Soldiery (British Army Portraits) was one of the most challenging projects of my career. Now the exhibitions are completed I can take the opportunity to publish a selection of portraits from the sittings.
The subjects of my first photoshoot, where the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, The Rifles. I discovered little has changed since the Napoleonic Wars. The Rifles, are still at the forefront of battle, trained as marksmen. They don’t carry a flag. Instead, their Battle Honours are carried on Parade uniforms.
Each Rifleman is entrusted with the Battle Honours of the regiment, wearing a representative selection of Battle Honours. On the Belt Plate there are 34 Battle Honours represented, inherited from the forming and antecedent regiments.
The bugle has traditionally been used in the past both to communicate with, and to direct Riflemen. The bugle was adopted for use in the 18th century, as it was light and easy to use unlike the cumbersome drum. It’s clear note could be heard for up to three miles whereas a drum signal became indistinct. It was originally an ox bugle but later made in silver which gave a clearer note.
The bugle is central to The Rifles’ musical traditions, but music has been carried forward and is still used today. Daily routine in the battalions is marked by bugle calls, and The Rifles sound, rather than beat, Retreat. They have gained a sort of fame over the years, largely due to the ‘Sharpe’ series.
Upon arrival at Chepstow, where The Rifles are based, I was greeted by a young officer no more than 23-years- of-age. It was here I found myself behind the lens for the first time, photographing soldiers as young as 18. It’s a humbling and awe-inspiring thought, to truly realise how young many of these soldiers are, and the careers they will go on to have.