This page mainly attempts to set out what I can find on the basic organisation, dress and equipment of the Third Regiment of West Yorkshire Militia, from its initial organisation as the Third Supplementary Militia in 1797 to its disembodiment in 1816. Also covered very briefly at the end are the two other, short lived, regiments of Supplementary Militia raised in 1797. The three regiments were initially numbered as the First to Third Supplementary, but promptly (and a bit confusingly) re-numbered as the Third to Fifth “regular” Militia; when the Third and Fourth were disbanded in 1799, the Fifth became the new Third. (The First Regiment is dealt with on this page, and the Second Regiment here. The West Yorkshire Local Militia of 1808 can be found on this page.)
This discussion does assume a basic general 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 coverage of the Third is ordered chronologically, by two periods of the embodiment of the regiment, sub-divided as necessary. Though the first embodiment was relatively brief, and there would clearly have been considerable continuity of dress between the two, it still seems to make sense to tackle the topic in two halves. The default reference is Raikes’s history of the regiment, listed at the end along with other published and archival sources, alphabetically by author’s surname; other sources are noted in the text as we go.
Click to enlarge images.
3rd West Yorkshire Supplementary Militia / 5th West Yorkshire Militia / 3rd West Yorkshire Militia
First embodiment 1798-1802
The regiment was organised and trained under Col Sir George Cooke, commissioned on 27 February 1797, as the Third West Yorkshire Supplementary Militia, the third of three such new regiments embodied in March 1798 – the First, Second and Third Supplementary. In May 1798 the flank companies of the three regiments were temporarily detached to help form two battalions, one of grenadiers and one of light infantry, for service in the Yorkshire District.
In August 1798 these were re-numbered in sequence with the two “regular” militia regiments of the Riding, becoming the Third, Fourth and Fifth, this regiment being the Fifth. On the disbandment of the Third and Fourth in December 1799, the Fifth was re-numbered to become the new Third. The Fifth/Third was based at Doncaster.
During this period the West Riding’s militia precedence number was 39.
Officers’ facings were green, like those of the First West York Militia, and their buttons silver; at a later date, and probably at this time also, they were spaced in pairs. Sheardown, though he does not cite a source, gives their “original” dress, presumably from 1797, as follows:
Scarlet lapelled cut-away coat, to show the waistcoat – fastened at the neck with hook and eye, laps broadly turned up, green facings; shirt frill above the third coat button, epaulet, gorget, white kersymere waistcoat and breeches, cocked hat and feather, long black gaiters, sash, hair powdered and cued, white buff sword belt.
For undress – jacket, round hat, with bear skin from front to back, feather at the side: blue pantaloons, with red cord down the seams.
Orders of dress were, as usual, a constant preoccupation. Paraphrasing a regimental order of 25 October 1798, Sheardown notes that:
… the officers were directed to appear at mess in their coats and cocked hats, and optionally to wear pantaloons and half-boots, or breeches, stockings and half gaiters. At church, during the winter months, they were to wear blue pantaloons, long coats, and cocked hats; on parade, in their morning dress – jacket, pantaloons, half-boots, and round hat.
And from 9 May 1799, quoted by Raikes:
Colonel Sir George Cooke desires that in future the Officers at the Mess, and on the evening parade, will appear in white breeches; stockings, and shoes. If the Officers for their own accommodation wish at any time to substitute white pantaloons and half-boots in the place of breeches, stockings, and shoes, they are allowed to do so.
From 17 March 1800, paraphrased by Sheardown:
… officers, on morning parade, were ordered to appear in boots and white breeches; and on afternoon parade, in stockings and shoes, with buckles of an approved pattern.
From 4 May 1800:
Officers of the Grenadier Company are in future at all times to wear their hair plaited up behind; they will wear their Caps on Sundays and field days, Hats at other times.
A silvered button is identified to this regiment when titled as the Fifth in 1798-99. Its raised design, common with that of the Third and Fourth of the same period, is an eight rayed star bearing a crowned garter inscribed in Roman capitals “WEST ● YORK”, enclosing a “5” (Ripley & Darmanin 291). The similar button marked “3” is known in gilt, so unlikely to have been adopted by this regiment in 1799 when re-numbered. A subsequent design is shown below, under the next embodiment.
A belt plate dated to “c 1800” is held at the National Army Museum, and is illustrated by Haythornthwaite. It is oval, gilt, with an applied silver eight rayed star enclosing “3 / WY”, cut in silver. The central circular ground and the rim to it are gilt. There is, I suppose, a slight possibility that this could also be attributed to the other “Third” regiment of 1798-99. Two subsequent designs are discussed below, under the next embodiment.
As a stopgap, pending the regular annual issue of clothing, government authorised a cheap initial outfit for the new Supplementary Militia at a total cost of £1 5s 9d – about half the clothing allowance for an embodied militia private. According to various press reports, this was recommended to consist of a red or scarlet jacket, white waistcoat, white cloth pantaloons or trousers, and a black cap with a feather, the last being a light infantry or forage style, not the cylindrical cap of 1800.
The task of supplying this clothing was delegated to the lord lieutenants of counties; where they declined, it was to be ordered by the War Office from the clothier of the “regular” embodied militia of the county. The precise details of what was ordered within this general scheme varied from county to county; certainly the 2nd/4th Regiment (see below) was initially outfitted in jackets and pantaloons.
Accoutrements issued by the Ordnance to the Militia were of tanned leather. (Most colonels preferred to purchase buff leather, to be whitened, at an additional cost.) The Supplementary Militia initially used the tanned leather issue, which most or all regiments would have blackened.
On mobilisation in 1798, those Supplementary militiamen selected to augment existing militia regiments were directed by a General Order of 21 April to “march with their Supplementary clothing, arms, and accoutrements”; on arrival at their new regiment the detachment was to be issued with “necessaries”: a shirt, a pair of stockings, a pair of shoes and a pair of long gaiters, the first two items of a higher quality for sergeants.
In August 1798 clothing for that year for the new Supplementary regiments became due at the full allowance, and they were variously clothed according to the preferences of their colonels. Sheardown notes that for the “original” clothing, presumably from August 1798, “the men had long black gaiters or spatterdashes”. (Elsewhere he states simply “long black gaiters”, so I take these terms as synonymous.)
The dress of the officers indicates that the men were also clothed with green facings, their buttons probably spaced in pairs. Clothing ordered in 1801 comprised, according to Sheardown:
… a coat, waistcoat, breeches with one pocket only; felt and leather cap, with brass plate, cockade and tuft; black cloth gaiters, knapsack, foraging cap, worsted mitts, stock, hair-ribbon, cloth pantaloons.
“Coat” here must have the sense of a jacket, while the pantaloons would be a second dress. There are no irregularities.
What appears to be a fragment of an other ranks’ version of the officers’ button of 1798-99 (shown above) marked “5” has been seen on eBay; it seems reasonable to assume that this existed, given that such a button exists in the same design for the Fourth Regiment (see below). Fragments of dug pewter buttons of a different design have been offered on eBay which might be attributable to the other ranks of this regiment. The raised design (right) shows a crown above a rose, between “3” and “M”.
The vexed issue of hair generated regimental orders. Raikes quotes one of 9 May 1799:
The Non-commissioned Officers and Men have of late worn too much powder in their hair, they are again reminded that the hair should only appear grey, and that the comb should be drawn through the hair after it is powdered, there must be no powder on the face. The Commanding Officer orders that none of the Men shall have their hair cued till further Orders.
At this point, hair appears to have been worn clubbed. An order of 10 May 1799:
Colonel Sir George Cooke orders that the Non-commissioned Officers and Privates shall be immediately provided with false cues, according to the pattern he has fixed upon ; and he is highly gratified that an expedient has been hit upon which complies most punctiliously with His Majesty’s express orders on this subject, and is at the same time effected at an expense to the men small in comparison of what they must have incurred if stuff Tails and Ribbons had been used. His Majesty’s Order extending to all Officers as well as Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates, Colonel Sir George Cooke directs that the Officers will wear their hair in cue as near to the form of the cue ordered for the men as possible. The Sergeants of companies will see that the men, either from their own hair, or from their present clubs, supply the maker of the cues with as much hair as may be necessary to form the end of them.
In late 1798, according to Raikes, two brass six pounders and an ammunition wagon were attached to the regiment, a standard practice among militia regiments since 1794. In February 1802 the use of these guns was discontinued, and they were left at Edinburgh Castle on the regiment’s departure. It’s possible that the detachment that served these guns adopted some form of artillery uniform, but I’ve not seen evidence for that.
Drummers and bandsmen
According to Sheardown:
In 1798, the strength of the regimental band consisted of twenty drums and fifes; increased in the following year by two drummers; afterwards a tambourine and cymbals were added. A reed-band was formed, at a period not ascertained, for clarionets, flutes, fifes, bassoon, key bugles …
The “exotic” tambourine and cymbals should be considered an element of the regimental band (“reed-band”) as distinct from the regiment’s drummers and fifers. A drum major (Francis Clough) was appointed in 1798, who was not discharged until 1835 with the reduction of the permanent staff.
Raikes notes that colours were ordered to be supplied to the three re-numbered regiments of Supplementary Militia by a warrant of 3 August 1798, and describes the 1798 regimental colour as “bottle green, with the Arms of the Colonel, Sir George Cooke, Bart., on a shield in the centre, surrounded by a wreath, with a rose, thistle, and shamrock underneath, and ‘V. Regiment West York Militia;’ changed to ‘III.’ Regiment in 1800.”
If this is accurate, it’s a very late date indeed for the personal arms of a colonel to be used in this way, a practice expressly forbidden by the regulations of 1747! The arms of Col Sir George Cooke are shown here: the crest is a gold half-lion “ducally gorged” (i.e. with a duke’s coronet around its neck), out of a white (or silver) “mural” coronet (i.e. built of stone). The left half of the shield is gold (or yellow) with two black lions and a red chevron bearing a small white shield with a red hand. The right half is quartered red and yellow or gold, the first red quarter with a white cross. (The laurel and palm leaves here seem to be an affectation that is not a proper part of the arms.)
Second embodiment 1803-14
The regiment was re-embodied in ten companies in March 1803, initially again under Col Sir George Cooke, who was swiftly succeeded by Colonel Bryan Cooke, commissioned on 16 May 1803. In July it was augmented to twelve companies by a draft of men balloted as Supplementary Militia, but was reduced to ten again in 1805. In late 1807 a draft of newly balloted men increased the establishment again to twelve companies. The regiment was disembodied on 24 June 1814, but unlike numerous other militia regiments, appears not to have been re-embodied with the renewal of hostilities in 1815.
During this period the West Riding’s militia precedence number was 32.
Subject to changes of regulation, officers’ dress was consistent with the previous period. For the start of this period, Raikes quotes from a regimental order of 12 February 1804:
Regimental Coat complete, ditto White Cloth or Kersymere Waistcoat, White leather or Kerseymere Breeches, Full Boots, Cocked Hat and Feather, Hair cued and neatly cut and powdered, White Doeskin Gloves, Black Silk Handkerchief invariably tied behind, Sash, Regimental Great Coat when necessary, Regulation Sword and Knot, Gorget, White Buff Leather Sword-belt and Breast-plate, except for Mounted Officers.
And from 1 December 1803:
The Colonel having observed that there is not that uniformity in the dress of the Officers that there ought to be, he requests that all officers will appear on parade in blue pantaloons, half-boots, hair powdered, and their cues and caps; Officers for Duty to appear in cocked hats, white breeches, and long boots.
This last was quickly amended by the order of 12 February 1804:
The Caps and Blue Pantaloons at present in use are to be laid aside, and are in future only to be worn in Camp, and upon the march; it may become a subject of future consideration whether they should be worn in the event of actual service.
The use of a “cap” (clearly a version of the men’s cap) for a second or parade dress is interesting. Sheardown also gives a “full dress” variant, from an unidentified order, of “white kersymere breeches, silk stockings and shoes”.
The tailor’s note book identified to a William Stothard in the Anne S K Brown Collection includes a drawing and description of a field officer’s jacket post 1812. Stothard’s notes are not easy to read, so I’ll paraphrase them here. The jacket is of scarlet superfine cloth with dark green collar, lapels and cuffs. The front has two rows of ten buttons in pairs, the cuffs and oblique pointed pocket flaps two pairs on each, with a button each side of the collar and two at the rear waist. There are green twist holes to the buttons on the collar and cuffs, and the top four on the lapel, and scarlet twist holes on the pocket flaps. As Stothard’s notes call for 40 large buttons and four “breast” (small) size, there may be a large button in each rear pleat not shown in the drawing. The four small buttons would be on the collar and epaulettes.
All elements (collar, front, top of cuffs, sides and pointed edge of the flaps, rear vent and pleats) are “edged” in white, except the bottom of the collar. The turnbacks are of white cassimere with “embroidered ornaments”. (These are not drawn, but were perhaps silver roses on a green backing, as suggested by those on the similar Carr jacket of the Second West York, as shown on this page.) The jacket is lined with white rattinet. Though Stothard does not note the metal colour, the buttons and epaulettes would have been silver.
A miniature of Lieut Thomas Norton by Frederick Buck, offered by Wigs on the Green, was painted in November 1812. (Norton was commissioned Ensign on 31 December 1810, Lieutenant on 28 August 1811, and went into the 86th Foot in August 1813, so a date of 1812-13 seems safe. Buck worked in Cork, where the regiment was stationed at this period.) The head and background are certainly by Buck, but the clothing looks to me as if it has been retouched later by a less skilful hand, and the row of single buttons at the wearer’s left makes no sense.
Norton wears the light infantry company’s version of the jacket shown above, with small silvered buttons throughout, including on the collar with a green twist hole. His shoulder belt has the rose and garter plate discussed below, with a silver whistle and chain. The wings appear to be silver chain edged in green, with a silver fringe.
The silvered button worn in this period, and apparently also later, has the raised design of a crown over “3” over “WEST YORK” in Roman capitals, and is known with slight
variations of detail, in convex and half ball form; diameters of 14 and 16 mm are recorded. On one example seen the raised design is gilt, the ground silvered.
A shoulder belt plate possibly worn during the previous embodiment is discussed above. Parkyn describes a second belt plate, from the Jennens note book, worn apparently before 1811. This is oval, gilt with a silver rim, with the silver design of a crowned garter with a rope edge, inscribed “Honi Soit …” etc, enclosing a “3” above “W.Y.” A third design is illustrated by Raikes, while examples have been sold by Tennants and Peter Taylor Militaria. This is oval, gilt, with the applied design in silver of a pierced oval garter inscribed “THIRD ● WEST ● YORK ● MILITIA” in Roman capitals, enclosing a silver rose with a red enamel centre; at the top of the garter is a small lion’s head, and at the base a floriate ornament. According to Raikes this was worn from 1811 to 1852; the date of 1811 may be based on the Royal approval given that year to the West York regiments to use the white rose as a badge, but this permission followed a practice already established, and the plate may have been introduced before then.
A regimental order of 6 March 1811 required company officers (rifles excepted) to wear dark blue pantaloons of patent stocking web, white cloth, or white cassimere; mounted officers were given the option of wearing blue pantaloons.
On 13 October 1810 officers were ordered to wear hair powder, but an order of 3 August 1811 discontinued this.
For officers of the rifle companies, see below.
An entry in a “materials” notebook of this period of clothiers J N & B Pearse, held at the Canadian War Museum, states:
3 W York
10 by 2 double hd red edge in
In other words, ten buttons and loops were placed on the jacket front in pairs, the loops being square ended and “double headed”, i.e. joined across at both ends. The white lace had a red stripe near the inside edge of the loop.
Charles Hamilton Smith’s chart of 1815 shows the same form of lace, but with the buttons and loops spaced singly, which must have been a late alteration. Smith shows the red stripe towards the inside of the lace, consistent with the Pearse note.
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.
Printed Standing Orders of May 1809 provide a list of the men’s necessaries, which include a knapsack, breeches, black cloth gaiters, Russia linen trousers [white], a forage cap, a great coat, and straps for carrying the great coat “according to a pattern in possession of the Quartermaster”.
Regarding this last, the Orders state:
The Great Coats are to be well rolled up, and of the length of the Blade of the Bayonet, to hang on the back transversely, and kept tight up. They are never to be worn, except on duty; and then only in bad weather, and at nights, between sun-set and sun-rise.
A small image of a private of the Second West York during this period wearing his great coat slung in the same manner can be found towards the end of this page.
The Orders also require that:
All Serjeants are to wear White Leather Gloves on Duties and Parades, and White Leather Knots to their Swords.
In October 1803 the two companies of Capts Hawkes and J E Dewar were converted into rifle companies. Warrants of November 1803 and May 1804 ordered the supply of “176 rifle-barrelled muskets and 176 side-arms” for the two companies. In 1808, and on disembodiment in 1814, returns listed 132 rifles.
I’ve found no details of the rifle companies’ dress, but it was clearly dark green; the standard pattern for militia rifle companies of this period was something modelled closely on the dress of the 95th Rifles.
An order of 6 March 1811 required rifles officers to wear patent stocking web pantaloons of dark green.
The Pearse note book already mentioned includes notes for lace on a drummer’s jacket, which for this period is likely to have been green with red collar and cuffs. The ten front loops are “double headed” and set in pairs, as on the private’s jacket. Narrow lace is used for all loops, the shoulder straps and wings, and “generally all round”, meaning, presumably, edging the collar, jacket front and turnbacks. Broad lace is used on the seams (top of arm, side, back and sleeve), the “frame” of the pocket flap, the “body” (extra vertical lines of lace down the front) and the sleeve darts. These are “5 darts down”, meaning five chevrons along each sleeve, the points downwards; the lowest point would presumably form the top edge of an indented cuff without loops.
A damaged sample of broad lace is attached to the page. It has white edges, and a central broad stripe, edged in green, made up of alternate red and green diagonal bands. The “narrow” lace would presumably have been a narrower version of the same design.
Raikes notes that the second (undated) regimental colour, replacing that of 1798, was “dark green, with the words ‘III. Regiment West York Militia,’ in gold letters on a shield with crimson ground, surrounded with a wreath of oak leaves proper and spangles.”
On 10 June 1810 a warrant was issued for a new pair of colours for the regiment.
1st West Yorkshire Supplementary Militia / 3rd West Yorkshire Militia 1797-99
The regiment was organised in 1797 as the First Supplementary under Col Edwin Lascelles, Lord Harewood, commissioned on 25 February 1797, and based at Leeds. It was embodied in ten companies on 20 February 1798. Later that year it was re-numbered as the Third “regular” militia, in sequence with the two “old” regiments. It was disbanded on 24 December 1799.
The regiment wore green facings, with gold metal for officers. (For some background on the temporary clothing issued to Supplementary Militia in early 1798, see under the Third Regiment above, “First embodiment”, “Other ranks”. For a belt plate marked “3”, usually attributed to the other Third Regiment, see above.)
An officer’s button is recorded for this regiment (Ripley & Darmanin 290). It is gilt, matching the design of the Fourth and Fifth Regiments – an eight rayed star bearing a circular garter inscribed “WEST YORK” in Roman capitals, enclosing a “3”.
By warrant of 3 August 1798, colours were ordered to be supplied to the three West Yorkshire Supplementary regiments. Raikes states that the regimental colour for the Third was apple-green, with the words “III. Regiment West York Militia” on a shield in the centre, surrounded by a wreath.
2nd West Yorkshire Supplementary Militia / 4th West Yorkshire Militia 1797-99
The regiment was organised in 1797 as the Second Supplementary under Col Walter Ramsden Hawkesworth Fawkes, commissioned on 26 February 1797, and based at Wakefield. In 1798 it was re-numbered and embodied as the Fourth “regular” militia, in sequence with the two “old” regiments. It was disbanded in December 1799.
The cheap temporary clothing first issued (see above under the 3rd/5th Regiment) was soon in bad shape. On 27 February Col Fawkes wrote to Earl Fitzwilliam, the Lord Lieutenant:
… it appears that your Lordship conjectures that the Supplementary Militia will be new cloathed, but I hear from London, that such is not the intention of Government & that they are not to receive any for four months to come …
… The Privates have only a Jacket & pr of Pantaloons, & the Cloth of which they are made is so bad, that they are now positively rotten, & I will venture to say that, if we are marched to any distance, every soldier in the Regiment in a fortnights time, must be in Rags.
It is not clear if any response was forthcoming. (In 1807 Fawkes was to complain again about his “ragged regiment”, the Wharfedale Volunteers – see this page.) My thanks to Eamonn O’Keeffe for images of Fawkes’ letter at Sheffield Record Office.
At this point, or subsequently, the regiment wore green facings, with silver metal for officers.
No button was recorded for this regiment by Ripley & Darmanin, but one is known, matching the design of the Third and Fifth Regiments – an eight rayed star bearing a circular garter inscribed “WEST ● YORK” in Roman capitals, enclosing a “4”. This is known in pewter for other ranks, and silvered for officers.
By warrant of 3 August 1798, colours were ordered to be supplied to the three West Yorkshire Supplementary regiments. Assuming it was consistent in pattern with that of the Third (see immediately above), the regimental colour for the Fourth would have been green, with the words “IV. Regiment West York Militia” on a shield in the centre, surrounded by a wreath.
* * *
W Y Baldry, “Order of Precedence of Militia Regiments”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 57, Spring 1936.
Colonel Bryan Cooke, Standing Orders for the Third West York Militia … at Norman-Cross Barracks, May, 1809, London, 1809.
Philip Haythornthwaite, “The Yorkshire Militia 1814”, in Military Modelling Manual 1983.
Cecil C P Lawson, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol III, London, 1961.
H G Parkyn, “English Militia Regiments, 1757-1935: their Badges and Buttons”, JSAHR Vol 15, No 60, Winter 1936.
Capt G A Raikes, Historical Records of the First Regiment of Militia; or, Third West York Light Infantry, London, 1876.
Howard Ripley & Denis Darmanin, English Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881, Military Historical Society, 2010.
William Sheardown, Origins and Services of the Third West Yorkshire (Light Infantry) Regiment of Militia …, Doncaster Gazette, 1870.
Sheffield Record Office, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Y166.
[William Stothard], “Rigementals: Tailors rules for the Prince Reg.nt Regulation 1813, Nvb 12, 1814”, Anne S K Brown Collection.