THE NORWICH RIFLE CORPS

Richard Mackenzie Bacon

In August 1803 The Norwich Rifle Corps was formed to protect the country from renewed war with the French. It was under the leadership of Richard Mackenzie Bacon, the young man who was editor of the Norwich Mercury. The picture shows him in later life. There is no doubt that he entered into the spirit of the thing with gusto. He held the inaugural meeting of the Corps on Christmas Day of that year. It was a Sunday, and the day began with a service at St Peter Mancroft church. The oath of allegiance was administerd to the assembled corps.

The uniform was especially fine. It consisted of a dark green jacket, with lace of the same colour, pantaloons, and short black gaiters; hussar cap, with green feather and trimmings; a rifle-carbine, sword bayonet attached to the side by a black waist belt, and a ball pouch and powder horn slung from the left shoulder.

The choice of weapon was slightly unusual. Most militias of the time were equiped with muskets, not rifles. The Board of Ordnance had recently approved these weapons however.  They were certainly expensive; also they were slow and complicated to load. They were only really effective in the hands of highly trained marksmen. In other words they were inappropriate weapons for a part-time corps of amateur soldiers. This fact was demonstrated by the unfortunate death of a bugler in Bacon’s Rifle Corps, by the explosion of a weapon. The unfortunate victim is buried in St. Giles churchyard.

JOSEPH MASON

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