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Hanoverian Militia 1814
by P. J. Haythornthwaite

Military Modelling

If ever the modeller or military costume enthusiast is fortunate enough to come across contemporary ”eye-witness” drawings of troops and uniforms, he often discovers that some detective work is necessary before he can profit from his find. This is usually because the contemporary artist — perhaps through lack of knowledge or expertise — on occasion either didn't pay attention to portraying a uniform accurately or, more commonly, was unable to identify the exact regiment he was drawing. When that happens, the unfortunate historian has to check with other contemporary sources before he can either accept the authenticity of, or make use of his new source.

The two figures illustrated fall into this category. They are copied from a document known as the "Elberfeld Manuscript", being a pictorial record of all the Allied and French troops who passed through that German town between December 1813 and April 1819, painted by an unknown artist.

How accurate is this document? After making allowances for the small size of the originals (the figure being only about 9 cm high) which may obscure some of the smallest points, there are many details of the uniforms of the several hundred figures which do not conform to any known regulation or to other contemporary material. However, the troops drawn by the anonymous artist were in the middle of a campaign in which both sides were so desperately short of equipment that what regulations existed were often completely ignored and the troops clothed in anything that could be captured, borrowed or issued, which accounts for very many non-regulation and sometimes distinctly odd-looking items of uniform worn by the figures in the sketches. And there are more than enough of the more minor details (which in inaccurate pictures one would presume to be incorrect) which are confirmed by other sources as being absolutely accurate for the Elberfeld Manuscript to be regarded as a valuable evidence of how soldiers of the time actually appeared on campaign.

In one respect, however, the artist set a problem — in most cases not only are the regiments unidentified, but sometimes not even the nationality of the uniforms is certain.

The two figures illustrated are both labelled “Englische Deutsche Legion" in the original, and dated April—May 1814. Provided the artist was at all accurate, this identification as the King's German Legion can be dismissed immediately, though the undoubted English style of fig. 1 rules out the possibility of the picture representing any army not under British Control. Fig. 2 in some respects resembles the British-made uniforms intended for the Portuguese army but diverted to clothe the Reserve Infantry units of the Prussian army, but such an identification is extremely doubtful.

What they almost certainly represent, however, is the newly-raised (in 1814) Hanoverian Militia (Landwehr), many of which were issued with a blue "Emergency uniform" and the bare essentials of equipment until the regulation British-style uniforms could be provided. Fig. 2, in fact, agrees very closely with another source of this earliest militia uniform.

Twenty-seven Landwehr battalions were raised in 1814, those of Munden, Northeim, Osterode, Hannover, Hameln, Einbeck (previously Alfeld), Hildesheim, Peine, Salzgitter, (previously Goslar), Celle, Gifhorn, Uelzen, Luneburg, Harburg, Luchow, Stade, Ottendorf, Bremevorde, Verden, Osterholz (previously Bremerlehe), Hoya, Osnabruck, Bentheim, Meppen, Nienburg, Quackenbruck, Melle (previously Iburg), and three more in 1816: Emden, Leer, and Aurich; each battalion was composed of four companies, the militia not having any grenadier companies.

Although there were regimental variations, the regulation uniform — when eventually issued - consisted of a British "stovepipe" shako with white over red plume and British-style red infantry uniform; officers wore the "Belgic" shako with the plume in the old Hanoverian colours of white over yellow, and the yellow Hanoverian sash, the uniform being otherwise virtually undistinguishable from the ordinary British infantry costume.

Figure 1:     This is an interesting variation of the red uniform; the shako has an oval brass plate with dark green plume. Red jacket with black collar, cuffs and shoulder-straps, all edged with white lace. Two loops of white lace on each side of the collar and two on each cuff, and nine loops of lace across the breast, in three blocks of three. White turnbacks, white metal buttons. Black cartridge-box on white shoulder-belt; grey overalls and gaiters.

Figure 2:     This shows the original, “Emergency Uniform“ with which some units were issued. The shako was a white over red plume and brass plate; the jacket is dark blue with red collar, cuffs, turnbacks and epaulettes. White lace on the collar and cuffs, and twelve loops on the breast, in four blocks of three. White metal buttons; the turnbacks fastened by a yellow or brass grenade badge. Black cartridge box with an oval brass plate on the flap, white belt, grey overalls and gaiters.

Though officially an auxiliary force, the Hanoverian Landwehr [like the Prussian] saw a considerable amount of action in the last years of the Napoleonic wars: no less than twelve served at Waterloo, five at Quatre Bras, and fifteen others in the Netherlands campaign.

Sources: The Elberfeld Manuscript
               “Uniformenkunde” (R. Knotel)

See also 19th Century Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers