Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

La Giberne

Le Baudrier

Le Haversac

Personal Items

Le Bidon

Non-Regulation Kit

Bread Bags

Gloves

Uniform of the Grenadiers-á-Pied de la Garde: 1810-1815

Equipment

By Paul Dawson

 

La Giberne

This was a leather box, with a large flap, containing a cut out wooden block. In this block were three sections, two large square ones, each containing a pack of 15 cartouches, a 6 drilled holes in the middle, containing five ready cartridges and the oil bottle. More cartridges would be in the backpack. Gun maintenance gear, spare flints, a horn or wooden practice flint, and a turnscrew would be in a small pouch outside the box proper, inside the giberne, or elsewhere in the kit.

Interior of the Giberne


On the large flap would be the brass orna ments, but also to keep down the flap, even when not buckled down. Inside the main flap would be a lighter second flap, as a safety double.

On campaign the giberne would often be protected by a couvre-giberne (cartridge box cover), an undyed linen cover, pulled over the large outside flap.

Underneath the giberne were two white leather straps with brass buckles, to strap on the Bonnet-de-Police.

All the leather straps were sturdy buff leather, rough side out, and the soldiers would spend hours whitening them with a mixture of pipe clay, dutch blue and some other ingredients. And polishing all the brass bits on his uniform. And his gun....

A stamped brass crowned eagle device ornamented the giberne, with brass flaming grenades in the corner. The eagle and crown cost 2,25 francs and the grenades 3,25. This device appeared on the white linen campaign cover. The giberne cost 6,25 francs , and the belt 8 francs.

On the large top flap of the giberne, the soldat’s number and issue number would appear, along with his regiment, company and date of issue, as shown in the example below from 1816.

Left to Right.  Soldat Number (1208), Company, Regiment (Garde Royale),
Date of issue (1816)

 

Three different styles of giberne brasses have been attested to. The first have a crowned eagle in the centre, with grenades in the corners, flames innermost, the second having an uncrowned eagle, flames on the grenades outermost, and a third, a small crowned eagle, the grenade flame outermost. It is impossible to put these devices in a chronological order, as can be done with the different brasses for the Chasseurs-á-Pied.

On campaign a white linen cover was worn over the flap bearing the crowned eagle and grenade device in black. The cover cost 0,60 francs.

Two patterns of giberne were issued that for soldat and the other for Fourier, and Sergents. This giberne was considerably smaller than that for the soldat.  As well as this, at least two patterns of giberne were used that of 1786 and that of 1812. The comparative measure ments are given below:

 

 

 
Length  
Depth 
Width
NCO (1786) 
198 mm
90 mm
54 mm
Soldat (1786)
231 mm
122 mm
68 mm
Soldat (1812)   
230 mm
120 mm
65 mm
NCO (Bardin 1812)
190 mm
70 mm
65 mm
Soldat (1817)
205 mm
120 mm
75 mm
NCO (1817) 
205 mm
120 mm
55 mm
Soldat (1819)   
205 mm 
120 mm

80 mm

 

The 1812 giberne was designed to hold two packets of 15 cartridges for both NCO and Soldat. The Soldats giberne also held 5 spare cartridges, an oil bottle, a worm and spring clamp. The NCO’s held only the oil bottle. The 1817 pattern giberne held two packets of 15 cartridges, an oil bottle, a single cartridge and a worm. For NCO’s, it held two packets of 10 cartridges, an oil bottle, a worm, and a spring clamp.

On 13 April 1814, the giberne ornamnets were changed. The crowned eagle was replaced by the Royalist Arms of France.

Giberne, Corps Royal du Grenadiers.

The new Corps Royal du Grenadiers a pied de France retained much of their old Imperiale uniforms. The bonnet received a new plaque, new buttons bearing the fleur de lis were issued, and a new habit was issued replacing the Habit Francais of 1786.

Grenadier Corps Royal du Grenadiers-á-Pied de la France,
1815

Le Baudrier

The sabre belt was of the same pattern for all Guard Infantry, with fittings for both sabre and baionette and cost 8,50 francs. Three lengths of belts were issued to the army:

Length 1 160cm
Length 2 150cm
Length 3 140cm

When a soldat joined the Grenadiers from the Ligne, he retained his Ligne equipment until it was replaced. The belts were not replaced, but were picqued (i.e. the raised stitching on the edges of the belt).

Le Haversac

The Grande Modele pattern back pack was made out of cow hide with white edging and straps. All buckles were brass. The back pack cost 8 francs.  The item was officially regulated in 1786 and 1801. The comparative internal measure ments of both are given below:                     

 
Width    
Depth 
Front to Back
1786  
487 mm
325 mm 
108 mm
1801
460 mm
325 mm

108 mm

 

Both patterns were to be closed by three straps 203 mm by 27 mm wide. The strap which encompassed the pack was to be 705 mm long and 36 mm wide.

Inside the havresac would be the soldier's possessions, all he had was what he could carry. This would be spare clothing (anything he wasn't wearing at the time, usually spare shirts and drawers, trouser(s), some cartridges, personal items (soap and some kind of towel, glasses if he needed them, shaving kit, cleaning gear (shoe polish, belt whitener, brass polish, ...), cutlery, cards, money, maybe some herbs or salt or pepper, ...) and whatever else he possessed. Strapped on the outside would be all that wouldn't fit in, apart from the capote, like spare shoes, clogs, a bidon or marmite, dry wood and food. There is also some discussion about whether or not a cover was used to roll up the capote or the habit in before it was strapped to the havresack. Pictorial evidence is unclear, but it isn't mentioned in the regulations.


The ‘1811 grande modelle’ Garde Pattern Haversac

In the giberne would be found (besides 35 cartouches, and more cartouches would be in the havresac): 3 silex et plomb (flints with lead covers - these serve to hold the flint in the cock), 1 silex en bois ou corne (flint in wood or horn, used for firing practice, to avoid using up real flints, that were always in short supply), 1 pièce de graisse (piece of lard), 1 bouteille à huile (oil bottle - olive oil would be used), 1 tourne-vis (screwdriver), 1 epinglette (small pin to clear the touch hole) and sometimes the tire-balle (the worm or ball puller, to extract balls from the barrel. At least every corporal would have one for his escouade, but many veterans also carried one).

Cleaning kit for the gun would be in the backpack, and consist of a box of brick dust (to scrounge or sand bits of the gun) and some linen rags. Veteran soldiers would always have a bit of rag handy in battle (in the shako, in the cuff flap, between two buttons of the habit, ...), to clean the pan and the frizzen. The epinglette or pin would often be in a set with a small horse hair brush, attached to a looped chain and fixed to the buttons of the coat, to have quick and easy access in battle.  You'd be surprised how often you need these bits to clean the pan, the frizzen and the touch hole.

Other cleaning kit and tools would comprise a trousse garnie (a tool kit, with various tools for various chores), a vergette (clothes wisk), an alène (an awl to pierce leather, for leather repairs), a martinet (a little hammer or mallet used for polishing the giberne), the astique for cleaning brass and a polissoir or polishing brush.

For personal hygiene, the soldier would have some soap, and a linen towel, a comb (peigne), and a curette (for shaving). And he would also get a tire-bouton (a button puller - to help him fasten the buttons on his gaiters, that would sometimes be pretty tight, especially the white parade gaiters!).

And of course, he would always have his livre de solde (pay book), in which would be note details about service, pay, wounds, unit transfers, promotions, issued kit, and a shortlist of offences and their punish ment.

Personal Items

Of course, next to these issued items, most (if not all) soldiers would also carry personal items (and a money purse!!). Small me mentoes from home, perhaps some writing stuff (as all Grenadiers had to be able to read and write), some cutlery (a spoon, a fork, an eating knife), maybe a larger (folding) knife, glasses, if he needed them, a candle, a tinder box (with a flint, a striker and some tinder) to light fires, a pipe, some tobacco or a cleaning stick for the buttons. Clogs (sabots), because they are pretty warm, always dry and actually rather comfortable, would also be a popular item.

Putting it all somewhere

Of course, all this kit needed to be put somewhere. And the only place where a Grenadier could put it, was his backpack and his uniform itself. The clothes he wasn't wearing would go in the backpack (apart from the capote or the habit which would be rolled up and strapped on top), and so would most of the small and the personal items. Cartouches and gun tools would mostly go into the giberne. Some stuff would also go into other places, there was a bit of space in the bonnet-á-poil (enough for the bonnet cover, and some small personal items, the pipe and tobacco perhaps), and there were a few pockets on the uniform pieces that would keep a handkerchief, the knife perhaps. Or bits would be hung from the uniform (the knife attached to the giberne perhaps).

Other items, like food, the bidon or the marmite, clogs and shoes, and firewood would be strapped or attached to the backpack. Or perhaps food was put into the bread bag - that is, if the French ever used one...

Bidon

Many types and varieties of water bottles were worn by soldiers. Glass in wicker, leather or wooden bottles or real gourdes (hollowed out fruits of a pumpkin variety) would be worn with a string or a strap over the right shoulder (at the left hip).

Non-Regulation Kit

Soldiers would often have bits of equipment that were not in the regulations, but still very practical on campaign.

Bread bags are an item that is under discussion. It is an item that is not in the regulations, and there is little pictorial evidence, but it was an item that was widely used in other armies to carry food and other small articles, and since soldiers are quick to pick up handy features.... If worn, they would have been over the right shoulder, so at the left hip.

Gloves (mitaines) would often be worn in cold conditions, usually with cut off fingers, so as not to hinder loading the weapon, and if really cold, leather mittens would be worn over them, sometimes the right one attached to the sleeve with a string, so that it could be taken off when firing (there is a famous picture of Maréchal Ney at the Beresina doing just that).

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2003

 

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