East Yorkshire Militia 1760-1816

This page attempts to set out what I can find of the basic organisation, dress and equipment of the Regiment of East Yorkshire Militia, from its initial embodiment in 1760 to its disembodiment in 1816, with a very brief note at the end on the short lived Supplementary, or Second, Regiment.

The discussion assumes a basic background knowledge of British military uniform of this era. For a very brief general note on the system of clothing and equipping the militia, see the parent page here.

The page is ordered chronologically, by periods of embodiment, sub-divided as necessary for officers, other ranks, drummers and colours. In the absence of any regimental history, Norfolk’s pamphlet of 1965 remains the default starting point. Most published and archival sources cited are listed at the end, alphabetically by author’s surname; other sources are noted in the text as we go. The coverage here would benefit by more input from archival sources, but at least it’s a beginning.

Click to enlarge images.


First embodiment 1760-1762

After a slow start to its organisation, the regiment of ten companies was raised in late 1759 under Col Sir Digby Legard. Arms were first issued on 3 December, it was  embodied on 8 January 1760, and it was disembodied in 1762. It was soon nicknamed, from the colour of its facings, the “Yorkshire Buffs”, or “Beverley Buffs” after the county town where it was headquartered.


The dress of officers for this period is known from a remarkable, though under-celebrated, group of items once at Leeds, and now at York Museums, as noted in this post. The coat, waistcoat and breeches are clearly associated, but the York online catalogue, such as it is, does not identify or group them, and connects only the waistcoat and breeches. The three accession numbers are from widely different years, and the significance of this uniform may have been lost over the decades. The coat and waistcoat, when at Leeds Museum, were drawn by Lawson in his Volume II.

The scarlet coat (YORCM L1950 32) is lined and faced in buff, with ten buttons and square ended silver lace loops on each lapel, and one at each side of the low collar, with four “dart” shaped loops and buttons on each pocket, and on and above each indented cuff. The silver buttons have a simple striped pattern. There is apparently no associated epaulette. A rear view is not available online.

The buff waistcoat (YORCM : 2010.984) has twelve smaller silver buttons and square ended loops of narrower silver lace at the front, with three on each pointed cross pocket flap. (The lace has not, as the Museum’s online note suggests, faded from gold.) It is said to have a vent at each side and one at the rear waist. It is lined in off white or buff material. The buff breeches (YORCM 1974.69) have a tie and four buttons at each knee.

Other ranks and drummers

Norfolk, using an unidentified source, gives the men’s uniform as “a hat with cockade, a shirt and black stock, a scarlet kersey coat with buff facings and white braid, white waistcoat, scarlet breeches, white leggings and shoes.” Western notes that the regiment’s first clothing of 1760 was not satisfactory in  quality, and for 1761 the contractor was changed.

For arms and accoutrements, clearly drawing from the Ordnance warrant, Norfolk notes for privates: muskets with bayonets, scabbards, and leather slings; cartouch boxes with belts; small hangers with scabbards, and waist belts. For sergeants: halberts, hangers, scabbards, and waist belts. For drummers: drums, hangers, scabbards, and waist belts. From the format of similar militia warrants, we can add plausibly that the sergeants’ hangers were large, the others small, that all had brass hilts, and that belts were of tanned leather. The drums would presumably have borne the same arms as the regimental colour (see below).


Again from the Ordnance warrant, Norfolk gives the regimental colour as buff with a Union canton, with the arms of the Lord Lieutenant, Henry Ingram, Seventh Viscount Irwin, in the centre.


Second embodiment 1778-1783

The regiment was re-embodied on 3 March 1778 under Col Henry Maister, commissioned on 19 June 1778, and disembodied in March 1783. It was present at the Warley encampment in 1778 and the Coxheath encampment in 1779. A newspaper report of August 1779, when the regiment was at Coxheath, claimed that the Marquis of Camarthen proposed to raise a grenadier company, 120 strong, to be attached to the regiment, presumably recruited as volunteers and not balloted. This is a little strange, given that a grenadier company already existed in 1778, as documented by De Loutherbourg (see below). A list of forces in Great Britain in 1782, among the Paterson plans, gives the regiment as having eight companies only, with a total strength of 589.

The regiment’s precedence numbers during this period, as given by Baldry, were – 1778-79: 9. 1779-80: 13. 1780-81: 38. 1781-82: 1. 1782-83: 36.


Parkyn and Lawson cite a militia list of 1778 giving buff facings and silver lace, as before. Given that the men’s buttons and loops were documented as in pairs (see below) we can assume that those of the officers were arranged likewise.

An inspection report of May 1778, quoted by Norfolk, observes: “A remarkably fine corps of officers. Have all Fuzees, and salute very well.” (The carrying of fusils by battalion company officers is unusual. Fusils were finally laid aside for flank company officers across the army by an order of 1792.)

A sheet in the British Museum Collection of drawings of headgear from 1778 by De Loutherbourg, preparatory to his paintings of Warley Camp of 1779 and 1780, includes details of the cap of an officer of the grenadier company. (This is shown in Carman, 1957, and noted by Lawson.) The notes read: “the same moto [‘Pro Aris et Focis’]. leters & ground of the front black and the ornaments silver. tassels according to the turn up of the Regt. the grenade is silver with the initial letters of the Regt.” The initials on the rear grenade, judging by a pioneer’s cap (below), were “M” over “YB” for “Yorkshire Buffs”. Another note by De Loutherbourg among several related sketches in the Anne S K Brown collection, is given by Carman (1993). It reads “Scarlet & Buff/Grd, Caps red/ top right side/ ft silver ½ Gaits’. (Though the related sketches are online, the note is not.)

This all seems to indicate that the grenadier company officer’s cap has a scarlet top and buff cord and tassels; the plate, apart from the distinctive motto, appears to match the 1768 universal pattern, with a black ground, silver ornaments and black lettering, though no “G” or “R” is visible at each side of the central lion and crowned helmet. The small grenade at the rear of the cap is silver with black letters. The sketch shows the hair clubbed. “f[ron]t silver” may refer to the cap plate or possibly to the lace loops on the coat front, scarlet with buff facings. Half gaiters are worn with breeches – this would extend to all unmounted officers, at least in this season or order of dress. We can expect waistcoats and breeches to have been buff, as normal at the time for a buff faced regiment.

Other ranks

grenadier (possibly)

The 1780 Osborn militia book (Carman, 1958) shows the men with buttons and square ended white lace loops set in pairs on their buff facings. (Other details of the Osborn images seem too generic to be absolutely secure.) We might expect waistcoats and breeches to have been buff, as normal for a buff faced regiment. The wearing of half gaiters by officers (see above) means that these would have been worn also by other ranks.

The caps of the grenadier company would have been a version of the officer’s cap shown above, with red cloth, buff tassels and white metal ornaments on a black ground. The Loutherbourg drawings in the Anne S K Brown collection include several of grenadiers of different regiments at Warley in 1778, but only one wears short gaiters, as noted by the artist for this regiment (see above). The drawing is marked as the 6th Foot, but differs in several points of detail from other drawings of the grenadiers of the Sixth in the group, not least the gaiters. It’s possible that it is of the East York regiment; if so, we can note that the wings are fringed, that the pouch badge is rounded – perhaps a rose or a simple grenade – and that the turnback ornament may be just a button.


The British Museum Loutherbourg sketches also show a pioneer’s fur cap, with this note: “the same moto in rede letter[s] pro – aris et – focis. tassels crimson – the front red lead. ornament silver. letters red.” The sketch of the cap plate shows it to be of the 1768 universal pattern, the motto excepted, though the axes inside the saws are placed vertically each side of the central lion and crowned helmet, so that the axe heads are where the “G” and “R” might normally be expected. The rear ornament is a silver rose with “M” over “YB” in red Roman capitals – a very early use of the Yorkshire white rose as a badge. The pioneer appears to wear a moustache and short beard.


A newspaper report of October 1778 announces that when the flank companies of regiments at Warley were detached to form temporary battalions, the battalion companies, remaining hutted on the common, were to receive new blankets, woollen caps and gloves at government expense for the cold weather.


The Loutherbourg sketches show a drummer’s cap, with these notes: “PRO.ARIS – ET – FOCIS. the cap and front very small. the tassels crimson. the front red lead. ornaments and crown silver. letters black.” (“Silver” here perhaps means simply a white metal.) The cap plate is of a narrow, mitre shape, with a white metal or silver edge and the design of a crown over the Royal cypher, above a three part scroll with the motto as given.


Third embodiment 1792-1801

The regiment was re-embodied in ten companies on 31 December 1792, again under Col Henry Maister. It was augmented by two more companies in 1795. A regiment of Supplementary Militia was organised in 1797 and embodied in 1798, but disembodied in October 1799 (see below). In August 1801 the Supplementary men were re-embodied as a draft to augment the “old” regiment, which was apparently disembodied in late 1801 with the cessation of hostilities.

The regiment’s precedence number from 1793 to 1802 was 32.


Parkyn notes that the Military Library of 1800 gives silver lace and epaulettes still for officers. Given the white legwear for other ranks (see below) we can take it that that of officers was now white also, rather than buff. An officer’s silver belt plate hallmarked for 1795 has been sold by Lawrence’s; it has a beaded border and an incised design of a crowned garter inscribed “PRO • ARIS • ET • FOCIS” in Roman capitals, enclosing “M / EY”, all on an eight rayed star. Parkyn describes this design from the Jennens note book, but within a double beaded border (see also below), and dates it to c 1812.

Elements of the design on this plate are also found on silvered buttons of the regiment which might belong to this period. The design shows “M / EY” within an eight rayed star which does not always extend fully to the beaded border; this is as drawn by Ripley and Darmanin (271), but in a flat form rather than convex. It is recorded in diameters of 20 and 15 mm. (A similar convex button might also be of this period but is shown below, for the next embodiment.)

In the National Army Museum is a silver gorget, inscribed “The Buffs”, which until the recent restructuring was on display and clearly identified to this regiment. However, in the Museum’s inventory this is attributed to the Third Foot, which seems far more likely.

Other ranks

Evidence of dress for this period seems more sparse, but a good idea of the developing style is given by an engraving of a grenadier private in Edmund Scott’s Manual Exercise of 1797, copied and described by Lawson and reproduced in Haythornthwaite, 1983 and 1987, the latter in colour. The red coat has a yellowish buff collar, lapels and cuffs. The white metal buttons and loops are possibly still in pairs, and the collar is edged in lace, with a button and loop at each side. The red wings are of an unusual square ended shape, with two lines of lace in a diamond chain; the edges of the straps are laced, and the outer edges of the wings are laced and fringed in white.

The cap is tall and fairly flat topped, in a blackish brown fur. It has no plate, but does have a white cord and tassels, and a white feather plume at the left, set towards the back. The white waistcoat is single breasted, and white gaiter-trousers, or pantaloons with feet, are worn; this was presumably the case also for the other companies. The white shoulder belt has a brass oval plate and above that a brass match case – a non-functional hangover, officially laid aside across the army in 1784, but occasionally kept as a company distinction. (I think this is more likely than the grenade badge also suggested for this shape in the image.)

A brass equivalent of the officer’s silver belt plate discussed above is held by York Museums; it has the same incised design within a double beaded border. This might be the plate indicated in the Scott image.


At Hull Museums is a drum major’s mace, which, since I can only guess at its dating, may as well be mentioned at this point. It measures 119 cm, and the wooden staff is painted black. The silver head has a flat top engraved with a Yorkshire rose, around which is inscribed “EAST YORKS MILITIA” in Roman capitals, completed with a line of floral decoration.


Fourth and fifth embodiments 1803-14, 1815-16

The regiment was embodied on 21 March 1803, and now came under the command of Col Sir Charles Hotham, commissioned on 16 May the same year. Following his court martial on charges of irregularity and drunkenness on duty, Hotham was succeeded by Col Arthur Maister, commissioned on 12 February 1808. It was disembodied in 1814, re-embodied in June 1815 with the renewal of hostilities, and disembodied in 1816.

The regiment’s precedence number for this period was 67.


The copy of the Hawkes tailoring book at the National Army Museum contains a drawing and description for an officer’s coat, apparently of this period (thanks to Ben Townsend for an image). The scarlet coat has a collar, lapels and cuffs described as “pale buff”, with rows of eight large buttons at the front, now spaced singly, with four on each cuff and below each pointed cross pocket flap, and two at the rear waist, with two small (“breast” size) buttons at each side of the collar. The collar, lapels and cuffs all have buff twist holes to their buttons, with scarlet twist holes on the flaps and four at the rear waist. The turnbacks are white cassimere, with no edging. The body is lined with white rattinet, the skirts with white cassimere, and the collar is lined with scarlet cloth.

The coat is unlaced, but epaulettes and buttons would still have been silver. Charles Hamilton Smith’s chart of 1815 (see below) also shows singly spaced buttons with lace or metal in silver, but now shows the breeches as buff – a feature that may be accurate, or may be Smith’s default colour for a buff faced regiment.

The pattern button shown under the previous embodiment (Ripley & Darmanin 271) continued to be worn, but with a larger central star on a convex silvered button. A gilt version (shown here) is also known, 18 mm in diameter. (A later pattern, with the design in chunky relief of a rose over “EAST YORK”, is gilt, but this may post-date our period.)

Other ranks

A plate in Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire, though a bit garbled in some details, as Walker’s plates can be, shows the men’s dress for the earlier part of this period. The central figure is a private of the light company in a jacket with buff facings, though it’s not at all clear whether the buttons and square ended loops are spaced singly or in pairs. The red wings, and possibly the collar, are laced; the wings have a broad red outer edge that might have been intended as a fringe or tuft in the original sketch. Breeches are white. The cap, with a green tuft, has a white metal rose, as worn by West Yorkshire militia at this time, over a light infantry bugle – unless the rose is a misinterpretation of the knot of a strung bugle. If not, it would follow that the other companies also wore it as a cap plate.

In the background are men apparently representing the battalion and grenadier companies, large tufts being all that is visible of the grenadier’s wings. The skirts of their jackets have full double turnbacks of a slightly earlier style, either a mistake or an indication that the sketches for this plate, even though it was published in 1814, were made at the very start of this embodiment. The ornament at the turnback join appears to be a button. The light company man wears a rectangular brass belt plate, which could perhaps have the design of a rose within a garter; Haythornthwaite (1983) compares this with an extant example, which I have not seen, with the design of a rose over a scroll inscribed “East York”.

A Royal warrant of 20 November 1805 reminded colonels of militia regiments that, as in regiments of the line, “Bear Skin Caps should be considered as a part of the dress of the Grenadiers”, and required them to supply and replace such caps as necessary. An application by regimental agents for an additional allowance to cover the cost of grenadier caps was refused by the Secretary at War, who declared it a charge against the existing clothing allowance. This strongly suggests that some militia grenadier companies had not been provided with such caps for some time. From 1806 the warrant changed that.

Hamilton Smith

Hamilton Smith’s chart of 1815 shows square ended lace loops spaced singly. Though Lawson copies Smith’s image of the lace as showing a red stripe between two black stripes, the copy of the chart in Haythornthwaite’s Wellington’s Army (2002) shows simply one red line, towards the outside of the loop. An actual sample of the lace from circa 1820 matches Lawson’s version; either this is correct and the single red line is wrong, or the single line was altered to the more complex pattern at some point. As noted above for officers, Smith now shows the breeches as buff, which may be accurate or may simply be his default colour for all buff faced regiments.

The convex silvered button shown above for officers during this embodiment is also known in pewter for other ranks. A diameter of 15 mm is recorded.


           East Yorkshire Supplementary Militia / 2nd East Yorkshire Militia 1798-1801

This short lived regiment was organised in 1796-97, and presumably embodied in late 1798, though it does not appear in the April 1799 Militia List. It was disembodied in October 1799, but re-embodied in August 1801, and the men drafted into the “old” regiment.

Norfolk states that the uniform was “as for the old militia”, though the officers’ lace and metal may have been gilt, judging by a button not recorded by Ripley and Darmanin; this is convex, with the raised design as for the “old” regiment, but with the centre inscribed “M  / EY / 2”. It is recorded with a diameter of 19 mm.

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W Y Baldry, “Order of Precedence of Militia Regiments”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 57, Spring 1936.

W Y Carman, British Military Uniforms from Contemporary Pictures, London, 1957.

W Y Carman, “Militia Uniforms, 1780”, JSAHR Vol 36, No 147, September 1958.

W Y Carman, “Philip J De Loutherbourg and the Camp at Warley, 1778”, JSAHR Vol 71, No 288, Winter 1993.

Derby Mercury, 2 October 1778.

Philip Haythornthwaite, “The Yorkshire Militia, 1814”, Military Modelling 1983 Manual.

Philip J Haythornthwaite, British Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars, 1987.

Cecil C P Lawson, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol II, London, 1941; Vol III, London, 1961.

Newcastle Courant, 21 August 1779.

R W S Norfolk, Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces of the East Riding 1689-1908, East Yorkshire Local History Society, Beverley, 1965.

H G Parkyn, “English Militia Regiments, 1757-1935: their Badges and Buttons”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 60, Winter 1936.

Capt Daniel Paterson, “Plan of Hengrave and Fornham Camps …” in “Maps of encampments in England and Great Britain, 1778-82, c 1784-91”, Royal Collection RCIN 734032.

Howard Ripley & Denis Darmanin, English Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881, Military Historical Society, 2010.

George Walker, The Costume of Yorkshire, London, 1814.

J R Western, The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century, London & Toronto, 1965.

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