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"British Drummer Uniforms Post 1812: Reversed Colors or Not?" Topic

16 Posts

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Comments or corrections?

Son of Liberty18 Jan 2005 8:53 p.m. PST

Once again my research has led me to a dead end. The few uniform references I have in my library (Funken, von Pivka, Haythornthaite, et al)are unable to answer the question posed in the title of this topic. (I just got the relevant Osprey in the mail today, too, and it stops short of answering this question! Doh!)

The Osprey's "Wellington's Infantry (1)" states that "up until 1812 the drummers wore reversed clothing...", but I'd like to know what the practice was after 1812 as I'm putting together some information so I can recreate the 1st Bn. 32nd Foot and the rest of the 8th Brigade at Waterloo. (I'm guessing that they went to standard uniforms after 1812, but I wish they would have come right out and said it instead of having to read between the lines.)

Can anyone clear this up for me, please? Thanks!


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jan 2005 9:32 p.m. PST

According to Wellington's Army by Smith and Chartrand, regarding plate 36:

"...a General Order of 25 September 1811 stated that because their loss in action 'may be ascribed to the marked difference of their dress, their clothing may be of the same colour as that worn by their respective regiments", with distinctions just in the lace; but the order seems somewhat ambiguous and does not seem to have been obeyed universally."

So, I guess the answer, as is often teh case with these things is both yes and no!

Son of Liberty18 Jan 2005 10:47 p.m. PST

Hello, Crispy:

Yep...I suspected it might be something like that. Yesterday I was trying to figure out if all the companies of a French light infantry battalion carried the sabre-briquet and the answer was yes, however, a directive was issued that said only the carabiniers were to carry them but the order was ignored in many cases (the same thing can be said about epaulettes, plumes and Lord knows what else!)

I'm trying really, really hard not to get too hung up on the minutiae!


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jan 2005 12:31 a.m. PST

Hi Patrick:

If you read a number of personal accounts, you come to realize how what we think of as a "uniform" was, in many ways, just a set of broad guidelines. Not to mention all the "in-field" adjustments that were made by more experienced soldiers.

I think it's Blaze who comments on a great racket - sell gaiters to the army. Follow regiments on their first march to war. After they leave camp, collect all the gaiters they discarded (one regiment's worth). Clean and resell.

And rich colonels who liked lace; cheap dyes that faded after a light rain; lack of resupply in many theaters; fierce attachment to uniform distinctions like turnback badges, chevrons, or piping colors.

Unless you are going to paint every unit according to regulations (i.e. the same) and for the parade ground, you can get away with quite a lot and still be "accurate."

Coffee Fiend19 Jan 2005 12:59 a.m. PST

I am painting up my 1815 Brits without reversing the colors. I agree with Extra Crispy - soldiers in the field look like crap, but I would think that British 1815 army would be closer to parade ground than say the British Pennisular army. Just my two cents.

Jacko2719 Jan 2005 2:53 a.m. PST

Thank you very much chaps for this topic.
Just got to the drummers on my Eureka 18mm Brits and hit the same Osprey dead end as above.
Scarlet tunics it is then.

ethasgonehome19 Jan 2005 4:38 a.m. PST

Although the regulations for drummers and fifers changed in 1812, prints of the period suggest that the order was ignored, and the 1802 regulations continued in use (i.e. reversed colours). Ref. The Thin Red Line, DSV & BK Fosten, Windrow & Greene, 1989, page 51.

Ugo Pericoli's book on Waterloo also illustrates reversed colours. Although I much loved this book as a young gamer, I now realise that it's not 100 per cent reliable, though.

So I continue to use reversed colours for 1815.


Jacko2719 Jan 2005 6:30 a.m. PST

Now I am confused.
To reverse or not to reverse- that is the question
Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged gamers? Or to take arms in the wrong coloured tunics?
( apologies to Bill - - - Shakespeare that is)
So I can do either can I?
As my painting is adequate at best I,ll give the reversed colours a go and if ,as I anticipate , it turns out shockingly bad I,ll quickly slap on a coat of scarlet

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jan 2005 6:48 a.m. PST

I would go for reversed colors myself - helps add a little color to the mix. Otherwise the Brits can be a huse gea of red and blue.

blueduck19 Jan 2005 9:26 a.m. PST

Its true of all musicians. Even when the French adopted the livery after 1812, colonels continued to dress their men in anything from reversed colors to one in Pink tunics. So, I unless you can find an actual picture (maybe contact the regimental museum), I think either reversed colors or red is okay.

I would go with reversed colors myself, as while the directives from on high often were given out, they took years to implement and often the officers and men resented them and continued to go on as they had before.

MachewR19 Jan 2005 10:12 a.m. PST

Four of the five post 1812 battalions I've painted so far have red tunics:

1. One is a royal regiment.
2. I forgot to reverse the colors.
3. Did read that they were phasing out the reverse colors at that time.
4. Figured if a drummer's uniform got too damaged, it would have been easier to have replaced it with a red "elite" tunic than a reverse color one.

Son of Liberty19 Jan 2005 10:31 a.m. PST

Upon further reflection, I may just skip the drummer figure entirely for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the figure I have is somewhat of a problem. There's a filled in area between the right arm, torso, and drum that's not easily corrected. It's not thin flash and it won't be easy to drill and carve since the area in question does not match up from the front of the figure to the back. It's not a casting flaw; it looks more like a problem with the original sculpt. However, I can paint this area black and it'll be less noticeable from a distance, especially if I go with the red coat instead of a white one since the 32nd Foot had white facings.

Secondly, a good argument can be made for not representing drummers in a wargames battalion at all. "The Waterloo Companion" has a very nice diagram of a British battalion in line formation that shows smaller groups drummers stationed behind the second line on either flank with the majority of them directly behind the center of the line. Wargamers typically have a "command stand" that usually consists of an officer, musician, and one or more flag bearers. Using this diagram as a model, perhaps it would be better to replace the drummer with a sergeant figure as being representative of the colour guard.

I realize that the musician can add some color variation to what Crispy calls that "huge sea of red and blue", but a sergeant with a spontoon would look interesting, too, since it seems such an anachronistic weapon. Besides, the sergeants played a very important role and those in the colour guard often paid a high price for the honor of being part of it, so they deserve a place on the table. (Not that the drummers don't belong, too; they served and died like everyone else and often at a very young age but they usually weren't combatants.)

Ah well...I guess I'll paint the drummer boy with the red coat and see how he looks as I can always replace him later.



ignarzpop19 Jan 2005 8:48 p.m. PST

My understanding is that royal regiments (blue facings) did not reverse as they would look like the French

Trockledockle07 Dec 2021 6:27 a.m. PST

A long time since the last posting but this is an interesting discussion. According to the link below, the abolition of reverse colours only applied to buglers and drummers maintained reversed colours (except for Royal regiments) to the 1830s as they were behind the line.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2021 3:23 a.m. PST

Interesting indeed, thanks. So a Waterloo-era British force should have buglers, and the drummers of blue-faced regiments in red; other regiments' drummers would be in reversed colours.

Trockledockle16 Mar 2022 1:17 p.m. PST

My understanding from research on WSS uniforms is that red jackets with blue facings originated with the Tudors and showed that someone was part of the Royal Household so Royal regiments had drummers in the royal livery.. Interestingly drummers of French Royal regiments of the WSS wore blue coats with red facings while the rest of the regiment wore white coats.

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