Trumpeter - Royal Horse Artillery 1860

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The Royal Horse Artillery,

" the Horse Gunners "
Formed in 1793 to provide a fast artillery support, using superior horses and riders, for the cavalry. Recruits to this newly formed branch of the service were required to be not only very highly skilled riders and artillerymen, but were also required to conduct themselves with the panache traditionally associated with the cavalry. The concept of fast moving guns had been used by other European powers, particularly France and Prussia, for some time, and the British were rather late to arrive on the scene and adopt the practice. During the early years of their existence the RHA were involved in many actions and acquitted themselves with distinction, but it was perhaps during the Peninsular war that they firmly established themselves and their future reputation. By the time of Waterloo the original two troops had been increased to fourteen, and eight of these were actually with Wellington's army on the field at Waterloo.

It is a well known fact that for almost forty years following the battle of Waterloo the British army stagnated and was usually engaged in the mundane routine of garrison duties, with little to break the monotony except parades. This aspect was reflected in the dress of the period which became ever more ornate and flamboyant and was consequently unsuitable for the rigours of warfare. Finally in 1854 the period of stagnation was brought to an end with the onset of the Crimea War. Britain and France became allies against the Russian forces of the Czar who was attempting to expand into the Mediterranean area. An expeditionary force was hastily formed and this included two troops of Royal Horse Artillery. Perhaps the most outstanding event of the whole Crimean war was that which took place at Balaclava on 25th October 1854, and in which the RHA was famously involved. I refer, of course, to the Charge of the Light Brigade.

C Troop RHA had been ordered to assist the Heavy Cavalry, and although they were about to breakfast and tend to their horses after all-night piquet duty, they immediately set off and eventually took position on the rear right of the British Cavalry. Following some fierce hand to hand fighting between the British and the Russian cavalry, the commander of C Troop brought his guns into play and discharged shot and case into the Russian cavalry from a range of about one half mile. This had a devastating effect on the Russians who broke formation and were routed forthwith Following this successful action C Troop RHA were ordered to assist the cavalry once more, but this time it was with the Light Cavalry who were about to undertake their famous charge on the Russian guns.

Perhaps fortunately for C Troop, because they were exhausted by their previous efforts, lack of sleep and food, and could not keep up with the cavalry, they were spared the fate of the Light Brigade, who were riding to their deaths.

At the beginning of the Crimea War the RHA uniform had developed into the style shown here, apart from the tunic at that time having five vertical rows of ball buttons. In 1855 this was reduced to the one central row as you see in our photo. This tunic, a blue cloth shell jacket with worsted yellow cord frogging, is almost identical to the one which is still worn today by the RHA In 1857 booted overalls, that is overalls with a leather re-enforcement to the insides the legs, were introduced, being eventually replaced in 1872 by breeches and high boots. In 1837 busbies were introduced for the RHA and have continued in use to this day. Originally made of bearskin, the O/R's busby was changed to sealskin in 1853. The busby varied in shape from time to time, as did the height of the plume. In 1855 the O/R's busby is described as "black sealskin 8 inches high; scarlet bag 8 inches long; white horsehair plume 7 1/2 inches high; yellow caplines and acorns" In 1860 it was "black sealskin 8 1/4 inches high in front, 91/4 inches at rear; 21 1/2 inches circumference at top; leather chinstrap and brass buckle; scarlet bag 6 1/4 inches wide and sufficiently long to hang one inch below right side of cap. Yellow worsted caplines 8 feet 6 inches long (double) with four runners and two acorns to pass round cap diagonally twice" A round, blue painted, wooden waterbottle was carried on a bridle leather strap over the right shoulder together with a canvas breadbag or havresack. Over the left shoulder was a whitened buff leather shoulder belt with a black leather pouch. A light cavalry pattern sword was suspended from a whitened buff leather waist belt with a brass snake clasp.

Each field officer had his own trumpeter to relay his orders to the troops - a forerunner of radio communications, and trumpeters carried both a bugle and cavalry trumpet . The former was for use over short distances and the latter correspondingly for over longer distances.


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