Wow. Famous image. Lots of very poor copies out and about. I was able to extract some of the text from this one. Thanks for posting such a superior copy.
At Drift where the river widens. “Spot where the ?? fifth’ briggade?? Tried to cross??
Cant make out text except words ‘overlooking ……….. Colenso when .
Bottom: Durban VanHoeden. Also this description from another copy: (Seems they got the cannon wrong) The gun position of the Royal Field Artillery captured by the Boer commando [in an engagement prior to Colenso] overlooking the River Tugela from the Rooiberg after the Battle of Colenso.
Finally: View of the point where Hart’s Irish Brigade attempted to cross the Tugela River from the Boer positions at the top of the Kop. From: With the Flag to Pretoria, H. W. Wilson Vol 1 1900
One other copy with positions identified but there was no legend. British Camps, and where the brigade tried to cross, etc.
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I had completely forgotten about these two Kilburn Stereoviews until MC Heunis reminded me about them this morning.
The second clearly shows the Creusot 75 mm QF gun being fired via a lanyard, held in the artillerist's left hand. The lanyard is attached to the trigger which is highlighted in orange in the drawings below.
Note the four artillerists on the left in the first photograph, who all wear very smart identical double-breasted waxed jackets. Were these Staatsartillerie issue?
When pulled, the trigger/détente (orange) rotates on a pivot, pushing the "gâchette" (blue) upwards. The square aperture in the gâchette then becomes aligned with the wider rear section of the bolt (light green), allowing the latter to pass through the former. The tensioned spring (red) is now free to force the entire bolt and firing-pin assembly (light and dark green) forwards, thus firing the gun.
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Those two stereoscope views are superb!
I'm inclined to think the waxed cotton jackets are civilian, on the grounds that they look new when the photos were taken, I'd guess, in the latter part of 1900 or later.
Why do I guess that?
- Well, the Boer Mauser carbines have all had their foresight protectors removed, and the migration of the sling to the right is well under way. So not an early photo.
- But especially indicative of the later date is that all the Boer slouch hats are folded up on the right. Early in the War, Boer hats were up on both sides. Later, to distinguish themselves at a distance from Mounted Infantry (whose slouch hats were "always" up on the left) the Boers began to "always" lift theirs on the right.
The origin of the habit is presumably that the British marched with the rifle on the left, and the Germans marched with the rifle on the right, so the Staatsartillerie followed the German style, and the burghers followed the style. Could be an important factor if a burgher was captured wearing Imperial kit for him not to be accused of masquerading as British - "wearing khaki" was punished by execution.
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
I agree entirely. The stereo photographs must have been taken some way into the conflict. The state of the officer's tunic says it all ....!
The Staatsartillerie, as a regiment, had always worn their slouch hats turned up on the right, as the image of men on parade at Pretoria Barracks shows.
In the field, however, artillerists clearly did as they pleased. The second photograph was taken during the Siege of Ladysmith.
Adjutant Roos is the man who Churchill spoke with after the shelling of the armoured train.
"At length we reached the guns which had played on us for so many minutes—two strangely long barrels sitting very low on carriages of four wheels, like a break in which horses are exercised. They looked offensively modern, and I wondered why our Army had not got field artillery with fixed ammunition and 8,000 yards range. Some officers and men of the Staats Artillerie, dressed in a drab uniform with blue facings, approached us.
The commander, Adjutant Roos—as he introduced himself—made a polite salute. He regretted the unfortunate circumstances of our meeting; he complimented the officers on their defence—of course, it was hopeless from the first; he trusted his fire had not annoyed us; we should, he thought, understand the necessity for them to continue; above all he wanted to know how the engine had been able to get away, and how the line could have been cleared of wreckage under his guns. In fact, he behaved as a good professional soldier should, and his manner impressed me."
So lucky to put a face with a name. No wonder Churchill was impressed. Thanks Mr. Heunis!
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