12th Foot

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Origin and History

After the Restoration in 1660, when King Charles II had disbanded the army of the Commonwealth, a number of non-regimented companies of foot were embodied for garrisoning the fortified towns, and one company was constantly stationed at Windsor, to furnish a guard at the castle. This company sent a detachment to Virginia in 1676. It was commanded by Henry Duke of Norfolk, Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle.

In the Summer of 1685, during the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, this company was united to several newly raised companies (from Norfolk, Suffolk, and the adjoining counties) to constitute a regiment, of which the Duke of Norfolk was appointed colonel on June 20 1685. The general rendezvous of the regiment was at Norwich, and as the several companies were formed, they were quartered at Norwich, Yarmouth, and Lynn. The formation of the regiment was not completed when the rebel army was defeated at Sedgemoor, and the Duke of Monmouth was captured soon afterwards, and beheaded; but King James resolved to retain the newly raised regiment in his service. The regiment was sent to London and then encamped on Hounslow-heath, where it was reviewed by the King. At the beginning of September, the regiment marched into garrison at Portsmouth.

In May 1686, the regiment left Portsmouth and proceeded to the training camp of Hounslow. On June 14, Edward Earl of Lichfield became colonel of the regiment. On August 10, two companies proceeded to Windsor, three to Tilbury-Fort, and the remainder to Jersey and Guernsey. In the Summer of 1687, the regiment once more took part in the training camp on Hounslow-heath where it received a grenadier company.

In the Summer of 1688, soon after its arrival at Hounslow, the regiment was formed on parade in presence of the king who made a short speech to induce officers and soldiers to give an unreserved pledge, and the major was directed to call upon all who would not support the repeal of the test and penal laws, to lay down their muskets. The king was surprised and disappointed at seeing the whole ground their arms, excepting two officers and a very few soldiers, who were Catholics. After some pause, the king commanded them to take up their arms, telling them that for the future he would not do them the honour of asking their opinions. The conduct of the king occasioned the nobility and gentry to solicit the Prince of Orange to come to England with a Dutch army. Soon after the Prince of Orange had landed, the Earl of Lichfield was removed to the 1st Foot Guards and, on November 30, was succeeded in the colonelcy by Robert Lord Hunsdon. After the flight of King James to France, Lord Hunsdon refused to take the required oath to the Prince of Orange who conferred the colonelcy of the regiment on Henry Wharton.

At the beginning of 1689, during the Williamite War, the regiment was stationed in Oxfordshire; it afterwards proceeded to Hull where it was inspected at the end of May. In the early part of August, the regiment embarked from England. In mid-August, it arrived in Ireland, landing near Bangor, in the county of Down. It then took part in the siege and capture of the Fortress of Carrickfergus which surrendered on August 27. Afterwards, the regiment advanced with the army to Dundalk, and the Duke Schomberg, believing King James's forces were more than double his own in numbers, formed an entrenched camp. The situation of this camp was particularly unfavourable; the ground was low, and the weather proving wet, the infantry regiments lost many men from disease. The regiment sustained a very serious loss in non-commissioned officers and soldiers; and on October 28, its colonel, Henry Wharton, died. On 1 November, King William promoted the lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, Richard Brewer, to the colonelcy. On November 7, the regiment marched towards Armagh; and it was employed on various services during the winter. In February 1690, it was stationed at Belturbet, with the Inniskilling Horse and Dragoons, and the Queen Dowager's Foot. On the night of February 10, a detachment of the regiment took part in a surprise attack against Cavan and returned to Belturbet. A numerous body of recruits from England then replaced the losses of the regiment. By June, it counted 500 musketeers, 160 pikemen and 60 grenadiers. The regiment then campaigned under the command of King William. On July 1 (July 11 N.S.), it took part in the Battle of the Boyne where it formed part of the main body. After the victory, the regiment accompanied King William to Dublin; it afterwards proceeded to Limerick, but on arriving at Carrick-on-Suir, it was detached, under Major General Kirke, to besiege Waterford: the garrison of this place surrendered without waiting for an attack. It then took part in the unsuccessful siege of Limerick. At the end of December, the regiment captured the town of Lanesborough. At the beginning of January 1691, the regiment marched from Lanesborough to Mullingar, of which place its commanding officer, Colonel Brewer, was appointed governor. On April 28, Brewer advanced with 600 foot and 20 dragoons, towards the Castle of Donore, beyond which place 2,000 rapparees (armed Catholic peasants) had taken post and occupied a number of huts. On April 29 at daybreak, Brewer attacked and put the rapparees to flight. Towards the end of May, one division of the army encamped at Mullingar, where General De Ginkell arrived and assumed the command. From Mullingar the army advanced to the fort of Ballymore which was besieged and surrendered on June 8. The regiment then took part in the siege of Athlone, which surrendered on June 30; and in the Battle of Aughrim on July 12(July 22 N.S.). The regiment afterwards marched with the army to Galway, and formed part of the force employed in the siege of that place, which surrendered on July 21, and was delivered up on July 26. Major-General. The regiment was then selected to form part of the garrison of Galway. On November 23, the regiment marched from Galway. Towards the end of November, it embarked at Kinsale and sailed to Plymouth. At the beginning of December, it landed at Plymouth.

During the summer of 1692, England became more and more involved in the Nine Years' War (1688–97). The regiment was selected to form part of an expedition against the coast of France, under the command of the Duke of Leinster. It embarked at Southampton and the expedition menaced the French coast at several places but did not land. Troops afterwards sailed to Ostend, where they landed, and being joined by a detachment from the confederate army under King William III., they took possession of the towns of Furnes and Dixmude, which they fortified. The regiment then returned to England. During the year 1693, the regiment remained in Great Britain; but the loss of the Battle of Landen, by King William, rendered it necessary for the confederate army in Flanders to be augmented, and the regiment was one of those selected to proceed on service. In the Spring of 1694, it embarked for Flanders. It was stationed at Malines a short time, and afterwards formed part of the escort which accompanied the train of artillery to the army at Tirlemont, where it arrived on June 6. It was attached to Brigadier-General Erle's Brigade. The regiment formed part of the covering army during the siege of Huy and, after the capture of this fortress, it was stationed at Bruges. In May 1695, the regiment marched to Dixmude. In June, it took part in the attack on the Fort of Kenoque in Leslie's Brigade. When King William laid siege to Namur, operations against Fort Kenoque were discontinued and the regiment marched into garrison at Dixmude. On 15 July, a large French army laid siege to Dixmude. The regiments in garrison were all made prisoners of war, and were marched into the territory subject to France. They were soon exchanged after the capture of Namur by King William. The regiment was afterwards placed in garrison at Malines. In the Spring of 1696, the regiment was recalled to England which was threatened by a French invasion. However, when the French abandoned their design, the regiment was ordered to remain in Flanders. On May 28, it joined the troops encamped between Ghent and Bruges where it was allocated to the brigade of Brigadier-General the Earl of Orkney. It was encamped behind the Bruges canal nearly all the summer to cover Ghent, Bruges, and the maritime towns of Flanders. In the Autumn, the regiment was ordered to occupy quarters in the town of Bruges. In the Spring of 1697, it joined King William's Army assembling in Brabant. The regiment was encamped before Bruxelles when the war was terminated by the treaty of Ryswick.

In 1699, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Ireland.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1702, the regiment was ordered to join an expedition destined to the West Indies which was finally laid aside. In 1703, the regiment took part in the unsuccessful expedition against Guadeloupe. It was then sent to the island of Jamaica where it was stationed until 1705, sustaining very serious losses from the effects of the climate. In 1705, NCOs and soldiers of the regiment who were fit for service were transferred to Thomas Handasyde's Foot; and the officers and a few of the sergeants returned to England to recruit. In 1708, the new regiment took part in the expedition against the coast of France. A landing was effected near Boulogne. The expedition was then redirected towards Ostend to reopen the line of communications between this city and the Allied army besieging Lille. In 1709, the regiment returned to England and was stationed in garrison at Portsmouth. In 1712, it was embarked for Spain to reinforce the Allied army in that country. In the summer, preliminary articles for a treaty of peace were agreed upon, which was followed by a cessation of hostilities, and the regiment proceeded to the Island of Minorca, which ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of Utrecht.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, on June 27 1743, the regiment took part to the battle of Dettingen where the later famous James Wolfe served as ensign in this unit. On May 11 1745, the regiment fought at the battle of Fontenoy, suffering very heavy losses.

On July 1 1751, when a Royal warrant reorganised the British infantry, the regiment was designated as the "12th Regiment of Foot".

As per a resolution of September 20 1756, a second battalion was exceptionally added to the regiment. However, this second battalion was detached from its parent regiment in April 1758 to form the 65th Regiment of Foot.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since May 28 1745: Henry Skelton
  • from April 22 1757 to November 21 1766: Robert Napier

Service during the War

In the summer of 1758, the regiment was among the first British contingent (6,000 men) sent to reinforce the Allied army of Ferdinand of Brunswick in Germany. The contingent embarked at Gravesend on July 19, disembarked at Emden on August 3 and arrived at Coesfeld on August 17, after marching through a very heavy rain.

In June 1759, the regiment was part of the main Allied army under the command of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick. The grenadiers of the regiment were converged with those of the 20th Foot, 23rd Foot, 25th Foot and 51st Foot to form Maxwell's Grenadiers Battalion. On July 29, the regiment, along with the 20th Kingley's Foot, was assigned at the guard of Ferdinand's headquarters at Hille. On August 1, the regiment took part to the battle of Minden where it was deployed in the first line of the third column from the right under major-general Waldegrave. Misinterpreting orders, Waldegrave advanced straight upon the French center consisting of three lines of cavalry. The first line of French cavalry (11 sqns) charged Waldegrave first line but was thrown back. The second line of French cavalry was equally repulsed though with more difficulty. Now the French reserve, consisting of the Gendarmerie de France and the Carabiniers, attempted a third attack upon the 9 brave battalions. It charged and broke through the first line of Allied infantry. However, the second line received them with a deadly fire and forced them to retire. The astonishing attack of the British infantry had virtually gained the day. The 12th Foot bore the brunt of the charges of the French Cavalry and of the storm of artillery and musket-fire and, as Ferdinand declared, "gained immortal glory". In this battle, the regiment lost 19 officers and 283 men, killed, wounded or missing.

On July 16 1761, the regiment was with Granby's corps in Germany and took part in the battle of Vellinghausen.

To do: more detail on the campaigns from 1760 to 1762

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1757 - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white with a black cockade (left side)
Grenadier British mitre with: a yellow front embroidered with the King's cypher in red and a crown over it; a small red front flap with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent" in black; red back; a yellow headband wearing the number XII in red in the middle part behind
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined yellow and laced white (white braid with a wide yellow stripe in the middle) with 3 white buttonholes under the lapels (same lace as above)
Collar none
Shoulder Straps red fastened with a white button (left shoulder)
Lapels yellow laced white (same lace as above) with 7 pewter buttons and 6 white buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets triple horizontal pockets with white laces (same lace as above), each with pewter buttons
Cuffs yellow (slashed in the British pattern) laced white (same lace as above)
Turnbacks yellow
Waistcoat brick red laced white (same lace as above)
Breeches brick red
Gaiters white with black buttons
brown, grey or black during campaigns (black after 1759)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black
Footgear black shoes


Troopers were armed with with a "Brown Bess" muskets, a bayonet and a sword. They also carried a dark brown haversack with a metal canteen on the left hip.

Officers

Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences

  • gold gorget around the neck
  • an aiguilette on the right shoulder
  • gold lace instead of normal lace
  • a crimson sash

Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command; however, officers of the grenadier company wore a more decorated mitre cap.

Officers generally carried a spontoon, however, in battle some carried muskets instead.

Musicians

According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:

The drummers of the regiment were clothed in red, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with yellow, and laced in such manner as the colonel shall think fit for distinction sake, the lace, however, was of the colours of that on the soldiers' coats.
The front or forepart of the drums were painted yellow, with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “XII” under it. The rims were red.

Colours

King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "XII" in gold Roman numerals.

Regimental Colour: yellow field with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "XII" in gold Roman numerals. The Union in the upper left corner.

King's Colour - Source: PMPdeL
Regimental Colour - Source: PMPdeL

References

This article is essentially an abridged and adapted version of the following book which is in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical record of the Twelfth, or The East Suffolk Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker, 1848

Other sources

Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899

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

George II: The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Knowles, L.: Minden and the Seven Year's War, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton & Co. Ltd, London, 1914

Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army - from the Beginnings to 1760, vol. II

Mills, T. F.: Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth

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