The Battle of Chillianwallah 13th January 1849

Fought during the Second Anglo-Sikh War, in the region of Punjab, now part of Pakistan. Although the battle may be considered a draw, it was a strategic check to Britain, and damaged British prestige in India.

When war broke out in the Punjab, which had recently lost much of its independence to the British East India Company following the First Anglo-Sikh War, in April 1848, the East India Company’s Commissioner for the Punjab, Frederick Currie, sent several forces of locally raised troops to help quell the revolt. The force led by Sher Singh Attariwalla also revolted and moved north to join his father, Chattar Singh Attariwalla in Hazara.

The East India Company ordered the formation of an Army of the Punjab under the veteran Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Gough. On 18th November news arrived of the crossing of the Chenab by an army under Shere Singh. Gough dispatched a column up stream, which crossed, and marched down the enemy flank. The 29th Foot, having taken up a position with a battery on the British right, opened fire on the Sikhs to distract their attention from the outflanking troops, but the Sikh general was too wise to be caught and, breaking camp, retired to the north.

Shere Singh was now joined by Chattar Singh’s army bringing his strength to 30,000 against Gough’s 13,000. When the British closed Gough was, therefore, fairly cautious. The enemy were in positions at Chillianwallah stretching some six miles from the low hill at Rasul to Mung on the right. The country in front was mostly thick scrub and movement was difficult, but on the Sikh left in front of Rasul the approaches were fairly open. At 0700 hours on 13th January 1849 Gough advanced with the intention of forcing the enemy left flank, which task was given to Gilbert’s division. Mountain’s brigade with the 29th of Foot was on the right and on their left was Pennycuick’s brigade. Shere Singh, perceiving the British intention, seized a small mound near Chillianwallah causing Gough to alter the line of advance to the village. Nevertheless, he did not intend to assault until the next day.

Shere Singh was now joined by Chattar Singh’s army bringing his strength to 30,000 against Gough’s 13,000. When the British closed Gough was, therefore, fairly cautious. The enemy were in positions at Chillianwallah stretching some six miles from the low hill at Rasul to Mung on the right. The country in front was mostly thick scrub and movement was difficult, but on the Sikh left in front of Rasul the approaches were fairly open. At 0700 hours on 13th January 1849 Gough advanced with the intention of forcing the enemy left flank, which task was given to Gilbert’s division. Mountain’s brigade with the 29th of Foot was on the right and on their left was Pennycuick’s brigade. Shere Singh, perceiving the British intention, seized a small mound near Chillianwallah causing Gough to alter the line of advance to the village. Nevertheless, he did not intend to assault until the next day.

While the troops were piling their arms and unsaddling the horses Lieutenant MacPherson, of the 24th of Foot, climbed a tree and was appalled to see masses of turbans moving through the undergrowth. Bugles were sounded and the British took up their positions for attack. Moving up the guns Gough ordered the advance to commence at 0300 hours. As the advance passed through the thick undergrowth, it was subjected to heavy fire from the Sikh sharpshooters. This caused the orderly line to disintegrate into a series of small groups that, when they debouched into the open, came under the enemy artillery which poured grape into their ranks. The situation on the right was retrieved by the action of General Colin Campbell with the 61st and in the centre by Congreve who, seeing that the 29th were suffering from the fire of a particularly dangerous Sikh gun, charged it himself. Then commenced a struggle of the utmost ferocity. The Sikhs cast aside their matchlocks, and sword in hand fought desperately until overwhelmed.

The battle was by no means over. Pennycuick’s brigade had suffered heavily and the 29th were ordered to change front to cover the gap that had occurred. Congreve, noticing that the enemy was attempting to withdraw its guns, turned the 29th about and charged. Sikh cavalry were now seen moving up but checked their pace within 200 yards of the 29th. Every British firelock was brought up to the present and as they fired Sikhs dropped from their saddles and horses rolled over. Another volley completed the confusion and the survivors galloped away.

Reforming line the regiment continued to advance; meeting some Sikh infantry who were engaging Pennycuick’s men they charged. Six of the guns that had been supporting the Sikhs limbered up and got away, but the seventh turned round and, taking a shot at the colours, succeeded in clearing away every man around them. The gun was captured, however, and the gunners bayoneted; the gallant 24th who had taken the brunt of this action was saved further loss.

In this battle the centre of the Queen’s Colour was shot out and its bearer, Ensign Smith, was twice hit by bullets. This battle was the last occasion on which the colours of any battalion of the regiment were carried in action.

An obelisk was subsequently erected in memory of the British who lost their lives at Chillianwallah. Locally the battle goes by the name of ‘Katalgarh’, the House of Slaughter.

Battle of Chillianwallah

Battles of the Nive (9–13 December 1813)

After his defeat at Nivelles, Marshal Soult fell back to a defensive line south of the town of Bayonne along the Adour and Nive rivers.

Despite poor weather, Hill led five Anglo-Portuguese divisions (2nd (including the 29th Regiment), 3rd, 6th (including the 36th Regiment), Portuguese and Pablo Morillo’s Spanish Divisions) across to the east bank of the Nive near Ustaritz on 9 December. Meanwhile, the remainder of the British force under Hope launched diversionary attacks towards Bayonne on the west bank of the Nive.

Soult launched a counter-attack with eight divisions against Hope the following day, and despite several fierce actions the British line held until reinforced.

The right flank of Hope’s line was held by the 7th Division at the bridge of Urdains. The Light Division defended the centre near Bassussary. The left was held by Bradford and Campbell’s independent Portuguese brigades north of Barroilhet. The terrain forced the French into these three corridors of attack. The 5th Division lay three miles to the rear while the 1st Division were ten miles away.

Soult committed five divisions against Bassussary and three divisions against Barroilhet. The four divisions leading the attack were fresh while the supporting troops were tired from skirmishing with Hill’s troops.

The French advance soon came upon the ridge of Arcangues, topped by a chateau and a church. After one attack was beaten off with ease by the Light Division, the French settled down to a futile artillery bombardment and probing attacks against the very strongly built structures.

The picket line on Hope’s left flank was overrun by the French attack and 200 men captured. The Portuguese held onto Barroilhet and awaited reinforcements. The 5th Division arrived, but due to a staff blunder, was low on ammunition.

Soult sent two divisions to assist this attack. After hours of heavy fighting, he ordered one last charge. This attack drove to the mayor’s house of Barroilhet, the French skirmishers wounding and nearly capturing Hope. At this point, the 1st Division came up and Soult called off his attacks. Both sides had lost around 1,600 troops.

Battle of St. Pierre

On the night of 12 December, a temporary pontoon bridge over the Nive at Villefranque was washed away. This isolated Hill’s 14,000 men and 10 guns on the east bank of the river, just as the French were reorganizing for an assault.

Seizing his opportunity, Soult rapidly switched six divisions and 22 guns to the east bank of the Nive and attacked Hill. Soult outnumbered Hill’s corps by three-to-one. Defending a line between Petit Mougerre and the Nive, the Allied corps held on for hours in a bitter fight. The capable Hill performed superbly, feeding in his few reserves with skill and exhorting his troops.

However, after the arrival of reinforcements under Wellington, the French troops refused to continue the attack. Soult reluctantly retreated into Bayonne, having lost 3,000 men against Anglo-Portuguese losses of 1,750. The Allied army commander rode up to his subordinate and congratulated him, “Hill, the day’s your own.”

As a result of their courage on this day both the 29th and 36th Regiments were accorded the battle Honour NIVE.

An aquatint of the Battle of Nive 1813 by Heath from the Museum Collection.

Battle of Nivelle 10 November 1813

Aquatint of the Battle of Nivelle by W. E. Heath in the Museum Collection

Following the Allied victory at the siege of San Sebastian, Wellington’s 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops pursued the army of Marshal Soult into France. Soult took up a strong defensive position in front of the River Nivelle. At this point, the river’s course is marked by a series of hills on which the French had built strong defensive fortifications. Soult’s lines stretched from the shores of the Atlantic on the French right flank to the snow-covered pass of Roncesvalles on the left, a perimeter of about 20 miles. With only 60,000 men, Soult’s troops were stretched very thinly indeed.
The French position was dominated by the Greater Rhune, a gorse-covered, craggy mountain nearly 3,000 feet high. Separated from the Greater Rhune by a ravine, roughly 700 metres below it, is the Lesser Rhune along the precipitous crest of which the French had constructed three defensive positions.
Wellington’s plan was, to deploy his army along the whole of Soult’s line but, to make his main attack in the centre. Any breakthrough in the centre or the French left flank would enable the British to cut off the French right. The British left (attacking the French right) under Sir John Hope comprised the 1st and 5th Divisions as well as Freire’s Spaniards. General William Beresford would lead the main Allied attack against the French centre with the 3rd, (including the 36th Regiment), 4th, 7th and Light Divisions, while on the British right Sir Rowland Hill would attack with the 2nd (including the 29th Worcestershire Regiment) and 6th Divisions, supported by Morillo’s Spaniards and Hamilton’s Portuguese. Wellington decided to attack on 10 November.


The battle started just before dawn on the 10th November. The Light Division headed towards the plateau on the summit of the Greater Rhune. Their objective was the French Redoubts. The men of the 43rd, 52nd and 95th Regiments (with the 17th Portuguese infantry Regiment in support) advanced from The ravine below and stormed the redoubts on the crest of the Rhune. The boldness of this British move sent the French fleeing towards other forts on other hills.
While the 43rd and 95th were dealing with the French on the Rhune, there still remained one very formidable fort on the Mouiz plateau which reached out towards the coast. This was attacked by Colborne’s 52nd Light Infantry, supported by riflemen from the 95th. Once again, the French were surprised and fled, leaving Colborne in possession of the fort without a single fatal casualty.
Then, the main British assault began with the nine divisions fanning out over a five-mile front. When the 3rd division (including the 36th Regiment), took the bridge at Amotz, all French resistance broke as any communication between the two halves of Soult’s army was now impossible. By two o’clock, the French were in full retreat and were streaming across the Nivelle, having lost 4351 men to Wellington’s 2450.

Centrepiece of the 36th Regiment.

Regimental Silver “…….. part of the tradition of service and martial pride which is the heritage of those to whom they belong. We are all brought up to regard them as symbols of great achievements of the glorious past…… These silver tokens are a constant reminder of the loyalty and deep sense of duty of our forebearers and an incentive to all of us to try and do better. They are part of the great tradition……..” Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer. All of our former regular, militia and territorial regiments/battalions had wonderful displays of silver. Regimental silver is, family silver and records a part of the history of that particular regiment or battalion. Each piece has a story to tell, whether it be a simple goblet or cigarette box to the wonderful and lovely intricate workmanship of the silver centrepieces. The engraving of the silver also records past events, from a Rifle shooting Championship to the winning of the Army Football Cup, and the engraving of the goblets which were presented by individual officers to their mess, from Halifax Nova Scotia to Tienstin. Silver drums and bugles were presented by battalions, towns and individuals in memory of men who gave their lives serving their Sovereign, Country and Regiment. Many pieces of silver were commemorate an individual act of gallantry or an action in which elements of the regiment took part. The silver also records the uniqueness of individual regiments, which makes the British Army so different and better than other armies. Each regiment has its own traditions, dress variations, customs, cap-badges and Battle Honours, all jealously guarded. Our Regiment has been involved in many changes from its first muster in 1694 to the Cardwell and Haldane Reforms, through two World Wars, the loss of the Second Battalion and Territorial Units after the Second World War – the amalgamation of 1970 to the formation of the Mercian Regiment in 2007. Over the years the regiment has had to dispose of a considerable amount of its treasures but a large amount of our old regimental silver, regular and territorial, is now a part of the Worcestershire Museum’s collections and others form part of The Mercian Regiment holdings collection and many of the traditions handed down over the years are now part of their heritage and in use today. Amongst the largest and most spectacular of the Museum’s pieces is the magnificent Centrepiece of the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment. The centrepiece is cast in silver and represents a rocky crag with four of the most prized game trophies to be found in the Himalayas. The plinth supporting the centrepiece is of oak with silver snakes coiled around two of the four supports and the inscription around the top rim. This inscription reads: Presented to the Officers Mess by the following officers who were either members of the Regimental Hunt or promoted during The Tour of Service of the Regiment in India November 1863 to November 1875. We know however that the centre piece was not made until the Regiment had returned to England. It was commissioned from Hunt & Roskell, late Storr & Mortimer of London and bears the hallmarks for 1877.
The magnificent solid silver centre piece of the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot. Made bt Hunt and Roskell in 1877 it adorned the dining table in the officers’ mess. It is now on display in the Museum.

The Battle of Grijo 11th May 1809

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An aquatint of the Battle of Grijo in the Museum collection

The Battle of Grijó (10–11 May 1809) was a battle that ended in victory for the Anglo-Portuguese Army commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington)over the French army commanded by Marshal Nicolas Soult, during the second French invasion of Portugal in the Peninsular War. The next day, Wellesley drove Soult from Porto in the Second Battle of Porto.

In the History of the Rifle Brigade, Willoughby Verner describes how the Battalion of Detachments, made from soldiers and officers of multiple regiments who had become stranded with the evacuation of Coruna, fought for the first time near the village of Grijó.

“The infantry of the advance guard consisted of the Rifle Company of the 1st Battalion of Detachments, the Companies of the 43rd and 52nd Light Infantry and the Light Company of the 29th Regiment of Foot, the whole under the command of Major Way of the 29th.”

General Sir Stapleton Cotton with the British Cavalry came in touch with the French at dawn on the 10th, but Major-General Michel Francheschi had some infantry with him and Stewart’s Brigade was delayed and did not come for some time; Francheschi thereupon fell back and joined General Mermet at Grijó.

When at daybreak of the 11th it was discovered that the enemy had retired , a pursuit was immediately commenced, and their advance guard, consisting of 4,000 infantry and some squadrons of cavalry, with its front covered by woods and broken ground, was discovered posted on the heights above Grijo.

Wellesley ordered Major-General Rowland Hill, to endeavour to outflank Mermet’s position on the east whilst he with Major-General Paget’s Division advanced. In the afternoon the Light Companies of the 1st Battalion of Detachments attacked Mermet but met with a stiff resistance and lost not a few.

Wellesley now ordered the King’s German Legion to turn the French left and the 16th Portuguese to turn their right and with the rest of Stewart’s Brigade renewed the attack on the wooded heights in the centre above the village of Grijó. Mermet thereupon withdrew…”

In the action fought on the 11th May 1809 , on the heights of Grijo and Calvahos, the casualties in the Regiment were:
Killed 2 Rank and File
Wounded 6 Rank and File

Sir Arthur Wellesley , in his despatch to Viscount Castlereagh wrote: I have also to request your Lordship’s attention to the riflemen, and flank companies of the 29th, 43rd and 52nd Regiments under the command of Major Way , 29th.”When a

The occupation of France 1815-18

Following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in June 1815. The Allies were faced with the issue of securing France. The allies had not been at war with Louis XVIII and were, in fact, in alliance with him. The terms of a peace settlement therefore focused on securing France’s frontiers with her neighbours, without overstating territorial claims.

As well as the wider object of a peaceful settlement for Europe, each of the allied powers had their own particular interests: the Prussians wished to reshape French territory along its eastern boundary; and the British government became alarmed at the cost of subsidising the fortifications that would guarantee the security of the Low Countries — arguing that the whole of the projected sum (£4 million) should be defrayed by France.

The financial arrangements with France were settled in a meeting of 13 October — and a formal treaty (a second Treaty of Paris) was agreed on 20 November 1815. It committed the four powers — Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia — to the use of military force to ensure the peace of Europe: 60,000 men were to be in the field, beyond the army of occupation. France was to pay 270 million francs over three years from 1 December 1815. That army was to be in place for a minimum of three years and a maximum of five, with the possibility of reducing it in size after one year.

There was a separate military convention agreed at the same time under the terms of the treaty. This defined a zone of occupation which was limited to north-east France, bordering on the Low Countries and the German Confederation — if the allied troops had been dispersed across the whole of France, they would have been spread too thinly to have been of use. Louis XVIII was effectively agreeing to the occupation of his country, while he built up his own military force. While the army of occupation was security for the allies against French aggression, it was also intended that it give France herself, and especially the King, protection against a revolutionary uprising.

The allied powers had considered it desirable on 22 October that Wellington should command the army of occupation. The army was to be composed of 30,000 troops supplied by each of the Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia. On 20 November, formal treaties and conventions were agreed to give effect to the discussions of the allies, for an army of occupation of 150,000 men. The French were to provide quarters, heating, lighting, forage and provisions. In addition France was to pay 50 million francs per annum towards equipment, clothing and other necessaries.

Richelieu attempted within six months of the convention to have the army of occupation reduced in size. Although his moves were rejected, there were other pressures beyond those of the French government for the reduction. France could not resume her normal commercial activity while she was burdened with heavy reparation payments. She had found it hard to raise the funds to pay the allies and a financial crisis in November 1816 resulted in the suspension of payments. At the start of 1817, negotiations with the Hope-Baring bank provided a way for a substantial loan. The Times of 15 July 1817 saw advantages for Anglo-French trade if France had more finance available. The question of payment for French reparations was only concluded at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, at which point they were reduced and France was enabled to pay them off with further loans from Anglo-Dutch bankers.

Richelieu had been successful in 1817 in reducing the size of the army of occupation: the allies agreed that it should be 20% smaller from 1 April that year. The next stage was to negotiate an early conclusion to the occupation itself. This was also business for Aix-la-Chapelle: it was concluded that two further years of occupation would exacerbate conditions in France, rather than providing security for the allies.

On 4 November 1818, the allies agreed that the provisions of the treaty of 20 November 1815 had been fulfilled, and that France might be restored to her full position in international relations — the declaration was made publicly on 15 November. In parallel, preparations had been in hand since early October for the withdrawal of the army of occupation and the troops marched out of France during mid-November.

Home Service Helmets

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Replacing the Shako in 1878 The Home Service Helmet was introduced into the British army as required headwear for the majority of British line infantry excluding the Fusiliers regiments.

The design of the Home Service helmet originates from the 1840’s when Foreign Service helmets were introduced Into the British army. Known as Pith Helmets, they offered great protection from the sun with a swept-back brim. The overall design of both helmets was inspired by the German Pickelhaube from the Franco Prussian War.

In the “Dress Regulations for the Army 1900” – The official War Office publication for dress regulations, it describes the Service Helmet as “cork covered with blue cloth, peaks front and back stiffened and covered with cloth. Front peak bound with metal 3/16 inch wide, back peak with patent leather 1/8 inch wide. Above the peaks going round helmet a cloth band”. It further describes the “Curb Chain chin straps 5/8 inches wide and strap lined with patent leather backed with black velvet” as well as the incorporation of a Bronze spike measuring 1 3/4 inches.

It is worth noting that the Spike on top of the helmet was replaced with a ball when worn by engineers, artillery and various administrative and other corps. Other adjustments to the helmet include the cloth of the helmet being made green for light infantry regiments.

Other Ranks wore an inferior quality helmet as the officers’ helmets were purchased privately. The main difference’s being the Other Ranks helmets being the quality such as the chin chain having only leather backing with no velvet. Other differences include, the brim being bound in leather all round, the cruciform base being one-piece and often only being attached by two lugs, the helmet plate being of brass rather than gilt and the spike being set into the cruciform base rather than sitting “proud” of it.
Located in the centre of the helmet was the Helmet plates, these consisted of three basic designs which were an eight-pointed star surmounted by a crown, for Rifle Regiments a Maltese Cross surmounted by a crown, and the Royal Coat of Arms. Similarly, with the helmet design the plates also differed for officers who had a three-piece construction consisting of a rayed backing star, the garter and wreath with a “universal” scroll for the regimental name, and a centre device.

In regard to The Worcestershire Regiment the helmet plate has seen various changes across the years. The original 29th regiment officers helmet plate which was used from 1878 to 1881 had a Gilt with the ’29’ on a black leather background in the centre of the Garter. Following the formation of the Worcestershire Regiment in 1881 which combined the 29th, 36th, Militia and Volunteers. The plate used the ‘Tower’ motif of the Militia, the star of the 29th and the motto ‘FIRM’ from the 36th. From 1890 to 1901 officers of the regiment used a helmet plate depicting the imperial crown at the top, this was later updated in 1901 to 1923 to depict the St. Edward’s crown instead.

With the general adoption of khaki for field dress in 1903, the helmet became purely a full-dress item, being worn as such until 1914.
The museum currently has 14 Home Service helmets within its collection compromising of various dates, two of which can be seen on display at the museum as well as a variety of helmet plates showing the progression of The Worcestershire Regiment.

Battle of Ramilles 1706

The battle Ramilles was one of the crucial battles which occurred during the war of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) between the Grand Alliance (Britain, Austria, Prussia, Dutch republic, Portugal and Savoy) and France and Spain.

When the Spanish King Charles II died he bequeathed his throne to Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, the king of France. The prospect of a union between the powerful states of France and Spain alarmed many European rulers resulting in many supporting the claim of Archduke Charles, the younger son of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I.

In May 1702, John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough was sent to Holland as Captain-General of the combined English and Dutch forces. The start of his campaign was a great success having  captured several important fortresses in the Low Countries but Marlborough’s plans to face the French to a decisive battle were resisted by his Dutch allies whose government retained a veto on the use of their troops outside of the Low Countries.

Following his crushing defeat at the battle of Blenheim in August 1704, King Louis XIV of France was eager for decisive victory; Marshal Villeroi (commander of the French forces) was therefore pushed into leaving the safety of the lines of Brabant and crossed the River Dyle with 60,000 men. On 23 May 1706, the Duke of Marlborough attacked him at Ramillies with a force of 62,000 men.

Within the Duke of Marlborough’s forces was the Thomas Farrington Regiment of foot (later 29th Worcestershire Regiment). For their service in the battle the regiment received their first battle honours which were awarded in 1882 after its Amalgamation with the 36th Hereford Regiment.

The battle was fought at the village of Ramillies (modern day Belgium) The French reached the plain of Ramillies before the Allies but deployed unwisely along the entire length of a 4-mile ridge with the villages of Ramillies and Offus located in the centre.

 A strong Allied attack on the French left flank forced Villeroi to shift reinforcements from his centre. But Marlborough called off this attack due to the marshy ground preventing cavalry support. Farrington’s Rgeiment was posted on the right flank and following the success of the feint on the left flank “Marlboro at once ordered the infantry on the right, to retire a short distance, and the 2nd line marching rapidly to its former left, formed in rear of the centre and joined the attack on Ramilles… The enemy’s right, having, after a stubborn resistance, been turned and their troops driven out of Ramilles“.

The Allied casualties from the battle were estimated at 3,500 compared to the 13,000 French casualties as well as the capture of the whole French and Bavarian artillery which stood at 70 guns and mortars.

Within a fortnight of Ramilles, Marshal Villeroi had lost almost the whole of Flanders and Brabant to Marlborough and fallen back to the French frontier, but the Allied advance was halted when they reached better fortified and well-garrisoned towns further south.

The war over the Spanish succession continued for another 8 years ending with a series of treaties known as The Peace of Utrecht in which it was stipulated that no single person could be ruler of both France and Spain and Philip was confirmed as King of Spain.