28/09/2010

THE STORY OF THE ARTISTS RIFLES...


The VV is not averse to a dabbling in the newfangled world of the Twitterarti, for there she has discovered a wealth of fascinating facts, and one of those stories is that of the Artists Rifles - the volunteer regiment originally formed from London-based artists, sculptors, engravers, musicians, architects and actors who responded to patriotic fervour when England was threatened with invasion by Napoleon III of France.


The crest was designed by William Wyon, official chief engraver at the Royal Mint, who was also Queen Victoria’s medallist. It shows the heads of Mars the God of war, and Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom – about whom a regimental rhyme was composed: Mars, he was the god of war and didn’t stop at trifles. Minerva was a bloody whore, so hence the Artists Rifles.



Officially named as The 38th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Volunteer Corps, the regiment soon set up its headquarters at the Royal Academy’s Burlington House, there commanded by the luminaries Henry Wyndham Philips and Frederick Leighton, and among other distinguished artist members were Millais, Holman Hunt,William Morris and Rossetti – though it has to be said that the Pre-Raphaelites’ interest appeared to be social rather than military in nature!


Responding to the fears that some of the country's finest artists might lose their lives in war, the publication Once a Week was to report - "Such splendid beards; worthy of Titian and such fine faces! Imagine some dirty little scrub of a foreigner picking off his Stanfield, or potting a Millais before breakfast. But there would be plenty of Englishmen left to avenge them and to paint good pictures afterwards."


Those more determined volunteers eventually saw action in the Boer War, and World War 1. And although disbanded in 1945, the regiment was re-established again when, from 1947 onwards, it became the Special Air Service Regiment – or as it is more widely known – the SAS.

With 2010 being the regiment’s 150th anniversary, Patrick Baty has been posting examples of many Victorian and later volunteer members under the Twitter name of @marsminerva. To view the information that Patrick has compiled regarding the artists and their work, please click onto this link.

The official regimental site is available to view at:  http://artistsriflesassociation.org/

9 comments:

  1. I love the idea of 'potting a Millais'!I can't imagine the pre-Raphaelites were sober enough to hold a rifle much of the time. How did this move from artists to the SAS?

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  2. I love the idea of 'potting a Millais' but I can't imagine the pre-Raphaelites were sober enough to hold a rifle much of time. How did it get from artists to SAS?

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  3. I know, Suzie...Such an amazing evolution!

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  4. This is great Sarah. I think there should be a TV series or film or SOMETHING about this.

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  5. Kate, I agree - an exhibition would be wonderful.

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  6. Surprisingly, much of the original ethos of the Regiment has continued - especially in one of the squadrons. The range of skills (artistic and otherwise) and the calibre of the members is truly amazing.

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  7. I have a sword engraved with Lacy W Ridge Artists rifle Volunteer corp PT1877 , but unfortunately can't seem to find any information about him. Can anyone help me?

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  8. There is an exhibition at The Willis Museum in Basingstoke until 27th September on The Artists Rifles with works by Burne-Jones and portraits of William Morris and Holman Hunt as well as the Nash brothers and others. Worth a look.

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