Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic KGL organisation during the Waterloo campaign

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  • #173170
    General Slade
    Participant

    According to the Osprey and elsewhere, prior to the Waterloo campaign the organisation of the KGL battalions was changed, with the number of companies per battalion being reduced from 10 to six.   As far as I am aware this was done because of a lack of officers – many of them having joined the Hanoverian army instead.

    I was wondering what practical effect this had?  Does it for example mean that the size of the flank companies was increased? (If all companies were equal in size, under the ten company organisation the flank companies would have amounted to a fifth of the troops, under the six company organisation they would account for a third of the troops).

    Basically, what I am asking is, do I need to paint up more lights and grenadiers for my KGL battalions?

    #173443
    OotKust
    Participant

    GenSlade, amazing such a question goes unnoticed!

    I am not going to be any use to you- as I’ve long given up researching Brits and anything post 1809 in detail. Do you have Bowdens Waterloo? A masterpiece of analysis and less opinion, that may shed light on it.

    Comparing with my French research, and although I’d not believe anything any longer that was published by Orrspray [without checking]; what proximity time was was the change; when and by whom; were ‘supplies’ of uniforms freely available etc.

    While the man on the ground can change role, likely uniforms did not much at the time. Just my thoughts,

    cheers dave

    Blinking paint by numbers... bahhumbug!

    #173462
    deephorse
    Participant

    I have a copy of ‘Armies at Waterloo’ by Bowden, so I thought I’d take a look.  Unfortunately Bowden does not provide figures for the size of individual companies within battalions.  None of my other books mention KGL company sizes either.

    What I did come across was two conflicting reasons for the transfer of KGL troops to the Hanoverian Army, neither of which stated a lack of KGL officers.

    The first was that the KGL battalions were below strength prior to the 1815 campaign, and Wellington wanted to bring them up to strength by taking volunteers from the Hanoverian Army.  The Hanoverian Government were against that, and so the KGL battalions went down to 6 full strength companies (4 line and 2 flank), with any excess being reassigned to Hanoverian units.

    The second reason I found was that Hanoverian units were below strength and so they were improved by 2 companies each by way of stripping KGL battalions of 4 companies each.

    Wherein lies the truth, who knows?

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    #173488
    OotKust
    Participant

    Ok deephorse I had thought there was more than that.

    I’ll check my readily available, ready to sell two boxes of brits and see if there is anything specific on hand. I think my original comments may still apply however. This is as much an ‘accounting’ issue as anything military really… HorseGuards as I recall being finicky about ‘managing the mercenaries’… or some such comment.

    ~d

    Blinking paint by numbers... bahhumbug!

    #173490
    General Slade
    Participant

    Thanks guys,

    As far as I understand it (which is not very far), companies were basically administrative bodies rather than tactical units.   So in the field the number of companies in a battalion was irrelevant because the troops would be divided up into sections of equal numbers of men in order to perform manoeuvres.

    I found the following statement on Rod MacArthur’s website where he shows the results of some detailed study into British Napoleonic organisation:

    “Most of the KGL battalions, having discharged their non-Hanoverian personnel at the end of the Peninsular War, were reduced to 10 companies of 60 in Dec 1814 (actually at Waterloo they operated as 6 companies of 100 with the surplus 91 officers and 104 sergeants detached to the Hanoverian Landwehr).”

    Authorised Establishments of the British Army 1802-1815

    So, since the actual number of men in the battalion remained the same, it does appear that the change in organisation was designed to reduce the number of officers needed in order to transfer them to the Hanoverian army.

    However, I’m left wondering what this meant in practice for the flank companies and I still can’t work out whether the number of grenadiers and lights increased, decreased or stayed the same.

    #173496
    deephorse
    Participant

     However, I’m left wondering what this meant in practice for the flank companies and I still can’t work out whether the number of grenadiers and lights increased, decreased or stayed the same.

    Have you not already answered your own question?  10 companies of 60 went to 6 companies of 100.

    I haven’t come across companies only being administrative units before.  But then Napoleonics (I know, not a real word) has been second place to WWII in my gaming interests.  Was this only in the British Army?  What would be the practical effect of, say, mixing line and light troops in the same company in order to even up the numbers?  Could line operate as light if they found themselves in an amalgamated Light Company?

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    #173497
    General Slade
    Participant

    I don’t think I really have managed to answer my own question because I still don’t understand how they went about reducing the number of companies. For example, were men retrained and re-uniformed in order to expand the flank companies?  Usually, in a British battalion the light company would make up one-tenth of the numbers but here it may be that the light company formed a sixth of the battalion.

    I think in most Napoleonic armies companies were administrative rather than tactical because in the field the battalion had to be divided into sections of equal numbers in order to manoeuvre.  For example, the six company KGL battalions would presumably be using the same drill as when they were ten company battalions and in order to do this I think they would both have been broken up into the same number of sub-sections.

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