23rd Foot

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Origin and History

A regiment of infantry of 13 companies was raised in Wales and in the adjacent counties on March 17 1689 by Henry Lord Herbert of Chirbury to assist King William III in his campaign against the Stuart in Ireland. On April 10 1689, the colonelcy of the new regiment was conferred on Charles Herbert. The headquarters of the regiment were fixed at Ludlow in Shropshire. In August 1689, the completed, equipped and disciplined new regiment embarked for Ireland where it disembarked at Belfast on August 30. In 1690, it took part in the Battle of the Boyne. It later took part in the unsuccessful siege of Limerick. In 1691, it took part in the capture of the Fortress of Ballymore, in the siege and capture of Athlone, in the Battle of Aghrim, in the capture of Galway and Limerick. On November 23, the regiment marched from Limerick to Kinsale and embarked for England where it arrived in December.

In 1692, the regiment was stationed in England.

In 1694, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was sent to the Spanish Netherlands. In 1695, it was at the siege and capture of Namur and then covered the siege of the Castle of Namur. In 1696, it campaigned in Flanders. In 1697, it embarked for Ireland.

In 1701, on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment embarked at Carrickfergus for the Dutch Republic. In 1702, it was selected, together with an English and Scottish regiment, to become "Fusiliers" for the purpose of guarding the artillery train. Although designated as the "Welsh Regiment of Fusiliers", it has always contained men from all over Britain. The same year, it took part in the covering of the Kaiserwerth, in an engagement near Nijmegen and in the covering of the siege of Venlo; in 1703, in the siege and capture of Huy; in 1704, in Marlborough's famous march to the Danube, in the Battle of the Schellenberg, in the decisive Battle of Blenheim where it formed 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 regiment then formed part of the army covering the siege of Landau. In 1705, it took part in the recapture of Huy, and in the passage of the French lines at Helixem and Neerhespen; in 1706, in the Battle of Ramillies, in the covering the sieges of Ostend, Menin, Dendermond and Ath; in 1708, in the Battle of Oudenarde, and in the siege of Lille; in 1709, in the covering of the siege of Tournai, in the sanguinary Battle of Malplaquet and in the covering of the siege of Mons; in 1710, in the passage of the French lines at Pont-à-Vendin, in the siege and capture of Douai and in the covering of the siege of Béthune, Aire and Saint-Venant; in 1711, in the passage of the Ne plus ultra Lines at Arleux, and in the siege and capture of Bouchain. In 1712, the regiment took part in the covering of the siege of Le Quesnoy. Soon afterwards it was sent to Dunkerque which had been delivered into the hands of the British, as a pledge during the negotiations for a treaty of peace. The first reference to the regiment as "Royal" occurred the same year. In 1713, 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 Colours.

In 1714, the regiment returned to England and was subsequently stationed in Ireland.

In 1715, the regiment was recalled to England and sent to Scotland to crush the Jacobite Rebellion. It was then stationed at Harwich for several years. In 1718, the regiment was stationed at Harwich, Rochester, Landguard Fort, and Tilbury. In 1722, it was stationed at Edinburgh Castle. In 1723, it was ordered to proceed to London where it encamped in Hyde Park. In 1726, it returned to Scotland and was stationed at Edinburgh. In 1726, the regiment was stationed in England where it remained for the following nine years. In 1735, it was stationed at Edinburgh Castle,

In the summer of 1741, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment was encamped on Lexden Heath, near Colchester. In May 1742, it embarked for Flanders. At the Battle of Dettingen on June 27, 1743 the regiment participated with honour 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 colours. In 1745, under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, the regiment was very badly mauled at the Battle of Fontenoy 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. In October 1745, the regiment was recalled to England because of a rebellion in Scotland. In 1747, it was sent back to Flanders, taking part in the Battle of Lauffeld where the Duke of Cumberland was again 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. In 1748, the regiment returned to England.

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

In 1755, the regiment embarked for 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.

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 (formerly from the 29th Foot)

Service during the War

In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years War, the regiment was one of four British regiments that unsuccessfully took part in the defence of Minorca against the Duc de Richelieu. At the commencement of the siege of Fort St. Philip, the regiment was commanded by Colonel Huske and mustered 1 major, 4 captains, 14 subalterns, 1 chaplain, 1 adjutant, 1 surgeon, 1 assistant surgeon, 1 quarter-master, 28 sergeants, 27 corporals, 17 drummers and 616 privates, of whom only 6 were sick. After the capitulation of Fort St. Philip on June 28, the regiment was allowed to retire to Gibraltar. In these operations, the regiment had lost 28 men killed and 90 wounded (including Lieutenant). On July 12, it embarked for Gibraltar. The regiment then returned to Great Britain where it was quartered in the Isle of Wight. 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 early in July to the Isle of Wight after the expedition. During the summer, the second battalion was made a distinct regiment as the 68th Regiment of Foot. While encamped on the island, the first battalion of 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. On November 13, the regiment took up its winter-quarters in Münster.

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. In this famous battle, the regiment lost 4 sergeants and 31 rank and file killed; Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Sacheverel Pole, Captains William Fowler and John Fox, Captain-Lieutenant Richard Bolton, Lieutenants Charles Reynell, Joseph Patterson, Arthur Barber, Grey Grove, and George Orpin, Second-Lieutenant David Ferguson, 6 sergeants, 3 drummers and 153 rank and file wounded; and 10 rank and file missing. At the end of the year, the regiment took up its winter-quarters in the Bishopric of Osnabrück.

On May 5 1760, the regiment lefts its quarters. On May 12, it arrived in the vicinity of Paderborn where it was joined by a numerous body of recruits from England to replace the losses of the preceding campaign. Towards the end of May, the regiment was encamped on the heights near Fritzlar. In July, it proceeded to the vicinity of Sachsenhausen, from whence it retreated towards Kassel and encamped near Kalle. On July 31, the grenadier company of the regiment took part in the Battle of Warburg where it highly distinguished itself. In this battle it lost 1 sergeant and 11 privates killed; Captain Rainey, Lieutenant Mercer and 19 privates wounded. The regiment afterwards encamped near Warburg. On October 1, it proceeded towards the Lower Rhine, to form part of the separate corps under the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick. On October 3, this corps invested the town of Wesel, in the Duchy of Kleve. A numerous French force advanced to raise the siege, and encamped behind the convent of Campen. The Hereditary Prince determined to surprise the enemy's camp. On October 16, the regiment fought in the Battle of Clostercamp where it formed part of the 4th division under Howard which was initially kept in reserve. In this battle, the regiment lost 2 sergeants and 19 rank and file killed; Major Marlay, Captains Gould and Fowler, Lieutenants Ferguson, Grove, Orpin, Blakeney, Meccan, 4 sergeants and 97 rank and file wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Pole, Captains Gould and Fowler, with 44 rank and file, were taken prisoners. The siege of Wesel was raised, and the regiment repassed the Rhine and was cantoned in the Principality of Hesse-Kassel.

In February 1761, the regiment took part in the Allies surprise offensive in Hesse before retiring to its former quarters. In June, it again took the field. By mid-July, it was posted near the Aest and Lippe rivers, in Prussian Westphalia. After several harassing marches, the regiment was stationed in front of the village of Kirch Denkern, near Vellinghausen, in the Bishopric of Paderborn. On 15 and 16 July, it took part in the Battle of Vellinghausen as part of Howard's Corps, losing only 1 sergeant and a few privates wounded. The regiment was then stationed near Kirch Denkern until July 27. In the early part of November, it was engaged in several skirmishes in the Electorate of Hanover, and was subsequently quartered in the Bishopric of Osnabrück where it passed the winter.

In 1762, the regiment quitted its cantonments in Osnabrück. On June 24, it took part in the Battle of Wilhelmsthal where it formed part of the reserve under the Marquis of Granby. It took up it winter-quarters in the Bishopric of Münster.

In February 1763, the regiment marched through the Dutch Republic to Willemstad where it embarked for England; its effective strength, according to the embarkation return, was 29 officers, and 689 NCOs and soldiers.

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), 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 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

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

  • Broughton-Mainwaring, Rowland: Historical Record of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers late The Twenty-Thrid Regiment or Royal Welsh Fusiliers, London: Hatchards, 1889

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

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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