Most postcards and photographs that appear on the blog on a Sunday night date to the twentieth century- earlier examples are typically from the 1890s but it is rare to come across images from before then and certainly at a price that your author is willing to pay! Tonight’s image is unusual then in dating from 1884 and is a handsome group shot of what I believe are Rifle regiment officers with their wives and friends:This is actually pasted to a card back in the ‘carte de visite’ style typical of the period. The men appear to be wearing dark green patrol jackets and most have ‘pill box’ hats worn as ‘undress’ caps in the period:The officers on the right are wearing glengarries and so I am advised they are likely from a Scottish rifle regiment as these caps were not worn by English units at this period:An officer seated at the front with a small dog appears to be wearing a ‘torin’ style cap:The Torrin was an Austrian inspired side cap, much like the later field service cap but with a more rounded crown.
The rear of the image dates this photograph to 12th August 1884 and shows it was taken at Aldershot:The name on the bottom of ‘Howland Roberts’ is likely referring to Sir Howland Roberts, 5th Baronet of Glassenbury, Kent (1845-1917) who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd (London Irish) Voluntary Battalion, Rifle Brigade.
My thanks goes to Jack Fortune for his help with this image. He has suggested that these officers might be part of the 1st Battalion Cameroonians (Scottish Rifles) who were posted to Shorncliffe near Aldershot in 1884. Interestingly the Times of 11th August 1884 mentions that this unit was due to depart for Glasgow from Aldershot on 14th August which would tie in nicely with this image and indicate that these were indeed officers of this regiment. The 15th August saw this report published:
The hired transport Poonah, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, left Portsmouth for Glasgow yesterday afternoon with the 1st Battalion of the Scottish Rifles from Aldershot. The embarking strength of the regiment consisted of three field officers, five captains, seven sub-lieutenants, one medical officer, 35 sergeants, 457 rank and file, 39 women and 68 children. Thirteen men were left sick at Aldershot, 63 were on leave and 49 were in Egypt.
The Times also tells us that there were a large number of volunteer rifle regiments at Aldershot on 12th August 1884, the day being used for a number of different large scale exercises. It is entirely possible that the non-Scottish officers in the group photograph belong to some of these units. Interestingly there are a number of men in civilian dress in the photograph and quite who they are remains a mystery. It was common to open a military exercise up to civilian relations at this era, especially for officers, and these are perhaps brothers or friends:This would also explain the women in the photograph who are clearly well to do as they are wearing fashionable clothes of the era:Although not the clearest image I have ever come across, the early date and more importantly the fact it has a caption on the back make this an interesting little photograph.