Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Every Military Requisite

On 2nd April 1901, the London Gazette published the commission of 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Hugh Wilson Robertson (1879-1917) in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, the South Wales Borderers.

Immediately after the announcement, no less than 5 companies were pitching for his business!

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HJ Tucker, Military Tailor & Outfitter 137 Cheapside, London, EC.

HJ Tucker used a pre-printed and rather impersonal standard letter, accompanied by a generic estimate for a 2nd Lieutenant's uniform. The quote included the cost of a sword with either a 'best proved steel hilt and scabbard' or a more expensive plated version - 'to prevent rust'.

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Hebbert & Co Ltd, Manufacturers of Army, Navy, Railway and Police Cloths, Clothing, Caps & AccoutrementsHead Office: Bethnal Green Road, London, E. Telephone No. 909 London Wall. 

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Unlike Mr Tucker, Hebbert & Co were connected to the telephone! 

Hebbert's approach was much more personal: a handwritten letter, signed by H G Brightwell of No. 24 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London. 

They too enclosed a price list but this time specifically aimed at a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry Volunteers.

Note the difference in the price of gloves: doeskin versus dogskin!

According to his surviving correspondence, Hebbert & Co Ltd were rewarded with an order from Ronald Robertson - two years later, when he purchased a 'cloth cape' in October 1903.

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J Fisher, Army and Volunteer Contractor 33 & 34 Artillery Place, Woolwich. 

Fisher specialised in second hand goods. His 'Circular' did not advertise a telephone number nor did it contain a separate price list. Instead, J Fisher's 'Special' offer included an 'unsoiled' infantry officer's steel sword for £3/5s or one in nickel plate for a snip at £2.

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Samuel Brothers Ltd, Military Tailors & Outfitters Sydenham House, 65 & 67 Ludgate Hill, London EC. Telephone No. 689 Bank. 

Like the other four companies, Samuel Brothers Ltd despatched their price list on 3rd April. It was accompanied by a fairly hurried looking handwritten letter, which stressed 'quality, workmanship & finish'. Uniquely, it drew the new lieutenant's attention to fellow officers (from his battalion) who were already Samuel Brothers' customers: Majors Powell & Jones, Captain Jowel and Quarter Master Dickey.  A clever piece of marketing!
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Although they enclosed a handy 'Officers' Self-Measurement' guide (right), I think it unlikely that a young officer would ever attempt 'self-measurement' for his first uniform but it's a nice touch. 

The last, successful approach was made by: 

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Hobson & Sons 'Officers Department', 1, 3 & 5 Lexington Street, Golden Square, London W. Telephone No. 3666 Gerrard. 

Hobson & Sons used a standard but professional, typed letter. It offered the Crickhowel based 2nd Lieutenant Robertson the convenience of using their agent Messrs Williams Bros Tailors of 145 Commercial Street, Newport for his measuring and fitting.

Ronald Robertson took quite some time to consider his options and eventually ordered his tunic and mess uniform from Hobson & Sons on 4th June 1901. Two days later, under the pressure of attending his first Brigade Camp at Porthcawl on 13th July, he submitted an order for the rest of his uniform!
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Staggeringly, given the time frame, Hobson's managed to fulfil most of Ronald's order before he left for Brigade Camp. They only missed the deadline with the Great Coat and the Sam Browne Belts and Sword Knot, but these items were ready for delivery a week later. 

From an announcement in the Gazette to possession of your full kit, it was quick work!

Hobson & Sons are still in business!

© Emmy Eustace

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