The birth of the Regular Army started with the Restoration. Beginning with two regiments of guards, the army expanded to a considerable size in a short time. There were two basic causes for this—the abortive insurrection of i66i, and the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. The extent to which the armed forces grew can be gauged from the fact that in 1663, two years after the insurrection, the list of establishments totalled 3,500, whereas by 1684 this figure had risen to 9,000 and by 1688 to 34,000. Such an expansion could obviously not be justified by events in England alone; more compelling causes had developed on the continent stemming from the ambitions of Louis XIV. When the King of Spain died in 1665 Louis claimed the Spanish Netherlands as his, basing his pretensions on his wife’s inheritance as the daughter of the Spanish King. There followed the War of Devolution, but Louis was not satisfied and without any pretext later declared war on Holland. The Dutch King of England, William III, thus found himself fighting a war on the continent in defence of his own land, and in this he received the whole-hearted support of the English Parliament who voted that the army should be considerably increased to meet his needs.
Warrants were issued for raising ten regiments of cavalry and fifteen of infantry; one of these warrants was granted to Colonel Thomas Farrington on 16th February 1694. In this way was the first regular battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment born.
Farrington had been commissioned into Monk’s old regiment (the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards) in 1668, was promoted captain in 1693 and, following the custom of the time, as an officer in a Household Regiment was ranked as a Lieutenant-Colonel of Foot. A fine looking man of thirty-eight he was an able and experienced officer. Prior to serving in the Coldstream he had been a member of one of the City’s trained bands. In the ancient vellum book of the Honourable Artillery Company appears his name as well as those of over twenty officers appointed to his regiment.
Colonel Thomas Farrington
The system for raising volunteers was to beat the drums in towns and villages throughout the countryside; at a time of expansion this could not be relied upon to produce the requisite numbers and so resource was had to the ‘press gangs’. It is difficult to see how amalgams produced by such methods could in a short time be made fit for war, but they were. Musketeers, pikemen and grenadiers all had their simple evolutions to learn, but the drills were simple and confined strictly to what was required in battle. Working in mass and not as individuals this could be quickly taught as all movements were slow and deliberate. Morale was important and so we find great stress laid on upright bearing and the correct carriage of the head.
Powers of punishment were authorized by the Mutiny Acts and the punishments were severe. Essential as the powers of the Mutiny Act were for discipline, it is not to the fear of punishment that we must look (indeed the severity of punishment was but a reflection of the severity of the times). It was the leadership of the officers that counted, plus the sterling qualities of the man himself as will be borne out time and again in this story.
The problem of finding accommodation for soldiers was acute. The bad memories which remained of the forced billeting of soldiers in civilian houses during the Cromwell régime resulted in this practice being made unlawful. The only places where soldiers could by compulsion be billeted were inns and ale-houses and in this manner was Farrington’s Regiment accommodated. The effects of this were wide dispersion of the troops and young soldiers were subjected to all sorts of temptations. Whilst dispersion into company areas might have had the advantage that company commanders would have an opportunity of getting to know their men, from the point of view of the cohesive effort of the battalion as a whole, no system could have been worse. Such then was the material of which Farrington’s Regiment was composed; and such were the difficulties for proper training and decent administration under which both officers and men suffered. Within four years, however, the Peace of Ryswick was signed which in England had precisely the effect Louis and William, from their different points of view, had anticipated.
The war had cost Louis much and he needed time to recover from the financial burdens he had imposed on his country. Furthermore, he believed that if he could make peace the alliance would crumble. When he started negotiations he was, therefore, prepared to concede a good deal— concessions he felt would undermine the will of his foes and particularly that of the English Parliament. This is precisely what happened. The English regiments were disbanded wholesale and from a force of over 70,000 men the government would agree to the retention of only 7,000. So, on 17th February 1698 Farrington received orders to disband his regiment. Officers were put on half pay and soldiers not selected for transfer to other units were discharged. This ended the first phase of the regiment.