Review: The Staff Sergeants of the British Line Infantry

The Staff Sergeants of the British line Infantry Regular Battalions 1848 to 1919
A pictorial guide
By David Langley
Privately produced and published in 2024

I have never actually met David Langley but I have known him a very long time through mutual membership of the Great War Forum. Users there will know him by his online name of “Muerrisch”, but many others will be familiar with his excellent book on the 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers which was published under his true name. His request for a well-known Great War organisation to review this latest work met with a rebuttal, so I (and, I believe) others offered to take a look.

Physically, this is an A4 sized, spiral bound work made with a good quality paper and card covers. It is 88 pages long and in colour.

Self produced it may be, but I found this to be an excellent and scholarly work of reference. It will certainly be of value for me and will remain on my shelf, for frequent consultation, I am sure.

Whenever I look through Army Orders or Army Council Instructions for the establishment (size and structure) of a unit of the army, I see a line referring to “Staff Sergeants and Sergeants”. Yet how often do you ever see “staff Sergeant referred to in a service record, medal record or, say, a unit war diary. Not so much. In this work, all is explained by David. What a Staff Sergeant was, how the various roles that could be described that way evolved over time. It is all complex and bewildering, with the title taking in, for example, quartermasters, armourers, the band, army schoolmasters and paymasters. The size and shape of the battalion organisation was changed from time to time, and the organisational positioning of the Staff Sergeants evolved too. Even to be able to clearly express all of this, and the changes that were made, has required a very substantial study and in itself would have been a valuable reference.

What lifts this book, though, are the 221 illustrations. David has acquired and explained just about every bit of rank and trade insignia, making “The Staff Sergeants of the British Line Infantry” also of value to military historians, genealogists, postcard collectors and others who seek to make sense of images of these men. There are photographs or illustrations on just about every page in the book.

The author has said, “Many experts in their fields contributed, and I was aided by my collection of General Orders, Army Orders, Sovereigns’ Regulations, Pay Warrants and Clothing Regulations, so that most sources for the contents can be pursued at leisure by the reader”. And indeed this is so, for the details given in the book are wherever it makes sense cross-referred to these sources.

Well done, that man.

Buy it

As from 1st Jan 2024 the inclusive price, UK First Class Post is £15 subject to any postal changes, payment by Paypal to account at langleybaston@ or by arrangement.

Book enquiries or orders to unique email address staffsergeants@

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Members of the Great War Forum (register free of charge if you are not yet a member) can contact David via private message at his username “Muerrisch”.