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British Army Uniforms from 1751 to 1783

Carl Franklin
In Print
Pen & Sword (2012)

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP writes:

I can only comment on the AWI section which has some strange errors of fact particularly i relation to grendaeirs light infantry and Highland regiments.

For example, in the area of light infantry headress, many illustrations are based on questionable interpretaion of sources, or styles for which there is no evidence. Others appear to be the result of allocation of known styles to given regiments absent any evidence.

The author appears to be confused as to the number of regiments numbered 71st between 1755 and 1783- admittedly not a straightforward matter, as fact of which he should have been aware therefore requiring particular care.

His section on Highland headdress is not accurate and he lists the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (i.e the Black Watch) as having been disbanded in 1783, which some may find surprising. Not least the Black Watch.

The lay out of the book is unhelpful. It would be sensible if sections of text relating to a given regiment began with a caption identifiying that regiment rather than lauching straight into a time line leaving the reader to work out which corps is being discussed.

All in all the book indicates careless research and insufficient editorial oversight. Those relying on its contents for factual accuracy risk being misled.

I would say there is less to this book than meets the eye

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This entry created 2 May 2015. Last revised on 5 September 2016.

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British Army Uniforms from 1751 to 1783

Including the Seven Years' War and the American War of Independence

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star no star (6.83)

377 pages. Over 200 full-color plates, four appendices, glossary, index.

The best way to explain this reference book is to indicate how it might be used by a wargamer.

Let's say that you're painting up the 63rd Regiment of Foot for use in a Bunker's Hill scenario for the American War of Independence. You would simply turn to the infantry section of the book, and flip to the entry for the 63rd (they are listed in numerical order, mostly), and there are 16 uniform drawings on a single page (ranging from 1755 to 1785), plus drawings of details such as buttons, grenadier mitre cap, lace, etc.

Since Bunker Hill is 1775, you can ignore the 1780s drawings, which leaves you with 1760s drawings (plus 1771 drawings for the Light Company). Red uniform with white lining and dark green facings, cuffs and collar; white breeches, white waistcoat (red for the Light Company); NCO's sash in red with a green stripe. The only confusion is that the drawings show conflicting shoulder decoration - for instance, two drawings (1769, 1771) show officers with white epaulettes, while one (1768) shows no epaulettes; some privates similarly have red 'wing' decorations.

For further information, you can turn to the text entry for this regiment, which is in the section preceding these color plates. There are again listed in (mostly) numerical order, though the typography makes them harder to search through. In this example, there's about two-thirds of a page of information, listing the regiment's names during this time period, the uniform regulations of 1758 and 1768, and a summary of action in the Revolutionary War. The only new information in this example is that officers' lace is silver; other ranks' lace is white with green edging in the center (which explains lace drawing on the color plate page, though I doubt my painting skills will rise to this level of detail!).

That, then, is what this book is: a uniform reference. The uniform information is broken down by cavalry and infantry, and by royal and non-royal regiments. There is an index to help locate units by name, if you don't know the number.

At the front of the book, there is a general introduction to cavalry and infantry uniforms, also including equipment and weaponry. If you are new to the period, you will find yourself referencing the glossary a lot (and perhaps a dictionary) to find out what some of the terms mean.

There are four appendices. The first, Rank distinctions of Officers and Enlisted men, explains why the drawings from our examples show white epaulettes in some of the officers' uniforms (epaulettes were phasing in around 1768); similarly, the 'wings' were introduced for grenadiers and light infantrymen.

The other appendices show all known facing colors with their Pantone equivalent; a chart showing the lineage of the regiments; and the last discusses the author's sources (the regulations, paintings, other publications).

One negative with this book is that the author, while apparently knowledgeable in his field, is not a skilled writer. His writing is often muddled and contradictory. For example:

It may well be that, over time, shoulder straps were laced, but this may not have been the case.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.