COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

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COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Chebba » 20 Sep 2017 02:20

My Great Great Grandfather, born circa 1795 in Llanrhaiadr ym Mochnant,Powys, was Private Thomas Morris, 307, Coldstream Guards from 1817-1842. I have copies of his Attestation and medical discharge papers, and what I believe to be the CG Pensions logbook, when he was awarded a pension due to medically unfit thanks to the not uncommon breathing disease which many so many soldiers, for a variety of reasons, contracted. He was discharged in 1842 after returning from 4 years in Quebec, and I sense that his lack of promotion during his near 26 years service was possibly/probably due to his inability to read and write. The discharge record states that he was 'trustworthy and sober' and had 'received: 3 Distinguished Marks'. My queries are as follows:

1. Would he have received a LS & GC medal? I've found references to CG officers in the 1830's receiving LS & GC medals, and for shorter periods of service than my G G G/f. (Of course, Officers stopped receiving LS & GC medals a long time ago, when professional pensions came in.)

2. What are 'Distinguished Marks''? I've been told this was equivalent to being 'Mentioned in dispatches' and that the recipient would be entitled to wear 'lace' around his jacket sleeves and/or a rosette on the market breast. But I really could do with learning more about these.

3. What headgear styles would he have worn during those years? I study pictures and have been to the Guards Museum in Birdcage Walk, London, and it seems to me that he would initially have worn the tall, straighter-sided peaked hat as per the Napoleonic War, then gone onto the tall, flared Shako style and, Canada being prolific with bears, would have ended up with the bear-skin 'busby' still seen today. But I could do with some guidance, please.

4. When he married 2 years after medical discharge, his status was 'widower'. I have found a Thomas Morris 'Private Soldier' of the right age marrying in 1837, in London, not far from Knightsbridge Barracks. I am much taken with this person, others of the same name don't quite work, although I cannot go firm on anything until I have 'other information so I can corroborate it. Being a 'Private Soldier' too, which I think means his rank as opposed to any other connotation, the potential for it being my G G Grandfather is all the more promising. However, his residence at the time of the marriage was given as an obviously private location, not barracks - would older soldiers have been permitted to live in private accommodation? Also, his status at the time of that marriage was again given as 'widower'. That would make my G G Grandmother his third wife! Would he have had to apply to his CO for permission to marry? Reading up on this, it seems to me that marriage was a state unpopular with the Army, who regarded women, for the most part, as distractions from the soldiering mindset. One officer, when asked about the marital status of one of his men, is reported to have said 'I don't know' - a far cry from today!

I have written to the CG archivists and hope to receive more information soon. However, I still think that the expertise in this site makes my questions worth asking.

TIA.
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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby jf42 » 20 Sep 2017 11:16

Tia- greetings. Llanrhaedr ym mochnant is a beautiful village. I have fond memories of stays there during walks across the Berwyn hills. The waterfall at Pistyll rhaedr is spectacular.

While others more knowledgable in the adminstrative history of the Army gird up to answer your questions, I can tell you that the regulation cap worn by your forbear on joining the Coldstream Guards in 1817 would have been a version of what is known as the 'Regency' cap or shako, introduced in 1816. This had moderately flared sides. This was succeeded by the so-called 'Bell-crowned' shako with a broader crown and a more flared profile. For parade wear, both models had a tall white plume with a red base fixed to the front. Shown is a CG officer's cap from 1822, together with a Serjeant wearing the 'Regency' model cap.

CG offr shako >1828.jpg
CG offr shako >1828.jpg (31.34 KiB) Viewed 216 times
Sgt, Coldstream Guards.jpg
Sgt, Coldstream Guards.jpg (56.5 KiB) Viewed 216 times


If your forbear had been appointed to the Grenadier or 'Right Flank' company of the CG, for ceremonial purposes he would have worn a grenadier's bearskin cap with a white plume, a distinction which at that date existed in most infantry regiments.

Gren coy Coldstream Guards 1820s.jpg
Gren coy Coldstream Guards 1820s.jpg (59.23 KiB) Viewed 216 times


In 1831 the Coldstream Guards, together with the Third Foot Guards, were ordered to adopt the bearskin cap for all ranks instead of the infantry shako. Rather than being prompted by the availability of bears in Canada, it was simply to create uniformity in the Foot Guards regiments, bringing the CG and Third (or Scots) Guards in line with the First Grenadier Guards, who had worn a bearskin cap since 1815, originally awarded as an exclusive honour awarded by the late King George IV, when Prince Regent (This detail did not seem to trouble the hyperactive new king, William IV). In contrast to the Grenadiers who wore a white 'grenadier' plume on the left hand side of their bearskin caps, the Coldstream adopted a red plume on the right-hand side.

Col. Sgt Coldstream Guards, 1832.jpg
Col. Sgt Coldstream Guards, 1832.jpg (72.87 KiB) Viewed 216 times


So the CG would have arrived in Canada with the bearskin cap as part of their uniform, although on daily duty and in the field, they are more likely to have worn their round blue forage caps, (trimmed with a white band), under fur winter headgear when necessary. While a bearksin cap might seem ideal for wear during the Canadian winter, for active service this expensive, cumbersome piece of headgear was most often left in barracks.


There are some relevant images in the following threads. I hope this is a useful start.

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=12044&p=63537&hilit=coldstream#p63537 [2017]

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6804&p=28393&hilit=coldstream+canada#p28393 [2012]

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5228&p=19470&hilit=coldstream+canada#p19470 [2011]
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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Frogsmile » 21 Sep 2017 11:55

JF42 has already answered most of your questions regarding dress and the links at the bottom of his post will tell you more.

As regards the other matters concerning his service:

1. He would have received a LS&GC for his 26-years (assuming it was all accredited) providing that he had no entries in his regimental conduct sheets (meaning had not been charged and appeared before his commanding officer for any disciplinary infringement). Entries on his company conduct sheet for minor infringements did not prevent the award.
N.B. Commissioned officers were not entitled to LS&GC until very recently, it was always confined to other ranks.

2. My understanding is that the term 'Distinguishing Marks' on his regimental record at that time refer to what later became 'good conduct badges', which eventually took the form of single depth inverted stripes worn on the right lower sleeve (left sleeve after 1881 dress reforms).

3. As per JF42's post above.

4. The Foot Guards had a very different culture to the rest of the infantry with regards to living in barracks. Commissioned officers with the exceptions of the quartermaster and adjutant (both commissioned from the ranks at that time) invariably lived out in and around London. I am not so clear regarding 'other ranks', but believe it very likely that trusted men were probably permitted to live out as a mark of privilege, especially those with valued service and good conduct. There is evidence of this with other (corps/regiments) soldiers working in the metropolis at that particular time. Formal permission from commanding officers was indeed needed to marry. Failing to do so meant that his wife would not be 'on the strength' and thus ineligible for support. Being 'on the (feeding) strength' meant the wife was officially allocated a half (man's) ration per day. Any children from the marriage were likewise allowed a quarter ration. Unofficial wives (of which there were numerous) were unsupported and in hard times (e.g. the retreat to Corunna - 1809) it could mean the difference between life and death.

I enclose an image of Guardsmen in Canadian Autumnal dress circa 1838, note how the then peaked forage caps were encased in a fur cover for extra warmth. From 1853 the peak was confined to just the staff sergeants (and officers), which remained the case until a new pattern peaked cap was issued in 1905. In the Winter fur overcoats, mittens and overboots were worn, together with a muffler type scarf wrapped around face and neck and tucked in across the chest. Note the good conduct badges/distinguishing marks on the corporal's right lower sleeve.

As well as the Grenadier companies on the right flank, in common with line infantry the Foot Guards had a Light Company on the left flank. Also wearing a bell top shako, they were marked out by a green plume.
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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Chebba » 26 Sep 2017 19:42

Firstly, thank you both for your extensive and extremely useful replies. Some information and images are familiar to me from the addictive toiling on t'internet but you have really helped to establish them as correct. Other information is new and hugely appreciated as I try to get my proverbial head around the tsunami of discoveries and information.

To be perfectly honest, in spite of my husband and I having 53 combined service as RAF officers behind us, we find the historical Army structure incredibly confusing and bewildering! I was aware of the white and red plumes situation after sitting through the excellent presentation a couple of weeks ago at the Guards Museum in Birdcage Walk. However, I am still going to have to ask you to be patient with me as I need to ask for clarification - Janet and John treatment will be gratefully received! So...

As I understood it when at the Guards Museum, the Grenadier Guards are the senior regiment in the UK, with the Coldstream Guards (owing to Monke backing the wrong side in the Civil War) being relegated to the 2nd most senior. Now, I know from G G G/F's discharge record that he he'd been with Captain Wilbraham in Quebec and I have found him to be one of the officers in the 2nd Division. My reference is the lengthy 'Full Text of 'A History of the Coldstream Guards from 1815 to 1895, www.archive.org, in which it states: 'On the 23rd of January the 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Coldstream were ordered to be held in readiness for embarkation to Quebec', listing Capt Wilbraham in one of 4 Divisions which went to Winchester on 28th and 29th March, for onward embarkation to Quebec in HMS Edinburgh and Atholl. However, in one of the links when replying to my post, slightly different references are made to the Coldstream Guards in Quebec and the 2nd Bttn,1st (or Grenadier) Regiment of Foot Guards. My pedantic character leads me to ask if I am correct in my logic, therefore, in saying that the full title for the Coldstreams would therefore have been 2nd Bttn, 2nd (Coldstream) Guards? The shortened, familiar references can be a tad confusing, especially with 2nds this and that!

In the History, as I've said, the writer states that the Battalions went to Canada on HMS Edinburgh and Athol. However, in the Naval Database (pbenyon.plus.com), the Edinburgh was employed a lot further south, on duties connected with Mexico. It's conceivable, I suppose, that she broke for a while in order to undertake transport duties, but this needs confirmation. Any takers?? The Atholl, somewhat inconveniently, has a gap in information after she was becalmed on her way back from Mauritius in Feb 1838. The next reference is May 1839, when she has a diary culminating in taking the 24th and 67th Regiments to Quebec. Benyon has the Calcutta departing Quebec with the 2nd Battalion Coldstreams on 1st October 1842, arriving St Helens on the 29th but remaining on board until disembarkation at Gosport on the 31st.

The matter of the LSGC medal for my GGG/F is encouraging as he definitely received 3 'Distinguishing Marks'. Perhaps the CG archivists will help when they reply to my request for information, which will probably be preceded by the need to understandably pay a fee. (What is galling is that, unusually for most female officers in my time, I served almost 18 years commission from '72-'89 - and my husband served 35 years continuous flying until 7 months before the new LSGC criteria came into force. We always felt it was unfair, and whilst the revision is long overdue, we have missed out for sure. Grrrr.)

I have perused some wonderful images on the internet, of paintings or tinted engravings of Quebec circa 1838-1840, and I recognise those in the links given to me. I would love to obtain copies or prints of some of these, if only to put into the relevant pages of my genealogical work in order to enhance the human story and provide a better mental image of life for my GGG/F. (No publishing, it's OK, I know the rules big time!) Does anyone have any ideas as to how I might purchase some? Canadian museums, peut-être?

Finally, my sincere apologies. I put TIA on my post, which is not my name! I indulged in short-speak, meaning Thanks In Anticipation!

Thank you again - and TIA!!!

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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Sep 2017 20:58

Just as a starter, Jo, the formal unit designation could be either, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Foot Guards, or 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards (they are synonymous). It could NOT be, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Coldstream Guards (as there was only one 'regiment' of Coldstream Guards). I hope that makes sense.

N.B. British Army traditions can seem bewildering to those not familiar, but it makes sense if you are raised within it and come to understand that there is a reason, if not rationale, for everything.
Last edited by Frogsmile on 30 Sep 2017 10:38, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Chebba » 26 Sep 2017 22:55

Thank you so much, but oh dear - you are going to think me a dreadful numpty. So how does this square with this which was in a reply from a Veteran Member (Grant from Canada) in 2011:

The 2nd Bttn,1st (or Grenadier) Regiment of Foot Guards

Perhaps you can see why I'm confused?

And were/are there 1st Battalions of the Coldstream Guards or, indeed the 1st Regiment (or Grenadier) Regiment of Foot Guards? anywhere? If so, where were they?

Aaaarghghgh! My head hurts! Ironically, I have spent quite a few years in an army environment (Singapore when I was very young and Cyprus '65 - '69, when I was at senior school in Dhekelia and Dad was at 9th Sigs at Ayios Nikolaus), but I wasn't particularly interested in the structure and traditions at that time. (Just the lads who were in it! Grin!) But yes, when you are raised in something or are employed within it, it does become clear. The RAF is a simple soul by comparison! I think I need to study an idiot's guide to the hierarchy of the 19th Century army.

Thanks again - and I'm so sorry to seem rather dense. I promise I'll get there. I have a huge interest developing and I'm already delighted with the assistance to me and others in this excellent site. The wealth of expertise and passion for the topics is amazing.

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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Sep 2017 23:14

You are nothing like as bad as you think, Jo, and you answered your own question. The instinct is certainly there. There was indeed a 1st Battalion of the 1st Foot Guards/Grenadier Guards and a 1st Battalion of the 2nd Foot Guards/Coldstream Guards.

The Foot Guards regiments raised more Battalions as and when conflict required it, so at various times there were 3rd and 4th Battalions of the 1st (Grenadier) and 2nd (Coldstream) Foot Guards, too.

It was the same for the Line Regiments of Foot, e.g. in your GGG/F time the 1st Regiment of Foot had four battalions and the 60th Regiment six battalions. Thus abbreviated titles were rendered as 1/1st, 2/1st, 3/1st, etc. and 1/60th, 2/60th, 3/60th and so on, and so forth. I hope that helps.
Last edited by Frogsmile on 01 Oct 2017 16:10, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: COLDSTREAM GUARDS 1817-1842

Postby Chebba » 29 Sep 2017 19:25

Thanks for the explanation and your patience with me! I think I'm beginning to understand - and I now realise where I was becoming snarled up. I have been muddling the regimental structure of the Army as a whole vis à vis seniority/precedence with the order of seniority within just the Guards. Duh. Anyway, 'Hurrah and Hussar!' 'By Jove, she's got it!'

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to me - you are all marvellous.

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