Militia Victorian head-dress

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Officer's 'bell top' shako of the 1st or North-west Regiment; c. 1835. It has a beaver body laid on felt with a crown and a peak and diagonal binding, all of black patent leather. The height from the peak to the crown is 8½ inches and at the top of the front is a red and white ball tuft plume. It has silver plated chin-scales backed with velvet terminating on each side in silver-plated bosses with a lion standing on a crown in low relief. Inside is a red silk lining on a soft leather sweat band. This shako has no trade label. The helmet plate is a rayed star surmounted by a crown. Superimposed on the plate is a garter in white metal with the words 'ROYAL JERSEY REGT:'. In the centre of the garter are three silver leopards on a brass back plate. Above the garter is the number '1' and a wreath of laurel leaves surrounds the whole. All these are in white metal.
Officer's shako of the 2nd or North Regiment,1844. It is 8½ inches tall, cylindrical and made of felt covered with beaver. Both the crown and the two peaks are of black patent leather, the front peak being larger than the rear. It has a roped, linked chin-chain backed with velvet attached by two rose bosses, all in white metal. At the top is a red and white ball tuft in a gilt plume holder. The lining is red silk with no trade label. The helmet plate is a gilt star surmounted by a crown but smaller than the one on the 'bell top' shako. Otherwise it is similar to the one shown in the large photograph below, except that there is a '2' instead of '1' above the garter.
The new helmet of 1881, introduced when the number of regiments was reduced from five to three. This example was worn by John E Collas of the 1st Regiment. It has a green cloth body with brass fittings which include a spike at the top screwed into a four¬armed plate, a velvet-backed chin-chain held by two rose bosses, an edging to the peak and a hook at the back to hold the chin-chain when not in use. Inside is a white silk lining with the trade label of De Gruchy, King Street. The helmet plate is a gilded star surmounted by a crown. A wreath of laurel leaves surrounds a circle on which are the words 'ROYAL JERSEY LIGHT INFANTRY'. In the centre, on a backing of red felt, is a bugle horn with the number '1' between the strings.
Officer's shako, 1844, worn by C. P. Le Cornu who became commanding officer of the Royal Jersey Artillery. It has a beaver body, 8 inches from the peak to the crown. At the top is a white horse-hair plume in a gilt bomb-shaped holder with a V.R. cypher. The chin-chain is gilt brass backed with velvet and can be hooked at the side when not in use. On each side is a boss with a flaming bomb and laurel leaves in low relief. The helmet plate is an all gilt star plate superimposed with the royal coat of arms and a scroll with the words 'DIEU ET MON DROIT' with, on a smaller scroll, the word 'JERSEY'. At the bottom, on a third scroll, is the legend 'ROYAL MILITIA ARTILLERY'. The lining is red silk on a leather band; there is no trade label.
The officer's shako introduced in 1855. It has a black beaver body, 5½ inches high at the front, 8½ inches at the back with the peak, top and chin-strap all in black patent leather. At the back is a silver gorgon's head with a hole in the mouth for ventilation. The shako illustrated has a drooping plume, which would be green for light infantry and black for rifles. The helmet plate is a white metal star, surmounted by a crown, on which is imposed a device with the three leopards of Jersey surrounded by a garter which has the words 'PRO REGE ET PATRIA:'. A wreath of oak leaves encircles this and below there is a scroll with the legend 'SECOND ROYAL JERSEY'.
The new shako for other ranks introduced in 1855. It has a felt body, 5Y2 inches high at the front, 7½ inches high at the back, with a very large peak at the front and a small one at the rear as a rainguard. On each side are air vents. Inside there is a trade label of G. & W. Almond, London. The helmet plate is of lacquered brass with the three leopards of Jersey in the centre above a scroll with 'ROYAL JERSEY MILITIA' and a laurel wreath around the edge.
Infantry, other ranks, shako introduced in 1844. It is 6½ inches high and made of felt, with a large black leather peak at the front and a small one at the rear. The black leather overlapping top is 7 inches wide and has four ventilation holes each side and a black leather chin-strap fastened to two rosettes. Inside is a trade label of 'R * P & Co. London'. The helmet plate is a round brass plate, surmounted by a crown, and on it are the three leopards of Jersey and, beneath, a scroll with the words 'ROYAL JERSEY MILITIA' surrounded by a laurel wreath. The gunners in the artillery had a similar plate but with three cannons and 'ROYALJERSEY ARTILLERY'. The Castle Cornet collection in Guernsey has a similar shako which has the addition of a scroll with 'Rifles' on it.
Officer's 1861 shako. This quite different and rather small shako has a cork body covered with blue cloth and was only 4 inches high at the front and 6½ inches at the back. A peculiar feature was the diagonal stitching all over giving a quilted effect. The two rings of braid around the top may have been added at a later date. The plume holder with its green tufted plume and chin-chain, a lion's head at the back for attaching the chin-chain and two rosettes are all of white metal or silver plate. The chin-chain is backed with velvet. The helmet plate is a white metal star with the three leopards of Jersey in the centre of a garter with the words 'PRO REGE ET PATRIA'. This is surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves with a scroll beneath with the legend 'SECOND ROYAL JERSEY'.
The 1861 shako for the 1st or North-west Regiment. It is 'quilted' with a large black leather peak and it has a black tufted ball plume. This shako would have had a black leather chin-strap. The helmet plate is a bronze Maltese cross surmounted by a crown with, in the centre, a bugle horn with a number '1' between the strings, surrounded by a ring with the words 'ROYAL JERSEY RIFLES'.
Trooper's helmet, 1869. These black leather helmets were worn by dragoon type horsemen who acted as orderlies carrying messages between the regiments. The helmet is an impressive 15 inches high. All the fittings, the plume holder, velvet backed chin-cham, two rose bosses and the helmet plate are silver¬plated or white metal. For troopers the plume would be black horse-hair and for officers a plume of cocks' feathers. The helmet plate is a crowned shield, 5 inches by 3 inches; super¬imposed on it are the three leopards of Jersey with, on a separate scroll, the words 'ROYAL JERSEY MILITIA'. Inside is a leather lining with the trade label of Andrews, 9 Pall Mall.
Officer's shako. This was more a modification than a completely new head-dress, the main difference being that the body was not quilted and the top was slightly recessed. The fittings remained either silver or white metal. On this shako there are two silver braid bands around the top, to denote rank, and a diagonal silver braid down both sides. The plume is a red tufted ball in a white metal holder with 'V.R.' on it. The helmet plate is the same as the one in plate 9. The velvet-backed chin-chain is held by rose bosses on each side. On the scroll of the helmet plate are the words 'FIRST ROYAL JERSEY'. Inside it is lined with red silk. This shako was worn by John E Collas of the 1st or North-west Regiment.
Gunner's helmet, 1855, from the Elizabeth Castle collection. The busby, introduced for the artillery in 1855, is made of black fur with a red bag on the right and a brass badge with a royal coat of arms on the left. This is in the form of a flaming bomb and holds a white horse-hair hackle plume. At the bottom, on a scroll, is the legend 'ROYAL JERSEY ARTILLERY'. There is a black leather chin-strap.
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This article by Charles Larbalestier was first published in the 1988 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Victorian era

This article is restricted to the Victorian era because of the shortage of examples to illustrate the development of the head-dress prior to 1831, the year in which the prefix 'Royal' was granted to the Militia. Those described here are in chronological sequence and illustrate a complete range of types worn between 1829 and 1900.

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 the Royal Jersey Militia was wearing the 'bell top' shako which was introduced for the infantry and the artillery in 1829. The shape resembled that of an inverted bell, hence the name.

The 'bell top' was worn until 1844 when it was replaced by a new shako which came to be known as the 'Albert'; it has been suggested that the Prince Consort had a hand in its design. This was worn by both the infantry and the artillery and continued in use throughout the Crimean War. However, it proved to be inadequate and was replaced by a new type in 1855, the year in which the artillery adopted the fur busby for their head-dress. In 1861 a new shako similar to the modern French kepi was introduced. The blue cloth body was covered by diagonal stitching and it came to be known as the 'quilted' shako.

Black leather

During the 1860s a troop of horsemen was established in order to act as dispatch riders. Their helmets were of black leather with a large white metal helmet plate. The officers' helmets were distinguished by having a plume of cocks' feathers whilst those of the men had a horse-hair plume.

The next shako to be adopted was the 1869 pattern. It was very much like the previous one except for the absence of quilting and was the last shako to be worn. In 1881 it was replaced by a helmet, very much like those worn by the Prussian army, even to its having a spike at the top. The Militia was reorganised at this time and the five regiments were reduced to three and given the title 'Royal Jersey Light Infantry'. The Royal Jersey Artillery gave up their fur busbies and adopted a helmet with a ball at the top instead of the spike. The infantry helmets were green as befitted a light infantry regiment and those of the artillery were blue, like those of the regular Royal Artillery. This was the last change of head-dress during Queen Victoria's reign.

The 1869 version of a rifleman's shako. The blue cloth body is edged with red braid. The peak is of black leather as is the backing of the bronze chin-chain which terminates in two rose bosses also bronzed. The ball plume is incorrect and should be black. Below it is a black cockade. The helmet plate is a bronze bugle horn and evidence suggests that it could be a IV Battalion or South Regiment shako. There is ventilation on each side.
Officer's 'Albert' shako, 1844, similar to the previous one except for the helmet plate. In the centre is a large '3' and on the garter are the words 'JERSEY ROYAL MILITIA'. There is a theory that these white metal devices were transferred from the 'bell top' shako plate on to the smaller 'Albert' plate.
Artillery Officer'S helmet, intro¬duced at the same time as the light infantry adopted a new one. It is made of cork covered with blue cloth, the helmet plate and all the fittings being of gilded brass. These include the peak trim, a ball top screwing into a four-armed plate and the velvet-backed chin-chain termin¬ating in rosettes. There is a white silk inner lining bearing the trade label of De Gruchy & Co., King Street, Jersey. The helmet plate is the royal coat of arms surmounted by a Victorian crown and beneath is a field gun and scroll with the words 'DIEU ET MON DROIT'. Another scroll with 'ROYAL JERSEY ARTILLERY' forms the bottom line of the plate. This helmet was worn by Edward L. Mourant who was made a captain in 1883.
Staff officer's cocked hat, c. 1900. It is made of hard felt with a black satin cockade. At each end there is heavy gold braid and a gilt mesh strap, fastened by a gilt net button, runs down the right side. At the top is a plume of red and white cocks' feathers and, inside, is a lining of red silk. This hat was worn, about 1900, by C P Le Cornu who became ADC to King Edward VII.
Dragoon helmet being worn in 1869. The three officers are Edward George Le Boutillier, John Hamon and John Binet. They came from St Mary and St John so presumably were attached to the 1st or North-west Regiment.
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