95th Rifles Chosen Man 1806
'Squad leader' or 'Chosen Man' of the 95th Rifles during the Penninsular War Campaign 1806.
A Chosen Man of the
95th Rifles Circa 1808
In 1800 an Experimental Corps of Riflemen was formed, its members hand-picked from other regiments. The Corps were dressed in dark green and armed with the Baker Rifle, a new weapon of precision. The Rifle, unlike the old smooth bore muskets with an effective range of 100 yards was capable of great accuracy up to 300 yards and, in the hands of a master even 500 yards.
In every half platoon one soldier of merit was selected and upon him the charge of the squad devolved in the absence of the Non-Commissioned Officer. This soldier was known as the Chosen Man, and his badge was the white armband.
The role of the 95th, or Rifle Corps as it became in 1803, was to provide a skirmishing force and reconnaissance screen of expert marksmen to head the advance, cover the movements, and guard the retreat of British troops in the field. A year after its formation, a company of the Corps served aboard Nelson’s ships at the Battle of Copenhagen, earning its first battle honour, and later a Naval Crown in its cap badge. As part of the Light Brigade under Sir John Moore in the Peninsular War 1808-09 they provided the rearguard when the approach of a far larger French army forced him to retreat to Corunna and Vigo.
Throughout the rest of the Peninsular War the Light Brigade and later the Light Division was to make an outstanding contribution to Wellington’s victories, the 95th earning sixteen battle honours. In 1816 and in recognition of its services in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington had the 95th ‘taken out of the line’ in the Army List, and constituted as a separate Brigade, called after the weapon its men had handled in outpost and in battle with such superlative skill. Thus the Rifle Brigade came into being which eventually became one of the antecedent regiments of today’s Rifles.
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