British Army Individual Unit Strengths: 1808-1815
the most part, these files are derived from material already available on line
as part of my series on British Army Theatre Returns:
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
Ordnance, Engineers, & Miscellaneous
Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2014 - February 2016; last updated December 2018