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Shirts were annually issued to each soldier as part of his necessaries, the cost for which was deducted from his pay. The cost for each shirt varied from four to ten shillings depending on its tailor, quality, and market. The number of shirts owned by each soldier varied from two to four. Bennett Cuthbertson believed each soldier should have four shirts in his possession, of which three were to be in good shape. Men of the 70th Regiment were ordered in 1788 to have four good shirts. The 40th Regiment in 1800 had each soldier with four shirts "made of linen of three quarters and a half bound, such as is bought for one shilling and six pence per yard and made up for one shilling; they are to be of good length, to come up well at the neck, and be of sufficient length in the sleeves." In 1801, each rifleman in the Rifle Corps was required to have three white shirts as part of his necessaries. Serving with the 7th Fusiliers, Sergeant Cooper noted in 1807 each soldier was equipped with only two shirts. This is interesting since the 7th Regiment's standing orders nine years earlier noted each private was to have "three white shirts with single frills instead of 6 shirts with double frills, [and] one flannel shirt instead of two."
By 1811 attempts were made to have a standard number of shirts throughout the army. That year, a board of officers recommended that, considering the weight the soldier marched under, the number of shirts owned by the soldier be reduced to two. This recommendation is not surprising considering that each private's shirt weighed 1 lb. Clothing regulations for the following year indicate that this recommendation was endorsed. It became apparent that two shirts were not sufficient and the 1812 clothing regulations were amended in 1817 to include an additional shirt in the soldier's required necessaries. In contrast to the 1812 clothing regulations, th 29th Regiment at the end of that same year ordered their men to be supplied with three good shirts: "made sufficiently large, fit well about the neck and wrists."
The quality of shirts provided through regimental agents
or other government contractors seems to have been questionable.
Cuthbertson remarked in 1768 that shirts provided to regiments on
the establishment "can be of little use unless taken to pieces, and
made up properly."
It appears little had changed by the Napoleonic wars.
In 1811 the quality of clothing was criticized: "clothing is
generally sent to Regiments so ill-sewed, as to require it being
In the field, a soldier's shirt turned to tatters.
William Brown of the 45th Regiment on the retreat back into
Shirts not supplied by the regiment's agents were made up by tailors in the regiment, soldiers' wives or purphased from the locality. The rate paid to women sewing shirts, agreeable to instructions, was not more than eight pence in the 1770s. Around the same time, tailors in the 37th Regiment were paid one shilling for the same labour. In the 106th Regiment, if a woman deviated from the regimental instructions when making a shirt, the sergeant was held responsible: "If any sergeant... allows a man to have a shirt made by his washerwoman contrary to [standing orders], he will be obliged to pay for the alteration himself." Lists of costs for tailor's work show that by the beginning of the 19th century making shirts were no longer a function of regimental tailor shops.
Commonly army shirts were made out of white linen. In addition to
this, soldiers stationed abroad in the field or in harsher climates were
issued or purchased shirts made out of other more durable or warmer
materials. At the opening of
the War of 1812, Commissariat store returns in
By the time of the war the soldier's use of linen shirts was viewed
as detrimental to their health. In
July 1814, Lieutenant Colonel Morrison of the 2nd Battalion, 89th Regiment
issued a Battalion Order in
It having been represented that some of the men who have been supplied with Flannel shirts are in the habit of occasionally wearing linen ones, and such a thing being prejudicial to their health, it cannot be allowed, and to prevent similar practices, officers commanding companies will be pleased to sanction and enforce the disposal of their linen ones when Flannel ones are furnished.
the whole army in
The preference of flannel shirts over linen ones is exhibited in
regiments in other theatres of war. John
Green of the 68th Light Infantry while on the Peninsula remarked that his
regiment:"arrived in good health at Pedrogos, with about eight
hundred new flannel shirts for the Regiment; the shirts were full sized,
with long sleeves, which I have no doubt had a tendency to preserve
health, more than linen shirts could do."
Even in warmer stations like the
Robert Jackson, in his book A systematic view of the formation, discipline, and economy of armies (1804) wrote on the advantages of flannel:
Flannel preserves, more effectually than linen clothing, an equable warmth in the parts which its covers. It absorbs moisture more readily; and, in this respect, it is a pleasant material to be worn next the skin; for the excess of perspiration, in hot climates, is quickly taken up by it; the wettings with rain, in colder countries, are injurious or disagreeable, only in an inferior degree where the body is covered with this material.
When wearing his shirt, the soldier was expected to keep both
collar and wrists of the shirt fastened.
The Standing Orders of the 7th Regiment ordered all shirts "to
have one button and one button hole on the wrist, which is constantly to
be kept buttoned."
A number of contemporary prints support the wearing of the shirt
with the wrist continually fastened. St.
Clair's watercolour entitled "Troops bivouacked near Vila Velha"
portrays a number of soldiers performing fatigues in their shirt sleeves
and none appear with their collar undone or sleeves rolled up.
The same appears in Martinet's "Bivouac Anglais", during
the occupation of
Into the 19th century, soldiers continued to wear frills on their
shirts. Under the direction of
the meticulous Duke of Kent, standing orders were issued for the garrison
The frill, which is the only part to be seen when on, is to be nine inches long, and two in depth; including the hem, which is to be the narrowest possible, ironed in as small plaits as can be done; one inch of the frill being confined under the stock, which will ensure its remaining parted, and perfectly smooth, at the length of eight inches.
That same year orders were issued from the War Office calling for the frill on both the officers and other ranks shirts to be nine inches long.
Prior to these regulations, the frill were determined by each
regiment. The 6th Regiment
noted the frill on the shirt was to be "one nail and a quarter
wide". For the 106th
Regiment, the frill was to be a "full two inches broad".
The 7th Regiment was noted in 1798 as having shirts with double
frills. Many illustrations of
soldiers show that when worn with the coat, the shirt's frill appears as a
small triangle above the coat's top button.
A watercolour of a recruiting party of the 33rd Regiment in 1810
depicts the members of the party with their coat top buttons open and the
frill protruding. It appears
from numerous contemporary illustrations of British infantrymen that the
wearing of a frill on the shirt remained popular through to the end of the
Napoleonic Wars. An account
book of the 49th Regiment in
In addition to the shirt, soldiers were issued with a number of
Also termed as turn-overs,
the use of this article of clothing was described by Alexander Mercer of
the Royal Artillery: "The eighth of inch white shown above the stock
was intended for the men, and in their kits were included six false
collars. These were narrow
strips of linen, which were doubled over the leather stock and confined
there by a hook at each end."
In 1801 the Roscommon Militia ordered their men to have their
stocks "worn tight with a clean turn-down."
This fashion of an edge of white showing above the stock appears to
have disappeared by 1805 since false collars no longer show up on various
lists of necessaries.
Detached frills, also noted as breasts,
or false frills,
were bought and used by the troops throughout the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1802, James viewed it necessary, in order for the officer to
determine if soldier was short of his required clothing, to have each
excuse whatever should be admitted, when any deficiency, in the compliment
of necessaries, is discovered to arise from negligence, or worse causes.
Soldiers will frequently borrow from each other, in order to get
through the day of general inspection.
To prevent collusions, the captains of companies will have the
initials of every man's name printed on his shirt, between the shoulders,
with a particular mark of his own under the frill.
Marking-irons, for this purpose, may be purchased at a very
By 1811 all of the soldier's necessaries were ordered to be marked with permanent ink with the owner's name, the letter of the company, and the number of the regiment in which he belonged. In 1813 the 62nd Regiment ordered their men's shirts to be marked, in addition to the owner's name and letter of the company, with the date of delivery. In contrast the 17th Light Dragoons simply called for every shirt to be marked with the initials of the owner's name. The accounts of the 49th Regiment reveal one soldier in the company being paid two pence to mark his fellow soldier's shirts. The 29th Regiment was specific about how the shirt was to be marked: "Everything belonging to the soldier must be marked previous to delivery or soon after as possible, the shirts in front, one inch below the frill."
Bennett Cuthbertson, A System for the Compleat Interior Management
and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry, (
Hew Strachen, British Military Uniforms, 1768-96, (
Standing Orders for the Fortieth Regiment, (Margate, 1 January
1800), pp. 7, 30.
Regulations for the Rifle Corps, formed at Blatchinton Barracks,
Under the Command of Colonel Manningham, (
Percy Sumner, "Standing Orders of the Royal Fusiliers", JSAHR,
vol. 27, p. 123.
Public Records Office (PRO), War Office (WO) 7/56, p. 97, Report of
the proceedings of a Board of Officers, appointed by His Royal
Highness The Commander in Chief to be assembled, "for the purpose
of reporting upon the Equipment of the Infantry", London, 29 June
Ibid., p. 514, Warrant authorizing the Provision of certain
additional Articles of Necessaries for Regiments of Infantry. Dated
The Standing Orders of His Majesty's 29th, or Worchestershire
Regiment of Foot, (
Shirts shipped from regimental agents or stores were to be in bales of
a hundred, measuring 22" by 10",
Cuthbertson, A System..., Article XXXIII
PRO, WO 7/56, p.102, Report... upon the Equipment of the Infantry,
William Brown, Narrative of a Soldier. (Kilmamock, 1829), p.
Ibid. p. 186.
Christopher Hibbert (ed.), The Recollections of Rifleman Harris.(
Great Britain, War Office, A Collection of Orders,... p. 469,
Regulation for the Provision of Clothing,..., Article XV.
Cuthbertson, A System..., Article XXXVI
Strachen, British Military Uniforms,..., pp. 226-227, Standing
Orders of the 37th Foot, 1775.
Ibid., p. 258, according to the Standing Orders for the 106th
Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) RG 8 I, C 1220, pp.404, Commissariat
Stores, Quebec, 13 June 1813; RG 8 I, C 118, pp.70, Commissariat
Stores, Quebec, 10 September 1813.
L. Homfray Irving, Officers of the British Forces in
LAC RG 8 I, C 703, p. 75, "Requisition for Clothing for the
Artillery and Drivers of U.C. Militia",
LAC, MG 24 I3, vol. 9, Order Book of the 89th Regiment, 1814.
L. Homfray Irving, Officers of the British Forces in
John Green, The Vicissitudes of a Soldier's Life. (Lough,
1827), p. 70.
Captain Browne of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers recounts in 1809 on
Robert Jackson, A systematic view of the formation, discipline, and
economy of armies. (
Mary Agnes Fitzgibbons, A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James
Percy Sumner, "Standing Orders of the Royal Fusiliers,
1798", JSAHR, v. 27, p.123
F.R.T. Trench-Gascoigne, "Extracts from the Standing Orders of
the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1803", JSAHR, v.3, p. 128.
L.I. Cowper, ed. The King's Own: The Story of a Royal Regiment,
1680-1814, vol. 1, (
Ibid., p. 249, "four false collars" mentioned in the
Regimental Standing Orders for the 70th Foot, 1788.
Four "turn-overs" noted as part of the rifleman's
necessaries in Regulations for the Rifle Corps..., 1801, p. 75.
W. G. Strickland, "The Roscommon Militia", JSAHR,
vol. 3, p. 147, Abstracts from the Standing Orders of the Roscommon
for each soldier to have 3 dickees.
of a button on the false collar opposed to a hook and eye system.
Strickland, "The Roscommon Militia", p. 147.
Sergeant Cooper of the 7th Fusiliers notes each soldier having three
"breasts" in 1807, Glover,
Percy Sumner, "Dress of the 85th Light Infantry, 1813", JSAHR,
vol. 25, p. 70.
Principles of System and Responsibility Familiar. vol. 1, (
Ibid., p. 306.
James, Regimental Companion..., p. 303.
The Standing Orders of the 62nd Regiment.(
Standing Orders of the Seventeenth Regiment of Light Dragoons.
(Clonmel, 1804), p. 35.
Standing Orders of the 29th Regiment...1812, p. 56.
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