Royal Welsh Fusileer 1854
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This is an example of a typical infantryman during the Crimea war. You can see that he still carries the unpopular "Trotter" knapsack , first issued in 1805. This was made of waterproofed canvas with leather reinforced corners and had an internal and unyielding wooden frame which must have been less than comfortable when bouncing fully laden against the back! This piece of equipment, carried high on the shoulders,and despite modifications made in 1854, was almost identical to the knapsack carried by the Napoleonic soldier.
It was supported on two buff leather shoulder straps, which were sewn to, and having passed under the armpits, were buckled back to, the straps which went around the knapsack itself. These shoulder straps were brought together across the chest by another buff leather joining strap. The resulting effect was to restrict the soldier's breathing and to cause eventual swelling of the arms and numbness in the hands.
Not ideal when he was required to aim and fire!
Strapped to the top of the knapsack is a rolled greatcoat, and strapped to the back is the oilskin covered messtin. This pattern messtin served the British army virtually unchanged from Napoleonic times until after WWI ! On his left shoulder he wears a leather shoulder belt which carries a black leather 60 round ammo pouch which is also buckled to the waistbelt. The 2in buff leather waistbelt itself has a sewn on bayonet frog, (serjeants wore a separate sliding frog), and could be adjusted from either side. This was important as the positions of the bayonet frog and the shoulder belt attaching buckle were fixed on the belt, and by letting out, or taking in the belt on one side or another, an optimum positioning could be achieved.
The bayonet itself is a socket fitting type which fits on the 1853 Enfield rifle. On the front of the waistbelt is a small brown leather cap pouch which was usually lined with sheepskin. The waistbelt locket clasp is made of brass the outer ring containing the regimental title, and the inner part the regimental number, (in this case "23" surmounted by the Prince of Wales feathers). In addition to the shoulder belt, on his left shoulder he carries a round wooden blue-painted waterbottle, which is again very similar to Napoleonic models.
It was carried on a buff leather strap and had the regimental number painted on one side under the letters "B.O" (standing for Board of Ordinance, the forerunner of the War Department.) Over his right shoulder, the soldier carried his havresack or breadbag containing his three day ration of meat and dry biscuits. The overall effect of all this strapping across the chest, and the weight of the knapsack, coupled with poor diet cannot have produced a very efficient fighting man, and yet these were the men that formed the British army that carved the British empire. In 1854 the first pattern Albert shako, originally introduced in 1844, was worn. Made in black felt with leather top, front and back peaks and a leather chinstrap, it had a ball tuft in a colour to denote grenadier, battalion or light infantry company or in this case, a white tuft for a fusilier. On the front of the shako was the regimental plate (in this case the RWF flaming grenade and Prince of Wales feathers).
The red coatee was to be the last in a line of similar garments worn, with various modifications, since the previous century. O/R's wore a single breasted version, as shown, with ten pewter regimental buttons in pairs and white bastion ended lacing across the front of the coatee. Shoulder straps with wings were worn by flank, light infantry, fusilier or grenadier companies. Battalion companies wore a plain epaulette with a rounded end. The collar and cuffs on our model are blue for a "Royal" regiment. The trousers are dark blue, almost black, Oxford mixture with a 1/4in wide red welt and are of a pattern still recognisable in modern ceremonial wear. This then is our Crimea infantryman, expected to march and fight in what we would today consider to be "ceremonial full dress" and whilst carrying equipment not exactly designed with his
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