This image depicts a soldier in the Light Infantry Company (note the LI lettering to the front of his cut down cap) of the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of foot c. 1771, as they would have appeared just prior to the American Revolutionary War. The 46th would later become the 2nd battalion of The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. After Light Infantry evolved in the 7 years war, particularly in the campaigns in North America, each British Regiment of foot had a designated company of skirmishers on their establishment, known as The Light Infantry or Light company. Their clothing and equipment was altered to be less cumbersome in close country and to allow free movement. This included having headdress that fitted closer to the head and would catch less on trees and undergrowth than the wider tricorn hat. After the American Revolutionary war, building on the experience of using combined battalions of light Infantry companies and German rifle armed Jager regiments; in the early 19th Century formed battalions of Light Infantry and then Rifle Corps were formed to meet the threat from Revolutionary France. Many of the men to form these new regiments were chosen from the Light Companies of existing Regiments, selected for their agility, skill at arms, self confidence and marksmanship. They became ‘the chosen men’ to form these new skirmishing corps. It is through this skirmishing tradition all the way back to 1757 that the skirmishing ethos of the Light Infantry and the Rifleman in British service has evolved. An ethos firmly held by the Riflemen of todays Regiment, with the qualities of those first chosen men still encapsulated in our motto Swift & Bold.
To find out more about the service of our antecedents in The American Revolution or the evolution of The Rifles why not visit any of the Museums in The Rifles Museums network the locations of which are on the interactive map under Rifles Museums. for the 46th in particular visit Cornwall’s regimental Museum, The Keep, Bodmin.