The King's German Legion

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In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte was again at war with Britain but was unable to launch his formidable armies against his intransigent foe. Instead the French emperor looked towards Germany and aimed a blow at Hanover, the homeland of the British king George III.

A small and badly equipped French corps was despatched to deal with the Hanoverians, whose government was in turmoil and unsure of what to do.

It had been taken in by an earlier French threat to send 20,000 against their country and despite the fact only 13,000 men under General Mortier were on the march, the government sued for peace and were immediately asked to surrender its entire 10,000-man army.

One battle took place - at Borstel, where a small detachment of Hanoverians drove off the French.

It was all academic, however, and on 3 June the Convention of Suhlingen was signed.

The convention allowed for the occupation of the electorate by the French, who would be paid for by the host country, and the army would be sent to France as Prisoners of War. As good as that seemed for the French, Bonaparte didn't ratify the agreement and so war loomed.

A second, more acceptable peace - the Convention of the Elbe - resulted and Hanover agreed to disband its army.

Taking advantage of this mass of trained troops, Britain set out to recruit 4000 Hanoverians for use in British colours and even sent agents there to solicit support. These men later on faced the death penalty if caught in their activities.

The King's Germans were initially set down to be light troops, but within the ranks were many excellent cavalrymen and artillery and so, in December of 1803, permission was given to create an all-arms corps to be known as The King's German Legion.

By 1805 it consisted of two cavalry brigades, a light infantry brigade, two line infantry brigades and its own artillery and engineering units. By 1808 the KGL had been fully incorporated into the British army and had abandoned its own training and language of command.

One of the first expeditions undertaken by the KGL was in 1805 when 6000 of the Legion tok part in what was supposed to be the freeing of Hanover from French rule.

France had just denuded the country of its forces to take part in the Austerlitz campaign and when the smoke had cleared from Napoleon Bonaparte's crushing victory there Hanover had been ceded to Prussia as part of Austria's peace settlement. British troops were then ordered to return home, albeit with a large huge boost in the number of recruits for the KGL.

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