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In search of the "Belgic"
Hello Chaps,

I am looking for correct dimensions of the 1812 Regimental cap later known as the "Belgic or Waterloo shako".

Haythorntwaite in "Wellington's Army "-  the Hamilton Smith prints - states that "its design was confirmed in a Circular letter of 18th March 1812".
Has anyone got a copy of this circular?

There are numerous surviving Officers caps - but are there any extant OR's  caps?

The officers caps we see images of are variable due to being made privately by individual hatters and seem according to the fancy or whim of the Officer footing the bill - or perhaps what his Colonel would let him get away with!  I would have thought that there should have been a sealed pattern at the Comptrollers office.

I have also heard a comment that Grenadiers hats were taller?

Any comments welcome but please quote any reference or source.

In search of the "Belgic"
Iain has posted the relevant information from the 1812 warrants on the research forum I believe. Byan Fosten's  Military Historical Society booklet through quotes a circular letter of 18th March 1812 that gives the following dimensions,
The felt top of the cap was 7" in diameter and slightly wider at the bottom than the top. The back was 6 and 3/8 inches high rising falling to 6" in the front. The raised front was 8 and 1/4" high and the leather peak 2 and 1/2" deep in the centre.
In search of the "Belgic"
Thanks Ben
That is pretty much in accord with what I have seen in printed works like Haythornthwaites' British Infantry though he states 6 3/4" for the height of the back/crown.
The measurements you quote of 6 3/8" rear falling to 6" at the front of the crown -  adjacent to the raised false front - seems odd. Since the top of the crown should be flat I assume it means that the back end dips lower on the head or is the larger measurement because it is sloping?

I wonder if one supplier was used for the Army other ranks through the whole period of this caps' existence 1812 - 1816?
There should be a OR's Belgic surviving somewhere - I heard somewhere that there was one in Germany - perhaps a KGL one?

Bryan Fosten in"Soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars" issue 3  states he examined two caps  in the Royal United Services institute museum in Whitehall - one he described as having a thick white cord chain. I presume this to be an other ranks cap. I have never seen an image of it nor do I know if the museum still exists. He measured both caps' and  both were the same dimensions. 6 3/8" high at the back, 5 3/4" high at the sides of the crown, 8 1/2 " false front - so close to the regulation sizes of the circular. Interesting Mr Fosten stated that the false front was supported along its back edge by a strong wire covered by the black ribbed braid

I am sure that " Belgics " will be of renewed interest to reenactors in the build up to the 200th anniversary - and I thought we should revisit what we know of them - particularily primary source material and using the vast potential of the internet which was not available to earlier researchers.
In search of the "Belgic"
There are a few OR caps knocking around. The measurements differ. As far as suppliers go, regiments bought from their favoured supplier, so would expect some conformity to pattern. Contractors of army equipment supplied caps by the tens of thousands, again to pattern, but using the factor system, so essentially endless sub-contracting, hence the variation.
In search of the "Belgic"
The 'german' caps are in the Bomann Museum in Celle in northern Germany. Ironically it houses possibly the largest collection of british issued uniform. Photos of a number of the uniforms, including NCO's 'belgic' caps are in the recently published by Partian Press:- BRITAIN'S GERMAN ALLIES OF THE NAPOLEONIC WARS : BRUNSWICK HANOVER AND THE KING's GERMAN LEGION: Grehan, John 160p, hardback, full colour plates; line drawings and photos of original uniforms.

It's a well illustrated but slim volume and pricey at £31 ish. It could also have done with a good proof-read as some of the photos are wrongly captioned. What I would like to see is a detailed work concentrating purely on the Celle uniforms - real thread-counter stuff. Does one exist?

edit. I can't find many photos of the collection on the web but here is a rather poor one tylerde2011.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/064.jpg
In search of the "Belgic"
So far as I know, there is no published comprehensive list of all KGL items in Celle alone. Currently on display is the Serj. coat of 7th Batt. (the one linked), an two officer´s coat (KGL and Hanoverian Army). There are at least 3 1812 caps on display.

But KGL / Hanoverian items are spread from Hamburg to my hometown Göttingen. Recently I stepped over another Serj. coat in Hameln.
I thought of listing all items, but lack the time at the moment. Problem is that most museum staff is not very helpful.

Does someone remember the ebay offer of an 27th officer´s cap 1 1/2 years ago? I asked the owner for measurements and some more fotos. Kindly I got them ... somewwhere...

In search of the "Belgic"
One of the Celle belgics is attributed to the 7th Line Battalion KGL. The plate has the GR cypher over a garter on which is written King's German Legion, and in the centre is the numeral 7.

p.13 JSAHR XXXI, 125, Spring 1953
In search of the "Belgic"
Thanks all
John  - a man after my own heart on this subject - I presume you have this new KGL book ? Do the photos of the OR's caps reveal any interesting detail in the way they are constructed?
The image of the Serjeants uniform is as you say poor but does show the front of a "Belgic" - I wonder if it is in felt or "coarse beaver" as I read somewhere re Sjts  caps.
The photo also shows another interest of mine - the shoulder wing tufting on the coat - something which does not seem to have been replicated well in current renenactment groups - but thats another story.

What we need perhaps is a contribution from a German KGL reenactor who has researched and photographed the caps at the Bomann museum.

I have sent an email to the museum asking if they can provide some images.
In search of the "Belgic"

From JSAHR XL, 161, March 1962
In search of the "Belgic"
         I have the book but the photos add little to my knowledge of their construction. I agree about the tufting, it's something that's usually woefully done in reconstructions.

Somewhere I have an email address of a Dutch KGL chap who played with us at Waterloo 2010. I'll see if I can find it. He and his german buddy Torsten (sp?) spoke perfect english and had researched the kit at Celle.

As you say Sgt's caps were supposed to be of better quality then the ORs as was most of their kit. You will find it difficult to obtain a beaver hood for blocking in this country. Craig Armstrong got one from north america for an officer's cap he was commisioned to make but it was not cheap. I have a couple of rabbit fur hoods from which I plan to make an officer's belgic when I pluck up the courage (they are 4-5 x the price of felt). They would look good on a Sgt.


In search of the "Belgic"
Guys, I think you are barking (do beavers bark?) up the wrong tree with the beaver pelts. Beaver in this context refers to a grade of felt that resembled beaver pelt rather than the pelt itself. Just to confuse matters there is a similar cap-making fabric called 'bear'..
In search of the "Belgic"
Thanks Ben - those pictures from the JSAHR are good to see - they certainly merit an airing after all these years - what an absolute treasure trove of period kit, would love to see it for real ! It would be fantastic to see digital colour photos of the collection.

I had already read somewhere that Beaver was also a term for a fine grade of felt as well as fur - confusing.

And John when you do make your expensive officers hat I hope you won't coat the ouside with shellac - the result would be a bit upsetting!
In search of the belgic
       My researches suggest that a felt with as little as 20% beaver fur could still be called beaver. There were no doubt many tricks of the trade to produce a felt resembling pure beaver.


In search of the belgic
         I plan to experiment with shellacing the offcuts from the false front before deciding how to stiffen the officer's cap. My initial thought is to coat the inside to preserve the nice glossy fur on the outside. One of the caps we looked at at Sandhurst had paper pasted inside! This may have been a field adaptation to restore the shape rather than something done by the hat maker.  I've got a free weekend coming up so cap making will resume in ernest (as well as turning the nice white hide we bought at ILHF into crossbelts and musket slings!). Oh the joys of being quartermaster!


Re: In search of the belgic
John Waller wrote:
       My researches suggest that a felt with as little as 20% beaver fur could still be called beaver. There were no doubt many tricks of the trade to produce a felt resembling pure beaver.

Interesting. Please expand.
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