n 1798, HRH Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York and second son of King George III, was appointed Commander-in-Chief.
He immediately set about instituting a series of reforms which touched all aspects of of British Military life.
A General Staff structure was established at the Horse Guards, Whitehall which transformed the entire Regimental
system. Under the Commander-in-Chief were the Adjutant-General responsible for all matters relating to discipline,
regulation arms and clothing and the Quartermaster General responsible for provision of stores, quartering, marches,
and movements. The Board of Ordanance continued its traditional responsibility over the design and manufacture of
artillery and firearms.
By 1806 there were approximately 160,000 officers and men serving in approximately 100 Regiments. Each Regiment had both
a full Colonel and a Lieutenant Colonel. The Colonel was usually a titular head, while the Lieutenant Colonel actually
took command in the field. The Regiment usually had two Battalions. The first being the one that goes into battle,
and the second which is left at the barracks with the recruits in training and the recovering wounded.
The first Battalion had two Majors, the second Battalion had one Major. Each Battalion had ten Companies comprised
of between 30 and 100 men, dependant on sickness, injury or death. In charge of each Company was a Captain, who in turn,
had one Lieutenant and one Ensign under him. Each Company also had non-commissioned officers-two Sergeants and four Corporals.
The rest of the infantry were privates.
Of the ten Companies in each Battalion, eight were ordinary infantry, one was a Grenadier Company, and one was a
Light Infantry Company.
Initially designed as shock troops the British Grenadiers were the elite of the Regiment. They were a reserve of
experienced soldiers specifically charged with guarding the battalion's flanks in battle. They were fast moving
troops capable of assaulting or defending fortifications or protecting troops on the march.
Soldiers first learned the naming of the parts of their musket. Each was responsible for ensuring his musket was
clean and in proper working order as demonstrated during endless inspections conducted by officers and senior NCOs.
Soldiers drilled first without ammunition, then with blank cartridges and finally with ball.
Eighteenth century British drill was designed to move troops in the field with maximum efficiency. With the aid of a
drum and under the close supervision of the officers and sergeants, the men were drilled regularly in field exercises.
The strictest observance of all rules for marching was particularly necessary when marching in line or as in file.
The men marched without swinging their arms, so that by touching at the elbow, they could maintain dressing over
what was often impossible terrain.
On the word "march", the whole company immediately stepped off together, gaining at the very first step, thirty
inches and so continued without increasing or diminishing the distance between each other. When a soldier lost
his touch, or found himself a little behind or before the other men of the squad, he was taught to recover his
place in the rank gradually and on no account to jump or rush into it, which would make him unsteady and spoil
the marching of the rest of the squad.
Squads were taught various motions of the rifle while marching. These drills served to keep the soldiers alert
and relieved the boredom of lengthy route marches.
The wheel brought the troops around to face the enemy in the most efficient manner possible while remaining in
Breaking off files made it possible for troupes advancing in line formation to pass trough a narrow opening
such as a gate or to cross over a bridge.
Once a new recruit had mastered foot drill and marching he was introduced to his firelock. From the time of
Queen Anne the British musket changed little over the next 80 years and was known affectionately as the Brown Bess.
The first model or Long Land had a barrel length of 49 inches which was reduced to 42 inches in the Second Pattern
or Short Land Musket introduced in 1768. The impending crisis of 1793 forced the British Army to purchase a large
store of arms belonging to the East India Company many of which were shipped to foreign stations in Canada, the
West Indies and Newfoundland. Soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot were issued the India Pattern
Brown Bess Musket.
The success of military operations depended in great measure upon the compact and well regulated order of march.
Troops were marched in open columns of companies, subdivisions, or sections, in quarter distance columns formed in
mass or line or in fours according to circumstances and the nature of the country.
Also practised daily was the bayonet exercises. Soldiers learned to thrust against a standing enemy, against a man
in trench or on horseback, a parry against a sabre stroke, and finally, the point. The bayonet charge was also practised
for when firing became ineffective, this is how most battles were decided.
In order for soldiers in a platoon, company or battalion of infantry to be effectively moved from point to point or
deployed on the battlefield, it was essential for them to move in the same way and operate their primary weapon,
the flintlock musket, in a coordinated manner. For this reason, the peacetime British Army used almost all available
time for training in foot drill and the firing exercises. The better trained and more experienced a soldier was, the
more predictably he performed on the eighteenth century battlefield. That is why veteran units consistently outfought
less experienced units.
Experienced British infantrymen could load and fire their flintlocks three to four times per minute on their own
without command. Although slow by the standards of modern firearms, this was an exceptionally high rate of fire
given the requirements of loading a flintlock musket.
Infantry formations which fired too early and at too long a range wasted their efforts, tired themselves out, and
demoralized themselves by inflicting few casualties. Formations which had the training to wait until the enemy had
closed to effective range tended to win battles.
The platoons fired according to a practiced system where different parts of the regiment's front would fire one after
the other in sequence. As a result, there would be no break in the fire and every platoon would fire at least three times per minute.
The common soldier marched and fought in full dress uniform. He carried with him all the food, clothing, ammunition,
other military equipment, and personal belongings he owned. As there were no baggage trains to assist, each soldier
carried approximately 60 pounds of equipment on his back. While British discipline was strict in peace time it was
even harsher on campaign. Frequent floggings were issued for lapses in regulations or lost kit while on the march.
The life of a soldier very often depended on whether he was on home or foreign service and on whether it was during
peace or war time. Despite the location, drills were stricly demanded each day. Soldiers drilled three times a day
under the watchful eyes of seasoned NCO’s. During the day, which began at daybreak, the men spent between six and
eight hours on the parade square, drilling so that their responses would become automatic to the commands of their
officers. With such entensive drilling and training, the British Army believed their men would perform better when
in a battle situation.