Life in the Red Coat, 1721-1815
Helion Conference at Derby Museum & Art Gallery on Saturday 27 April
Report by Andy Grainger, BCMH
This event was presented by Helion to support their From Reason to Revolution range of books.
BCMH was delighted to support this event and to strengthen our relationship with Helion. A small discount was available to BCMH Members.
The event was held at Derby Museum and Art Gallery in a room that was next to the display, including original panelling, of the room where the Jacobites famously made the decision to halt their march on London in December 1745. The galleries on Joseph Wright of Derby and local Regiments, including 9/12 Lancers were nearby.
A varied collection of speakers – independent scholars and early career researchers had attracted a capacity audience of about 80.
The papers demonstrated the differences between the army of the C18 and that of Wellington in the Peninsular.
Andrew Cormack had researched the records of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and discovered that most soldiers who joined the army in the first half of the C18 typically had some sort of trade whereas those a hundred years later tended to be from much poorer rural backgrounds. On a personal note I would suggest that in another hundred years, the rank and file of the 1914 BEF was also largely drawn from the very poorest in society. He also suggested that if a person survived beyond the age of about ten they might enjoy a lifespan not very much shorter than that of today.
Jonathan Oates looked at the Duke of Cumberland’s Army to see if, amongst other things, it was comprised mostly of Germans and Scots. Neither was found to be the case. Alexander Burns spoke, via skype from West Virginia on the subject of Methodism in the army in the C18 demonstrating the varied reactions of the officer corps to this movement whose support came largely from the rank and file.
Rob Griffith, an authority on the subject of the largely European recruited 5/60th Rifles demonstrated that Wellington’s prejudices against foreigners in terms of desertion and unreliability seemed unfounded.
Back nearer home Brendan Morrissey spoke on the Army’s involvement in the Gordon Riots from the point of view of some of the memoirists including some interesting maps of London and the relevant locations. He remarked that twice as many people were killed by the Army in the Gordon Riots than in all 38 years on Op BANNER.
A young researcher, Rob Tildesley spoke on the Siege of Minorca in 1756 when its unprepared garrison surrendered swiftly to a large French force. There were some interesting remarks on the garrison’s particularly poor relations with the local population.
To round off the day Zack White spoke on reactions to victory and defeat by officers and men in Wellington’s Peninsular Army and Carole Divall spoke of the reactions to battle by Napoleonic era soldiers. Many of their reactions had been echoed by veterans of the Falklands with whom I had spoken the previous day.
The Conference was a credit to Helion and echoed by a capacity audience.
Other Helion Conferences in 2019 are:
Saturday 21st September: National Army Museum on the theme 'Defending the Crown, Armies of the later Stuart Monarchs 1660-1719'.
Saturday 2nd November: Shrewsbury on an English Civil War theme 'Fire and Sword along the Marches'.