However, business mixed with pleasure when it came to his career. Jeffcoat had a lifelong passion as a collector (by the age of six he was acquiring bayonets and cap badges) and he joined the arms and armour department at Sotheby’s Bond Street in the early 1960s where he was to remain for over 20 years, working on some of the most significant auctions of the second half of the 20th century.
The second part of Jeffcoat’s militaria collection came up for auction at Thomas Del Mar (20% buyer’s premium) in London on December 8 (the first instalment was offered in June 2021) augmented by what Del Mar described as “some exceptionally early military headgear and historic guidons from the collection of The Hon David McAlpine”.
Del Mar himself started his career in Sotheby’s arms, armour and militaria department in 1994. He founded his eponymous saleroom at 25 Blythe Road in 2007, now part of Olympia Auctions.
Pictured here is a selection of highlights from the December 8 auction.
One of the top-selling items of militaria from the Jeffcoat collection was a ‘Georgian uniform of the Hospital Staff’, pictured above, estimated at £800-1200 which sold for £9500 to a private collector. The catalogue noted that despite the title on the buttons of this uniform, it is not the coat of an officer of the Hospital Staff, but that of a major of brigade, or possibly of a town or fort major, all of whose uniforms this coat closely resembles. If so, in its original form, its buttons should correctly be plain and made of silver or white metal, and its likely date would be between c.1803 and c.1815.
The McAlpine lots included this “highly intriguing and unique” mid-18th century officer’s mitre cap. The 11in (28cm) high cap cannot be associated with any particular regiment of the regular army, but almost certainly dates from the 1740s. It is possible that it was made for an officer of one of the loyal Volunteer Corps that were raised during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46 or, given the reference to Manchester in its decoration, that it was made for an officer of the Jacobite regiment raised in that town.
It sold within estimate at £8500.
Some of the most impressive performers against estimates came with the Jeffcoat items related to insignia. A board guided at £250-350 displayed approximately 94 officers’ and other ranks’ cap badges, mainly of auxiliary battalions of regular infantry regiments but including 2nd Surrey RV, East Surrey Cyclists and Eton College VRC, together with badges of the Reserve Regiments of Dragoons, Hussars and Lancers, an OSD bronze of the Machine Gun Corps and items of the Imperial Camel Corps. This varied selection sold for a hefty £5500.
A board of mainly officers’ headdress plates took five times low estimate in selling online 0at £5000. It included a stove pipe shako plate, a Waterloo shako plate, an officer’s shako plate of the 3rd Light Dragoons c.1860, an 1869 shako plate of the 64th Regiment, a bronze plate of the 2nd Surrey Rifle Volunteers and an 1878-81 helmet plate of the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment among others.
Cavalry helmets were a particularly successful feature of the McAlpine selection. An officer’s chapka of the 19th Lancers edged with rows of gold French braid (above right) was provenanced to The Royal United Services Institute, Roy Belmont-Maitland, Tradition London, then McAlpine c.1970s. Del Mar described it as “a superb example of the headdress worn by the regiment from their conversion to lancers in 1817 until disbandment in 1821”.
A successor regiment, the 19th Hussars, was created in 1862 and permitted to use the battle honours of the 19th Lancers.
The British lancer regiments were first formed in 1816 after the Napoleonic Wars in response to those deployed by the French (often Polish in origin, where the chapka style comes from), so this was a very early example of a British lancer helmet. Estimated at £7000-10,000, it took £11,000 from a private collector.
Another McAlpine-owned helmet also sold at £11,000, this time against an estimate of £3000-5000, was a Georgian officer’s helmet of the 4th or Queen’s Own Dragoons (above left). This “rare and important example of the 1812 pattern dragoon helmet” would originally have had a black horsehair mane and ‘shaving brush’ finial.
A group of cavalry guidons from McAlpine were headed at £18,000 by a Georgian example for the Royal Scots Greys. Estimated at £4000- 6000, it was bought by a private collector.
Another on a crimson ground for the same regiment sold for double the low estimate at £7000.