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"British Vets Of Napoleonics Wars Allowed To Keep Weapons?" Topic

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1,213 hits since 27 Jul 2018
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Cacique Caribe27 Jul 2018 9:12 p.m. PST

When returning to their homes in Britain, were they allowed to keep their uniforms and arms?

In case you are wondering, I'm watching Sean Bean (Sharpe?) in Netflix' series The Frankenstein Chronicles, set in 1825. I'm almost finished with Season 1 (6 episodes per season).

Sean Bean is a veteran of the Napoleonics Wars, who now happens to be a cop on a special investigation assignment in London. He moves to an apartment in the city and brings with him his old war uniform and his weapons, which he keeps stashed away inside a wooden chest.

PS. I find it funny how the series shows that London cops in 1825 had to check out their pistols from the police stations before heading out on a raid. And then had to return them to the armory right after. I wonder if that was actually true. That must have given the crooks plenty of time to flee the scene before the police finally showed up with weapons, I would think.


Rod MacArthur27 Jul 2018 11:55 p.m. PST

Soldiers' weapons would have been government property and handed back when they left. Officers' weapons (or most of them) would have been their own private property and they would retain them.

Sort of still applies. Most weapons issued to a modern officer will belong to the government. However, if an officer purchases a sword, as many do to use on parades (as opposed to temporarily borrowing one from a pool bought by their Regiment), then that is their own property.


Cacique Caribe28 Jul 2018 12:03 a.m. PST


By the way, the character apparently served in the Peninsular War.


arthur181528 Jul 2018 1:11 a.m. PST

When he opened his box of possessions, I think I caught a glimpse of a Waterloo Medal – it could not be a Military General Service Medal as that was not issued until 1848.

He claimed to have served in the 'second light battalion' [sic] of the 95th.

I thought that was a subtle in-joke referring to Sean Bean's earlier role as Sharpe of the 95th.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2018 1:37 a.m. PST

I imagine that the scriptwriters have supplied SB's character with a firearm to 'sex up' early C19th policing for the X-box generation. (Not that it did him much good as I recall from the one episode I watched).

Bearing in mind that in 1825 no police force existed as such (Metropolitan Police formed 1829), it would be interesting to know how often firearms were used in the pursuit of criminals at that time.

At the other end of the century, I am reminded of Dr Watson's trusty service revolver which, on Sherlock Holme's reccommendation, would be slipped into his greatcoat pocket during their more dangerous investigations.

Bob the Temple Builder28 Jul 2018 3:11 a.m. PST

Quote from Wikipedia:

'The Marine Police Force, sometimes known as the Thames River Police, claimed to be England's oldest police force and was formed by magistrate Patrick Colquhoun and Master Mariner John Harriott in 1798 to tackle theft and looting from ships anchored in the Pool of London and in the lower reaches and docks of the Thames.'

It was made a public rather than private force in 1800, and its officers were regularly issued with cutlasses and batons … as were early members of the Metropolitan Police. Sir Robert Peel did ensure that firearms were available for issue to officers as and when they were needed, but they were returned to storage when the need for them no longer existed.

Edwulf28 Jul 2018 4:50 a.m. PST

Officers who bought their own kit would keep their private property.

Soldiers, whose weapons belonged to the government would hand them back in. They kept their clothes though.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Presumably if the majority of criminals did not use firearms then the need for agents of law and order be issued with them was not seen as great.

If, during 'public unrest,' firepower was deemed necessary, then the army or yeomanry could be turned out to protect lives and property.

The King's Writ did not seem to extend fully to the water margins. The docks and quays harboured a special breed of 'low lifes' and criminals who inhabited a liminal world, soomehow darker and more violent than on true terra firma, perhaps because the proceeds of theft and robbery could be proportionately greater and the water was a convenient place to dispose of the inconvenient or incriminating.

On the water, vessels involved in smuggling might well be armed while privateers occupied a grey area between piracy and service against King's enemies.

But, of course, no one would dare mess with a swan.

Okiegamer28 Jul 2018 6:44 a.m. PST

I don't know much about Napoleonic practice, but during the American Civil War, Union soldiers were given an allowance with which they purchased their clothing, shoes, hats, etc., which then became their personal property. Problem was, it was never enough, and especially during seasons of hard campaigning, they often had to dip into their own pay, or especially in the case of shirts and other undergarments, get help from the Sanitary Commission, their state or the folks back home. The equipment and weapons remained government property and had to be carefully accounted for by the company commander, who was personally responsible for making up the difference if he couldn't show that something had been lost legitimately. In turn, he could try to make the soldiers pay for something if he felt it had been lost due to carelessness, stupidity, etc. After the war, there was such a surplus of used weapons and equipment that the U.S. Government allowed soldiers to purchase these and take them home. My great-great grandfather was a sergeant in the 60th New York Infantry and brought his rifle, an 1863 Springfield, home with him and it is still in our family – although the distant relative who owns it won't even let anyone so much as look at it!

Legion 428 Jul 2018 7:42 a.m. PST

I thought that was a subtle in-joke referring to Sean Bean's earlier role as Sharpe of the 95th.
That would make sense to me.

But as far as historical accuracy of much of the media, movies, TV, etc., we all should not be surprised if they get "it" wrong.

But I think the UK is better at getting it right more than the US … From what I have seen. NBC, ABC, CBS vs. BBC … evil grin

Mike Petro28 Jul 2018 12:09 p.m. PST

Uniforms paid for by the soldier as today. Trust me, and my bank account. Probably no less of a ripoff and price gouge as back then.

Firearms and the like, gov property. My sword was an optional uniform purchase and mine to keep.

Korvessa28 Jul 2018 3:17 p.m. PST

I have read that in several of Sean Bean's movies he makes references to sharps. For example in Lord of the Rings he says "It still sharp"

Windy Miller29 Jul 2018 2:31 p.m. PST

Just started watching this and noticed a few Sharpe connections already. The medal mentioned by Arthur is pinned to a Rifle officer's jacket, and in the same box is a Baker Rifle sword bayonet. Then later on one of the body snatchers is whistling Over the Hills and Far Away. That's all in one episode. I wonder how many more they can fit in!

AICUSV29 Jul 2018 3:19 p.m. PST

Okiegamer not sure where you got your info about Union troops, but enlisted men where issued their uniforms (including underwear and socks). This clothing was government property until the next issue at which point the old items became the soldier's. If there was an item that was still serviceable the soldier could be reimbursed for not taking the new item and keeping his old. The quality of the pieces usually meant that this didn't happen often.I However, in 1864 some soldiers made out on this. In the Spring they turned into storage extra clothing (overcoats, frock coats and such), then drew them back out in the fall. Well the regiments had been so reduced in size due the events of that season's campaign, that there was much more items returned than men remaining. The only time n enlisted man would receive an allotment is if an article(s) was not available from the QM.
If an article needed to be replaced prior to the next issue it was done at the soldier's expense. Upon mustering out weapons and traps had to be turned into the government, or the soldier could purchased them. Officer's did receive an uniform allotment and were required to supply themselves with all their needs.

Remember all government issued clothing comes in two sizes. Too big or too small.

Handlebarbleep29 Jul 2018 11:53 p.m. PST

Until 1996 in the UK it was possible to privately own "a service pistol of service calibre and type", since then an automatic pistol has become a section 5 prohibited item. I carried mine on duty. The mobilisation regulations until that point allowed an officer to report with his own, as well as his horse which would be fed (but not shoed) at public expense. I kid you not, updating regulations have never been high on anyone's priorities. On a freedom parade a Police Constable was amazed that my sword was mine, although many did not clock the fact that it had been to the Somme and the "ER" was Edward VII not Elizabeth II!

Mike Target30 Jul 2018 4:02 a.m. PST

" I find it funny how the series shows that London cops in 1825 had to check out their pistols from the police stations before heading out on a raid. And then had to return them to the armory right after. I wonder if that was actually true. That must have given the crooks plenty of time to flee the scene before the police finally showed up with weapons, I would think."

IIRC police in the 19th century were issued as standard a firearm and sword, but generally chose to carry the truncheon for general day to day use. They only drew the firearms as needed for specific purposes. For dealing with the most criminals they would encounter a good truncheon was usually more than sufficient, as even during the 19th century british lowlifes were very rarely armed with more than a pocket knife.

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