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The British Grenadiers
and Their Mitre Caps
As the name implies, grenadiers were soldiers assigned with the task of throwing grenades. The grenade of the time was a hollow iron ball, filled with gun powder and sealed with a wooden plug which contained the fuse. To ignite the grenade the grenadier carried a borning piece of cord called a slow match. When not in use, the slow mate was placed into a small brass case with holes that was attached to the grenadier's shoulder belt, This match case continued to be worn by grenadiers long after the grenade had been abandoned as an effective weapon.
Every time he handled his match and grenade it was necessary first for the grenadier to free his hands of his musket by slinging it crossways over his shoulder. The soldier's usual large brimmed hat proved awkward when doing this because, while passing over the soldier's head, the sling would catch on the brim. A new headdress was therefore needed for the grenadiers. The mitre cap answered this need and was adopted by the grenadiers of the British Army at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Inspiteof its early introduction, orders regulating the appearance of the Mitre caps were not issued until 1743. The design established in 1743 remained virtually the same until the 1760s when it evolved into the first model of the bearskin cap.
Description of the Mitre cap 1743-1763
The cap's front had a shaped panel of material that was like the boards of a book. This panel was covered with a heavily embroidered piece of wool in the colour of the particular regiment. In 1743 it was ordered that King GeorgeII's royal cypher of a G.R.(GeorgisRex translated King George) surmounted by a crown be embroidered on the front. A small red flap, embroidered with "NEC ASPERA TERRENT" (difficulties daunt us not) and the running horse of Hanover,was attached to the front panel.
The rear of the Mitre cap had a piece of red wool stitched to the edge of the stiffened front. To keep the rear smooth and round two pieces of cane were sewn to the red fabric on the inside, The stitches for the cane that showed on the exterior were then covered by pieces of white woolen tape. The rear bottom band was made of wool of the regiment's colour and had embroidered on it, along with other ornamentation, the numbers of the regiment and a grenade. Completing the cap was an interior lining of unbleached linen, regimental lace along the bottom edge, and a woolen tuft at the top of the cap.