Peninsular War Painting Guide: British Allies

A rough guide to painting British Allies that served during the Peninsular War – at least those that had unique uniforms. Those allies that served in British uniform are covered by the British Foot painting guide.

Allied Infantry

Calabrian Free Corps / Calabrian Light Infantry and Rifles

The Calabrian Free Corps was a two battalion unit (shrinking to one) raised by Sir John Stuart in Sicily. It had British officers and Calabrians in all other ranks. It was also known as the Calabrian Light Infantry and Rifles, reflecting its split between these two types of troops.

Generally the uniform style was that of the British Light infantry. Sapherson (1991) has the entire unit in dark green coats, yellow collar and cuffs, and white piping and turnbacks; either light blue trousers or bluish grey overalls; tapered light infantry shako with a green plume; white metal badges, shako trim and buttons. Haythornthwaite (1995) presents a slightly different picture, attributing this uniform, with a blue-green coat (i.e. not standard British Rifles coat), to the Rifles only. They suggest the Light Infantry component of the unit was in a Scarlet jacket with yellow collar and cuffs, dark blue piping, white turnbacks, gold lace loops and epaulettes; brass shako-plate, green plume, red sash, sky-blue breeches, black belts, steel scabbard, gilt sword-hilt, gold knot. See Haythornthwaite, fig 19c for painting details of the rifles and black and white fig A.b. for the more conventional light infantry.

Anglo-Italian Levy / Italian Legion

I assume what Gates (1986) calls the “Anglo-Italian Levy” is what Haythornthwaite (1995) call the “Italian Legion” as both are Italian and both served in the Eastern army, and there is nobody else in that force with a similar description. The Italian Legion was a 2 battalion unit formed form Italian prisoners in England. Austrians commanded the first regiment and other foreigners in Sicilian service the 2nd.

See Haythornthwaite, black and white fig A.a. for painting details – quite different to normal Brits.

3rd ‘Estero’ Sicilian Infantry Regiment

The 3rd ‘Estero’ Sicilian Infantry Regiment was a two battalion unit (Sapherson, 1991).

The style of the uniform was like the British Line infantry, but the colour differed. The coat was dark blue, with shoulder straps, piped in white. The cuffs, collar and turnbacks were red, with white piping. Summer issue trousers were white, but winter issue was dark blue, with grey gaiters. The bell top shako of the Grenadiers and Fusiliers had a red cockade with mixed red and white cords. White metal was used for all buttons, shako trim, and badges. Grenadiers had red shako plumes and fusiliers white plumes. The light company probably replaced the shako with a type of top hat with a green plume.

Sapherson (1991) notes that the Sicilian Grenadier Battalion – who also fought with the Eastern Army – would have had the same uniform as the Grenadiers from the Estero Regiment.

Allied Cavalry

Brunswick-Oels Hussars

The Brunswick-Oels Hussars had 200-250 men formed into 2 squadrons (Sapherson, 1991). They, along with 12 companies of infantry, were raised in 1809 for Austrian service from German, Croat, Danish, Dutch, Italian and Polish prisoners of war. The Brunswickers almost immediately transferred to British service. Only the Hussars served in the Eastern army in Spain.

See Haythornthwaite (1995), fig. 19b for painting details, although the illustrated figure is a Jäger not a Hussar. Rafferty (1989b) has a black and white sketch to accompany his description of the Hussars. The Hussars wore a black dolman, pelisse and breeches, light blue collar and cuffs, black trim and buttons; crimson and light blue barrel sash; Infantry style shako with black plume, silver deaths head badge and brass chinscales; black leatherwork, belts, saddlecloth and holsters – the latter two edged in light blue. Trumpeters wore a black “swallows nest” on their shoulders trimmed in gold and blue.

1st Sicilian Light Dragoons

The Sicilian Light Dragoons wore a pre-1812 British Light Dragoon uniform with dark blue coat with yellow facings and white lace; yellow metal buttons and badges; dark blue breeches; red sash; blue saddlecloth with white or yellow trim; Tarleton helmet with red side plume and black caterpillar plume (Sapherson, 1991). It is unclear if the helmet had a black turban or alternatively a metal base and crest.


Funcken, L. and F. (1973). The Napoleonic Wars (Part II). London: Ward Lock.

Haythornthwaite, P. (1995). Uniforms of the Peninsular Wars 1807 – 1814. London: Arms and Armour Press.

Kannik, P. (1968). Military Uniforms in Colour. London: Blandford.

Sapherson, C. A. (1991). Peninsular Armies 1808 – 1814. Leeds, UK: Raider Books.

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