enter image description here

This is a photo of my Grt Grdth's brother, George Anderson, born 1856 Kildare, Ireland. I have this studio portrait. What uniform is he wearing? He worked in Sth Africa at times.

  • 2
    It looks like a bellhop uniform .
    – dean1957
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 15:39
  • 2
    I was thinking Royal artillery. The insignia on the shoulderboard should be the defining feature here. (the even split on the pillbox style forage cap seems to match Artillery as well)
    – justCal
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 17:40
  • 1
    @justCal on reconsideration, I think you're right - the cap fits perfectly with the one here. Which suggests that the shoulder title should be his battery ... except it's text not a number. Hmm. Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 18:01
  • 1
    Got it, I think - WESTERN, which might indicate Western Division RA rather than a battery number? I'll write up an answer Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 18:14
  • 2
    @dean1957: apparently bellhops' caps were intentionally modeled on military (drummers') caps. Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


I think I've got it: a gunner (private) of the Royal Artillery, from the Western Division, in the mid-1880s.

As @justCal identified, it's likely to be a Royal Artillery uniform of the 1880s pattern, with the lack of markings on the "undress" forage cap and shoulders confirming he is a gunner and not a bombardier.

The shoulder strap appears to read WESTERN. This would suggest the Western Division, Royal Artillery, indicating he was in the garrison (coastal defence) artillery. The regional divisions of garrison artillery were not formed until 1882, and prior to that were numbered brigades, giving us an earliest date.

As the name suggests, the Western Division initially held units in the west of England, and in in 1883 and in 1884 we can see they have no batteries at Dover. However, in 1885 and in 1886 the 4th Battery of Western Division is given as based at Dover. By 1887 it is in Malta. Some close examination of contemporary newspapers (nb paywall) finds the 4th Battery at Dover by April 1884, and departing October 1886. I can't quite find when they left Malta but they don't seem to have returned to Dover; in 1891 they were at Devonport and moving to Pembroke.

This seems to give us a pretty narrow window for when it was likely taken - circa 1884-6. He does look plausibly about thirty...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.