Recent acquisition – a Lovell pattern 1839 musket

The Mercian Regiment Museum Trust has recently acquired a fine 1839 musket recently acquired for the Worcestershire Soldier Gallery

A fine 1839 musket recently acquired for the Worcestershire Soldier Gallery

The Trustees of the Mercian Regiment Museum have recently acquired an British Pattern 1839, percussion smooth bore musket. It is 55 ½” long with a 39″ barrel marked with ordnance proof marks. The barrel is equipped with a standing foresight and a plain rear sight. It is equipped with a side action lock which is engraved with a Crown over VR (Victoria Regina) set over an Enfield stamp. The lock bears a crowned broad arrow Ordnance mark and is dated 1841. The lock is retained by 2 side nails with Lovell cups. The musket has a New Land pattern style full stock, with brass furniture including a plain brass fore-end cap for socket bayonet, three ramrod pipes retaining the original ramrod. The musket has two sling swivels, one mounted from trigger guard, the other above front ramrod tube.

percussion musket p.39

The percussion lock of an 1839 pattern musket

It was with this pattern of musket that the 29th Regiment obtained its victories in the Sikh Wars. Although it is equipped with the most up to date percussion ignition system the musket’s smooth bore limited its accuracy and its effective range was between 50 to a hundred yards. The musket fired a lead ball of .75″ calibre (approximately 18mm).

The Black Drummers

1770's Drummer

One of the Black drummers c.1770.

In 1759 ten slaves captured from the French were presented to the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot for use as drummers, and started a tradition which would last nearly a century.
Over the next 84 years nearly 50 black men were actively recruited to serve as drummers in the 29th. Each man was a volunteer, and many served for 20 or more years, receiving equal pay, pensions, medals and status as any other soldier. Some sons followed fathers, and fresh recruits joined from Canada, Ireland, the West Indies and India.
The black drummers remained an important and proud part of the Regiment until the last drummer died in 1843.

Yeoman, 1916

Mounted Worcestershire Yeomanry Trooper at Huj

This Yeoman is stopping to check his compass while on patrol in the Sinai Desert.

During the First World War the Worcestershire Yeomanry fought in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. Roving across wide open desert in the blistering heat for days on end, the Yeomanry led the British Army all the way from the Suez Canal to Damascus in one of the most successful British campaigns of the war. It was a tough life in a very harsh environment. Water was always short and disease common.

The Yeomen also carried out raids on enemy positions, and could act as storm troops in battle. At Huj, in November 1917, less than 200 Yeomen charged eleven Austrian field guns and over 2000 Turkish infantry with swords drawn – and won. It was the last great charge of the British cavalry .

First World War Body Armour

WWI body armour

WWI body armour worn in Flanders

 This is a set of First World War body armour, used by the British Army. It has curved metal plates for the chest and the back, and was supposed to protect snipers and other vulnerable soldiers by stopping or deflecting bullets. Unfortunately, the metal is very thin, and probably would not have stopped a direct hit. Also, the metal curves in to the middle, so any bullet hitting in the centre of the armour would have been deflected inwards!

This set belonged to Private A. W. Tunkiss of the 1/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. He used it in France in 1916. He was wounded in action on the 5th November 1916, and discharged from the Army the following March .

The Sikh Wars, 1845-49

Sikh War Case

The Sikh War Case

In the 1840’s the 29th Regiment of Foot were on garrison duty in India, and took part in both Sikh Wars. Despite being outnumbered and against some of the best troops in the world, the British fought two bloody and successful campaigns against the Sikhs, with the 29th in the thick of the action. The 29th fought in the centre at the battle at Ferozeshah, and repeatedly stormed the Sikh fortifications at Sobraon, despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered.

During the Second War they fought at Goojerat (alias Gujerat) and Chillianwallah, where the 29th took heavy casualties taking a line of Sikh guns. A few years later, detachments from the 29th also served in the Indian Mutiny.

Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

This jacket, or tunic, is traditionally referred to as the ‘Sikh Chieftain’s tunic’, although its small size means that it probably belonged to a young prince or a son of a chief. It was picked up on field at Sobraon by an officer in the 29th Regiment.

Between 1845 and 1849 the 29th fought in two wars against the Sikhs in north western India. The Sikhs were a very martial nation, and their Army was very well trained and equipped in modern warfare. The battles in the two Sikh Wars were very hard and bloody, and this jacket has always been a proud trophy and a popular attraction in the museum.

 The jacket and other material from the Sikh Wars currently forms part of the exhibition ‘Anglo-Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics’ being held at Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester from 11th March to 4th June 2017. The exhibition is being developed by the Sikh Museum Initiative and hosted by Leicester City Council.  Please follow the links for more information.Anglo-Sikh Museum Initiative

Hitler's Clock

Hilter's clock

Adolf Hitler’s Clock

Hitler’s Clock – This electric clock was removed from the wall behind Hitler’s desk in his Conference Room, above the door into his ante-room, by Major H. F. Boddington on 26th July 1945. He was an officer of the Worcestershire Regiment, but had worked in  the British Intelligence Service for most of the war. That day he was escorting Winston Churchill and other important people in a tour of the Chancellery, Berlin, which had been captured by the Red Army.

After deciding to ‘liberate’ the clock, Major Boddington gave it to the museum for safe keeping, where it has remained as a popular exhibit.

The Glorious First of June 1794

In June 1794 Britain had been at War with Revolutionary France for 14 months.  France was on the verge of starvation due to a bad harvest and political upheaval. As a result, the French had assembled a convoy of some 117 merchant ships, filled with grain and other stores, in Chesapeake Bay, in America.

The French strategy to ensure the safety of these ships was, an immediate escort of 4 ships of the line, commanded by Admiral Vanstabel, to accompany the convoy – a second squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Neilly, to sail to meet the convoy and escort it back to France while the main French Fleet, commanded by Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, was to sail from Brest to provide any necessary cover should the convoy be threatened by the Royal Navy.

In April 1794, Admiral Richard Howe had assembled the British Fleet, consisting of 32 ships of the line with attendant frigates, off the Isle of Wight. Owing to a shortage of Marines the 29th Regiment of Foot, along with a number of other line regiments, had to provide drafts for sea-service.  Over four hundred officers and men of the regiment were distributed among five ships; “Brunswick”, “Ramillies”, “Glory”, “Thunderer” and “Alfred”.

The French convoy sailed from America on 11th April and on 2nd May Howe sailed from Spithead with 26 ships of the line. After a reconnaissance of the port of Brest to confirm that the French Fleet had not sailed, Howe placed himself between the convoy and their covering force. On 19th May, Howe’s frigates report that the French Fleet had sailed out of Brest and he immediately set off in pursuit.

Loutherbourg,_The_Glorious_First_of_June

The Glorious First of June

On 28th May, at about 8:10 am a frigate made the signal for “a fleet bearing South West” directly to windward. It was not until 6 pm that action commenced and lasted until 10 pm. British casualties were only twenty-two killed and wounded. On next the morning it was hazy and the action continued from 9 am until nearly 4 pm when the French bore away to support their disabled ships. The 30th was very foggy and there was no action that day. However on the 31st, the fog cleared about 2 pm and the French were sighted far to leeward.

On the 1st of June, at 5:45 am Howe counted 34 sail of the enemy and gave chase.  The general action commenced at 9:15 am.

The “Brunswick”, with 81 men of the 29th aboard was played into battle by the ship’s band and a drummer from the 29th to the tune of ‘Hearts of Oak’. “Brunswick” was in the thick of the fighting and endured a tremendous onslaught, being engaged for a considerable time with three French seventy-fours. One of these “Le Vengeur” she sank. At one stage of the battle another of the seventy-fours seeing that “Brunswick” was much weakened, determined to board and manned her yards and shrouds with a view to running alongside and flinging in all her crew at once. “Brunswick” with great intrepidity and coolness reserved a whole broadside and waited her approach; then in one discharge the “Brunswick” dis-masted her and “scattered her crew like so many mice on the ocean“.

During the fierce fighting, the 29th detachment Commander, a Captain was killed and the Ensign and 20 others were wounded.

The 29th Foot abroad the "the Brunswick" on the Glorious First of June

The 29th Foot abroad the “the Brunswick” on the Glorious First of June

This Battle was fought far out in the Atlantic and so it has always been known by its date “The Glorious First of June”.  For its share in the engagement, the 29th Regiment was awarded a Naval crown to be borne with its Battle Honours.

A new acquisition reminds us of the Indian Mutiny

Pierced with bullet holes and stained with blood from a brutal exchange that should have seen its wearer fatally wounded, the National Army Museum’s latest acquisition is a rare survivor from a bloody conflict.

It is a unique 156-year-old military tunic that belonged to Lieutenant Campbell Clark, who was caught up in one of the many bloody episodes of the Indian Mutiny between 1857 and 1859.

Seeing Lt Clark’s battered redcoat reminded us of the service provided by men of the 29th Regiment of Foot during this period.  Detachments from the 29th were sent to assist the British troops, having already had experience of garrison duty in India during the Sikh Wars of 1845 to 1849.

We have information about all the soldiers whose medals we hold.

We have information about all the soldiers whose medals we hold.

In one of the medal cases in the Worcestershire Soldier exhibition, you will find the medals of Pte John Fudge, who enlisted on 27th September 1844, at the age of 19.  He served in the Punjab, during the Sikh Wars, and then in the Indian Mutiny.  In all he spent 14 years in India.

He was discharged on 17th October 1865 having completed 21 years service.  His Long Service and Good Conduct medals, which you can see in the case, came with a £5 gratuity, surely a welcome gift to augment his soldier’s pension.

Jack Parsons: soldier and man of peace

The Jack Parsons collection takes pride of place in our museum

The Jack Parsons collection takes pride of place in our museum

Jack Parsons, from Birmingham, served through the First World War in both the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanrys.  He won the Military Cross for leading part of the charge at Huj, 8th November 1917, the last recorded cavalry charge carried out by the British Military.

The charge was successful in that the British troops captured the position from the Turks, taking seventy prisoners, eleven pieces of artillery and four machine guns. However British casualties were heavy; of the 170 men taking part, twenty-six were killed and forty wounded, and 100 horses were also killed.

Jack Parsons was one of only two men from his Squadron still on their feet afterward. He carried and used the revolver shown above at the charge.

After the war Jack Parsons became a vicar, and for the 1946 Remembrance Day sermon he decided to follow the Bible’s advice ‘and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares’ (Isaiah 2:3-4).  He took his old sword, plus a captured Turkish one, and asked a blacksmith to forge them together to form a ploughshare (the part of the plough that makes the groove in thh soil). He then used the ploughshare to sow wheat, which he grew for Communion bread.

The ploughshare and sword hilts were later given to the museum by Canon Parsons, and take pride of place in our displays

Gas! A teaching aid for the WI

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

Amongst the curiosities in the collection, we found this box of colourful phials issued during the lead up to World War Two for training ARP wardens, firemen, ambulance men and other civil defence workers. Each test tube contained a very small amount of a different poison gas, including lethal ones such as Phosgene and Chlorine alongside merely unpleasant ones like Mustard Gas. The tubes were passed around so that each worker could have a sniff and learn to recognise all of the different gases that the Germans might drop.

Each gas had different treatments and precautions, and it was important to know which was which. The phials were supposed to contain only a very safe amount of gas, but the label warns that ‘Delicate persons with bad lungs or respiratory weakness must be cautious. The quantity of substance applied is so small that serious casualties cannot occur.’

Evidence that the emergency precautions and training were underway in the county well before the start of hostilities can be found in the minutes of Wilden Women’s Institute, Worcestershire.  The secretary recorded that on 1 Nov 1937:

‘A lecture was given by Mrs Neligan of Droitwich on gas defence work and the action to be taken by civilians in the event of gas attacks.  She illustrated the talk with gas masks and phials of different gases to so that members might become acquainted with their colour and smell’. (1)

Volunteers from the county’s Women’s Institutes contributed a great deal towards the war effort in organising and delivering Civil Defence, food production and public health duties throughout the war. Their records are a mine of information for any researcher into Worcestershire’s Home Front.  The Worcestershire Federation of Women’s Institutes archive is now held by Worcestershire Archives and can be viewed at the Hive.

(1) reference: records of Wilden WI deposited by Worcs Federation of Women’s Institutes, Worcestershire Archives, BA14296/box 7