Essex Regiment

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The Essex regiment shown in regimental art prints, and Antique Victorian Art prints. The Essex regiment Historical military prints available from the Military art print Company.

This is composed of the old 44th and 56th Regiments.           In 1739 ten battalions of Marines were formed for the war with Spain, the last of which was numbered the 44th, and was disbanded with the others.  Two years later seven Line regiments were formed, and of these the one then numbered 55th became the present 44th in 1748.  The county title of “East Essex” was added in 1782; the present was given in 1882.

           Under its first designation it fought at Prestonpans; but its earliest severe fighting occurred in 1755, when, as part of Braddock’s force, the 44th shared in the disastrous skirmish near Fort du Quesne, and where the retreat was ably conducted by a certain “Colonel Washington,” whose lot it was later to fight former friends.  While in America the regiment also served at Ticonderoga and Fort Niagara, and, going home after the peace for a short time, it returned again to America to take part in the War of Independence, when General Washington now commanded the insurgent army.  The 44th fought at Long Island, White Plains, Forts Washington and Lee, Duabeny, Ridgefield, Brandywine; at the skirmish against General Wayne’s ambuscade in 1777, Germanstown, Whitemarsh, and Monmouth Court House, coming home, after a short time spent in Canada, in 1786; but in 1794 its flank companies saw fighting in the West Indies at Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadaloupe.

           During the same year “the battalion companies”-it is curious to note how regiments in those days were split up-served at Boxtel, but were afterwards transferred to the West Indies, to take part in the second attack on St. Lucia.

           In 1801 the regiment formed part of the force under Abercromby in Egypt, landing in Aboukir Bay, and being engaged at Alexandria, Cairo, and the siege of Alexandria. For those services the Sphinx and “Egypt” were given, and the officers received gold medals from the Sultan.  It is said when the war terminated the flank companies were represented by only two sergeants.  The flank companies also served at Maida, and the regiment at Ischia, Procida, and Tarragona.  It took part uin the campaign of 1814 in America, and was present at Bladensburg, Baltimore, Washington, and Orleans.  In 1824 it formed part of the Burmese expedition, and fought at Rangoon, Ramoo, and Ramru, the Padawa Pass, Mahattie, and Arracan.  For these services “Ava” was added to the colours.  Its most memorable service, however, was in the first Afghan War, where, after the occupation of Cabool, it joined in the disastrous retreat, when, after continuous fighting and inconceivable sufferings until annihilated at Gundamuck, of 684 men of all ranks of the 44th at Cabool on the 1st of October, 632 had perished.  The Queen’s colour disappeared; but the regimental colour was saved by Lieutenant Souter, and is now in the church at Alverstoke.

           In 1854, armed with Minie rifles, the regiment was present at the Alma, Inkerman, and Sevastopol, and lost heavily on several occasion; during the siege Sergeant W. McWheeney gained the Victoria Cross for bravery on the 17th June.  The alarm bell of the Redan is a trophy of the regiment; and the Crimean colours now rest in St. Peter’s Church, Colchester.

           During the Mutiny the 44th remained on guard in Madras, but in 1860 formed part of the China expedition, and fought at Sinho, Tangku, and Taku (where Lieutnant R. M. Rogers and Private J. McDougal won the cross for surmounting the ditches, and by “each assisting the other to mount the embrasure, which climbed by sticking bayonets into the wall,” gained the interior of the North Fort).

           A 2nd battalion, raised in 1803, was disbanded in 1816.  It was present at Torres, Vedras, Sabugal (where the Light Infantry captured the French dinners), Fuentes d’Onor, Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca (where an eagle and a French drum, long after used by the regiment, were captured), Villa Muriel, and in the disastrous retreat from Badajoz.  In 1814 it was at Merxem, Bergen-op-Zoom (where the loss of officers and men, killed, wounded, and taken prisoner, was severe); and in 1815 the battalion was present at Quatre Bras, where it not only received a cavalry charge in line, but met it by facing the rear rank to the rear.  The gallantry of Ensign Chester in this fight is worth recording.  He carried the colour, and, though wounded in the face by a French Lancer, he threw himself on the colour to prevent its capture, and only a fragment of silk was torn off on the point of his assailant’s lance.  The man was killed, but the part of the colour is still preserved in the regiment.

           A 2nd battalion of the 44th shared in the hard fighting at Waterloo, and between the 10th and 18th of June, 1815, it was reduced to nearly one-third of its strength.  About seventy officers had been killed and wounded under its colours.  This campaign earned for the regimental list of honours  “Waterloo”.

           The former linked battalion-the 56th-was raised in 1755 as the 58th, but became the56th on the disbandment of two other regiments.  In 1782 it was given the title of “West Essex.”  Its early was services were at Cuba and Havannah in 1762; at Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783; at Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadaloupe in 1974; at St. Domingo, Bomarde, Port Jack Thomas, Irois, and St. Mary’s in 1796-97; at Bergen and Egmont-op-Zee in 1799; at Mauritius and Bourbon in1809; as marines at Travancore in the same year; at Canool and Raree in 1814; in the Crimea at Sevastopol; and finally in the Nile campaign of 1884-85.

           A 2nd battalion, which existed from 1809 to 1817, done good service at Mallia (in Kattawar), Palampore, and against the Guzeratis.  Another was raised and disbanded in 1814, after fighting at Merxem and Bergen in that year; a 3rd, or “Reserve Battalion,” formed in 1847, was amalgamated with the 1st in 1850.

           The scarlet uniform of the 44th had yellow facings until 1882, when they were altered to white; the 56th had purple facings. “Flashes,” a relic of the days of “pigtails,” were worn in the early part of the century.  The curls of the pigtails were “formed of some favourite lady’s hair, no matter what the colour might be.”  The badges are the Sphinx over “Egypt” (from the 44th); the “Castle and Key,” with Gibraltar” and “Montis Insignia Calpe” (from the 56th); the oak-leaf wreath, commemorating “the hiding of Prince Charles 2nd. In a oak-tree in the forest of Hainault;! And the arms of the county of Essex-three silver sabres with gilt hilts, on a red ground.  Up to its amalgamation with the 44th the word “Moro” was borne on the colours of the 56th, “to commemorate its gallantry at the capture of the Moro Fort at Havannah in 1762.”  The name “Moro” still heads the list of battles.  The county badge, within an oak wreath, with the Sphinx, Castle, etc., is on the button; the collar has the county badge; on the helmet-plate are the oak wreath, Castle, Sphinx, etc., with the motto; the wreath, territorial title crowned, and the county badge, Castle, and Sphinx, etc., are worn on the waist-plate.

           The 3rd and 4th battalion are the Essex Rifles and the West Essex Militia, formed in 1759.  The volunteer battalions are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Essex regiments, dressed, the 1st in green and black; the remainder in green, with green facings.  Their head- quarters are at Brentwood, Braintree, West Ham, and Silvertown.

           The 1st battalion was named the “Two Fours” and the “little fighting fours”; the latter because of the size of the men in the Peninsular days.  The 2nd battalion was called “the Pompadours,” from the original purple facings, which was the favourite colour of Jeanne Antoinette, Duchess of Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV.  This was corrupted into “the Saucy Pompeys.”             The depot was at Warley.      

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Last Stand at Gundamuck by William Barnes Wollen.


Last Stand at Gundamuck by William Barnes Wollen.

Last stand of the 44th (Essex Regiment) after their retreat from Kabul. This painting depicts an incident during the retreat from Kabul in the first Afghan War of 1839-1842, when the remnants of the 44th (East Essex) Regiment made a last stand at Gundamuck and were overwhelmed by Afghan tribesmen. In an attempt to save the Regimental Colour, Lieutenant T A Souter wrapped the flag around him. Seeing the ornately decorated cloth the Afghans believed him to be a high official and spared his life for ransom.
Item Code : VAR0312Last Stand at Gundamuck by William Barnes Wollen. - Editions Available
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Remnants of an Army by Lady Elizabeth Butler.
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Essex Regiment by Richard Simkin


Essex Regiment by Richard Simkin

Item Code : UN0265Essex Regiment by Richard Simkin - Editions Available
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Original chromolithograph, published c.1888.
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