As discussed last time, I’m presently in the process of filling out my French, Prussian, Hanoverian and British SYW armies with light troops, which were increasingly a feature of European armies during this period. This week it’s the turn of the Légion Britannique. I wasn’t quite sure which category to stick this lot under, as they were paid for by the British, given a French name, officered by Hanoverians and eventually transferred to Prussia!
I was originally going to post another big article, including all the sub-units. However, as mentioned in the comments section of my last post, WordPress has bollocksed up its most recent update (version 6.3), which means that it’s extremely difficult to edit posts, especially large posts. The problem is that the editing toolbar stays firmly at the top of the page and doesn’t scroll down as you type. This means that if you want to insert a picture or a link, change font, insert a foreign letter, etc, you have to scroll all the way up to the top of the page to find the toolbar and then scroll all the way back down again… Needless to say, plenty of people are reporting the same problem, but WordPress are dragging their heels in fixing it. 🙁
Anyway, It’s been a month, so I thought I’d crack on with a series of very short posts instead of my usual insomnia-inducing epics. So here’s the first half of the Légion Britannique, covering the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Battalions. Part 6 will cover the 4th & 5th Battalions and the combined Dragoon Squadrons.
In December 1759, five ‘free battalions’ were formed from PoWs, deserters, foreigners and other assorted riffraff at Paderborn by the Hanoverian General von Spörcken. Two months later in February 1760, 30 officers and NCOs were assigned to the new battalions from Hanoverian infantry regiments, while 10 officers and 20 NCOs were assigned from Hanoverian cavalry regiments. Each battalion was then organised into four infantry companies, totaling 500 men and a dragoon squadron of 101 men.
In May 1760, the British Government agreed to fund the new free corps, which was therefore to be named the Légion Britannique. Its officers were given Letters Patent in the name of King George II and therefore wore crimson sashes in the style of British officers, while its battalions marched under British colours. Thus the Légion Britannique was a ‘free corps’ in the truest sense of the word: in British pay, but not formally a part of the British Army and fighting with the Hanoverian Army and led by Hanoverians, but not formally a part of the Hanoverian Army.
In November 1761 the Légion Britannique was dismissed from British/Hanoverian service. However, the British Colonel Charles Frederick Beckwith (former commanding officer of the 20th Foot, who had spent the past couple of years as a Brigadier, commanding the massed British Grenadiers and the 87th & 88th Highlanders) suggested to King Frederick II of Prussia to accept the Legion into Prussian service. Frederick at this time had a need for light troops to secure his Westphalian enclaves, so accepted Beckwith’s suggestion, giving Beckwith the Prussian rank of Generalmajor. However, the strength of the Legion by this point had fallen to only 1,500 men and 156 horses.
In March 1763, with hostilities finally concluded, the Legion was disbanded at Magdeburg, where the seconded Hanoverian personnel were returned to their original regiments and the remainder were enlisted into Prussian service.
These figures are mostly taken from the Old Glory 15s Légion Britannique Infantry pack, with Eureka Prussian musketeer standard-bearers added. The skirmishers are taken from the Old Glory 15s Prussian Infantry Firing pack and Major von Bülow is an Old Glory 15s Prussian general figure. The conjectural flags were very kindly produced by David Morfitt of ‘Not By Appointment’ as a ‘special’ for Willz and me and are now available to download from his blog, along with the dragoon standards.
Above: Command of the newly-created Légion Britannique was given to an adjutant of Ferdinand of Brunswick, the Prussian Major August Christian von Bülow (a great-uncle of the famous Napoleonic Bülow, the Graf von Dennewitz). This talented officer achieved some remarkable feats during his time in command of the Legion, including the storming of the town of Warburg and would probably have made an excellent general. However, he was severely wounded in the Combat of Rhadern on 13th September 1760 and died on 24th September. Following Bülow’s death, command of the legion passed to the Hanoverian Adjutant-Major Emmerich Otto August von Estorff, who commanded the Legion until its transfer to Prussian service and Beckwith’s command.
In terms of uniform, Bülow might have worn either the uniform of his previous Prussian regiment (which I have been unable to discover), or that of a Prussian Flügeladjutant (as described here), or an unrecorded uniform unique to the Légion Britannique. I didn’t want to give him a boring Prussian uniform, so decided to give him the uniform of an officer of the Legion’s 1st Battalion (Stockhausen’s), as described below.
Above: Stockhausen’s (1st) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. As in pretty much all armies of the period (except the British Army), the battalions of the Légion Britannique were known by the name of their commanding officer and not by a number. The commanding officer in this instance was one Major von Stockhausen, who remained in command of the unit for the duration. However, there was an order of seniority within the Legion and the battalions are therefore referred to by number in most histories. As has previously been discussed with regard to the Prussian, Austrian and Hanoverian armies, using anachronistic unit numbers makes battle-maps FAR easier to label!
Above: Stockhausen’s (1st) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. While the Legion’s five battalions each had radically different uniform colourings, there were some uniform features common to all five battalions:
All units wore ‘dark straw’ or ‘buff’ breeches and had ‘natural leather’ or ‘buff’ belts. The coats lacked lapels, collar or lace and had deep, Swedish-style cuffs with three buttons. The cross-belts were flat, without the buckles seen on British and Hanoverian cross-belts. Hats were unlaced, though were decorated with a green cockade, this being the field-sign of Allied light troops in the Western Theatre. Neck-stocks and gaiters were black. Officers’ sashes were crimson and were worn over the right shoulder, reflecting the fact that they were essentially in British service (note however, that the officer figures here wrongly have waist-sashes).
Stockhausen’s Battalion wore light blue coats with straw (or pale straw) cuffs and turnbacks and brass buttons. Waistcoats were straw, matching the facing colour. The hat had yellow tassels at the corners and a brass button securing the black cockade-strap.
Above: Stockhausen’s (1st) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. The Legion is recorded to have carried flags ‘of the British pattern’, though nothing more is known about them. After much badgering, David Morfitt very kindly produced a set of battalion colours and dragoon squadron guidons ‘of the British pattern’, using a Roman numeral to identify each battalion/squadron (in this case ‘I’). The Regimental Colour here is straw/buff, matching the battalion’s facing colour.
Above: Stockhausen’s (1st) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. As I was feeling keen, I decided to do a pair of skirmisher stands for each battalion, thus enabling each battalion to deploy in skirmish order.
Above: Dragoon Squadron of Stockhausen’s (1st) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. As mentioned above, each battalion included a Dragoon Squadron of 101 men at full strength. However, in reality the Dragoon Squadrons were usually massed together as a de facto regiment and this grouping was formalised in October 1762, with the formation of a Légion Britannique Dragoon Regiment under Major von Hattorf, who had previously commanded the informal grouping since of dragoon squadrons at least 1760 (being named as the commander of the massed squadrons at Warburg).
The dragoon uniforms basically matched those of the infantry, except for the addition of a button-coloured aiguillette on the right shoulder. Buttons and aiguillettes were yellow metal for Stockhausen’s 1st Battalion and white metal for the other four units. Horse furniture was red for all squadrons, edged in the button colour. I have painted the massed dragoon squadrons, but I’ll show them in Part 6.
Above: Udam’s (2nd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. Major von Udam remained in command of the 2nd Battalion for the duration of the war.
Above: Udam’s (2nd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique.
This unit had blue coats, described as ‘middle blue’, but sometimes depicted in art as quite a dark blue shade (see the dragoon plate below for one such example). I went for a ‘French’ medium shade, roughly matching the plate shown on the right. Cuffs and turnbacks were poppy red. Buttons were white metal. Waistcoats were white.
Note that the hat-tassels should be white, matching the button-colour. However, in a momentary lapse of concentration, I mistakenly painted the hat-tassels as yellow, due to my misinterpretation of the plate shown on the right.
Above: Udam’s (2nd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. As the facing colour for this unit was red, David has used the ‘St George’s Cross’ pattern of Regimental Colour, which was the pattern used for British regiments with red or white facings. The St George’s Cross was also used with a black field for regiments with black facings.
Above: Udam’s (2nd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique deployed in skirmish order.
Above: The Dragoon Squadron of Udam’s (2nd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. Again, the uniform is the same as that of the infantry, except for the addition of a white aiguillette.
Above: Appelboom’s (3rd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. Major von Appelboom remained in command of the unit for the duration of the war.
Above: Appelboom’s (3rd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique.
Appelboom’s battalion wore very distinctive white coats. Cuffs and turnbacks were orange and buttons were white metal. Waistcoats were orange, matching the facing colour. Hat-tassels were white.
The exact shade of orange is a matter of some debate and some artistic interpretations (such as one on the Kronoskaf site) show a much more red shade, though I went with the depiction shown in the Gmunder Pachtwerk from 1760, as shown on the right.
Above: Appelboom’s (3rd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. David went again with the St George’s Cross pattern for this Regimental Colour. He was working from the view that ‘orange is a sort of red’. However, I do have to slightly disagree here, as the British 35th Foot had orange facings and they carried an orange Regimental Colour. However, beggars can’t be choosers and David has once again produced a magnificent set of colours, so I’m more than happy! 🙂
Above: Appelboom’s (3rd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique, here deployed in skirmish order.
Above: The Dragoon Squadron of Appelboom’s (3rd) Battalion of the Légion Britannique. This plate, copied from the Gmunder Prachtwerk (the same source as the infantryman shown above), raises several questions: First, the facing colour is a very dark shade of orange, bordering on red. This may be caused by the contrast being cranked up by whoever scanned the original image and may also be the reason why the 2nd Battalion Dragoon plate above is shown in a very dark blue coat. Second, the aiguillette appears to be red or orange, rather than the regulation button-colour (white). Third, the cross-belt appears to have two bands of orange or yellow lace, though this may be a misinterpretation of the two stitched seams running along the edges of the belt. Fourth, the valise is red, matching the horse furniture, whereas the previous dragoon had a blue valise, matching the coat.
It should be remembered that uniform books of this period were printed in black and white and would then be coloured by hand by several artists. Discrepancies between books and especially between different editions were not uncommon.
That’s enough for now (the post is getting quite long [so much for the ‘very short post’!] and scrolling up and down the page to find the edit bar is becoming a little tedious… I do hope that WordPress corrects the fault soon)! Part 6 will cover the 4th Battalion, 5th Battalion and Dragoon Squadrons. Additionally, in the last month I’ve been expanding my British, French and Hessian armies, so more on those soon, but here’s a taster from my painting-table.