Many experts on British uniforms during the War for American Independence believe that there was a standard length for infantry coats. The following excerpt from the orders of the First Regiment of Foot Guards in London, 18 May 1776, proves otherwise. When the 1776 clothing was issued in May, commanding officers of the companies in the regiment were ordered to
"be carefull in fitting their Mens New Cloathing according to the pattern Corporal. General Rule to be observ'd for the length of the Coats are to be in the following proportions Vizt.
|Tall Grenadiers||5 1/4 Inches from the ground|
|Men of 5 feet 10||5 Inches|
|5 feet 8||4 1/2 Inches|
|5 feet 7 & Under||4 Inches|
NB these lengths to be taken the Men kneeling."(1)
Not only do these measurements vary from the standard 6" from the ground recommended by Simes, they are also proportioned according to a man's height(2). Surprisingly, the shorter men received longer coats! This certainly would not level the coat lengths in the regiment. It would, however, assist the shorter men who might have trouble getting their coats to turn back properly if there was not enough material left below the bottom of the facing after the garment was cut to its proper length.
On an entirely different subject, the order also provides some insight into the heights of men in the Guards. Tall grenadiers were those over 5' I0", while the minimum in a battalion company seems to be something close to 5' 7". This is confirmed by an order to recruit an augmentation to replace the men from the Regiment sent to America. The companies were allowed to enlist men of 5' 6 1/2" or taller.(3)
Finds like this order make it clear that standards within a specific regiment may have differed from what 20th Century researchers consider the norm. It emphasizes why good research on the clothing and accoutrements of a regiment requires looking at original orders and not using just the Royal Warrants or standard military guides of the period such as Simes.
1. Orders, First Regiment of Foot Guards, London, 18 May 1776, Order Books of the First Guards, manuscripts in Regimental Headquarters, Grenadier Guards, Wellington Barracks, London, reprinted courtesy of the Lt. Colonel Commanding the Regiment.
2. Thomas Simes, A Military Course for the Government and Conduct of a Battalion (London: 1777) as quoted in Hew Strachan, British Military Uniforms 1768- 1796 (London Arms and Armour Press, 1975), p. 190.
3. Orders, Brigade of Foot Guards, London, 27 March 1776, from the Order Books of the First Guards.
Submitted by Bill Burke NWTA Patternmaster
The NWTA Patternmaster recommends that members use the new BAR regimental coat pattern. This is a full-size pattern and comes in sizes 40, 42, 44, 46, and 48. The cost is $12.00 to non-BAR members. Order it from the BAR Patternmaster, Richard L. Ponsini, 56 West Warren St., Washington, NJ 07882. You may call him after 6:00 PM Eastern at 908-689-3142.
Please note that the pattern has standard length body, facings, sleeves, etc. These may need to be altered to make your coat fit properly. Also, these patterns come with no instructions whatsoever. It would really help the membership if someone who is experienced in making uniform coats would draft and forward a basic set of regimental coat assembly instructions to the NWTA Patternmaster, 3416 Washington, Racine WI 53405, (414) 633- 9726
A list of other currently approved patterns will be published in The Courier once their documentation has been completed.
(10-96 PLEASE NOTE: The new NWTA Patternmaster would also appreciate your help and input, and may be reached by snail at Ralph H. Briggs, 1537 31st, Des Moines, IA 50311. Phone (515)277-2961. The list of NWTA approved commercial patterns as of July 1996 is available.)