From the Journal of the
Society of Army Historical Research
PERCIVAL WILLIAM REYNOLDS—AN APPRECIATION
BY THE REV. PERCY SUMNER, F.S.A.
It was some thirty years ago that I first visited Mr. Reynolds and his wife at their home in Walpole Street, Chelsea. For some years I had heard much about Reynolds's drawings of old-time uniforms from my friend Mr. S. M. Milne, of Calverley, and I felt more and more the desire to make his personal acquaintance. My visit was quite unexpected, and I shall never forget the kindly welcome given me, which was the beginning of a life-long friendship.Mr. Reynolds was born in 1860 at Worcester, the son of John Lacey Reynolds, an officer in the 36th Madras Native Infantry, who served throughout the Mutiny. From a boy, Mr. Reynolds took the greatest interest in all things military. He wanted to enter the Army, but was pronounced unfit on medical grounds. His military instincts had therefore to find another outlet, and he became an enthusiastic Volunteer, serving in the Westminster Rifles and attaining the rank of Captain. He entered the Civil Service, and when he retired was Chief Examiner of the Exchequer and Audit Department at Somerset House.
In 1904 he began to compile the remarkable series of volumes of Military Costume which he bequeathed to the Art Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington. He set himself to gather together, from a wide range of sources, all available information regarding the dress of the British soldier from 1700 to 1900, which he arranged in order, under the headings of Periods and Regiments, in forty-nine quarto volumes. The " letterpress " he wrote out in his beautiful copperplate hand, and the illustrations were mostly his own water-colour drawings. He was a most accomplished artist, .and the volumes will remain a joy for ever to all students of military dress. It was during the year 1927 that I began the practice of borrowing one of these volumes at a time, and it took at least four years to go through the series. Reynolds always disclaimed any research work among original authorities, saying plainly, " I am merely an arranger and commentator," but for this very necessary work of arranging and commenting, he possessed remarkable qualifications. In addition to the British Army series, he compiled thirtyfive volumes on the European Armies.
Before the war he had left London and removed to an old-world cottage, " Nut Tree House," at Bloxham, near Banbury. In 1923, Mrs. Reynolds had a long and serious illness, which caused him great anxiety, for they were a very attached couple, and her death in December, 1933, gave him a blow from which he never recovered.
His correspondence was very large, and he contributed many drawings to illustrate Regimental Records. For fifty years he was a member of the Royal United Service Institution. On the formation of the Society for Army Historical Research in 1921, he became a member, and on many occasions gave the Society the benefit of his knowledge. In his will he left the sum of L 50 to the Society. Last year he had to undergo an operation, and on 2nd February, 1937, he passed away. " Gentlemen, this man wrought much." May he rest in peace.