The Objects

16th Jun 1815

Source: Courtesy of the Council of the National Army Museum

British Baker Rifle

Contributed by: Brendan Simms

The British Baker Rifle has been immortalised in the novels and TV-adaptations of Bernard Cornwell’s creation Rifleman Sharpe. Although Sharpe himself is robustly English, his world is peopled with friendly foreigners, such as the unforgettable Westphalian Captain Frederickson, reflecting the multinational nature of Wellington’s army. In the final showdown at Waterloo, Sharpe is thrown together with the legendary Second Light Battalion of the King’s German Legion.

These 400-odd men, most of them Hanoverian subjects of George III, were armed with Baker rifles of the type depicted. Throughout the afternoon of Sunday 18th June 1815, when Napoleon faced Wellington at Waterloo, they defended the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, a vital strongpoint at the centre of the allied line. By the time the Germans were forced to withdraw in the early evening, they had held up the French for so long that Blücher’s Prussians had had time to come up and decide the day.

The Baker rifle had a shorter barrel than the infantry musket issued to the regular line battalions, making it easier to use from a prone position or in buildings, such as the farm at La Haye Sainte. It was also far more accurate, enabling the defenders to pick off enemy officers and cavalry at some distance.

Geolocation

Further reading

Brendan Simms, The longest afternoon. The 400 men who decided the battle of Waterloo (Allen Lane, 2014)


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