Officer, Sergeant and Private c1891

In the reorganisation of the army in 1881 there were many amalgamations, and although the first 25 numbered regiments remained independent it was decided to standardise the facings colour for all of them to avoid arguments. Royal regiments were to have blue facings and non-royal English and Welsh regiments were to have white. This imposition greatly upset many regiments who were proud of their facings colour. Not only were the uniforms affected but the Colours carried by the ensigns had to conform. The Buffs, of course, were more upset than most because their very name was under threat. There was much lobbying to persuade the authorities to allow the regiment to return to their buff colour. In April 1887 they were given permission to colour their collars and cuffs with a pipeclay mixture to achieve the pinkish hue they so much wanted. It was not until 1890 that a change of material was approved, but it took another 4 years to actually appear. In 1894 the material was put into production but the regiment regarded it as being too dark so they had to lighten it with another mixture of pipeclay.

The illustration is a watercolour by Richard Simkin which was the basis of a print for the Army and Navy Gazette no.40 in a series. It was published on 4th April 1891. They are all three dressed for a field day and wearing undress frocks. Simkin has put the private, on the left, and the sergeant, on the right, in scarlet frocks with buff collars and cuffs. These frocks look similar to the dress tunic except for the lack of white piping down the front, but they do not agree with the types worn in Privates c1890 which have only buff shoulder straps. They may have replaced them or else the artist has got it wrong. The straps and pouches worn are carefully drawn and well observed. It is the Slade Wallace equipment introduced in 1888 which had the valise further up the back and the rolled greatcoat just below the waistbelt with the mess tins between. The Lee Metford rifle held by the private has a bayonet fixed which is the sword type, 12 inches long. The sergeant, identifiable by his crimson sash which partly obscures the haversack belt, has a small pouch over his left-hand pouch. All these men have the collar badge of the White horse of Kent.

The officer has the India pattern frock, permitted to be worn in the UK until it was worn out. The collar only is in buff while the cuffs are decorated with lieutenant's pattern Russia braid. The shoulder straps are edged in white and have a single star rank badge. Down the front is white piping which continues around the hem. There are no pockets visible. This garment differs from the one worn by officers of the 1st Battalion in the group photo in Malta. See Col John Blaksley. His sword, which is now in a steel scabbard for all ranks, is slung from a waist-belt concealed under the frock.

Uniforms | Regimental Details


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by Stephen Luscombe