1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (1694 - 1838)
The County of Worcester has for centuries past been famous for its loyalty, and for its fighting spirit. Three of the most famous battles in the History of England have been fought within the County, the battles of Evesham, Tewkesbury and Worcester.
Although the town of Tewkesbury is in Gloucestershire the battle was fought over the border in Worcestershire.
It should be understood that the Regiment has not always been known as the Worcestershire Regiment. Originally it was known as Farrington’s Foot, which came to be known in 1753 as the 29th, and again in 1781 as the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment.
Birth of the 1st Battalion
The Regular British Army dates from 1660. The earliest Regiment being the Coldstream Guards.
The 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, traces its commencement to the year 1694. In that year, the 6th year of the reign of King William III, the British Army had completed, none too successfully, a campaign against Louis XIV of France, and Parliament had voted an increase of strength of the Army to bring the total up to 83,121 men, by raising 10 new regiments of Cavalry and 15 of Infantry.
The Command of one of the latter was given to Colonel Thomas Farrington of the Coldstream Guards. It had little or no connection with Worcestershire then, for it was recruited apparently in Norfolk.
Its appearance on parade would strike us today as peculiar to say the least of it. Fighting in those days was done entirely at close quarters, for muskets would not have been very formidable at a range of 100 yards.
Their uniform consisted of long square cut red coats, long waistcoats with large pockets, white breeches with black stocking gaiters up to the thigh, and a wide hat turned up at the sides.
There were 12 companies besides the Grenadier Company, and in each company 60 privates, 2 drummers, 2 corporals and 3 sergeants, besides commissioned officers. Of the 60 privates, 46 were armed with muskets, and 14 with pikes alone. Each man carried also a sword. Captains carried "pikes"; Lieutenants, "partisans"; Ensigns, "halfpikes"; and Sergeants, "halberts"
In 1695 Farrington’s Regiment was ordered on service abroad, but owing to contrary winds the sailing was delayed. As France threatened to invade Ireland at this time the regiment was disembarked.
In 1697 the Treaty of Ryswick restored peace, and the regiment was consequently disbanded, It did not, however, cease to exist. According to the custom of that time, when peace was declared, and the immediate services of the men were not required, they were disbanded and the officers returned to their civil occupations on halfpay, which they drew on condition that they were liable for service at any time when called upon to raise the Regiment again.
1701 Regiment Reformed
Colonel Thomas Farrington
In 1701, William, seeing that war with France was inevitable, again brought the Army to its previous war footing. Colonel Farrington and his Officers were called upon to fulfil their obligation to reform the Regiment. A large number of the Officers were the same as served previously, and it is safe to assume that in the ranks were many men who had previously seen service in this unit.
29th Foot Soldier (1742)
During the War of the Spanish Succession, fought to prevent France and Spain being united, both Regiments saw active service.
Farrington’s Regiment received its "baptism of fire" at the retaking of Hue (Belgium) in 1705, while in the next year it took a prominent part in the Battle of Ramillies under the Duke of Marlborough, gaining its first battle honour. On the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Regiment returned to England.
The Regiment formed the garrison of Limerick in 1726.
The Ever Sworded 29th
This is a nickname which traditionally dates from September 1746. At that time the 1st Battalion was on Service in North America. It is stated that the Battalion was surprised whilst the Officers were at Mess by Red Indians, the attack being successfully beaten off. To guard against a recurrence of this it became a custom for all Officers of the Regiment to dine in Mess with their swords on. This continued as a regimental custom after the Regiment had left America; but, in about 1850, a Colonel who had little regard for these things abolished it, with the concession that the Captain of the Week and the Subaltern of the Day continued to wear their swords at Mess. This custom is maintained by all Battalions in peace-time. The Worcestershire Regiment is the only regiment where this custom has official sanction, hence the nickname the "Eversworded 29th."
In 1753 Regiments received numbers. Farrington’s Regiment became the 29th Regiments of Foot.
In 1759, Admiral Boscawen while serving in the West Indies, after the surrender of Guadaloupe, thought that black drummers would prove ornamental in a regiment. He accordingly procured eight or ten and presented them to his brother Colonel George Boscawen who was then commanding the 29th Foot. The permission of King George II was given for their retention and the Black Drummers existed in the Regiment for about eighty years.
The American War of Independence
In 1770, the 29th Regiment was stationed in Boston, America. The inhabitants were discontented owing to the various taxes imposed by England, despite the fact that they were not represented in the English Parliament. The red coats of the King’s forces were to them a visible sign of their oppression.
In 1773, a party of young men disguised as Red Indians boarded the ships of the East India Company containing tea and threw the cargoes overboard. It happened that the 29th were fielding the Guards that day. In the evening the mob attacked the Guard at the Custom House knowing that the troops could not fire without orders from a Magistrate. The Guard fixed bayonets and loaded their muskets to keep them from breaking into the Custom House. The leader of the mob struck Captain Preston (Captain of the Day) and knocked down Private Montgomery, who, regaining his feet, fired on the mob, several others following his example.
Three of the crowd were killed and several wounded. The Officer and men concerned were tried but acquitted, and for many years the inhabitants of Boston observed the day (March 5th) with great solemnity to keep fresh in their minds "the massacre" as it was called. This was considered the commencement of the war, and the 29th got the nickname of "the Vein-openers."
The 29th took a leading part in this campaign, which was one of great hardship.
In 1782, each Regiment was allotted to a County for recruiting purposes, the 29th becoming the Worcestershire Regiment.
Regimental "Quick Step"
In 1791, while stationed at Windsor, Princess Augusta, sister of King George III, presented a march of her own composition to the Regiment. This was afterwards called the "Royal Windsor March" and in 1881 it became the "Quick Step" of the 29th.
The Glorious 1st June
During the War of the French Revolution the 29th served on board the vessels of Lord Howe’s fleet.
On 1st June 1794, the French fleet which had left harbour to convoy merchant vessels was attacked by Lord Howe and totally defeated. To commemorate this victory the 29th have the honour to carry on its colours the device of the Naval crown superscribed "1st June, 1794," an honour shared by only one other Regiment, the "Queens."
To commemorate the part taken by the Worcestershires during Lord Howe’s great victory on "The Glorious 1st June 1794," it has been the custom to play "Hearts of Oak" on all ceremonial and battalion parades, a custom which continued. For the same reason it was for many years the custom to play "Rule Britannia" after Guard Mounting.
The 1st Battalion was also permitted to play the "Lincolnshire Poacher" the March Past of Lincolnshire Regiment, to show the good fellowship existing between that Regiment and the 29th, and also because this was originally the March Past of the old Herefordshire Regiment (36th Foot), which later became the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
It is interesting to note that the Lincolnshire Regiment asked for, and received permission to play the March Past of the Worcestershire Regiment after their own.
THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN
We now come to the part taken by the 29th Regiment in the long and trying wars against Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was due to the indomitable pluck of the soldiers under the Duke of Wellington and the sailors under Nelson, that Napoleon’s bid for world-power was frustrated.
During the campaign, or rather series of campaigns, no less than twelve battle honours were added to the record of the 29th and 36th Regiments. So much has been written about these wars, which those who care may read, that we shall content ourselves by recording here only very briefly the course of events.
In 1808, the 29th were sent from England to Cadiz, in Southern Spain, but were ordered to proceed to Mondego Bay, in Portugal, to join Wellesley’s Army. The latter, wishing to force the French out of Portugal into Spain, attacked the enemy at Rolica. The French position was strong and could only be assailed through defiles.
The 29th and 9th Regiments forced their way through the defiles before the other troops were able to come into line. They found themselves facing overwhelming odds, but without waiting for reinforcements attacked with great vigour and drove the enemy from its position. Colonel Lake, commanding the 29th, was unfortunately killed during this engagement.
Four days later the 29th took part in the indecisive battle of Vimiero. After this battle, the much questioned Convention of Cintra was signed, by which the French agreed to evacuate Portugal.
The 29th next distinguished themselves during the battle of Talavera in 1801. General Hill, whose horse had been shot under him, led the 29th in a charge, completely routing the enemy. After the battle, Sir Arthur Wellesley (afterwards Duke of Wellington) reported on the 29th, "It is the best Regiment in this Army".
In 1811, the 29th took part in the Battle of Albuhera. The following extract from "Battles and Sieges of the Peninsular" may be of interest. "Great was the disorder on the hill. In one part the shrinking Spaniards were blindly firing, though the British Troops were before them, and in another part flying before the Lancers, would have broken through the 29th, then advancing to the succour of the 43rd; but, terribly resolute, the 29th smote both friends and foes without distinction in their onward progress."
It was during this battle that Ensign Richard Vance, who had only seven months service, was carrying the Regimental Colour. Seeing the desperate plight of the Regiment, he tore the Colour from its pole and hid it under his coat, rather than let it fall into the hands of the enemy. He was found dead after the battle lying where the fighting was hottest, with the Colour of his Regiment still in the breast of his coat the pole lying by his side.
The next three years saw the Regiment taking their part in the engagements with the object of pressing the French into their own territory.
Although the 29th, was not actually present during the Battle of Waterloo, they were ordered to form part of the Army of Occupation in Paris.
In 1816, the 29th returned to England after being two years in France and were stationed at Deal. Five years later (1821) the Regiment went to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa. After serving 17 years abroad the Unit returned to England (1838) and were stationed in Plymouth.
It was during this year that the Duke of Wellington offered the Commanding Officer (Colonel Simpson) to make the 29th into a fusilier or Grenadier Regiment, an offer which was refused.
Ensign Richard Vance and Edward Furnace with the Colours of the 29th
Battle of Albuhera, 16th April 1811