First Carlist War Painting Guide: British Auxiliary Legion

This is my painting guide for the British in Spanish service (British Auxiliary Legion) of the First of the Carlist Wars.

I used Cairns (1994 to 1995) and Parsons (1996) for the distinctive features of British dress, e.g. the Highland units. I then used Ryan and Parham (1986) to flesh out the details on equipment. Field (1995) mentioned that the Marines had recently adopted the uniform of British Line Infantry, which, aside from the forage cap, would have been what the Legionnaires were wearing.

Item Description
Czapka Style hat – lancers only Blue top with brass metal and black plume
Shako – Marines, Rifles and Artillery only Black with yellow braid and bronze scale chin strap
Shako plate Marines: Silver anchor
Others: bronze star
Forage Cap Dark Blue (with Black peak if present)
Highland Bonnet – 5th and 6th Scotch only Blue. (but I used Napoleonic highlanders for the 6th with their tall bonnet so made it black; and just normal Forage Cap guys for the others; which given they probably had a tartan band might be what is described as a Scotch Bonnet)
Forage Cap Band
or Highland Bonnet Band
English: Black
Irish: Green
Scottish Centre coy: Red, white & black tartan (I assume this based on Napoleonic practice)
Scottish Grenadier coy: Blue Tartan (??)
Scottish Light coy: Green tartan
Forage Cap Regimental Numerals Brass
Forage Cap Pompom Battalion/Centre coy: White over Red
Light coy: Green
Grenadier coy: White
Jacket (usually Shell style) Foot: Scarlet including scarlet shoulder tabs
Rifles: Green
Artillery: Blue
Lancers: Scarlet faced white with yellow epaulettes
Jacket Collar & cuffs Regimental colours. I don’t know what they were, but Black, yellow, red, blue, green, white are likely options. Overlaps between regiments are likely.
Jacket Buttons Brass
Gloves (Lancers only) White
Trousers 6th Scotch: didn’t wear trousers
Rifles: Green (I assume)
Lancers: dark blue with double gold stripes for officers
Artillery: Blue
Others: White in summer; in Winter (use this) Dark grey with a red welt down outer seam.
Highland Plaid – 5th Scotch and 6th Scotch Probably the Black Watch Tartan of the British army. (The plaid of the 6th was also referred to as a scarf so might not have been a kilt, but you never know)
Gaiters – Only the 6th Scottish White, with red & white tartan socks poking out (I used Highlander figures for the 6th and these have gaiters, the real guys probably didn’t)
Shirt White
Shoulder & waist belts Rifles: Black with Brass fittings
Others: White with Brass fittings
Ammunition box Black with Regimental Numeral (painted on) in White
Bayonet & Scabbard Black with Brass fittings
Officers sword Sword with Gilt hilt and Brass scabbard
Canvas haversack White
Canteen Light blue or blue-grey
Great Coat (Often rolled over shoulder) Dark grey
Shoes Black
Gun Barrel Browned (dull red-brown)
Strap for musket White
Sabretaches – Lancers only (I guess this is the dangly thing hanging from the belt). Although these were abolished for other ranks in 1834, the figure might have them, in which case the old pattern was dark blue with a yellow crown, royal monogram and “vandyked” edge.

English Infantry Uniform

Peaked, blue wool, broad crowned forage cap, scarlet shell jacket, and white (summer) or Oxford grey (winter) trousers (Parsons, 1996). White cross belts, black cartridge box. They carried an India pattern flintlock musket with socket bayonet.

Fusilier from Cairns (1995d)


Officer. Interesting that he has a blue frock coat and Shako. I do wonder if he actually from the Royal Marines, although the picture was labeled British Auxiliary Legion.

Scottish and Irish regiments had similar uniforms, but there were national distinctions.

Scottish Infantry Uniform

Field (1995) says “the Scottish corps dressed like the Highland Light Infantry, but wore crimson feathers and ball tufts in their Shakos” (p. 210). It is not clear if he means all Scottish regiments, or just one, as other sources suggest only the 6th had a unique uniform (Parsons, 1996). The reference to Shakos is a bit odd as well, given the British Auxiliary Legion generally wore forage caps.

Parsons (1996) when quoting Somerville (1995) says Scottish regiments wore the same uniform as the English regiments. The only exception being 6th Scotch Grenadiers who were issued ‘highland’ uniform’; ironically the 8th Highlanders were not issued this uniform. The 6th had both plaids and white gaiters. This combination suggests that the plaids’ of the 6th were in fact kilts, however, in a couple of places Somerville refers to their tartan scarves, so this is not clear. Certainly Colonel Malcolm Ross of the 6th is described as wearing a tartan plaid across the shoulders, which clearly is not a kilt.

All Scottish regiments had a tartan band around their forage cap (Parsons, 1995). The light company of the 6th regiment had a green tartan band around their caps, along with a figure 8 and a miniature bugle. Given the green was specifically mentioned, it suggests other companies used different colours. The Napoleonic period uniform had a red, white & black tartan band for the centre companies (??). Some source I found gave the Napoleonic Scottish Grenadiers a blue tartan band (must find it again ??)

Irish Infantry Uniform

Wore the same uniform as the English regiments although Colonel Cannan of the 9th Irish Regiment is described as wearing a green band on his cap (Somerville, 1995, cited by Parsons, 1996) and this may have been general for the Irish regiments.

Rifles Uniform

The jacket was green (Parsons, 1995). Black shoulder belt, cartridge box and waistbelt. They carried a flintlock Baker rifle and sword bayonet. The illustration is from Cairns (1995d).

British Rifles

Artillery Uniform

The jacket was blue (Parsons,1995).

Lancer Uniform

Wore the ‘czapka’ style cap (Parsons, 1995). They carried a lance, flintlock pistol and light cavalry sabre. The illustration is from Cairns (1995d).

British Lancer

Senior Officers

Probably wore anything they likes as different British generals are described in:

  • a blue jacket with coloured trousers
  • a uniform richly trimmed with gold

Royal Marine Uniform

According to Field (1995) in 1836 “the uniform of the Royal Marines had now for some time been changed from that worn at Trafalgar to one closely resembling that of the line, with bell-topped shakos, tail coats and white or Oxford grey trousers, according to the season. The “globe” was not yet worn on the shako-plate, but merely a large silver anchor” (p. 222).


Cairns, C. (1995d, December). A Savage and Romantic War: Spain 1833-1840. Part 5: The Battle of Oriamendi. Wargames Illustrated, 99, 24-30.

Field, C. (1995, Sept). Some account of the British operations against the Carlists, 1836-1837. Tonbridge, UK: Pallas Armata. Reprinted from the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution LXII:446, May 1917, p209-223.

Parsons, P. (1996, Nov). The British Auxiliary Legion of the First Carlist War (The First Legion 1835-37). Wargames Illustrated 110, p18-19.

Ryan, T., & Parham, B. (1986). The Colonial New Zealand Wars. Grantham House: New Zealand.

Somerville, A. (1995, Aug). History of the British Legion and War in Spain. Tonbridge, UK: Pallas Armata. Reprinted from the edition published by James Pattie, 1839.

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