Gilbert's Letter to The Times of 3 October 1860
Issue 23741, pg. 12 col. B


Soldiers' Belts

Sir,--Early on Sunday morning, as I was proceeding along the south side of the Knightsbridge-road, a little east of Sloane-street, I met three Guardsman walking arm in arm with as many women. I gave them a wide berth, but one of the fellows deliberately came up to me and struck me violently on the chest with his elbow. The blow sent me staggering into the road in a most undignified manner. I seized the man, and informed him that I should detain him until I saw a policeman. After a short struggle he broke away from me, and one of the other soldiers exclaimed, "Let's give him a bit of belt." They acted on the suggestion, and prepared to use their belts in true Guardsman style. I seized one of my assailants, and a passer-by seized another, just as the blow was about to descend on my head. The third soldier then occupied himself in endeavouring to release his comrade. After a short struggle the fellows broke from us, and finding that the odds were as much as two to three against them, the cowardly ruffians took to flight like so many startled sheep. I made my complaint at the barracks, and received the reply usually given in circumstances of a similar nature, "that the matter should be enquired into;" but as my name and address were not requested, I presume that the investigation will not be particularly searching in its nature.

I may add that about six months since I was instrumental in bringing to justice two Guardsmen who nearly killed one policeman, severely injured another, besides wounding some of the passers-by, with their belts. In expiation of that assault they are now working out a sentence of 12 months' imprisonment with hard labour. The occurrence took place at the Clock-house, Knightsbridge, within 50 yards of the scene of the assault of yesterday morning.

My object in writing to you is to suggest a means whereby these belt assaults would be rendered impracticable. If the authorities object to turn the men into the streets without their belts (and it must be allowed that a beltless soldier presents a very slovenly appearance), let the belt be stitched firmly to the tunic at the back. The Guards have a full dress tunic, an undress, and a fatigue jacket; let them have a belt attached to each of these articles of apparel. This would of course necessitate the issue of three belts per man, but each belt would last three times as long as it does at present. The belt could be easily removed and attached to another tunic when the original garment became unserviceable.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
W.S. GILBERT
Lieutenant, Civil Service Rifles.
Council-office, Downing-street, Oct. 1. Next letter



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