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"British Life Guard Uniform Details?" Topic

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Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2019 8:51 a.m. PST

Still only got as far as the horses for my Household Brigade (well only 12 Life Guards and 12 KDGs to be honest)

I find much contradiction in the subtle uniform distinctions between 1st and 2nd Life Guards. Mt St Jean shows them identical other a tiny difference in the Epaulettes. CE Franklin is very definite that it was the collars. Blue for 1st and red with the blue patch for 2nd. In practice, the blue collar I can find nowhere else other than on a single Re-enactor with 2LG on his valise.

Possibly it evolved and it all depends on timing, but for 1815, does anyone have any info on this?

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

There are illustrations of 1st Lifeguards 1815 in both the Osprey 'Wellington's Heavy Cavalry' and Haythornthwaite's 'Uniforms of Waterloo', and both show red collar with blue patch.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2019 10:35 a.m. PST

Re the collars of the First and Second Regiment of Life Guards, actually the opposite: Ist Blue patch (for two lace bars) and red collar and the 2ND entire blue collar according to "…sketches by Sebastien Norblin, copied by Raffet".
Interestingly, Mollo's uniform schematic shows both regiments with red collars.

Not that you can't discern this at 28mm, ",the buttons, bearing a crown over a double G.R., over a Roman 'I' or 'II'". Ref John Mollo, Waterloo Uniforms 1. British Cavalry, p 18.

" It was not possible to distinguish between the First and Second Regiments of Life Guards without a minute examination of the shabraque, the swords (which bore on the hilt the regimental cipher in the 1st and grenade in the 2nd) or the spurs (which were steel in the 1st, brass in the 2nd). When wearing cloaks the 1st Life Guards had a blue collar and the 2nd was entirely red" Ref 1815 The Armies at Waterloo, Ugo Pericoli, p. 145

dibble05 Feb 2019 6:42 p.m. PST

Here are some Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards for your perusal

Paul :)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2019 1:20 a.m. PST

Brilliant. Thanks all three.

Lambert. Thanks for the Osprey info. Not seen that. Haythornthwaite's use of that chap even on the cover always interested me.

ID596 Interesting suggesting the reverse may have applied. Red 1st Blue 2nd, as worn by a member of the modern regiment at Horse Guards Parade.



But the cloak info may explain the whole confusion. Could Franklin have taken this for the collar of the jacket?

Dibble great pics. The RHG jacket I have seen in the flesh in the Household Cavalry Museum. I knew there was a Life Guard jacket still in existence according to various books, but your image is invaluable. Then I recalled "Waterloo in 100 Objects" places it at the NAM. Can't recall it last visit, but that was some time back.

Thanks again to all. Great help

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2019 5:38 a.m. PST

Is there any eyewitness evidence that the cavalry carried their waterbottles, haversacks and cartridge boxes about themselves, as opposed to hanging these accoutrements off the saddle somewhere?

The horse would notice no difference, but the rider would surely gain some degree of freedom of movement.

Fishing a carbine cartridge out of a box located between your shoulder blades would also surely be impossible. While sitting on a fidgeting horse, you'd have to feed the belt around yourself somehow, so as to lower the cartridge box to the region of your right hip, where you could get a hand into it. You wouldn't want it there permanently because sword arm. In which case, why not attach it to the saddlebow somewhere, like officers' pistols?

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2019 12:12 p.m. PST

Interesting points.

Certainly this much kit seems to be portrayed in models of British Light Dragoons and all British Heavy cavalry, but seems less prevalent in all other nations.

I guess for evidence we would need;
1. Contemporary paintings by respected artists; Dighton's portrait of Ewart is the classic showing a great deal of kit being carried.
2. Contemporary accounts
3. Records of rules and regulations.

The Cartridge pouch/cartouche, whatever, is the best documented, as so many survive. Many may be parade ground only (only the most ornamental are preserved obviously).
But I sincerely doubt many cavalry were expected to fire from horseback, even less to reload and try to repeat that feat! They were for foot use (and that must have been rare enough)

My worry is more that sheepskin. Only Life Guards are shown with it (but very consistently…almost universally…except in any model figures in TOTS). Do I really have to add it…weep?

dibble06 Feb 2019 12:51 p.m. PST

I have seen no evidence of the 1st Life Guards having an all blue collar and the 2nd having red with a blue patch to each side. There is a rather splendid painting in the Knightsbridge barracks depicting the charge of the Life Guards at Waterloo, showing them to have the blue patched red collar and the officers shabraque being blue.

Simkin's renditions are rather vague with a depiction of a 1st Regiment senior officer with aiguilette, flask cord in red to his shoulder-belt and an all blue collar. He also depicts a 2nd Regiment trooper with the blue patched collar and blue flask cord to his pouch-belt. The flask cord was not worn until the 1820s where the cord colour was indeed red for the 1st Regiment and blue for the second as depicted in the contemporary, 'post-Waterloo' schematics by C.Marcuard who was commissioned by Horse Guards to make a visual record of all the regiments and departments of the British army. Though one or two details are inaccurate in his work, they are nonetheless an excellent record of post-Waterloo British army uniforms. John Mollo Did a copy of them in 1969 but omitted the shoulder-belts in his rendition of the 1st and 2nd regiments.

PS just for the record; Marcuard has solid blue collars for both the 1st and 2nd regiments.

The re-enactor in the post above seems to have the cuff and gold braid too deep and the gold around the shoulder straps was reserved for S.N.C.Os and above.

Paul :)

dibble06 Feb 2019 1:45 p.m. PST


My worry is more that sheepskin. Only Life Guards are shown with it (but very consistently…almost universally…except in any model figures in TOTS). Do I really have to add it…weep?

Royal Horse Guards had black sheepskin edged with red cloth and white sheepskin with red cloth for Other ranks.

This close-up of a portion of a contemporary picture depicting Duke the dog during the later stages of the Peninsula war shows a sheepskin saddlecloth.

Paul :)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2019 11:58 p.m. PST

and a "docked tail" on the horse!

Sob. All my work on the Life Guards to lengthen their horses' tails………

and I really can see that if I do not now add the sheepskin I will never forgive myself.

At least my 12 KDG will do as they are! Short tail and simple saddlery (I think)

Must again thank all for some great info

Marc at work07 Feb 2019 6:18 a.m. PST

No use to you Liam, but the Revell 1/72 set of Lifeguards does, indeed, come with a sheepskin… Sorry

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2019 6:44 a.m. PST


Every source I have seen does so too.

No other "British" cavalry unit seems to have had the exposed sheepskin…other than Life Guards and RHGs…..

OK out comes the Greenstuff. I really thought that, today, the horses, at least, were finished

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2019 8:49 a.m. PST

What was the rationale behind docking of tails?

Actual horses' tails are long, as in almost to the ground, so you can see why you'd need to do something to keep them out of harm's way. What's less obvious is why hack half the tail off, when the horse needs it. Why not just plait the thing? Or do that thing where the tail bone is left intact but the whole "brush" is trimmed to be no longer than the actual bone?

Nobody else seems to have docked their horses' tails in this way.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2019 12:36 p.m. PST

I did spend the afternoon looking back over this as I wanted to work out the practice in the British Army of our era..

Esp for the Guards cavalry regts.

My impression is now that Life Guards, RHG and many a line occifer did not "dock" their horse's tails.

There is many a term used for the procedure, but it seems that military did not actually remove any of the vertebral bones (horses do indeed have bones extending into their tails) just they shortened the hairy part.

Why? (In God's Name why?)

1. Fashion?

2. Recognition as friend or foe at any distance?

3. Hygiene? Naw. Horses lift their tales but can still have the odd accident. More than countered by insect attacks in hot countries

4. Many a horse was an ex carriage horse, where the tail was at risk of getting entangled (so just plait the blooming thing).

On line you will read of tricks to get horses to carry their tails higher and various degrees of shortening tails. You will read of folk like DoW deploring what it did to the health of horses in the Peninsula.

But if you ask what the hell possessed them to do this in the first place…

Well, that famous line. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2019 1:18 p.m. PST

I'm also in the midst of painting household cavalry, 28mm Connoisseur figures. They have sheepskins…

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2019 7:18 a.m. PST


Guess how I have spent half the day……


von Winterfeldt08 Feb 2019 10:35 a.m. PST

it is worth the effort

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2019 1:07 p.m. PST

Indeed, you have real skill with the green stuff

dibble08 Feb 2019 2:37 p.m. PST

Yup! He certainly isn't sheepish…

From what I can gather, the British cavalry docked their horses tails long, long before the Napoleonic wars It may have gone back as far as the late 1600s. and perhaps have been at the whim of individual colonels. The tails were docked as a matter of routine in the 1750s. The Royal Horse Guards and Life Guards did have their docked tails in standing orders dated 1799 and seemed to have carried on 'at least for other ranks and perhaps junior officers mounts' to the end of the war. But as with most information pertaining to the British army of the period, 'it ain't clear'

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2019 3:12 p.m. PST

They look really scrappy in the pics above, but every single one is designed to fit a particular rider. The snag is I still have to get each individual to again sit into the saddle that I so carefully painted!

Everything tells me Household, RHG and KDG did not "dock", "Cobb", "bob Tail" etc their nags. They rode blacks. Line Dragoons made do with bays, chestnuts etc

Once each rider is in place, you will not see any gaps. This I believe.

I feel some Horsa and Waco gliders coming on (only half kidding. An LCIs would be nice too. Maybe an LCT4?) Something easier.

NapStein09 Feb 2019 6:10 a.m. PST

I visited the impressive Household Museum last year and made some photos of the shown exhibits … perhaps of use for you: link

… and my favorite are the Blues :-)

Greetings from sunny Berlin
Markus Stein

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP10 Feb 2019 2:28 a.m. PST

I love that museum but had no photos, so many thanks indeed.

The Blues will be a future project indeed (maybe Perrys for variety and all imports into UK might be killed in less than two months anyway?). But first, I really must tackle that lead mountain.

Prince of Essling10 Feb 2019 4:43 a.m. PST

Simkin, Richard, "The Second Life Guards at Waterloo" (1900)

Smith, Charles Hamilton, "2nd Life Guards, c. 1815" (1815) link

Wymer, Reginald Augustus, "2nd Life Guards: 1688, 1807, 1813, 1814, 1820 " (1880) 2nd Life Guards: 1742, 1790, 1810, 1812 " (1882)

Wymer, Reginald Augustus, "1st Life Guards: 1661, 1686, 1760, 1815, 1835 " (1896)

Lyall, Charles, "1812. 2nd Life Guards. Service Uniform" (1890). link

Simkin, Richard, "1815: The 2nd Life Guards at Waterloo, 18th June 1815 " (1882). link

Prince of Essling10 Feb 2019 4:52 a.m. PST

Wymer, Reginald Augustus, "Royal Horse Guards: 1814, 1828, 1830 " (1880).

Wymer, Reginald Augustus, "The Royal Horse Guards--The Blues" (1880). link

dibble11 Feb 2019 3:01 a.m. PST

Re: docked tails. I have seen a picture in one of my old British edition of Tradition magazine, showing a contemporary picture of what looks to be a mounted Life Guardsman on his mount that has the tail docked and this is from c. 1828. So perhaps the habit carried on for longer than we thought. I have also seen many mid-Victorian prints where the horses from various regiments have had the tail hair shortened, even in India, where you would have thought that the tail would have been kept long for the horses comfort from insect bites.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2019 5:16 a.m. PST

The Blues are my favourite cavalry regiment I think. The Cheesemongers indeed.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2019 6:11 a.m. PST

Prince of Essling, what great links. However much I try Google, it is amazing what is till out there, once someone points you the right way!

Docked or whatever tails I think we will never resolve for sure. regulations specify one thing, practice may differ.

Funny how the Blues were the "poor relations" to the two Life Guard regiments back then and KDG were one status level below even that.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2019 7:26 a.m. PST

The Blues' fathers were all in trade, hence cheesemongers.

Standing was partly about seniority (when established) and partly about social status.

Most armies seem to have been similar. The 1st Grenadiers of the Guard were senior to the 1st Chasseurs and the 1st battalion of the 1st Grenadiers was senior to the 2nd battalion.

seneffe11 Feb 2019 2:46 p.m. PST

The 'Cheesemongers' or sometimes 'Cheeses' were not the Royal Horse Guards (Blues). This actually was the nickname of the two Troops of (red coated) 'Horse Guards' which were disbanded in 1788 together with their two counterpart Troops of Horse Grenadiers, and replaced by the newly raised 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards which are still- in much amalgamated form- with us today.

These Horse Guards were the direct descendants of the Household Cavalry brought over by Charles II in 1660 as the Monarch's immediate bodyguards. Their rank and file were known as 'Private Gentlemen' and were required to buy their place in the ranks- and also had a guaranteed pension.

As the C18th progressed these units degenerated a lot and they became as the (grand old) Duke of York stated 'the most unmilitary troops that ever were seen' and 'nothing but a collection of London tradespeople' who also frequently had additional civilian employment. These often elderly and/or portly fellows became the target of several mocking nicknames by the London rabble, of which the Cheesemongers was the most popular.

The nickname stuck to the new Life Guards for many years but was gradually supplanted in Victorian times by 'the Piccadilly Cowboys', and in the age of mechanisation, 'the donkey wallopers'……

When the old Troops of Horse Guards were disbanded and replaced by the new Life Guards- very few of the former were judged still fit to serve (although some Horse Grenadiers were). The men of the new Life Guards were 'generally recruited' ie from the population at large and did not have to pay for their places. Although generally recruited, the Life Guards' troopers were required to be tall, strong and their good character was taken reasonably seriously by recruiting parties- so were most often the sons of tennant farmers and mostly literate. The Blues had always been generally recruited and were thus traditionally also of this same yeoman demographic.

Strictly speaking- the Life Guards of today- who claim an unbroken lineage dating back to 1660- should actually only claim it back to 1788- as they were a completely new unit founded after the 'Troops of Horse Guards' had been formally disbanded. This would make them quite a Johnny-come-lately outfit by British Cavalry standards. I put this to a former Life Guards officer over a glass or two of wine once, and he eventually admitted that I may have had a logical point- but the lineage back to 1660 was still preserved through the retention of the 'Gold Stick' system (don't ask….).

BTW- re the OP- I have a contemp ilustration by A Sauerwied of an officer of the 2nd Life Guards in 1815, with an all blue collar. This artist also did some studies of the 1st Life Guards, and they have red collars with blue patches. Who knows?…

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2019 1:38 a.m. PST

This does encourage me further. I am increasingly convinced that at least the 1st Regt of life Guards had a red collar with blue patches. C E Franklin is very definite that it was blue for 1st and red for 2nd, but, as we have seen above this may be confusion over the cloak collar.

The quote from IronDuke596 does seem very authoritative that the two regts were almost indistinguishable. Blue facings were so much a feature of any Royal Regt and esp Guards that it may be what artists expected to see…..or there may have been some transition not clearly documented.

If only one could delve into the Household Cavalry Museum Archives Some really good info has emerged here. A Sauerwied is a most impressive painter of Eastern battles I now realise and not that often seen in the English literature.

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