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It’s been a long time

I hadn’t realised just how long it is since I posted anything. Well over a year, it would seem. Nothing since I said I was getting together with some friends to try to put into practice the 1796 Drill for British cavalry.

Since then the idea has grown a bit. We are now into our second year and also putting together a re-enactment cavalry unit, B Troop, 16th (Queens) Light Dragoons. We even have a website, new and still under development, https://www.btroop.co.uk/, and, of course, a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/16th-Queens-Light-Dragoons-B-Troop-1733308910280068/ .

Learning the drill has been challenging at times, particularly since the 1796 Instructions and Regulations for the Formations and Movements of the Cavalry assumes that you have a whole squadron of over 100 dragoons to play with! We have managed 6 to 8 on monthly basis for two years now, except when the weather has intervened. Fortunately there is a drill manual written for volunteer cavalry at the time which covers the basics you need to understand the Regulations. This is The Light-horse Drill, Designed for the Use of the Volunteer Corps of Great Britain, by a Private of the London and Westminster Light-horse Volunteers. Using this has allowed us to understand such things as wheeling by threes, in which each three dragoons in a rank wheel about the central dragoon, which means that one dragoon has to wheel backwards!

We are also close to getting our basic uniforms together, we are going for stable jackets, forage caps and overalls to start, along with sabres, belts and sabretaches. Getting these as right as possible has been challenging. Most items of uniform do not have surviving examples, so we have had to extrapolate from surviving officer’s kit and a mixed bag of contemporary documentation and images. Still, we are pretty pleased with results so far. In due course there will be pictures.

The 1796 Sword Exercise has also proved a challenge. The manual is not well written or very clear, but then no one at the time learnt from the book, it was taught by instructors who already knew it. Fortunately a series of paintings by Dighton showing all the drill preserved in the Royal Collection, and that has helped a great deal. In time I shall publish something here showing the drill, but I need to photograph it as I cannot use the Royal collection images. It is, however, a very effective drill and goes some way to explain the effectiveness of British cavalry against the French.

The new unit’s first public show is scheduled for mid-May, more about that nearer the time.

In other news, I am working on another book, a study of the 16th Light Dragoons during the Waterloo Campaign and afterwards. This makes use of a lot of previously unpublished material, an order book, journals and correspondence and should be out sometime in 2019.

And that, as they say, is that for the moment.

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