Monday, 18 November 2013

Movember Mondays

Sergeant Major Chaplin of the 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry  taken at Cocken Hall, 1914 (D/DLI 2/18/24(89))
D/DLI 2/18/24(89) Sergeant Major Chaplin of the 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry taken at Cocken Hall, 1914
When the Army Order was issued that King’s Regulations paragraph 1696 would be altered so that moustaches were no longer mandatory, the newspapers picked up on it. 

The Times of 7 October 1916 ran an article headlined ‘The Army Moustache.  Optional under new order’, in which it tells how moustaches were not always in favour,

‘…it was not until after the Crimea that the modern world came to tolerate it in polite society.’ 

Lieutenant Leybourne, 8th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, utilising a motorcycle mirror as a shaving aid at Ravensworth Park, c.1914 (D/DLI 2/8/60(19))
D/DLI 2/8/60(19) Lieutenant Leybourne, 8th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, utilising a motorcycle mirror as a shaving aid at Ravensworth Park, c.1914 

In 1916, it seems that moustaches were falling out of fashion again.  The Times believes news of the order

‘…may come as a surprise to the older, and as a relief to the younger, member of the Service.’

A month later, on 11 November 1916, the change was reported in The Deseret News, a Utah paper, via Associated Press Correspondence.  The article claims that whilst it was

‘…comparatively easy in the old days to control the army mustache [sic …] in the tremendous new fighting machine now martialed under the Union Jack they had […] begun to border on the ridiculous.’

Drawing by Reverend J.A.G. Birch,  5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry,  thought to be 1916  (D/DLI 7/63/2(142))
D/DLI 7/63/2(142)
Drawing by Reverend J.A.G. Birch, 
5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 
thought to be 1916 
Much as I have enjoyed coming up with ways of describing the beauteous bristles adorning some of the faces of the Durham Light Infantry, so too, I think, has the writer of the news article who goes on to say,

‘It is a salve to the old soldier that the new rule is merely optional.  It would have been a great grief to many of the old sergeants-major to part with the splendid, branching twirlios they have cultivated over five and 20 years.’ 

Given Sergeant Major Chaplin’s carefully tended ‘tache, I doubt he would have been reaching for the shaving foam on hearing the new order.  

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