Royal Navy Uniforms: Lt. William Hicks

This uniform belonging to Lieutenant William Hicks is the only known surviving example of a Royal Navy lieutenant’s uniform from the Napoleonic Era (1812-25 regulation pattern). It is even more noteworthy for having belonged to a veteran of Trafalgar. As a 21 year-old midshipman, William Hicks was an aide-de-camp to Captain Pellew of the Conqueror, which took possession of Admiral Villeneuve’s flagship Bucentaure.

Courtesy of the NMM.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

Royal Navy Uniforms Extant Garments Album Updates

Many new images have been added to both the regular Extant Garments album and the Lord Nelson album. There were too many new items for individual posts, so I thought I’d highlight them here. Of particular interest are the surgeon’s uniform items near the bottom. I can just see Stephen making a horrible mess of that full dress coat.

Boat Cloak (Circa 1805)

Captain’s Dress Coat (Pattern 1812)

Flag-Officer’s Waistcoat (Pattern 1812)

Rear-Admiral Full Dress Coat (Pattern 1812)

Royal Marines Dress Coat (Pattern 1782)

Surgeon’s Breeches (Pattern 1805)

Surgeon’s Full Dress Coat (Pattern 1805)

Surgeon’s Waistcoat (Pattern 1805)

Trafalgar Undershirt (Non-Regulation)

The full stories of each individual item can be found in the main gallery, or by clicking the “Extant Garments Album” related post below.

Text and images courtesy of the NMM.
Image: Screencap from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (copyright Twentieth Century Fox 2003).

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

Historical Shipwrecks: HMS Cerberus & HMS Orpheus Gallery

The Historical Shipwrecks album is dedicated to pictures of artifacts from shipwrecks relevant to our period. The first addition is this gallery of images relating to the HMS Cerberus and HMS Orpheus.

On 29 July 1778, a French fleet under Admiral Comte d’Estaing arrived in Narragansett Bay as allies of the Americans in their war for independence. While preparing to attack British-occupied Newport, French warships moved to intercept four Royal Navy frigates operating in the bay. On 5 August, the British commanders burned and sunk all four ships, including the 28-gun Cerberus and 32-gun Orpheus, to avoid capture.

Text and images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum unless otherwise noted.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

Royal Navy Uniforms: Sailor’s Embroidered Sea Bag

“A slow packer he was, and inefficient; if Killick had not come to him, having stowed the
Captain’s sea-bag, Stephen might have gone on staring at the handkerchiefs, the
neckcloths, and the warm-weather drawers until the drum called him away to dinner.”
The Fortune of War

I’m cheating a little in adding this to the Royal Navy Uniforms Extant Garments album. In the first place, a sea bag wasn’t necessarily part of a sailor’s uniform. It’s also not so much Royal Navy as American. I justify these discrepancies thus: many sailors had sea bags, so it’s still useful to know what one looks like, and many American sailors ended up on Royal Navy ships. Oh, also, Jack Aubrey has one. So there.

This bag is really an incredible work of folk art. Life at sea was often demanding, but instances of free time could hang heavy on one’s hands with nothing to do. Because of this sailors invented or took part in many forms of folk art, including scrimshaw and embroidery.

This early American example was made either ashore or at sea out of linen panels and hand sewn and hand embroidered. It is decorated with with traditional symbols of the period comprised of an early American flag, an anchor, a tree with a serpent, a very ornate star medallion and many other stars as well. They’re worked in gold, navy and beige thread, and is of exceptionally fine quality indicating a very accomplished artisan as shown by the star emblem on the bottom of the bag.

The nineteen star, fifteen stripe flag our sailor depicted dates from 1795 when the number of stars and stripes were increased to reflect the entry of Kentucky and Vermont into the Union. It is the style flag that flew at Fort Mc Henry in 1812 inspiring Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner”, now our national anthem. This arrangement was not changed until April, 1818 when the number of stars was increased to twenty, and the number of stripes reduced to thirteen, honoring the original colonies.

Courtesy of Land and Sea Collection.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

Royal Navy Uniforms: Sailor’s Shore-Going Rig

This seaman’s hat and waistcoat from the early 19th century is the newest addition to our Well-Dressed Men Royal Navy Uniforms Extant Garments album. It is probably an example of “shore-going rig”, as regular seamen had no set uniforms until later in the century. Captains would often provide the crew of their personal barge with matching outfits, however, and the men themselves would often create their own sort of dress uniform to help them look smart when ashore. It is also possible this outfit belonged to a sea-going civilian serving on a merchantman.

The hat is made of leather with a gold and black striped ribbon streamer. In the Royal Navy this streamer would usually have the name of the ship to which the sailor belonged embroidered on it.

The waistcoat is constructed of black (or very dark blue) cotton velvet front with polished cotton lining and back. There is an adjustable tab and buckle in the back and leather insets on the bottom front inside lining. The entire waistcoat shows meticulous hand stitching throughout. The ten buttons are fabric covered.

Courtesy of Land and Sea Collection.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading