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NCO distinctions

As a follow up to a recent question on the grenadier sergeant coat of the KGL in Celle, I thought I'd start things off with some images of an colour sergeant coat I have on my HD. The location of the coat is unknown to me.
This garment has the thinner, plain NCO lace of the period. Note the shoulder straps are not sewn into the shoulder seam; the tuft at the end of the strap is woven and sewn to the underside of the strap, not slipped on; and the NCO pocket flaps are slanted like an officer's, in spite of this being a battalion coat.
This, and the waist having a broader opening than the rank and file, and the cuffs are split, does show that NCOs had a different cut coat from the other ranks, not just a better quality fabric.
The colour sergeant stripe is on a huge piece of coat fabric that covers the right upper sleeve form seam to seam.
Any other images of original NCO coats would be interesting to see.


I misspoke; the tuft appears to be sewn directly to the top of the end of the strap, not under it.

Thanks for posting, Gregger.
For the record, that 69th Colour Serjeant's coat is on display in Firing Line, the Museum of the Welsh Soldier in Cardiff Castle.

This may be a grenadier sergeant-major of the 3 coy, 8 Regt LLV (not sure what that stands for, but it is a volunteer unit). No chevrons, but officer quality metal lace. On this one the pocket flaps are proper for a grenadier company, but there are only eight pointed loops in pairs in front - the reduced number might be a feature of militias.

Richard Warren

That's a nice jacket, Gregger. Where is it? "LLV" is for Loyal London Volunteers. Post 1803 the mass of smaller London volunteer units was rationalised into ten(?) regiments. Maybe the eight loops instead of ten are something to do with the jacket being for a man of shorter height??
Ben Townsend

From the research archive, a different version of the chevron orders of 1803. First ID'd by Iain Wilkinson.

'WO7/33 Page 100 & 101 áDate Late 1803

'The order for wearing the chevrons both in the cavalry and áinfantry

In the Heavy cavalry and Infantry the chevron are to be formed of a double row of the lace of the regiment.
In the Light cavalry the cheverons are to be formed of a double row of Vellum lace corresponding in colour with the furniture of the regiment.
The bars of the cheverons are to be edged with a very narrow edging of cloth of the colour of the facings of the Regiment, and are to be affixed on a piece of cloth the colour of the coat, and worn on the right arm, at an equal distance from the elbows and shoulder.
The number of bars of the cheverons as denoting the rank of the wearer are as follows viz;
Sergeant Majors & Quarter Master Sergeants á- á4 bars
all other Sergeants - 3 bars
Corporals - 2 bars

The bars to be placed at right angles with the points downwards, the distance between the bars is to be half an inch, and their extremities are to extend on each side to within half an inch of the seam of the sleeve.'
Ben Townsend

Ok, its only a (na´ve) painting, and its immediately post-period, but a nice one.

Original in Edinburgh Castle Museums.

The Loyal London Volunteer senior sergeant was offered at an auction in Canada last year - its present location is unknown to me. I don't know the rank specifically, but it is certainly a senior sergeant. I've posted a piece of art labelled "sergent major" that may also have chevrons absent.
The scans from an Osprey book of a similar volunteer NCO, also with an eight button front, may also be the same unit. Also there is a similar other ranks coatee with only eight buttons in the same publication.


These images are of a sergeant-major coat in Inverness. I think it is either the 71st or 72nd RoF. Note the tail pocket flaps are like an officer, and also has an officer style collar button. It does have the four chevrons specified.

Gregger - can you elaborate on what you mean by the coat pocket flaps being 'slanted like an officers' ?  My understanding is the vertical falps were worn by light company coats and on Highlander jackets -that horizontal is Line and Grenadier company. This assertion based on Stepplers 3 part study.

A few examples of battalion NCO coats, which should have horizontal pocket flaps, have the vertical flaps instead. But this does not appear to be universal, as there are others (volunteers) which have battalion NCO coats with the expected horizontal flaps.
Here is an example of a line coat of the KGL, a grenadier coat of the KGL, and a line coat of the 69th RoF. All have the vertical pocket flaps, but should have a horizontal style. We know that officer's pattern coatees often have vertical flaps, whether line or flank.
With so few surviving NCO uniforms it is difficult to say they all followed this rule, but the evidence seems to point in that direction.
Does anyone have any other images of the fine collection of KGL NCO coats in the Celle?


Battalion Coy, 4th Line Battalion KGL:

Grenadier Coy, 4th Line Battalion KGL:

Light Coy, 7th Line Battalion KGL:

Bonus pics of the 3rd KGL Hussars Sergeant Major distinctions and the 1st KGL Dragoons Corporal:

Now, as has been discussed elsewhere, and mentioned by others, there's reason not to automatically accept KGL practise as British practise, especially in the 1813-16 years.

Thank you OJM for these wonderful shots. It is nice to see some details.
At least some of the KGL hats have been shown to be of British manufacture, and I know that in Canada most rank and file coats were made in the UK and shipped over, so my assumption (as dangerous as these can be) is that these coats were also made in England, to their specifications.
The records do indicate that NCO coats were different than the rank and file, but no details of those differences (other than the quality of fabric) is ever mentioned.
I tend to err on the side of surviving examples, as there are many gaps in the written record.
Add to this that there seemed to be a great variety associated with specific units, specific makers and changes over time. As is so often with this period, the phrase "some did - some didn't" may apply.

I was primarily thinking in terms of embellishments and distinctions, the basic garments/items appear to be regulation, to me at least.

The case for the KGL 1813 - 1816, is that some of the units were campaigning in the Baltic and Northern Germany 1813-14, possibly being resupplied from stocks already landed in the Baltic, I suppose supply from the UK would happen again for Christmas 1814.

Then, as the new Hanoverian army was being organised, cadres were needed, and a conflict developed over the manpower of the KGL.

KGL units were kept on as Garrison troops in the low countries in 1814-15, but were dwindling in numbers due to end of enlistments etc.

Then comes the Waterloo campaign casualties, and possibly one more issue of clothing before disbandment in 1816.

The Waterloo cult seems to have started very quickly after this.

So all in all, many situations over a fairly short timespan in which there would have been practical needs or other reasons for making up new NCOs, grenadiers or light coy soldiers in a hurry, not necessarily conforming to practise or materials in the UK or with the main British Field army....

Veterans or family "fixing" items or local relics for the later reunions and festivities is also a possibility.

Addressing just the pocket flap feature, since the other features of the NCO coats follow pretty closely what would be expected. The coat of the Colour sergeant of the 69th RoF has vertical pockets (in agreement with all the KGL examples), when it was neither a highland nor light, but a battalion company coat. It should have had horizontal pockets to follow R&F coats.

This would indicate to me, when coupled with the KGL examples, that the vertical flaps were also a rank distinction, even though there are no surviving orders specifying this.

At the risk of straying off course, I have noticed the fringe and thin lace on the German grenadier coat is very much like that on the Quebec grenadier coat in Ottawa. The Quebec coat has no chevrons, but does curiously have vertical pockets - its collar and cuffs are black velvet - and has some other unique features.
Here is an image of the lace and fringe comparison - the fringe being woven of a twisted string on both examples, quite different from light company fringe examples.


Gregger wrote:
This would indicate to me, when coupled with the KGL examples, that the vertical flaps were also a rank distinction, even though there are no surviving orders specifying this.

I can't speak from a British perspective, but this would conform very much with documented examples here and in Denmark, NCOs would sometimes go to surprising lengths to display their status as men of rank, one late 18th century diary of a german professional soldier in Denmark (the kind that could have ended up in any army depending on which recruiters he met first) mentions that new NCOs, including himself, spent their means (and above) on improving what was issued or buying completely private made items in order to appear smart, diligent and promotable.

In a society were appearance and clothing mattered so much, going as close as you could to the next station over makes good sense, and also explains various laws and orders trying to curtail people dressing like their betters.

Vertical pocket flaps - I was present when the 69th C/Sgt's coat was photographed at Cardiff Castle and remarked about the pocket flaps at that time. I do wonder if the man had changed from the light company to a line company on promotion - and retained his old coat ?  Just a thought.
Not sure I can go with vertical pocket flaps being a rank distinction.

Eddie wrote:
Vertical pocket flaps - I was present when the 69th C/Sgt's coat was photographed at Cardiff Castle and remarked about the pocket flaps at that time. I do wonder if the man had changed from the light company to a line company on promotion - and retained his old coat ? áJust a thought.
Not sure I can go with vertical pocket flaps being a rank distinction.

Not necessarily a formal rank distinction as such, but in terms of fashion and looking more like a officer?

I would be more inclined to say the three unexpected vertical pockets on the NCO coats (ie the 69th line, KGL line, and KGL gren) were an anomaly, or a private purchase, if there was a single example of a proven regular NCO coat of the period which had horizontal pockets.

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