A brief history of the Regiment between 1688 and 2009
The formation of Douglas' Regiment of Foot
The regiment that would become the 16th Regiment
of Foot and later the Bedfordshire Regiment was initially raised
during a period of turmoil in Europe. In the late Seventeenth century,
Europe was in the grip of religious, military and political upheaval,
with several major powers vying for supremacy and the emerging American
continent about to rear its head. Not four decades earlier the English
Civil War had been fought, the Thirty Years War in Europe had finished
as had an eighty year war between the Netherlands and Spain. The
Ming Dynasty had come to an end in China, war, famine and plague
swept Europe and the New Worlds of America, killing huge numbers
of people. Only two decades earlier the Bubonic plague swept London,
killing an estimated 100,000 people, closely followed by the Great
Fire of London one short year later.
Until the English Civil War, no standing army
existed in England, with armies being raised on an ad-hoc basis
when needed. Parlaiment's 'New Model Army' was effectively the first
permanent army but was disbanded when King Charles II reclaimed
the throne. 1661 saw the first permanent Regiment of Foot raised
by Royal Warrant, and several more followed in the next few years,
which would form the foundation for the growth of the English, and
later the British Army. 1685 saw ten new Regiments of Foot raised
in England, which would later become the 5th to 15th Foot inclusive.
Despite many achievements and much progress
being made, including Isaac Newton's "Mathematical Principles" being
published, the 1680's saw numerous wars, sieges, plots to overthrow
and assassinate various royalty and heads of state. By 1688 King
Louis XIV of France had the Grand Alliance of England, Spain, Holland,
Sweden, Savoy and the Holy Roman Empire arrayed against him and
was at war with almost every European power.
During the autumn of 1688 and following his
"Declaration of Indulgence" towards Catholics and nonconformists,
King James II was facing the threat of the Dutch William, Prince
of Orange who had brought an army to England on the behest of seven
English Lords. The King was in a precarious position and, in response
he authorised the raising of more new battalions of Pikemen and
Musketeers. The first of these was raised by the distinguished veteran
Scottish soldier Archibald Douglas and, although initially named
after the Colonels who commanded them, this regiment would in time
become the 16th Regiment of Foot.
A cadre of officers and professional soldiers
who had served with him in what would become The Royal Scots followed
Douglas and formed the nucleus of the new regiment. With the first
men being enlisted from Uxbridge in Middlesex, they were moved to
Reading and completed the raising of the new regiment. In November
they moved to Southwark but religious and political manoeuvring
against King James II caused the army to choose where their allegiance
lay. Sir Archibald Douglas remained loyal to the catholic King James
II, whereas the rest of the regiment chose to side with the protestant
Prince of Orange, thus splitting the man who had raised them from
the men he had enlisted. The 2nd in command, Robert Hodges, became
the new Colonel, being officially commissioned as such on the last
day of 1688 by the new King of England, William III (the Prince
of Orange). Within months the newly formed regiment was in action
on the European continent and would be engaged on European battlefields
almost continuously until 1712.
Archibald Douglas' Regiment of Foot
- 1688. The Regiment is formed on 9 October and is initially known
by the Colonel's names until 1751. It is the last in the batch
referred to as the 'senior' regiments who are raised during the
last year of King James II's reign, which saw the organisation
of a more permanent army. Having been raised around Uxbridge and
Reading they are initially quartered at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire.
When the Prince of Orange takes over the throne from James II,
Douglas refuses to serve under the new King and Robert Hodges
is given command of the regiment. Just six other officers take
the oath with Hodges, including Hans Hamilton who would rise to
command the regiment from 1713
Robert Hodges' Regiment of Foot
- 1688. Hodges took over the regiment within weeks of its formation
and set to training them in readiness for the inevitable fighting
they would see, given the instability throughout Europe.
- 1689 to 1695. The War of the League
- 1689. Embarked for Holland where they help the Dutch fight the
French. They are engaged at the Battle
of Walcourt and later march to Bruges that October.
- 1690. March to Brussels in June.
- 1691. Joined the army at South Brabant in March.
- 1692. Engaged at the Battle of Steenkirk
when Colonel Robert Hodges is killed at the head of his regiment's
advance by a cannon ball.
The Earl of Derby's Regiment of Foot
- 1693. Engaged at the Battle
of Landen in July. Quartered at Dendermond later that year.
- 1694. Join the army in the field in May
and return to garrison Dendermond after the year's campaign.
- 1695. Engaged at the Siege
and capture of Namur.
- 1696. Join the army at Brabant.
- 1697. Embark to Ireland after the Treaty
of Ryswick ceases hostilities.
- 1701-1712. The
War of the Spanish Succession.
- 1701. Leave Carrickfergus 7th June and embark
for Holland to help the Dutch fight the French. Reviewed by King
William III 21st September.
- 1702. Moved to Rosendael and encamp at Cranenburg.
Engaged at the Seige of Kayserswerth
and later marched to Nimeguen. War declared
against France. Engaged at the sieges
of Venloo, Ruremonde and Stevenswaert. as well as the capture
of the Citadel at Liege on 23rd October. Return to Holland
later that year to winter quarters.
- 1703. March towards Maestricht at the end
of April. Engaged at the siege and capture
of Huy and Limburg on the 28th September. Return to Holland
again for the winter.
- 1704. Moved to Germany. Engaged at the battle
of Schellenburg, the Danube crossing
and the Battle
of Blenheim. The remnants of the battalion return
to Holland after Blenheim.
Francis Godfrey's Regiment of Foot
- 1705. Engaged during the assaults
on Helixum and Neer-Hespen.
- 1706. Engaged at the Battle
of Ramilies and the surrender of the principle
towns of Brabant, after which they are quartered at Ghent.
- 1707. In the year that the English and Scottish Army's merged
to form the modern British Army as a result of the 'Acts of Union
1707' (which saw the creation of the 'Kingdom of Great Britain'),
the Regiment are in the field all year but their French opponents
avoid any engagements.
- 1708. Moved to England to repel a French invasion in support
of "The Pretender", arriving at Tynemouth 21st March. The Navy
had already done the job for them so they are returned to Flanders
and march to Ghent, after which they are engaged at the Battle
of Oudenarde and the siege
and capture of Lille and it's Citadel on the 9th December.
On arrival at Lille, Sergeant Littler swims a defended moat armed
just with just a hatchet and releases the drawbridge, thus allowing
the army to move onwards. For his gallantry he is given the rare
honour of being commissioned from the ranks into what would become
the 3rd Foot (the Buffs).
- 1709. Engaged at the siege and capture
of Tournay (which finally fell in September), and the bloodiest
battle of that century - the Battle
of Malplaquet on the 11th September. They were
later engaged at the siege and surrender
of Mons, after which they are quartered at Ghent.
- 1710. Engaged in forcing the French lines at Pont
a Vendin, the siege and surrender
of Douay (which fell on the 27th June), Bethune
(fell in August), Aire and St.
Venant. They are quartered again at Ghent that winter.
Henry Durrell's Regiment of Foot
- 1711. Engaged in the forcing of the French lines at Arleux
on the 5th August and the siege of Bouchain,
where they garrison for the winter.
- 1712. Moved to Tournay in April and encamp at Cateau-Cambresis.
Involved in the capture of Quesnoy
(which fell on the 4th July) before the end of hostilities, when
they are moved to defend Dunkirk.
Hans Hamilton's Regiment of Foot
- 1714. Moved to Scotland in April, landing at Leith. Stationed
at Stirling from September.
Richard Irving's Regiment of Foot
- 1715-1716. Suppression of the Scottish
- 1715. Garrisoned at Fort William and did
not take the field during the hostilities that autumn.
John Cholmeley's Regiment of Foot
- 1717. Served entirely on home service throughout this period,
in England, Scotland and Ireland.
The Earl of Deloraine's Regiment of Foot
- 1724. Served entirely on home service throughout this period,
in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Roger Handasyde's Regiment of Foot
- 1730. On home service until mobilised in 1740. Colonel Handasyde
commanded the regiment until his death in 1763.
- 1739-41. The War of Jenkin's Ear
- 1740. Initially encamped at Newbury. Spend some months as Marines
and return to Portsmouth when their task is complete. A detachment
embark on an expedition to the West Indies at the year's end.
- 1741. Land on Jamaica in January and a detachment is later
involved in the unsuccessful expedition and Battle of Carthagena
against the Spanish in modern day Columbia, where almost the entire
detachment is annihilated by disease.
- 1742. The
War of the Austrian Succession commences but the
Regiment are held at home being rebuilt.
- 1745. Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) arrives
in Scotland and the suppression of the
Scottish rebellions starts again but the regiment were
held on the south coast to repel the threat of French invasion.
- 1746. In March the Regiment leaves Gravesend for Edinburgh
following the Scottish victory at the Battle
of Falkirk (Falkirk Muir). They wait on ships whilst
of Culloden is fought and are sent north to Nairn,
landing on the 1st May. Garrisoned at Elgin until moved to Fort
Augustus (on the south-west bank of Loch Ness) the following summer.
- 1747. The regiment is ranked as the 16th Regiment of Foot.
- 1749. The regiment is moved to Ireland and reduced to the levels
of a peacetime unit, where it remained for almost 20 years.
The 16th Regiment of Foot
- 1751. On the 1st July the regiment is officially named the '16th
Regiment of Foot' and standardisation of 'Line Regiments' within
the army, including the 16th Foot, takes place. An order of presedence
is established with each regiment no longer bearing the name of
its Colonel, but carrying a numerical title according to seniority
based on when it was originally raised. Their uniform becomes
almost completely scarlet with yellow facings and trim, and two
battle flags are carried; the Kings colour (the Union Flag, or
Union Jack) and the Regimental Colour (a yellow flag with the
Union Flag in one corner and the golden Romanised numerals for
the 16th Regiment in the middle). The regimental nickname 'The
Old Sixteenth' also surfaces, reflecting the regiments
long service and position within the 'senior' regiments of the
- 1755. War restarts with France.
Several expeditions involving the 16th Foot are cancelled and
they remain in Ireland.
- 1767. Moved to Florida and enjoyed a comfortable period of
service for 13 years. HQ based at Pensacola with several small
detachments spread over the countryside.
- 1775-1782. War
of American Independence.
- 1776. Withdrawn from Florida and moved to New York briefly
but returned to Florida soon after, due to their familiarity with
the locals who called for their return!
- 1789. War with France, Spain and
- 1779. Withdrew to Baton Rouge and a detachment (including some
16th Foot men) are made POW's in September by the Spanish Governor
of Louisiana. Engaged with French and American forces at Savannah
and repel a siege in Georgia
- 1781. Defended Pensacola against
an overwhelming Spanish force.
The 16th (the Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot
- 1782. Their losses in America force their
return to England from South America, arriving in March. On the
31st August the Regiment is authorised to use the title 'The 16th
(the Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot' to encourage enlistment
from that region and create a county identity. The
American War finished. It is about now that the nickname
'The Old Bucks' is initially
used, reflecting the regiment's long service.
- 1784. Moved to Ireland as a small peacetime
- 1790. Embarked for Nova Scotia 18th August.
- 1791. Removed to Jamaica as a result of
the unrest caused by the French Revolution, where they serve for
- 1793. A detachment leaves Jamaica for St.
Domingo following the island's plantation owners agreeing to become
part oof the British Empire following several slave rebellions.
- 1794. An entire detachment at St. Domingo
perish from fever, apart from 1 Officer and 1 Sergeant who rejoin
- 1795. Engaged in the Maroon
Wars on Jamaica.
- 1796. The Maroons submit. The remnants of
the regiment lave for England at the end of the year, landing
at Greenwich the next year.
- 1797. Moved to Scotland.
- 1798. Quartered in Fifeshire and Fort George.
- 1799 Moved back to England, arriving at
Margate, later billeting at Horsham in Sussex.
- 1800. Sailed to Cork in Ireland.
- 1803-1815. Wars
- 1804. 7th January; embarked to the West
Indies, landing at Barbados on 26th March, 573 strong. 7th April;
sail from Barbados and are engaged at the battle
of Surinam. The regiment would waste away here until 1811.
27 Officers and over 500 men died of disease with more being invalided
home with Yellow Fever.
- 1806. Attacked at Surinam, losing 75% of
the command yet winning the small scale battle.
The 16th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot
- 1809. In May the Regiment exchanges county
titles with 'The 14th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot' and
becomes known as 'The 16th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot'.
This was on request of the Colonel of the 14th (Bedfordshire)
Regiment - Colonel and Adjutant General Sir Harry Calvert - who
owned large estates in Buckinghamshire.
- 1810. Detachments start to return to England
from Barbados and Surinam, leaving in 1810 and 1811.
- 1812. The last detachment leaves the West
Indies. The very last group are ship wrecked off the Irish Coast
with the loss of a few men, 1 wife and several children, along
with all regimental documentation, equipment and property being
lost. After rebuilding with English and Irish volunteers they
march to quarters at Sunderland in July. 1813. Moved to Perth
in Scotland that March and to Ireland in July.
- War with the United
- 1814. Embarked from Monkstown in Ireland
in the spring for Canada as an advanced guard to the army being
sent there. Landed in Quebec on the 29th May before moving to
Chambly, later Montreal and finally to Fort Wellington.
- 1815. Rushed back to England in response
to Napoleon's revival, leaving Quebec in July and arriving at
Portsmouth in August before being moved to join Wellington's army
at Ostend. Moved into the army of occupation in Paris and finally
sent back to England. They miss the battle
of Waterloo due to their transport from Canada being late
and, once the treaty was concluded, march back to Calais and arrive
at Dover very late in December.
- 1816. Moved to Ireland. Land at Monkstown
3rd February and stationed at Fermoy, Limerick and Cashel in turn.
- 1817. Moved to Kilkenny.
- 1819. Moved to Athlone in Ireland. Starting
out on what would become a long period of colonial service around
the British Empire, the regiment embarked from Cork 25th August,
bound for Ceylon. Having spent a month in Cape Town they finally
land at Columbo on February 20th 1820.
- 1821. In August they march to Kandy, returning
to Columbo in 1824.
- 1826. Left Columbo for Pont de Galle in
- 1828. Moved to Bengal, leaving Ceylon in
4 detachments starting November and the final group landing at
Calcutta by January 1829, where they are stationed for several
- 1831. Moved to Chinsura by steam boats.
- 1833. March to Ghazepore but orders are
altered en route and the regiment moves to Cawnpore, arriving
28th February 1834.
- 1840. Moved to Dinapore, arriving January
and moving to the Presidency in November.
- 1841. Return to England after 21 years of
foreign service and are stationed at Dover on their return. Issued
with the new type "Percussion" arms in August and move to Winchester
- 1842. Left Winchester in April for Gosport,
then to Portsmouth in August. New colours are presented to the
regiment on the 22nd September.
- 1843. Moved to Manchester in May then to
Ireland in July. Stationed at Newbridge and later Burr.
- 1844. March to Naas in February and onto
Dublin where they remain between April and December, after which
they move to Cork.
- 1845. Moved to Buttevant in June and back
to Cork in October to prepare for foreign service again.
- 1846. 6 Companies (the foreign service element
of the peacetime regiment) move to Gibraltar, leaving on 17th
and 19th January and arriving 11th February. The Depot Companies
remain in Ireland.
- 1847. The 6 Companies on foreign service
are moved to Corfu, leaving 9th March and landing 27th March.
- 1848. The 4 Depot Companies leave Cork to
join the rest of the regiment who are at Guernsey. The depot arrive
on 4th May.
- 1850. Moved back to Jamaica, spending the
next 7 years there and missing the Crimean
War as a result.
- 1855. The Beds and Herts Militia battalions
are amongst the first to train at the newly acquired training
grounds at Aldershot.
- 1857. The battalion leave the West Indies
and return to England in June.
- 1858. The 2nd battalion of the 16th Foot
are raised in Ireland. All line regiments up to the 25th are expanded
to include a 2nd battalion following reforms resulting in the
glaring deficiencies shown up in the Crimean
War and the Indian Mutinies.
- 1859. The 2nd battalion is stationed in
- 1861. The 1st battalion sent to Montreal,
later to defend the border with America against Fenian
raiders. The 2nd are sent to Halifax in Canada on their
first foreign service and spend their time in Nova Scotia. Both
battalions remain in Canada in response to tensions between America
and the British Empire, following the American Civil War.
- 1866. The 1st battalion are involved in
several small engagements along the borders around Niagara against
the attempted invasion by American Fenian's.
- 1866. 2nd battalion are sent to the West
- 1869. 2nd battalion return home and are
posted to Curragh in Ireland.
- 1870. 1st battalion join the 2nd in Curragh.
The British Army is reorganised including the abolishment of purchasing
commissions and the raising of a Reserve army amongst other things.
- 1873. Further reforms divide the country into 'Brigade Districts',
usually consisting of one or more county, the 16th Foot being
allocated the 33rd Brigade District comprised of Bedfordshire.
Each dsitrict had a permament depot, with the barracks at Kempston
being assigned as the Brigade District base. The depots became
the base for paired' battalions, with one being held on home service
whilst the other was assigned a post on 'foreign service'.
- 1876. The Regimental Barracks and Depot
are completed on the Kempston Road, about 1 mile west of Bedford
town centre. The building cost around £50,000 at the time and
stood on a 23 acre site, 13 of which were used for encampments,
drill and recreation grounds. The main building was formed into
three sides of a quadrangle, housing the entire stores, powder
magazines, Officers and men's quarters, including some married
person's quarters, canteens, Mess Halls and other such areas.
The 1st battalion remained stationed in Ireland whilst the 2nd
battalion were sent to Madras in India.
The Bedfordshire Regiment
- 1881. The 2nd battalion move to Burma. On
1 July, the Regiment is renamed 'The Bedfordshire Regiment' as
a part of the Childers reforms, although the title the 16th Foot
is still used for many years afterwards, even during the Great
War. Bedford becomes the official centre for the regiment. The
Bedfordshire Light Infantry Militia and Hertfordshire Militia
form the 3rd and 4th Regimental battalions and the Rifle Volunteer
Corps (RVC) units from both counties are also folded into the
county Regiment. As a result, the 1st and 2nd battalions remain
the regular units, the 3rd and 4th battalions become the Militia
units, with the three RVC battalions becoming the 1st and 2nd
Hertfordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps and the 1st Bedfordshire Rifle
Volunteer Corps. The regimental recruiting district is also expanded
to incoroprate Hertfordshire. In a strange twist, when Battle
Honours are introduced to the new regimental flags that year,
the regiment are the only one to have none of the recognised honours,
despite having served through many wars and for over 200 years!
A committee is formed and several of their past battles are recognised,
rectifying the embarrassing situation.
- 1885. The 2nd battalion move to Bellary,
- 1887. The three Volunteer Rifle Corps units
in the regiment are renamed the 1st (Hertfordshire) Volunteer
battalion, the 2nd (Hertfordshire) Volunteer battalion and the
3rd Volunteer battalion.
- 1889. The 2nd battalion move to Secunderabad.
- 1890. 1st battalion move to Malta between
February and December, thereafter to India, arriving on the 20th
- 1891. The 2nd battalion return to England,
arriving at Devonport.
- 1895. The Chitral
- 1895. On 3rd April, the 1st battalion are
engaged at Malakand Pass, naming
the steep hill they took that day Bedfordshire Hill. The 1st and
2nd in command are mentioned in despatches as a result.
- 1896. The 2nd battalion move to Litchfield.
- 1898. The 2nd battalion move to Dublin.
- 1899. The 1st battalion move to Mooltan,
- 1899 to 1902, the
South African (Boer) Wars.
- 1900. The 2nd battalion land in South Africa
on 2nd January, with elements from the 4th Militia battalion arriving
on the 21st March. Many of the men from the 2nd Volunteer battalion
offered themselves for service and a Company was formed who served
between 1900 and 1902. At home, a further Volunteer battalion
is raised, becoming the 4th (Huntingdonshire) Volunteer battalion.
- 1902. The 1st battalion moved to Jhansi.
- 1903. The 2nd battalion return to England
and are stationed at Colchester.
- 1904 sees them move to Borden Camp and onto
Tidworth in 1906.
- 1907. The 1st battalion moved to Aden and
the 2nd are sent to Gibraltar.
- 1908. The 1st battalion returned to England,
to be stationed at Aldershot. Under the Territorial and Reserve
Forces Act 1907 (a part of Haldene's reforms), the Territorial
Army is formed. The regiment's two Militia units are renamed and
reorganised into the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Special Reserve) battalions,
the 1st and 2nd Volunteer battalions merge to become the Hertfordshire
battalion and the 3rd and 4th Volunteer units merge into the 5th
- 1909. The Hertfordshire battalion leave
the regiment, becoming the 1st battalion, the Hertfordshire
Regiment (TF) 1910. The 2nd battalion move to Bermuda.
- 1912. Whilst the 2nd battalion were preparing
to leave Bermuda for Bloemfontein on the 16th January, the German
Cruiser 'Hansa' arrived and docked there for three weeks. Several
parties were held and friendships formed between the Bedfordshire
Officers and German Naval Officers, who only a couple of years
later, would be at war.
- 1913. The 1st battalion is moved to Mullingar
- 1914 to 1918, the
First World War (The Great War).
- 1914. The 1st
battalion are in Ireland and the 2nd are stationed at
Pretoria, South Africa. Both are recalled immediately to fight
in the war against Germany and her allies. The 1st battalion land
in France with the first wave of the British Expeditionary Force
and are heavily engaged at the battles
of Mons, Le Cateau, the retreat to Paris, the Marne, the Aisne,
La Bassee and the First Battle
of Ypres. The 2nd
battalion arrive in France early in October, within the
7th Division, who were to lose 90% of their number before Christmas
stopping the Prussian Guard breaking through at the First
Battle of Ypres.
The 5th Territorial Army battalion is held in East
Anglia and, although expecting to be deployed abroad, are held
back until the following summer. The Regiment's pre war Reservists
are all committed before Christmas and replacements start to include
men who, until August 1914, were civilians. Three 'Service' battalions
(the 6th, 7th
and 8th) are raised
within Lord Kitcheners New Armies, in addition to several additional
supporting units. The 9th and 10th Service battalions are raised
to guard the British coast and provide replacements for the battalions
abroad. A second line Territorial battalion is also raised, being
the 2nd/5th battalion,
to provide the 1st/5th with reinforcements and take over duties
providing home defence once they were mobilised and sent abroad.
- 1915. The 1st battalion endure the atrocious
fighting at Hill 60 in April
and May, which saw Edward
Warner win a posthumous Victoria Cross and sees them take
on hundreds of replacement men who had enlisted from civilian
life the previous autumn. The 2nd battalion are heavily engaged
at the battle of Neuve Chapelle
in March, which saw Captain
Foss win a Victoria Cross, and the
battle of Loos in September. Both battalions are also engaged
in several more battles that spring, albeit in more minor roles.
In July the 6th and 7th battalions arrive in France, followed
by the 8th in August. Although the 6th and 7th spend their first
eleven months away from any set piece actions, the 8th find themselves
thrown headlong into the battle of Loos in September and in the
week before Christmas are subjected to a ferocious barrage and
raid, losing over 200 men in the process. The Territorial soldiers
in the 1st/5th battalion land on the Gallipoli peninsular 11 August
and are heavily
engaged north of Suvla bay within days. They assault Turkish
positions, gaining their objectives despite losing around 300
men and are reduced to around 170 men by the time the British
Army withdraws in December. Two garrison battalions are raised
and provide the garrisons in India and Burma until disbanded in
- 1916. All battalions on the Western Front
are engaged in the battle of the Somme,
with the 7th being one of the few British battalions to not only
make it into the German trenches, but also being able to hold
their gains despite the best efforts of the German defenders.
The 4th Special reserve
battalion are mobilised and sent to France in August and
all six battalions on that front are engaged in the ferocious
battles that year, losing thousands of men between them. In September,
Adlam of the 7th battalion wins a Victoria Cross whilst
leading his men against the "impregnable" Schwaben redoubt. The
1st/5th battalion are retired to Egypt and spend the first few
months being rebuilt around Cairo, before moving east and guarding
the Suez Canal for the rest of 1916.
- 1917. Many of the Regiment's battalions
in France are engaged in following the German army back to the
Hindenburg Line and stretcher-bearer Christopher
Cox wins the 7th battalions second Victoria Cross at Achiet
le Grand in March. All six battalions on the Western Front are
heavily committed to the battle of Arras
in April and May, with the 6th coming out of their final assault
with just 58 men. The Third Battle of
Ypres and the battle of Cambrai
later that year sees all battalions engaged again, although two
of them find themselves in attacks that are called off again and
again, sparing them some of the carnage endured by other units.
The 1st battalion are rushed to northern Italy after the disastrous
fighting there almost finishes the Italian army. The 1st/5th advance
across the Sinai Peninsular with the British and Commonwealth
forces and are engaged in all three
battles of Gaza. In July, they 'cover themselves in glory'
during a raid against positions on Umbrella
Hill, opposite Gaza and are the northern flank of the
entire assault against Gaza in November. They are also heavily
engaged in defensive battles
late in November as the Turkish army tries to force the weak section
of the Allied lines as Jerusalem falls.
- 1918. In February the 8th battalion are
disbanded as the British army reorganises and March sees the German
Spring Offensives fall on the southern end of the British
lines on the Western Front. The 2nd, 4th and 7th battalions are
all engaged from the opening day of the battles, conduct desperate
fighting withdrawals over massive tracts of land and find themselves
a shadow of their former selves. Lieutenant-Colonel
Collings-Wells, in command of the 4th battalion, wins
a posthumous Victoria Cross in the process. The 1st and 6th battalions
are amongst the units rushed into the area but both arrive after
the fighting has fizzled out or moved into other sectors. In May,
the 6th and 7th are disbanded as the British army shrinks further,
leaving just the 1st, 2nd and 4th on the Western Front. The 1st/5th
are engaged in the March offensives
in Palestine but, with many Divisions being rushed to France after
the German offensives begin, operations in the Middle east pause
despite the Turkish forces being close to the end. A patrol almost
ends in disaster in September but Samuel
Needham saves the situation and wins a Victoria Cross
in the process. The battalion are again engaged in the battle
of Megiddo and the armistice with Turkey is signed in October.
On the Western front, in August 1918 the Allies start their final
'100 days' offensives that would
lead to the end of hostilities in Europe. All three battalions
are engaged in the ferocious fighting and by 11 November 1918,
find themselves not far from where the battles of Mons and Le
Cateau were fought over four years earlier.
The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
- 1919. By the summer, all remaining battalions
have been disbanded and reformed back in England, with 51st and
52nd (Graduated) and 53rd (Young Soldiers) battalions being posted
to the "Army of the Rhine" (the British Army of occupation in
Germany), between them forming the 2nd Eastern Brigade. On 29
July the Bedfordshire regiment incorporates the title Hertfordshire
into its name in recognition of the long standing connection between
the two counties. It becomes the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
regiment and is reorganised to its peacetime complement. The 1st
and 2nd battalions remain the regiment's Regular units, with the
3rd and 4th being placed in "suspended animation" and never reform
again in the real sense. The regiments two Transport Workers battalions
were disbanded in August and September and the regiment's three
Garrison battalions were all brought home at the end of the year,
finally being disbanded completely in January 1920. The 2nd battalion
move to India in October, being based in Trimulgherry, Decan until
moved onto Secunderabad.
- 1920. The 1st battalion is posted to Ireland
from 5 July and spent the next 18 months separated into detachments,
policing a large area around Ulster. The Territorial Army is reconstituted
and the 5th battalion reforms to become a part time, Territorial
Army unit once again.
- 1921. On 11 November, after a remarkable
effort raising the funds to do so, the regimental memorial opposite
the Keep at Kempston Barracks was unveiled.
- 1922. The 1st battalion return to Colchester,
arriving 4 February and are moved to Aldershot in 1923. The 2nd
battalion in India are inspected by the Prince of Wales 26 January
and move to Kamptee shortly afterwards. At the annual camp in
Cardington, the 5th Territorial battalion were given a speech
by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General the Earl of
Cavan. In it he made the memorable remark; "You
men of Bedford, you began the war very little known. You ended
the war the best known of the whole of the British line. No Regiment
has a finer record than you have". In April the regimental
journal "The Wasp" made it first appearance and is still running
at the time of writing (May 2009).
- 1924. King George V reviews the 1st battalion
at Aldershot and presents them with new colours.
- 1925. The regiment is awarded no less than
seventy battle honours from the First World War. The 1st battalion
leave Aldershot in November, bound for Malta. The 2nd battalion
leave India and arrive at Baghdad, Iraq on 13 January, to assist
in training the local army to take over the policing of their
country. The 5th Territorial battalion represent the regiment
in Regular Army manoeuvres.
- 1926. The 2nd battalion leave Baghdad for
Karachi (now in Pakistan) in March, moving back to England after
a brief stop. On the way back home, on 14 April, they meet the
1st battalion who are based at Malta - a rare event in the regiment's
history. On Sunday 20 June, whilst based at Dover, the 2nd battalion
hold a commemoration service, having completed 19 years of foreign
service. On 16 November the 2nd battalion moved temporarily to
Bedford for two ceremonies that saw them welcomed home to Bedford
and, the following day, they were presented with new colours by
the Prince of Wales at Luton.
- 1927. In February, the 1st battalion leave
Malta for Shanghai, China and form part of the International Defence
Force, who had the job of protecting the port from the Chinese
Nationalist threat during the Chinese Civil War.
- 1928. By May the 1st battalion are concentrated
at Weihai, Shandong, then move to Northern China. They move by
sea to Chinwangtao (Qinhuangdao) and finally to Kuyeh by rail,
where they were assigned the role of protecting the mining facility
there. By November the unrest has settled down and the battalion
are moved to Hong Kong.
- 1929. The 1st battalion arrive at Mhow in
central India 25 March, where they would remain for the next four
years. October saw the 2nd battalion move to Quebec Barracks,
Borden Camp, Aldershot.
- 1933. The 1st battalion move to Dehra Run,
230 km north of Delhi, becoming the British element of the Ghurkha
- 1936. The 1st battalion move a further 50km
north to Chakrata, India, which was a very basic a hill station
around 8,000 feet above sea level. In response to Italy's invasion
of Abyssinia, British forces are reinforced in the Middle East.
February sees the 2nd battalion leave Colchester for Egypt. On
1 June they move to Palestine as tensions build between Arabs
and Jews in the area, arriving at their camp just north of Jerusalem
the same day. They take part in small scale operations to quell
the revolt all over Palestine until leaving for England late November.
From 7 December until the outbreak of the Second World War, they
are based at Gravesend.
- 1938. The regiment celebrates its 250th
anniversary and dozens of occasions are arranged both at home
and abroad. In September the 1st battalion are hurriedly moved
to Bombay amidst rising tensions in Europe and are embarked with
two other battalions, bound for Europe. In the event, they are
diverted and disembark at Haifa as the tensions in Europe are
resolved, but the Arab / Jewish problems in Palestine are still
- 1939 to 1945, the
Second World War.
- 1939. On 3 September, war with Germany is
declared. The 1st battalion, who had been posted to Cairo in Egypt
that July, would serve the entire war in Eastern theatres and
are moved to Palestine in November to prepare for the coming fighting.
The 2nd battalion are mobilised into the 10th Brigade, 4th Division,
moving to Aldershot 23 September, where the Division is concentrating.
They then move to France, landing at Cherbourg 1 October, then
to Carvin on the French / Belgian border and 10km south-west of
Lille. The battalion are posted to several positions along the
Maginot Line during the phase referred to as the
Phoney War. The 5th Territorial battalion are mobilised
25 August and C and D Companies from the Luton area are immediately
separated to form the nucleus of a new battalion, called the 6th
Territorial battalion. Both would be engaged in extensive guard
duties in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and have little time
for training over the next year.
- 1940. The 2nd battalion are moved into Belgium
in response to the German invasion of Holland and Belgium and
the beginning of the Battle of France.
The battalion line the canal bank around Escanaffles, 30km north-east
of Lille, and make first contact with reconnaissance parties of
the German army 20 May. After 2 days of resisting German Blitzkreig
tactics, skirmishing and counter attacking, the Brigade flanks
are overrun and they are ordered to provide the rearguard for
the withdrawal late 22 May. They move due west until reaching
positions north of Lille and hold between 23rd and 26th May, skirmishing
and patrolling. Orders to withdraw overnight on the 27th are issued
and the battalion are heavily attacked that evening, withdrawing
through Ploegteert to the Wytschaete area once darkness falls.
On the 28th they are engaged again and orders to retire north
follow the next day, along with instructions to destroy all arms
and ammunition as they did so. Moving through the growing chaos,
they pass through Furnes and are again engaged in a rearguard
action that day, south of Oust Dunkerque. On the 31st they are
again engaged as the German army presses forward, trying to capture
the remaining army being evacuated from the beaches around Dunkirk.
At 2am on 1 June the battalion were ordered to evacuate and moved
through La Panne on the coast to the beaches, where they endured
the attentions of the Luftwaffe who bomb and strafed the beach
and all vessels evacuating troops across the English Channel.
At length, the battalion are reformed at Yeovil, having lost just
130 men despite being heavily engaged in several rearguard actions.
By 1 July the elements of the 2nd battalion who had made it back
to England have been reinforced back up to strength and are in
defensive positions around Bognor Regis, Sussex. In October they
move to Arlseford in Hampshire, then onto Totton in November.
In May the 5th battalion are moved to Norfolk in response to the
invasion threat and are inspected by King George VI on 23 August.
- 1941. In March the 1st battalion move to
Alexandria in Egypt, where they concentrate and moved onto Athens,
Greece. Their isolated post was to be the island of Lemnos, where
the 5th battalion spent time in 1915, but they are evacuated before
it is possible for the advancing Germans to cut their route back
to Egypt off completely. They are returned to Alexandria, Egypt
in April to provide anti air defences and then move onto a camp
near the Suez Canal in May, where they become part of the 14th
Brigade, 6th Division. A further move to Syria in June follows,
to provide internal security as part of the Army of Occupation.
In October the Division become the 70th and move to Tobruk
on the Libyan coast, where it fights during the defence
of Tobruk. The 2nd battalion return to Arlesford in February
and take part in several big exercises over the summer. That October
saw a further move to Barton Stacey in Hampshire and at the end
of November they are posted to Fleet. The 5th battalion spend
between January and April in Galashiels, Scotland before being
moved to Uttoxeter, Staffordshire for a few weeks in April and
then onto Atherstone in Warwickshire. In September they move again
to Litchfield, Staffordshire before leaving home shores from Liverpool
on 29 October. Although initially intended for the Middle East,
Japan's entry into the war causes a change of destination. Their
route takes them via Nova Scotia, Trinidad, Cape Town and Bombay,
before spending a week at Ahmednagar in India.
- 1942. 1st battalion move back to Egypt in
February. They leave for Malaya 1 March but are diverted to India
as both Singapore and Rangoon had fallen by then. After a pause,
they are moved inland to Ranchi, 200 miles west of Calcutta and
provide various security detachments. In February the 2nd battalion
are moved to Inveraray, Argyllshire and spend almost a year in
advanced training. The 5th battalion leave India 19 January as
the situation in the Far East deteriorates rapidly and land at
Singapore Harbour 29 January,
only to be rushed east to Changi. 2 days later the remnants of
the Allied forces that had been fighting the Japanese were concentrated
on Singapore Island, ready for a last stand. Within 2 weeks Singapore
has fallen and the battalion spent the rest of the war in the
notoriously brutal Japanese POW camps.
- 1943. In August the 1st battalion move to
Bangalore, Southern India, becoming part of the Division's Long
Range Penetration Group, also known as Brigadier
Wingate's Chindit force, who were engaged in irregular
Special Forces operations. The 2nd battalion are moved to Carronbridge
in Dumfriesshire in February and leave for foreign service from
Glasgow in 11 March. They land at Algiers (El Jazair), Algeria
23 March as part of V Corps in the British First Army and are
engaged in the Tunisian Campaign
from 7 April. Within a week huge gains are made but the battalion
lose around 250 men including their C.O. Between 6 and 13 May
the battalion are also engaged in Operation
Vulcan and face the elite Hermann Goring Parachute Division
in the massive battle to capture Tunis
and eliminate the Axis army in North Africa. By the end of operations,
almost 240,000 Axis prisoners have been taken with several thousands
of them surrendering to the 2nd battalion as they moved ever forward.
Their Division is left out of the initial Italian assaults and
spends until December resting and training in Algeria. In mid
December the battalion embark from Algiers, arriving at Port Said,
Egypt on 22 December. They are moved to the Suez Canal, being
based at Kubrit (Kubrr), a few km north of Suez (As Suways). The
1st Hertfordshires are posted to Gibraltar in April, having served
to that point entirely on the British mainland.
- 1944. The 1st battalion leave India in March
for Burma, where they fight in the Chindits
until August. They return to Bangalore, India in August and remain
there until the end of the war. The 2nd battalion's Division are
earmarked to assault Rhodes but the operation is cancelled and
mid February sees them move to Italy, landing at Naples (Napoli)
21 February. They are engaged in the long, costly advance, including
assaulting Monte Cassino in May.
In December they are moved to Greece to help sweep communist guerrillas
from the island. On 25 July the 1st Hertfordshires leave Gibraltar
and arrived at Naples, Italy on 29 July. They are moved into the
1st Division and are engaged throughout the Italian campaign,
losing close to 350 men in the process.
- 1945. The 1st battalion is in India until
August remaining in Dehra Dun until the end of hostilities. The
2nd battalion spend the final period of the war in Greece
and remain there afterwards whilst general stability returns.
The Japanese prisoners of war from the 5th battalion return home
in several detachments late that year. Although exact numbers
are unknown, around a third of those captured at Singapore died
in captivity. The 1st Hertfordshires leave Italy and arrive at
Haifa, Palestine on 31 January. In May they move to Beirut, which
was to be their final posting as the war ends a week later. The
6th, 9th, 70th and 71st battalions, who were all raised for the
war and served exclusively in the UK, are all disbanded as the
- 1946. On 14 February the regiment provide
the Honour Guard for Princess Elizabeth's visit to Bedford. In
April, the 1st battalion move back to Chakrata, the hill station
at the base of the Himalayas where they had been posted before
the war had started. The 1st Hertfordshires remain on internal
security detail in Palestine until disbanded and reformed at home
- 1947. The Territorial Army is reformed on
1 January and after hostilities have ceased, the only battalions
not disbanded are the 1st, 2nd and 5th (Territorial). However,
the 2nd battalion, who are in Egypt, are placed in "suspended
animation" from May, with the personnel being transferred to other
units and the cadre returning to England in June. The 1st battalion
leave Bombay, India in November for the last time following Indian
independence and are posted to Tripoli, Libya.
- 1948. In July the 1st battalion leave Tripoli
for Greece. After exactly 100 years of service, the 2nd battalion
are absorbed by the 1st at a ceremony in Salonika (Thessalonika),
Greece that October, being only the third time in their history
that both battalions have met. This leaves just one Regular and
one Territorial unit in the regiment.
- 1950. In January the 1st battalion are the
last British unit to leave Greece and return to Bury St. Edmunds
by mid February. Blenheim Day
in June saw them visit the Depot at Kempston to mark their return
home after 25 years of foreign service. On 11 November the regimental
Second World War memorial at Kempston is unveiled in the presence
of the Queen, the Colonel of the regiment and an assortment of
other dignitaries. Soon after, the battalion moves to Warminster.
- 1951. A draft from the regiment is sent
to the Korean War as replacements
for British losses suffered during the Chinese offensives but
the 1st battalion remain in England until posted to the Guards
Brigade in Egypt in response to the Suez
Crisis. On 29 November they arrive at Cyprus and wait for
- 1952. In July, the 1st battalion arrives
at El Balah (Ballah) in the Suez Canal zone, to guard British
military installations amidst the trouble and Egyptian transformation
to a Republic.
- 1953. On 25 October the Queen Mother (honorary
Colonel in Chief) presents the 5th Territorial battalion with
- 1954. In December the Guards Brigade in
Egypt is broken up and the 1st battalion are shipped home, arriving
at Tidworth in Hampshire before Christmas.
- 1955. On 25 April The Queen Mother (honorary
Colonel in Chief) inspects the 1st battalion and presents them
with new colours at Tidworth.
- 1956. The 1st battalion is posted to Goslar,
West Germany, around 80km south-east of Hannover, to guard the
"Iron Curtain" for the first time, during what would become known
as The Cold War.
- 1957. Eighteen battle honours from the Second
World War are granted to the regiment.
The 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot)
- 1958. After 270 years of continuous, loyal
service to the country, on 1 June the 1st battalion, Bedfordshire
and Hertfordshire regiment is merged with the 1st battalion, the
Essex regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment and are based
in Dortmund, West Germany.
- 1959. The Queen Mother chooses to remain
the honorary Colonel in Chief of the new regiment and presents
their new colours. Later that year they are moved to Malaya, serving
in the 28 Commonwealth Brigade in the operations
against Communist Guerrillas.
- 1961. In May the Territorial Army is again
reduced and the 5th battalion is merged with the 1st battalion
of the Hertfordshire regiment, becoming the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
- 1962. The 3rd East Anglian Regiment is posted
to help police the troubles in Northern
The Royal Anglian Regiment
- 1964. On 1 September the three regiments
forming the East Anglian Brigade are merged with the Royal Leicestershire
regiment into the first Large Regiment of Infantry unit in the
British army and become the Royal Anglian Regiment. The 3rd East
Anglian regiment becomes the 3rd battalion (16th/44th Foot) of
the Royal Anglian Regiment. The Territorial battalions from all
six counties within the regimental region are affiliated to the
- 1967. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
Regiment (TA) is folded into the 5th (Volunteer) battalion, the
Royal Anglian Regiment.
- 1970. The 4th battalion is reduced to Company
- 1971. The 6th and 7th Territorial battalions
of the Royal Anglian regiment are formed.
- 1975. The 4th battalion is disbanded.
- 1992. The 3rd battalion is disbanded on
the 5th October, its personnel being folded into the 1st battalion
(the "Vikings") and the 2nd battalion (the "Poachers").
- 1996. By this time the territorial battalions
within the regiment have been reduced to just the 6th and 7th.
- 1999. The two remaining Territorial units
of the regiment are merged and renamed the East of England regiment.
- 2006. On 1 April, the Territorial East of
England Regiment is renamed as the 3rd battalion (the "Steelbacks")
of the Royal Anglian regiment.
- 2010. At the time of writing, D Company
(Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) of the 2nd battalion (the "Poachers")
are the direct ancestors of Douglas' Regiment of Foot who were
originally formed in 1688. Since the formation of the Royal Anglian
regiment, in addition to British and West German postings, it
has served operationally in Aden, Cyprus, Malta, Northern Ireland,
the Persian Gulf, Croatia, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
When exercises are added to the list of countries the Regiment
has been present in, there are not many parts of the globe they
have not set foot on during the last decade. The documentary "Ross
Kemp in Afghanistan" originally shown on television in 2007 featured
the 1st battalion in Afghanistan during their tour in 2006 and
a well reported "friendly fire" incident in August 2007 killed
three men of the 1st battalion as well as injuring two others.
On the lighter side, the band of the Royal Anglian Regiment played
the "Blackadder Goes Forth" theme for the comedy series. The 2nd
battalion still celebrate Blenheim Day on 13 August each year,
having been the Bedfordshire regiments annual day.
Regimental Museums and societies
This history has been built by
using several sources as a basis (listed below) and adding details
from a number of more specific sources as I have come across them.
- The regiment's history up to 1848 was based
on a rare book called "Historical Record of the Sixteenth, or
Bedfordshire regiment of Foot; containing an account of the formation
of the regiment in 1688 and of its subsequent services to 1848",
which was compiled by Richard Canon Esq., of the Adjutant General's
Office, Horse Guards.
- The period from 1848 to 1914 includes elements
from Sir F. Maurice's "16th Foot" published in 1931.
- From 1914 to 1958 is comprised mainly information
taken from "The History of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
Regiment, volume II" compiled by a regimental history committee
in 1986, which also provides additional information from the earlier
periods (taken from volumes I and II).
- All era's are bolstered up with details
collected from various historical sources such as documents held
by the National Archives and the Bedford County Records Office,
and including other more general items such as the "Dictionary
of National Biography", "United Service Magazine", "The Annual
Register", The Times newspaper, London Gazettes and many other
more focused or specialised sources.
Below are links to other pages of information from
before and after the Great War: