The Training of Sir John Moore's Light Brigade at Shorncliffe.
on extracts from-A
short history of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 1741-1922
for the young soldiers of the Regiment. ByR.B. Crosse
In January, 1803, at Chatham, the 1st Battalion 52nd Regiment became the 52nd Light Infantry, and so the senior regiment of light infantry in the Service.
Its 2nd Battalion was separated from it about the same time and numbered the 96th. Early in July the 52nd joined the camp at Shorncliffe, and a few days later, while still in the Channel Islands, a like distinction was conferred upon the 43rd, who then became the 43rd Light Infantry and the second regiment to be thus honoured. In January, 1804, the 43rd was transferred to Ashford, and in June joined the camp at Shorncliffe, when the Light Brigade, composed of the 43rd, 52nd, and 95th Rifles, was then complete, under Major-General John Moore, Colonel of the 52nd.
Meanwhile, in the country around Shorncliffe, which is so well adapted for the exercise of light troops, a programme of the most active training had begun, on the system laid down by Major-General Moore, who, having explained his wishes to the commanding officers of regiments, permitted each to fix upon his own hours for drills, but required to be informed of the time and place of parade, and seldom failed to attend.
To give the soldier a free unconstrained attitude, and to march with the utmost ease and steadiness, were the primary objects of the training, so that nothing should be left undone to have the brigade in the most efficient state to march against the enemy. The threat of invasion, and the knowledge that a landing by the French on the coast of Kent would have to be met by the Light Brigade, kept every individual in the same constant state of activity and vigilance as if absolutely in the presence of an enemy; and the careful supervision of the General infused a soul and spirit throughout all ranks, which made them perform their various duties with a zeal and alacrity seldom attained in other regiments.
In 1804 Major-General Moore was created a Knight of the Bath, when the officers of the 52nd presented him with a diamond star.
Sir William Napier, who served at Shorncliffe first in the 52nd and then in the 43rd, wrote of the Light Division, that the three British regiments composing it had been formed by Sir John Moore precisely upon the same system. There was no difference save in the colour of the riflemen's jackets and the weapons which they carried. The riflemen fought in skirmishing order more frequently than the 43rd and 52nd because their arms, the rifle and sword, did not suit any other formation; and in that respect were inferior to the musket and bayonet for close or open order. The riflemen of the Light Division could form line, columns, and squares— could move as a heavy body—could do, and did do, everything that the best soldiers in the world ought to do; and in like manner the 43rd and 52nd Regiments skirmished and performed all the duties of light troops with the same facility as the riflemen, but the difference of the weapon made it advisable to use the latter nearly always in open order.
In 1804 second battalions had again been raised ; in August for the 52nd, at Newbury, from Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire; and in November, for the 43rd, at Bromsgrove. From 1805 both the new battalions were at Hythe and elsewhere in Kent, until they proceeded on active service in 1807 and 1808. A second battalion was added to the 95th (Rifle) Regiment at Canterbury in May, 1805.