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"No British cuirassiers??" Topic

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Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2022 8:16 p.m. PST

Why did the British not employ any Cuirassiers in the Napoleonic wars when the other major nations seemed to desire a host of them ?
Russ Dunaway

pfmodel14 Jan 2022 8:35 p.m. PST

I thought the British did have cuirass equipped cavalry, its just they were not called cuirassiers. I also seemed to remember they only wore their armour during an early invasion of Europe and never again.

Irrespective Cuirassiers were what is loosely termed heavy cavalry, big horses, big men and strait and long swords. The British had plenty of those.

Durham Tiger14 Jan 2022 9:00 p.m. PST

The Royal Horse Guards did campaign in Flanders in 1793/4 with cuirasses, but it was found that they rusted quickly, and were more trouble than they were worth.

The practice was not continued.

johannes5515 Jan 2022 4:30 a.m. PST

I cannot remember ever seen 1793 british cavalry in cuirass; any picture please

42flanker15 Jan 2022 5:11 a.m. PST

Apparently 'supplied' but not worn, or not for long.

From 'An Historical Record of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards: Or, Oxford Blues"
By Edmund Packe, Late Captain, Royal orse Guards 1847
(Part of the 'National Military Record series supervised by Richard Cannon. Of varying reliability.)

"At the magnificent ceremonial of the coronation of King George IV. (July 19), the Blues were present, and furnished the King's Life Guard upon the occasion.

On that day the Household Brigade first appeared in cuirasses, which it has ever since continued to wear*; and a further remarkable alteration took place in the appointments of the Blues: the buff belts, by which the Regiment had been distinguished from the period of its first establishment, were now laid aside and exchanged for those of white.

*NOTE. On its taking the field in 1794, the Regiment was supplied with breast-plates, which also appear to have been worn in the previous campaigns in Germany and the Netherlands; but being now found to be more cumbrous than convenient, and from the length of time which had elapsed since they were last worn, having become rusty and unserviceable, they were deposited in store at Tournay, and from thence transmitted to England. As a defence for the head, however, a skull-cap was fitted on to the crown of the cocked hat, and worn throughout that campaign. Originally the Regiment was furnished with backs, breasts, and potts.' When the backs and potts were laid aside is not exactly known: but no part of the defensive armour appears to have been worn, except when the regiment was employed upon active service." (p 125)

And for good measure:
"In spite of the Duke of York's encomiums upon their gallantry, the old story that the Blues had run away was again raised upon their return ; and as their uniform was no longer decorated with the gold lace, by which heretofore it had been distinguished, it was asserted that this deprivation had taken place to mark their disgrace. As this idle story, if it has not obtained implicit credit, has at least been vaguely supposed to have some foundation, the simple facts, and causes of this temporary eclipse, may be here related. Their clothing becoming due during the absence of the four troops on the Continent, a splendid parade uniform was thought inconsistent with the severer duties of active service, and a plainer one was accordingly issued to them. On their return, it was necessary to re-establish uniformity; and the Colonel, unwilling to be at a greater expense in clothing his Regiment than were the colonels of other Dragoon Regiments, (for the peculiar rank and privileges of the Royal Horse Guards were now well nigh forgotten,) ordered the gold-laced uniform and furniture to be laid aside ; and, in order to render their appearance still more uniform with the rest of the army, the brass ornaments on the horses' bits were also ordered to be taken off." (p.108)


Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2022 5:18 a.m. PST

Were not some of the HG cavalry nicknamed 'The Tinbellies'
or is that an invention of some writer ?

johannes5515 Jan 2022 5:30 a.m. PST

42flanker thanks for the info.

14Bore15 Jan 2022 6:40 a.m. PST

One often point made is the British heavies though without curasses did have better horses than other armies with curasses.
I have to use my Scott's Grey's in my battles of the 7YW as my Prussians don't have enough cuirassiers, sadly haven't done much yet.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2022 7:22 a.m. PST

Agree with the above -the British had heavy cav, but in the field they weren't armoured – and as noted did have excellent horses; one comment I recall was that the British had "the best mounted, poorest led cavalry in Europe"

ciaphas15 Jan 2022 8:00 a.m. PST

The Prusian Cuirass did not wear the armour.

14Bore15 Jan 2022 8:19 a.m. PST

very true, say cuirassiers as would be in 7YW but my 1813 cuirassiers don't have them either with my fill in British heavy dragoons.

JMcCarroll15 Jan 2022 12:06 p.m. PST

Think only the French had the back plate? Maybe Russian guard also?

Michman15 Jan 2022 2:32 p.m. PST

Russian Army & Guards
--- Up to 9 August 1801 : black front plate only
--- Late 1801 to early 1812 : no cuirass
--- From early 1812 : black front + back plates
Additionally, the Chevalier Guards 1796-1801 had a ceremonial polished steel armor with front + back plates


Polish cuirassiers had French front + back plares


Garde du Corps – no cuirass
Leib Kürassiere Garde & Zastrow Kürassiere : black front plate only (not alqays worn)


--- carabiniers ŕ cheval up to 1810 :no armor
--- cavalerie (up to 1803), except 8e régiment : no cuirass, steel skull protector in chapeau
--- 8e régiment de cavalerie : polished steel front + back plates, steel skull protector in chapeau

johannes5515 Jan 2022 3:25 p.m. PST

Westphalian cuirassiers and the short lived Kingdom of holland Kurassiers did wear the full cuirass imho.

4th Cuirassier17 Jan 2022 2:04 a.m. PST

Likewise Sweden, whose cuirassiers had a brass applique royal coat of arms bolted to the front.


Stoppage Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2022 9:14 a.m. PST

Originally the Regiment was furnished with backs, breasts, and potts.

Intrigued – I wonder what the "potts" were? Were they like the Austrian cuirassiers' zischagges (Ottoman theatre)

Lapsang17 Jan 2022 12:23 p.m. PST

Common name for Steel Helmets in England during the 17th Century, both Horse and Foot. Horse were often issued with a 'Pot' featuring an open Visor with between one and 3 Bars to protect the face plus an articulated section at the back of the helmet to protect the neck.

So very similar if not identical to a Zischagge.

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2022 2:47 p.m. PST

Spanish cuirassiers wore captured French cuirasses.

TMP link


Au pas de Charge17 Jan 2022 5:11 p.m. PST

The British Dragoon Guards and the Guards cavalry were basically cuirassiers without the breastplate.

42flanker17 Jan 2022 10:32 p.m. PST

Until 1812 or so, all British dragoons were basically cuirassiers without the breast plate- or the helmet;
all British cavalry were were basically cuirassiers without the breast plate or the helmet, and some had curved swords rather than straight.

Stoppage Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2022 4:00 a.m. PST


Yes – zischagge – cicak – sisak – Turkish helmet

But in 1794? What did they look like?

Would be excellent for imaginations.

4th Cuirassier18 Jan 2022 4:39 a.m. PST

I'm not sure British hussars or light dragoons were constructive cuirassiers, but I'd agree re the heavy dragoons (which in the British as most armies were just called 'dragoons', and never heavy dragoons as far as I know).

Cavalry was either heavy or light – "medium" is an anachronistic term that I don't think was ever used, and there was no mission for "medium" cavalry – and hence half-armoured Austrian cuirassiers, unarmoured Saxon and Prussian cuirassiers and British dragoons, dragoon guards and Household should probably rate about the same. I'd give a small melee and musketry bonus to armoured cuirassiers, and probably a better melee and small-arms injury survival rate, but it would be small.

Probably Britain had no armoured cavalry for the same reason Britain never undertook any wholesale reforms of the army in this era. As the army tactically won most of its battles, there was nothing obviously broken that needed fixing.

Stoppage Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2022 5:20 a.m. PST

Here's an Austrian cuirassier wearing a zischagge:

NYPL Vinkhuizen – Austria Cuirassier 1788 Turkish War

More generally:

NYPL Vinkhuizen – Austria 1770-1790

Murvihill18 Jan 2022 6:18 a.m. PST

I played a lot of Column, Line and Square when a teen, and having two armored cuirassier regiments crash into each other was a guaranteed 45 minute delay of game while the two players rolled dice. One time a player failed morale and everyone breathed a sigh of relief only for him to say "Now the 2nd squadron starts rolling…"

42flanker18 Jan 2022 6:35 p.m. PST

The distinctions between Horse, Dragoons and Light Dragoons in the British army were superficial. They were mounted on horses of similar size and had one tactic which was to charge.

Light Dragoons were armed with a different sword and were assigned outpost and other light cavalry duties but seem to have been able to deliver shock equally well.

Michman19 Jan 2022 3:49 a.m. PST

Although the differences were somewhat diluted by 1815, Russian cavalry was thought of as rather ethnically/regionally distinct.

cuirassiers : "germanic", manned by Baltic Germans and immigrants, large "proto-warmblood" horses from the north German landholdings of the Imperor's family and their Russian stud farms, helmeted, usually armored, long straight swords, pistols, held in relatively larger reserve formations

dragoons : "russian", manned by ethnic Russians, mid-sized European Russia horses, expected to act as mobile infantry, helmeted (late period), not armored, long straight swords, muskets

horse jäger (late in the period) : manned by ethnic Russians, conept similar to French chasseurs ŕ cheval, lower cost, more mobile "lighter" dragoons without the focus on dismounted combat, not helmeted, not armored, sabres, pistols/carbinnes

lancers : "polish-lithuanian", manned by ethnic Poles and Cossack/Native formations taken into the regular army, smaller Ukrainian horses, not helmeted, not armored, sabres, pistols/carbines or lances

hussars : "Christian emigré", manned by Serbian, Wallach, Moldovan, Bulgar, Montenegrin, etc., refugees from the Turks settled in the Ukraine, smaller Ukrainian horses, could be fielded with Cossack/Native cavalry to "stiffen" them in cavalry combat, not helmeted, not armored, sabres, pistols/carbines or lances

cossacks/native : manned by various ethnic groups, irregular, ultra-low cost, most mobile, Ukrainian & Central Asian ponies, long lances + other weapons

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