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 Who had a rifle?

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John Young
Frank Allewell
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Bill8183




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PostSubject: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyThu Aug 12, 2021 9:16 pm

Whilst musing through some of the photos I have taken in my research at TNA I looked over the photo of the Establishment of a British Infantry Battalion from the Army Circular 1877. (WO 123/13). Many books have commented on the chaos in the British camp when the Zulu's broke through and Mike Snook has written of his belief that the Pioneer section went to help stem the assault of the left horn.
Looking at the detail in the table it would seem not many of of the echelon actually had a firearm of any kind. Would the Battalions carry spare rifles or adhere strictly to TOE? Therefore would HCMDB be mistaken that the Pioneers could do much in the fight?
Admittedly it is a full War Establishment for a European [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
war and South Africa had a smaller establishment but the ratios would be the same.
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90th

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PostSubject: Who had a rifle    Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 4:30 am

Hi Bill8183
I'm not to sure if the Pioneer Battalion were armed or not , but there may well have been some amount of firearms present in their wagons or similar ? . In HCMDB there's clearly a lack of footnotes in my opinion which validate many of Mike's ideas , let's not forget he's using his own ideas as to what he personally believed may have happened , after all he was a Military man ..Colonel if I'm not mistaken ? . I'm sure there were spare firearms of some amount in the camp , after all you'd expect that spares would need to be carried on a campaign ? , if they were readily accessible and it was known where they were in among all the wagons , it's probably fair to assume that they were accessed at some point .
Cheers 90th Salute
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 7:19 am

All the odds and sods were called to the front so I have no doubt that the pioneers would have joined in. There are I think 2 statements that mentioned looking for spare guns and one that a gun was being shared. So any spare guns would seem to have been used up quite possibly by the pioneers.
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90th

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PostSubject: who had a rifle    Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 2:31 pm

Hi Frank
Yes you'd expect if the Odds and Sods were pressed into service they must've been armed , and I don't mean with picks and shovels etc etc ! Very Happy Very Happy
90th Salute
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 6:57 pm

I appreciate this photograph dates from September 1879, but not a pick or shovel in sight here, although they listed among the Pioneers’ Tools & Appointments.

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Pioneers of the 2nd/24th, Pinetown, Natal, a detail from a larger photograph.
(John Young Collection.)

The Pioneers are equipped with their Felling Axes.

JY
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WeekendWarrior

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 7:10 pm

Well, if a Groom had a Martini, why wouldn't a Pioneer? Seems a Tim Rose question. I'm quite curious now.
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 8:16 pm

Michael,

As far as I recall all photographs I have of Pioneers circa 1879, not one of shows a Pioneer wearing an ammunition pouch. Whereas most of the Other-Ranks are in Musketry Order and wearing a single ammunition pouch. Part of a Pioneer’s belt equipment appears to have been a Billhook, if that were the case in the field, that would be worn in the same position as bayonet frog. I have seen an example of Pioneer of one the Highland Regiments wearing the Billhook in its scabbard, he is wearing a very small pouch of his right side, but it far too small to carry even one packet of ammunition.

I don’t know if Tim can expand on this.

JY
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Bill8183




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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyFri Aug 13, 2021 11:03 pm

Thanks for the reply's gents, whilst it's true that those in camp were brought to the front, I'm sure the quote went "all those who can bear arms" or similar. I wonder how many had an arm to bear. Spare weapons would I'm sure be with the QMaster but would it have been enough to equip all those left in camp?

Mike Snook did right a good book but despite what he says there was a noticeable bias towards his former Regiment of which he was C.O. Having the pioneers defend against the left horn was a little bit of that.

Grooms, cooks, servants were all part of the 16 soldiers assigned to Headquarters as Batmen, as the footnotes state they were fully trained "and armed" soldiers, so no surprise he had a rifle. Williams even stated he and Glyn's cook Pte Hough, with 3 soldier servants of Chelmsford fired away at the Zulus.
Bandsman Wilson mentions nothing in his statement about participating in any fighting, Pte Bickley also gives no indication he was armed, also stating ammo was carried to the front by "Bandsmen, wagon drivers and "other unarmed people".

From the totals in the table it does indicate only C/Sgts, Sgts, Cpls, and Ptes (all in the field companies) were ordinarily armed with rifles. With one extra for the Sergeants, who would that be, the Sgt Major?
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timothylrose




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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptySat Aug 14, 2021 2:54 pm

I think on home service the Pioneers section would be expected to carry out musketry training and would be issued with a rifle - the same as members of the RE etc who also carried a rifle on active service - I think a regular battalion had gone past the Napoleonic period of the pioneers fighting with axes - I need to see if we can find a definitive answer as all their other kit axes, picks, shovels etc were pool issue as far I can make out from the Pioneer cart - double shifted at the min so ill see what (if anything) I can dig out over the next few days
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyTue Aug 31, 2021 10:51 am

Maybe this will help in keeping the waters murky.

Chards report of the 6th February 1879. he reports that his men were sent to iSandlwana ..."with arms and field kit complete."
So Engineers had weapons why not the pioneers?
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyTue Aug 31, 2021 11:16 am

Frank,

What is interesting if you look at The War Establishment of a Field Company, 1877.  There were 165 dismounted N.C.O.’s and other-ranks in a full strength R.E. Field Company.  However, the number of Martini-Henry rifles for that number was only 152, which might account for Chard make that statement.

There is an interesting photograph of ‘D’ Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Light Infantry in the field and under arms.  The photograph appears in various books, notably in Barthorp’s The Zulu War - A Pictorial History on page 150.  Look carefully at the Pioneer Sergeant standing on the left of the photograph.  He wears no ammunition pouches on his waist belt and he is armed with an axe.

JY


Last edited by John Young on Tue Aug 31, 2021 12:14 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : 130 amended to 150 JY)
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyTue Aug 31, 2021 11:38 am

John is that 'C' Company?
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John Young

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyTue Aug 31, 2021 12:18 pm

Frank,

The problem with typing without my specs on it should read Page 150, rather than 130 and definitely ‘D’ Company in my first edition. Source of the photograph listed as the Africana Museum, Johannesburg.

JY
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyTue Aug 31, 2021 1:11 pm


Interesting, in my copy page 130 is C Company with as you say a Pioneer Sgnt standing with an axe and no belt or pouches.
Page 150 shows D Company with Pioneer Sgnt standing with some form of handle (axe?) in his right hand and under the miscroscope what appears to be a belt with pouches. Mine is a reprint by the way, 1991.
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Herbie




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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptyThu Sep 02, 2021 11:20 pm

There’s a well known photo of the 91st Highlanders in column of companies (on the March?) with several pioneers to the fore, all armed with rifles. I wonder if in some of the more posed static battalion photos the pioneers just have their axes only and have left their rifles elsewhere? Of course it’s possible if they weren’t officially scaled for rifles that carrying them (or not) might vary from regiment to regiment and also on availability due to under strength rifle companies etc.
Phil
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PostSubject: Re: Who had a rifle?   Who had a rifle? EmptySun Sep 05, 2021 3:49 pm

Interesting how the format is different Frank.
My 1980 H/B first edition has C company on page 117 and the famous Alphonse de Neuville, Melvill and Coghill paintiing on page 130. D compay is still on page 150.
Kate Very Happy
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