Private Thomas Walker, by Thomas Wood

Private Walker, by Thomas William Wood, 1856. Private Walker, by Thomas William Wood, 1856. Courtesy Hunterian Museum, London.

A painting by Thomas William Wood, exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1855, shows private Thomas Walker (95th Derbyshire regiment), sewing a so-called military quilt. He had been wounded at the battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War, on 5 November 1854. In the painting, Walker is sewing triangles made from woollen uniform cloth, in black, gold, red and white, creating a simple geometric design.

Such so-called military quilts were popular from about the time of the Crimean war until about 1900, when dull green uniforms replaced the colourful woollen garments. In modern days, 'military quilts' are again being made, especially in the USA, but their appearance is very different from the nineteenth century examples.

The Morning Chronicle tells us:

Tuesday, December 25, 1855: The Queen has forwarded to Private Thomas Walker, 95th Regiment, a present of £10. On her Majesty's last visit to Fort Pitt she was struck with a quilt brought to her notice as the work of Walker, and desired that it might be forwarded to her Majesty, which has recently been done through Colonel C. B. Phipps.

Monday, March 3, 1856: An artist is engaged in the Military Hospital, Fort Pitt, Chatham, completing an oil painting of Thomas Walker, 95th Regiment, who has been an inmate at the hospital for fourteen months, during which period the entire top of his skull has been removed by skilfull operation at different periods by Mr. William Perry, surgical operator. The painting, which is intended for an exhibition, represents Thomas Walker in bed, busily engaged sewing together pieces of different coloured cloth, for the purpose of making the quilt which the Queen, upon seeing, was pleased to order to be sent to the palace. A part of the pattern is represented in the picture lying outside the bed. It was at the battle of Inkerman this youth received his wound, by a shell bursting directly over his head, which it fractured in the most extraordinary manner, causing insensibility for several days, until a piece of bone which pressed on his brain was removed.

The painting is now in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, and housed in the Hunterian Museum, London.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 29 June 2016).



Last modified on Sunday, 15 January 2017 13:42
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