Monday, 17 September 2012

Officer and drummer 30th foot 1755

This apparently was the first British regiment to adopt bearskins - black for grens and white for drummers. Anyone know anything about this? Thanks to Thomsomfeld.


  1. I thought it was the 5th foot who were first allowed to wear a bearskin, I seem to remember they captured some French Grenadiers and took their bearskins. Not sure what battle it was though, one of the later ones in the war?

  2. thanks Ray - found an image and it was the 5th

    1. A grenadier of the 42nd Highland Regiment is shown wearing a bearskin cap in Morier's set of paintings dated 1751. There are also French reports from 1749 of Scottish soldiers 'without breeches' with 'caps ornamented with skin' (Regt. Journal 1932). it is thought this might be a reference to bearskin grenadier caps.

      There were claims made in the C19th that the 5th Regt, having taken French grenadier caps as trophies after the battle of Wilhelmsthal in 1762, they were granted permission to wear them as regimental headgear, making them England's 'only grenadier regiment.'

      While there is no evidence to support this improbable scenario, it seems to have become became a custom within the regiment to wear the caps on gala days. The originals evidently wore out. New caps for the purpose, ordered by the Colonel, Lord Percy, were worn in Philadelphia on New Year's Day 1778, much to the displeasure of the brigade commander and Commander-in-Chief. Meanwhile the grenadiers of the 5th regiment would have adopted regulation fur-trimmed caps as per the Royal Warrant of 1768.

      It was not until 1835 that the 5th (Northumberland) Regiment were given permission to wear bearskin caps "to perpetuate the record of its services at Wilhelmsthal in June, 1762" and the following year this was clarified with Royal approval that the 5th should in future be "equipped as a Fusilier Regiment,... styled the Fifth Regiment of Foot, or Northumberland Fusiliers" with the right to bear "on its colours and appointments, in addition to any other badges or devices… the word ‘Wilhelmsthal’"

      In the British infantry, Fusiliers, in their own eyes at least, enjoyed the élite status of the contintental Grenadier regiments, though from the early C18th onwards the classification of 'fusilier' did not reflect any special operational function.

      Hope this late reply is useful

    2. PS- link to the Morier painting: