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Soldiers’ Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900

Author: Pierre Turner
Publisher: Crowood Press, (January 2006)
ISBN-10: 1861268831

Pierre Turner's military artwork has long been admired by readers of this journal, but previously it had appeared only in books authored by others. Now, however, Mr Turner has both written and illustrated his own book, Soldiers' Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900, the result of over thirty years' accumulation of data. Paternally descended from Sheffield craftsmen and the son of a senior civil servant and sometime Secretary of the Forestry Commission, Mr Turner grew up in a leafy Surrey suburb, where the papier-mache helmets and wooden swords he made were the envy of other boys. He trained at Wimbledon School of Art and, after varied employment, found his niche as a military-uniform illustrator, notably in collaboration with Major Barthorp. He was widely recognised as among the best in his metier. His new book comprises eighty-five A4 colour plates of rank-and-file accoutrements drawn from items in regimental and other museums and private collections in Britain and overseas, and includes water-bottles, mess-tins, haversacks, belts, sabretaches, sword-knots, pouches and bandoliers. The earliest items are tin canteens, circa 1750, and the latest are Slade-Wallace equipment and mounted infantry bandoliers, 1882-1897.

Pierre Turner's military artwork has long been admired by readers of this journal, but previously it had appeared only in books authored by others. Now, however, Mr Turner has both written and illustrated his own book...

Arguably the book exaggerates in claiming that very little attention has been paid to accoutrements. They are covered in various Osprey and Wessex publications, and in Colonel Walton's books. However, no works previous to Soldiers' Accoutrements had its quantity of information and meticulous detail. Moreover it has one simple but crucial advantage over its predecessors. It provides scales, thus enabling accurate reconstruction and making it especially useful to re-enactors, modellers, and film and television costumiers. It will also enable collectors, dealers and museum staff to identify objects.

Essentially Soldiers' Accoutrements is a picture book. Except for a very brief introduction, with acknowledgments in which nobody is named, and the descriptions of the objects portrayed, there is no text. There is no overview of the trends in military accoutrements, no explanation of administration, contracting and manufacture, and how well particular accoutrements functioned, what soldiers thought of them, why they were changed and replaced, and their connections, if any, to fashions in uniforms. Presumably accoutrement changes were largely weapon-driven: as firearms changed and rates of fire increased so soldiers needed to carry different and more ammunition. Apart from the Italian waterbottle copied by the British in 1874, there is no reference to foreign accoutrements. One wonders whether all Western accoutrements in a given period were essentially the same, or whether British differed significantly from others. Also to what extent were British accoutrements copied from or influenced by foreign? Accoutrements themselves can be revealing: for example, that the 1882 cavalry pouch held only twenty rounds indicates presumption of a very limited role for carbines.

Pierre Turner's Soldiers' Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900 has already been favourably reviewed in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research and by Americans on the internet. It is both a useful tool and a pleasure to peruse

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