Troops of the British Empire: Dyaks Postcard

The Dyaks are the indigenous people of central and southern Borneo. They are a brave warrior people who were particularly praised for their abilities as trackers and scouts. When the British Empire took over Borneo in the nineteenth century, as they did in much of the Empire, they set up native regiments of the local population, officered by white British soldiers, but with local troops and NCOs. These local troops were normally used in the region, however for some state occasions such as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, small contingents were sent to London to parade and represent the region in front of their monarch. These troops were understandably of great interest to those in the UK and postcard manufacturers saw their colourful uniforms and exotic appearance as being ideal subjects for their wares. Today we have one such postcard to look at:

The buildings behind certainly look like barrack buildings you would find in the UK rather than Borneo. The men wear a khaki uniform, with puttees and boots and most distinctively of all a red pill-box hat with gold badge. The NCOs wear a red sash across their chest to indicate their rank and carry swords:

Interestingly, despite the late date of this image, the men are still armed with percussion Snider rifles rather than more modern designs such as Martini-Henrys or Enfields. This was due to a combination of the Empire being so large that to equip every unit with the latest rifles was both expensive and time consuming. There was also a desire after the Indian Mutiny to ensure that the British had an advantage over the local levies in terms of fire power if ever there was to be a rebellion.

Behind the Dyaks can be seen their officers, white British men wearing foreign service helmets and dressed in khaki drill:

The role of the Dyaks in the British Empire story seems to have been largely forgotten and I can find little to no information on this unit so for now this picture will have to suffice until I can track down some more details.

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