Friday, 25 July 2014

More Questions

 Where and when?
I seem to be asking a lot of questions on my Blog at the moment.  Here is another one.
This photograph was among the photos of family members passed down to me by my Mother from her Mother and her Aunt.  Most of the photos were identified for me by Mum before she died but she didn't know who was on this one.  That is a question which will remain unanswered but what I would like to know is in what circumstances it was taken.  It was obviously a professional one since the quality is excellent.
Some of the men are wearing pith helmets. The earliest appearance of sun helmets made of pith occurred in India during the Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840s. Adopted more widely during the Indian Mutiny of 1857–59, they were generally worn by British troops serving in the Ashanti War of 1873, the Zulu War of 1878–79 and subsequent campaigns in India, Burma, Egypt and South Africa. This distinctively shaped headwear came to be known as the Pith Helmet or Foreign Service helmet.
I have always assumed it was photographed in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1901) but have only a gut instinct to lead me to that conclusion.  Does anyone have a way of confirming that or of explaining where else it might have been taken.  Are there different nationalities among the combatants or do the different uniforms simply indicate they were from different units (artillery, riflemen, etc)?

The photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.   Help, please!


  1. It's fascinating.
    They look like a militia with such different uniforms. It is an observation post somewhere as they have a signal lamp and semaphore flags not to mention a telescope. A copy to the Imperial War Museum would probably throw a bit more light on the matter.

  2. My Sweetie is a huge antique gun buff. He says the rifles are British Lee-Enfield in .303 calibre, manufactured around 1897-1898, used in the Second Boer War. Now, if you can figure out which of your ancestors fought in that war, you may be able to track down more information. He also showed me the difference between the Lee-Enfield from that time versus the ones made in 1899 and beyond, something about the end of the barrel being different, so you can be sure these are the earlier of the Lee-Enfield .303, and i hope this helps.

  3. Sweetie looked into it a bit more, and looked up the helmets and uniforms -- comparing button sizes and other details as much as he could. Everything does add up to the Second Boer War. He says it looks like possibly an installation put up quickly to hold prisoners, and wonders if the fact that their ammo belts weren't full means they may have been low on ammunition or had just come in and hadn't had time to replenish it.

  4. If i may bother you a third time (and you don't have to publish this), Sweetie says there's no way this dates prior to 1895 because before that, it would have been Martini-Henry rifles in .455 calibre, single shots, not able to be loaded with 5 at a time like the ones in this picture. The Martini-Henry was the standard British infantry rifle prior to the Second Boer War. It was Paul Mauser's German rifle of 1896 that truly created the multiple firing bolt action rifle that set the world standard for firepower and accuracy to this day, and the Lee-Enfield rifles in this picture are Britain's answer to those improved German rifles, introduced as noted in 1897.

    Yes, i know, more information than you ever wanted, but he's a huge history buff and has actually owned two of the Lee-Enfield rifles in the past. He even has some of the rounds/ammo still, although it only dates from WWII. Yes, apparently this rifle and it's ammo was used until then, it marked the change from old black gun powder to Cordite.

    1. Certainly not a bother!! And not more information than I wanted - it's exactly what I was hoping for, Messymim, someone who knew something about these things. I'm amazed rhat someone should know things like button sizes counted. Please thank him ever so much.

    2. This ties in with the signal lamp as it was used prior to the 1st War. I forget what they are called Something beginning with "B".

    3. Begbie lamp is what it is.


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