EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Royal Commission on Artillery Uniforms

"14 October 1841. In light of reports that the new Foot Artillery uniform was a source of confusion during the late war, Her Majesty desires that the Directors study the matter and provide recommendations for a new pattern of uniform for Her Majesty's Foot Artillery."

So, there it is, a directive to work on the matter at hand. I think it was copying the contemporary British use of light blue trousers that clinched the matter and made them look too much like the enemy.

Where did the fad for light blue trousers come from anyway? I think one or 2 Minor German principalities wore them late in the Napoleonic Wars but by the 1830's & 40's they are being worn by Danes, Saxons, various Italian states, the US, British artillery and light cavalry and others. Usually combined with dark blue coats apart from the Danes before they switched, and the Saxons whose use of Medium/Dark Green and light blue is really eye catching.  I think some US units still wear them in ceremonial dress don't they?

Anyway, I thought I would have a quick look at correlation of foot artillery to infantry coat colours in various states of the 1840's

Nation Foot Coat Artillery Coat
France, Prussian, Hesse, Hanover, Spain,
USA, Mexico, Argentina, Sardinia, Norway, Sweden
Dark Blue Dark Blue
Russia, Saxony, Nassau Green Green
Denmark (pre 1848 changes)Red Red
Bavaria Medium Blue Dark Blue
Britain Red Dark Blue
Austria White Brown

It seems that having the same coat colour for infantry and foot artillery was by and far the most common practice.. The shortage of red coated artillery then, is due to the scarcity of red as a standard infantry coat colour. The Austrian use of brown is an interesting and unique variation which recalls the AWI Rhode Island artillery. I think it is too distinct to steal, however.

The two goals are to
a) have an artillery uniform that is easily identifiable as belong to the Red army rather than the Blue army,
b) to choose an easily believable uniform.

Given the political history of Faraway at this point in time (late 1841), it is unlikely that they would be copying any Danish traditions but since they are not a British colony, slavish copying of British practice is not necessarily to be expected either. At this time, I see two easy and plausible chouces that might fulfil the goals.

1. Keep the existing Dark Blue coats but replace the pale blue trousers which are also worn by the enemy, with Red ones. On campaign, coatees and shakos would be replaced by shell jackets and white cap covers with havelocks. The result would not look British or match any historical armies though it might suggest French or Spanish influence.

2. Issue the same sort of red shell jackets and dark blue pants as are worn by most Faraway infantry units.

Perhaps a poll might help the Directors to make a recommendation to the Queen,

Mock-ups of the proposed new Red Army artillery uniforms.


  1. Hi Ross,
    Personally I would go with a red coat and dark or light gray pants or dark green pants.

  2. Fascinating post and useful chart, thanks. I wonder if the light blue trousers fad comes from the Hungarians; a lot of the rest of the Austrian army certainly copied them during this period.

    I voted for red coats and dark blue trousers. If one follows the belief that gunners tended to wear darker colours because the work was dirty then the dark blue facings would seem to fit the bill.

  3. I like artillerymen to look different from ordinary troops. The red coats strike me as being easily confused with line infantry.

    I vote for the red pants and cuffs with dark brown or blue coat. That would distinguish them from the infantry . . . but the red pants look great and (to me at least) read "red army".

    -- Jeff

  4. I say go for dark blue coats & overalls - artillery have the dirtiest job on offer, heaving stuff around in the mud.

  5. Ross Mac,

    Quartermasters (and military administrators) love consistency, so if the uinfantry are in red jackest, they would opt for artillery in red jackets. Units - on the other had - like to be unique and would probably want to look different. Personally I would have blue jackets for the artillery, with trousers that match those worn by the infantry. Then give the artillery lots or red distinctions (trouser stripes, cuffs, collars, shoulder straps) to make it obvious that they are part of the red army.

    All the best,


  6. Tony, Bob, oddly enough the 3rd option of all dark blue with red stripes and facings, in other words the style adopted by the British in the mid 1840's came to mind just after I went to bed (exciting life). Thus would keep harmony with the horse artillery, should be distinct enough from the Blue army who dress their artillery in ligth blue trousers and is consistent with historical British practice (which may indicate that I haven't leapt far off the cliff )

  7. Wargaming Dave. Duhh (sound of hand slapping head) ) to think I used to have a 15mm Austro-Hungarian army. I had forgotten that the entire Austrian Army adopted those Hungarian light blue trousers some time after the Napoleonic Wars. Austria still being a major power, no doubt the fashion spread from there.

  8. Jeff, I'm still uneasy with the red pants, despite the example of the 10th Hussars amingst others but I share your concern about the artillery looking too much like infantry.

  9. John, Don, Red coats are still in the running, but I think I would need to find some way to make them more distinct, possibly back belts or their own hat style. Thanks for the input.

  10. Okay, Ross, if you don't like the red pants . . . how about red coats with dark brown (or black) pants, straps and HAT?

    If the headgear is a different color that would help distinguish them from infantry . . . and I prefer dark brown to blue or black because it will give a different (warmer) read to the photos.

    However it is your army, not mine.

    -- Jeff

  11. Not Fair! I step away from this blog for a week and miss some great discussions.

    FWIW I would stay with dark blue uniforms for the gunners coats, for reasons already mentioned. Different color for their pants; gray, light blue, brown, etc but would stay away from dark blue and red. And I would make their guns/limbers a different color.

    Thanks for Sharing

  12. Jeff, I will keep the Brown pants in mind.

  13. Dave, On paper, Oberhilse paints their guns dark green while Faraway uses Grey but in practice, they use what ever models they can get their hand on.

    Light blue is off limits as that is the distinguishing mark of the other side, but dark grey and brown are both options. Thanks

  14. In France artillery was in dark blue long before the infantry adopted it. Dark blue (with red facings) almost seems a 'consensual' color for artillery: even 'hereditary enemies' such as France and Great Britain agreed to dress their artillerymen in whole dark blue with red facings!

    Red trousers... look French, don't you think? Though even French artillery did not adopt them when almost whole French army received 'garance' trousers. Tradition? Or did red look too easily soiled by black powder? Then a reddish brown could be more suitable?