Star Objects – Waterloo
OBLI:5356 – unattributed print of an Officer of the 52nd Foot c.1815
To get us prepared for our upcoming Waterloo lecture with historian Gareth Glover, we will be looking at a few of the Waterloo-era objects from our archive. In this post we will look at the uniform of an Officer of the 52nd.
OBLI:5803 – 52nd Officer’s shako c.1815
This shako was worn by an Officer of the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of the Foot circa 1815. It is made from a rigid combination of heavy felt and leather and features a short visor.
The shako can be identified as uniform of the 52nd due to the stringed bugle front plate, as well as the horsehair plume which was dyed green to indicate the light infantry regiment.
Whilst the shako added height to a soldier and provided an intimidating silhouette on the battlefield, it offered little protection from musket fire. The rim of the shako only covered the top of the head, leaving the majority of the face and head exposed to attack. In addition, the shako was likely to become very heavy to wear if it became soaked with rain, so was poorly suited to adverse weather.
OBLI:5541 – 52nd Officer’s coatee c.1815
In the Waterloo period, the shako would have been worn alongside a red coatee like the one above. We can see that this coatee would have been worn by an Officer due to the silver epaulettes and detailing.
At the time Officers had to pay for their own uniform which could lead to slight design variations. The wealthier the Officer, the more elaborate their uniform decoration could be. These differences can be seen when comparing the elaborate silver frogging on the coatee to the decorations painted on the Officer’s uniform in the first image.
These red uniforms were designed to look impressive on the battlefield, however the bright colour meant the wearer could be easily targeted. Red uniforms were eventually phased out towards the end of the 19th century in favour of khaki.
To find out more about the Waterloo story, tune in to our upcoming Lockdown Lecture with historian Gareth Glover – a live Q & A will take place on the 1st March 2021.