico. From this unpretentious-looking block of buildings every yard of cloth used in the British Army is issued.

"The buildings cover more than seven acres of ground, and consist of four solid sections, three being given over to packing and storing materials and made-up garments, and the other being divided into the inspection department and the factory where the garments are made. Once a year tenders are issued for the supply of fresh materials, and contractors come to the Clothing Department to examine the patterns of stuffs required. The pattern-room is a large apartment, where a sample of every article of dress and toilet used by a British soldier is kept. All goods sent in by contractors are tested carefully, to see that they are in every detail according to the sample. For instance, the cloth sent in is stretched until it breaks, the breaking strain in pounds being registered on a dial. The dye is also subjected to a test, a sample of the cloth being boiled three or four times over, to see whether the colour is according to contract. After these ordeals the cloth is passed over two horizontal rollers, and examined by experts who look for holes and flaws. Having passed this test satisfactorily, the cloth is folded, and every quarter of a yard is stamped with the Government broad arrow, and with the number of the person through whose hands it passes, who is responsible for the bale.

"The quantity of cloth and serge issued in a year amounts to 3,600,000-yds. Think what this means. If the cloth were laid down in the roadway it would more than reach from London to Manchester. The quantity of cotton material used in a year comes to about 1,500,000-yds. Of silk and thread it is calculated that 40,000 miles are drawn through the cloth in a year, which is practically 130 miles a day. The material used in the Royal Army Clothing Department costs £485,000 a year, and the annual wages of the Department average about £64,000."

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The military moustache

The following article was published in the Navy & Army Illustrated on the 10th September 1898.

The moustache, which nowadays is almost as much an attribute of the military officer as the sword, was only begun to be worn in the Army at the beginning of the century. It first came into wear in the cavalry, on the introduction of Hussars as part of our military establishment. Foreign Hussars, from whom the dress and equipment of our Hussars were copied, wore moustaches, and the authorities directed by order that all ranks of our new Hussar regiments should follow their models. Ten years later, on Lancers being instituted in the British Army, similarly in imitation of the Lancer regiments of the Continent, particularly Napoleon’s Polish Lancers whom we met in the Peninsula, moustaches were ordered for our Lancers - the Continentals wearing moustaches - and after that our remaining Light Dragoon regiments, in due course, all adopted the moustache.

In the infantry the custom of wearing the moustache came in much later - not until the beginning of the Russian War. Our troops were at Varna, and after suffering considerably from cholera, were preparing for  the invasion of the Crimea, when on July 31, 1854, Lord Hardinge, the Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards, issued the following Army memorandum: “A large part of the Army being employed in Turkey, where it has been found beneficial to keep the upper lip unshaven and allow the moustache to grow, the general commanding-in-chief is pleased to authorise that practice in the Army generally.” The permission was, however, limited by a proviso which required “a clear space of two inches between the corner of the mouth and the whiskers (if any), the chin and under lip, and two inches of the throat to be kept shaven.” Whiskers went after 1870, and nowadays the moustache has come under the Queen’s Regulations for all branches of the Service. So much so indeed that only a year ago the authorities at the Horse Guards learned with indignation that young officers in certain regiments did not sufficiently cultivate the growth of moustaches by omitting to shave the upper lip, in consequence of which general officers commanding have now instructions to suppress such irregularities by any means that they  "may think necessary.”

The photograph on this post is taken from the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Annual for 1909 and shows Lt-Colonel Owen Cadogan Wolley Dod DSO (1863-1942) who, as well as commanding the 1st Battalion, also sported some terrific whiskers.