In the early 1670's the Dutch employed English Regiments to fight along side them against the French. An English Regiment under Col Luke Lillington ( sixth ), another English Regiment under Col Clare ( fifth ) and a Scottish Regiment. Clare's and Lillington's Regiments remained in Holland until the Monmouth Rebellion threatened England in 1685. In the year 1673 ten companies of Englishmen were raised under Sir Walter Vane to fight against the French in Holland. During the winter 'non-fighting season' of that year these companies were formed into an Irish Regiment under Viscount Clare, an English en they were called back to this country. These Regiments later became the Fifth and Sixth Foot, their relative seniority being based on the order in which they disembarked.
Monmouth's Rebellion is thought to have so shaken James II that in June of that year he issued Letters of Service to Lord Dartmouth calling on him to raise a Regiment of Fusiliers; so called because he decreed that it should be armed with the 'snap-hance' musket which was the same as the French 'fusil'. The King referred to this Regiment, which was formed at the Tower of London, as 'Our Royal Regiment of Fuzileers', and it later became the Seventh Foot.
After William of Orange landed in England in 1688 he decided to increase the size of the Army, and in November of that year he commissioned Sir Robert Peyton to raise a regiment at Exeter - this became the Twentieth Foot.
Three of our four Regiments (5th, 6th and 20th) fought together at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 when King William defeated ex-King James's army in Ireland.
Besides the Seventh, or Royal Fusiliers, the Fifth and Twentieth were among the first six Regiments to be armed with the fusil.
The Sixth and Seventh shared as their first battle honour 'Namur 1695'. The Fifth was also present at the recapture of the town but did not take part in the repulsing of the very strong French counter-attack, and therefore did not receive the battle honour.
All four Regiments took part in the War of the Spanish Succession and it was as a result of very heavy losses by the Sixth in the year 1702, that the first known cross-posting, which took place between them when the Sixth received a draft of 100 men from the Seventh on their return to England in 1703.
The next time the Regiments met was in 1745 when the Fifth, Sixth and Twentieth were sent to Scotland to put down the '45 Rebellion. Twelve years later the Fifth and Twentieth set sail together for the Seven Years' War where the Twentieth, as Kingsley's Regiment, subsequently won fame at the Battle of Minden, and repulsed three lines of French cavalry.
Although all four Regiments took part in the American War of Independence, they did not fight together in the same engagements. After this war there was trouble in the West Indies where the four Regiments spent some time on garrison duty. It was during the tour in St Lucia in 1778 that the Fifth defeated a much larger French force and afterwards took the white plumes worn by the French, which the Fusiliers then wore in their own head dress.
The Fifth and Sixth were in the British force in Portugal under Sir Arthur Wellesley at the break-up of the French outposts at Rolica, and were joined by the Twentieth at Vimiera - a victory which resulted in the signing of the Convention of Cintra whereby the French agreed to evacuate Portugal.These three Regiments were also to fight alongside each other at the Battle of Corunna, where the French Marshal Soult, despite numerical superiority, was held off in a fighting withdrawal. After returning home, they all took part in the ill-fated Walcheren campaign.
The four Regiments all formed part of the British force in the Second Invasion of Spain in 1812. The Twentieth or 'Young Fusiliers', as it was nick named, was in the same division as the Seventh. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Seventh, and 1st Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, comprised the Fusilier Brigade under command of Sir William Myers at the Battle of Albuhera, 16 May 1811, where in a fierce counter-attack they routed a greatly superior force by storming the heights which had been captured by the French. This brigade was later to be commanded by Maj-Gen Ross, lately Colonel of the Twentieth. The fate of the French was sealed at Vittoria, a battle in which all four Regiments took part and which they carry as a battle honour to this day. The Regiments continued to fight alongside one another, each gaining the honours 'Pyrenees', 'Nivelle', 'Orthes', 'Toulouse' and 'Peninsula'.
In May 1836 the Fifth was made Fusiliers, having previously gained affiliation with Northumberland in 1784. The Sixth had previously become affiliated to Warwickshire in 1782 and become a Royal Regiment in 1832. The Twentieth, after nearly 100 years' connection with Lancashire, was renamed the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1881.
The Seventh and Twentieth served together in the Crimea, but the next time all four Regiments served in the same theatre was in South Africa 1899-1902, although they did not all fight alongside each other in any particular battle of that campaign.
With 163 Battalions serving in the Great War it was always probable that the four Regiments would serve alongside each other again. The first of such battles was Le Cateau, followed by the Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, 1918, Ypres 1914-15-17-18, Somme 1916, 1918, Arras, Passchendale, Cambrai 1917-18, and Gallipoli, to name a few. It was in the Gallipoli campaign that a Fusilier Brigade was in action again. 86 Brigade, comprising a battalion of the Seventh and of the Twentieth, achieved immortal glory at the landing on 25 April 1915. A Lancashire Fusilier Brigade subsequently joined them in the campaign, as did battalions of the Fifth and the Sixth.
The historic connections and affiliations between the four Regiments were continued in many theatres during the Second World War, notably in North West Europe, Tunisia, Italy and in Burma. These associations culminated in April 1958 when the Fifth, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, the Seventh, The Royal Fusiliers, and the Twentieth, The Lancashire Fusiliers, formed the Fusilier Brigade. They were joined on 1 May 1963 by the Sixth, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, when that Regiment also became Fusiliers. The four Regiments worked very closly together, adopting the same uniform, badges and insignia. On St George's Day 23 April 1968, they came together to form The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and thus cemented the union, the seeds sown over 300 years ago, and in which is perpetuated all the renown of these four old historic Regiments.
On 1 November 1969 the 4th Battalion was withdrawn from the Army's Order of Battle and the personel were merged into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions. The Options for Change policy and subsequent Government reduction of defence expenditure also resulted in the centralising of Regular Army bands into the Army Band Corps. Another consequence of options for change was that Minden Day, 1 August 1992 the 3rd Battalion was withdrawn from the Army's Order of Battle and the personnel were merged into the 1st and 2nd Battalions following the Government's Option for Change policy.
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
Active 23 April 1968-Present Country United Kingdom Branch Army Type Line Infantry Role 1st Battalion - Armoured Infantry
2nd Battalion - Light Role
5th Battalion - TA Reserve Size Three battalions Part of Queen's Division Garrison/HQ RHQ - London
1st Battalion - Fallingbostel, Germany
2nd Battalion - Dhekelia, Cyprus
5th Battalion - Durham Nickname The Shiners
The Old and the Bold
Lord Wellington's Bodyguards Motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame to he who thinks evil of it) (French) Colors Gosling green flag with Ancient badges St George Killing the Dragon centered,motto in scroll Quo Fata Vocant, united rose surmounted by crown in three corners, V with Union in canton March Quick - The British Grenadiers
Slow - Rule Britannia Mascot Indian Black Buck (Bobby) Anniversaries St. George's Day (23 April), Minden (1 August) Commanders Colonel in Chief HRH The Duke of Kent, KG,GCMG,GCVO Colonel of the Regiment Brigadier Roy Maddox Wilde, CBE
I have recently started reading a book called “ The Autobiography of the British Soldier From Agincourt To Basra” by John Lewis-Stempel. Its true accounts of battles written by soldiers at the time and is a fantastic read!
Here are a few accounts I have found which are from our Regiment of old.
“I am too old a soldier to surrender…without bloody noses”
THE JACOBITE RISING OF 45
Sergeant Molloy Refuses to Surrender,
The Ruthven Redoubt
Scotland, 30 August 1745
An NCO’s report;
Hon General, This goes to acquaint you that yesterday (29th) there appeared in the little town of Ruthven about three hundred of the enemy, and sent proposals to me to surrender the redoubt upon condition that I should have liberty to carry off bags and baggage. My answer was “I am too old a soldier to surrender a Garrison of such strength without bloody noses! They Threatened to hang me and my men for refusal. I told them I would take my chance. This morning they attacked me about twelve o’clock with about one hundred and fifty men; they attacked the foregate and sally port. They drew off about half an hour after three. I expect another visit this night, but I shall give them the warmest reception my weak party can afford. I shall hold out as long as possible.
I conclude, Honourable General, with great respect,
Your most humble servant,
J.Molloy, Sergt. 6th of Foot.
Molloy and his twelve men beat off one attack, and only surrendered - on terms which allowed them to march to a loyalist garrison- when the Jacobites reappeared with artillery. On the intervention of General Sir John Cope, Molloy was promoted to lieutenant for his “ Gallant Behaviour”.
“ the Americans were highly elated at having beaten the British”
Sergeant John Spencer Cooper
The War of 1812
The Battle of New Orleans
8 January 1815
The causes of the war of 1812 lay in the desire of the United States to poach British possessions in North America whilst Britain was occupied in the life or death struggle with Napoleon. The war began well, with the repelling of a US attack on Canada, even the occupation of Washington, but ended in a damp, ignominious squib. Sergeant John Spencer Cooper of the 7th Royal Fusiliers was among those lucky enough to survive the debacle at New Orleans.
After landing, we marched towards New Orleans, each man carrying a cannon ball in his haversack, as we had no baggage animals. Now two balls would have been more easily carried than one, because they would have poised each other.
“ Tis said delays are dangerous” so we proved it. The troops that had preceded us had been on shore about three weeks, but not being strong enough to meet the enemy, they had not advanced far from the sea.
As the fleet could not approach within about forty miles of the position, all the artillery, ammunition and provisions etc had to be brought to us in boats. While all went on so tardily, the Americans were cutting trenches, mounting cannon etc, across a narrow plain, which had the mighty Mississippi on the right and a marshy dense wood on the left. A frigate also was posted on the river in such a situation that it could rake the whole line. Batteries were also planted on the right or farther bank of the river.
The force which the Americans had to defend this narrow front was said to be about 14,000. A deep wide ditch, in front of high breastworks, ran along the whole line of defence. Our whole force for attacking this formidable work, did not exceed 7,000 including several hundred sailors sent from the fleet.
The front of our position was perfectly flat, on which three small guns were planted, but these were of little use, being only six pounders.
On the day before the battle, I, with three or four more, was selected to join my old comrades in the Light Company, from which I had been transferred when made sergeant, but the captain would not let me go back. This probably saved my life, for the Light Company, with a company of the 43rd, and one from 85th, stormed the right redoubt next day and would have established themselves there, had they been supported.
The same evening , hearing that we were to storm the enemy’s works in the morning, several of us went to the colonels tent undermined him that we should have been discharged at Portsmouth and sent home, according to orders from the Duke of York, then Commander in Chief. He said could not be helped, This did not satisfy us, so we hurried to Head Quarters, to speak to Sir Edward Pakenham, but he was out viewing the enemy’s defences.
Early in the morning of January 8th, 1815, we were assembled within cannon shot of the American entrenchments, as the reserve or second line. This was certainly a grand mistake, for the troops in front were composed of two black West India regiments and other corps that had not been employed in sieges etc, as we had in Spain.
Just as the day was breaking, a rocket whizzed aloft. All stood ready for the assault. At work “ Forward!” the two lines approached the ditch under a murderous discharge of musketry, but crossing the ditch and scaling the parapet were found impossble without ladders. These had been prepared, but the regiment that should have carried them left them behind, thereby caused, in a few minutes, a dreadful loss of men and officers, while the enemy suffered little, being enconced behind the parapet. The front line now fell into great confusion and retreated behind us, leaving numerous killed and wounded. We then advanced to within musket shot, but the balls flew so thickly that we were ordered to lie down to avoid the shower. In the meantime our Light Company and the two companies before mentioned, had gained a footing on the right of the American works, but having no support at hand, the enemy returned in force and drove them into the ditch, where they were exposed to a plunging fire from above and a flank fire from the frigate. One of the officers in the ditch vented his spleen at the enemy above by throwing stones. At last the companies bolted from the ditch and ran off stoopingly in different directions. One of them, named Henry Axhorn, a smart young fellow, received a ball above his hip, which ran up his body and stuck near his eye. It was extracted in a hospital at New Orleans. He joined us again after peace, much altered is shape and not fit for further service. Our Light Company went into this action sixty four strong and returned sixteen- having lost forty eight.
That part of our force which was dispatched to storm the enemy’s works on the other side of the river, pushed off when the rocket was forced, but being few in number, they affected nothing of importance.
The Americans were highly elated at having beaten the British and I believe they boast of it to this day. But all things considered, they had little reason. Let us recapitulate-they were in number about 14,000, behind string breastworks and a steep ditch, a frigate protected their right flank, a wood and morass their left. Cannon were plentiful all along their front.
Our force numbered about 7,000 including perhaps 1,000 sailors. We had no works, no ditch and only three small guns. Shelter we had nine, for the ground in front of the enemy’s works for about a mile was as flat as a bowling green.
Of the 1,200 that should have crossed the river, no more than three of four hundred could be supplied with boats. But the chief cause of our failure was the want of ladders, which a certain regiment should have carried, but did not. Had Wellington been there, the Americans would have less to boast of.
Tragically, peace had already been concluded before New Orleans was fought, the news had not reached the combatants down in Louisiana.
British Losses at New Orleans were 2,000 killed, wounded or captured. American losses were eight dead!
Sergeant Cooper would been consoled to know that Wellington was present to command the British in the greatest battle of the age, Waterloo.
“ Obtaining a pick and spade I buried him alone”
Finds His Brother’s Body
On The Battlefield
Sebastopol, 8th June 1855
One night in particular I remembered that was the night we took the quarries. That night we had a hard tussle and lost a lot of our poor fellows, the enemy turning out in very strong force. But eventually we drove them back and succeeded in taking the quarries, although both sides lost heavily. In this attack I had a brother killed, belonging to the 7th Royal Fusiliers. I knew he was in the engagement and after it was over made enquiry and finding no trace of him, next day- the flag of truce being hoisted- I went out amongst the dead to search for the body, in this being successful. Obtaining a pick and spade I buried him alone, the other bodies being placed in heaps. I had another brother belonging to the marines, also engaged in this action, but he fortunately escaped. It is after the battle when the field is strewn with the dead and wounded, that the full horror of war makes itself felt, a horror which words but feebly express and entirely fail to describe, were you bold enough to attempt to describe such scenes, but the soldier has no place for fine feeling and at the call of duty he must do or die and leave the sentiment for others.