Monday, 25 June 2018

Hanoverian Battalions at Waterloo




I'm presently working on the 51st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  I've pretty much finished the figures, but research indicates that they acted as flank guard and were not in square - given their much more dispersed positions, it's going to take me a while to create a terrain section to reflect their role.

So in the meantime, I've done some research on the Hanoverians.  There is no subject more fiendishly complicated than that of the Hanoverian Field and Landwehr battalions at Waterloo. The battalions were in four brigades: those of Hugh Halkett, Kielmansegge, Vincke and Best.


Siborne's notes for his Waterloo Letters covers the subject in detail, but other sources contradict him to some extent. Colours of coats, leather equipment and headdress are subjects of controversy, all made harder by the fact that the Hanoverian Army was formed at short notice in 1813 and 1814, using surplus British stock and then morphed into new units with new equipment in 1815. Siborne describes the shakos as either:

'Portuguese', by which he meant Belgic, as follows:



or 'Tapered' (stovepipe), as worn prior to 1812 by British Line battalions and by Light Regiments until 1816:


Based on Siborne, the Hanoverians were dressed and organised as follows:

2nd Division, 3rd Brigade – Colonel Halkett.  North of Hougoumont
  • Osnabrück Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore shakos of a tapered design, for which no foul weather covers existed. 
  • Quakenbrück Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was black. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design, which were normally supplied with the foul weather cover, worn as standard in all types of weather, to ensure that the headdress remained in good order. 
  • Salzgitter Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 

  • Bremervörde Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 

There is a note in Siborne's Waterloo Letters stating that the Hanoverian battalions of this brigade had British Trotter packs that were painted yellow. Could this have been true of all Hanoverian battalions?

3rd Division, 1st Brigade – Major-General Count von Kielmansegge - to the north-west of La Haye Sainte.
  • Lüneburg Light Infantry Battalion. Green jackets with black facings and green pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was black. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. Other sources suggest blue trousers, not green for this battalion, while others suggest that only the officers wore the blue trousers.



  • Kielmansegge's Feldjäger Corps. Green jackets with light gree facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was black. The Jägers wore tapered shakos. 


The York and Grubenhagen battalions were in one double battalion square consisting of:
  • the Duke of York Light Infantry Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. This battalion was previously named the Benigsen Field Battalion and was originally equiped with British tropical issue shakos.  Siborne states that all shakos were black in 1815, but it would be interesting if some of this battalion had retained its white tropical headgear.



  • and the Grubenhagen Light Infantry Battalion: Red jackets with dark green facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was black. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 
The Bremen and Verden battalions were in one double battalion square consisting of:

  • the Verden Light Infantry Battalion. Red jackets with light green facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. There is one source that shows this battalion with a very strangely placed plume: 


Knotel shows the uniform more conventionally:


  • and the Bremen Light Infantry Battalion. Red jackets with black facings and dark blue pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was black. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. 

5th Division, 5th Brigade – Vincke.
  • Hameln Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and either grey or white pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 
  • Giffhorn Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 

  • Hildesheim Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with light yellow facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. 
  • Peine Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with light yellow facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore shakos of a Portuguese design. 
4th Brigade – Colonel Best
  • Lüneburg Landwehr Battalion. Red jackets with dark blue facings and grey pantaloons. All of the leather equipment was white. The battalion wore tapered shakos. 
  • Osterode Landwehr Battalion. As above. 
  • Verden Landwehr Battalion. As above. 
  • Münden Landwehr Battalion. As above. 
Best and Vincke's brigades probably saw the least action of any formations at Waterloo, despite the intense fighting to their right in Picton's Division and to their left with the Nassauers around Papelotte.  For much of the day they stood in one giant square (really a rectangle) which must have been quite a sight.

Some sources disagree with Siborne:

  • The Grubenhagen Field Battalion is sometimes shown in dark green rifle uniform with black facings. 
  • The Osterode Landwehr - all other sources show with green facings. 
  • Kielmansegge's Field Jager corps is usually shown with a Prussian style Landwehr cap (dark green with a light green band). 


A common trait  is now to show all Hanoverian militia in red Prussian style Landwehr caps (see below).



While it makes sense for the Feldjagers to be so attired, I'm less sure of the others: it's a trend that seems to have caught on without much substance behind it. I'm sure some soldiers in these battalions might have been issued with this headdress, but in the beat-up exercises that preceded the campaign, some fairly exacting inspections by formation commanders would have disallowed such liberties.
  • Siborne doesn't distinguish between officers' and other ranks' headdress.  Other sources suggest Landwehr officers wore Belgic/Portuguese shakos, while their men wore tapered. 


  • Siborne shows Field Battalion Luneburg with Portuguese/Belgic shakos, but Richard Knotel states that they wore Rifles shakos:


Having tried to explain the uniform and equipment of the Hanoverians, it is also interesting to explore their competence.  There is a tendency to view the KGL as the elite German element of the Allied Army at Waterloo and to assume that their fellow Hanoverians were of lesser quality.  A very different and in my view compelling perspective is provided by the GOC of Halkett's Brigade, General Clinton.

Clinton was a veteran of the Peninsula and had exacting standards which he expected the troops under his command to meet during the preparatory training.  For someone who did not suffer fools gladly, Clinton became increasingly impressed by the Hanoverians in Halkett's Brigade.

"There is every disposition in the officers and men to discharge their duty as is apparent by the manner in which they do what they understand and know to be their duty viz, keeping in order all that is entrusted to their care.  In no regiment of the British is the ammunition in the order in which it is in these newly raised & militia battalions.  Their companies too are more complete, every man is distinctly and satisfactorily accounted for."








4 comments:

  1. Some really useful information there so thanks for posting. One day I may get around to doing a unit of Hanovarians myself!

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  2. Many thanks Stryker, you would do them brilliantly!

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  3. Thank you, GP! As Stryker said, very useful indeed. Some more Hanoverians are definitely on my list, although I'll need to learn how to make shako cords first.

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