Cross-Belt Plates of the 29th Foot Regiment

These old badges are sometimes referred to as "Cross-Belt Plates," or "Shoulder-Belt Plates," but which are described in Dress Regulations as "Breastplates." This type of badge first came into fashion during the American War of Independence, and remained in use until the final abolishment of the cross-belts around 1855. It should be noted that throughout the whole period the infantry regiments had two "Flank" companies, namely a "Grenadier" and a "Light" company. The cross-belt plates of these companies differed from those of the battalion companies in bearing, respectively, a grenade or a bugle-horn amongst the devices. Such plates are rare. As to the rank-and-file, evidence is shown in C. H. Smith's print of the privates of the Grenadier and Light companies of the 29th Foot, published in May 1813.

At the time of the introduction of cross-belt plates the 29th Foot were serving in America, and the earliest pictorial evidence there is of the pattern of plate worn by the officers of the Regiment is that shown in a painting by J. Graham of the burial of General Fraser at Saratoga on 8th October 1777. Standing by the graveside is an officer of the 29th Foot. This officer is stated to be Viscount Charles Petersham, captain in the Grenadier company of the Regiment.

The style of this cross-belt plate is shown in the adjacent drawing. The plate appears to be all silver, and probably engraved, but it is difficult to tell. However, except for the colour and the indistinct centre, the whole thing is very similar to the plates worn by the Coldstream Guards at the same period. It is possible that a grenade was inside the Garter in view of the fact that Petersham was Captain of the Grenadier company, but this is mere conjecture.

Cross-Belt Plate of 1833

Cross-Belt Plate from 1777

It is, however, important to note that it was painted about 1789-90, and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1791 and the artist has depicted Petersham in the high-collared coat which was not in fashion in 1777! In view of this it is uncertain that the cross-belt plate is the pattern in use in 1777, or that it is the earliest pattern used by the 29th Foot. (It would appear that it was partly on the evidence of this picture that the badge of the Regiment was changed in 1925).

The enlarged image of the figure of Captain the Viscount Petersham as seen in the painting is shown here and one can see the detail of the uniform then worn by officers of the 29th Regiment of Foot; and conspicuous on the metal plate of his white shoulder belt (cross-belt plate) is the Regimental Star Badge. This is the earliest record of Worcestershire Regiment Badge, and the star is depicted in the exact elongated form used later by the Worcestershire Regiment.

It must be explained that at that period there were no precise regulations in printed form as to the dress of the Regiments of our Army. The general style of the uniforms was settled by the equivalent of the present day War Office, but the details were arranged directly between the Colonel of the Regiment and the War Office, in manuscript letters, which have long since disappeared; so that, apart from occasional portraits of individuals or chance finds in tailor's pattern books, there is very little certainty as to the details of uniform before about 1790; after which time definite regulations existed in printed form.

Painting by J. Graham of the burial of General Fraser at Saratoga on 8th October 1777

Viscount Charles Petersham

(enlarged section of adjacent painting)

The next evidence of Cross-Belt Plates is the plate shown in the photograph on page 184 of Major Hugh Everard's (later Colonel) History of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment published in 1891, and described as follows:- "Shoulder-belt plate of Captain Edgell Wyatt, 3ins. long, 2¼ins. broad. Silver plate with wreath of laurels engraved round the edge. "Raised device of Lion and crowned garter in centre. Wyatt served in the 29th from 1793 to 1803. This is the earliest record of the Lion device that can be traced."

Shoulder-Belt Plate of
Capt. Edgell Wyatt

Rubbing of plate which was in the late Mr. Nightingale's collection in 1932.


Cross-Belt Plate of 1812

Everard notes that this plate forms the top of a snuff-box in the possession of a descendant of Captain Edgell Wyatt. This plate appears to have been in use at least in 1796, and may have been in use as early as 1792 because it is the same shape as the private's plate shown in Dayes' drawing.

"A similar plate is shown in the Jennen': Bench Book, but with a slightly different border, i.e. a close leaf or shell pattern on the flat along the middle of the border. This leaf ornament, and also the crown, garter and Lion are painted yellow as if gilt." As Major Everard's description of the Wyatt plate does not mention any gilt parts, there must have been a change in the colours of the metals after 1803! In this connection there is some valuable evidence in the form of a rough rubbing of a plate which was in the late Mr. Nightingale's collection in 1932.

A copy of this rubbing is shown opposite. It was described as follows: "The backplate is silver Hall-marked 1808, and the mounts are gilt." It is assume that the "mounts" are the centra devices, and that the border design is engraved apart from there being no mention of the border being gilt, we have in this plate confirmation of the plate in Jennen's Bend Book described above.

It will be noticed that the plate shown in the copy of this rubbing (seen opposite) has much smaller cut off corners than the Wyatt plate—as one would expect towards 1810, when cross-belt plate: were tending towards pure rectangles! The shape of the Wyatt plate seems to be a transition stage between the oval and the rectangular plates.

In March 1812, the honour "Roleia" was granted to the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment, and shortly afterwards a new pattern of plate was introduced. S. M. Milne describes this plate as follows: "Plain silver, with gilt raised ornaments, i.e. in centre, on a wreath, was the Lion crowned, statant guardant, encircled by a garter (with motto Honi sait &c.), surmounted by a crown; from the bottom of the Garter and extending either way was a branch of laurels, below which was a scroll with Roleia."

The honour "Peninsula" was granted to the Regiment in 1815, but there is no evidence that the Regiment added this honour to their cross-belt plates until 1818 — when the other three Peninsula honours were granted. Three years is a long time, and it is quite possible that an extra scroll was added, either at the top or at the bottom of the plate to carry the new honour.

"Vimiera," "Talavera" and "Albuhera" were granted in September, 1818, and the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment very quickly ordered a new pattern of plate (shown below). The description of the plate is as follows:— "A silver plate, Hall-marked 1818, silver gilt mounts. The backing to the Lion is pale blue cloth, and there is no enamel backing to the garter. The exact size is 2 9/10 ins. wide by 3 3/10 ins. high."

No further honours were added to the cross-belt plates of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment, and the devices, i.e. a crowned garter with Lion in centre and five scrolls below, remained in use until 1832. There is, however, some evidence of a change in the design and colour of the plates some time prior to that date.

The facts are as follows :—About 1901 Colonel Hugh Everard supplied details of — "an actual plate, as worn in 1832." Everard gave the colouring as — "a silver plate with raised gilt ornaments. The Lion on a crimson velvet ground, and the lettering on the Garter pierced over blue enamel." This description differs considerably from that of the 1818 plate given above.

The main differences from the 1818 plate back plate was rectangular and without rounded corners, the garter oval, and the whole of the devices were also much smaller on the plate.

We now come to the final pattern of cross-belt plate worn by the officers of the Regiment. This plate was ordered in December 1832, but it was not taken into use until 1833 owing to the Regiment being abroad (in the West Indies). The colouring is as follows:—The whole plate gilt except for a crimson velvet backing to the crown and to the Lion, and a rich blue enamel backing to the lettering on the Garter. The buckle and "tongue" of the Garter is solid, and no blue enamel shows at that part.

As to the early cross-belt plates of the 29th, there is one bit of doubtful evidence which could not be satisfactorily fitted into the body of this article, but may be worth noting. A portrait of Ensign Vance depicted him wearing an oval gilt plate with "29" inside a wreath of laurel. Ensign Vance joined the 29th "in 1810 or 1811," and was killed while carrying the colours at Albuhera. Major H. Everard remarks: "Whoever did the sketch was not much of an artist," and he thought that the plate may have been taken from an old officer's plate worn prior to 1792, or from a private's plate of early date!

Cross-Belt Plate of 1818

showing the honours of
"Vimiera," "Talavera" and "Albuhera"

Capt. Septimus Hen. Palairet (c. 1830's)

Lieut. William D. Chapman (c. 1854)

(examples of Worcestershire Regiment officers wearing cross-belt plates)

Privates of Light and of the Grenadier Company (1812)


The earliest known record of the plates worn by the rank-and-file of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment is that shown in an original water-colour sketch, by Dayes, formerly in S. M. Milne's collection but in the Worcestershire Regimental Museum collection. This depicts a private of a battalion company, and in the background is the Round Tower of Windsor Castle. As the 29th were stationed at Windsor in 1791, this fixes the date. The cross-belt plate is quite a plain design, brass, with merely the Regimental number incised, and the corners of the plate cut off, as in the Capt. Edgell Wyatt plate.

The next evidence is from a poor print in Major H. Everard's History of the Regiment. This was taken from C. H. Smith's plate, published in May 1813, and it depicts two privates of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment, one of the Light and one of the Grenadier Company (shown adjacent).

The plates are the same pattern as shown in Dayes' drawing, but with what appears to be a scroll above the number. It is likely that this is a scroll bearing the honour "Roleia." This scroll may have change later to a crown. It certainly does not look like a grenade or a bugle horn, as one would expect for flank companies.

Cross-Belt Plate (1844)

The last known pattern of cross-belt plate worn by the rank-and-file is shown opposite. It dates to 1844 but may also have been worn up to the early 1850's when the cross-belt plate was finally abolished.

The plate is brass with the numerals boldly raised. From the foregoing evidence it looks as if the battalion companies of the Regiment never had anything except the number on their plates, and it is remarkable that the number never appears on the officers' plates.


* * * * * * *