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Gareth Davies

Hackney Gurkhas

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MBrockway

And don't get me and Andy going on which regiment was the first to wear rifle green - LOL!  :D

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Gareth Davies
11 minutes ago, T8HANTS said:

I have only studied one Battalion, so I have no knowledge if other ex Rifle Volunteer rifle green units had the epithet applied to them, but we are back in the days of Empire and there would have been many ex soldiers, colonial officials, or even missionaries in any given location who could have started the ball rolling.

 

I can easily imagine two old India hands watching the Rifles march by and one turning to his mate with a knowing look and saying "There go the Isle of Wight Gurkhas'. His mate still feeling the scar from when he was nicked by a tribesman's bullet would know exactly what he meant!

 

It is not beyond the bounds of possibilities but as Mark says the correlation is limited.

 

1 minute ago, MBrockway said:

 

Several of the London Regiment battalions with rifles traditions wore rifle green full dress uniforms - see this topic:

London Regt battalions full dress uniforms - Caton Woodville plates

 

As did numerous other rifles based TF battalions of county regiments - such as the IoW Rifles.

As rifle units, the gurkhas also wore rifle green.

It is possible that the units in rifle green might have got the 'gurkhas' nickname based on the shared uniform  colour, but there seems to be little correlation between the two given very few units got the nickname.

 

Rifles units were more commonly known as 'the black buttoned ********'! - clearly natural jealousy from the onlookers :P

 

Mark

 

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Gareth Davies
8 minutes ago, QGE said:

Col D - I think there is little doubt that Hackney Gurkhas was a WWI construct.  

 

If memory serves it is mentioned in correspondence between Aspinall Oglander and an Officer in the 1/10th Londons. The relevant files are CAB 45 at The National Archives. I did not make notes at the time as it was a piece of trivia and having served in the Gurkhas it stuck in the mind.... but my notes from trawling these files show Lord Dunalley DSO (Capt Hon H C O'C Prettie in WWI) and Capt F A S Clarke and Brig Hammond (although I think the latter was 1/11th London Regt (Finsbury Rifles). I was focused on the failed attack on 15th Aug 1915 on Kidney Hill where 1/10th lost heavily (44 killed, or two thirds of all its Gallipoli casualties) and nicknames for battalions were then not of interest. De Winton commanded the Brigade (162nd Inf Bde) and his papers  (if you can trace them) are probably worth trawling if you are determined to get to the bottom of this. He was wounded in the action and I think it is this particular action that probably started the process of constructing reputations.  The correspondence was from 1931 an related to clearing up minor points of the Gallipoli campaign.

 

There is also a WWI film recording a 1/10th London referring to Hackney Gurkhas in 1916 in the Imperial War Museum collection. 

 

Height. I think this is a myth. According to a study by Imperial College  on heights and nationalities across the world starting in 1914, the average height of British men in 1914 was 5'6". You will know the lower limit for recruiting in 1913-1914 for the TF (I think 5'3" and certianly changed through the war but an expert will appear soon I am sure). A random trawl of Service Records for men who attested in 1914 for the 1/10th London shows the first four were all ex-regulars and their average height was 5' 8"  -  considerably taller that the minimum required. Two were 5' 10", incidentally the average height of an adult British male in 2016..... A small sample and not statistically robust, but if you wanted to eliminate the 'height' theory it would not take long as there are plenty of records. As you know the 1/10th were not a Bantam Batallion (something introduced much later in the war) so the idea that 1/10th were generally shorter men is I think another flight of fancy. ...as is the widespread misconception that urban recruits were physically inferior to rural recruits in stature. J M Winter is worth reading on the matter of demographics and health. Historical recruiting data for 1902 to 1914 shows that most 'rural' County Regiments still had to rely on the Metropolitan Boroughs for significant proportions of their recruits. While late Victorian and Edwardian urban areas produced squalor, they also provided work (Dockyards for example) and the ability to out a regular meal on the table. There are plenty of decent books on this subject. 

 

Hackney and the East End. The "East End" was never officially defined. It is a subjective concept. Anyone can choose where they think it starts and stops. Personally speaking I would not place Hackney as part of the East End. The desire for outlying areas to be classified as East Enders spreads as far as Ilford in Essex. Most East Enders I know and worked with are usually quite defensive about where the East End start and stops. The same applies to self-styled 'Cockneys'

 

Any mistakes are mine. MG

 

Edit. Uniforms. Most Gurka Rofles regiments had black facings. Of the 10 Gurkha Rifle regiments, 8 had black facings and two had scarlet facings - 1st KGO Gurkha Rifles and 2nd KEO Goorkha Rifles. 

 

 

 

I am not determined to get to the bottom of it but I am certainly interested - and I know someone who is equally interested.  So this is all good stuff, thank you.  

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T8HANTS

The other interesting link is that the 8th Hants to give the I.W. Rifles the other part of their title, also served with the 54th Division (163 Bde) and naturally as Battalions I am sure the various Rifle units would have taken an interest in their fellow BBB's. 

So there may have been some cross fertilisation going on, one group of Riflemen hearing the term applied to a Battalion may have applied it to themselves, or when  referring to another Rifle battalion  within the Division.

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Gareth Davies

That's a good point but, and asking rhetorically, why didn't 11th Londons (the Finsbury Rifles) pick up the nickname too?  10th and 11th were both in 162 Bde.

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stiletto_33853
21 hours ago, QGE said:

Col D - I think there is little doubt that Hackney Gurkhas was a WWI construct.  

 

If memory serves it is mentioned in correspondence between Aspinall Oglander and an Officer in the 1/10th Londons. The relevant files are CAB 45 at The National Archives. I did not make notes at the time as it was a piece of trivia and having served in the Gurkhas it stuck in the mind.... but my notes from trawling these files show Lord Dunalley DSO (Capt Hon H C O'C Prettie in WWI) and Capt F A S Clarke and Brig Hammond (although I think the latter was 1/11th London Regt (Finsbury Rifles). I was focused on the failed attack on 15th Aug 1915 on Kidney Hill where 1/10th lost heavily (44 killed, or two thirds of all its Gallipoli casualties) and nicknames for battalions were then not of interest. De Winton commanded the Brigade (162nd Inf Bde) and his papers  (if you can trace them) are probably worth trawling if you are determined to get to the bottom of this. He was wounded in the action and I think it is this particular action that probably started the process of constructing reputations.  The correspondence was from 1931 an related to clearing up minor points of the Gallipoli campaign.

 

 

 

 

Oh dear, oh dear,

 

For what it is worth

The Hon. H.C.O'C. Prittie who became Lord Dunally in 1927 following his fathers death, his brother was killed 19/12/14 with the 1st RB, served with the 1/10th Londons, laterly as it's O.C. wounded on 15/8/15.  In his book "Khaki and Rifle Green" never ever called them the Hackney Gurkha's, ALWAYS 1/10th. He was attached to them from the Rifle Brigade for some time before WW1. His book is full of very amusing stories re. the battalion. However he was not exactly complimentary regarding the soldiers who went to war with the battalion nor the attack on Chocolate Hill. 

 

The Rifle Brigade, of whom the 10th had been associated with since 1881 as a volunteer battalion and became a Territorial Battalion of The Rifle Brigade in 1916. In all correspondence and mentions of the battalion never ever even once mentioned the "Hackney Gurkha's" always the 10th, leading me to believe that Martin is correct, in that it was an effected name adopted by the battalion itself.

 

Oh Mark, ye of little faith! The KRRC did not wear green until about 1811 and even then just the Jaegar company, but they wore light blue pantaloons with green tops. There again the Regiment (KRRC) was filled with mercenaries whereas Coote Manningham elected from 1800, when the RB were formed, to have an all green uniform from day one:P:D

 

Andy

Edited by stiletto_33853

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T8HANTS
10 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

That's a good point but, and asking rhetorically, why didn't 11th Londons (the Finsbury Rifles) pick up the nickname too?  10th and 11th were both in 162 Bde.

 

I wish I time to go through my local paper archive to see if the name came back in one of the many letters published from 'our boys overseas'. 

The only general use of the nickname that I remember was that it was applied by civilians to the local unit, as a term of affection and pride.

I cannot remember if any of the half dozen surviving Riflemen I knew a a boy ever applied it to themselves, but I strongly suspect not.

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paulgranger
48 minutes ago, QGE said:

Hackney and the East End. The "East End" was never officially defined. It is a subjective concept. Anyone can choose where they think it starts and stops. Personally speaking I would not place Hackney as part of the East End. The desire for outlying areas to be classified as East Enders spreads as far as Ilford in Essex. Most East Enders I know and worked with are usually quite defensive about where the East End start and stops. The same applies to self-styled 'Cockneys'

No answer to the question raised, but as an East Ender, I've always understood the true East End to be Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney. Adjoining boroughs are North or East London. We don't go south of the river. Hackney borders Bethnal Green, but it's not in the East End.

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QGE

Nicknames are sometimes linked to specific single events, particularly those alluding to some form of martial prowess, viz the Die Hards! (Middlesex Regt), the Iron Regiment (Royal Sussex Regt) etc...

 

If we try and identify an event (battle or action) that might have been the catalyst for the nickname, it is difficult to identify any event between Kidney Hill (15th Aug 1915 at Gallipoli) and 19th April 1917 in Palestine. In the whole of 1916 the 1/10th Bn lost just 22 men killed or died and no more than two fatalities on any single date in the year. Kidney Hill cost nearly twice as many (43) on a single day, ditto the action on 19th Apr 1917 (46) - more if DOW were included. It is difficult to see how this nickname could have been triggered by an event in 1916 given the extremely low casualty rate.

 

Given we have anecdotal evidence that the nickname was being used prior to 1917, it would perhaps indicate that Gallipoli and Kidney Hill in particular was the catalyst. In the subsequent actions at Gallipoli the most number of men killed in a single day was just four. Kidney Hill and 19th Apr in Palestine are very large out-liers in the data. Gaza (Nov 1917) looms even larger with over 70 fatalities but this is long after the nickname was established.

 

The Brigade moved to Aghyl Dere on the north edge of ANZAC in early Sep 1915. By 14th Sep the battalions each had to send an Officer and 50 men to the Australians for instruction for 4 days in rotation. The Brigade diary records visiting the Australians for information and ideas. The clear indication being that the Australians were giving instruction. The 1/10th Bn diary is extremely thin and parts are missing, however the Brigade HQ diary is extremely detailed and record considerable interaction with various Australian Battalions and Brigades. The Brigade also took over trenches and was relived by the 1/5th Gurkha Rifles and 1/6th Gurkah Rifles in the area of Hill 60 in Nov 1915. This close interaction with Australians and Gurkhas continued through Oct and November. It is easy to see how the 1/10th Londons had direct knowledge of the 'White Gurkhas' of the Australians (2nd Australian Inf Bde) and the real Gurkhas in a short space of time.

 

The Gurkhas  got to the furthest and highest point at Gallipoli before famously being shelled off if by the Royal Navy. The Gurkhas performance at Gallipoli was so impressive, Hamilton begged for more and Gurkha Battalions were diverted from the Western Front to Gallipoli. Their achievements at ANZAC and in particular the assault on Chunuk Bair would have been well well known in the trenches. Incidentally on of the Gurkha Regiments shared the same number: the 10th Gurkha Rifles (albeit the 2/10th) which suffered 415 fatalities during its time on the Peninsula.

 

It is for these reasons of proximity that I am inclined to think the nickname started at Gallipoli or at least in the immediate aftermath. 

 

Edited by QGE

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MBrockway
9 hours ago, stiletto_33853 said:

Oh Mark, ye of little faith! The KRRC did not wear green until about 1811 and even then just the Jaegar company, but they wore light blue pantaloons with green tops. There again the Regiment (KRRC) was filled with mercenaries whereas Coote Manningham elected from 1800, when the RB were formed, to have an all green uniform from day one:P:D

 

Andy

 

I'm sure the young upstarts in the RB wish it were so Andy :P, but of course the 5th battalion 60th was raised on 12 Jan 1798 from an Act of Parliament of 1797 as an all-rifle battalion and equipped with the rifle green tunics that Coote Manningham later used as the model for the RB when he put together the Experimental Corps of Riflemen in 1800 ... just as he also used Francis de Rottenburg's (CO of 5/60th) Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen as the model for RB rifle drill..

 

You're correct that officers of 5/60th wore blue/grey trousers for field use, but their full dress was rifle green pantaloons.  The men wore the blue/grey pantaloons for both purposes.  5/60th went to rifle green trousers for all purposes in 1812.

 

Rifle green may have been in use in the 60th as early as 1794 when rifle companies were formed in each of the four existing battalions.  It is unclear exactly when, but certainly by 1799, when 6/60th was raised, these rifle companies in all battalions wore the rifle green tunic with white pantaloons.  One of the four battalions, unclear whether 1/60th or 4/60th, may even in 1794 have briefly been begun to be converted to an all-rifle battalion by the then C-in-C and former Col of the 60th, Lord Amherst, but this appears to have been abandoned when he retired in 1795.

 

7/60th and 8/60th, raised in 1813 as light infantry with two rifle companies each, wore rifle green tunics and rifle green trousers from the outset - including the LI companies.

 

The light infantry and grenadier companies in 1st-4th and 6th battalions remained as redcoats until the whole regiment went into rifle green in 1815.

 

Of course this is all a bit academic really as although the KRRC were first into rifle green, they were following established continental pattern where German Jäger had been in green for some while.

 

Going further back to the origins of the 60th in the French wars in the forests of North America of the 1750's, the 60th under Henry Bouquet had dropped the red coat for field use and instead campaigned in a short jacket of brown cloth and a tanned shirt, even adopting moccasins.

 

So ... KRRC first into rifle green, RB first complete regiment to go into rifle green and (ignoring the officers of 5/60th in full dress) first to go into rifle green top and bottom :thumbsup:

 

Where we definitely agree is these are two great regiments united by a common heritage of innovative thinking and shared traditions ... including friendly rivalry!

 

Mark

 

 

Edited by MBrockway

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stiletto_33853

Were they not redcoats employing mercenaries!!!! only English officers. knew you would bite:lol:

 

Rifle green may have been in use in the 60th as early as 1794, oh dear may have:ph34r:

Edited by stiletto_33853

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Gareth Davies

Hackney Gurkhas please, not the history of Rifle Green.

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MBrockway
2 minutes ago, stiletto_33853 said:

Were they not redcoats employing mercenaries!!!! only English officers. knew you would bite:lol:

 

Heh heh  :P

 

Discussing properly the composition and origins of the 60th in the 1790's would require a LONG essay!  And of course Coote Manningham's corps was made up of combings (2 serjeants, 2 corporals and 30 privates each) from the fourteen of the regiments of the Line canvassed for men to form the new unit - many of whom their commanders were pleased to be rid of - LOL!

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stiletto_33853

just a little standing joke between Mark and myself over the years Gareth.

 

I have checked Michael Haines, ex Rifle Brigade officer (well known medal collector, researcher and author) research notes as well. He also always refers to them as the 10th Londons, never Hackney Gurkha's.

 

Andy

Edited by stiletto_33853

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Gareth Davies

Or even Gurkhas.  

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MBrockway
3 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

Hackney Gurkhas please, not the history of Rifle Green.

 

There's the point: if the were nicknamed Hackney Gurkhas for their full dress uniform, then why is it 'Rifle Green' not 'Gurkha Green'.

 

My feeling is it was a Great War adoption,nothing to do with full dress unifrm colour.

 

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Gareth Davies

And I share your feeling.

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QGE

I very much doubt that many (any?) 1/10th Bn London Regt (Hackney Rifles) (TF) had ever seen a Gurkha in full dress Rifle Green..... The 'uniform' argument doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.

 

I would argue that the term 'Gurkhas' was used to imply military prowess rather than any oblique reference to similar dress uniform - in the same way the Australian 'White Gurkhas' (incidentally with no 'Rifle Green' heritage) were so named as a point of respect for their fighting qualities rather than their dress sense. On hearing of the 'White Gurkhas' while at Gallipoli, serving shoulder to shoulder with Australians and Gurkhas, I suspect (but cannot yet prove) that the Hackney Rifles thought it a jolly good idea to adopt a similar unofficial honorific title (albeit in this case self-appointed) for purposes of morale and propaganda.Despite the absence of concrete 'proof,' this seems the most plausible version of events to me. 

 

For a detailed study of the creation of myths surrounding Victorian and Edwardian ideas of racially based military qualities I would strongly recommend reading  "Martial Races: The military, race and masculinity in British Imperial culture 1857-1914" by Heather Streets. It is a wonderful study. This debate could easily be appended to it as it is simply an extension of a culturally biased views anchored in Victorian and Edwardian popular culture. 

Edited by QGE

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Moonraker
40 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

Hackney Gurkhas please, not the history of Rifle Green.

 

10 minutes ago, QGE said:

I very much doubt that many (any?) 1/10th Bn London Regt (Hackney Rifles) (TF) had ever seen a Gurkha in full dress Rifle Green..... The 'uniform' argument doesn't really stand up to scrutiny...

My views too.

 

Moonraker

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MBrockway

Looks like a very interesting study Martin.  The myth of the martial Highlander and its links with bringing the Highlands back into the British "cultural fold" post 1745 is one of my own areas of interest.  I'll add this to my Reading List.

 

Mark

 

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voltaire60

.

Edited by voltaire60

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QGE
2 hours ago, MBrockway said:

Looks like a very interesting study Martin.  The myth of the martial Highlander and its links with bringing the Highlands back into the British "cultural fold" post 1745 is one of my own areas of interest.  I'll add this to my Reading List.

 

Mark

 

 An oddity that remains to this day is that despite the Gurkha Rifles long connection to the Rifles, their spiritual connection with British troops is stronger with Highland regiments. Gurkha Rifles all had Pipes and Drums and in my day the ownership of tartan was regarded as reasonably high status.

Edited by QGE

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QGE
12 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

  I must disagree with Martin, in that  "Hackney" of 1914 was,to me, clearly in the East End-  10th Londons is because it was,actually, London. -and East End as it is to the west of the River Lee. This is traditional Hackney- centered on St.John's, Hackney-and not to be confused with the modern London Borough of Hackney, which includes distinctly non-East End areas such as Stoke Newington.

        

 

Voltage - As mentioned before, the East End is a subjective concept and not an area delineated in any official document. Anyone can choose to believe where the East End starts and stops. All I can say is that the hundreds of barrow boys who became dealers in the City had a very strong opinion on where the East End started and stopped and none I met would have included Hackney. Like most parochial working class communities they are fiercely proud and protective of their perceived heritage. The same dynamics that afflict modern gangs and football supporters. Others may differ in their views. It is a minor point (and arguably irrelevant) in this interesting debate on the provenance of a regiment's nickname. 

 

The debate on which bells of the two Bow churches' defines Cockneys and their sound-range templates has been raging for 200 years. A debate not for this thread.

 

On topic: one of the Essex Regiments TF battalions had drill stations in Hackney in 1914 until 1912. They also served in Gallipoli in the same Division. No suggestion of these men being of diminutive stature. 

 

MG 

Edited by QGE
1912

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SteveMarsdin

There is a reference on page 8 (May 1915) of www.4thYorkhires.com to that battalion been known as the Yorkshire Gurkhas during WW1, which from it's context appears to be because of a fearsome reputation (http://4thyorkshires.com/008Bn1915.html)

Edited by SteveMarsdin
To add link to exact page on website

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voltaire60
10 hours ago, QGE said:

 

Voltage - As mentioned before, the East End is a subjective concept and not an area delineated in any official document. Anyone can choose to believe where the East End starts and stops. All I can say is that the hundreds of barrow boys who became dealers in the City had a very strong opinion on where the East End started and stopped and none I met would have included Hackney. Like most parochial working class communities they are fiercely proud and protective of their perceived heritage. The same dynamics that afflict modern gangs and football supporters. Others may differ in their views. It is a minor point (and arguably irrelevant) in this interesting debate on the provenance of a regiment's nickname. 

 

The debate on which bells of the two Bow churches' defines Cockneys and their sound-range templates has been raging for 200 years. A debate not for this thread.

 

On topic: one of the Essex Regiments TF battalions had drill stations in Hackney in 1914. They also served in Gallipoli in the same Division. No suggestion of these men being of diminutive stature. 

 

MG 

 

         Post deleted in deference to another GWF member- see post 52.  

Edited by voltaire60
Mutual irritation

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