Monday, 2 January 2017

Talavera 208 - British General Officers

Work on finishing off the British and French collections has continued over the Xmas break and I have added the remaining British General Officers required plus another battery of French horse artillery to follow in another post.

So to kick 2017 off with the first post of the year I thought I would take a look at British General Officers, and I will cover the anachronism in the header for this post, so those eagle eyed amongst you can save sending me a comment highlighting it.

The uniform for British General Officers under the 1802 Clothing Regulations described the following dress:

  • Black cocked hat, increasingly worn fore and aft, instead of athwart, having a black cockade with gilt scale loop and button, surmounted by a white feather with red base. At each corner was a gold and crimson tassel.

Graham Turner's illustration of General Wellesley's meeting with General Cuesta prior to the battle of Talavera. Wellesley is shown wearing the full dress uniform of a British General as described in the 1802 regulations. Note Wellesley's  ADC (to his left) wearing two gold bullion epaulettes appropriate for the commander's personal ADC. 
  • The scarlet coat has blue patches at either end of the collar, small indented blue cuffs and blue lapels down to the waist which could be buttoned back to show the blue and fastened to the front using hooks and eyes to be worn double breasted.
  • The long skirts were lined with white cassimere (cashmere smooth white woollen twill), hooked back and fastened at the bottom with scarlet gold embroidered ornaments.
  • There was a gilt button on the blue collar patches, nine or ten down each lapel, three or four set vertically down each skirt and cuff and two at the back at hip level.
  • Generals had their buttons at equal distance, lieutenant-generals in threes, major-generals and brigadier-generals in pairs, except the latter had the skirt and cuff buttons set two over one.
  • On each shoulder was worn an epaulette of gold embroidery on scarlet cloth with gold bullion fringe.
  • There were two types of coat; the embroidered one with gold embroidered loops on all the button holes, including collar cuffs and skirts, and the plain or undress coat which was without the embroidery, but normally had the button holes marked by narrow twists, the same colour as the cloth.

  • White cloth or cassimere breeches with black topped boots were to be worn with either coat and the uniform was completed with a crimson sash worn around the waist with the knot and ends at the left side.
  • The sword was suspended with white waist belt and slings and fastened by a snake clasp between two lions' heads.

All my general officer basing works on one officer representing a brigade command, two for a division, three for a corps and a fancy round base for a king or emperor.

Now to cover off my slight anachronism, in that I have my divisional commander, based with his staff officer wearing the uniform reforms of 1811 with a move away from the previous gold bullion epaulettes to the single aiguillette or brassard worn on the right shoulder only arranged lightly differently for lieutenant and major-generals.

This look would not have been seen at Talavera, but with an eye to future campaigns I put this pair together anyway.

Brigadier General Craufurd depicted leading the Light Division at Bussaco in the undress uniform of a Brigadier General. Note the use of  light infantry style sword carried on a black undress belt worn with more robust grey overalls
The British army worked on the idea that lieutenant-generals would command divisions or wings and major-generals, brigades, but this was not always possible and indeed in the case of General Craufurd, Wellesley had to tread carefully around the regulations when he had a brigadier general commanding the "Light Division", all be it that the division started out more like a large brigade to avoid a more senior general claiming the command from the very able Craufurd.

The rank of brigadier general was not an official rank between colonel and major general but rather an honorary rank for senior field officers promoted to command brigades and several majors and lieutenant-colonels who were the most senior rank in their respective brigades found themselves in command at Talavera, thus I have a buff faced colonel with silver regimental lace in among the general officers displayed.

Of course British General Officers were very often a law unto themselves when it came to uniform regulations with General Picton and his top hat a classic illustration; and even Wellesley was never a stickler for regulation, often preferring a utilitarian blue frock coat over his white breeches and hessian boots to his scarlet dress coat. That said, he did draw the line with Guards officers appearing in the line carrying umbrellas, describing them as 'un-military' in appearance.

As can be seen my general officers are decked out in the more commonly seen and practical hard wearing grey overalls as shown in the picture of General Craufurd.

Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton seen here in the 1811 uniform as described in the text
All levels of general officers would have accompanying staff, but I tend only to include them on the base with divisional and above, command levels.

British ADCs were not strictly staff officers, that title reserved for officers serving under the two branches of the staff, the Quartermaster General's Department principally overseeing troop movements and quartering and the Adjutant-General's Department principally concerned with intelligence, prisoners of war, drill, discipline and the rendering of returns.

Members of the two staff offices were represented throughout the commands although both facilities were often carried out at brigade level by the brigade-major, without any other staff. These officers wore the same style of uniform as their generals except their lace was in silver with epauettes on red cloth rather than gold epaulettes for generals.

ADC's on the other hand were attached personally to their generals who were also responsible for their pay and provisions. Their dress regulations was the same as for staff officers except they wore gold rather than silver lace and like brigade-majors wore a single bullion fringed epaulette on blue cloth on the left shoulder (cavalry) or right shoulder (infantry), but with the ADC for a Commander of British forces wearing epaulettes on both shoulders as seen in Graham Turner's illustration above.

Thus my divisional commander is being greeted by a general of infantry's ADC.

Another point to note with British horse furniture is the use of brown leather harnesses rather than the black preferred by the French.

All my general officers are from the AB range of figures from Fighting 15's.

Next up French Horse Artillery

References used in this post:
Talavera 1809, Wellington's Lightning Strike into Spain - Rene Chartrand, Graham Turner, Osprey Campaign.
The British Military, its system and organisation 1803-15 - S.J.Park & G.F. Nafziger
1815 The Uniforms at Waterloo - Ugo Percoli, Micheal Glover, Elizabeth Longford
Wellington's Generals - Michael Barthorp, Richard Hook, Osprey Men at Arms


  1. Nice JJ.

    I fancy grey made a much better choice for field work, than white. Keep them for Horse Guard's parade.


  2. Great post full of information and some awesome minis what more could you want great start to 2017 my friend

  3. Perfect timing with your info again, just started a few 28mm generals and been hunting uniform info.

  4. Informative post and a lovely finish on your figures and especially your horses.
    Best Iain

  5. Great work! That was very useful information. I really enjoyed the video too.