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"British light infantry flags at Waterloo" Topic

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GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 1:59 p.m. PST

Does anyone know if the 51st and 71st regiments carried their flags at Waterloo ?

Being LI they did not normally carry them into action but the 52nd seem to have done so now unsure about the other two.

Thanks for any help.

Tony of TTT

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 2:09 p.m. PST

71st definitely not

52nd, strangely, just as definitely did….the ensign's tale is a standard Waterloo account

51st…..the greater experts will tell you. Funny thing is that these lads, with at least a significant proportion of the 95th fought the whole battle in line/column/square on the top of the ridge just behind Hgmt, like any line regts. Hence the need for the flags/colours/ensigns….call them what you will.

Imagine the 52nd doing the wheeling thing at the end, without very controlled dressing of their line. Colours a great help there. Certainly, two books in the last 12 months have suggested 52nd won the battle single handed (OK, I do exaggerate and I do accept that they indeed played an under-recognised part in throwing back one of the Guard columns, right at the end, just as the whole French line was breaking anyway).

summerfield14 Jan 2017 2:27 p.m. PST

Dear Deadhead
Why would the 51st, 52nd and 71st not carry flags? They were issued them.

Yes the 95th Rifles did not have a flag.

It should also be remember that the 52nd fought as two wings (half battalions).

I have written a book on Adams Brigade to the eve of Waterloo looking at their time in the Netherlands from 1813-15.

summerfield14 Jan 2017 2:31 p.m. PST

The use of British Light Infantry and in fact light infantry in general is not understood by the rules writers especially the modern rules that use a bucket of dice.

There was never more than half the Bn in Skirmish order. The rest stayed as close order supports. Only the 95th and 5/60th may have dispersed into open order BUT always operated with close order support.

Light infantry moved at no more than the double and NEVER ran.

Much of this is explained in another of my books dealing with Sir John Moore and the Universal Soldier. The basics of light infantry drill was clearly outlined by Dundas.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 2:48 p.m. PST


When the 60th LI & 95 Rifles were formed they were not issued flags as they were thought inappropriate for their roles but later got them.

Existing regiments changed to LI were a bit different as they were allowed to not carry their colours into battle. The War Dept thought them inconsistent with their role but I don't think they were actually prohibited.

I'm looking for evidence that is documented rather than supposition.

Reactionary Inactive Member14 Jan 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

Eh? when were the 95th issued colours?

Windy Miller14 Jan 2017 5:24 p.m. PST

Quite. They weren't! The 5/60th and the 95th were never issued colours and to this day we still do not carry them. Our battle honours are worn on our belt plates. The Light Infantry regiments on the other hand did carry colours and continued to do so until amalgamation to form the Rifles in 2007.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 3:12 a.m. PST

Actually, the 95th was issued colours on several occasions:
- 1760–1763, Burton's Regt, formed from independent companies in N America (grey facings)
- 1779–1783, Reid's Regt (buff facings)
- 1794–1796, Edmeston's Regt (facings unknown)
- 1816-1818, 96th Foot (formed 1803) was retitled when the original 95th became the Rifle Brigade (buff facings)
- 1823–1881, 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot, in the Childers Reforms it united with the 45th Regiment to form the Sherwood Foresters (yellow facings).

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 3:29 a.m. PST

Can only quote the sources I have and they both implied that the 95th were given colours later. Probably confusion with those that SM has noted.

If I were an expert I wouldn't need to ask the advice of the TMP hive mind.

The issue is not whether they HAD colours but whether they carried them in the field at Waterloo.

Reactionary Inactive Member15 Jan 2017 3:48 a.m. PST

Very clever! The Rifle Brigade were never issued colours. The other 95th Regiments had no connection to the Napoleonic 95th Rifles which became the Rifle Brigade…

Windy Miller15 Jan 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

Fair point. I should qualify that, Rifle Regiments were never issued colours. Light Infantry regiments were. The 52nd are well documented as carrying theirs at Waterloo. The 51st likewise, but the 71st left theirs at home.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 4:17 a.m. PST

Windy Miller – Thanks for that.

I now know of the sources concerning the 52 & 71, any hints as to where the info on the 51st comes from ? I know that I'm going to be asked this later so I'd like to have an answer – not essential (I'm happy to trust your greater reading on the subject) but if it is possible I'd like to know.

42flanker15 Jan 2017 4:47 a.m. PST

And the 60th Royal Americans, being a line regiment (not Light Infantry*), were authorised colours when they were formed (as the 62nd) in 1755, but rarely carried them in action as the battalions were very often divided in packets among colonial stations and posts.

Just sayin'.

{*They were briefly LI in 1824 when reorganised as 60th (The Duke of York's Own Rifle Corps and Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot when they ceased being a colonial corps and adopted the green uniform of the disbanded 5th Battalion, with one rifle battalion and one light infantry battalion.

Within a month the name was changed to 60th (The Duke of York's Own Rifle Corps) Regiment of Foot when the light infantry battalion converted to being a rifle battalion.}

Windy Miller15 Jan 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

Hi Gildas.

Ref the 51st' colours, I can find two references. The Centjours website shows them as being carried at Waterloo (they also show those of the 71st as absent). They're pretty good as a uniform reference but there are some inaccuracies.


The link below has a photo of the colours apparently carried that day:


I thought that they were also mentioned in William Wheeler's memoirs but I can't find the reference.

As for the 60th, the line battalions (1st to 4th) had colours, but the Rifle Bns raised later (5th to 8th) did not.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 8:07 a.m. PST

That photo of the 51st colours shows how time can wreak ravages on pigments. This was a "deep" green faced regt…look at the regt colour here!

Summerfield, again how great to see your input here once more. What I meant was I once had the idea that Light Infantry fought as such, not in lines, columns and squares. Long learnt the error of my ways and also why colours were needed therefore.

I had the idea that, French or British, Light Regiments meant bugles or hornists, not drums, no standards/eagles/colours etc. I did confuse flank light companies of line regts, with Light Regts as such in either country. It is most confusing.

Even French Light Regts had flank companies, where Grenadiers became carabiniers etc…

Hang on…….did British Light Regts have Elite flank companies to either extreme of the line? Surely not……..

Windy Miller15 Jan 2017 8:12 a.m. PST

Deadhead. I know. Sadly time is kind to no one – I used to have hair! :-(

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

Hi WM – thanks again

The cent jours website has some wonderful illustrations but their flags do not always agree with my Osprey (which checks more often than not with another source). In particular they don't get the battle honours right on some flags (51 is shown with 'Corunna', which wasn't awarded to them until after Waterloo).

I'm actually using them as a basis to draw flags and then checking and amending details from other sources. I know that every detail can't be known or reproduced but, where I can check, I do – so the flags I produce are as well researched as I have time and resources for.

The photo has me further confused. I'd expect the site to be correct but it shows 5 battle honours when my sources say that the 51st only had 2 at the time of Waterloo. Unfortunately it is impossible to read them. I suppose that it is quite possible that the honours were added to the colour later, while it was still in service so it may not be that confusing after all.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 8:57 a.m. PST

Cent Jours is an incredible resource…

But not infallible…..

What is great is that it is continually updated to correct errata, once identified….and I have seen many a page then transformed. Best of all, the whole thing is recorded in its archives, if you take the trouble to search.

It is "incredible", because it is a free resource….

and it is so often used here as the answer to any question (not unreasonably)……

Who is this chap really? How much do we all owe him? What could we do in concrete terms to support him? Why has he no commercialism to him……? Why do something for nothing? What? Just to help others? (Hasta la Victoria Siempre etc)

attilathepun4715 Jan 2017 12:01 p.m. PST


According to Rod MacArthur, who researched the original documents on British battalion establishments in the National Archives (formerly Public Records Office), all British battalions officially had both grenadier and light companies during the Napoleonic period, including light infantry regiments and the 95th. The open question is whether this was just a paper thing, or if it had real organizational and tactical significance. So everyone should keep their eyes peeled for any references which might shed light on this.

Rod MacArthur15 Jan 2017 1:57 p.m. PST

Since British flank (Grenadier and Light companies) had no ensigns, but additional lieutenants instead, establishing all battalions (including light and rifle) with flank companies may just have been a way of not penalising them with less lieutenants. Having a grenadier company also gave an establishment of two fifers, who were not in any other company. I suspect all of this made no difference to light infantry and rifle battalion tactical operation.

Interestingly all British battalions, including light and rifle, were established for drummers, not buglers, although they may well have issued them with bugles. The only established buglers in the British Army of that era were in the Royal Staff Corps.


42flanker16 Jan 2017 4:13 a.m. PST

In the muster rolls, etc, enlisted ranks were categorised as 'Sergeants', {EDIT+}'Corporals','Drummers' and 'Privates,' each paid to a different scale, and the printed forms reflected that. It is likely that in the eyes of the gentlemen in Whitehall circa 1810 or 1815, the use of bugles in such new fangled, fly-by-night creations as the rifle and light infantry regiments did not merit printing new forms. With luck, all might return to normal with the coming of peace. As ever, changing the terminology could be considered when the stock of old forms was used up. Until then 'Drummer' would serve as the heading for all classes of infantry 'signaller' whether 'tow row row' or 'too-too-ing'.

I believe that, apart from the Rifle regiments, even after the bugle finally superceded the drum for all infantry, that moment never quite arrived.

Rod MacArthur16 Jan 2017 8:42 a.m. PST


That sounds exactly right.


GMB Designs Inactive Member16 Mar 2017 5:58 a.m. PST

thought I'd pass on this snippet from a late 19th century source.

‘It has been stated that no cavalry standards or guidons were carried during the Waterloo campaign
But every infantry regiment had its colours at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, save one, the 71st Higland Light Infantry'

( the colours of the 71st did not go to the Peninsula either– they were stored in the Tower of London. Subsequently lost after being taken to decorate Carlton house during a banquet for allied sovereigns in 1814 )

Re 52nd.
‘Ensign William Nettles of No.2 Coy was killed in the evening by a cannonball shot while carrying the King's Colour of the 52nd.
Enisgn Leeke carried the Regimental Colour and survived.
""At 10 o'clock in the morning the Adjutant, Winterbottom, advised Leeke and his friend Ensign Nettles that they would have the honour of carrying the colours that day, Leeke the Regimental Colour and Nettles the King's Colour. Major Chalmers at that moment rode up to inform them that the Regiment would be acting in separate wings and that Leeke would accompany him on the right while Nettles was to join the forces on the left. They separated and never met again"

Re 51st. A passage in the reminisences of Lord Abermarle ( Augustus Keppell ):

‘Fifteen years after the battle, a French officer was conversing with me on the subject of Waterloo. He told me that he was an artillery officer
Posted on the extreme left of the French line, and that his orders were to fire on three British regiments, the colours of which were blue, buff and green, (proving beyond all doubt that it was against'our' brigade that his practice had been directed.'

- 23rd, 14th and 51st. Mitchell's brigade

another extract from his Waterloo memoir here


so, looks like it was only the 71st without colours at Waterloo. The 52nd and 43rd are recorded as having theirs in the Peninsula too.



Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 8:04 a.m. PST


Ah ha……there I have you now……the lesser of two weevils (that still makes me laugh)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 1:22 p.m. PST

Oh I forgot, we said all that earlier on ayway…it is an age thing…and, once you have posted, there it is for ever more!

Edwulf16 Mar 2017 5:33 p.m. PST

But the 60th were not entirely green jackets. 1st-4th battalions were redcoats. And line infantry to boot. Presumably they had colours.

Edwulf16 Mar 2017 5:36 p.m. PST

Regarding light infantry my understanding was that they all had them but they didn't always carry them into battle. Thus on Waterloo the 71st did not and the 52nd did. The 51st … I'll check Wheeler when I get home but I figure if he doesn't mention them you are with in the realms of plausibility to have them with or without.

Edwulf16 Mar 2017 5:38 p.m. PST

And I think the 71st had colours taken at Buenos Airies. Maybe before they became light infantry?

Three Armies18 Mar 2017 1:33 a.m. PST

Summerfield is spot on with the light infantry tactics.

GMB Designs is also spot on correct.

BUT>>>>> in a wargame I wanted some for mine! And made the detachable ;)

So here is what I did for mine, figs heavily modified Perry and flags of course from the excellent GMB range!

Michael Percy


Lord Hill18 Mar 2017 12:28 p.m. PST

GMB, that's a fascinating bit of proof from Lord Albemarle. Many thanks for that, never heard it before. I'll give my 51st flags now!

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