|While most of the images in this section deal with actors portraying British soldiers on the stage these three Carte de Visites
depict an actual British officer acting the part in a stage production. In this case Captain Elsdale, Royal Engineers (while the
inscription appears to read "Esdale" I have been unable to find any officer who bore that surname.) in The Charcoal Burner, or,
Dropping Well of Knaresborough which as written in 1833 by George Almar for the Surrey Theater.
The first photograph shows the Captain in Act 2 - Scene 2 of the play as indicated by the period inscription. Unfortunately is does
not state what part Esdale played in the production.
The second photographs shows Captain Elsdale (right) in costume possibly in another production and the third shows Esdale seated.
This final image could also be from The Charcoal Burner and although the particular pose is almost a standard used by
photographers at the time his somewhat unusual gesturing seems to tie this image in with the other the other two theatrical
I believe this man to be Captain Henry Elsdale (b. 1843) of the Royal Engineers whose career included the following events:
Lieutenant - 15 January, 1864
Captain - 1 October, 1877
Major - 15 January, 1884
Lieutenant Colonel by 1895
He also commanded the Ballooning Section during the Bechuanaland Expedition. British Archaeology (Issue 89, July/August 2006)
mentions Elsdale: "As early as 1880 he had begun experimenting with unmanned balloons, and had designed his own automatic
camera, capable of taking a series of exposures at preset intervals. In 1881 he made his first attempt at persuading the Ordnance Survey,
in which he had previously served, of the undoubted benefits of producing maps with the aid of vertical air photos. The idea was rejected
as both impractical and unnecessary – air photos would never replace ground survey."
He is also mentioned in Geoffrey Miller's The Millstone: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean 1900-1914: "Unhelpfully for the
naval advocates of the “Channel School” and the “Mediterranean School” an army officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H. Elsdale R.E., weighed
in with an influential article in February 1895 entitled, Should We Hold on to the Mediterranean in War? Concerned more with the cool
logic of the situation than the emotive issues, Elsdale wondered whether it would be better ‘in the first instance, and as a temporary
strategical operation, to give up command of the Mediterranean altogether, and to shut up our enemy’s fleet therein, in order to secure an
overwhelming superiority of force in the Channel, and in all the ocean waters everywhere throughout the globe, outside the
Mediterranean (Lieutenant-Colonel H Elsdale, Should We Hold on to the Mediterranean in War?, The Nineteenth Century, February
1895, vol. 37 no.216.)"
Elsdale served as Commanding Engineer for Hong Kong and China, going onto retired pay in January 1900.
Carte de Visites
E. Goodfellow - Photographer
Near the Turnpike, High Street, Wincanton, England