23rd Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 23rd Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was formed in 1689 as Lord Herbert's Regiment by Henry, Lord Herbert of Chirbury. Although designated as the Welsh Regiment of Fusiliers in 1702, it has always contained men from all over Britain.

In 1694 under Colonel Ingoldsby, the regiment was moved to Flanders. There it won its first battle honour at the siege of Namur in 1695 where the regiment suffered casualties of 92 dead and 123 wounded. The regiment's part in the siege remains unclear but the casualty figures suggest that it lead the assault.

The regiment was selected, during the War of the Spanish Succession, together with an English and Scottish regiment, to become "Fusiliers" for the purpose of guarding the artillery train. The fusiliers all wore mitre caps; originally, these mitre caps were ordered to be lower than those of the grenadiers but this distinction was soon lost.

The second battle honour was won at Blenheim. There, as part of the five brigades leading the attack under the command of brigadier Rowe, the Welsh and Scots Fusiliers were ordered not to fire a shot until Rowe had struck the palisade with his sword. Their attack was repulsed but they reformed, attacked again and with help from a cavalry attack on the centre won the day. The Welsh Fusiliers lost 9 officers and 120 other ranks.

The first reference to the regiment as "Royal" occurs in 1712 and the following year, the cumbersome title of "Prince of Wales's Own Royal Regiment of Welsh Fusiliers" was granted by George I in recognition of the bravery and loyalty of the regiment. At this time it was granted the privilege of wearing the Prince of Wales's Feathers and the Badge of the Rising Sun on the Regimental Colors.

When the War of the Austrian Succession erupted, the regiment again went to Europe. At the battle of Dettingen on June 27, 1743 the regiment participated with honor defeating three French regiments including the famous regiment of Navarre. In commemoration, the regiment was allow to include the badge of the White Horse of Hanover to their colors.

Under the command of the duke of Cumberland, the regiment was very badly mauled at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745 when it attacked a very strongly fortified position. Although twice successful in breaking the French line, the position was untenable and with losses of 323 men, the regiment was forced back. Later in 1747 at Lauffeldt, the duke of Cumberland again was defeated. This time, the regiment was run down by its own cavalry and subsequently attacked by French infantry resulting in 240 men being lost, most of whom were prisoners.

On July 1 1751, the regiment officially became the "23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers)" while garrisoned in Scotland. 1754 found the Royal Welsh bound for duty in Minorca.

September 20 1756, saw the addition of a second battalion but two years later, in 1758, this battalion was made a distinct regiment as the 68th Regiment of Foot.

The unit later participated in the American War of Independence and was sent out to the American Colonies in 1773. When the rebellion erupted in Boston, the unit took part in the battles of Lexington and Concord. As the War progressed, the 23rd Foot took part in many of the major battles. These battles included Bunker (Breed's) Hill, Germantown and Camden before the unit surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, but not before the Colours had been smuggled out and only the cased flagpoles surrendered. Their heroism at Yorktown was so admired by the opposing forces, and the fact that so few men had held out for so long, that the Fusilier Redoubt that they held along with a detachment of Royal Marines still stands as a memorial to them.

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

  • since July 28 1743: general John Huske
  • from January 16 1761 to May 11 1775: lieutenant-general George Boscawen

Service during the War

In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years War, the 23rd Foot was one of four British regiments that unsuccessfully defended Minorca against the duc de Richelieu. After the capitulation of Fort St. Philip on June 28 1756, the regiment was allowed to retire to Gibraltar. The regiment then returned to Great Britain where, on September 20, it received a second battalion.

In May 1758, the regiment was sent to the Isle of Wight and then, from June to July, took part to a fruitless expedition against the French Coasts, returning 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.

In June 1759, the regiment was part of the main Allied army under the command of the duke Ferdinand of Brunswick. The grenadiers of the regiment were converged with those of the 12th Foot, 20th Foot, 25th Foot and 51st Foot to form Maxwell's Grenadiers Battalion. On August 1, the regiment took part in the battle of Minden where it was deployed in the first line of the 3rd column under major-general Waldegrave alongside the 12th Napier's Foot and the 37th Stuart's Foot. Misinterpreting orders, Waldegrave advanced straight upon the cavalry deployed on the left of the French centre, supported on its way by the fire of Philip's Artillery battery. 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.

On October 16 1760, the regiment fought in the battle of Clostercamp where it formed part of the 4th division under Howard which was kept in reserve.

In July 16 1761, the regiment was in Howard's Corps and took part in the battle of Vellinghausen.

On June 24 1762, the regiment took part in the battle of Wilhelmstal.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1757 - 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 golden floral twigs and with the regimental badge (3 white plumes surmounted by a gold coronet with red and green jewels); a small dark blue front flap edged white with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the word "Royal"; red back; a dark blue headband edged white probably wearing the number 23 in the middle part behind; a white pompom
Grenadier
23rd Foot Grenadier Mitre Cap (as per Morier in 1751) - Source: Digby Smith and rf-figuren
British mitre with: a dark blue front edged white embroidered with white floral twigs and with the regimental badge (3 white plumes surmounted by a gold coronet with red and green jewels); a small red front flap edged white with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent" and with a yellow on green bottom strip; red back; a dark blue headband edged white probably wearing the number 23 in the middle part behind; a white pompom
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined blue and laced white (white braid with thin black and red lines) with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white buttonholes (same lace as above) under the lapel
Collar none
Shoulder Straps brick red (left shoulder)
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), each with 2 pewter buttons and 2 white buttonholes
Cuffs blue (slashed in the British pattern) laced white (same lace as above) with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white buttonholes (same lace as above) on the sleeve above each cuff
Turnbacks blue
Waistcoat brick red laced 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


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

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 pattern had red hoops and white drum cords over a brass drum. The badge of the three feathers and the motto "Ich Dien" was painted on the drums along with the rank of the regiment underneath.

Colours

King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a coronet and three white feathers. The regiment number "XXIII" in Roman gold numerals in the upper left corner.

Regimental Colour: Dark blue field with its centre decorated with a coronet and three white feathers with the motto "Ich Dien" (I serve). The Union in the upper left corner with the regiment number "XXIII" in Roman gold numerals in its centre. The three other corners had the following decorations: a red dragon in a blue circle, a rising sun and a coronet with three white feathers.

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

References

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

Mollo, J., Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63, Blandford Press, page 154.

Morier, David, Paintings of the British Grenadiers in 1751

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