From time to time, I come across some incredible pieces of military uniform and equipment. This stunning and incredibly rare Victorian Sergeant Major’s stable jacket (of the 3rd Dragoon Guards) is one of them.
The jacket first came to my attention whilst browsing a local auction room catalogue for a new desk. Bundled in with four other military jackets, this one really stood out. I thought for certain a collector with deep pockets would immediately snap it up. To my great surprise, the bids remained low, and I was able to swoop in and secure the jacket for a very reasonable price.
My initial research into the jacket quickly revealed it had previously been sold on ebay for a much higher price a few years back. The markings and wear confirming it was the exact same jacket.
Stable jackets had been in use with the British Cavalry since the early nineteenth century. Often worn as the everyday dress in barracks and whilst ‘walking out’, the stable jacket would have been a common sight around Victorian garrison towns like Canterbury and Aldershot. It wasn’t until 1897 that the stable jacket became obsolete and ceased being issued.
The yellow facings, regimental buttons and insignia all point to this example being worn by a member of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. On the right sleeve is sewn the incredible thick padded, yellow backed Victorian crown and chevrons, with the regimental NCOs arm badge, the Prince of Wales’s feathers. The left sleeve has the crossed rifles marksman badge, whilst the right sleeve shows the shadow of where a prize shot badge once was (sadly now missing). The jacket has suffered from some moth damage and thinning but overall in good condition, complete with the full set of regimental buttons.
The tunic is marked inside with the soldiers number (2354) and the issue date of 1894. From the number, I have been able to track down the original owner – 2354 Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant Leonard Smith of the 3rd Dragoon Guards.
Leonard joined the regiment on the 22nd May 1884 at Manchester, although he was born in Milton, Dorset. He first served overseas in the East Indies from 1884 to 1892. He would have been in Canterbury with the 3rd Dragoon Guards when this jacket was issued in 1894. He went on to serve in South Africa during the Boer War from January 1901 until July 1902. He finally left the army in February 1917 after over 32 years unbroken service with the colours! At some stage he was also attached to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry as a permanent instructor. His service records make fascinating reading.
Sadly, I’m no longer the owner of this lovely jacket, being unable to justify keeping it, not really being a collector and after the purchase of our first home!