RLI Badge

1st Battalion Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association ®

Origins of Light Infantry & their Distinctive Horn Badge


Prussian Light Infantryman from the late 1700’s era wearing green jacket & bugle horn hat badge The Light Infantry is descended from what was known as “light troops”. These soldiers were trained to be highly mobile and act independently on the battlefield, within the framework of the battle, with their role being to skirmish ahead of the main force to ambush enemy whilst enroute to the battlefield and/or, prevent the enemy from properly forming up for battle.

Prussia recruited light troops from its hunters (Jägers) and gamekeepers as these men were accustomed to operating independently in the forests, using ground & natural surroundings for concealment and, were skilled in marksmanship & observation.

The British, first witnessed the increasing use of light troops and, the particular effectiveness of Jäger groups, during the Seven Years War of 1756–1763. This irregular form of warfare was too exotic for contemporary British attitudes and thus, initially Britain was content to use German troops, rather than raise their own units.

However, British opinion rapidly changed when they began fighting against the French (and their Red Indian allies) in the rugged wilderness of North America where, the British found that rigid adherence to European methods in that type of country and against that type of enemy, simply invited disaster.

Accordingly, from 1770 onwards each British Foot Regiment had on compliment, one company that was organized on a lighter and more mobile scale from the rest. These were known as Light Companies and in time, became Regiments in their own right, which were then called Light Infantry.


By necessity, light troops needed to be highly mobile however, the established method for conveying orders on the battlefield (drum beat) was found to be too cumbersome and was quickly replaced by hunting horns, which were traditionally carried by German Jägers, and which could be used either as a musical instrument or, as a gunpowder container.

The term bugle originates from the French word bugleret, which was derived from the Latin buculus, meaning young bull The ancient European Wild Ox was called a Bugle and it was from this animal that German first obtained their hunting horns. Ancient European Ox Horn

Halbmond Horn Symbolically, bugle horns had for centuries been associated with hunters & foresters however, it was the Germans who first introduced the bugle horn badge and Jaeger (hunter) green dress into military uniform, one of the earliest Regiments, being the Prussian Field Jaeger Corps of 1744.

As time went on bugle horns were made from metal with the large copper semi-circular

The horn became a symbol for all Light Infantry & is correctly referred to as a Bugle Horn