Soldiers and Soldiering in Britain 1750-1815

A first set of statistics for Waterloo officers

The first phase for the database is complete, and now has 2,437 British Army Officers who served in the Waterloo campaign (so not necessarily those who served at the Battle of Waterloo). It’s based on Dalton’s Waterloo Roll Call and John Booth’s The Battle of Waterloo, Also of Ligny, and Quatre Bras… (London: Printed for J. Booth [etc], 1817) to get a list of officers of the King’s German Legion that Dalton omitted.

Crunching the numbers immediately throws up issues about data structure and who to look at. The British Army had a complication system of rank that involved both a regimental rank and ‘rank in the army’ or brevet rank (a bit more about this is available at The Napoleon Series). To be consistent I’ve only looked at regimental rank (and I haven’t worked out how to model it, yet) and just ran some queries on officers serving with their regiment. This probably needs some explaining: an officer could be a captain in his regiment, but be serving on the staff of the army – in Dalton the individual concerned would be listed twice (grrr… not good for data entry). Excluding these individuals we get as close as we can to those who were doing duty with their unit.

Secondly, Dalton and Booth only give the date of their commission into their rank at Waterloo, not their entire career. So the table below only tells us how long an individual had been in that rank in that regiment by the time of the Battle:

Regimental Officers service in rank at Waterloo

Regimental rank Number Average days service Standard deviation (days)
Colonel 2 256 357
Colonel Commandant 2 2151 2094
Lieutenant-Colonel 43 1556 1023
Major 72 1283 923
Second Major 3 328
Third Major 1 328
Major and Lieutenant-Colonel 2 1120 1510
Captain and Lieutenant-Colonel 25 653 449
Captain 387 1636 1175
Lieutenant and Captain 42 860 564
Lieutenant 767 1250 898
First Lieutenant 57 1448 708
Second Lieutenant 18 579 279
Ensign 300 534 261
Cornet 73 559 278
Cornet and Sub-Lieutenant 7 433 301
Quartermaster 50 1739 1200
Paymaster 46 2237 1622
Surgeon 52 2295 1805
Assistant-Surgeon 100 1441 923
Veterinary Surgeon 18 2172 1544

Nevertheless, it makes for some interesting reading and raises more questions. Lieutenant-colonels and Majors ought to have been quite experienced with 3-5 years in that position, and the Captains seem to have served for quite a while too. Of course, this doesn’t really tell us what experience they had had – a captain, for example, could have spent the previous 3 years in a recruiting depot in the UK and not spent any time actually on campaign. Also, from the standard deviation figures we can see quite a lot of variation within each rank. Just to illustrate the point, the longest serving commissioned officer in a rank was Captain Henry Graham of the 1st Dragoon Guards who attained that rank on 12 June 1799, and died from his wounds he received at the Battle of Waterloo. The most recent appointment was Lieutenant Henry Anderson (69th Foot) who was appointed on 15 June 1815 and whose coat is now held by the National Army Museum. Of course, Lieutenant Anderson may have served some time as a lieutenant in another regiment, which demonstrates the need for the next stage of the database – adding in full promotion details for these officers.

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One comment on “A first set of statistics for Waterloo officers

  • Fascinating! This is the sort of data task (structuring, ingesting, munging, and analysing) that I’d love to get my teeth into.

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