Sunday, November 9, 2014

Acquisition of a Scottish Officer’s Full Dress Uniform – 92nd Gordon Highlanders Circa 1936

Both the zenith and twilight of the full dress uniforms of the regiments of the British Army occurred at the turn of the twentieth century, shortly before the First World War. There may be differences of opinion as to which regiment/regiments had the most resplendent uniform, but few will disagree that those of the Lancer regiments, particularly including those of the British Army in India, and the Highland Regiments of the British Army, were certainly ranked in contention.

With the general mobilization for war occurring in August of 1914, the full dress uniforms for the majority of the regiments of the British Army were turned into depots and stores. These uniforms were never to be generally issued again. Full dress for officers was never officially abolished, with new Dress Regulations actually issued in 1934, full dress was never again taken up for general use. One of the finest, and most comprehensive references of the final full dress uniforms is "THEIR GLORY SHALL NOT BE BLOTTED OUT" The Last Full Dress Uniform of the British Army, LtCol Olaf MacLeod, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1986, ISBN 0-7188-2673-6.

Being of Scottish ancestry, one of the near lifelong projects of my continuing interest in the history of the British Army has been the acquisition of the complete full dress uniform of an officer of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders of that era. It was a challenge started as a college student/NROTC Midshipman around 1954, and only culminated after my retirement in 2002, a span of almost fifty years. It’s interesting how in your life it seems like some things are meant to be, and that was to be the case in this quest. During the period I had the good fortune to find various significant elements and accouterments, some major, others less so. I had acquired a reasonable reference library over time, but one research “tool” surpassed all others, and that was the Internet.

The Gordon Highlanders, a painting by
Archibald Elliot Haswell Miller 1887-1979

I’m certainly not going to bore the reader with the details of the effort, but gained a whole new respect for the young newly commissioned ensign/2nd Lieutenant of the Gordons in purchasing his full dress uniform, let alone the balance of required kit. Even if they came from nobility or landed gentry, it was still a real “ouch” to the sporran, and probably took years to pay off. At least at that time there were well established “crown appointed” regimental tailors/outfitters which provided “one stop shopping” for the entire kit.

One exercise I undertook during the course of my efforts was to develop an analysis of Then and Now, delineating all the items required per British Army Dress Regulations 1900.

GORDON HIGHLANDER LIEUT COLONEL'S FULL DRESS UNIFORM, CIRCA 1936-37
(Per British Army Uniform Dress Regulations 1900 and 1912; HIGHLAND AND SCOTTISH REGIMENTS. HIGHLAND REGIMENTS, EXCEPT HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY. Full Dress)

604. Head Dress - BONNET, FEATHERED, HIGHLAND, FULL DRESS, FIVE TAILS, GORDON HIGHLANDERS, LAST ISSUE,1994, W/OFFICER'S CAP BADGE (STERLING SILVER, HALMARKED, EDINBURGH, CIRCA 1916

605. Doublet - DOUBLET, OFFICER'S, FULL/LEVEE DRESS, GORDON HIGHLANDERS, SCARLET W/YELLOW FACINGS, GOLD BULLION LACE AND GILT REGIMENTAL BUTTONS, GOLD BULLION COLLAR DOGS (TIGER) LT COL INSIGNIA ON GOLD CORDED EPAULETTES, CIRCA 1935 (MUSEUM QUALITY REPRODUCTION)

606. Facings - Yellow cloth per sealed regimental pattern

607. Lace - Gold, thistle pattern, 5/8 inch wide, black line introduced at top and bottom

608. Special Badges - See Appendix I

609. Buttons - Regimental pattern in gilt

610. Pantaloons - Gordon tartan of authorized pattern

611. Boots and Spurs - As described in paragraphs 4 and 25

612. Sash - SASH, OFFICER'S, SCOTTISH REGIMENTS, NO.1 DRESS, CRIMSON, SILK, CURRENT ISSUE

613. Belted Plaid, Shoulder (Fly) Plaid,
       Kilt, Trews, Hose, Garters,
       Skean Dhu, Gaiters, Shoes,
       and Buckles
       KILT, NO.3 GORDONS, OFFICER'S, TARTAN, WOOL, CIRCA 1955
       KILT, NO.3 GORDONS, OFFICER'S, TARTAN, WOOL, CIRCA 2004
       KILT, NO.3, GORDONS, O.R., TARTAN, WOOL, CURRENT ISSUE 1990
       TREWS, NO.3, GORDONS, OFFICERS, TARTAN, WOOL, CURRENT ISSUE 1994
       SHOULDER (FLY) PLAID, GORDON, OFFICER'S, TARTAN, WOOL, CURRENT ISSUE
       SKEAN DHUB, STERLING SILVER, CELTIC PATTERN, GENUINE CAIRNGORM
       STONE, CIRCA 1955
       HOSE TOPS, HIGHLAND, NO.1 DRESS, RED & BLACK, DICED, WOOL, KNIT, PAIR, CIRCA 1955
       HOSE TOPS, HIGHLAND, NO.1 DRESS, RED & WHITE, DICED, WOOL, KNIT, CURRENT ISSUE 1998,
       PAIR
       GARTER FLASHES, HIGHLAND, RED, WOOL RIBBON & ELASTIC, CIRCA 1955, PAIR
       GAITERS, HIGHLAND, NO.1 DRESS, WHITE, DRILL, BLACK BUTTONS & STRAPS (GORDON
       HIGHLANDERS), CIRCA 1955, PAIR
       GHILLIE BROGUES, MILITARY PATTERN (WING TIPS), BLACK, CURRENT ISSUE

614. Brooch -  PLAID BROOCH, GORDON HIGHLANDERS, FULL RELIEF, NO.1 DRESS, LAST ISSUE 1994

615. Sporrans - SPORRAN, FULL DRESS (REVIEW AND LEVEE ORDER), GORDON HIGHLANDERS, OFFICERS, WHITE HORSE HAIR & 5 GOLD BULLION WIRE KNOTS, W/CANTLE IN GILT & STERLING SILVER, CIRCA 1914 (MUSEUM QUALITY REPRODUCTION); W/CURRENT ISSUE WHITE BUFF LEATHER SPORRAN BELT
SPORRAN, SERVICE DRESS, BROWN LEATHER, W/BELT AND GORDON HIGHLANDERS SPORRAN BADGE, W.M., Q.C. CIRCA 1951/1955

616. Claymore - SWORD, HIGHLAND OFFICER'S, PATTERN 1831, WILIKINSON, W/METAL SCABBARD

617. Scabbard - SEE ABOVE

618. Waist Belt - BELT, DRESS, (SCOTTISH REGIMENTS), WHITE, BUFF LEATHER, W/LEATHER KEEPERS, BRASS HARDWARE AND GORDON HIGHLANDER BELT BUCKLE, NO.1 DRESS, LAST ISSUE 1994.

619. Shoulder Belt - SWORD BELT, OFFICERS, SCOTTISH, WHITE, BUFF LEATHER, COMPLETE W/ALL STRAPS, FITTINGS AND GORDON HIGHLANDER OFFICER'S BELT PLATE, NO.1 DRESS, LAST ISSUE 1994 (REFERVISHED)

620. Waist Plate,
Breast Plate,
Dirk,
Dirk Belt and Plate
SCOTTISH DIRK, EPNS MOUNTS, CAMERON HIGHLANDERS ST. ANDREW PATTERN, KNIFE & FORK, IMITATION STONES, W/SCABBARD, CIRCA 1955
BELT, OFFICER'S, FULL/LEVEE DRESS, LEATHER, GOLD LACE, W/SILVER AND GILT BUCKLE, GORDON HIGHLANDERS; W/HIGHLAND DIRK FROG, CIRCA 1935 (MUSEUM QUALITY REPRODUCTION)

621. Sabertache - See paragraph 21

Decorations and Campaign Medals:
MILITARY CROSS GEORGE V (REPRODUCTION)
INDIA GENERAL SEVICE MEDAL, W/BAR AFGHANISTAN N.W.F. 1919 (The Gordon Highlanders were there)
CORONATION MEDAL 1937

COST OF SELECTED OFFICER’S UNIFORM ITEMS, 1906
Meyer & Mortimer, Conduit Street, London
                                                                                    £.                     s.                      d.
                       
            Doublet                                                          6                      14                     0
            Gold Cord Shoulder Straps                         0                      16                    0
            Silver Embroidered Stars                             0                        8                    0
            Silver Embroidered Crowns                        0                        8                    0
            Gold Embroidered Collar Badges              0                      16                    0
            Parade Trews                                                  2                      10                    0
            Kilt                                                                   4                      18                    6
            Belted Plaid                                                    2                      18                    6
            Sash                                                                  4                        4                    0
            Sporran Strap                                                  0                        5                    0
            Cross Belt and Sling (without breastplate)1                     14                    0
            Gold Dirk Belt (without buckle)                 3                        0                    0
            Half Hose                                                         0                        5                    6
            White Buckskin Gloves                                0                        9                    0
            Total                                                               22                    145                 18

40 shillings (2 Pounds) in 1906 was worth approximately 143 pounds in 2005. At today's exchange rate, the 143 pounds is worth about $201.56.
                                                                                                            (7/10)
                                                                                    22                     113                   18
                                                                                                            (5/13)
                                                                                    27                     14
COST IN CURRENT POUNDS STERLING AND US DOLLARS (2009) - £.1980.55 ~ $2787.92



ACQUISITION COST OF SAME ITEMS (OR EQUIVALENT) FOR THE COLLECTION
                                                                                    $ USD
            Doublet                                                             450.00                                                              
            Gold Cord Shoulder Straps                             (Incl.)
            Silver Embroidered Stars                                 (Incl.)
            Silver Embroidered Crowns                            (Incl.)
            Gold Embroidered Collar Badges                  (Incl.)
            Parade Trews                                                      70.00                                                  
            Kilt                                                                    396.00                                                              
            Belted Plaid                                                       75.00                                                  
            Sash                                                                     60.00
            Sporran Strap                                                     15.00              
            Cross Belt and Sling (with breastplate)      661.00              
            Gold Dirk Belt (with buckle)                        225.00                          
            Half Hose                                                              5.00                                                  
            White Cotton Uniform Gloves                          8.00
                                               
            $1965.00

ADDITIONAL REQUIRED DRESS UNIFORM ITEMS  NOT INCLUDED ABOVE:

            Sword, Highland Officers, Pattern 1831                   2,500.00
            W/Metal Scabbard
            Skean Dhub w/scabbard (Sterling)                               627.00
            Scottish Dirk, Regimental Pattern, w/scabbard          375.00
            Sporran, Full Dress, Officers, Regimental                    475.00
            Pattern
            Bonnet, Feathered,  Highland, Full Dress,                   425.00
            Regimental Pattern, W/Regimental Cap Badge         275.00
            Brooch, Plait, Regimental Pattern                                 194.00 
            Ghillie Brougues, Military Pattern                                  80.00
            Gaiters, Highland, No.1 Dress, White Drill                     75.00
            Gaiter Flashes, Highland, Red Wool                               25.00
            Kilt Pin
           
            $5051.00
            GRAND TOTAL $7016.00

Occasionally am certain that those who might be seriously interested in pursuing a similar quest have seen a reasonably complete highland officer’s uniform at auction at Bosley’s, Christie’s, or the other specialized auction houses. For the vast majority the single time outlay/investment of even bidding, let alone winning, is prohibitive. The following is a series of photographs of one such rare example that came up at an estate auction, at of all unlikely places Jacksons, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in 2010. The estimated bid range was $800-1200 USD. At that price the uniform would have been an absolute steal!

A BRITISH (SCOTTISH) UNIFORM OF A LIEUTENANT OF THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS, first quarter of the 20th century. This very complete group include an black feather bonnet with diced band, silvered badge and white feather plume. Doublet of red wool with buff collar and cuffs, piped white, with gold bullion braid and regimental collar insignia, and with gold cord shoulder boards with rank insignia. Wool kilt is in regimental tartan, Also includes wool plaid of slightly different tartan than the kilt, with a silver regimental badge. Accoutrements consist of a white horsehair sporran with brass clasp and silver badge, and gold tassels. Gold brocade sword belt with regimental plate and a white buff leather baldric also with regimental plate.










Although the final complete uniform is comprised as a composite "mix and match", or as the Scots call it a "Gallimaufry"(a hash of odds and ends) from over the decades, and of necessity some museum quality reproductions, the overall effect is reasonably impressive. A note to eagle-eyed experts, the photograph was taken prior to the upgrade to the correct officer's bonnet hackle. Some may have even seen images of "Lieutenant-Colonel Angus Smyth-Gordon MC" on the Internet.