When the 68th was converted to a Light Corps in 1808, a number of changes took place in its uniform. All Light Infantry (including the Light Companies of Line Battalions) wore the bugle-horn badge in their head-dress, this device still being the badge of modern Light Infantry, resulting from the use of the bugle to transmit orders over the extensive distances covered by such troops in action. A green tuft was worn above the badge, which distinguished Light Infantry from the Line, who wore a red and white plume.
Various types of head-dress were worn in the Army, but Light Infantry adopted the cylindrical or "stovepipe" shako. This was made of felt with a leather peak and foul-weather "fall", a large flap of leather folded inside the rear of the shako which could be dropped down over the collar to protect against heavy rain or intense sunlight.
The famous British redcoat identified all our Infantry Battalions (except the two Rifle Regiments who were dressed in green), each Regiment being distinguished by the colour of its facings (the collar, cuffs and shoulder-straps) and the shape, colour and spacing of the lace on the jacket. Officers wore a scarlet, double-breasted jacket, Sergeants in scarlet, soldiers in a duller, brick
red, single-breasted tunic. By 1811 serious consideration was being given to making all Light Infantry uniforms less conspicuous but Waterloo & the end of the war came before any final decision was taken.
A three and a half inch (8cm) leather stock was worn around the neck to preserve a 'soldierly' aspect, which was rarely allowed to be discarded even on campaign. In full-dress, tight white breeches were worn with black, knee length woollen gaiters, which were buttoned from the knee right down to the ankle. However, during the Peninsular War the wearing of grey or white overalls on campaign was officially sanctioned for active service.
The shoes issued to the men were "straight-lasted", in other words there was no difference between right or left, and they had to be worn alternatively on each foot to accept the shape of right and left. Two pairs were officially issued to every man each year but these rapidly wore out
on long marches, due to shoddy workmanship & poor quality materials from corrupt Government Contractors supplying the Army. It was often found that soles were only glued & not stitched on!
In addition to hot woollen trousers, choking leather stock, ill-fitting jacket and head-dress that did little to protect its wearer from either sun or rain, the infantryman was weighed down. Constricted by cross-belts and straps, carrying a total of nearly fifty pounds (22 kilo) of equipment and assorted baggage, he also had a musket weighing around 11 lbs (5 kilo).
The bulk of his personal effects were transported on his back in a canvas knapsack or pack. For most of the Peninsular War, this was of an envelope pattern, although by the time of Waterloo this had been replaced by a box-like structure lined with a wooden frame, which was far less practical, but supposedly looked 'more soldierly'. The greatcoat was carried rolled on top of the pack and a mess-tin was strapped on the outside top.
A haversack carried on the left side held the soldier's ration issue, together with any additional forage he could accumulate. Officially, campaign rations consisted of one pound of beef (which usually accompanied the army 'on the hoof'), three pounds of biscuit or bread, a third of a pint of rum or one pint of wine and two ounces of rice per day.
OFFICERS RANK DISTINCTIONS
One badge of rank work by officers on duty was a survivor from medieval times. The 'gorget' was originally a crescent-shaped piece of armour worn to protect the throat, but by Napoleonic times it had reduced in size to become purely ornamental. It still survives today as the red gorget patches on the uniform of a Staff-Officer.
Officers of the Light Infantry had a unique system of rank-marking. Because they had to be identifiable from both sides, whilst skirmishing in open-order, all markings had to be worn on both shoulders in the form of a pair of 'wings', the length and thickness of the bullion-edging distinguishing subalterns from captains. Field officers (Majors and above) wore a pair of epaulettes superimposed upon the wings; the rank of Major being indicated by a star on each shoulder; a Colonel by a crown. In the case of the 68th, the bullion was in silver, for all officers. Officers wore a variety of footwear; in the Light Infantry many adopted Light Cavalry style hussar boots. Light Infantry Officers carried a Light-Cavalry sabre in place of the usual straight Line-Infantry sword. This was fastened to a shoulder-belt, as was a whistle on a chain attached to a lion's-head boss. The whistle, also carried by Sergeants, (and still worn in the modern Light Infantry as the "Inkerman Chain"), was used to relay orders over short distances in the field. The modern system of sleeve chevrons for NCO's had been adopted early in the Napoleonic Wars. These stripes were worn on a piece of material of the facing colour on both sleeves.
THE FLINTLOCK MUSKET
The weapon used by most of the British Infantry changed very little for over a hundred and fifty years. This smoothbore, muzzle-loading, flintlock musket was nicknamed "Brown Bess" by its users. Flintlock weapons were fired by the striking of sparks by the flint attached to the hammer, into the priming powder, which in turn ignited the main charge in the barrel. Well-trained Infantry could fire three rounds in a minute, an almost incredible rate considering the number of movements required to load the weapon.
The flintlock was, however, prone to malfunctions: poor or worn out flints failing to spark; damp priming powder; the charge being too tightly packed down the barrel or so loose that it might drop out; constant firing fouling the barrel with waste from the charges etc. All these factors could contribute to as much as 25% of a Unit's volley misfiring, with an even worse percentage in wet weather. Although its maximum range was a great deal further, the "Brown Bess" was effective up to perhaps 150 yards, the British normally reserving their fire until the enemy were as close as 60 yards, when the massed volley effect was deadly. A seventeen inch triangular bayonet could be fitted onto the end of the muzzle, which turned the musket into an effective short pike, ample when the Infantry were formed in steady squares to resist assault from the bravest of cavalry. Bayonet charges were rare; the mere sight of the flash of several hundred British bayonets, advancing after having delivered crashing short-range volleys, was often enough to set an enemy into headlong retreat. It is interesting to note that, when being equipped as a Light Infantry Corps at Christmas 1808, a soldier of the 68th (John Green) remarked that the regiment was issued with muskets with backsights. Normally the musket was fitted with only a rudimentary front sight that also secured the bayonet, but the improved accuracy required by Light Infantry clearly warranted this refinement, which became the Light Infantry Pattern Musket.