13: Gunner Drivers

Sources mentioned are documented on page 1. Click to enlarge images.

Men of the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers (also Gunner Drivers, or the Corps of Captain Commissaries) did not serve with the King’s German Legion, whose artillery drivers, as in the British Horse Artillery, were fully integrated and on the rolls of the brigades (batteries) with which they served. Duncan’s history of the Royal Artillery notes that in 1810 the establishment of the KGL Artillery included a Captain Commissary and a Driver Corps of 4 Sergeants, 8 Corporals, 4 Farriers, 9 Smiths, 8 Collar-makers, 5 Wheelers and 189 Drivers.

Nevertheless, it’s likely that the dress of the RA Drivers was worn by the drivers of the KGL, given that the Legion’s artillery conformed to the patterns of dress of the British service and that the clothing of its other ranks was the responsibility of the Board of Ordnance. A separate page here has quite a detailed review of what’s known of the dress of the RA Drivers, which will be relevant in this context.

Next to nothing seems to be recorded of the dress of officers of the RA Drivers, but the tailor’s ledger of Jonathan Meyer (thanks to Meyer & Mortimer and Ben Townsend for images) includes an account for Captain Commissary Frederick Rehwinkel, who had oversight of the Legion’s field artillery drivers. Rehwinkel (or Rehwinckle as he is spelt in Meyer) was commissioned not to the Corps of RA Drivers but to the Legion, in which he succeeded Captain Commissary Lewis Kersting to that rank in 1807.

The Meyer notes for Rehwinkel include an entry of 1810 for lengthening an existing uniform jacket. In the process an eighth of a yard of blue cloth was added to the lower end, the central row of buttons was extended by three large size, and each of the outer rows by three small. Also required were 2¼ yards of gold French braid, enough to loop the three new rows, and 2½ yards of gold figuring braid, presumably to re-make the ornamentation on the side seams and rear hips. (For comparison, a horse artillery officer’s jacket as made by Meyer required a full 17 yards of figuring braid.)

These details indicate a jacket with three rows of ball buttons with gold braid loops, apparently with ornamentation in gold figuring braid on the back, which suggests the pattern of the Royal Horse Artillery. At this period, as documented here, officers of the RA Drivers were said to be uniformed in a pattern almost identical to the Horse Artillery.

Ten months later, in July 1811, Rehwinkel had a new jacket made by Meyer, this time to a pattern noted as “Gunner Drivers”, and at a substantially  lower price than that of a Horse Artillery jacket. Due to some misunderstanding over the pattern the new jacket had to be altered before delivery, which involved “adding another row of French braid round the same [i.e. the jacket],” using 3⅝ yards of gold braid, and changing the collar. The phrase “round the jacket” suggests to me that the gold braid was applied in a frame around the buttons, as on the RA Drivers NCO’s and artificer’s jackets discussed on this page. Rehwinkel’s jacket also included a pair of gilt chain wings – another point of difference to the horse artillery.

The best visualisation we can perhaps make of his new pattern jacket is that
it must have been similar to that shown in this unidentified watercolour of an RA driver’s jacket, but in gold braid and with the gilt chain wings. The reverse of the jacket in this image is substantially the same as that of a Horse Artillery officer’s.

Also ordered by Rehwinkel from Meyer were a buff cassimere waistcoat with gilt buttons, and two pairs of dark blue pantaloons, of eight thread milled stocking, ornamented with knots and side seams in dark blue cord and figuring braid. These were standard wear for artillery officers. A third pair, of mixed (grey) stocking, trimmed with black mohair cord, were ordered but returned; it’s not clear if this was because they were of the
wrong colours.

Rehwinkel’s final order in the ledger is a great coat, of superfine [dark] blue cloth, looped and ornamented with dark blue silk royal cord and fastening with 16 silk olives, so almost certainly double breasted with two rows of eight. Cuffs and collar were trimmed with “Jennet” fur – meaning probably genet, a light grey spotted with black or brown.

No illustrators, contemporary or modern, have to my knowledge portrayed the dress of the KGL artillery drivers, other than Mike Chappell, whose second Osprey title on the KGL includes a figure of a driver in the RA foot artillery jacket, apparently based on the print after Carle Vernet discussed at the foot of this page; as discussed there, I suspect that Vernet’s image may be wrong, or that it represents a driver of the Horse Artillery.

page1: some sources

page 2: Line Battalions

page 3: 1st Light Battalion

page 4: 2nd Light Battalion

page 5: Light Dragoons 1803-7

page 6: 1st Hussars 1808-16

page 7: 2nd Hussars 1808-16

page 8: 3rd Hussars 1808-16

page 9: ‘Heavy’ Dragoons 1803-13

page 10: Light Dragoons 1813-16

page 11: Foot Artillery

page 12: Horse Artillery

page 14: Engineers

page 15: Depot Company, Independent Garrison Company, Veteran Battalion

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