407: Kings Royal Rifle Corps 1755 & The Rifle Brigade 1800

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King’s Royal Rifle Corps

The King’s Royal Rifle Corps was a British Army infantry regiment, originally raised in colonial North America as the Royal Americans, and recruited from American colonists. Later ranked as the 60th Regiment of Foot, the regiment served for more than 200 years throughout the British Empire. In 1966 the regiment became part of the Royal Green Jackets.

16th (Church Lads Brigade) Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps was raised at Denham, Buckinghamshire on the 19th of September 1914 by Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell, Commandant of the Church Lads Brigade, from current and previous members of this organisation. After inital training close to home they moved to Rayleigh in March then returned to Denham in May. They joined 100th Brigade, 33rd Division at Clipstone Camp in June 1915 and moved to Perham Down for final training in August. They proceeded to France on the 17th of November landing at Le Havre. 33rd Division concentrated near Morbecque, being strengthened by the exchange of 98th Brigade for the experienced 19th Brigade from 2nd Division. In 1916 they were in action in the Battles of the Somme. In 1917 they took part in the Arras Offensive, The actions on the Hindenburg Line, the Operations on the Flanders coast and the Third Battles of Ypres. In 1918 they were in action in the Battles of the Lys, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy. At the Armistice the Division was in a peroid of rest in the Sambre valley near Leval Demobilisation took place throughout the first months of 1919 with Divisional HQ moving to Le Havre on the 28th of February.


The King’s Royal Rifle Corps was raised in the American colonies in 1756 as the 62nd (Royal American) Regiment to defend the thirteen colonies against attack by the French and their native American allies. After Braddock’s defeat in 1755, royal approval for a new regiment, as well as funds, were granted by Parliament just before Christmas 1755 – hence the regiment’s traditional birthday of Christmas Day. However parliamentary delays meant it was 4 March 1756 before a special act of parliament created four battalions of 1,000 men each to include foreigners for service in the Americas.

Benjamin West‘s depiction of William Johnson sparing Baron Dieskau’s life after the Battle of Lake George. (Reportedly uniforms of soldiers in background right are of the “Royal Americans”)

According to a regimental history compiled in 1879 by a captain in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, in November 1755 Parliament voted the sum of 81,000 Pounds for the purpose of raising a regiment of four battalions, each one thousand strong for service in British North America. Parliament approved “An Act to enable His Majesty [George II] to grant commissions to a certain number of foreign Protestants, who have served abroad as officers or engineers, to act and rank as officers or engineers in America only, under certain restrictions and regulations.” The Earl of Loudon, who as commander-in-chief of the forces in North America, was appointed colonel-in-chief of the regiment. About fifty officers’ commissions were given to Germans and Swiss, and none were allowed to rise above the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

According to a modern history of the regiment, the idea for creating this unique force was proposed by Jacques Prevost, a Swiss soldier and adventurer who was a friend of the Duke of Cumberland (William Augustus, who was the King’s second son and was Commander-in-chief of the British Army.) Prevost recognised the need for soldiers who understood forest warfare, unlike the regulars who were brought to America in 1755 by General Braddock.

The regiment was intended to combine the characteristics of a colonial corps with those of a foreign legion. Swiss and German forest fighting experts, American colonists and British volunteers from other British regiments were recruited. These men were Protestants, an important consideration for fighting against the predominantly Catholic French. The officers were also recruited from Europe — not from the American colonies — and consisted of English, Scotch, Irish, Dutch, Swiss and Germans. It was the first time foreign officers were commissioned at British Army officers. The total regiment consisted of 4,160 enlisted men, 101 officers and 240 non-commissioned officers. The battalions were raised on Governors IslandNew York. The regiment was renumbered the 60th (Royal American) Regiment in February 1757 when the 50th (Shirley’s) and 51st (Pepperel’s) foot regiments were removed from the British Army roll after their surrender at Fort Oswego.

Among the distinguished foreign officers given commissions in the 60th (Royal Americans) was Henri Bouquet, a Swiss citizen, whose ideas on tactics, training and man-management (including the unofficial introduction of the rifle and ‘battle-dress`) would become universal in the British Army some 150 years later. Bouquet was commanding officer of the 1st battalion,[4] and with his fellow battalion commanders, set about creating units that was better suited to warfare in the forests and lakes of northeast America. The Royal Americans represented an attempt to produce a more able soldier who was encouraged to use his initiative while retaining the discipline that was noticeably lacking in the irregular units of colonial Rangers that were being raised at the same time.

The new regiment fought at Louisbourg in 1758 and Quebec in 1759 in the campaign which finally wrested Canada from France; at Quebec it won from General James Wolfe the motto Celer et Audax (Swift and Bold). These were conventional battles on the European model, but fighting during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 was of a very different character. The frontier war threatened the British control of North America. The new regiment at first lost several outlying garrisons but finally proved its mastery of forest warfare under Bouquet’s leadership at the victory of Bushy Run.

The 60th were uniformed and equipped in a similar manner to other British regiments with red coats and cocked hats or grenadier caps , but on campaign, swords were replaced with hatchets, and coats and hats cut down for ease of movement in the woods.

Napoleonic Wars

During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment saw action in the Peninsular War. The first four battalions had been raised as regular line battalions, but in 1797 a 5th battalion had been raised and equipped entirely with the Baker rifles, and wore green jackets with red facings. The mixing of rifle troops and muskets proved so effective that eventually the line battalion light companies were replaced with rifle companies. The line battalions found themselves in several different theatres, including the West Indies. The rifle battalion was soon joined by a second, and these found themselves in the Peninsula with Wellington’s army, serving along with the 95th Rifles, and the King’s German Legion rifle units. A 7th battalion was eventually raised as a rifle battalion specifically for service in the American War of 1812

After the Napoleonic Wars the regiment received a new title: first, in 1815, its name was changed to The Duke of York’s Own Rifle Corps and then, in 1830, to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps(KRRC). In 1858 the Rifle Depot at Winchester was made their headquarters. During the rest of the 1800s the unit was active in China, Canada (Wolseley Expedition), AfghanistanIndiaBurma and South Africa. The regiment was deployed during the Second Boer War from the outset playing a key role in the first battle at Talana Hill.

World War I

In World War I the KRRC was expanded to twenty-two battalions and saw much action on the Western FrontMacedonia and Italy. Over 12,000 soldiers of the regiment were killed while eight members won the Victoria Cross and over 2,000 further decorations were awarded. After 1918 the unit returned to garrison duties in India, Palestine and Ireland. In 1922 the regiment was reduced from four to two battalions with the third and fourth being disbanded. In 1926 the regiment was reorganized as one of the first mechanized infantry regiments.

World War II

In World War II after initial deployment to France as part of the BEF, the regiment lost two battalions at the Defence of Calais (2nd Bn KRRC and 1st Bn the Queen Victoria’s Rifles(TA)) where a Green Jacket Brigade held up the German advance to enable the evacuation of the allied armies at Dunkirk. Redeployed to northern Africa the unit began to see success, continuing with actions in ItalyAustriaGermany and in the Battle of Greece and Crete (where its 9th Battalion, The Rangers (TA), served with 1st Armoured Brigade Group). The 1st Battalion served in the 4th Armoured Brigade that failed to link up with the 1st Parachute Division at the Battle of Arnhem. Post war the unit was deployed in Germany.

Royal Green Jackets

In 1958, for administrative purposes the KRRC was brigaded with the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade to form the Green Jackets Brigade.

In 1958 the Regiment was re-titled as the 2nd Green Jackets, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, as were the two other regiments of the Green Jackets Brigade, re-titled 1st and 3rd Green Jackets respectively.

In 1966 the three regiments were amalgamated to form the three battalions of the Royal Green Jackets Regiment (RGJ).

In 1992 the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets was disbanded, and the KRRC were renumbered as the 1st Battalion, with the 3rd Battalion (former Rifle Brigade) becoming the 2nd Battalion.

In 2007, the two-battalion RGJ regiment was amalgamated with the remaining Light Infantry regiments, to form the five Regular and two Territorial battalions of The Rifles.

The regiment’s traditions are preserved by the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, which is a redesignation of the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets.

Territorial Battalions

In WW2 these territorial battalions were made formally part of the KRRC as follows:

  • 1st Battalion Queen Victoria’s Rifles – 7th Battalion KRRC
  • 2nd Battalion Queen Victoria’s Rifles – 8th Battalion KRRC
  • 1st Battalion The Rangers – 9th Battalion KRRC
  • 2nd Battalion The Rangers – 10th Battalion KRRC
  • 1st Battalion The Queen’s Westminsters – 11th Battalion KRRC
  • 2nd Battalion The Queen’s Westminsters – 12th Battalion KRRC

Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own)

The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) was an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1800 to provide sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers.

The brigade was distinguished by its use of green uniforms as standard in place of the traditional red—the first regular infantry corps in the British Army to do so.

First World War

The Rifle Brigade fielded 28 battalions in the First World War, from its original complement of 4 regular and 2 reserve, seeing service primarily on the Western Front, but also in Macedonia. The regiment lost 11,575 killed in the course of the war. They were awarded many battle honours, 10 Victoria Crosses and many other decorations.

The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (together with the 7th & 9th battalions) was part of the 41st Brigade of the 14th (Light) Division of XV Corps. They were mainly made up of volunteers from the outbreak of World War I. The battalion saw action including Ypres salient and the Somme. Notably the action they were in at Hooge, Belgium (30/31 July 1915) saw the first use of flamethrowers by the GermansSidney Clayton Woodroffe was awarded the VC for his actions in this battle.

Second World War

The Rifle Brigade raised seventeen battalions to fight in the Second World War . In 1937 the regiment formed the first motor battalions, a role that would allow The Rifle Brigade the freedom of movement that fitted their traditions of speed and initiative. The 1st Battalion of the regiment was forced to surrender during the Battle of France in 1940 with the survivors of the 2nd Battalion KRRC and the now embodied Territorial Army battalion of the Queen Victoria’s Rifles (KRRC),after a four day epic battle to hold Calais (only 30 men getting away by Royal Navy Launch just at the point of surrender (late afternoon 26 May), but not before they had fought a gallant last stand using up the last of their ammunition as they pulled back in to the port.

In 1958 the 1st Battalion was the last surviving battalion that traced its lineage back to the 95th. It was renamed the 3rd Green Jackets Regiment of the Green Jackets Brigade. When the brigade was amalgamated into the Royal Green Jackets in 1966, it became its 3rd Battalion. In 1970 it was reduced to company strength before being reconstituted at Shoeburyness in 1972. In 1992 the 1st battalion were disbanded and the 2nd and 3rd battalions were renumbered as the 1st and 2nd respectively. On 1 February 2007 the 2nd battalion were ceremonially rebadged at Kiwi Barracks in Bulford to become the 4th Battalion of the newly formed regiment – The Rifles.

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