Belling Hussars

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Origin and History

Belling Hussars - Source: Adolf Menzel

The regiment was created on February 16 1758 and raised in 1758 in Halberstadt from new recruits by Prince Henry of Prussia. It initially counted 5 squadrons and included drafts from other cavalry regiments. Exceptionally, each of its squadrons counted only 8 NCOs and 102 troopers, following the old establishment of 1755. In 1761, the regiment was increased to 10 squadrons and in 1762 it was raised again to 15 squadrons or 3 battalions, but the 3rd was disbanded at the peace of 1763.

The inspectorate of the regiment was Pomerania where it garrisoned Belgard, Bütow, Lauenburg, Neu-Stettin, Rummelsburg, Schlawe, Stolpe, and Zahnow.

The regiment was often referred to as Der ganze Tod (the whole death) because of the white skeleton with an hourglass decorating their mirlitons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:

  • from February 16 1758: Prince Henry of Prussia as commander
  • from February 16 1758 till December 4 1779: Lieutenant-colonel Wilhelm Sebastian von Belling as Chef

In 1763 the formerly Frei-Husaren Prinz Heinrich (later von Belling) officially took the rank of the “Red Hussars” and their red uniform in 1764. They garrisoned the town of Stolp (present-day Slupsk) where local peoples nicknamed them Die rote Löwen (the red lions).

By 1806, the regiment was known as the von Blücher Hussars. On October 14, the regiment fought in the battle of Auerstädt. On October 28, it was at the clashes of Lychen and Criewitz. On November 6, it was at the storming Lübeck. On November 7. the regiment surrendered at Ratkau. Over the next few days all members of the regiment managed to escape and make their way to join up with the remaining Prussian forces there. None of the regiment was registered as crossing the Rhine into captivity in France and in 1807 there were 900 men in the regiment in East Prussia. It became the new 5th Hussars.

Service during the War

Trooper of Belling Hussars in 1758 - Copyright: Franco Saudelli

In 1758, the regiment initially served in Bohemia. On June 15, it fought in the combat of Rehau. By mid-July, the regiment had been transferred to Dohna's Corps to contain the Russian invasion of Brandenburg. On October 15, it took part in the raid on Freiberg where it cut down many of the enemy and took over 200 prisoners. On October 15, it was at the skirmish of Conradsdorf. Later, it fought in a skirmish near Passberg in Bohemia where it attacked an Austrian corps of 2,000 men and took it prisoner, complete with the commanding general. It then served in Franconia and in the Upper Palatinate before returning to Upper Lusatia.

On April 15 1759 at Sebastiansberg, 2 squadrons of the regiment (about 360 men) defeated 3 battalions, capturing 3 guns, 3 colours flags and more than 1300 men. On May 20, the regiment was at a skirmish near Liebau. On August 12, the 5 squadrons of the regiment took part in the Battle of Kunersdorf where it was initially deployed in the reserve of the left wing. It drove back the Russian cavalry from the Kuhberg. In September, now that the Russian army was no more a threat for Brandenburg, the regiment was transferred to Pomerania along with some light infantry as part of Manteuffel's Corps. In mid October, Manteuffel's Corps arrived at Pasewalk. On October 21, Manteuffel launched a surprise attack the town of Demmin. After this raid, the Swedish army retired to Anklam, harassed by Belling Hussars.

In 1760, the regiment took part in the campaign of Pomerania. On January 28, it was present at the clash near Anklam. On October 3, Werner was informed of the Austro-Russian raid on Berlin. Prince Eugen then precipitously abandoned the theatre of operation, leaving only a meager force (Belling Hussars and 2 bns of Frei-Infanterie von Hordt) under Colonel Belling to defend Pomerania. On October 19, Belling followed up the retiring Swedish Army and entered into Mecklenburg and put it to contributions. He then marched to Eastern Pomerania to put a stop to the incursions of the Russian Cossacks.

In February 1761, while stationed in Pomerania, Belling raised a third battalion for his hussar regiment. During the Swedish summer offensive, Belling ceaselessly manoeuvered to contain the Swedes. On July 31, the Swedes sent troops (1 Fribattaljon, Hästjägare and Blå Hussars) to Spantekow and Thurow to block the Kavelpaß. Major Schwartzer with 150 Hästjägare attacked the bridge at the Kavelpaß. After a furious fight, he drove back the Prussian infantry and captured the bridge. Schwartzer had barely seized the bridge when he was counter-attacked by 1 sqn of Belling Hussars led by Rullman and 2 sqns of Ueckermark Provincial Hussars under Hohendorf. In this skirmish, the Swedes lost 1 officer, 26 men and 36 horses. The lost of the Prussians are unknown. Belling then marched to Bartow where his hussars skirmished against Hessenstein's outposts in the woods. On the morning of August 6, Belling attacked the Ropenackerpaß where were 2 Swedish bns guarded the bridge. The Prussian were forced to retire in the face of a relief column led by Hessenstein hurrying up from Altentreptow. Belling retreated by Salow to Friedland. On August 7, fearing for his communications with Mecklenburg, Belling departed with 8 coys of Frei-Infanterie von Hordt, 700 men of Belling Hussars and 2 sqns of Ueckermark Provincial Hussars. He left only 2 Freikompanien and some men of Belling Hussars in Friedland. Belling made a wide detour south-westwards by Neubrandenburg. On August 8, Belling's horse caught up with the Swedes near Kentzlin. Major Platen had with him the Frikompanie Lillie along with 2 sqns of Blå Hussars, 150 Hästjägare and 2 guns. The Swedes took refuge in the houses and gardens of the village where they successfully defended themselves. During this skirmish both sides lost about 20-30 men. On the Prussian side, Major Hohendorf was wounded . After the combat, they exchanged prisoners. On the morning of August 14, 3 sqns of Belling Hussars attacked Hessenstein rearguard consisting of a detachment of the Södra Skånska Horse near Ruhlow. In this action, the Swedes lost about 85 men (Kessel gives on 43 men) and the Prussians 20 men. On August 20, about 900 men of the regiment took part in a combat near Neubrandenburg. On September 9, Belling Hussars ambushed the vanguard of Hessenstein's Corps in the woods near Jatzke. They charged the Swedish cavalry forming the vanguard from three sides: 3 sqns charged on each flank while 4 sqns charged frontally. Hessenstein's Corps consisted of 4 bns and 2 cavalry rgts. His vanguard was defeated. In this action, the Prussian hussars lost 3 men killed, 11 wounded and 22 taken prisoners while the Swedes lost 4 officers and about 50 men. On September 17, the 1st and 2nd battalion took part in the Combat of Kosabroma. On September 18, the 1st battalion fought in the Combat of Rothemühl-Neuensund. On September 22, a Swedish detachment stumbled on a post occupied by 800 men of Belling Hussars at Taschenberg. The Swedes didn't close up and the skirmish lasted about 2 hours. In the night of December 11, Belling attacked the Swedish posts at Volksdorf on the right bank of the Peene. On December 16, Belling's columns advanced to Loitz and Tribsees. Near Langenfelde, one of the column unexpectedly came across a Swedish detachment under the command of General Carpelan. After a brief skirmish, Belling marched on Jarmen, where he captured 1 officer and 45 men. On December 22, the Prussian force was attacked by a Swedish corps at Malchin. The Swedes managed to penetrate into the city, forcing the Prussians to retire, pursued by Sprengtporten's Cavalry. However, Belling's Hussars pushed back the Swedish cavalry to Malchin.

By November 9 1761, the 3rd battalion (5 squadrons)) formed part of Platen's corps stationed at Pyritz in Pomerania. On November 17, Platen's corps made a junction with the corps under the command of the Prince of Württemberg. In December, this corps was sent to relieve the Siege of Colberg. On December 12, 3 squadrons fought in the Combat of Spie. Facing a superior Russian force, the Prussians finally retreated. On December 21, the 3rd battalion took part in the Engagement of Zarnglaff.

On January 2 1762, the regiment formed part of a Prussian detachment sent to prevent a Swedish relief force from reaching Malchin. However, this detachment was defeated and could not prevent the junction of Swedish forces. The regiment then took its winter-quarters in Gnoien (1st bn), Marlow (2nd bn) and Ribnitz (3rd bn). The regiment was later transferred to Saxony where it joint the army of Prince Henri. On June 26, it took part in a skirmish near Reichenbach; on July 13, in a skirmish near Ölnitz; and on July 21, in a skirmish near Auerbach. On July 29, 10 sqns of the regiment formed part of Seydlitz's Corps who quit Zwickau and advanced towards Bohemia by Geyer, Annaberg and Sebastiansberg (present-day Hora Svatého Šebestiána) almost to Prague in a vain attempt to capture and destroy Austrian magazines before the opening of the campaign. Nevertheless, during this raid Seydlitz took over 1,000 prisoners and much booty. On August 2, 10 squadrons of the regiment took part in the Combat of Teplitz. At sunrise, 5 squadrons of the regiment made themselves master of the Wachloderberg. At 4:00 AM, Benedikt Daun Cuirassiers and converged Carabiniers charged Bellings Hussars on the Wacholderberg and drove them away, allowing Austrian infantry to take position on this hill. During the afternoon, the Prussians retired to Oberleutensdorf where they remained till August 3. From August 25 to 29, the regiment occupied Eger. On October 29, it took part in the Battle of Freiberg where it was attached to Stutterheim's column. It first drove back the enemy from the Struthwald before attacking Klein-Walterdorf where it surrounded the enemy, took many prisoners and captured 1 flag.


  • Prinz Heinrich hussar on horse copy of a contemporary drawing, Becher, Johann Christian: Wahrhaftige Nachricht derer Begebenheiten, so sich in dem Herzogthum Weimar by dem gewaltigen Kriege Friedrichs II., Königs von Preußen, mit der Königin von Ungarn, Marien Theresen, samt ihren Bundesgenossen zugetragen, Weimar, ca. 1757-1760, Original (Stiftung Weimarer Klassik - Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar), Copies (NYPL Digital Gallery, The Vinkhuijzen collection)
  • Prinz Heinrich officer, NCO and hussar, pelisse and dolman Uniformen der Preußischen Armee, 1758 (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)
  • von Belling officer and hussar on foot Accurate Vorstellung der sämtlich Koeniglichen Preusischen Armee Worinnen zur eigentlichen Kenntniss der Uniform von jedem Regiment ein Officier und Gemeiner in Völliger Montirung und ganzer Statur nach dem Leben abgebildet sind. Nebst beigefügter Nachricht 1.) von der Stiftung. 2.) Denen Chefs. 3.) der Staerke und 4.) der in Friedenszeiten habenden Guarnisons jedes Regiments. Hrsg. u. gezeichnet I.C. v. S.(chmalen), Nürnberg, 1762 (Bibliothèque nationale de France)


Uniform in 1758
Copyright Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear a black mirliton with white cords, knots and tassels; decorated on the front with a complete reclining white skeleton and the motto “Vincere aut mori” (to conquer or to die)
Pelisse black
Fur trim white
Lace 12 rows of green braids
Buttons yellow
Dolman black with 12 green braids and yellow buttons
Collar black edged green
Cuffs black edged with a green chevron
Trousers buff (maybe white for parade) with black Schalavary (overtrousers) edged green
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waist-sash black and green barrel sash
Scabbard black with white metal fittings
Boots black Hungarian boots edged white with a white tassel
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth black shabraque with green wolf tooth
Sabretache black wearing a green crowned royal crest, bordered with a thick green red braid

Troopers were armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a carbine.


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Trumpeters wore mirlitons.


During the Seven Years' War, Prussian Hussars did not carry standards. The regiment received its first standards on September 28 1814 and on June 15 1815.


Stammliste aller Regimenter und Corps der Koeniglich-Preussischen Armee fuer das Jahr 1806. Reprinted by Bilblio Verlag, Osnabrueck 1975.

Alt, Das Koeniglich Preussische Stehende Heer. Schrapp, Berlin, 1869.

Bredow – Wedel. Historische Rang- und Stammliste des Deutschen Heeres. Berlin 1905.

Eckardt, Werner – Morawietz, Otto. Die Handwaffen des brandenburgisch-preussisch-deutschen Heeres. Hamburg, Helmut Gerhard Schulz Verlag, 1973.

Fiebig, H. Unsterbliche Treue

Funcken, Liliane and Fred, Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Franke, Ludwig Eberhardt. Vorstellung der Koeniglich Preussischen Armee. Potsdam, 18??

Fraser, David. Frederick the Great, The Penguin Press, London 2000.

Gieraths, Günther: Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgisch-Preussischen Armee 1626-1807, Ein Quellenbuch, Berlin 1964.

Gohlke, W. Geschichte der gesamten Feuerwaffen bis 1850 Berlin 1911.

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 9 Bergen, Berlin, 1911, append. 3

Grossen Generalstab. Urkundliche Beitraege und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Preussischen Heeres; Heft 14 / 15. Der Feldzug 1806 / 07 und die Reorganisation der Artillerie. Berlin 1914

Grossen Generalstab. Urkundliche Beitraege und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Preussischen Heeres; Hefte 26 - 30. Die Freikorps und Auslaender-Battailone. Berlin 1914.

Hoepfner, Edouard von. Oberst. Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807. Berlin, Simon Schropp & Comp. 1850.

Jany, Curt. Geschichte der Preussischen Armee vom 15. Jahrhundert bis 1914. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrueck, 1967.

Kling, C. Geshichte der Bekleidung, Bewaffnung und Ausruestung des Koeniglich Preussischen Heeres. Three volumes. Putzer und Hoeltze, Weimar 1912.

Ramm, August Leopold. Abbildungen von allen Uniformen der Koenigl. Preuss. Armee unter der Regierung Sr. Majestaet Friedrich Wilhelm III Berlin, J F Unger, 1800.

Voigt, Guenther. Deutschlands Heere bis 1918. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrueck, 1983.

N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.


Digby Smith for the initial version of this article and Gunnar W. Bergman for the information on the adoption of the red uniforms of the disbanded Seydlitz Hussars