Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

British Army Individual Unit Strengths: 1808-1815
Introduction

By Andrew Bamford

For the most part, these files are derived from material already available on line as part of my series on British Army Unit Strengths: 1808-1815. Full information about the source and contents of the files can be found in the introduction to that series.

That set of files directly reproduced the Monthly Returns submitted to Horse Guards and the war Office by the various field armies and other overseas commands. These contained a listing of all units in that command, with a breakdown of their strength. What I have done here is to take the monthly figures for each individual unit and combine them into a single spreadsheet so that changes over time can be tracked. To facilitate this process, a number of graphs have been included to enable a quick visual appreciations of fluctuations in manpower.

For infantry and cavalry units, each unit has a single spreadsheet which may well include data from several theatres of war as the unit moved around. Data when on passage between theatres is only rarely available, and by virtue of the nature of the source of the data, there are no details from when a unit might be on the home station. However, for supporting arms – artillery, and engineers – no distinction was made in the original returns between various sub-units; this means that all that I have been able to do is produce spreadsheets for, say, the Royal Horse Artillery in the Peninsula, or the Royal Staff Corps in Flanders.

In a few cases, it was possible to fill gaps in the existing data runs by taking data from unit-level returns in the National Archives WO17 series. This has been utilised in particular for the KGL detachments in North Germany during 1813-14, and for some of the battalions in Moore’s army on the retreat to Corunna for which there is no January 1809 Monthly Return but where some of the battalion returns have survived. Additionally, although those Peninsular infantry units that were combined into Provisional Battalions 1811-1814 are listed as individual units throughout the period that they were combined, I have also created spreadsheets linking this data so as to provide total figures for the Provisional Battalions as well. Thus, for example, there is a full run of data for the 2/24th Foot and the 2/58th, but there is also a third spreadsheet for the 3rd Provisional Battalion that was formed by combining these two units.

Finally, I must repeat the caveats that accompanied the original sets of data. These spreadsheets were created with a specific task in mind, namely the easy like-for-like comparison between units as part of a doctoral study of the regimental system. Therefore certain compromises had to be made that limit their wider utility. Most importantly, it should be understood that the figures provided are for the rank and file strengths only, with no details of officers, sergeants, or musicians. Including such would have doubled the amount of time necessary to make the transcriptions, and rendered the project unmanageable in terms of scope without adding much to its utility for the purpose for which it was undertaken. Unfortunately, this means that the closest one can come to knowing the full all-ranks strength of a unit is to follow Oman’s formula and add ten per cent to the figures given here. Nor was a record kept of every single column heading, so that no information is here reproduced relating to transfers of men and horses, nor of men discharged and horses cast (although some idea of these may be had by comparing the rise and fall of total figures – it is generally fairly obvious, for example, when an infantry battalion has received a batch of reinforcements). Finally, the focus of the project for which these sheets were created was on units on active service in Europe and North America, so that there is no data for units at home, nor for those in the East and West Indies. Coverage for the East Coast of Spain begins only in mid-1813, prior to which date I believe that returns from this force were included with those for Sicily, which station was not included in the sample for reasons of time – this omission I intend to correct in due course.

Unit Data by Month

Infantry Part I: the Foot Guards

Infantry Part II: 1st-49th Foot

Infantry Part III 50th-104th Foot and Provisional Units

Infantry Part IV Foreign and Garrison Units

Cavalry

Ordnance, Engineers, & Miscellaneous

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2014 - February 2016

 

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