The Regiment, 1719 to Now.


Chapter 5, Part 1: We Catch up on the 24th & 69th to 1782

The 24th was initially raised by a Commission dated 8 March 1689 from King William III to Sir Edward Dering. Its first muster took place on 28 March, and by August 1689 it was sent to Ireland, where three years of campaigning saw the regiment suffer "great hardship & sickness" but having the no-doubt great satisfaction of beating the bog-trotting Catholic forces of King James & their French allies.

The Regiment was still stationed in Ireland when "Marlborough's Wars" broke out in 1701, whereupon in June of 1701, it embarked from Cork for the mainland.

In February of 1702 John Churchill, future Duke of Marlborough, became its Colonel, but he was probably too busy running the whole army to be very involved in the activities of the Regiment, known now as "Churchill's" (numbers not assigned until 1751, see below).

The Regiment served at Blenheim in 1704 (FIRST Battle Honour now inherited by RRW), then Ramilies 1706, Ouedenarde 1708, and Malplaquet 1709 (Battle Honours 2, 3 & 4). At the end of the campaign, it was back to Ireland for many tedious years of garrison duty, safely out of sight of the mainland British public, who would have no doubt howled for its dissolution otherwise.

In 1740, the Regiment formed part of a disastrous expedition to attack Cartagena in the West Indies. When it arrived back at Plymouth in December 1742, it had lost 10 officers and 781 other ranks - most to sickness, but a large number in combat too. Thanks to inept leadership, they had been beaten by the Spaniards.

In 1745, the Regiment was sent to Scotland, arriving too late for Culloden but playing a role in the "mopping up" operations and road building activities that were designed to ensure the Highlands would not be a "problem" again.

In 1751, a Royal Warrant assigned numbers: we got "41", the "24th" obviously got "24"...

In 1752, the 24th was sent to be part of the garrison of Minorca in the Mediterranean.

In 1756, the French besieged the island fortress, and after the full panoply of an 18th Century formal siege, eventually compelled the garrison to surrender, with grant of a free passage to Gibraltar in French transports showing the garrison had acquitted itself well. By the by, Admiral Byng, commander of a fleet that had tried to raise the siege, was courtmartialed and shot for his failure. Upon arriving in Gibraltar, the 24th discovered they now had a 2nd Battalion, which had been raised earlier that year & was stationed in England.

In 1758, the 2nd Battalion 24th became the 69th Regiment of Foot.

In 1760 the 24th was sent to Germany to help out Frederick the Great's Prussians. Operating in the west and fighting the French, the 24th participated in battles at Corbach and Warburg in July of 1760.

1761 was a big year for both the 24th and the 69th. In the campaigning in Germany, the 24th participated on 15 July in a major battle at Vellinghausen that was a notable victory, although no Battle Honour has ever been granted for it. Meanwhile, the 69th participated in the combined operations attack on Belleisle, an island off the French coast near Brest. In the final assault on the fortress, Captain Benjamin Bromhead (ancestor of Bromhead of Rorke's Drift, and Bromhead who is currently Colonel of the RRW) particularly distinguished himself leading three bayonet attacks on French positions. As for the Regiment, Battle Honour Awarded - #5 of the RRW.

1762 saw the 24th posted to garrison duty in Gibraltar, while the 69th got to participate in yet another amphibious operation, this time against the French island of Martinique in the West Indies (Battle Honour awarded - #6).

1769 saw the 24th sent to Ireland.

In 1776, the 24th was sent to Canada, where it eventually formed part of Burgoyne's disastrous expedition which ended in surrender on October 17, 1777.

In 1782, the 69th was deployed as marines in the fleet of Admiral Rodney at his victory at the Battle of the Saintes in the West Indies - Battle Honour #7, plus the unique honour of being granted the right to display a Naval Crown superscribed "12 April 1782" on the regimental colour: a tradition naturally continued on the Regimental Colour of the RRW.

On the 31st of August, 1782, by Royal Warrant, the 24th took on the territorial designation of "2nd Warwickshire" and the 69th got "South Lincolnshire". Neither regiment had any particular attachment to either of these territories, up to that point. Given that they both ended up in Wales, the attachment formed in 1782 was obviously not very strong! As for the 41st, we were still not a "marching" regiment and would have to wait until 1831 to get the territorial designation of "WelCh". The 41st was one of 5 regiments to not get a territorial designation in 1782.

 

Chapter 5, Part 2: We Catch up on the 24th & 69th to 1815

The 69th In the Napoleonic Wars:

A detachment of one Lieutenant & 63 other ranks of the 69th were acting as marines on the British fleet that engaged the Spaniards off Cape St. Vincent in February of 1797, served under Captain Horatio Nelson in the action in which Nelson captured 2 Spanish first-rate ships of the line, the 2nd by boarding from the 1st! Although only a small detachment were involved in this glorious exploit, the Regiment applied for a Battle Honour in 1880, which was refused by the War Office. However, the matter was not dropped, and in 1891, Queen Victoria overruled the earlier denial. The Welch Regiment (and now the RRW) is the only infantry regiment to have two naval Battle Honours as a result.

The main body of the 69th had been sent to the West Indies in 1796, arriving in St. Domingo not long after the 41st had left. They were evacuated in 1798, after suffering even heavier casualties to sickness than the 41st had: 25 officers and 897 other ranks.

In July of 1803, a 2nd Battalion was raised.

In 1805, the 1st Battalion was sent to the Far East, arriving at Madras in July, where it commenced operations associated with the Mahratta Wars. In November of 1805, the Commander in Chief Madras abolished aspects of the Sepoy equipment: their "joys" (right to wear facial hair, ear rings, caste marks, etc.) and ordered they adopt standard headgear.

In May of 1806, at the important station of Vellore, a battalion of Madras Native Infantry refused to accept new shakos as head gear. All NCO's in the battalion were reduced to the ranks, and "ringleaders" were given 900 lashes and discharged. As it happened, 4 sons of Tippu Sultan of Mysore were incarcerated at Vellore. The situation was a powderkeg, as 4 companies of the 69th arrived to provide the European component of the garrison. On the night of July 9/10, the entire Sepoy contingent of the garrison mutinied, hoisting the green flag of Mysore. The elements of the 69th present were caught off-guard and many small detachments were simply massacred. Fifteen soldiers in the station hospital were taken out to the parade ground and hacked to bits by the mutineers in full view of the remaining soldiers, who had holed up in a barracks with little ammunition over the night. It was a tight spot to be in! Fortunately, by incredible heroics and the timely arrival of reinforcements, the 69th not only held out but participated in nipping this precursor of the Great Mutiny of the 1850's in the bud. You don't want to know the details of what was done to the captured mutineers... Thus ended one of the more notorious incidents in the history of British India. While the gallantry of the 69th was widely feted, no battle honour could be awarded...

In 1810, the battalion participated in the capture of Bourbon island (Battle Honour awarded) and then in 1811, the main French island base in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius. They then campaigned in Java (Battle Honour awarded), which was captured from the Dutch. The battalion was still in the Far East as the Napoleonic Wars came to a close.

Overall, the 69th was awarded the Battle Honour "India" for all this campaigning.

Meanwhile, the 2/69th saw little action, until the Waterloo campaign. On June 16, at Quatre Bras, the 2/69th was the victim of the incompetence of the Prince of Orange, who ordered it in to line at the wrong moment, resulting in the battalion being overrun and taking heavy casualties in the resulting French cavalry attack. However, the Battalion was able to regroup and participated very fully in the Battle of Waterloo (Battle Honour awarded) June 18. The Battalion entered Paris on 24 July 1815. The 41st arrived in Paris shortly thereafter, having missed all the "fun".

The 2nd/69th was reduced in October 1816, and most of its men sent to join the 1st (and now only) battalion in Madras.

The 24th In the Napoleonic Wars

The 24th first got into action as part of Sir Ralph Abercromby's army which drove the French out of Egypt in 1801. The 24th received its "Sphinx" emblem as a result, though one is left to wonder why, as total casualties in action amounted to 4 wounded! Battle Honour "Egypt" was awarded.

In September of 1804, a 2nd Battalion was raised.

In 1806, the 1st Battalion participated in the capture of Cape Town from the Dutch (Battle Honour awarded), then ended up in India for the balance of the Napoleonic period. In 1814, it was involved in the 1st Nepal War, fighting Gurkhas. This, needless to say, was not fun - the hill fort of Kalunga had a Gurkha garrison of 600 men, was beseiged by a British/Indian force outnumbering it by 6 to one for a month. When they surrendered, out of ammunition and food, only 60 Gurkhas were left, but British casualties were 31 officers (including the commanding general) and 750 rank and file. To quote Brereton, "it was here that British regard for these valiant little hillmen was born." After the campaign, a small obelisk was erected, with the inscription: "They fought in the conflict like men, and in the intervals of actual conflict showed us a liberal courtesy." Of course, there are still Gurkas in the British Army and in the intervening 195 years, there has never been occasion to question this initial assessment.

Meanwhile, the 2/24th had fought its way from Lisbon to Toulouse under Wellington. Landing at Lisbon in April of 1809, it played an important role at Talavera July 27/28 (Battle Honour awarded). It was at Busaco in 1810 (Battle Honour), Fuentes d'Onor in 1811 (Battle Honour ), and Salamanca in 1812 (Battle Honour). The regiment played an honourable part in the unsuccessful Siege of Burgos in Sept/Oct. of 1812, by which point it had suffered so many casualties that it was formed, along with the 58th Regiment, into "The Third Provisional Battalion" in December of 1812. As such, the battalion participated in the 1813 campaign: Battle of Vittoria 23 June (Battle Honour), actions in the Pyrenees passes in August (Battle Honour "Pyrenees"), and in the crossing of the Nivelle River in to southern France in November (Battle Honour "Nivelle"). Its last action was the Battle of Orthes, 27 February 1814 (Battle Honour). For its services, it earned the general battle honour "Peninsula". The 2/24th was disbanded at Ramsgate on the 24th of November 1814.

All in all, between its constituent predecessor battalions (1st & 2nd 24th, 1st & 2nd 41st, & 1st & 2nd 69th), the Royal Regiment of Wales has almost every major Battle Honour awarded in the period 1792-1815; and many unique Honours, such as St. Vincent, Detroit, and Miami.

 

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