RE Dress Regulations 1857

"An agitation which for more than a quarter of a century had exposed the inappropriateness of the old costume, at last succeeded in effecting its abandonment.  Involved in the change the royal sappers and miners adopted an uniform under royal sanction, which has the credit of being the neatest in the service.

"Late in the summer the coatee with its double breast, short body, garish trimmings, and narrow skirts gave place to a scarlet single-breasted tunic with facings and edgings of dark blue plush.  Falling with a curve, the collar is bound all round with yellow cord while the appointed cuffs are embellished with an Austrian knot of yellow cord which, stretching over the plush rises with a flowing involution more than seven inches up the sleeve.  Plain shirts measuring about 12 inches long, lined with white shalloon, are broken in their plainness by two upright pocket slashes with plush edgings having three points and as many buttons.  Double cords take the place of the huge epaulettes of former days, and a the buttons unaltered in shape and device, are sewn tow inches asunder down the breast as low as the waist, and two smaller ones add to the ornamentation of the cuff.  All ranks wear the same description of tunic.

"Corresponding with the grades the sergeants and staff-sergeants have finer cloth and wear royal gold cord on those parts where the rank and file display yellow worsted cord only.  Rank is shown by chevrons of gold lace worn above the elbow, but the badges to denote the Staff-sergeants occur just above the sleeve knot with the points upward.  Lance-corporals have one stripe on the right arm; other ranks have the marks on both arms.  Second corporals one on each arm; corporals two; sergeants three and an embroidered crown;  colour-serjeants an equal number of chevrons surmounted by an open banner and based by a couple of crossed swords; and the staff-sergeants four badges of broader lace and an embroidered crown.  The last, in addition, have facings of garter blue silk velvet, shoulder knots of treble twisted cord cord with blue eyes bearing silver embroidered grenades; sleeve knots traced in and out with Russia gold braid and the skits lined with white kerseymere.  The bugle-major's rank, in addition to the chevrons and crown, is indicated by a musical devise with banners, which must have puzzled the professors of embroidery to make it sufficiently characteristic. elaborated with cross trumpets, rams horns, tambourines, and other insignia, around a lyre and grenade.

"The buglers wear worsted embroidered cross trumpets on both arms, and the good conduct men are distinguished by badges of narrow gold lace on the right arm just above the knot.

"No better colour for trowsers than dark Oxford mixture cloth could be introduced.  They have therefore been retained, as also the red stripe down the outer seams. the working trowsers are of the same colour, and similarly striped, but a few shades coarser in texture.

"In the midst of a variety of conflicting ideas as to what constitutes the best head-dress, the uncomfortable chaco still holds its unsightly place as a component of sapper uniform.  Top-heavy for the drivers in riding, the chaco forms no part of their uniform, and so the forage-cap is made to do double duty.

"The fatigue jacket is of red cloth.  Loose and suitable for working it descends as low as the hips, but is militarized by blue cloth pointed  cuffs, single twisted shoulder-cords of yellow worsted and a blue cloth rounded collar.  As before, the buttons are small and convex, bearing the garter device, and worn about an inch apart, evincing les coxcombery than in the defunct days of close buttons.  All the non-commissioned officers wear gold chevrons and gold single twisted shoulder-cords.

"Scarlet jackets, after the fashion of the fatigue ones, are worn by all ranks on drill parades and in walking.  In addition to their chevrons the sergeants and colour-sergeants wear embroidered crowns, the latter rank being distinguished from the former by a forth chevron.  Besides the plain single-breasted blue surtout, modernized with a rounded collar, the staff-sergeants appear, on parade occasions, in scarlet jackets with the badges of their rank, gold studs down the front, and dark blue silk velvet cuffs and collar, both trimmed with Russian gold braid, and finished with what the tailors, in the poetry of their trade, term crowsfeet. there are no buttons on the jacket, except two on each cuff and two to sustain the double shoulder-cord.  The fronts are closed by hooks and eyes.

"The cloth forage-cap --a delicate institution of peaceable times-- was set aside by the adoption of a small Kilmarnock bonnet and chin-strap, well suited for the rough usages of war.  Worn with a dragoonish air in the day, it offers itself as a substitute for a pillow at night without the fear of spoiling its shape.  It is of dark blue wool banded with a yellow stripe manufactured in the web and decorated with a brass boss in the  centre of the crown.  The buglers wear the distinction of a pair of crossed trumpets on the front of the cap, wile the sergeants and staff-sergeants have small dark-blue cloth caps with large projecting peaks, trimmed with scarlet piping and gold lace bands.  The crown of the cap, a la cavalry, is formed of eight pieces --a curious fancy 0-- radiating from the centre and covered at the point of union with a gold netted convex boss.  The band of the staff-sergeants is wider and richer than that of the sergeants.

"That important article of dress, "the ammunition boot", has been much improved in these late days.  Before railways were invented the lace-up boot was a favourite among soldiers, particularly those who could boast of having performed long marches in the Peninsula and France; but when traveling by rail began to be the fashion of the service, it was discovered that the laced-up boot was not only odious in regimentals and uncomfortable, but not water-tight.  So by degrees the Blucher boot was introduced in the army, and the sappers, the last troops, perhaps, to adopt it, received the Bluchers this year for the first time.  The troop of drivers wear half Wellingtons.

"The carbine introduced in 1843 being discarded, the Lancaster percussion-musket was given to the corps late in the year.  Bored elliptically without groove, and carrying an elongated bullet, its range exceeds 1,000 yards; that of the carbine, even in extravagant instances of flight, scarcely ever struck a mark at 300 yards and was uncertain at 200.  After a few rounds had been fired it was inefficient, and impromptu expedients had to be resorted to, when the bore fouled with the powder, to ram the cartridge home. many a man broke the ranks to find a brickbat or other rude assistance to hammer the ramrod into the barrel.  These primitive severities are now at an end.  The bayonet can be used in the double capacity of a sword or bayonet.  With a hilt partly of black skin cross-pressed, and partly brass, with a transverse brass bar guard, it is fixed to the musket by a suture and spring.  The blade, about two feet long, has a rounded back and runs on with a spine to the point, from whence a return stretches with a slight swell up its back, and then loses itself in the spine about ten inches from the tip.  Thus the sword for a certain distance is two-edged and  when fixed, the length of the musket, prepared for a charge, is shorter by one inch than the abandoned carbine and sword bayonet.

"The accouterments remain as formerly; but the appointments of the staff-sergeants, now of white patent buff, consist of a  waist-belt with slings and gilt waist-belt bearing the royal arms, and a pouch-belt, both plain and two inches broad.  To the latter is attached a black leather pouch carried by gilt rings and mountings, having on the flap the device of the royal arms and supporters with the corps motto.  Swords hilted like those of the quartermasters, but of a peculiar metal, sheathed in steel scabbards and tasseled with gold acorns, complete the improvements of this period.

"Of the dress of the quartermasters nothing has yet been recorded in these pages.  Their costume is similar to that of subalterns of engineers, with the exception of the appointments.  The tunic harmonizes with that of the staff-sergeants, except that the sleeves bear no device beyond the Austrian knot, and the gold cord is larger.

"The jacket is also similar to the staff-sergeants, deviating only by the addition of gold braid down the fronts and round the girth, finished at the centre of the waist and collar seam with crowsfeet.

"A waistcoat is also worn of scarlet cloth, single breasted, with gilt studs crowded down the front.  Hooks and eyes serve the place of buttons.  Collar, pockets and edges are trimmed wit gold braid and graced with crowsfeet at the centre of the collar, and art each end and centre of the pockets.

"A surtout is permitted as a lounging appendage to the costume, but it would require the professional assistance of a Buckmaster to describe without fault the man-millinery of this military frock.  It is of dark-blue cloth, single breasted, opening five inches down the breast to show the waistcoat, up to which from the  waist the fronts are closed by hooks and eyes.  Eight loops of braid nearly two inches broad, with two rows of netted barrels or olives on each side --two on each loop-- descend from the shoulders in lessening lines to the waist.  The ends of the loops inwards have fly's three inches long which fall down like tags, covering the inner row of barrels.  The front edges, rolling collar, and pointed cuffs, hind arm and back seams are trimmed with braid seven-eighths of an inch broad traced in and out and finished on the cuffs and centre of collar with crowsfeet. from the back seams flow to streamers eight inches long on each skirt of the same width of braid ads that which covers the seams; and the tracing on both edges terminates in two crowsfeet.  All the trimmings and traceries are of mohair braid.

"The trowsers are the same as the uniform of the corps, but with gold lace stripes one inch and three-quarters wide for dress occasions.  The cloak is of blue cloth, riding length, with sleeves.  Lined with scarlet shalloon, and amassed with a cape, make it waterproof in a storm. An upright collar of scarlet cloth with gilt fuming grenades, chains, hooks, and buttons make up the sum of its ornaments.

"The cocked hat - the right leaf stands six inches and three-quarters high, while the fan, its fellow leaf, tops it by nearly an inch.  The former bears a cockade of black watered ribbon and a gold-laced loop two inches broad, which is stayed by a regimental button.  The corners or shoots are nearly five inches long and two and half broad, bearing tassels of small gold and crimson bullion affixed to gold netted pads which lie snugly in the recesses formed by the overlapping of the fan.  The ribbon worn on the sides of the left leaf is of plain black silk.  Surmounting all is the plume, five inches and a half long, made of cock-tail feathers, which fall over the crown of the hat in the shape of a mushroom.

"The forage-cap is assimilated to that worn by the staff-serjeants; the gold-laced band being broader and richer.

"Coming to the appointments, they consist of waist and pouch belts of white patent leather, respectively one inch and a half and two inches wide, the former having narrow slings, gilt buckles, rings, and waist-belt with the corps device in silver, and the latter a gilt engraved buckle and mountings to correspond with the hilt of the sword.  These ornaments are worn on a fly of the belt just above the pouch, which is small, of black patent leather, bearing the regimental badge of the royal arms and supported with the corps motto, and attached to the belt by rings issuing from gilt leaves.  The sword is thirty-two inches and a half long by one inch and a half wide.  Its grip. of black fish-skin, is ribbed with treble gold wire, sustained by a gilt back, the lower half grated to assist the grasp. the hilt is that of the basket kind, formed of rolled gilt metal, scrolled, pierced, and engine-turned, embellished with a gold acorn attached to a length of royal gold cord, which after  ramifying the perforations, evolves in a tassel.  To complete the details, let it be added, that the scabbard which sheaths the blade --proof against any amount of hard work and figures with military insignia-- is of burnished steel."

- - History of the Royal Sappers and Miners: from the formation of the corps in March 1772 to the date when its designation was changed to that of Royal Engineers in October 1856. Pages 154 -160.

Serjeant Major Williams, photographed about 1857, and the newly introduced busby with its Garter Blue bag and grenade, worn on the left side with a white hair plume above.  He also wears the leather, booted overalls for mounted duties.

--photo courtesy of Regiment, Issue 13

Church Parade - Tunic; Busby, with plume; Waist Belt; Uniform Trowsers; Sword (i.e. bayonet); Gloves.

Garrison duty and Review order - Tunic; Busby with plume; Waist belt; Cross belt and pouch; Uniform Trousers; carbine and sword.

Marching Order - Tunic; Busby, with plume; Waist belt; cross belt and pouch; Uniform trowsers; Carbine and sword; Knapsack, with great-coat folded at the back, and mess tin on top.

Orderly Duty - Working jacket; forage cap; Working trousers; Waist belt; Sword; Gloves.

 Drill order - Working jacket; Working trowsers;Forage cap; Waist belt; Cross belt and pouch; carbine and sword; Gloves (in winter)

Working Dress - Forage cap; Working jacket; working trousers.

Notes to NCO's and Sappers:

Waist belts, when worn, to be complete with cap-bag and frog.

Out of barracks, in whatever dress, waist belt and gloves to be worn.

Straps to trowsers are to be discontinued.

When ordered for service, and blankets, canteens, and haversacks are issued, the great-coat is to be folded 12 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches, and strapped to back of knapsack; the blanket rolled 14 by 8 inches on top of knapsack, and the mess-tin secured to it. The haversack top be worn on the right hip, and the canteen on the left.

Addendum 1 April,1861

Busby - This is reduced from 8 inches high in front and 9 1/2 inches behind to 7 1/2 inches in front and 8 5/8 inches behind.  The plume always to be worn.

Working jacket - Scarlet cloth, single breasted, to button down front.  Buttons, 10 in number in front.

Forage cap - Rank and file: Dark Blue Kilmarnock; breadth of crown 8 inches; depth 3 1/2 inches, with a yellow worsted band, 1 1/4 inches wide, yellow button on centre of crown, leather chin strap and brass buckle.

Great-coat - Dark Blue cloth, with cape and scarlet collar.  Chevrons to be 1/2 inch yellow worsted lace, according to rank, put on point downwards, the point of the lower chevron being 7 inches from the bottom of the sleeve.

Gloves - Added to Garrison Duty, Review Order and Marching order.

Note: Leather stock will not be superseded by "tab" until 16 November, 1869.