Prussian Cavalry attacking French infantry
The Battle of Wilhelmstahl
War: Seven Years War
Date: 24th June 1762
Place: North West Germany
Combatants: British, Hanoverians, Prussians, Brunswickers
and Hessians against the French.
Generals: Archduke Ferdinand of Brunswick against Prince
Soubise and the Duc D’Estrées.
Size of the armies: Ferdinand’s army comprised 50,000 men
against 70,000 French troops.
Uniforms, arms and equipment:
All regular European soldiers of this time fought in a knee
length uniform coat, turned back at the skirt, cuffs and
lapels to reveal a distinctive regimental lining colour.
Headgear was a black tricorne hat with a lace brim, except for
grenadiers who wore a tall mitre cap. In some armies the grenadier
mitre was giving way to a bearskin cap.
The uniform was white for the majority of French
regiments, blue for the Prussians and German armies that followed
the Prussian tradition, like Hesse-Darmstadt, and red for the
British and Hanoverians. There were exceptions within every army.
The French Royal Household troops wore a variety of coats. The
foreign mercenary regiments in the French service wore red. The
Hanoverian and Hessen horse wore white. The British Royal Artillery
and Royal Horse Guards wore blue coats.
Winner: The allied army under Prince Ferdinand.
5th Foot at the Battle of Wilhelmstahl
The Royal Horse Guards; now the Blues and Royals.
The King’s Dragoon Guards; now the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
2nd Dragoon Guards; later the Queen’s Bays and now the Queen’s
3rd Dragoon Guards; later the 3rd Carabineers and now the Royal
Scots Dragoon Guards.
The Carabineers; later the 3rd Carabineers and now the Royal Scots
7th Dragoon Guards; later the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and now
the Royal Dragoon Guards.
1st Royal Dragoons; now the Blues and Royals.
6th Inniskilling Dragoons; later the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guars
and now the Royal Dragoon Guards.
2nd Dragoons, the Royal Scots Greys; now the Royal Scots Dragoon
7th Dragoons; later the Queen’s Own Hussars and now the Queen’s
10th Dragoons; later the Royal Hussars and now the King’s Royal
11th Dragoons; later the Royal Hussars and now the King’s Royal
15th Light Dragoons; later the 15th/19th the King’s Royal Hussars
and now the Light Dragoons.
2nd Battalion the First Guards, now the Grenadier Guards.
2nd Battalion the Coldstream Guards.
2nd Battalion the Third Guards, now the Scots Guards.
5th Foot; later the Northumberland Fusiliers and now the Royal
Regiment of Fusiliers.*
8th Foot; The King’s Regiment.
11th Foot; later the Devonshire Regiment and now the Devon and
12th Foot; later the Suffolk Regiment and now the Royal Anglian
20th Foot; later the Lancashire Fusiliers and now the Royal Regiment
23rd Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
24th Foot; later the South Wales Borderers and now the Royal
Regiment of Wales.
25th Foot; now the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
33rd Foot; now the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.
37th Foot; later the Royal Hampshire Regiment and now the Princess
of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
27th Foot; later the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and now the Royal
51st Foot; later the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and now the
87th Highlanders; disbanded after the war.
88th Highlanders; disbanded after the war.
*Wilhelmstahl is a British battle honour, but only for the 5th Foot.
1762 saw a complete change in the conduct of the Seven Years War.
The new British Government under the Earl of Bute did not share
Pitt’s enthusiasm for British involvement in the war in Germany. The
policy of supporting Prussia came under review, with the possibility
of a British-French peace treaty.
Battle of Wilhelmstahl
Prussia had been brought to its knees by the weight of the
alliance against it; the Prussian army reduced to 70,000 men by its
attritional battle casualties. Then on 5th January 1762 the Czarina
Elizabeth, Frederick the Great’s sworn enemy, died. The new Czar
made peace with Prussia. The tide swung in his favour, in the nick
Hanoverian Regiment of
Dragoons von Veltheim
Ferdinand, Archduke of Brunswick, the allied commander in chief
in North West Germany was perplexed as to the future of his British
troops. Reinforcements for his British regiments were slow in
arriving from England. His British generals lingered in London after
Nevertheless Ferdinand was determined to be first in the field
and to take the initiative with the strongest army he had yet
A force under Lückner was dispatched to capture the fortress of
Sababurg on 21st June 1762.
The French commanders Soubise and D’Estrées moved forward to
occupy the area around the towns of Grebenstein, Burguffeln,
Meimbressen and Wilhelmstahl. Lieutenant General the Marquis de
Castries lay in an advanced position on the hills behind Carlsdorf.
Stainville commanded a strong force on high ground by Westuffeln.
Ferdinand resolved to attack the French army with an enveloping
movement launched from across the River Diemel.
Hanoverian Regiment of
Dragoons von Veltheim :
The Hanoverian general Spörcken after crossing the river, would
attack the force commanded by Castries. Lückner was to take his
light troops around the French flank and deliver an assault on the
Several allied columns were to attack the main advanced French
force under Stainville.
To Granby fell the role of advancing from Warburg, the scene of
his triumphant cavalry attack in 1760, and take the French in the
On the night of 23rd June 1762 the allied columns crossed the
Diemel and moved forward to the attack. In the first engagement,
Spörcken’s force of Hanoverian foot and cavalry engaged Castries’
positions. The French artillery opened fire alerting the rest of the
French army to the allied assault. In spite of being surprised
Castries counter attacked and was able to extract his force and pull
back on the main army.
Lückner threw his attack in to the left of Spörcken’s. There was
some confusion with regiments of the two columns firing on each
other. The criticism is made that Lückner failed to swing far enough
out and therefore did not come in on the French rear as intended.
The main attack then fell on Stainville’s troops. They stood at
the top of the hill; good regiments, confident of repelling any
assault. But the first attack came from Granby’s column arriving in
its rear. Stainville’s corps faced about and fought hard to drive
the British and Hanoverian troops back down the hill. As each allied
battalion came up it joined in the fighting, highlanders, grenadiers
and the battalions of British Foot Guards. Finally Ferdinand’s main
columns arrived and assaulted Stainville from the other direction.
Attacked in the front and rear Stainville’s regiments broke. The
Grenadiers de France and the Royal Regiment surrendered. Stainville
managed to fight his way out with the remnants of his force, just
two battalions, and the French army streamed away towards Kassel and
the River Fulda.
The allies suffered a total of 702 casualties of which 552 were
suffered by Granby’s column. The French casualties are not clear. It
seems that Stainville’s corps alone suffered 1,500 killed and
wounded with 3,000 captured.
The French army was forced to withdraw across the River Fulda.
French offensive plans for the war were effectively at an end.
Regimental anecdotes and traditions:
Among the French regiments to surrender were the Grenadiers de
France, the Royal Grenadiers and the Regiment d’Aquitaine. The 5th
Foot took the surrender of many of these men. This may be the reason
why the 5th alone was given Wilhelmstahl as a battle honour.
His Britannic Majesty’s Army in Germany during the Seven Year
War by Savory
Fortescue’s History of the British Army