Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Selected Uniforms of the Gordon Highlanders from Inception to Disbandment – 1794 to 1994

This article is being written for those readers who may be “toy soldier” enthusiasts, collectors and/or painters, military history buffs, of Scottish ancestry, or otherwise just interested. It is not intended to be a comprehensive compilation, but rather selective coverage of somewhat obscure sources developed during the span of the regiment's life. 

Due to the antique and esoteric nature of the source documentation, the accuracy and authenticity of these older plates should consistently exceed that found in more modern publications (particularly series publications), with the exception being actual photographs.

At the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century, published among a significant list of other regimental histories of the British Army, there was a set of volumes recording the actions of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders entitled “The Life of a Regiment - The History of the Gordon Highlanders”. The initial effort published in two volumes were authored by LtCol G. Greenhill Gardyne in 1901, then an active serving officer of the regiment at the time of Boer War. These books covered the period from the inception of the regiment in 1794 to 1898, just prior to the Boer War (1899-1902). The third volume of the regimental history was authored by his son, LtCol A.D. Greenhill Gardyne, also a serving officer of the regiment, and covered the years from 1898 to 1914, and was first published in 1939. Subsequent volumes by other authors exist covering the remaining years of the regiment’s existence.

Amongst the many interesting features of the two volumes are a series of colored plates depicting the evolution of the regiment’s uniforms from the raising of the regiment through the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, a black and white drawing showing the uniforms in 1855 and 1890, and a photograph of a group of officers, in every official order of dress prescribed by British Army Uniform Dress Regulations in 1897. It may be of interest that the commanding officer of the regiment at that point in history, who is standing in front of the brick column covered in rock ivy (part of the regimental cap badge) is LieutCol. W.H. Dick-Cunyngham, VC, in Review order. And I thought the expense incurred by a young ensign (subaltern) for full (review order), mess dress, plus basic kit was overwhelming, little did I know. I am not certain how many orders of dress a young officer was required to have.

Key to the above plate:
            1. Dining-out dress, silk plaid and trousers, diced stockings.
            2. Mess dress abroad; in 1855 it replaced the coatee and epaulettes, hitherto used at home - a dirk was worn with both.
            3. Frock coat, known as “General Brown’s coat.”
            4. Field officer, drill order.
            5. Officer, field drill and musketry.
            6. Officer, undress uniform.
            7. Review order.
            8. Drill order. A silver brooch to fasten the plaid has been adopted for officers and pipers about 1872, and for sergeants about 1882.

In order that the I might provide a limited transition into more recent history, I’m incorporating a few photographs of the Gordon Highlanders in their twilight years. For those who’s interest, timing, and resources have afforded the acquisition of a magazine series REGIMENT, The Military Heritage Collection, published in the mid to late 90’s, may already have issues 39 and 40, THE HIGHLANDERS (SEAFORTH,GORDONS AND CAMERONS 1778-1999), which are an excellent pair of references.

I had the extreme good fortune to personally meet Pipe-Major Stewart Samson MBE, subsequent to the disbandment of the regiment in 1994, when he had been promoted to Captain with his appointment to the command of the Army’s School of Pipe Music at Edinburgh Castle. The first of the following two photographs are Pipe-major Samson MBE and Drum-Major Jeff Harper, the last serving in those positions with the Drums and Pipes of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders.

A photograph of the last Regimental Colonel of the Gordon Highlanders (1986-1994): LtGen Sir Peter Walter Graham KCB, CBE, with his immediate staff, officers and NCOs of the regiment, and commanding officers of affiliated regiments from former nations of the Commonwealth.

A set of plates depicting the uniforms of the Volunteer Battalions of the Gordon Highlanders can be found in another page of this blog; .