20th Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 20th Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was raised at Exeter in Devonshire on November 20 1688 by the adherents of the Prince of Orange (afterwards William III) while he was advancing from Torbay. It was designated as the “Sir Richard Peyton's Regiment of Foot”.

In February 1689, the regiment was reduced to six companies. However, when the Williamite War broke out in Ireland in the same year, it was increased to thirteen companies. Sir Robert Peyton withdrew from active service, and was succeeded by Colonel Gustavus Hamilton, a zealous Protestant, who had quitted the service of King James in Ireland. The Regiment was recruited to its establishment in time to accompany the second division of the army, commanded by Marshal Duke Schomberg, to Ireland, where it arrived soon after the capture of Carrickfergus, and was placed in garrison at that fortress where it passed the winter. In the spring of 1690, the regiment joined the army commanded by King William III and took part, on July 11, in the Battle of the Boyne where it distinguished itself, its colonel, Gustavus Hamilton, being later honoured with the title of Viscount Boyne. The regiment then participated in the unsuccessful siege of Limerick. At the beginning of 1691, detachments of the regiment had frequent encounters with bands of armed Roman Catholic peasantry, called Rapparees. In June, the regiment joined the army commanded by General de Ginckell (afterwards created Earl of Athlone), under whom it served at the capture of Ballymore, which place surrendered after a short resistance. The regiment also served at the siege of Athlone; and at the capture of that place by storm, on July 1, its commanding officer, Colonel Gustavus Hamilton, highly distinguished himself at the head of the grenadiers who led the assault. After the capture of Athlone, the army advanced against the French and Irish forces commanded by General St. Ruth. On July 22, the regiment took part in the decisive battle of Aughrim. On this occasion the regiment attacked the enemy's left, and drove King James's soldiers from the first and second lines of hedges. Its progress was afterwards obstructed by gardens and fences but it pressed upon the enemy, and was subsequently removed to support the cavalry at the pass near the Castle of Aughrim. Eventually the opposing army was driven from the field with severe loss, including its commander, General St. Ruth, who was killed by a cannon-ball. In this battle, the regiment had six soldiers killed and nine wounded. From Aughrim the regiment marched with the army to Galway, which fortress surrendered after a short resistance. The wreck of King James's army took refuge in the city of Limerick, which was again besieged, and the regiment was employed in this service until the surrender of the place, in September, which event terminated the war in Ireland, and established the authority of King William in that country.

From 1692, the regiment remained on duty in Ireland until 1702.

In June 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment embarked from Ireland for the Isle of Wight. In August, it took part in the expedition against Cádiz. After the failure of this expedition, the regiment was one of the units selected to proceed to the West Indies, and it sailed on this service on October 4, with a division of the Royal Navy under Commodore Walker. In 1703, as the regiment was stationed at Jamaica, extensive preparations were made for the attack of the French and Spanish settlements in the West Indies and the Earl of Peterborough was nominated to the command of the armament to be employed in this service but the design was soon abandoned. In 1704, the regiment sustained some loss from the climate of Jamaica, where it was stationed a short time. It then returned to Ireland. On June 2 1707, four British regiments (including Newton's Foot) embarked from Cork. They landed at Lisbon and joined the army commanded by the Marquis of Montandre. In 1708, the regiment campaigned in the Alentejo. In 1709, it took part in the Battle of La Gudina. It was then employed in the Alentejo during the remainder of the campaign. In 1710, it took part in the capture of Xeres de los Caballeros. In 1711, the regiment formed part of the army which assembled at Olivenza, passed the Guadiana by a pontoon bridge at Jerumenha, and captured several small places in Spanish Extremadura. In 1712, the regiment remained in Portugal.

From July 1713, the regiment was stationed at Gibraltar where it remained until 1728.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment took part to the battles of Dettingen, Culloden and Fontenoy.

By 1749, the regiment was under the personal command of Wolfe and was brought to a state of efficiency hitherto unknown in the British Army.

On July 1 1751, when a Royal warrant reorganised the British infantry, the regiment was designated as the "20th Regiment of Foot".

As per a resolution of September 20 1756, a second battalion was exceptionally added to the regiment. Two years later, in 1758, this second battalion was made a distinct regiment as the "67th Regiment of Foot".

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:

  • from 1749 to 1758: James Wolfe
  • from 1758 to the end of the war: Kingsley

In 1782, the regiment was renamed as the 20th (The East Devonshire) Regiment of Foot.

The motto of the unit was 'Onmia audax' (In all things daring). The unit also had two nicknames. The first, "Kingsley's Stand", was in reference to the unit being placed in reserve due to casualties after Minden. The second nickname, "The Two Tens", was due to the regimental number that was always shown in Roman numerals (XX).

Service during the War

In May 1756, the regiment changed quarters from Canterbury to Devizes.

In September 1757, the regiment was stationed on the Isle of Wight and embarked on the fleet for the unsuccessful and wasteful raid on Rochefort.

In May 1758, the regiment was at the Isle of Wight in preparation for a raid on the French Coasts. It then embarked on the fleet and took part to the first British expedition against the French Coasts from June 1 to July 1 and returned to the Isle of Wight after the expedition. While encamped on the island, the regiment was ordered to embark for Germany. It 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 and disembarked on August 3 at Emden. It then left for Coesfeld where it arrived on August 17 after marching through a very heavy rain. During this campaign, the grenadiers of the regiment were converged with those of the 12th, 23rd, 25th and 51st to form Maxwell's Grenadiers Battalion.

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 attached to Maxwell's grenadier battalion. On July 29, the regiment, along with the 12th Napier's Foot, was assigned at the guard of Ferdinand's headquarters at Hille. On August 1, it took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the second line of the 3rd column from the right under Major-General Kingsley alongside the 51st Brudenell's Foot, 25th Home's Foot and the Hanoverian Foot Guards. Before the battle, the regiment is traditionally supposed to have been posted in or near some rose gardens from which the men picked flowers to use as a field sign. Misinterpreting orders, Waldegrave, at the head of the first line of this column, advanced with extraordinary bravery straight upon the French centre consisting of three lines of cavalry. The first line of French cavalry (11 sqns) charged Waldegrave's 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 losses of the regiment exceeded those of any other unit engaged, in fact they were so heavy that Prince Ferdinand by a special order struck the regiment off duty. However, Major-General Kingsley, also colonel of the regiment, declined to obey the order replying "Kingsley's Regiment, at its own request will resume its portion of duty in the line".

On October 16 1760, the regiment took part in the Battle of Clostercamp where it was in the 3rd Division along with the 87th Keith's Highlanders, the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Hanoverian Reden Infantry. They assaulted the monastery at Camp. All were under the command of Lieutenant-General Waldegrave.

In July 1761, the regiment was part of Conway's Corps in Germany and took part in the Battle of Vellinghausen as part of the reserve along with the 87th Keith's Highlanders and the Légion Britannique.

On June 24 1762, the regiment took part in the Battle of Wilhelmsthal where it was in the reserve.

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 pale yellow front embroidered with the King's cypher and a crown over it; a small red front flap with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent"; red back; a pale yellow headband wearing the number 20 in the middle part behind
Neck stock white
Coat brick red lined pale yellow and laced white (white braid with thin red and blue stripes) with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white buttonholes (same lace as above) under the lapel and brick red shoulder wing laced white (same lace as above)
Collar none
Shoulder Straps red (left shoulder)
Lapels pale yellow laced white (same lace as above), each with 7 pewter buttons and 6 white buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets horizontal pockets laced white (same lace as above), each with 2 pewter buttons and 2 white buttonholes
Cuffs pale yellow (slashed in the British pattern) laced white (same lace as above), each with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white buttonholes (same lace as above) on the sleeve above each cuff
Turnbacks pale 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 natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
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 had silver lace lining the cuffs and lapels, a black cockade hat, and wore a red sash slung over the right shoulder. Sergeants wore straw gloves. Partizans were carried.

Musicians

Drummers and fifers wore a reversed coat with swallows nest and lace in white.

The drum pattern were red hoops and white drum cords over a brass drum.

Colours

King's Colour: British ensign, rose wreath around the Roman numerals of the regiment (XX).

Regimental Colour: Pale yellow field, rose wreath around the Roman numerals of the regiment (XX).

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

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Twentieth or The East Devonshire Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall & 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

Holmes, Richard: Redcoat, Harper Collins, London, 2001

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

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

Mollo, J.: Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63, Blandford Press, page 156.

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