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Greatcoat Sling
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Frank Packer
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:33 am    Post subject: Greatcoat Sling  Reply with quote

I've been asked to provide more details about the design of the greatcoat sling that I make... so here goes (finally!).

In 1824, the Board of General Officers introduced a new pattern of knapsack for the British Army.  With the 1824 knapsack changes, the greatcoat slings were abolished.  The slings allowed the soldier to carry the greatcoat without the knapsack. The reason for the abolition was because the new design in the shoulder straps allowed those straps to also be used as greatcoat slings. I take from that that it was previously impossible to dispense with the greatcoat slings because the knapsack straps could NOT be used as substitute carrying straps for the greatcoat.  (I have tried to consistently use the term 'sling' here in order to reduce confusion between this item and the later greatcoat straps which merely secure the coat to the top of the knapsack.  But Napoleonic-period references use both interchangeably to refer to this specific device)

In order to illustrate what I mean by the greatcoat sling, I've attached some highly-edited, blown-up snippets which may provide some clues. The first is a teeny piece of the riflemen in the 'Battle of Vimiera' print first brought to my attention by Paul. I unfortunately do not have the whole image.



The riflemen wear greatcoat or blanket without knapsack, horizontally across the back in what is presumably the expected manner.

Another method seen in prints is the longer roll diagonally across the back, as in this example of a soldier of the Guards.



A third method is seen in this Hamilton-Smith print of the back of a member of the York Light Infantry. In this case the greatcoat or blanket roll is arranged with straps running horizontally rather than how the rifles have them arranged in the first pic.



My primary assumption with this has been that we are looking at the same item in all three cases. Also, what we are seeing, I believe, can not simply be the knapsack straps being used to carry the great coat -- The 1824 specifications make it clear that a separate item was issued before that date; and the second and third 'rigs' shown above cannot be made from any known sets of British knapsack straps, not even the anachronistic Victorian ones. Also, the buckle placement is 'off' for knapsack straps in the images which show them, like this Genty print of British occupation troops in Paris in 1815.



I know that Genty can sometimes be problematic, and the knapsack bag itself is a whole other longer discussion(!), but the buckles up high in this way do not correspond with any known knapsack straps -- again, of the period or later. That the buckles rest at different heights, but the two straps surround the same circumference of pack indicates that the straps are not fixed, either to the bag or to the shoulder straps.

No greatcoat sling has survived intact. We know that its function was to carry the greatcoat when the knapsack was not worn; and we have evidence from the period that the sling could carry the greatcoat in at least three different ways -- horizontal across the back over both shoulders, in a longer roll slung over one shoulder, and also as a bundle 'vertically' [i.e. with the straps encircling the greatcoat around the top and bottom]. An image of the York Light Infantry in the West Indies shows a sling composed of two straps which surround the greatcoat, one or two cross-stretchers which link them, and two longer independent straps to go around the shoulders. This construction also agrees with the appearance of the straps when the greatcoat is worn on top of the knapsack.

I was able to come up with only one solution which fit all the images. Two short straps which surround the roll, a 'spacer' strap or two between them such as in the YLI image, and two longer straps which go around each shoulder when worn, or around the knapsack when carried.  The conclusion comes from the position of the buckles on these straps in some plates -- too high to correspond to the later knapsack strap design, and some appear at different levels indicating that the straps can not be attached at a fixed point to the shoulder straps. After playing with various possibilities of sliding keepers and friction connections and various elaborate 'floating' attachments between the straps, I decided to trim it down to what we know: period shoulder straps are fixed to the bag, and no original has keepers on the top of the bag. This sort of eliminates any 'relationship' between the straps around the bag and the shoulder straps, so the logical conclusion is that they connect to the greatcoat instead and are part of the otherwise absent greatcoat sling.

Construction: Although we have no surviving 'sling' identified as such, there are several individual straps around in collections that are of late 18th or early 19th century construction and do not correspond in dimensions to known later strapwork or have any other known function.  The long and short buckled straps come from items in the collection of the Green Howards Museum, and the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers Museum.  The 'Spacer' strap is based upon the YLI pack, as detailed above.




I have gone for black bridle leather here for the rifles, keeping to the current understanding that rifle units had black strapwork.  A later (1860s) knapsack in Chelmsford has black straps made grain-side in, with the flesh side out smoothed, dyed, and waxed (similar to some cartridge pouch flaps).  Such a finish may have been typical for black strapwork in earlier periods too, but I'm letting the rifles experts develop the research on that for the time being!

Hole spacings and locations have been copied exactly on this set, although a generic set of 'typical' holes may work better in some circumstances.



Buckles are cast steel, of rectangular cross-section.  They will go through a process to blacken them down to a forged-iron colour.



The spacer strap is sewn to form a loop at each end.  The completed short straps are run through to form the part which holds the greatcoat.





Note this form is actually quite similar to a few extant 19th century carpet bags, where the spacer strap doubles as a handle.

The long straps complete the full carrying rig.



Okay... imitations of the Vimera and YLI poses...





Last two photos of a buff sling giving an example of how the straps will fit on the soft double-bag or winged knapsack -- basically any knapsack with fixed shoulder straps.  Sorry I didn't have time to pack it out fully, but I think you get the idea.





Anyway, I think that's it; but if I have left anything out just let me know.

FWIW

Frank
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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For those interested, here is the rest of the illustration that has the Riflemen in it.

Piper at Vimiero 1808
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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an impressive array of leatherwork you've put together there, Frank - and wonderful workmanship too. Many thanks for posting.

For those that have just come to the forum perhaps a little background on this thread:

Like many period detectives out there, I'm quite fascinated with the research and making of the hypothetical knapsack of 1811/12, much of it sparked by Frank's postings on the Skirmish's 'Living History' forum. Hypothetical because, as Frank points out in that forum, no original has yet to surface.

Many people will be more familiar with the said reconstructed knapsack featured in Pierre Turner's excellent 'Soldiers Accoutrements of the British Army 1750-1900'. However, some feel that Turner's rendition is too close to the much later early Victorian designs - and with that in mind have tried to work out what came after existing pre-Peninsula packs and those later that also exist.

One conclusion that Frank has come to is that the roll on top of the pack was actually separate from the pack itself (as opposed to Turner's keepers on the top) and with many years of knowledge and his leather working skills has come to the above arrangement.

I can't pretend to have one ten thousandth of Frank's knowledge on all things 'pack 'n sack' - knowledge that has come from many years of hard research. I've just started crawling that long, rocky road and have a long, long way to go. For me - and I'm sure many others - my first stop on the road to this pack's reconstruction is contemporary accounts and illustrations.

Whilst taking evidence from period illustrations carries considerable risk, I feel that many of them can't be dismissed outright. Let's face it, this thread is using them from the off.

So with that in mind, I'll continue the thread with a period illustration on the roll being carried separately and a nice contemporary quote from Lt. Simmons of the 95th. 1810;

"Several [Hussars] attempted to cut me down, but I avoided their kind intentions by stepping on one side. I had a large cloak rolled up and strapped across my body..."

Lieutenant Simmons of the 95th,
Leonaur 2007, p71

PRIVATE OF 3RD FOOT GUARDS, C. 1800 by J. Atkinson
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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, detail from Hamilton Smith's Ensign of the East Norfolk Regiment (published 1813)


And a sergeant on the end of a line from Major St Clair's illustration of the allied army fording the Mondego on September 21st 1810 (if it is a roll, that is).

[/i]


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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Frank, any chance of a look at rest of that 'Genty' illustration? (Looked all over for it without success).

rgds
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Ben Townsend
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding the diagonally slung roll, could Frank's strap arrangement produce that effect through settling?
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The Sarge!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi guys,

the knapsack and greatcoat/blanket straping is always going to be difficult to nail down.  as the only surviving packs in musuem's is the early folding pack.

will have plenty of later illistrations showing the square pack, but no actual one to base a copy on.

all the practical work that has been done by Frank is just fantastic and Paul his budding apprentice he having his own experiments too.

there seems to me to be a number of configurations for the square pack, yet the pack remains the same shape. so i am wondering is the pack the same one that came into use after the folding type, but them a number of configurations of straping then came in to use after that, it would appear the the shoulder straps are skitch directly to the pack with the outer band straping and greatcoat/blanket straping having a number of modifications as the years went on. would be a case of finding the suitable straping system for the middle of our period and going with that.

will always be a minefield, but practicle manufacturing experience coupled with all the pictures should provide the answer that would be most suitable for the disearning re-enactor.
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C/Sjt Blake
2nd 95th (Rifles) Regt. of Foot, 4th Coy.

Here's to the Bloody Fighting 95th, the first into the fray and the last out of it!

Stau Und Fest. (Stauch and Steadfast)
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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just trawled through the amazing Mr Atkinson's work. Don't know about you - but this is a first for me. Check it out!

'Battle of Waterloo decided by Wellington'


Closer....


and closer still...


Last edited by Paul Durrant on Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:17 am; edited 3 times in total
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Ben Townsend
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, I'm tending towards thinking that in the pic of the Ensign and that of the end-rank men in the St Clair Mondego print, what is shown is a port-manteau roll. I know Ade has been looking into this, and Blakey has an interest in the sergeant's version, so hopefully they can pitch in- seperate thread?
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The Sarge!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben,

have looked closer at the two pictures you refer too and believe that the ensign is a rolled up greatcoat, as it bulges on the back after the sling, portmantu wouldn't do that, where as material rolled up would.

the black and white picture is more convincing for a tube portmanti, as it is quite large on the back and appears to have a more solid construction.

i have got dave to make me a square one, as the description in verner's in the sgt's shall be issued a SORT of small leather portmantu, and the translation of the original word is a sort of leather trunk. without a real one to copy, best guest, but like the look of the tube like one, maybe get one of those made too.
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C/Sjt Blake
2nd 95th (Rifles) Regt. of Foot, 4th Coy.

Here's to the Bloody Fighting 95th, the first into the fray and the last out of it!

Stau Und Fest. (Stauch and Steadfast)
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Ben Townsend
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sarge,
Not entirely sure I buy that interpretation of the Ensign pic. A cloth or soft leather circular section portmanteau will bulge around harness in the same way as a rolled up coat or blanket. It is carrying mainly cloth after all.  Here is a (reproduction) french light cavalry (cloth)portmanteau doing just that.



This raises two main questions for me:
1) To what extent do said p/ms follow standard mounted p/m styles?
2) What harness, strapping system might be used on such a p/m?

In tentative answer to the first, I would venture that the multiple accounts of officer's loading them onto mules, and taking into account that all Rifle officers above the rank of Lt were usually mounted, a p/m of cavalry style would make sense (doesn't count for sergeants of course). There are plenty of extent cavalry p/ms, both circular and square section, and square with domed top, both in cloth and leather, rigid and soft.

In answer to two, see Frank's rig above. The straps that encompass the roll are necessary to fix the p/m behind the saddle anyway.
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Paul Durrant
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From Sir Charles Oman's Wellingtons Army 1809-14, Greenhill Books 2006 p295

"The very heavy knapsack, normally of oilskin or glazed canvas, was supported by a separate attachment of straps passing under the armpits."
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW - There is a portmanteau (officer's) in the NAM.

Suggest another forum thread for portmanteaus...(?)
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Frank Packer
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi All!  Catching up...

The diagonal roll:  Greatcoat is made up with short straps and spacer, as earlier photo.  Long straps are buckled together to form an even longer strap, run under the two short straps and adjusted for length.  Insert head and left arm, and enjoy skirmishing in a greatcoat-accessorised world!

Paul, seriously... we are here discussing artifacts, extant strapwork, period documents and what can be gleaned or not gleaned from the images of the time -- secondary unsubstantiated dross like Oman doesn't really add anything!  Now, if Oman actually referenced a period document, let's see that reference to an original source and discuss that... but I am fairly certain he didn't because he was too busy telling an interesting story of noble men and hard-fought battles to actually be concerned with the mundane details of equipment.  I'm not sure I want to take lessons about items from an author with no particular interest in them!!  We might as well just quote the latest undocumented story by Chappell, ooh and aah over the pretty and unsubstantiated pictures, and close down this line of research now...

[ Smilie_PDT  I've been told I'm too nice recently and lost my assertiveness; so there you are!]

In the language of the time a portmanteau is a bag, simply a man's travelling bag, usually of leather.  Could be in shape like a doctor's bag, or like saddle bags, or something larger a bit like a modern garment bag.  No precise definition... a bag.  Looking for regulation in civilian items will be fairly futile.

I too would be interested in a thread on the portmanteau for sergeants, since... there weren't any.  The only reference that comes close is an 1801 observation; but it takes some pretty wishful mis-reading to come up with a portmanteau only for sergeants.  Anyway, post the docs if you have 'em!

Hope that's been provocative enough.

And with that, the Diva must retire and rest!   [stage left flounce] Smilie_PDT  Smilie_PDT

FWIW

Frank
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Frank Packer
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forgot to mention... B&W copies of the Genty prints can be found as Plate 91 and Plate 95 of Phil Haythornthwaite's British Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars (Arms and Armour Press, 1987[or 1996 reprint])  He also used a colour reprint for the dust jacket of the 1998 edition of his Armies of Wellington.

I am reluctant to reproduce them because I have only found them within current copyright works.  And to be honest British Infantry... is a fairly nice inexpensive work with some valuable images from the period, and makes a good base for anyone into clothing and equipment to build from.  So you should all already have a copy!

And the 'seriously' above is meant as 'seriously Dude' which is to say... not very!  But tainting MY thread with secondary sources?!?  How could you?  I thought I was special....   :(

Anyway, I'm sure my work here is done for the weekend!  Talk to you again soon.

Frank

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