17th Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 17th Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was created on September 27 1688 and raised in London, as the "Solomon Richards' Regiment of Foot" to defend England against threat posed by William of Orange (the future William III). Until 1751, this regiment would be known by the names of its successive colonels.

On October 23 1688, four companies of the regiment were ordered to march to Colnbrook and Longford; four to Staines and Egham; and five to Windsor, Datchet and Slough. On October 29, the quarters were changed to Maidenhead, Datchet and Windsor. On 6 November, when the Prince of Orange had landed in Devonshire, the regiment received orders to march to Greenwich and Deptford. When William seized power, the regiment was allowed to continue in existence as part of William's army.

In April 1689, the regiment sailed from Liverpool for Ireland but it was not authorised to land and returned to England. Dissatisfied, King William deprived Colonel Richards of his commission and, on 1 May, conferred it to Sir George St. George.

From 1690 to 1692, the regiment was employed on home service.

In 1693, during the Nine Years' War, the regiment was sent to Flanders and was initially stationed in garrison at Ostend. In 1694, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1695, Colonel St. George exchanged his regiment with colonel James Courthope. The regiment then took part in the siege and capture of Namur where it suffered heavy losses including its new colonel.. It remained in Flanders until the Treaty of Ryswick ended the war in 1697.

From 1698 to 1700, the regiment was stationed in Ireland. In 1698, it counted one battalion of ten companies for a total of 34 officers and 411 men.

In June 1701, on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment embarked from Cork and sailed to Holland. In 1702, it took part in the covering of the siege of Kaiserswerth, in the sieges and capture of Venlo, Roermond and the Citadel of Liège; in 1703, in the sieges and capture of Huy and Limbourg. In October, the regiment was selected to form part of an army assembling in Portugal. It embarked from Holland and sailed to Portsmouth. In 1704, the regiment sailed for Portugal where it participated in a brief offensive in Spain. In 1705, it took part in the sieges and capture of Valencia de Alcantara and Albuquerque and in the unsuccessful siege of Badajoz; in 1706, in the sieges and capture of Alcantara and Ciudad Rodrigo, in the brief occupation of Madrid and in the retreat to the province of Valencia; and in 1707, in the Battle of Almanza where it was virtually annihilated (it could only muster some 266 officers and soldiers later the same year). It then received drafts from several regiments which were ordered to return to England to recruit. In 1708, it took part in the defence of Catalonia. After the campaign, the regiment received orders to transfer its men fit for duty to other corps, and return to England. In 1709, it recruited in England. In 1710, it was sent to Scotland.

In 1714, the regiment was sent to Ireland. It was recalled to England in September 1715 to fight against the Pretender. On November 13 1715, it took part in the Battle of Sheriffmuir. It then remained in Scotland until 1721.

In 1721, the regiment was sent to Ireland where it served until 1724 to the exception of a brief sojourn in England from August to December 1722.

In 1726, the regiment was sent to Minorca to assume garrison duty. It remained in the island until 1749.

In 1749, the regiment returned to Ireland where it served until 1757.

On July 1 1751, when a Royal warrant reorganised the British infantry, the regiment was designated as the "17th Regiment of Foot".

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

  • from 1752: Brigadier-General Edward Richbell
  • from February 24 1757: Colonel John Forbes
  • from 1759: Brigadier-General the Honourable Robert Monckton

Service during the War

In 1757, the regiment was selected for the planned campaign against Louisbourg or Québec. On May 7, the transport fleet sailed from Cork, Ireland, arriving at Halifax on July 9. Three French Naval Squadrons reinforced Louisbourg that summer and the British expedition was cancelled. Lack of winter quarters at Halifax forced the relocation of the regiment to the area around Albany.

In Spring 1758, the regiment returned to Halifax. At the end of May, the regiment (31 officers and 967 NCOs and soldiers under Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Morris) joined the expedition against the Fortress of Louisbourg led by Lord Jeffrey Amherst. On June 8, when the British army landed near Louisbourg, the regiment was part of the centre brigade under Brigadier-General James Wolfe. In June and July, it took part in the Siege of Louisbourg which surrendered on July 27. In this siege, the regiment lost Captain William Earl of Dundonald killed; Captain Paul Rycant and Lieutenant Francis Tew wounded; also several men killed or wounded. On August 30, the regiment sailed for Boston where it arrived on September 14.

By the end of June 1759, the regiment had joined the British army assembling under the command of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, at the head of Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George) for the planned expedition against Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga). On Saturday July 21, after a long delay, the regiment finally embarked aboard the flotilla which set sail over Lake Saint-Sacrement and reached the Narrows at the outlet of the lake before nightfall. At daybreak on Sunday July 22, the British force disembarked, occupied the heights, and then advanced to the line of entrenchment of Carillon. On the night of July 23, most of the French force retired down Lake Champlain, leaving only 400 men to defend the place as long as possible. At 11:00 p.m. on July 26, the French, who had abandoned the fort, blew one of the bastion of the fort to atoms. On August 1, the British force also took possession of a destroyed Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) which had been abandoned by its French garrison. The British force then spent months rebuilding the two forts and adding some outworks while vessels were being built to take command of Lake Champlain. It was not until October 11 that the British troops re-embarked aboard their flotilla. On October 18, due to bad weather, Amherst resolved to cancel out the expedition and to retreat to Crown Point. Six companies of the regiment spent the winter of 1759-1760 at Ticonderoga.

In 1760, the regiment took part in the three pronged attack against Montréal. It was attached to the division under Colonel Haviland. On August 11, this division embarked from Crown Point and sailed towards Isle-aux-Noix. It landed on the left bank of the river Richelieu and captured a fort near the river. Two other forts were abandoned by the French, and Haviland took possession of Isle-aux-Noix. The regiment afterwards advanced upon Montréal. The French governor, unable to withstand the forces opposed to him, surrendered on September 8.

During the first months of 1761, the regiment lay idle in Montréal. During the summer it set off for New York. In August, it encamped on Staten Island. Towards the end of October, it embarked for the West Indies. On December 24, it arrived at Carlisle Bay, Barbados.

On January 5 1762, the regiment was part of the amphibious force who sailed from Carlisle Bay for the expedition against the Island of Martinique. It took part in the siege and capture of Fort Royal. Then from March to August, the regiment (555 rank and file under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell) participated in the expedition against Cuba and in the siege and capture of Havana, suffering heavy losses from sickness during the following months.

In 1763, the regiment returned to North America where it remained until 1766.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1757 - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced white with a black cockade (left side)
Grenadier
17th Foot Grenadier Mitre Cap - Source: Digby Smith and rf-figuren
British mitre with: an off-white front edged white embroidered with dark green laurel leaves with dark yellow central veins and dark yellow stalks with red berries on the bottom 4 leaves; the dark green King's cipher surmounted by a crown (yellow with red cushions, white pearls and ermine headband); a small red front flap edged white with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent" in white and with a yellow on green bottom strip; off-white back; an off-white headband edged red probably wearing the number 17 in the middle part behind; a dark blue within white pompom
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined greyish white and laced white (white with 2 dark blue outer stripes and 2 dark blue inner zigzags) with brick red shoulder wing laced white (same lace as above) and with 3 white buttonholes under the lapels (same lace as above)
Collar none
Shoulder Straps brick red fastened with a white button (left shoulder)
Lapels greyish white laced white (same lace as above) with 7 pewter buttons and 6 white buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets vertical pockets with white laces (same lace as above) arranged in a fishbone pattern, each with pewter buttons
Cuffs greyish white (slashed in the British pattern) laced white (same lace as above)
Turnbacks greyish white
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

  • silver gorget around the neck
  • an aiguilette on the right shoulder
  • silver 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 greyish white, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with red, 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 greyish white, with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “XVII” 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 "XVII" in gold Roman numerals.

Regimental Colour: red cross of St. George in a greyish white field with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "XVII" 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 Seventeenth or, The Leicestershire Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker, 1848

Other sources

Boscawen, Hugh: The Capture of Louisbourg, 1758, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2011

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

Mills, T. F.: Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website who seems to have disappeared from the web)

Tatum, W. P. III: HM 17th Regiment of Infantry

Wikipedia: Royal Leicestershire Regiment

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