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Buff Coloured Belts

Hi all,

I'm a member of the 104th War of 1812 reenacting group in Ontario, Canada.

Recently, I've been wondering whether buff-faced regiments, such as the 3rd, 52nd and 104th continued to colour their belts buff rather than white in the Napoleonic era.

Peter Twist and Rene Chartrand, well-respected figures on all things 1812 on this side of the pond, have expressed doubts that the practice of colouring belts continued into the early 19th century. Chartrand's book (A Scarlet Coat) states "there is little evidence that this stipulation dating back to 1768 carried into the 1800s."

However, I've talked to Jim Harlow of the 3rd Buffs in the UK and he seemed positive that buff-faced regiments continued to colour their belts during the Napoleonic Ears.

Can anyone on this forum offer some insight? Links to or quotations from primary sources would be greatly appreciated.  Smilie_PDT

Thank you for your help.


Hi Eamonn, I have no idea on this but I'm sure there is someone out there will be able to help.

Ben Townsend

The inspection returns I have seen merely state, 'accoutrements according to regulation'. The last regulation would be '68 I guess.

The 1802 regs state that those regiments faced in buff are to have buff accoutrements instead of white.

The only thing I can find in the 1802 Clothing regs  is

37b "The shoulder belts to be white or buff according to the colour of the waistcoat"

This seems to be a throwback to the original 1762 Clothing warrant which was not altered in the update of 1802 - even though the style of coat had changed.

I can't find a mention of a correlation between Buff  facings and belts but may have missed it.

Were the belts ever "coloured" Buff ? Would it not be a case that they were simply not pipe clayed white?

I think that the only way of finding out if such a practice continued is to the look at the individual Inspection reports for Buff faced regiments under WO27 at the National Archives to see if the inspecting General commented on belts not being pipe clayed. An enormous task!

Hamilton Smith shows the 52nd in white cross belts.
Simkin shows the Buffs in buff belts but he is a Victorian artist.  Barthrop  - British Infantry Uniforms shows a 52nd man 1807 in buff belts but does not indicate a reference source for the image.

There were additionally several other Buff faced regiments  by 1802  - 14th,22nd 27th,31st,40th,48th,61st,71st,78th ,81st,96th and 98th  is it suggested all of these wore buff belts during the Napoleonic period ? There must be many period depictions of these regiments which would indicate whether this was practised.

I have had a look at what bits I have on the 3rd and the nickname Buffs seems to be associated with their facings not their belts. The present day 3rd foot reenactors do sport Buff belts - perhaps they can quote their source?

Back to you Eamonn - get digging for more info!

Sorry Eddie should have quoted this first time.

"Para 62D.—[1 July 1784; 13 Aug. 1798, C.] The Belts for the Pouches and Bayonet are to worn crossways over the Shoulders and to consist of Buff Leather of equal Breadth viz: 2 1/8 Inches which are to be coloured White for all Regiments excepting those which are faced with Buff; for these Corps they are to be of that Colour."
Paul Durrant

I always presumed the accoutrements were basically left untouched - not pipeclayed.
Ben Townsend

As I indicated above, I have notes made from the Inspection reports that merely state, 'accoutrements as per regulation'. So not crystal clear.

The one glorious gem in the reports is the information that the pioneer section is commposed, 'entirely of idiots'. I hope this isn't the case for your crew Eamonn?

Apparently the regiment had enlisted some men who were not all there, this doesn't appear to be unusual practice, I have seen procedure notes on how to integrate mentally sub par individuals into a section, (and in modern terms the NA has made an artform out of it) but what is interesting is that the Buffs chose to dump them all together into the pioneers. Why would that be?


Pioneers are apparently often seen as very thick in more recent British Army inter-regimental banter, so there might be a tradition? ;)

Slightly more serious: even if they were a few sandwiches short of a full hamper, I can imagine some farmhands that were quite skilled with an axe or a saw, combined with above-average strength?

Hi Ben,
Could you clarify what regiment's inspection returns you are referring to? Are they for the 3rd Buffs or the 104th?

I presume you aren't joking about instructions "on how to integrate mentally sub par individuals into a section"...

Interesting about pioneers... Smilie_PDT
Ben Townsend

These reports are for the Buffs. I'm not sure if I have any for the 104th. I think not, but will check in Feb if thats not too late for you. I'm 'away' until then.
The comments on absorbing 'idiots' into sections indicate that a certain number can be sprinkled in if well spread out. The pioneer section of the Buffs seems to have reached a critical mass :(

Certainly  artists such as Hamilton Smith and George Walker show pipe clayed belts for units like the 52nd and the 'Beverly Buffs' and occupation prints from the end of the war show 71st in pipe clayed gear.

Practice of using buff finished belts might have ended for the 71st on their converting to light infantry. if not sooner.

Capt Joseph Barrailier of the 71st recollected a night action where he had a scout party in advance of the night attack of his battalion in the 1809 Walcheren campaign. (It comprised of Barralier, a Sergeant, bugler and two privates besides an Italian prisoner of war and the Sergeants small dog! )

Detected and coming under fire 'I now desired my men to cover their white belts with their greatcoats and to lie down'.

Unless scouts were from another unit, this seems a useful piece of evidence. I don't have full transcript which is in Colburn's United Service Magazine (1851) pp 489-494.

Further to quote above...I checked William Loftie's illustrations of British officers. The ones with Buff facings are from 1799 to 1801 and show 22nd, 31st and 40th with white belt but buff breeches.

Buff Belts and Barrailier

Thank you very much for this very useful information.

I find Barrailier's quotation especially interesting.

By the way, I just did some searching online, and you can find Barrailier's full account as part of a scan of the USM (p. 489, as you said) here:;view=1up;seq=502

Buff coloured leatherwork was still pipeclayed. The main difference being they added ochre into the mixture to colour it.

You need to be cautious as references can simply refer to belts being pipeclayed rather than it's colour.

havercakelad wrote:
Further to quote above...I checked William Loftie's illustrations of British officers. The ones with Buff facings are from 1799 to 1801 and show 22nd, 31st and 40th with white belt but buff breeches.

John  - is there an online link anywhere to Loftie's images please ?  I have been looking for them recently.
John Waller

Eddie wrote:
havercakelad wrote:
Further to quote above...I checked William Loftie's illustrations of British officers. The ones with Buff facings are from 1799 to 1801 and show 22nd, 31st and 40th with white belt but buff breeches.

John  - is there an online link anywhere to Loftie's images please ?  I have been looking for them recently.

Some here Eddie

Thanks John W - as always - the knowledge on this Forum is incredible !
Paul Durrant

Link also in our "Contemporary Pics of Riflemen" thread (last page) and in our biog of Loftie here in Archives:

I've still to find a single example from the time of buff belts on a buff faced unit by the time of the Peninsula.

Jean-Pierre-Frédéric Barrois - An Officer of the 3rd Battalion, the 14th Regiment of Foot, Army of Occupation, Paris, 1816
Ben Townsend

Indicative of the difficulty of establishing whether buff leather references refer to the colour of the leather work or just the material is this letter from the Commissary in Chief's office, regarding a set of accoutrements that the Ordnance were trying to unload. The latter part of the letter is missing, but it appears that both the ordnance and the Comissariat refused these accoutrements, with perhaps the Store Keeper General's office wanting them? Why?  Not according to present pattern? Old pattern or foreign accumulation?


Some more possible evidence as to the decline in buff coloured belts.

The Light Dragoon units of the British army that had buff facings were meant to have buff coloured leather work according to an order of Nov 1796. Yet by the time of Hamiton Smith's prints the 13th is shown with white coloured belts.
THE RHG seem to have kept their distinctive buff coloured belts though.

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