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The First Foot Guards

We are a Revolutionary War reenactment group based in Boston MA,
accurately portraying the royal household regiment that is now known as
The Grenadier Guards

 


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The Flank Companies:
Grenadiers

'Of the ten companies in each regiment [refers to line regiment: Guards regiments were different], one consisted of Grenadiers, and another of Light Infantry. When introduced into the army in 1677, the function of the Grenadiers had been to hurl hand grenades among the enemy's ranks at close quarters. The size and weight of these missiles demanded that the throwers be tall of structure and muscular in build. By 1775 the grenades had disappeared, but the Grenadiers remained, representing in height and strength the flower of each regiment.'

EE Curtis 'The British Army in the American Revolution' 1926.


Thus the Grenadiers were picked men, who were used much as 'shock troops'. Since they occupied a position to the right of the Battalion, they are referred to as a 'flank company'.

The uniform

Cap
Notice the caps that are brimless, originally because of the overarm hurling that was necessary with a grenade. They are trimmed with bearskin. The Grenadier in the background with brass hat plate is from a different regiment. Even though they are brimless, they do have a peak at the front which was very useful in aiding vision in bright sunlight.

When on parade in London, the Grenadiers would have worn the distinctive tall bearskin hat, making a big man appear even taller.

Badge
The hats carry the 'flaming grenade' badge, that later became the symbol of the regiment when they were given the name of the Grenadier Guards.


Wings
The Grenadiers are distinguished by decorative blue shoulder pieces adorned with lace in the regimental pattern. Old references call this adornment "looped clothes", as in the song "The British Grenadiers" ... "who carry caps and pouches, and wear the looped clothes/ But of all the world's great heroes there's none that can compare... with the British Grenadiers."

"British Grenadiers" words and music

Hanger
Since the Grenadiers did not originally carry a musket, they carried a hanger (or sword) for defense. Even after the Grenadiers had ceased to carry grenades, the swords were retained. They were probably regarded as a mark of honor, since officers were the only others to carry swords in 1775.

Match case
The match case on the cross-belt. This is a cylinder of brass with holes. At the top is a plug that was attached to a length of slow match. In combat the slow match was lit and continued to burn. It was taken out as needed to ignite the slow match on the grenade. Originally, Grenadiers would have continually emanated a small amount of smoke and emitted a continuous smell that today we associate with fireworks. After grenades were no longer utilized, the match case was retained. Extra brightwork for the Grenadiers to polish, to make them the smart body of men that they are.

The grenade was simply a small hollow cannonball, filled with bullets and powder. A hole in it admitted a slow match (or fuse), which passed through a wooden plug. Grenades had much the appearance of a classic cartoon 'bomb'. The grenadier cut then ignited the slow match. This was a skilled procedure: too much fuse and the grenade might be hurled back at them, too little and the grenade would explode prematurely. Grenades were originally carried in a grenade pouch slung from the left shoulder, crossing the body. In our time period, they have been replaced by cartridge boxes.

The picture above shows two grenadiers. 
A private soldier on the right, and a Serjeant Major (Grenadiers) on the left. The Serjeant Major has two gold epaulettes, and a red sash about the waist. He is wearing white breeches and gaiters. He shoulders his musket on the right shoulder (unlike the Private Soldiers), and his firelock is a version of the musket that has a shorter barrel, called a fusil.

 



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"Companies" page
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