It’s been quiet here for awhile so here’s an update of the latest from the 2 Chevauleger. As many of you know, obtaining the proper uniforms has been a recurring problem almost since the unit was originally formed in 1997. At first, converting vintage Swedish Army tunics from the 1940s was the way to go but at best, this was a half-way solution that was makeshift at best. Sure, the outline of the proper 1909 tunic was achieved but that was about it. The color and the wool were completely off and when lined up next to a proper tunic, the differences are obvious. But, it was all we had at the time and there was no real alternative, especially since nobody in the group had any tailoring skills and there was nobody in the marketplace willing to attempt the project except at an exorbitant price. It also did not help that we did not have an original 1909 tunic to work off of.
With the unit dissolving in 2004 and an overall lack of interest, the status remained unchanged with the Swedish conversion tunics being the closest thing in existence. However, with the revival of the unit in 2011, further efforts were made to address this issue. With the growth of the WWI reenacting and the upcoming Centennial, there were more vendors coming into the marketplace plus more research sources were now available due to the internet- where before one had to really search for hard information, it was now more readily available and especially in the various works by Jürgen Kraus.
What was especially interesting was that several vendors, all located in China, were offering what they termed “Chevauleger tunics” but upon closer examination, they completely missed the mark. I ordered one such tunic and was able to examine it. While the workmanship was not bad, the details were off and it was evident that they’d never consulted any sources whatsoever (it’s not like they’re not out there and in fact, it’s never been easier). After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the vendor to suggest some corrections, I decided that the only way we were going to recreate the 1909 tunic and the proper breeches was going to be doing it ourselves.
However, the big problem was that there were no patterns for this tunic out there- at least that were readily accessible to someone here in the United States. So once again, I pretty much had to shelve the project; in a pinch the 1915 Bluse per the 1916 regulations would have to do.
But as luck would have it, through a strange series of events I came in contact with a vendor, Vijay Singh, in India and after several attempts, we finally managed to nail it down. The only downside is that I have to send him the rear belt ramps and the side belt hooks for him to sew into the tunic and I then have to sew the buttons on myself when I receive it (unfortunately, he was unable to procure the correct Bavarian lion buttons so I had to have those custom cast elsewhere).
Anyway, the first production model was made from feldgrau colored wool that I had bought from Woolrich (the bad part is that Woolrich has a high minimum order- I bought some yardage from someone who had purchased a large amount) and then sent to India to be made (the shipping and duty cost me almost $200- I don’t recommend this route). The uniform was meant as a private purchase uniform for garrison/away from the front lines (basically I use it for living history events that do not involve battle reenactments).
So, after a long struggle, here’s the first generation production model. Here are some details:
I am wearing the 1909 pattern tunic, or Ulanka, with 1916 pattern riding breeches or Reithosen. The cap is a private purchase visored cap trimmed in carmine, the facing color of the 2 Chevauleger. The piping on the tunic is also the same carmine (obtained from Mehler of Bavaria, the original contractor). I am wearing the rank insignia of a Gefreiter or corporal. The sword belt is the 1911 pattern with sword hanger. The buttons are nickle plated (all I had were brass buttons and this was the only way to get them into the “white” which is the color for the 2 Chevauleger). For front line conditions, the buttons would either be dulled down with a coating of a yellow brown paint and lacquer or just a dull white brass. The boots are the 1916 pattern Universal Bavarian Cavalry boots.
Overall, I’d say we have achieved complete success and more uniforms will be arriving soon. The only bad part is all the buttons I’ll have to sew on (22 per tunic).