Life in the British Army

A series of Essays shewing what It was like For the Officers, men and women Who made the Army their career BEFORE they Arrived in the Colony.  The topics discussed herein are Desertion | Uniforms | History of the British uniform | Education Why Join | Daily life | Rations | An example of a Typical day Punishment | Officers Quarters | Marriage and Women

Why Uniforms?

     Since desertion was such a problem, soldiers under the rank of sergeant were not permitted to own civilian clothing.  With only their uniform to wear, they would easily be spotted if they tried to desert.

     Red Tunics indicate that the wearer is a member of the infantry.  Soldiers were supplied with their uniforms, while officers purchased their own.

     Officers' uniforms were of a much finer weave of wool, usually doeskin, while the rank and file had uniforms made of melton (wool) and to a lesser extent, serge.

     Different ranks could also be identified by the piping around their tunics: Infantry officers had gold braid, while ordinary soldiers had white lace.  Militia officers had silver piping.

     Members of the Royal Artillery had uniforms composed of a midnight blue, this dark colour helping to hide the dirt picked up while working around the guns.  Again the common soldier was supplied with uniforms made of serge, a rough weave of wool, while officers purchased their own uniforms made of doeskin.  For piping, officers and senior non-commissioned officers wore gold braids while the men had yellow-worsted braid.

Officers' Uniforms

     Officers are most easily identified by their metal sword and scabbard, wooden swagger stick or walking stick, one of which they must have at all times.

     In Infantry Full Dress, the officers are differentiated from the other ranks by their lack of epaulettes, a crimson sash draping left to right, and their rank is on the collar.  The captain has a crown and a star, a lieutenant has a crown and an ensign has a star.  A band of gold braid runs along the top of the collar.

     The major has a star only, but the band of gold braid on the collar runs along both the top and bottom of the collar.  As well, a band of gold braid runs around the top edge of the major's shako.  The sleeves of the tunic have two stripes of gold braid, while the captain, lieutenant and ensign have one stripe on the sleeve.

     In Infantry Undress, the junior officers all look the same because there is no rank insignia on the uniforms.  They wear a blue frock coat which has black Austrian knots on the sleeves and breasts.  Only the major's frock coat has his insignia, a star, on the collar.  Instead of the shako hat, all officers wear a peaked forage cap.

     In Artillery Undress, the officers have their rank on the cuff of their sleeve.  The captain has a gold Austrian knot with gold loops all around it and the lieutenants and ensigns all have the lieutenant insignia of a plain Austrian knot.  They wear a forage cap with a thick gold band around it and it has no peak.

Next page: History of the British Uniform

Information courtesy of

The Fort Henry Adventure