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Uniforms of East India Company Officers

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A thread to share portraits of HEIC officers in uniform or photos of actual uniforms or pieces from those officers, in hopes to aid other researchers or future collectors.


This is something that I've been interested in for a long time, but it can be hard to find good visual examples for the HEIC officers from the 19th Century. 

To start with, here's a great watercolour portrait of Cadet Thomas Gillespie of the Madras Army (c. 1850). This is part of the National Army Museum's collection and was published in A Soldier of the Company: Life of an Indian Ensign by Captain Albert Hervey.




Going by the fringed epaulettes in both of these paintings, we know these gents were members of a battalion (a.k.a. centre) company.


And this is a watercolour of William Henry Wilbraham Pringle on his appointment as Ensign (Cadet) in the 22nd Bengal Native Infantry in 1854.

He was the grandson of Lt-Gen. W.H. Pringle of the Peninsular Staff. There's a lot of information about him here: https://www.eliotsofporteliot.com/pringles/pringle-whw.html




If anyone comes across any photo of a real piece from the 22nd BNI, I'd be very interested to see it!

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Doing some searching on this now (inspired by posting this new thread!) and think I've actually found a couple photos of genuine buttons from 22nd BNI uniforms.

This first photo is all that's left from a 2019 eBay auction, so sorry it's so small. The title said it dated to the 1820s-50s period:



An online sale site has a photo of this button -- saying that the simple number dates this to the twenty years following the Mutiny, after the HEIC regiments were demolished and the British government took over.



If anyone finds any other (or better quality) photos of anything from the HEIC 22nd Bengal Native Infantry, I'd love to see them!

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This has to be a rare piece! It's listed as Georgian-era Bengal Native Infantry -- being an officer's coatee.

Coldstream Military Antiques gives description as follows, including some amazing pictures.

An extremely fine and rare Indian Army example of scarlet melton cloth with white facings ornamented with false cuffs of gold lace each mounted with four gilt buttons. Further lace decoration and buttons to the collar. To the front, two rows of ten rich gilt regimental buttons in pairs (one missing). The back is tailored with false pocket flaps, again ornamented with gold lace and gilt buttons. The white Kerseymere turnback tails both retain their ornaments, each being silver sequined Garter star with “8” to white centre. The interior with a quilted cotton lining, the tails lined with white Kerseymere and each with a pocket. The gilt buttons (41 present) bear “8” within a strap “Buxar” resting in an open wreath. Provision for epaulette ties to each shoulder. Slight service wear, generally excellent.













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17 minutes ago, Jack the Collector said:

I am finding this fascinating.Since I was a wee lad I have collected the coins of the East India Company.


Your coin collection sounds fascinating to me. As you are definitely allowed to post currency here, would you consider posting photos of some/all of your coins?

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Jack the Collector
1 hour ago, GCCE1854 said:

would you consider posting photos of some/all of your coins?

I have no problem if it is allowed.Please have some patience with me,I am not skilled with a digital cameras doing close ups.Scans of coins look horrible.I know the coin I'll start off with,it is from the wreck of the Admiral Gardener in 1809.

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1 minute ago, Jack the Collector said:

I have no problem if it is allowed.Please have some patience with me,I am not skilled with a digital cameras doing close ups.Scans of coins look horrible.I know the coin I'll start off with,it is from the wreck of the Admiral Gardener in 1809.


Looking forward to it already, and I'm sure you'll get the hang of the photos. Take your time, but I cannot wait to see them!

I've checked with Sis the Admin, and you're definitely allowed to post coins. She says to put just put them in this board:


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This thread has inspired me to do some more looking for original pieces, and I found this from a year-old auction. Certainly an amazing example.

A "very rare documented East India Company junior officer’s (midshipman’s) undress coat and naval dirk c.1825 of W.R.Campbell, made from blue wool lined with printed cotton and white linen, blue velvet notched collar, lapels and cuffs, twin tails each with 3 pointed pocket flaps and pockets, 8 pairs of bright gilt buttons stamped Jones & Smith - Bedfordbury with EIC lion above fouled anchor." 





If the coat wasn't enough for you, the dirk is also included!

"E.I.C. officer’s dirk (mentioned in correspondence), curved single edge blade 10” etched with Britania shield trophies of arms, flowers and foliage, gilt brass mounts comprising recurved quillons with chiselled lion’s head langets and pommel, knuckle chain and diced ivory grip, in its gilt brass mounted leather sheath with belt sprung belt clips and paper label inscribed in India ink ‘Midshipman’s Dirk H.E.I.C."








These were used by William Rankine Campbell (1808-1863)

- 1st Voyage: 1825, HCS Marchioness of Ely to Madras and Bengal (Midshipman)

- 2nd Voyage: 1827, HCS Marchioness of Ely to Madras and Bengal (6th mate)

- 3rd Voyage: 1830, on the Farquharson to China (4th Mate)

Served as 3rd Mate on the Lowther Castle in 1832

Retired from service by 1839.


He died on 02 Apr 1863 and is buried at St. John the Evangelist Kirkyard on Lothian Road, Edinburgh, Scotland.


I'm including a lot of photos here, because this seems like something interesting -- and being from a sold auction lot, they won't stick around on the web for long. This was sold by C & T Auctioneers on 22 Jan 2020.














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  • 2 weeks later...

A couple more very nice portraits depicting gents in the uniform of the Bengal Native Infantry:



This is courtesy of the National Army Museum. A portrait of Lieutenant (later Lt-Col) John James Eckford (1825–1872), 6th Bengal Native Infantry. The portrait is listed as being dated 1850, which coincides with his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. He was wounded at Meerut (at the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny) and never fully recovered, dying from the wounds in 1872.



This is also part of the NAM collection. A portrait of Captain Robert Troup (1811–1867), 63rd Bengal Native Infantry. This portrait is from 1842.


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Not often do you get to see the original uniform and the portrait of the officer wearing it as well!

This is an amazing set of items from the uniform of Lieut-Col John Morgan Ley of the Madras Artillery. He was born in Berkshire on 10 May 1794 -- married Eliza Smith on 28 May 1833 at Minehead, Somerset. They had a number of sons and daughters. He served from 1815 into the 1840s in India. After his retirement, he appears to have settled in Devon, where he died at Pennsylvania Park, Exeter, on 15 Feb 1864. He's buried at St. David's Churchyard.




You can see more info about the uniform here: http://www.themilitarygentleman.com/ProdDetails.asp?Id=207&f=ProdList.asp|prev=true

And a portrait of Col. Ley was auctioned in June 2021 -- showing him in what appears to be the very same uniform:




And more close-ups of the uniform which has lost none of its vibrance.









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  • 2 weeks later...

Found this beautiful pair of epaulettes that has been sold some time ago online. These are from an officer in the 28th Madras Native Infantry and actually have what appears to be the original metal storage case. Quite a beautiful example of Victorian-era workmanship with all that bullion stitching!











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