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.