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Author Topic: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier  (Read 7321 times)

Offline Dewbakuk

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Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« on: February 15, 2014, 12:37:57 AM »
Evening all,

I was in North Star this afternoon talking to Nick and I had a look at the new NWF British figures (second Afghan War). I'll certainly be building a force. :)
I also saw the dollies for the Indian/Sikh troops and there was something that instantly leaped out at me as 'wrong'. This then lead to internet searches, looking through books and a phone call to Mike Owen and some emailed pics from books back and forth :D

End result of which was............ uncertainty on all sides! So I figured I'd ask you guys as I know we have a few knowledgeable types here.

It's down to tunics/coats and guns. What was the standard for Indian troops?



I thought it was the tunic worn by the Sikh soldier at the front, but Mike thought it was more like the standard jacket worn by the British troops. I can find evidence for both... Anyone suggest a good reference for them? Other than the Osprey.

So many projects..... so little time.......

Offline Furt

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2014, 01:05:28 AM »

I thought it was the tunic worn by the Sikh soldier at the front, but Mike thought it was more like the standard jacket worn by the British troops. I can find evidence for both... Anyone suggest a good reference for them? Other than the Osprey.


Plynkes.  :)

Without railroading the thread, could some light be shed on their turban and puttees colors as well please? I have seen red, black, blue and striped turbans from different sources.
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Offline Dewbakuk

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2014, 01:19:22 AM »
Plynkes.  :)



 lol
Yeah, I did consider just sending him a PM  :)

Colours etc is also important but let's make sure the figures are right first :)

Offline carlos marighela

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2014, 01:22:16 AM »
Can you be more specific about the precise period and/ or type? Are we to presume 2nd Afghan War? The reason I say so is that uniform type varied considerably from one part of India ro another and varied according to the time period.

Mollo has depictions and detailed descriptions across the whole timeframe of the Indian Army. If the sculptor isn't utilising Mollo, there's something awry.
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Offline Dewbakuk

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2014, 07:31:30 AM »
Can you be more specific about the precise period and/ or type? Are we to presume 2nd Afghan War?

If you read my post you wouldn't need to presume anything  ;)


Is this the Mollo book? The description seems to imply it only goes to the mid 19thC, is this not the case?
http://www.biblio.com/details.php?dcx=642354497&aid=frg&utm_source=google&utm_medium=product&utm_campaign=feed-details



Edit: Well I found that Mollo book for a good price and also the Barthorp 'Pictorial Review' for a reasonable one so I've ordered them. For my own interest if nothing else :)
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 07:52:25 AM by Dewbakuk »

Offline Atheling

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2014, 08:07:44 AM »
Just got time for a quickie.... Saturday morning and a lot to do and all that....

Michael Barthorpe, The Frontier Ablaze, W&G is great for 1897-98. don't know exactly how useful it would be for the earlier conflicts in Afghanistan(?)

It's usually available at most wargames shows from the many book sellers that attend.

Plynkes?

Darrell.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 08:09:33 AM by Atheling »

Offline carlos marighela

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2014, 08:08:38 AM »
Yes, that's the book, it actually covers the Indian Army from the 18th C to independence, so no it covers much more than the mid 19th C.

Now had you read my response, you might have taken the inference that it's a complex subject. Native troops were usually dressed in a fashon peculiar or particular to the old, abolished presidencies. So there were different styles for troops from Bengal, Bombay and Madras. Then you have regional variations, like Punjabi units, Baluchis or Ghurkas and then individual variations. You have to remember that the Indian Army arose from several armies, not one.

Taking the broadest brush to the topic, Bengali regiments for the period, nominally wore what was inaccurately described as a 'zouave jacket' in the period in question. It bore very little resemblance to the French or American version, it was more like a shortish red tunic with a central panel in the facing colour. This was the dress uniform. It was typically but not universally worn with a turban but some Bengali regiments retained the old kilmarnock cap until quite late in the century. For field service typically a plain red frock was worn.

Then you have the Punjabi regiments, who wore drab or khaki uniforms, throughout the period, usually with facing colours on collar, cuff and or shoulder straps.

As you seem to be interested, primarily in Sikh regiments, I'll confine my answer to the Bengali and PFF regiments. In short you are looking at serge frocks for most of the units involved.

To do the topic justice though your best bet is to locate a copy of Mollo.

Hope that helps.

Offline carlos marighela

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2014, 08:10:39 AM »
Barthorpe is excellent but the field uniforms had changed dramatically by the 1890s so not especially useful for the 2nd Afghan War.

Plynkes and Arthur are probably the best sources of info on this forum.

Offline Bindonblood

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2014, 08:33:14 AM »
I thought this would be an easy "smock" answer...

However, a quick look at the pictures in Barthorp's North West Frontier book, and most of the pictures actually show the frock coat.

The exception is 45th (Rattray's Sikhs). They appear to have a smock...

Offline Plynkes

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2014, 09:19:56 AM »
From what I can gather from Mollo, generally speaking once khaki was on the scene the short kurta or blouse was field service order, and the (fully buttoned) tunic was drab review order. That's why you'll see both on images from troops from the same time frame (the posed photos of "types' in Mollo often show two chaps side by side from the same regiment, one in each). The kurta would seem more common in photos, but this kind of thing could be down to the whim of the commanding officer, I guess.

The war straddles a period of transition, when the field service order officially moved from scarlet to khaki. Some images from this time show Indian troops still wearing dark blue trousers, but coupled with a khaki kurta. This mixing of old with new seems to have been evident among both British and Indian troops in the early stages of the war.

You probably have to account for variations across a large force with many diverse unit traditions and peoples spread across what until recently had been three separate armies. Regiments such as the Gurkhas for instance always seem to have done their own thing. Bombay Infantry seem to have worn a tunic, Mollo doesn't mention kurtas for them (yet I have seen a photo of a Baluchi infantryman of the Bombay army wearing a kurta, so who the fuck knows?).


You also mention guns, which for the 2nd Afghan war would be the Snider-Enfield. The Indian troops only got Martinis when the Brits gave them up, which as I recall began at the end of the 80s/begininng of the 90s.


And you chaps are all making a big mistake calling me out as some kind of expert. I know bugger-all about the Indian Army. I'm sure Carlos knows more than me about the topic.  :)
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Offline Hammers

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2014, 12:12:13 PM »
I am fairly well read up on the topic, even though I have had focus on 20th century, i.e. organization and uniform after the Kitchener reforms when battle dress became more uniform. I think the Osprey book is rather elliptic in its description of uniforms. Mollo's The Indian Army is good, some great contemporary colour plates. I also use Barthorp's The Nort-West Frontier for its many cool photos.

Anyhoo, my strong impression is that the kurta (sometimes buttoned to from neck to waist) was predominantly used by native Indian troops. Picture evidence  suggest that these were worn well into the 1930s beside the British army standard issue tropical shirt/blouse.

Offline moonshado

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2014, 01:04:47 PM »
it is a great pity that the Indian Army has been neglected, they were possibly some of the most varied,colourful and battle experienced regiments of the British Empire. The only other two reasonably accessible references that have not been mentioned is another title by Michael Barthorpe for Osprey - Indian Infantry Regiments 1860-1914 and W.Y.Carman's Indian Army Uniforms(not a lot of detail in this of campaign uniform). Military Modelling had an article in one of their "Christmas" annuals in the early 80's which had a nice colour plate(I think done by the Fostens) of both British  and Indian troops. I would not waste time tracking down either of the Osprey titles on the Gurkha has both of them are very very sparse on the 2nd Afghan War.

Offline Dewbakuk

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2014, 02:55:47 PM »
Carlos, I wasn't being flippant, I said it was for 2nd Afghan War in the first line  :)
I appreciate it's not an easy subject, hence why I'm here asking the questions. I'm sure everyone would prefer an accurate figure range and that's what Mike want's to deliver. In actuality I think Mike was intending to start with a Madras contingent. Although I'm currently sat in an airport departure lounge so I can't double check that.

The Sikh pic was just the easiest way to show the tunic, not mostly interested in the Sikh troops, fully interested in all of it. Personally I'd be interested in Bengal troops  :)

When I get chance I shall talk to Nick and check that Mike has the referenced books. If not he can borrow mine.

Cheers guys, this has been very helpful, and Plynkes, that was exactly what I wanted to know on the rifles.

Offline Plynkes

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2014, 03:04:16 PM »
The Sikh pic was just the easiest way to show the tunic, not mostly interested in the Sikh troops, fully interested in all of it. Personally I'd be interested in Bengal troops  :)

Plenty of Sikhs in the Bengal Infantry (including the chap in your picture - 30th Punjab Infantry was a Bengal Regiment), the two aren't mutually exclusive.  :)



Edit: Just to clarify "Bengal" means it is part of the army of the Bengal Presidency, it tells you nothing of the ethnic origin of the troops, who could and did come from all over the place.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 03:11:41 PM by Plynkes »

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Re: Indian uniforms for the North West Frontier
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2014, 03:15:24 PM »
Just to clarify "Bengal" means it is part of the army of the Bengal Presidency, it tells you nothing of the ethnic origin of the troops, who could and did come from all over the place.

I understand Sikh/Hindu/Muslim in the same regiment were differentiated by the uniform and in different sub-units?

 

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