Thursday, January 26, 2017

Flag of the Yorkshire "Blues" Regiment in 1745

During the Jacobite invasion of England in 1745, many loyal Whigs (supporters of George II) raised regiments of troops to aid their king against his competitor, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  On 24 September 1745, several Whig gentlemen of Yorkshire decided to raise a unit to aid George II.  Their contribution included both a regiment of foot called the Yorkshire Blues, and a regiment of cavalry called the Yorkshire Hunters.  The book Cumberland's Culloden Army 1745-46 by Stuart Reid (1) details the uniform of the Yorkshire Blues: a blue coat with red cuffs and no lapels. 
Click on picture to enlarge it

This is important information; however, the Yorkshire Blues also carried flags, or, in the terminology of that era, colours.  A unique eyewitness engraving shows the Yorkshire Blues and Hunters in parade, with glorious detail of their colours.  I am focusing here on the Blues' colours.  In the engraving, they are carried by each company (see the detail picture at right).  The numbers merely serve as a legend and are not part of the original flag.  It can be seen that each flag carries a shield.  Thankfully, the artist included a "close-up" of the flag's details in a cartouche near the bottom of the picture.
It can now be seen that the shield has a cross running through the center with five animals on it.  These animals reminded me of heraldic lions and further research revealed that this unique distribution of lions on a cross is the coat-of-arms for the city of York.  What would be more appropriate than to put the city's coat of arms on its regiment's flags? 

But there is another detail visible in the print under consideration: script both above and below the York coat-of-arms.  Above it reads "Religion", while below the shield, "and Liberty."  Below is my reconstruction of the Yorkshire "Blues" regimental flag.

The city of York's coat of arms is a white shield with a red cross of Saint George and five golden lions.  This is fact, but the colors of rest of the flag is an educated guess.  The ground of the flag I have colored blue, with golden script. 

Why blue?  While regimental flags were typically in a regiment's facing (cuffs and lapels) colors (2), red flags were reserved for the three elite Regiments of Foot Guards.  Not even regiments with red facings (e.g. the 33rd Regiment) were allowed red flags; instead, they carried white flags with a Cross of Saint George (3).  To have a provincial regiment carry flags with a red ground would be highly unusual.  I have therefore chosen to color the flag's ground blue, based on the unit's nickname.
My reconstruction of the Yorkshire Blues flag
While nicknames generally attached to the unit's facing colors, such as the 3rd "Buffs" or 71st "Scottish Whites", there are instances where a nickname referred to the unit's coat.  The King's Royal Regiment of New York was known as "Johnson's Greens", not because of its facing color, but instead because of its coat color.  In the same way, the Yorkshire "Blues" were nicknamed because of their coat color.  Since this is the case, I believe that blue is the most reasonable choice for their flag.  The motto "Religion and Liberty" appears in gold, in much the same way as the flag of the 60th Royal Americans. (4)  While I freely admit that my recreation is tentative, I believe that every artistic choice can be defended historically.

But another flag also appears in the original: a standard carried by the Blues' sister regiment, the mounted Yorkshire Hunters.  Stay tuned for an analysis and reconstruction of their flag!


(1)  Reid, Stuart, Cumberland's Culloden Army 1745-46.  Oxford: Osprey, 2012. pg. 45.  For more about the Yorkshire Blues, see also Duffy, Christopher, Fight for a Throne: the Jacobite '45 Reconsidered. West Midlands: Helion and Co, 2015. pgs. 184-185, also pgs. 345-346.
(2)  This link reproduces the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751, which regulated the uniforms, flags, and drums of King George II's British army.  Regimental flags in the facing color was a tradition which existed before the Clothing Warrant of 1751.
(3)  A depiction of the 33rd Regiment's flags during the Seven Years War appears on this page.  Since the Foot Guards carried red regimental flags since the 1600s, this prohibition against red flags for anyone else had existed long before the Clothing Warrant of 1751.
(4)  In addition to the 60th Royal Americans, most of the regiments of foot without a distinctive badge embroidered their regimental numbers on their flags in gold.

If you are a wargamer and would like to deploy this flag in your own unit of Yorkshire Blues, feel free; however, I would appreciate a credit as the artist of this flag's reconstruction :).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review of Grace Triumphant by Alicia Willis

While most of my reading focuses on historical nonfiction, I do enjoy a good work of historical fiction—if I can find it. At a recent convention, Schuyler M. of Lady Bibliophile ( recommended Alicia Willis as an author of historical fiction whom I might enjoy. After looking over all titles written by Alicia Willis, I picked out her novel Grace Triumphant to begin with. Why did I choose this one over any of her others? This was set in my favorite time: the 18th century. When I had finished, I had thoroughly enjoyed the story. It follows three characters and their travels: the squalid slums of London, the high seas (and their scurvy pirates), upper-class English society, and even the English-held island of Jamaica.

The story is written as a parallel narrative between three main characters: Russell Lawrence, a captain of a merchant ship involved in the slave trade, his cabin boy Jack Dunbar, and English high-society lady Elizabeth Grey. The narrative cuts back and forth between these three and their own personal struggles, often allowing the reader to see their personalities, motivations, and thoughts in a way that the other characters cannot. To keep interest (it certainly worked for me!) the narrative will leave one character in deep trouble when it turns to another character. I enjoyed this method of storytelling, and it was accomplished extremely effectively.

Each character faces his own struggles, both internally and externally. Captain Lawrence squares off against pirates, storms, and the myriad dangers of Africa. Jack Dunbar tries desperately to survive as a cabin boy on a tightly-run slave ship. Elizabeth Grey is an English aristocrat with a kindly heart and a treacherous circle of friends.

While the external dangers are myriad, each character’s internal struggles are even harder to conquer. This book allows us to see how their struggles sometimes take place in our own lives. Captain Lawrence tries to make his living in the world and run his ship with justice. Dunbar worries about how he can be a Christian witness among the darkness of slave traders. Miss Grey must choose between standing firm on her principles or receiving love and adoration.

Historical details are generally accurate, with only two minor anachronisms I have found. 
1) The crew of the Barbados, a British merchantman, is equipped with poniards, a thin dagger developed during the Renaissance and generally used as backup in a rapier duel. These are too early (and delicate) for general shipboard use in the 1780s. 

A private of Ferguson's Corps with breechloading rifle
2) Upon seeing a breech-loading firearm in Africa, Jack Dunbar recognizes its mechanism and recalls a tavern patron who bragged about shooting American rebels at Saratoga with one. No British soldier at Saratoga (1777) carried a breechloader; however there were breechloaders at the battle of Brandywine, (also in 1777) carried by Ferguson’s corps of marksmen.  See Don Troiani's painting at  Furthermore, Ferguson’s corps was made up of detachments from the regular British army, as is inferred in the book. Rather than labelling this an anachronism, I am inclined to blame Dunbar’s faulty memory, or the length of time this veteran spent at the tavern before telling his story.

However, as stated above, these do not detract from the story—or its historical setting—at all. This book is filled with the 18th century, whether a mutineer dances the hempen jig or a highwayman stalks London’s high society. In addition, I must compliment the author for including yet another historical accuracy. While it would have been easy to blame the slave trade on English traders or New World planters, the role of African (or sometimes Arab) chieftains in kidnapping and selling slaves to the Europeans is laid out here as well. All three were equally guilty of furthering this abominable trade.

As Christians, we often feel that our impact on the world is negligible, if not nonexistent. I struggle with this often. But Grace Triumphant faces this problem squarely, and offers ways to overcome this feeling. Dramatizing the struggle against the English slave trade, the author demonstrates how even one ordinary person’s labors can change others. The two characters who attempt to reform their world are overtaken by events and dominated by the other characters. Yet we see how their efforts are used to help others. I won’t spoil exactly how this happens; you will have to read the book for yourself.

In conclusion: Grace Triumphant is an exciting yarn with important lessons for 21st Century Christians, particularly Christian young people. 4.5/5 stars.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie Review: Defense of New Haven

Most of my reviews begin with a summary of the movie’s storyline, a critique of historical details, and then end with my final thoughts. For the recent movie The Defense of New Haven, I will invert this order and give my final thoughts first: see this movie. This is easily one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. A good storyline, good acting, interesting special effects, and hilarious humor are all present. 5/5 stars.

Alec is a young fellow who aids an agent of the City Defense Force (CDF) to escape from the evil Raiders. The agent is captured, but passes his message (and a training manual) on to Alec, with the task of getting it to the local CDF headquarters. Alec hitches a ride on a patrol boat and arrives with the message. While at the headquarters, he receives news that the Raiders have hit another building and all its occupants have mysteriously disappeared. When he learns that the building was the orphanage where he and his little sister used to live, the war becomes personal to Alec.

He succeeds in joining the CDF and soon becomes a model student. His days are spent in target practice with powerful crossbows, boat maintenance, and reading the textbooks assigned by Winston, the local CDF chief. But the manual that Alec received from the agent is dismissed with the comment “It was alright for its time.” That manual begins to baffle Alec, as a bookmark appears in a new section of it every day.

Throughout the ongoing operations between the CDF and the Raiders, Alec plays a conspicuous and important part. His gallantry prevents a box of explosives from being detonated, which leads to an important discovery of Raider tunnels. In quest of further information, he and his friend Pete travel upriver to a shady area, where they survive a brawl at Pelican Cove.

After this, Alec concocts a plan to find out who keeps putting bookmarks in his old manual and returns to CDF barracks after stating he would like a few days of leave. Before he can observe anything, he is caught red-handed by Louise, a CDF supervisor. All appearances tend to confirm one fact: Alec is a spy. He vehemently denies it to his friend Pete, but is permanently fired from the CDF.

What next? How will Alec continue the fight? Will the Raiders succeed? Which character is the Raiders’ spy in CDF headquarters anyway? I won’t spoil any more of the story for you; instead, you will have to watch it for yourself.

The acting is done by a group of children, many of whom are double or triple-cast. Mustaches or beards keep them separate (as well as add to the humor). For example,Winston the chief and Eddie the mechanic are both played by the same actor; however, Eddie sports a short one, and Winston a full gray beard.

It would have been easy to float this movie on cute kids, but the producers put time into creating an engaging storyline, interesting visuals, and even some action sequences. When all four elements (story, visuals, action, and cute kids) come together, the result is a magnificent movie. I would highly recommend that you acquire a copy and watch it—as soon as possible! 5/5 stars.