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18 September 2014
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The King's German Legion
Between 1714 and 1837, Kings of England were also rulers of Hanover, and after Hanover was overrun by the French in 1803 many Hanoverians travelled to Britain where they enlisted into a unit known first as the King's Germans and then as the King's German Legion. In included line and light infantry, hussars and dragoons, and its own artillery: it peaked in size at 14,000 officers and men in 1812, and was disbanded after Waterloo. Some of its officers were German, and others were British, often young men who lacked the money to buy, or influence to secure, a commission in a British regiment.

Edmund Wheatley secured a commission in the Legion in 1813, and thought that:'The Germans bear excessive fatigues wonderfully well, and a German will march over six leagues [18 miles] while an Englishman pants and perspires beneath the labour of twelve miles; but before the enemy a German moves on silently but methodically, whilst an Englishman is all sarcasm, laughter and indifference.'

Christopher Hibbert, The Wheatley Diary

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The King's Shilling
For many years, the private soldier's daily pay was one shilling, although money was deducted from this to pay for such things as rations, some items of uniform, medical treatment, breakages and barrack damages. It was not until 1847 that it was ordered that all soldiers had to receive at least a penny a day regardless of deductions. One shilling was given to young men who agreed to enlist in the army, and a variety of subterfuges were used by recruiting sergeants to persuade a young man to accept the money.

Often a potential recruit was made dead drunk and the shilling was slipped into his pocket: sometimes a sergeant might give a young man a shilling to run an errand for him, and then declare that he had volunteered. Once a recruit had been attested before a magistrate he received a more substantial bounty, but usually found that this was swiftly consumed in drinks for the recruiting part, ribbons for the sergeant's wife, and items of uniform that had to be purchased.
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Published: 28-01-2005

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