Museum Objects in 3D

Thanks to a grant from Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) we were able to commission Tom Goskar, from the Curatorial Research Centre to produce 10 3D scans of objects from our museum displays. The objects give a glimpse in to the variety of objects within our collections, which tell the stories of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) and Light Infantry (LI) and their precursor regiments.

The range of objects you see below enabled us to tell the stories of the everyday. From the uniforms specifically designed to suit the varying environments the soldiers were fighting in to the equipment they used. From the mementos created by them, to those brought home from conflict zones, the objects chosen give an overview of the collections held by the museum. 

The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was formed through the amalgamation of two different regiments. These were the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot and the 46th (South Devon) regiment of Foot. The 32nd had started life as a regiment of marines, Fox’s Marines, formed in 1702. The 46th had originally been raised as John Price’s Regiment of Foot in 1742. In 1751 they became the 46th of Foot. This ditty box dates to the early history of the regiment, having belonged to a Colonel Shaw, and brought back by him from the 46th expedition to Havana, Cuba in 1762. A soldier would have used a ditty box was to hold their personal possessions, such as letters and writing paper, ink and pens.

Before they were used widely for music, drums were traditionally used for signalling on battlefields. This drum is the Regimental bass drum which was in use at the Siege of Lucknow in 1857. The noise of a battlefield would have made the use of drums for signalling important, as they could be heard over the din of battle. They were however shortly after this, taken out of use on the battlefield in favour of the bugle, which was easier to carry. The drum is painted with the Royal Coat of Arms, as well as the battle honours of the 32nd Regiment of Foot. The drum, made of wood, with animal hide skins, would have been played with large drumsticks. The drum would have been worn attached to a strap around the neck of the drummer so the soldier could walk whilst carrying it.

This water bottle, made of wood, is an 1875 pattern ‘Oliver’ bottle. Wooden bottles were a flawed design, as if they were stored empty, they tended to dry out and crack, leading to them leaking when filled with water. If stored filled with water, bacteria would be produced which would lead the water being undrinkable. This water bottle was used by Private Panton, a soldier with the 2nd Battalion DCLI at the Battle of Kassassin during the Egyptian War of 1882. We don’t know much about Private Panton but have to assume he ended up thirsty when a bullet went through his water bottle.

Whatever your opinion the ‘looting’ of areas involved in conflict has been prevalent throughout the history of the military. This example, of a reclining Buddha was taken by the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) from a temple in Burma (now Myanmar). Which temple the statue was removed from is unclear. The statue, made of marble, would have been seen as an impressive object to come back to Britain with. It sits, in the museum, alongside another Buddha taken at the same time (pictured here), which it stands out due to its large size, and its golden colour.

Prior to 1885, most of the British Army had fought in red jackets, with khaki service dress not being introduced for the majority of regiments until 1902 (though some had worn it early. The new uniform was a recognition of a need to produce uniforms which were suitably to the places being fought in, this temperate climate uniform, being of a sandy colour was appropriate to the desert locations of South Africa, as was the lighter fabric it was produced from (a change from the heavy felted red jackets). This uniform is that worn by Serjeant Charles Glasson George of Mylor who served with the DCLI during the Boer War in South Africa from 1899-1902. The red sash would have been worn by Serjeant George, with non-service forms of uniform.

This intricately crafted pin cushion would have been produced during WWI by a soldier as a form of therapy during recovery from injuries. They are known as ‘sweetheart’ pin cushions as they would have then been sent home by the soldiers to their loved ones. The hearts were produced from kits contained within a template-cut cardboard box which would have also contained the fabric, beads and pins needed to produce the cushions. The mass production of these kits meant that there were standard patterns produced. These could then be personalised to an individual or to reflect a soldier’s regiment, as this example is, having at its centre an image of regimental soldiers in uniform.

At the outbreak of WWI, the British army were the only side to have recognised the need for a drab uniform to provide camouflage on the battlefield. The 1902 pattern of uniform was plain in design, and easy to produce in large quantities. The use of General Service buttons on uniforms became standard, rather than the use of buttons specific to regiments. This meant that all regiments could be issued with a very standard uniform, with the addition of shoulder badges being used to specify the regiment, as seen in this example. In addition to the uniform, you can see some of the equipment worn by a WWI soldier on their webbing (the strapping that everything was carried on). This example includes a water bottle in its felt case, a haversack and a bayonet in its scabbard. In addition to these items, soldiers would also have been additional equipment including ammunition in a range of pouches, and an entrenching tool.

Henry John (Harry) Patch, served with the DCLI from 1916-1918. As a combat soldier he saw action with the regiment, at the Battle of Passchendaele. He was part of a four-man Lewis gun team, of whom he was the only survivor after an explosion, which killed the rest of the crew and left Harry wounded. He returned to Britain injured in 1917, returning briefly to the battlefield in 1918. He would not serve as a soldier again, though he served as a Fireman in Bristol during WWII. In later life Harry, having come to terms with what he had been through, would become vocal about his own objections to war. Harry is most famous for being “the Last Survivor of the Trenches” living to the grand old age of 111, this bust, on display in the museum, is a resin cast of a bronze bust produced by the sculptor Alan Dun, who cast the original for Bath Abbey, giving this bust to Harry, whom later donated to the museum.

In the 1970s the Light Infantry served in the jungles of Asia. The jungle warfare uniform was designed to suit the environment they were in. Each soldier wore a canvas hat fitted with vents to stop the head from sweating, a floppy brim meant that soldiers were more easily camouflaged. The hat had a coloured band around it, so soldiers to radio ahead to camp and indicate which colours were returning so . A ‘sweat scarf’ would be worn around the neck. Shirts had long sleeves in order that biting insects could not come in to contact with the skin. Trousers were made for comfort, no belts digging in to the waist, though a belt holding a soldier’s machete would have been worn over the waist. Designed with a large pocket to hold a map, they were tucked in to canvas boots designed for the warm climate. After the war in Vietnam War, boots with a metal plate through the sole were adopted to afford better protection.

In the 1960s a 12-foot concrete wall as built around West Berlin to keep out residents of the East. When President Gorbachev of Russia withdrew his support for the East, it was decided that the wall would be demolished. In November of 1989, John Dudart-Aberdeen Maj. (retired), a Cornishman, was the Commander of ‘Support Company’ of the 1st Battalion The Light Infantry (having served with its antecedent regiments, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry).  Within ‘Support Company’ was a group of soldiers trained and equipped as ‘Assault Pioneers’ (doing demolition, working with explosives etc).  John tells us how he tasked these soldiers to ‘demolish and recover some of the Wall as a momento of the times’.  He expected some ‘football’ size examples which they provided, like the one seen here, but a large slab of graffiti covered Wall  which you also see pictured, which is on display in the museum.