british infantry uniforms

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Early 20th Century dress uniform, helmet, shako and claybeg sword of the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, now the Royal Highland Fusiliers after they amalgamation with the Highland Light Infantry in 1959.

The sword hilt is the alternative to the mortuary hilt of the claybeg in the medieval style.

This is on display at the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum in Glasgow.

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Uniform of the 35th Bengal Native Infantry and Enfield Rifle from 1857 on display at the Royal Armouries in Leeds

The British Empire used native regiments such as the 35th to maintain order in India for the East India Company. However they were often ignorant or dismissive of Indian beliefs and customs. This came to a breaking point in 1857 when the new cartridges for the Enfield rifle supposedly had animal grease from pigs and cows which offended Muslim soldiers (pig products are considered unclean in Islam) and Hindu soldiers (cows are sacred to them).

This and a good century of British military and capitalist intervention in their country led what is referred to as the Indian Mutiny where many Sepoys joined rebel soldiers to try and drive the Imperialist British out of India.

The rebellion failed and many of the Indians involved were executed. Afterwards many policies concerning Sepoys and Indians, even loyal ones, were put in place to ensure they could never try this again. One such policy was ensuring that Sepoys were never armed the same as British soldiers and were always one technological step behind them. However these soldiers were still required to do most of the work defending the borders of the Empire against the Russians and other threats from neighbouring regions.

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Extant light infantry cap, 5th Regt. of Foot, and a reconstruction of a private of that same regiment, 1775 by Troiani.

The shape of the cap, particularly the lion-headed crest, is very reminiscent of a Light Dragoon’s Leather Helmet.  The regulation chain cap stipulated for wear by Light Companies in 1771 was highly unpopular, and contemporary inspection reports are filled with references to caps ‘not according to regulation.’ Contemporary images, particularly those of de Loutherbourg, show a variety of headgear in use by light troops.