Own a piec e o f Bri­tish c olo­nial milit ary his tory

Weekend Witness - - Classifieds -

CAM­PAIGN fur­ni­tur e is fur­ni­tur e that, in da ys gone by, was specif­i­cally made to be dis­man­tled, folded up and packed up and car­ried on the march.

It has been used by trav­el­ling armies since the time of J ulius Cae­sar and e ven ear lier.

With the rise and ex­pan­sion of the Bri­tish Em­pire in the eigh­teenth and early nine­teenth centu­ ries Bri­tish gen­tle­men be­gan to dom­i­nate the army, g overn­ment and c om­merce in c olonies through­out the world. The finest Bri­tish fur­ni­ture­mak­ers pr oduced “cam­paign fur­ni­tur e” f or this new class of trav­eller. Bri­tish of­fi­cers of high so­cial po­si­tion in the Geor gian and V ic­to­rian pe­ri­ods (1714 to 1901) took it for granted that when they set out on a mil­i­tary camp aign in Africa or In­dia they c ould enjo y the same s tandard of li ving as they did at home.

Th­ese fur­ni­ture­mak­ers com­peted t o de vise ever more el­e­gant and ing enious “knock­down” chairs, t ables, desks, book­cases, games t ables, so­fas, beds and even bidets for their ladies — all in the height of fash­ion. The Bri­tish of­fi­cers and civil­ian gen­tle­men trav­el­ling to the colonies could or­der com­plete suites of fur­ni­ture for the gen­teel life abroad.

By the mid 19th cen­tury it was pos­si­ble to buy a com­plete Bar­rack Room Out­fit from sev­eral London firms.

This out­fit would com­prise chair with pack­ing case that w ould con­vert t o a t able, a wash­stand that would pack down into a hip bath, a camp bed, and chest of draw­ers — of­ten re­ferred t o as a mil­i­tary chest or cam­paign chest. Some of the se chests also in­cor­po­rate a sec­re­taire d rawer.

Th­ese ar e gen­er­ally made of ei­ther t eak or maho gany and break down into two sec­tions with screw­off bun feet.

The br ass c orners and s trap work off er some pro­tec­tion and typ­ify the dis­tinc­tive “cam­paign” look. Their pack­ing cases would then form a wardrobe.

The demise of cam­paign fur­ni­ture man­u­fac­ture can, lar gely, be blamed on the B oers dur­ing the Boer War. The be­gin­ning of the 20th c en­tury sa w chang es in the way war was con­ducted.

The B ri­tish had been t aught a le sson by the B oers, w ho could mo ve quickl y and the y disc overed their mo­bile unit s were not quite as mo­bile as the y thought. In 1 903, T he B ri­tish Sec­re­tary of St ate for war, H.O. Arnold­Forster stated: “The Bri­tish Army is a so­cial in­sti­tu­tion pre­pared for ev­ery emer gency e xcept that of w ar.”

The ne w c en­tury saw de vel­op­ments in trans­port and the rise of the mot or car meant that travel was quicker, mak­ing it less of a ne­ces­sity to equip your­self f or a long jour­ney.

There w as a de­crease in de­mand f or cam­paign fur­ni­tur e.

Por­ta­ble fur­ni­tur e was s till used f or sport­ing e vents and shoot­ing p arties, but it was less ac­cept­able for an offic er to have a large bag­gage train.

To­day disc ern­ing col­lec­tors ar e happ y to pay “top dol­lar” for cam­paign fur­ni­tur e.

Can­non’s Auc­tion­eers have had two mil­i­tary chests in the last two months that sold at R9 000 and R17 000 re­spec­tively.

This Tues­day Can­non’s will be sell­ing this rare dis­play cab­i­net on che st that prom­ises t o g en­er­ate con­sid­er­able int er­est.

— Sup­plied.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

This r are Displ ay Cab­ine t on Che st, which is rich in his­tory, will be up f or grabs this T ues­day at Can­non’s.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

This T ues­day Can­non ’s will be s elling this r are Dis­play Cab­ine t on Che st that pr omises t o g en­er­ate con­sid­er­able int er­est.

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