Light Company 1783

These three soldiers are light company men from different regiments. The man in the middle is in the uniform of the 13th Regiment. The decision to instigate light companies in each infantry regiment began in 1771 with eleven regiments being chosen. Other regiments soon followed so that the establishment of each regiment included a grenadier company, which had existed since the 17th century, and now a light infantry company. This illustration of 3 light company uniforms was published in the Journal for the Society of Army Historical Research Vol XVI no. 61 in Spring 1937. Percy Sumner, in writing about the uniforms says that this image comes from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. He refers to 'three small watercolour drawings' which suggests three separate images. But the illustration appears to be one painting with thee men. More confusingly the picture is captioned ' Privates, Light Companies, 11th, 13th, and 25th Foot, c1783' This suggests that the man on the left is the 11th, but he is in fact the 25th. So the line up is, from left to right; 25th 13th and 11th.

Sumner dates the uniforms as 1783. At this time the 25th was at Gibraltar as was the 11th (Sumner says Ireland). The 13th were in England having returned from the West Indies. Why these regiments were chosen to show the uniforms of the light companies is unclear. It is also unclear why Sumner chose the date of 1783 as the drawings were unsigned and undated. But seeing the three together gives a better understanding of the regimental distinctions.

The difference in the style of the caps is surprising. Sumner does not comment on them but some explanation would have been useful in the case of the 13th. His hat is a kind of cradle shape with straw laid across. The cypher of George III has a crown above and X III arranged either side. The other men have fur caps. The coats are without shoulder wings which would be expected, and are of different lengths. The 25th has a shorter coat while the 13th's is slightly longer than the 11th. Light Companies are usually described as having shorter coats than the battalion companies.

The facings and lace are of different regimental colours. The 13th has 'Philemot' yellow facings which is explained by Sumner. The word philemot comes from the French Feuille Mort meaning dead leaf. This is a brownish yellow but in the painting it looks bright yellow, no different from the 25th which is supposed to have orange facings. The 11th Regiment had dark green facings. The lace for the 13th at this time was less striking than most of the other regiments. The regulations of 1768 laid down that their lace be white with a straight yellow stripe down the middle. But the yellow stripe cannot be seen in the reproduction. The 25th had bastion loops, the lace having red, yellow and blue close together on the outside edge of the loop. The 11th had bastion loops with a red and green stripe on each edge. The lace colours are not accurately painted in this illustration.

The thee men have their white leather shoulder belts to support the black ammunition pouch. The 13th differs in having a buckle in the middle and another near the pouch. They all have white waist-belts with a brass buckle in the middle, worn over white waistcoats which should have been red for light companies. If the waist-belt supported the bayonet frog then it would have been hidden under the coat. Short black gaiters were worn, but here are shown as covering the knees.

Regimental Details | Uniforms


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by Stephen Luscombe