The Eight-Nation Alliance, Boxer Rebellion, 1900

In the 19th century, China suffered at the hands of Western powers, with numerous wars and internal insurgencies plunging the once-mighty Qing Dynasty into decline. In 1899 a secret society- yi-he quan, ‘Boxers United in Righteousness’ – began attacks on foreigners and Christian missionaries who they felt had tarnished their nation’s dignity. By 1900 these ‘Boxers’ received support from within the Qing court and assaulted the Legation quarter of Beijing. An eight-nation relief force comprising of the world’s premier military powers was assembled, and the rebellion was crushed.

  1. Private First Class, French Marine Infantry

Blue denim cloth was the standard summer colour for the tropical helmet, tunic and trousers, with white canvas retained for the gaiters. An anchor badge was worn on the helmet, identifying this man as a marine. Despite this distinction, marines wore much the same equipment as regular infantry, i.e. black leather belt pouches and grey blanket roll. Rank was identified by the single diagonal line across his cuffs. Like all French troops, this man is armed with the 1886 model Lebel rifle.

2. Private, Bersaglieri

The Bersaglieri Italian infantry corps wore a simple khaki uniform, but many troops preferred the colourful blue dress uniform. Black-green feathers on the helmet were the symbol of this corps. National symbols consisted of white metal stars on the collar and a tricolour cockade surrounding a brass helmet badge. Crimson featured prominently on the collar, shoulder straps and trouser seams. Canvas gaiters were discarded for the ankle boots. The 1891 Carcano rifle was standard issue, along with black belt equipment.

3. Private First Class, Japanese infantry

The Imperial Japanese Army maintained a modernised force that already had experience of fighting in China in 1894-95. The men wore a dark blue 1887 uniform, with red shoulder straps showing the regimental number. The cap featured a yellow band with brass star and piping on top; yellow also featured on the cuff rank lines, collar and trouser seams. This soldier’s 1887-pattern knapsack features a canvas tent section, mess tin and greatcoat. A water bottle and haversack were slung across the right hip. The Type 30 Arisaka rifle was introduced in 1897 (the 30th year of Emperor Meiji’s rule). Two brown leather ammunition pouches were used on the front of the belt, and one was used on the back.

4. Private, Russian infantry

Soldiers of the Russian Empire replaced their dark-green winter uniforms with white summer versions, as seen with the peakless cap and gimnastiorka shirt. The yellow shoulder straps identify this man as a line infantryman. On the cap was an imperial cockade; the dark-green winter cap had branch colours in a band around its base. Brown leather pouches contain ammunition for the 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle.

5. Seaman, Austro-Hungarian Navy

This man wears a naval uniform typical of other navies; a white cap with a black band and a blue flap collar; a red and white shirt was worn underneath the white uniform. Seamen fighting on land wore black leather ammunition pouches for the Mannlicher rifle, with a piece of leather on the right shoulder to support firing. Sailors of the SMS Zenta represented Austria-Hungary during the conflict; the ship’s name featured, as it would have in other nations, on the black band of the cap.

6. Private. German 3rd Seebatalion

Marines were already stationed in China to protect German naval bases around the time of the Boxer uprising. The colourful blue full dress uniforms were changed to less-conspicuous khaki versions in summer. White shoulder straps featured an imperial crown, crossed anchors and battalion number in Roman numerals. On the white helmet was an imperial eagle on top of an anchor, as well as a national cockade below it. The standard issue weapon was the Gewehr 98.

7. Private, Royal Marines

Khaki had become standard issue for all British troops in 1897, but the Royal Marines still retained a colourful appearance with their dark blue cap and tunics. Red appeared on top of the cap as well as on the shoulder straps. The collar was decorated with a red sextant symbol. A brass badge and buttons appeared on the cap’s right side and front respectively. White trousers provided some comfort in summer. The Lee-Enfield rifle and Slade-Wallace belt equipment seen here were introduced in 1897.

8. Private, US Marine Corps

Marines maintained a basic uniform similar to what was worn during conflicts with Spain and the Philippines; a campaign hat, dark blue tunic, light blue trousers and canvas gaiters. The Marine Corps badge of an eagle, globe and anchor was featured on the right side of the hat, distinguishing from US Army infantry. The Krag-Jorgensen rifle was supplanted by black leather pouches.

By Ibrahim Zamir

Published by Ibrahim Zamir

Ibrahim Zamir - Junior Historian and Illustrator.

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