British Army Uniforms from 1751 to 1783

By Paul Robinson 08 Apr 2013 0

This is a amazingly detailed book and indeed has at least two strap lines to the main title: the first clarifies the time period concerned i.e. ?Including the Seven Years? War and the American War of Independence?; the second the books content i.e. ?Including both cavalry and infantry an illustrated guide to uniforms, facings and lace?!

The author, Carl Franklin, is an ex-Royal Air Force engineer who specialised in guided weapons systems.  Whilst that is some way from the books subject matter the attention to detail that job required has obviously prepared the author for writing and illustrating such a thoroughly researched piece of work.

The book shows how the cut and colouring of the uniforms of the officers, NCOs and privates of the British Army changed during a seminal period of British and American history.  The uniforms and distinctions of each numbered regiment of cavalry and infantry are included (with a few exceptions where historical information is not available) with a full and complete list of regimental facings and lace including the tartans of the Scottish regiments.

The book has twenty chapters split between four main parts. 

Part one covers the common features of the cavalry regiments over eight chapters.  Here we have details of headgear, coats and jackets, buttons and lace, stocks, gloves and shirts, netherwear, boots and shoes (I said it was detailed!), accoutrements (cartridge pouches, shoulder belts etc), horse furniture and weapons.  All of these are fully illustrated in colour and go into specifics showing how even over the short thirty year period covered by the book elements of design and form changed. For example the section on headgear covers the development of the tricorne hat, the cavalry mitre cap and the various versions of the light dragoon cap (including Tarleton helmets).  Types of all of these are shown in full colour.  The chapter on weapons shows the various carbines, pistols and swords used including details of locks, tools and bayonets!  Again all illustrated in colour!

Part two gives details of the history (very briefly) and uniforms of the cavalry regiments themselves.  The first chapter in this part covers the household cavalry, the second the heavy and light cavalry units of the line.   For each regiment the details are given of when it was raised and subsequent changes of regimental number and where applicable date of disbanding.  This is followed for each by uniform details like button colour etc and what changes were made under different uniform regulations (so for the period in question the 1751 warrant and the 1768 regulations).    However the section that will be of most use to figure painters and modellers are the colour plates which for each regiment show details of headgear, jackets (front and back-the drawing is split in half), horse furniture , lace and buttons for officers and troopers alike.

Part three shows the common features for the infantry regiments, again over eight chapters.  Details covered in each chapter are: headwear, coats and jackets, buttons and lace, stocks, gloves and shirts, netherwear, tartans of the highland regiments, accoutrements and weapons.    The level of information in each of these chapters is the same as for the cavalry with lavish colour illustrations.

Part four goes into specifics on the individual units of footguards and line regiments.  There is short section in the introduction listing the main engagements of the American War of Independence and a table showing the state of the British Army over the course of the war (showing totals fit for duty, sick, prisoners and wounded).  Then as per the cavalry chapters a brief history of each regiment is given including date raised and various changes to regimental number and/or name.  This is followed for each unit by uniform details for December 1755 and the 1768 regulations.  Also for those units that served in America there is a short paragraph detailing their actions during the War of Independence.  This is followed by colour plates for each regiment showing the coats/jackets of officers and enlisted ranks further divided into grenadier and light companies (again showing front and rear aspect).  There are drawings of mitre caps or where relevant fur caps, uniform buttons and regimental tartans.  The coverage is vast covering everyone from the 1stRegiment of Foot Guards to the Second 91st (Shropshire Volunteers) Regiment of Foot.

If all this wasn?t enough for you there are four annexes at the end of the book.  The first sets out the rank distinctions of officers and enlisted men (ie shoulder knots, epaulettes, wings, sword knots, sashes and gorgets). Again the full written descriptions are supported by colour plates.  The second (which I think is a key one for figure painters and the like) is a one pager setting out the actual colours that go with the regimental facing described elsewhere.  Thirty three facing colours are shown each with a written description i.e. Purple or Deep yellow but also with what must be the official alpha numeric system for identifying colours.  No excuse now for getting confused between Lemon, Bright yellow and Philmot yellow when painting up your wargames units!  The third appendix gives us a table of timelines for the various cavalry and infantry units from formation to disbandment or name change.  This is massively detailed and I guess for the true connoisseur only.  The fourth appendix discusses the many sources used for the book.

And finally if you don?t know your Bridoon (?a bridle that uses a curb bit in conjunction with a snaffle bit?) from your Wing (?a shoulder ornament worn particularly by grenadier companies, light companies, fusiliers and light infantry? then the book closes with a glossary of terms.

This isn?t my period of interest at all but I could not help but be massively impressed by the level of detail in this book and the amazingly high standard of the colour illustrations (with associated high production values for the book itself).  If you are a wargamer painting up a British army of the late 18th century then this is an absolute must have.  Ok a very narrowly focussed book but that focus is on one of the most interesting periods of British military history!  Highly recommended.

Available now in hardback from Pen & Sword Books, normal price £40/$60 (ISBN 9781848846906)


Review written by: Paul Robinson



Log in to join the discussion.