21st Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 21st Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was raised on September 23 1678 as “The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot” to serve against the rebel Covenanters. At an early date, it was equipped with the fusil, or light musket, generally a mark that the unit was designated for duty protecting the artillery train at a time when most regiments still carried matchlocks. In 1679, the regiment took part in the Combat of Bothwell Bridge against the Covenanters.

In 1685, the regiment quenched the rebellion of the Earl of Argyle in Scotland.

In 1688, the regiment was ordered to proceed to England to defend it against the threat posed by Prince William of Orange (the future William III). Early in November, it arrived in the vicinity of London. When James II fled to France, the Prince of Orange ordered the regiment to occupy quarters at Witney in Oxfordshire. In 1689, after the coronation of William III, the colonelcy of the regiment was conferred to Francis Fergus O'Farrell.

In 1689, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was sent to the Dutch Republic and took part in the Battle of Walcourt. In 1691, during King William's campaigns in Flanders, the regiment was known as “O'Farrell's Fusiliers” so by then it had apparently received its fusils. In 1692, it took part in the Battle of Steenkerque; in 1693, in the battle of Landen. In 1695, the entire regiment surrendered as prisoners of war at Deinse. In 1697, it returned to Scotland.

In 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment embarked from Scotland for the Dutch Republic. In 1703, it took part in the reduction of Huy and in the capture of Limbourg; in 1704, in Marlborough's march to the Danube, in the Battle of the Schellenberg and in the decisive Battle of Blenheim; in 1705, in the passage of the French Lines at Helixem and Neer Hespen; in 1706, in the Battle of Ramillies, and in the capture of Ostend, Menin, and Ath; in 1708, in the Battle of Oudenarde and in the siege and capture of Lille; in 1709, in covering the siege of Tournai, in the Battle of Malplaquet, and in covering the siege of Mons; in 1710, in the passage of the French lines at Pont-à-Vendin, in the siege of Douai, and in covering the sieges of Béthune, Saint-Venant and Aire; and in 1711, in the passage of the French lines at Arleux and in the siege and capture of Bouckain. In 1713, the regiment was renamed the “North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot”, and about the same time it received the title of “Royal”. It remained in Flanders until 1714, when it was posted to Scotland.

Durin the Jacobite Rising, on November 13, 1715 the “Royal North British Fusilier Regiment” was engaged at Sherrifmuir. After the defeat of the Rising of 1715, it remained on home service until 1727. It then served on the Irish Establishment from 1728-1739. The regiment returned to England as war in Europe threatened.

In 1742, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment was part of the 16,000 men army sent to Ghent in Flanders. On June 27 1743, it fought under King George at the battle of Dettingen. In 1744, it served under Field-Marshal Wade, returning to Ghent that winter. On May 11 1745, it took part in the Battle of Fontenoy under the Duke of Cumberland and in the unsuccessful defence of Ostend.

Upon the Rising of 1745, the regiment was sent back to Scotland. On April 16 1746, it fought under the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Culloden against its fellow Scots of the Jacobite Army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. By 1747, it was back in the Netherlands where it took part in the Battle of Lauffeld. It then remained in the Netherlands until the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, whereupon it returned to England.

On July 1 1751, when a Royal warrant reorganised the British infantry, the regiment was designated as the “21st Royal North British Fusiliers”.

In 1751, the regiment embarked for Gibraltar.

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

  • from April 29 1752 to November 10 1770: Colonel, later General, William Maule, 1st Earl Panmure

Service during the War

From 1752 to 1760 the regiment was stationed in the garrison at Gibraltar, returning to England in 1760.

In 1761, the regiment was commanded in the field by Lieutenant-colonel Edward Maxwell, and mustered 800 men. It took part in the expedition against Belle-Isle under Major-General Studholme Hodgson. The regiment participated in the abortive storming of Port St. Andro, where it had three sergeants, one drummer, and eight “rank and file” killed, eight “rank and file” wounded, and lost Lieutenants Innis and Ramage together with thirty-five “rank and file” taken as prisoners. Following the landing at Pointe Locmaria on April 22 under Brigadier-General Hamilton Lambart, the regiment participated in the siege of the Citadel of Belle-Isle which surrendered on June 7. The regiment returned to England after the taking of Belle-Isle.

In 1763-1764, the regiment was stationed in Scotland.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1756 - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear
Fusilier British mitre (as per the Cumberland's Book of 1742) with: a dark blue front edged white embroidered with red floral twigs and with the regimental badge (a purple thistle, light green leaves and stalk on a dark blue field within a dark blue edged yellow Circle of St. Andrew wearing the motto “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” in yellow) surrounded by 8 concentric silver rays; a small dark blue front flap with the thistle laced white and edged red surmounted by word "Royal" in red; probably red back; a dark blue headband edged white probably wearing the word “Royal Fusiliers” in red in the middle part behind; a white pompom with dark blue inner threads
Grenadier British mitre with: a dark blue front edged white embroidered with white floral twigs and with the regimental badge (a purple thistle with white roots edging the top of a light green bulb, light green leaves and stalk on a dark blue field within a dark blue edged yellow Circle of St. Andrew wearing the motto “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” in yellow) surmounted by a crown (yellow with red cushions, white pearls and ermine headband); a small red front flap with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent"; probably red back; a dark blue headband edged white probably wearing the word “Royal Fusiliers” in red in the middle part behind; a white pompom with dark blue inner threads
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined blue and laced white (white braid with one yellow and one blue zigzag stripe) with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white buttonholes (same lace as above) under the lapel
Collar none
Shoulder Straps brick red (left shoulder only) fastened with a pewter button
Lapels blue laced white (same lace as above) with 7 pewter buttons and 6 white buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets horizontal pockets laced white (same lace as above)
Cuffs blue slashed cuffs laced white (same lace as above) with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white buttonholes (same lace as above) on the sleeve above each the cuff
Turnbacks blue
Waistcoat brick red edged white (same lace as above)
Breeches blue
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 a “Brown Bess” muskets, a bayonet and a sword.

Officers

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

  • silver gorget around the neck
  • a silver aiguilette on the right shoulder
  • silver lace instead of the 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 a musket instead.

Musicians

According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:

The drummers of the regiment wore the royal livery. They were clothed in red, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with blue, and laced with the royal lace (golden braid with two thin purple central stripes).

The drum body was blue decorated with the regimental badge (a purple thistle with white roots edging the top of a light green bulb, light green leaves and stalk on a dark blue field within a dark blue edged yellow Circle of St. Andrew wearing the motto “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” in yellow), surmounted by a crown. The rank of the regiment was painted underneath.

Colours

King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a thistle within Circle of St. Andrew and crown over it.

Regimental Colour: Dark blue field with its centre decorated with a thistle within Circle of St. Andrew and crown over it. The Union in the upper left corner with the regiment number "XXI" in Roman gold numerals in its centre. The King's Cypher and Crown in the three other corners.

King's Colour - Source: by Frédéric Aubert
Regimental Colour - Source: by Frédéric Aubert

References

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

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Twenty-First or The Royal North British Fusiliers, London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1849
  • Clark, James: Historical Record and Regimental Memoir of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Formerly Known as the 21st Royal North British Fusiliers: Containing an Account of the Formation of the Regiment in 1678 and its Subsequent Services until June 1885, Edinburgh, Scotland: Banks & Co., 1885, pp. 1-22.

Other sources

Aylor, Ron, British Regimental Drums and Colours

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

George II, The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

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 (an excellent website which unfortunately does not seem to be online any more)

Wikipedia - Royal Scots Fusiliers

Acknowledgements

Duane C. Young, Ph.D. for the information provided for the initial version of this article