King's German Legion

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Soldiers of the King's German Legion
Monument to the King's German Legion in Waterloo (1818).
Standard of the 4th Squadron of the 2nd Light Dragoon Regiment of the KGL

The King's German Legion ( KGL ; German Royal German Legion ) was a major German military association in British service and existed during the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1816. It is considered the only German association that existed during the entire period of the French occupation German states fought against French troops.


Entry of the King's German Legion into Hanover in 1816 (middle part of the painting by Ernst Wilhelm Hildebrand )

The legion consisted mainly of former soldiers from the Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg ("Kurhannover"), which was linked to Great Britain by a personal union . According to the provisions of the Artlenburg Convention of July 5, 1803 , they had been released from the disbanded Electoral Hanoverian army .

In the same year, the English major Colin Halkett and the Hanoverian lieutenant colonel Friedrich von derdecke were authorized by King George III to recruit only Hanoverians for cash for a "German Legion".

On December 19, 1803, the troop was founded as the "King's German Legion". Prince Adolph Friedrich, Duke of Cambridge , seventh son of King George III, was appointed Commander-in-Chief. In the course of the Napoleonic Wars , it grew into a full force, which eventually included infantry , artillery and cavalry and in 1813 reached a strength of 15,900 men.

In 1816 the Legion was dissolved and most of its members were accepted into the armed forces of the newly formed Kingdom of Hanover , where they were considered elite soldiers .


Flag of the KGL

The King's German Legion consisted of:

  • Infantry:
  • Engineering corps

The Legion was stationed in Bexhill-on-Sea and Weymouth , later some troops were sent to Ireland , where they were involved in the battle of Tullamore .

In 1812 the unit had around 18,000 soldiers, which was its maximum strength. In total there were around 28,000 men in the Legion.


The uniforms of the King's German Legion followed the Kurhannoverschem or British model with red as the basic color of the infantry , green for the light infantry and blue for cavalry and artillery .


Battle re-enactment with snipers of the King's German Legion e. V. 2nd light bat. at the reenactment of the Battle of the Göhrde

The Legion never fought as a cohesive unit. It is therefore difficult to follow the individual battalions in their campaigns.

Units fought in skirmishes in Pomerania , Copenhagen and Walcheren under General Sir John Moore . They also took part in: Retreat to La Coruña , on the Spanish peninsula under the Duke of Wellington with the battles in Busaco , Barrosa , Fuentes de Onoro , La Albuera , Ciudad Rodrigo , Salamanca , García Hernandez , Burgos , Venta del Pozo , Vitoria , San Sebastián , Nivelles , Sicily and the eastern parts of Spain; Northern Germany and the Battle of the Göhrde . In the battle of Waterloo , the 2nd light battalion - with members of the 1st light battalion and riflemen of the 5th line battalion (reinforced by some Nassauer) - under the command of Major Georg Baring defended the La Haye Sainte farm until they died Run out of ammunition and the last forty-two operational men withdrew. All soldiers involved in the Battle of Waterloo were awarded the British Waterloo Medal and henceforth honored as Waterloo Men .

The Legion was famous for their skills and dedication. The cavalry was one of the best mounted units in the British Army.

The Legion's merits have been recognized by the British government. After the Battle of Salamanca (July 22, 1812) all officers received a permanent rank in the British Army.


The KGL were awarded these battle honors :

  • Peninsular
  • Waterloo
  • Venta del Pozo (1st and 2nd Light Battalion)
  • Garcia Hernandez (1st Dragoons)
  • El Bodon (1st Hussars)
  • Barossa (2nd Hussars)
  • Göhrde (3rd Hussars)


  • Opposite La Haye Sainte is the memorial to the dead of the KGL.
  • Two memorial plaques for the officers and soldiers of the KGL are attached to the outer wall of La Haye Sainte.
  • The Waterloo Column was erected in Hanover .
  • A plaque for the KGL can be found on the monument to the Battle of Vitoria in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain).
  • In Osnabrück you can find the Waterloo Gate at the Heger Gate .
  • In Hanover, not far from Waterlooplatz, there is a monument to Carl von Alten in front of the Lower Saxony State Archives .
  • Also in front of the State Archives, a plaque commemorates KGL officer Georg Baring , who led the troops in La Haye Sainte.
  • The Legionsbrücke in Hanover leads over the Leine tributary Ihme , was originally called Waterloobrücke and is now named after the Royal German Legion.
  • On the Suerser Berg near Gehrden there is a memorial stone for Carl Ludewig von Holle, who fell near Waterloo.
  • In front of the hospital in Wittingen , Lower Saxony, there is a boulder with the inscription "The King's German Legion 1803–1815 - Peninsula, Waterloo, Göhrde".


  • Marie Ballauff: The King's German Legion up to the Battle of Talavera on July 28, 1809. Publisher by Heinrich Feesche, Hanover 1909.
  • North Ludlow Beamish : History of the King's German Legion. 2 volumes. Thomas and William Boone, London 1832–1837, digitized volume 1 , digitized volume 2 , (In German: History of the Royal German Legion. 2 volumes. Verlag der Hahn'schen Hofbuchhandlung, Hanover 1832–1837, digitized volume 1 , Partially digitized volume 2 ).
  • Mike Chappell: The King's German Legion. 2 volumes. Osprey Military, Oxford 2000;
  • Jürgen Delfs: Well-known and hidden natural monuments in the Gifhorn-Wolfsburg area (= series of publications on local history by the Sparkasse Gifhorn-Wolfsburg. Vol. 7, ZDB -ID 30106-1 ). Voigt, Gifhorn 1991.
  • Joachim Kannicht: And all because of Napoleon. From the war diary of Georg von Coulon, Major of the Royal German Legion, and the letters of his wife Henriette. 1806-1815. Bernard & Graefe, Koblenz 1986, ISBN 3-7637-5833-X .
  • Friedrich Lindau: Memories of a soldier from the campaigns of the Royal German Legion. A citizen of Hameln tells about the period 1806–1815. With a foreword by Franz Georg Ferdinand Schläger . Unabridged reprint of the 1st edition, expanded by 6 battle plans , Hameln, 1846. Aurel-Verlag, Wegberg 2006, ISBN 3-938759-02-X .
  • Hermann Lüders (ed.): War trips from Jena to Belle Alliance. Memories of a soldier of the Anglo-German Legion in Germany, England, Portugal, Spain, France and the Netherlands (= Biographical Folk Books . Vol. 36–43, ZDB -ID 2142535-8 ). R. Voigtländer's Verlag, Leipzig 1898.
  • Jens Mastnak, Michael-Andreas Tänzer: This memorable and murderous battle. The Hanoverians at Waterloo. Bomann-Museum, Celle 2003, ISBN 3-925902-48-1 .
  • Jens Mastnak, The King's German Legion 1803–1816: Reality of Life in a Military Formation of the Coalition Wars. Celle, Bomann-Museum, 2015. (Research on the military history of Hanover, 2; Zugl .: Vechta, Univ., Diss., 2013) ISBN 978-3-925902-89-5
  • Mary McGrigor: Wellington's Spies. Pen and Sword Books, Barnsley 2005, ISBN 1-84415-328-2 (English).
  • Adolf Pfannkuche: The Royal German Legion 1803-1816. Popularly represented. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Helwingsche Verlagbuchhandlung, Hanover 1926.
  • Official ranking list of the Royal British-German Legion and the Duke. Braunschw. Oelschen Corps. Dated December 1814. Hahn, Hanover 1814 ( LLB Detmold ).
  • Brendan Simms : The longest afternoon. 400 Germans, Napoleon and the Waterloo decision. CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-67003-9 .
  • A. Trumpf: The German Legion and the Hanoverian Army. In: Isernhagen district calendar. Vol. 7, 1933, ZDB -ID 558566-1 , pp. 43-47.

Web links

Commons : King's German Legion  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. McGrigor: Wellington's Spies. 2005, p. 96.
  2. Text and images can be found at Pfannkuche: The Royal German Legion 1803–1816. 1926, pp. 108-109.