Corp of Drums, Marching c1890

The date of this watercolour by Simkin is not known but the mounted officers are wearing sabretaches which look as if they have the earlier badge of a flaming grenade. And the general style of the painting is more in line with his early work. These men and boys belong to the Corps of Drums; there is no sign of the band. Their uniform is different from the musicians of the band, being decorated with white lace that has the repeating pattern of a blue fleur-de-lis. The drum-major's tunic is more in line with band uniform, having gold lace. None of them carry equipment on their back as would be expected if they were in marching order or guard order but they have gaiters round their ankles for field day. However, on a field day they would have water-bottles and haversacks, so the reason for their marching in open country is not explained except that Simkin usually painted his subjects in this kind of Surrey countryside to save himself the bother of depicting specific buildings.

The side-drummers are using their best drums, with painted devices on the shell instead of the plain brass type used on campaign. The drumsticks seem to have large heads compared with the small-headed type used in more recent times. They do not have the white leather leg-protector seen in turn-of-the-century photos. The drummers at the back do not carry drums but play the fife, and have bugles on green cords. The drum-major was at this time called sergeant-drummer, having been down-graded in 1881 from staff sergeant to sergeant. He does not wear his heavily embroidered sash on his left shoulder as would be usual for such a parade.

Regimental details | Band


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by Stephen Luscombe