"That's some bad hat Harry." That line is taken from the 1975 film JAWS is an unlikely but more than appropriate title for this photograph given the sad remnants of a 'hat' that this seated mounted infantryman has sitting on his head. That it had seen more than it's fare share of campaigning is beyond question or doubt.
The bad hat aside both men are clearing members of the mounted infantry that played such an important role in British military operations during the Anglo-Boer War. With a standard issue Foreign Service pattern helmet on his head, the standing corporal wears a binocular case on his belt and his pockets seem to be filled almost to overflowing, probably with necessities of life that were hard to come by in the field. His waist belt appears to be of the buff leather Slade-Wallace pattern
and he wears mounted pattern trousers as does the seated private. He wears a leather 1888 pattern bandolier across his chest.
The seated private also wears mounted pattern trousers although his belt has a clasp of the s-hook pattern. As noted before his hat has degenerated into an almost unrecognizable mass of drooping felt by the weather conditions in the field but that fact that he chose to wear it may indicate that he considered it something a badge of honor. He appears to be wearing a variation of Mills pattern ammunition bandolier that has been modified by the addition of leather cover flaps.
Both men are still wearing infantry pattern puttees around their lower legs and neither men appear to be wearing spurs. From the overall look of these two soldiers "by the book" had certainly gone by the wayside at this point in the war.
One of the more interesting details in this photograph are the additional leather straps that both soldiers have attached to the upper barrel bands of their rifles. These straps were utilized in the same manner that similar straps seen attached to British cavalry lances were during the same time period and aided the troopers in handling their rifles while mounted. Photographs of British and Imperial troops in the field during the Anglo-Boer War show them with these same type straps around their right arm while the butt of their rifles rests in a leather bucket near their right stirrup.
Davis Bros. - Photographer
Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa