During the 18th and first half of the 19th century the Army relied considerably on the unpaid and unacknowledged support of the wives of soldiers to cook and care for their husbands. Six wives of soldiers in each company were carried 'on strength' to act as unofficial cooks, laundresses and servants to officers. In addition it is clear that other women could also be present, as well as babies and children.

Where women were allowed 'on strength', wives could live inside the barracks and send their children to regimental schools. They often earned money by doing the regimental washing, cooking meals and providing an elementary nursing service.

Very few records were kept by the British Army of women accompanying regiments. After the 1860s, some lists of accompanying women are found in the Pay Lists and Muster Rolls.