This, like the Rifle Brigade, is one of the exceptional regiments in
the "Army List", in having more than two battalions. At
present it possesses four, the first of which was raised about 1755 in
America, and was composed of Swiss and German Protestants; but, later,
it was increased to four, of which two were twice reduced and restored
before 1788. A fifth battalion was added in 1797, created from
Hompesch's Mounted Rifles and Loewenstein's Chasseurs.
By 1813 there were eight battalions, but after the war they were
reduced to two - the Rifle and the Light Infantry battalions
(originally the 2nd battalion of the force raised in 1795, and the 3rd
of the increase in 1787), to which a third was added during the Crimean
War, and a fourth after it. So mixed, however, were the recruits
in 1824, that in that year it was decided to collect all British-born
subjects into the 1st battalion, leaving the 2nd battalion to the
Its glorious battle roll records its valuable services since its
formation, and is a history too lengthy to be more than briefly
summarised. Its first important service was naturally in the
American War of 1757-60, when it saw much continuous frontier
fighting, besides being engaged at Louisburg, Ticonderoga, Quebec,
Abraham Plains, defence of Quebec, and at Montreal; while, interspersed
with active service at Martinique and Havannah, at Jamaica and St
Vincent, it shared materially in the great War of American Independence.
on Hobkirk Hill, Guildford, and York Town; after this other detachments
of the regiment were still employed in the West Indies - at Martinique,
St Lucia, Guadaloupe, Trinidad, and Porto Rico.
Meanwhile the other battalions were earning honours at Surinam in
1804, at Bergen and in Denmark in 1799 and 1807; and especially in the
Peninsula, where the "green jackets" were present at Obidos,
Lorinda, Roleia, Vimiera, Corunna, Douro, Oporto, Talavera, Busaco,
Fuentes d'Onor, Albuhera, Pombal, Casal Nova, Olivenza, Badajoz, El
Bodon, Aldea de Ponte, Arroyo dos Molinos, siege of Ciudad Rodrigo,
escalade of Badajo, Almarez, Fort St Cayetano, Castragon, battles of
Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, St Jean de Luz, Nive, Orthes,
Toulouse, Alba de Tormes, passage of Bidassoa and Adour, Fort St
Michael, Burgos, and Bayonne.
Again in the West Indies in 1809, the regiment appeears at Los
Saintes and Guadaloupe; in Portugal in 1826; and in India between 1846
and 1850, when it served at the siege of Mooltan, at Goojerat, in the
Eusufzie expedition, and against the Afridis.
The then 2nd battalion served also in the Kaffir War of
1851-53. The 1st and 2nd battalions took an active part in
the Mutiny, from the outbreak at Meerut to Hindun and Delhi; with the
Rohilcund and Oude expeditions; at Bareilly, and numerous other
"affairs", and in the jungles of Jugdespur. Soon after
this the 2nd battalion was ent to China, in 1860, and assisted in the
capture of the Taku forts, the occupation of Pekin, and the other
operations that led to peace.
So varied and extensive are the services of the regiment that it is,
as we have said, only possible to enumerate the chief battles in which
it has borne so distinguished a part. Up to 1854 there had been only two
battalions, increased in 1855 to three, and to four in 1856. The
1st battalion took part in the arduous, though bloodless, Red River
Expedition of 1870; the 2nd, in 1878, shared in the Afghan War at Ahmed
Khel, Ghuzni, Arza, and the march to and battle at Kandahar; the 3rd, in
South Africa, fought at Ginghlovo, the relief of Ekowe, and Ulundi; in
the Transvaal at the disastrous skirmish of Ingogo (where Sergeant-Major
Wilkins was specially mentioned for coolness by Sir George Colley); and
in North Africa in the campaign of 1882, when it was under fire at
Tel-el-Mahuta and Kassassin, as well as being in second line at Tel-el-Kebir.
The same battalion also took part in the operations round Suakim, at El-Teb
and Tamai, and, finally, returning again to Egypt proper, shared in the
labours of the Nile Column.
Victoria Crosses have been won in 1857-58 by privates Bambrick,
Divane, Turner, Thompson, Sergeants Waller, and Garvin, Bugler Sutton,
and Lieutenant Heathcote; in 1879 by Captain Redevers H Buller at
Inhlobane during the Zulu War; and in 1884 Lieutenant Scrope
Marling won it at Tamai.
The uniform when General Wolfe, in 1759, gave the regiment its motto
of "Celer et audax" was red with royal blue facings, and so it
remained until the present century, when one battalion at least had
assumed the green jacket; and the whole regiment was clad by 1816 in
"a green jacket with short skirts, lapels lined with red,"
etc. There has been a tradition that the present dark colour of
the jacket was selected as best matching the tint of the foliage of the
cork woods in Spain; but there is no authoritative foundation for the
statement as far as can be gathered. In the "forties"
the pelisse seems to have been worn. The general character of the
dress has necessarily followed that of the British army, colour of
uniform excepted. The facings are red. The button bears the
bugle crowned within a wreath. The Maltese Cross - a survival
possibly of the time when the mounted riflemen of Hompesch, a relation
of the last Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, joined the ranks -
bears the regimental battle roll, as rifle regiments have no colours;
these having been abandoned in 1824, at which time they bore the royal
cypher crowned. The head-dress is of sealskin or astracan, and has
a red and black plume.
The Militia battalions are the Huntingdon, Royal 2nd Middlesex, the
Carlow and North Cork battalions; a 6th battalion, mentioned in some
books, does not appear in the present "Army List", and was
disbanded in 1889.
The Volunteer battalions are the 1st Middlesex - Victoria and St
George's (green with scarlet facings), the 2nd South Middlesex (grey and
scarlet), the 4th Middlesex - West London (ditto); the 5th West
Middlesex and 9th Harrow (grey and scarlet, and green with green facing
respectively); the 12th, Civil Service, and 25th, Bank of England (clad
in grey and blue and in rifle green); the 13th, Queen's Westminster (grey
and scarlet); the 21st Finsbury Rifles (green and scarlet); the 22nd,
Central London Rangers (ditto); and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd City of London
Rifle Volunteer Brigade (green with green facings, green with scarlet,
and scarlet with buff facings, respectively).
Their usual name is the "Royal Rifles", or the "Green
Jackets"; but the regiment was once known as the "Royal
Americans", and to distinguish their dark dress, with red facings,
from the Rifle Brigade, have been called the "Sanguinary (or
B----y) Sweeps". The depot is at Winchester.
Extract from "The British Army and Auxiliary Forces" Colonel
C. Cooper King, R.M.A. , 1894