Redcoated ancestor

Graham Jackson and his grandson Mathew Jackson Raines were thrilled to see the uniform of their ancestor Sergeant John Smith Jackson (1870-1963) on display in Uniformity: Cracking the dress code at Te Papa recently. Sergeant Jackson is Graham’s grandfather and Matt’s great-great grandfather.

Graham Jackson and Matt Raines checking out Sergeant John Smith Jackson’s uniform, 2012.

Matt Raines and Graham Jackson checking out Sergeant John Smith Jackson’s uniform, 2012.

As a young man, John Smith Jackson joined the Gordon Highlanders – a famous Scottish regiment of the British Army. He later migrated to New Zealand with his family in 1910 and became a grocer and electrician in Petone, Wellington.

Sergeant John Smith Jackson, late 1880s-90s. Photograph courtesy of Beatrice Jackson and Pat McAllister.

Sergeant John Smith Jackson, late 1880s-90s. Photograph courtesy of Beatrice Jackson and Pat McAllister.

Red tunics like this example were worn by the British Army from the middle of the 17th century. Soldiers became known for their striking scarlet clothing, and were sometimes called ‘Redcoats’. 

The tunic on display in 'Uniformity', level 4, Te Papa.

The tunic on display in ‘Uniformity’, level 4, Te Papa.

The yellow cuffs and collar of this tunic are called facings. Yellow is the colour which denotes Scottish regiments. This tunic is similar to the standard British Army tunic of the period but was shorter at the front to expose more of the kilt worn underneath by Scottish soldiers.

This tunic looks smart, but would have been restrictive in battle. However, many believed in the Victorian period that posture and tight-fitting clothing were elements that marked a soldier. Smartness was allied to discipline.

See the whole Gordon Highlanders uniform on Collections Online.

Uniformity – Cracking the dress code is on level 4 of Te Papa until September 2013.

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