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"The myth of the Drummer Boy" Topic


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Lord Hill17 Jan 2009 4:36 a.m. PST

I notice that in the Victrix packs the drummer figure is considerably shorter than the rest of the (uniform height) figures. I guess the idea is that this is a drummer BOY and the bare head provided with the pack, looking a little small, is intended for this figure.

At Waterloo and Quatre Bras there were 304 drummers in frontline British regiments. Of these, 2 were killed – Edward Snell of the 1st Foot Guards killed at QB and Thomas Elliot of 30th Foot killed at Waterloo.

26 were wounded:
2 from 1st foot guards
1 from 1st Foot
1 from 14th Foot
1 from 30th Foot
6 from 32nd Foot (the massacred regiment never mentioned in Waterloo histories)
3 from 33rd Foot
1 from 40th Foot
1 from 42nd Foot
3 from 44th Foot
3 from 73rd Foot
2 from 79th foot

Looking at a cross-section of 100 of these men, only 10% were aged 16 or 17 with the average age being around 25, the same as all other ranks. I think, therefore, the idea that drummers were predominantly young is a myth. It was, in fact, just as usual to appoint the OLDEST members of the battalion as drummers. At Waterloo the 23rd Foot included Drummer John Leeds who, having enlisted in 1802 aged 49 would have been 62 at Waterloo (I have excluded him from the figures producing the average age of 25).

As far as height goes, while several Drummers were short – Drummer Robert Mew (again the 23rd Foot) was only 4'10" – there were similar numbers of men of above average height.

I also think that the image of the bareheaded drummer boy is also a myth born of romantic Victorian paintings. Quartermaster correspondence from 1815 contains lists of men to be deducted the cost of their shakos lost in battle at Quatre Bras or Waterloo! Only those listed as having lost their "caps" when severely wounded are spared this penalty. I should think, therefore, that all ranks held onto their shako at all costs!

As an aside, I personally have not needed so many Drummer figures and, with a bit of careful cutting off of the drummer's apron, have added a couple of interestingly short chaps in my firing line! They look great I think, and I would love a little more variety in height in future plastic packs.

Connard Sage17 Jan 2009 5:02 a.m. PST

Well, maybe. Questions were certainly being asked in the House later than 1815

link

link

Two boys of the 24th were killed at Rorke's Drift, and the French who entered La Haye Sainte at Waterloo were all killed by the defenders, apart from a 'young drummer boy'


As an aside, until recently, one could join the British armed forces at 16 and be sent on active service at that age.

link

Grizwald17 Jan 2009 5:34 a.m. PST

"As an aside, until recently, one could join the British armed forces at 16 and be sent on active service at that age."

Quote:
"The minimum age for recruits is unchanged at 16-and-a-half, but troops are not able to take part in operations until they turn 18. "
link

Connard Sage17 Jan 2009 5:40 a.m. PST

You didn't read my link before you jumped at the keyboard did you?

Have another: link

Grizwald17 Jan 2009 6:28 a.m. PST

"You didn't read my link before you jumped at the keyboard did you?"

You didn't read mine either. Your link is dated 18 January 1999 and says:
"Britain is the last country in the European Union to send 17-year-olds into battle. Even South Africa is expected to raise its recruitment age to 18."

My link is dated 6 January 2007 (rather later than yours) and says what I quoted above. The significant point being that although you can join the British army at 16 and a half you now can't be sent into battle until 18. Somewhere between 1999 and 2007 the rules were changed.

Bandit17 Jan 2009 6:42 a.m. PST

No clue regarding the British army during the Napoleonic Wars, however, during the ACW both the US and CS armies were *filled* with drummer boys between 9-17 even though the minimal age of enlistment for them was well above the bottom of that age range.

Cheers,

The Bandit

Supercilius Maximus17 Jan 2009 6:56 a.m. PST

@ Lord Hill,

You are quite right to cite the Victorians as being mainly responsible for this kind of sentimentalised nonsense. In earlier periods, it was quite common for sons of serving soldiers often as young as 7 or 8 to be included on the roll, usually to allow more pay and rations for men with families to feed. Often these boys were listed as drummers (which attracted more pay), and they were undoubtedly taken on campaign, though generally given roles that kept them away from the enemy during battle. Post F&IW/SYW, contrary to popular belief, drummers were not used to issue commands on the battlefield, usually only the drum major being kept as an orderly drummer for the CO. In the AWI, older drummers were given muskets and placed in the ranks.

Lady Butler's painting of the fifes and drums of the 57th Foot at Albuhera is a case in point. Shown as a group of boys standing on the right flank of the battalion's line, investigation by the National Army Museum showed that these musicians in 1811 had an average age of 26!

That said, my own research into the 23rd Foot in the AWI and just after, showed that by 1786 the musicians (drums and band) included men whose length of service meant that typically they had "enlisted" between the ages of 9 and 13 (one was only 7). However, almost all of these men had spent the AWI in GB or Ireland on recruiting duty.

@Insert Username,

I thought the point of this campaign to end the scandal of child soldiers was aimed at 9 and 10 year-olds in Africa, not people in their late teens who have left school and gone into the world of work. The comparison with other EU countries is also invidious since these countries have conscription and therefore are not "career-based" forces.

One should also bear in mind that, until after WW1, the school leaving age was 12, and 13 year-olds could be found working in coal mines, in shipyards and mills, or on building sites – all far more dangerous places in peacetime.

Connard Sage17 Jan 2009 7:23 a.m. PST

@Insert Username,

I thought the point of this campaign to end the scandal of child soldiers was aimed at 9 and 10 year-olds in Africa, not people in their late teens who have left school and gone into the world of work. The comparison with other EU countries is also invidious since these countries have conscription and therefore are not "career-based" forces.

It was an observation that I supported with a couple of links. I wasn't making any judgements, pro or anti.

rmaker17 Jan 2009 8:13 a.m. PST

It was not just Victorian sentimentality. The Victorian army DID use boy drummers. Lady Butler painted from her own experience. Kipling (Drums of the Fore and Aft) and Henty wrote from theirs.

RavenscraftCybernetics17 Jan 2009 9:50 a.m. PST
Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2009 10:40 a.m. PST

And of course the reality is that a boy in the 18th and 19th Centuries would not have been able to keep up on the march carrying his kit and hoiking a drum around. There may have been teenagers as drummers but they were young men and older individuals were also drummers. After all, look at the entrance requirements for Napoleon's Imperial Guard, especially the Old Guard. The drummer boy myth is a combination of Victorian sentimentality, soldiers' vernacular (young officers and soldiers are still referred to as 'boy' in many regiments) and a misinterpretation of the actual position of children following armies.

malcolmmccallum17 Jan 2009 10:46 a.m. PST

Evil link, Ravenscraft. I had to wash my ears out with Edith Piaf.

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER17 Jan 2009 11:09 a.m. PST

Kylie Minogue followed by the Bangles.

christot17 Jan 2009 1:04 p.m. PST

hmmmm but a bearded Napoleonic drummer? Never!

OldGrenadier Fezian17 Jan 2009 1:32 p.m. PST

Wasn't Lady Butler the one who painted the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards as running into one another while charging?

Personal logo andygamer Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2009 2:10 p.m. PST

I was under the impression that early drums (say pre-1850) were heavier and harder to play than later (snare?) drums so that adults had to be used to hump around and play the early ones; but that using younger teens was possible and did occur with the lighter, later drums.

Sparker19 Jan 2009 4:58 a.m. PST

Milord Hill,

The 32nd Foot never mentioned in Waterloo histories?

A cursory check of my limited bookshelf (am on base not at home) shows a couple of mentions:

History of the Waterloo Campaign 1-85367-069-3 page 253

On the field of Glory 1-85367-232-7 page 80

Battleground Waterloo 0-85052-878-x page 65

Kind Regards,

Sparker

Lord Hill19 Jan 2009 5:58 a.m. PST

Hi Sparker, I just meant in comparison to, say, the 27th Inniskilling "died in square blah blah blah".

Sparker19 Jan 2009 8:27 a.m. PST

OK with you now. Yes, a fair point, I wonder why.

Supercilius Maximus19 Jan 2009 10:41 a.m. PST

Connard Sage

No, that wasn't aimed at you – I knew what you meant.

27th Foot20 Jan 2009 12:13 p.m. PST

M' Lord Hill; May I ask the source of the Drummer casulaties? I don't mean to sound challenging, rather I have an interest in such details. I know that of someone (whose name escapes me…ack) in the UK was assembling a data base of every British soldier at Waterloo, and I wonder are you part of that project?

My work on the 1/27th shows me four of their seven drummers were wounded (they had only seven companies present).

I quite agree with you admiration for the 1/30th. the Cornwalls suffered very heavily, throughout the 16th and the 18th. Comparing percentages of casualties shows the Inniskillings slightly higher loss, but numbers seem trite in such a matter. My only real argument is with the Guards, who get all the glory and did not suffer nearly as much as the Line regiments.

I wrote an article for the Napoleon Series that might interest you, in which the Cornwalls come off quite well.

Lastly, I also agree with your contention that drummers were grown men. Those drums were great heavy things, and further, the drummers were tasked with performing the floggings, a task for which no boy would be fit.

Supercilius Maximus20 Jan 2009 12:27 p.m. PST

<<…..and further, the drummers were tasked with performing the floggings, a task for which no boy would be fit.>>

The Royal Navy always boasted that they were flogged by men (bosun's mates) whilst soldiers were flogged by children.

Lord Hill20 Jan 2009 3:10 p.m. PST

Hi 27th
Yes I think we have probably exchanged info under different names on Napoleon Series – I have all Waterloo men on a database and have a book collated from all the data. I gave the chapter on the 69th to the Napoleon Series to publish and I think its still there somewhere!
Happy to help out with any Inniskilling stats you're after.
Cheers

Lord Hill20 Jan 2009 11:23 p.m. PST

p.s. regarding wounded
Except in the occasional lucky archive find – the Guards for example have a list of those men wounded in the battle – I have based "wounded" upon the post-Waterloo musters in the WO12 documents where a man is either listed as such or, more commonly, is listed as "General Hospital, Brussels" or some such. Admittedly, this would exlude the very lightly wounded, but I do not think there is a solution.
I could find no such indication for any of the 27th's seven drummers but please put me right!
No.1 Coy – James Bunton
No.3 Coy – John Robinson
No.8 Coy – Charles Stewart and William Morgan
No.9 Coy – John Killan and William Quinn
No.10 Coy – Michael Martin

Robert le Diable21 Jan 2009 8:36 a.m. PST

To OldGrenadier re. Lady Butler: not the "Royal Scots Dragoon Guards" but "The Second (North British) Dragoons", i.e. the "Scots Greys". There have been amalgamations since, of course, with regimental names changing. In the painting you mention, the pace is far too fast and the troopers much too close together. But at least there's a variety of horse-colours rather than the pure-white horses in Bonarchuck's recreation of the event in "Waterloo"!

27th Foot22 Jan 2009 4:27 a.m. PST

Lord Hill; (Do your friends call you 'Daddy'?) ;o)

Yes, I agree exactly on the names and company. I show Bunton, Killen, Morgan, and Quinn as wounded. It seems that Drummers Martin, Robinson, and Stewart had the good sense to duck .

As you have doubtless seen, there are several roster books that detail the personnel of the 27th, most of which only add to the confusion. The recent drafts from their sister battalion, combined with the absence of the battalion staff, left the rosters in a bit of a mess.

I primarily went with that ominous red "w" beside the name to determine casualties, though even that was inconsistant.

Any hopes of a publisher for your work? It must have taken months of work.

Best regards……Mark

Lord Hill22 Jan 2009 6:44 a.m. PST

Hi Mark
Does the W not signify "Waterloo Man"? – that is usually the case on all musters. It is always written in red ink in all Regimental paybooks.

As far as publication goes – both Greenhill and Pen & Sword have given me two fingers – I am left seething with bitter indigation and plotting various conspiracy theories in why they will not publish! Pen & Sword actually gave the reason "too specialist" – this from a publisher's whose catalogue contains such titles of everyday interest as "Submarine Insignia" and "The British Cavalry Sword from 1600".
Oh well, it was a nice hobby!

Best Regards ….Martin

27th Foot22 Jan 2009 10:19 a.m. PST

Well, hello again, Martin!

Now you have me doubting my sanity….could I have been that far wrong? A quick glance at a couple of printed pages supports (I think) the "wounded" conclusion, but I had better get into the digital images to make sure. Of course, for the Inniskillings (and the Cornwalls!) to be a Waterloo man meant a wound, or worse.

I woould think that either one of those houses would jump al over a chance to publish such a detailed summary of the Waterloo army. "Too specialist"? I doubt that they would reject "Shoe sizes of Sopwith Pup pilots, 1921-1922", let alone a study of the most famous army in the most famous battle in all military history.

Maybe you can go for the "new military history" angle; a demographic edge…..summarizing ages, nationality, home county, civilian occupation…..I will not mention shoe size.

Best……..Mark

Supercilius Maximus22 Jan 2009 11:24 a.m. PST

<<To OldGrenadier re. Lady Butler: not the "Royal Scots Dragoon Guards" but "The Second (North British) Dragoons", i.e. the "Scots Greys".>>

I believe the CO of the regiment when the painting was done was her brother-in-law (she was married to a general). She arranged for him to form the regiment up and charge past her as she sat at her easle and made preliinary sketches etc. The flag is also inaccurate – there were none carried in the Waterloo campaign.

The officer depicted in the painting is believed to be the CO on the day, Lt Col James Inglis Hamilton (jnr). He was born on July 4, 1777, outside Fort Ticonderoga; his natural father (John/William Anderson. Sgt Mjr of the 21st Foot) and mother both died during the Saratoga campaign and he was adopted by the 21st's CO, Lt Col James Inglis Hamilton, Laird of Mudrostoun. James junior took his family name, and was commissioned into the Army in 1792.

Cacadores10 Feb 2009 9:29 a.m. PST

Lord Hill,

''At Waterloo and Quatre Bras there were 304 drummers in frontline British regiments……..Looking at a cross-section of 100 of these men, only 10% were aged 16 or 17 with the average age being around 25, the same as all other ranks. I think, therefore, the idea that drummers were predominantly young is a myth''

Your statistics, are of course, taken from the Waterloo campaign using what was, in effect, an army of occupation. In a long campaign, of course, it would be in a battalion's interest to maximise the number of muskets by employing boys on the drums. Or old men.

Children of soldiers with no mother, might well get bought up in the regiments and it should not be a surprise if during peace, they become just another supernumery whom it's cheaper for the colonel to send home. Henty's book about the Coruna campaign quotes a captain forbidding his son to hang out with the drummer boys:

''I don't mind your going into the men's quarters, you will come to no harm there, but among the boys you might get into bad habits, some them are thorough young scamps.''

Robert le Diable11 Feb 2009 4:54 a.m. PST

Thanks for that information, Super Max: I remember reading that the Regiment actually charged towards her (and pulled up short, of course). Apropos, I spoke recently with an ex-Scots Guards sergeant who participated in a staging of a Napoleonic action near to Windsor Castle in England; in (modern) dress uniform, his battalion formed square whilst one of the Household Cavalry regiments charged towards them. He said it was a terrifying experience. By the way, you mention "Laird of Mudrostoun"; I'm guessing that there's a transposition there, and the place would be "Murdostoun" (i.e. Town – or, more likely, "fermtoun" – of someone named Murdo?)

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