415: Northumberland Fusiliers (1674) & Lancashire Fusiliers (1688)

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Royal Northumberland Fusiliers

The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was an infantry regiment of the British Army. Originally raised in 1674, the regiment was amalgamated with three other fusilier regiments in 1968 to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

The regiment was originally part of the Dutch service and known as the Irish Regiment, or Viscount Clare’s Regiment. The regiment was transferred to the British Service on 5 June 1685, establishing its order of precedence as the 5th Regiment of the Line. Until 1751, like most other regiments, it was known successively by the names of the colonels who commanded them at the time.

The regiment took part in the Irish campaign of 1690–1691, and was present at the Battle of the Boyne, the Second Siege of Athlone and the 1691 Siege of Limerick.

In 1692 the unit sailed for Flanders where they were to remain for five years. In 1695 they were part of the allied forces that recaptured Namur. With the ending of the war by the Treaty of Ryswick they returned to England.

Anglo-Spanish War

During the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727, the regiment formed part of the garrison of Gibraltar which withheld the Spanish during the four-month long siege.

On 1 July 1751 a royal warrant provided that in future regiments would not be known by their colonels’ names, but by their “number or rank”. Accordingly Lieutenant-General Irvine’s Regiment was redesignated as the 5th Regiment of Foot.

Seven Years’ War

The next major conflict in which the 5th foot was involved was the Seven Years’ War. The regiment took part in the Raid on Cherbourg in 1758, the Battle of Warburg in 1760, the Battle of Kirch Denkern in 1761 (where they captured the entire French Rouge regiment) and the Battle of Wilhelmsthal in 1762.

American Revolution

The 5th left Monkstown, Ireland on 7 May 1774, for BostonMassachusetts Bay Colony. Their presence was necessary because of strong civil unrest in the area. Arriving in July, 1774 the 5th camped on Boston Common.
On 19 April 1775, the Light Infantry and Grenadier Companies participated in the march to Concord, and the resulting fighting at Lexington, Concord, and the march back to Boston. Casualties were five men killed, three officers and 15 men wounded, and one man captured.
On 17 June 1775, after being under siege by American forces for two months, the regiment participated in the attack on the fortifications at Breed’s Hill (the Battle of Bunker Hill). The American forces were finally driven off after intense fighting. The regiment was heavily engaged and had suffered 24 dead, 137 wounded.
After spending two months on board ship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 5th sailed to New York to participate in the effort to capture the city from the Americans. They took part in the Battle of Long Island and the Battle of White Plains, the capture of Fort Washington, New York, the capture of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The then spent the winter of 1776-1777 quartered near New York City and were involved in skirmishes with the American forces. They were then part of Howe’s campaign to capture Philadelphia, being engaged in the Battle of Brandywine Creek, where they broke the Continental Army‘s center at Chadds Ford, capturing 5 cannon. On the retreat through New Jersey, on 28 June 1778, the regiment was involved in the fighting at Monmouth Court House. While in New York, the 5th participated in several raids and skirmishes, including a raid on Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. The Americans had been using the harbour for privateering, and this raid succeeded in destroying many buildings and boats. The then embarked from New York on 3 November 1778, for the French West Indies, landing on 13 December 1778, on the island of Saint Lucia. The 5th was engaged with a small force of French and captured a 4 cannon battery. On the 18 December 1778, a force of 9,000 French troops were landed on St. Lucia. The small British force of 1,400 men occupied a hill located on the neck of a peninsula. The French were fairly raw soldiers trained to fight in the classic European style of linear battles. The French advanced on the British force several times. The British, veterans of colonial fighting, inflicted a stinging defeat on the French. The French lost 400 killed and 1100 wounded to the British losses of 10 killed and 130 wounded, which included two officers from the 5th Foot. As a result of the defeat, the French force abandoned the island. After the battle, the 5th Foot took the white plumes worn by the French soldiers and placed them on their caps as a sign of honour.
After 2 years in the West Indies, the 5th Foot was sent to Ireland in December 1780. They were still in Ireland when hostilities between Great Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the former Colonies officially ended in 1783.

On 1 August 1782, all those regiments of the line that did not have a special title were given a county designation. The primary purpose was to improve recruiting, but no links were actually formed with the counties after which the regiments were named. The 5th became the “5th (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot”: the county being chosen as a compliment to the colonel, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland.

On 4 May 1836, the 5th became a fusilier regiment and was redesignated as the 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot:

The King has been pleased to command, that the 5th, or Northumberland, Regiment of Foot shall in future be equipped as a Fusilier Regiment, and be styled the 5th Regiment of Foot, or Northumberland Fusiliers.

The regiment, which was increased to two battalions in 1857, saw active service in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

The Northumberland Fusiliers 1881–1935

Under the Childers reforms of 1881, the numbered regiments of the line were given new titles, and were linked with a particular recruiting district, usually a county or county. At the same time the existing militia and rifle volunteer units of the district became battalions of the regiment.

Accordingly on 1 July 1881 the Northumberland Fusiliers was formed as the county regiment of Northumberland, (including the Counties of the towns of Newcastle upon Tyne and Berwick upon Tweed) with the following battalions:

The Second Boer War

The 1st Battalion formed part of the 9th Brigade together with the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, and part of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment). While the 2nd Battalion sailed as corps troops, and was then brigaded with the 1st Royal Scots, and 1st Sherwood Foresters, under General Sir William Gatacre.[4] The battalions fought in the following battles:

The regiment received two battle honours for the conflict: “Modder River” and “South Africa, 1899–1902”.

Reorganisations 1900–1908

With the continuation of the war in South Africa, a number of regiments containing large centres of population formed additional regular battalions. The Northumberland Fusiliers formed 3rd and 4th Battalions in 1900. The 3rd were stationed in South Africa, while the 4th formed part of the garrison in Ireland. Both were disbanded in 1907.

In 1908 a reorganisation of reserve forces was carried out under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. The militia were transferred to a new “Special Reserve” while the Volunteer Force was reorganised to become the Territorial Force. The “Volunteer Battalion” designation was discarded, and territorial battalions were numbered on after those of the regular army and special reserve. The new organisation was thus:

World War One

During World War I the Northumberland Fusiliers raised 52 battalions and 29 of them served overseas.

The increase in strength was done partly by forming duplicates of existing T.F. battalions, and partly by the creation of new “Service” battalions. An example of the first instance was the 4th Battalion, which the 1/4th in August 1914 on forming a duplicate 2/4th Battalion. A 3/4th Battalion followed in June 1915.

Among the Service Battalions were the Tyneside Scottish (20th – 23rd Battalions) and the Tyneside Irish (24th – 27th Battalions), while the 17th (Service) Battalion was formed by staff of the North Eastern Railway, and was involved in railway construction.

In June 1935 George V celebrated his silver jubilee. This opportunity was taken of granting royal status to four regiments, principally in recognition of their service in the previous war.

World War Two

The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers served in France (1939–1940), North Africa, Singapore, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, North West Europe (1944–1945), India and Greece. They were awarded twenty-nine battle honours:

Korean War

The 1st Battalion was attached to the 29th Infantry Brigade which had been sent to Korea to reinforce the Allied effort there. When it arrived in Korea in December 1950 it comprised the 1st Battalion 1st Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, later to win matchless fame, 1st Battalion, the Royal Ulster Rifles8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, C Squadron, 7th Royal Tank Regiment, with specialised armour, 45 Field Regiment RA, 11 LAA Battery RA, and 170 Mortar Battery RA, plus supporting units.

In July 1951 it was re-organized as 29th British Infantry Brigade and absorbed into the

Badges and dress distinctions

The 5th Regiment of Foot was one of the ‘Six Old Corps’, which entitled it to use a badge (St George killing the Dragon) on its Regimental Colours, drums and other devices rather than the typical GR cipher as used by normal Regiments of the Line.

In the center of their colours was an image of St. George killing the dragon, this being their ancient badge, and in the three corners of their second colour, the rose and crown.

As a fusilier regiment, it wore a hackle, which in this case is red over white. This distinction was originally a white plume which His Majesty’s Fifth Regiment of Foot had taken from the head dress of fallen French troops at St. Lucia in December 1778. The Fifth Regiment of Foot became His Majesty’s Fifth (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot with the county affiliations of 1782. In 1829 King George IV ordered the white plume to be worn by all infantry regiments, and in order not to take away from the Fifth (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot’s battle honour, their plume was distinguished by being made red over white. This came from the legend that the men of the Fifth ( Northumberland) Regiment of Foot having dipped the white plumes in the blood of the French at St. Lucia.


On 23 April 1968, following the publication of the following notice in the London Gazette:

By virtue of the provisions of the Royal Warrant dated 5th April, 1968 (published in Army Order 18 of 1968) all officers of the Land Forces belonging to The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (5th), The Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers (6th), The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (7th), and The Lancashire Fusiliers (20th) are transferred to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers with effect from 23rd April, 1968.The regiment was amalgamated into the new Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Lancashire Fusiliers

The Lancashire Fusiliers was a British infantry regiment that was amalgamated with other Fusilier regiments in 1968 to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.


The Regiment was formed in 1688 in Devon under Sir Richard Peyton as Peyton’s Regiment of Foot. The regiment’s name changed according to the name of the colonel commanding until 1751, when it became the 20th Regiment of Foot.

The regiment served in the Glorious Revolution under King William III and at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 and Aughrim in 1691. During the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), it aided in the capture of Spanish galleons at Battle of Vigo Bay in 1702. The regiment distinguished itself at the Battle of Dettingen in June 1743, and at Fontenoy in May 1745, and served in the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

During the Seven Years’ War the regiment earned honour at the Battle of Minden on 1 August 1759, when, as an infantry formation, they stood up to and broke a French cavalry charge. The regiment was sent to Quebec in April 1776 and assisted in the relief of Quebec in May 1776. Serving under General John Burgoyne for the remainder of the Canadian campaign, they later surrendered along with General Burgoyne at Saratoga.

During the Napoleonic Wars the Lancashire Fusiliers fought in several early campaigns before serving with distinction in the Peninsular War, their performance was particularly noted at the Battle of Vittoria where they formed part of the “backbone” of the Duke of Wellington’s forces. During the Crimean War, in 1854, they took part in the two major battles of Alma and Inkerman and in 1885 the regiment fought in the siege of Khartoum in the first Anglo-Sudanese campaign.

Lancashire Fusiliers

The 20th Regiment of Foot was designated the East Devonshire Regiment in 1782, and the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1881.

Second Boer War

During the Second Boer War, in 1899, the 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Spion Kop and also the Fusiliers took part in the Relief of Ladysmith.

World War I

The Lancashire Fusiliers raised thirty battalions for World War I and was represented in every campaign of the war.


A boat carrying Lancashire Fusiliers, bound for Gallipoli. Photo by Ernest Brooks.

At the main landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, six Victoria Crosses were awarded to 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the six VCs before breakfast’.

The landing in Gallipoli (at the infamous Helles landing) involved a brigade from the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division that had four territorial battalions from the regiment. The landings also involved the 1st Battalion.

A service of commemoration has been held in the regimental town, Bury in Lancashire every Gallipoli Sunday, the nearest Sunday to 25 April, since 1916. It has recently been decided that this commemoration will continue despite the death of the last survivor of the Lancashire Fusiliers who was present at Gallipoli.

Western Front

The regiment, like most British regiments in the war, sent the majority of its battalions to the Western Front. During the Battle of the Somme there were eleven battalions of the regiment that saw action in the campaign including three Pals battalions (The Salford Pals) and three Bantam battalions.
The famous fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien served in this regiment from 1915 until contracting “trench fever” during the Battle of the Somme in October 1916.

World War II

The Lancashire Fusiliers raised seventeen battalions for service in the Second World War. During Battle of France, the 1/8 Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, along with battalions of the Royal Norfolks and the Royal Scots, were overrun on 26–27 May 1940 around the village of Locon, 2 kilometres north of Bethune by advancing German troops. Several massacres of Allied prisoners took place shortly thereafter, primarily by the German SS Totenkopf Division.

1st Battalion

After recovering its numbers from the First World War the battalion spent the interwar years based in various garrisons around the British Empire. In 1939 the battalion was based in India. During the Burma Campaign the 1st Battalion fought with various units until 1943 when it became a Chindit formation with the 77th Brigade under Brig. Orde Wingate. The battalion was involved in both major Chindit operations suffering many casualties before the war ended.

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