399: The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) raised 1685

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Royal Fusiliers

The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) raised 1685 was an infantry regiment of the British Army until 1968 when it was amalgamated with other regiments to form The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It was known as the 7th Regiment of Foot until 1881



It was formed as a fusilier regiment in 1685 by Lord DartmouthGeorge Legge, from two companies of the Tower of London guard, and was originally called the Ordnance Regiment. Most regiments were equipped with matchlock muskets at the time, but the Ordnance Regiment were armed with flintlock fusils. This was because their task was to be an escort for the artillery, for which matchlocks would have carried the risk of igniting the open-topped barrels of gunpowder.


The regiment became the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers) in 1751, although a variety of spellings of the word “fusilier” persisted until the 1780s, when the modern spelling was formalised. In 1881, under the Childers Reforms when regimental numbers were abolished the regiment became The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

American Revolution

The Royal Fusiliers played an active part in saving Canada from invasion by the army of the American Continental Congress during the autumn of 1775 and winter of 1776. Later, the regiment was sent to New York and participated in the occupation of Philadelphia, the Battle of Monmouth (1778), Tryon’s raid (1779); the capture of Charleston (1779), and the southern campaigns under the command of General Cornwallis.

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

The Royal Fusiliers formed part of the famed Fusilier Brigade in Wellington’s Peninsular Army along with the 23rd Regiment of Foot (The Royal Welch Fusiliers) at the Battle of Albuhera on 16 May 1811.

First World War

The Royal Fusiliers served with distinction in the First World War, raising 76 battalions who wore the regimental cap badge. They served on the Western Front, in Africa, the Middle East and Macedonia. Members of the Royal Fusiliers won the first two Victoria Crosses of the war near Mons in August 1914, and the last two in North Russia. Its war memorial is on High Holborn, near Chancery Lane tube station, surmounted by the lifesize statue of a World War One soldier, and its regimental chapel is at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

The 25th (Frontiersmen) Service Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was a British Army unit that served during World War I. It was raised by the Legion of Frontiersmen.

The battalion served in the African Theatre of the war from 1915–1918, centered mostly in the area around Lake Tanganyika, British East African and German East African territory. The battalion was largely composed of older men who hailed from diverse backgrounds and varied occupations, some of whom were Boer War veterans. Amongst these occupations were English big-game hunters, a British millionaire, several American cowboys, a Scottish light-house keeper, a naturalist, a circus clown, an Arctic explorer, an opera singer, a famous photographer, and a lion tamer. There were also French Foreign Legionaries and Russians (reportedly prison escapees from Siberia).

The unit was formed on 12 February 1915 by Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Patrick Driscoll, who was, at that time, fifty-five years of age, well above that of an average soldier. Another noted serving officer (and eventually the Second in Command of the battalion) was Frederick Courteney Selous, a veteran of various small African wars and skirmishes, a famous big-game hunter and friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Selous had previously hunted with Roosevelt during his famed 1909 African safari. Selous is also known for having served as the inspiration for Sir H. Rider Haggard to create his fictional Allan Quatermain character, a 19th-century African explorer and hunter of big-game beasts.

Captain Selous was later killed in action with the unit, shot through the mouth by a German sniper in January 1917. The unit gained the nickname “Old and the Bold”, due to its members’ ages, their veteran status, and reputation for endurance and daring against the enemy, even though the majority of volunteers were young men.

The battalion was disbanded on 19 June 1918.

The exploits of “The Old and the Bold” were later the loose basis of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode “The Phantom Train of Doom” (German East Africa, November 1916). Veteran Raiders of the Lost Ark actor Paul Freeman portrayed Selous as an adventurous, cunning, yet decisive commander.

The 38th through 42nd Battalions of the regiment served as the Jewish Legion in Palestine; many of its members went on to be part of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Second World War

The Royal Fusiliers were involved in many notable battles of the war, including Operation Shingle, or as it is now known, the Battle of Anzio. Company C was ordered to hold the bridgehead against a Tiger I tank assault. There were many casualties , including Eric Fletcher Waters, father of Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters, who wrote the song “When the Tigers Broke Free” about the attack (A common misconception is that the company Eric Waters served was called “C” when in reality he was in company “Z”, 8th Battalion).

Post 1945

The Garden of Remembrance, St Sepulchre’s Church. Originally meant as a memorial to those Fusiliers who died in the two World Wars but is now dedicated to all Fusiliers killed in action since 1914.

On 23 April 1968 the regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (5th Ft), The Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers (6th Ft) and the Lancashire Fusiliers (20th Ft) to form 3rd Bn. The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

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