Monday, December 29, 2014

British Heavy Cavalry Wearing A Cuirass

Frankly I am unconvinced the topic of who did and did not wear a cuirass in the British or French cavalry service during the Seven Years' War has been adequately researched. We've had a collective hive mind view they did not going back to the late 1960s. This has been based on very little first person evidence or citations. 

I've had  Cecil C. P. Lawsons, A History Of The Uniforms Of The British Army for forty years. When rereading some of it in the spring of 2009, I found this in Volume II on p. 145.

British Heavy Cavalry Cuirass
 “5th July 1758. The Royal Regiment of Horse Guards being ordered on immediate Foreign Service and it being necessary they should immediately be provided with a complete set of cuirasses and skull caps, which they have not time to provide in the ordinary way, I desire you will acquaint the Board of Ordinance that it will greatly facilitate the service if they will give directions for them being furnished with complete sets of cuirasses and skull caps from H M stores, on their being replaced by others or paid for by the Royal regiment of Horse Guards as the Board of Ordinance shall think fit.” Barrington

“In 1760 the 3rd. Horse (6th Dragoon Guards) and 4th Horse (7th Dragoon Guards) were also provided with cuirasses and skulls.”

Today (December 29, 2014) while reading Brent Nosworthy's, The Anatomy of Victory Battle Tactics 1689-1763 this appeared on p 132. “Initially, the British cavalry had no body armor, but in 1707 Marlborough gave his cavalry a cuirass in front.” Yes this is fifty years before the Seven Years' War. It is still an eye-opener.


  1. Bill, how well cataloged are surviving examples? When it comes to back and breast plate, museums and halls in the UK abound. Perhaps there's an 'expert' somewhere like the Royal Army Museum in Leeds and the Hôtel National des Invalides who can provide some remarks?

  2. Were they not issued them when not on a wartime footing? If the Horse Guards didn't have them immediately at hand, what does that infer about regular regiments?

    I've seen it suggested that the French heavies didn't wear them except when anticipating battle. But that begs the question whether it impacted their combat effectiveness if they didn't habitually wear them?

    1. The photographs are amazing with well painted figures and scenery that looks, well, real.
      Are any of your battles played solo?

  3. Michael,
    At the least recent research casts significant doubt about the notion saying French and British Heavy Cavalry did not wear breastplates. I think it is more than a shadow of doubt. Until recently a lot of gamers were adamant they did not.

    Churchill has an interesting quote about truth.

    "Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened."

    This is so true once the mind is locked up.

    My view. We need more first person research and no more quotes from secondary sources hundreds of eyars after the fact.


  4. Lercio,
    Thank you indeed for your kind remarks.
    No 99% of our games are with friends.

  5. The late master Eugene Leliepvre definitely felt that the French other ranks (troopers) wore the breast plate in battle and that the officers wore both plates in battle. See his charge of the Maison du roi at Fontenoy as an indication of same.


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