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16th Light Dragoon Officers’ uniforms at Waterloo.

In the National Army Museum, Chelsea, is a uniform of Cornet Polhill of the 16th Light Dragoons. Polhill joined the 16th in July 1813 and served with the regiment at Waterloo. The uniform is of the style worn by Light Dragoon officers before the new uniform of the 1812 Warrant was adopted.
The uniform can be seen here https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1963-09-215-1 its accompanying waistcoat here https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1963-09-215-2 and a portrait of Polhill wearing it, with his Waterloo medal, is in the possession of the family today. It can be seen here, on the Facebook Page of a group that recreates the 16th https://www.facebook.com/1733308910280068/photos/a.1733313250279634.1073741827.1733308910280068/1884634575147500/?type=3&theater
Because of this it has often be stated that at Waterloo the officers of the 16th were wearing the old style uniform. This is not the case.
The dress regulations for Light Dragoon officers post 1812 states ‘On Ordinary Duties, or on the March, they are to wear Overalls of a Colour similar to the private Soldiers, and a short Surtout or Great Coat made according to Pattern, which is calculated to be worn likewise, as a Pelisse on Service.’ (General Order, Horse Guards, 24th December, 1811, Regulations relative to the Dress of Officers).
One officer of the 16th at Waterloo was Lieutenant John Luard. Later in life, having reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he published ‘A History of the Dress of the British Soldier’ (William Clowes and Son, London, 1852). In this he wrote ‘On the change of the Lt. Dragoons dress in 1812, the officers were also instructed to wear a jacket, called a pelisse, as undress. It was very plain, double-breasted without ornament of any kind, with a rough shaggy lining; the collar and cuffs of the same and of the colour of the facings of the Regt. Certainly it was not brilliant in appearance, & there was nothing about it to denote the officer, but it was very comfortable, put on and off in a moment and in the dreadful weather of the night before Waterloo it was very useful.”
The Stothard Pattern Book in the Anne S K Brown Collection, Providence, Rhode Island, contains a drawing of the pattern for this pelisse. It is, in general form, the same as the short coatee adopted for Light Dragoons in 1812.
In addition to this, there is a pencil sketch in the Royal Collection, by Lt. Luard, and dated 1815, of Major Lygon of the 16th wearing such a pelisse. https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/3/collection/658287/henry-beauchamp-lygon-4th-earl-of-beauchamp-lieutenant-general-colonel-of-tenth
The order book for the 16th for 1815 includes the following instructions for 24th August, ‘Offrs not having Pelice(sic) will wear jackets without epaletes’. The pelisse, unlike the coatee, did not have epaulettes, and thus, at a distance, a coatee without epaulettes would appear the same.
There is no doubt that the undress pelisse was the workaday jacket of Light Dragoon officers following the introduction of the new uniform in 1812 and was worn at Waterloo by the 16th, if not others.
That the earlier style uniform continued in use is not in question. In October, 1813, Lieutenant John Vandeleur of the 12th Light Dragoons wrote home asking to be sent ‘epaulettes, cloth, and buttons to make a jacket of the new pattern; lace cloth, and buttons to make up a jacket of the old pattern’ (Bamford, Andrew, With Wellington’s Outposts, Frontline Books, Barnsley, 2015, p. 16.) Coincidentally, Vandeleur wrote home in august, 1813, that he had ‘worn out most completely my pelisse and jacket’, (Bamford, p. 110). It would seem that the early style uniform remained popular with officers and continued in wear as a form of unofficial dress uniform.


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