Belgic Shako Plates

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John Waller
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Belgic Shako Plates

Postby John Waller » Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:41 pm

Was there a distinction between officers and other ranks plates in that the former had a pebbled ground and the O/Rs were plain? Is this the case or is it a modern myth? Or is it another case of 'it depends on the regt.' or we simply don't know?

It has been suggested to me that the pebbled ground held gilding better which is why it features on many suviving officer's plates. Dunno about that.


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Neibelungen
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Re: Belgic Shako Plates

Postby Neibelungen » Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:02 pm

There is no specification. I've seen plates from a single regiment with both, officer's and O/R.

I think it generally simple depended on the money avaialble to each regiment to spend on commisioning the dies as they were locally manufactured.

Officer's plates seem to be a mixture of both brass (gilding metal usually as it's a higher copper content compared to brass) or copper base with burnished gilding. The plain plates generally being matted ground (pebbled) while often badged ones seem to have a smooth ground, but it's not a fast rule.

The ground won't hold the gilding any better, as unlike plating it's a partial bonding to the surface through mercury evaporation. The primary significance is design, as the edge rim and raised GR will be burnished to highlight and the ground left matted, futher emphasised by the pebbleing effect.

O/R's plates are brass, and hence will recieve a lot more polishing, thus a pebbled ground will eventually become smooth, so actually starting with a flat ground will keep a uniform appearance longer, or else becomes flat over time, especially or a worn die.

The Codlstream and 1st guards O/R plates are flat, as are the 27th, 5th from examples. 3rd guards have a pebble effect on one sample, with a flat plate on another.

Theres both patterns seen on 41st plates. 4th, 14th and 44th have known pebbled examples. The 14th have Corruna embosed inthe plate below the regt number, a fairly unique occurance. Regt numbered plated are roman and arabic too, probably matching button styles, though not always.

Generally officer's plates are pebbled. Though there are 2 officers plates from the Coldstream with flat ground and several with pebbled.


I'd suspect perhaps the answer might be wear and tear in the die. The ground face (female) will meet more force against the male (rear) of the die on striking. The raised lettering/badges will compress more into the body of the die, or can be filed thinnner, while the actual background is compressed against a flat surface. Again, on recutting a face, it's easier to smooth off the badly worn pebble than to try to recut it.
Unlike modern hydraulic stamping, you only have large fly presses and drop hammers at this date. Embossing ground details requires more force and softer metal, which may mean, those manufacturers without experience or heavier tooling (medal/coining experience) would opt for a flat ground. Equally, matted grounds require more work in tooling the die, as they appear to be punched ground rather than engraved cut. Patterns were often sent out as sketches and drawing rather than access to actual sealed pattern samples. Centres in London and perhaps Birmingham may have had more access to actual examples, while more regional ones would have had to work with descriptions and sketches/watercolours etc.

I suspect it really came down to regimental interpretation. Those that prefered a highly polished or cheaper/quicker badge going with flat ground and those less so with a pebbled ground.

Possibly the earliest plates may have been flat ground, as this follows on from the design style of all previous plates, with matted ground being the preferred option latter.

Very few regiments would have recieved belgic plates before at least 1814/15, if at all. Consequently it's difficult to truely date a plate as to being a pre or post 1815 issue. Generally O/R are drilled for mounting, but perhaps become generally pinned later on, with reduced numbers and better supply meaning more attention can be paid to manufacture. The simplification of plate on the regency shako might indicate that an established pattern of design conformity was required.

Final answer, there is no rule as far as I know, and lots of different variation to make a general guess impossible.


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Re: Belgic Shako Plates

Postby John Waller » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:45 pm

Thanks Andrew. Interested in your comment about regiments not receiving plates 'before 1814/15, if at all'. Are you suggesting some regiments may have initially had the new caps with the old stovepipe plates?

There is no know example of a belgic plate for my unit, 2nd Queen's Royals, though we have found a line drawing from an old regimental newsletter which shows a 2 below the cypher. The article gives no source so we think that it may be speculative. We are considering kitting up for a post 1812 impression for the lead up to 2015 so we are researching details.


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Re: Belgic Shako Plates

Postby Neibelungen » Fri Jan 01, 2010 1:43 pm

Interested in your comment about regiments not receiving plates 'before 1814/15, if at all'. Are you suggesting some regiments may have initially had the new caps with the old stovepipe plates?


It's more to do with the number of regiments that actually had Belgic shako's before the 1815 campaign.


Evidence from a few regimental returns would indicate that reinforcements from arriving from Britain may have tended to have them issued at home and gone out with them rather than supplies of the new shako being sent out to the continent. Regimental inspection returns and notebooks (where surviving) might shed a clearer light on when the new caps and plates arrived for each individual regiment.

It's interesting when you look at the Canadian records, as they show similar things. Troops came out with them, while some were equiped with tropical white versions redirected across from the Caribean untill newer suppliers became available.


There are a few silhouttes and engravings of offiicers of line and volunteer units showing the central panels off the stovepipe plate mounted onto a belgic, though I suspect these were a rareity. Chances are a new hat would have been issued with a correct plate as the two would have been ordered from manufacturers together. Even the simple adjustment to flank coy replacing the plate with bugles and grenades in 1814 hadn't always been implemented by 1815, a few examples exist of these devises being added to the plate design itself. (eg Coldstream)


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