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Military and Uniform art prints of the Middlesex Regiment by Lady Butler and Richard Simkin. All prints published by Cranston Fine Arts, the military print company.
Raised as the 59th Foot in 1775, Becoming the 57th of Foot in 1757. In 1887 became the 77th of Foot. In 1881, both he 57th and the 77th became the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Duke of Cambridge's own Middlesex Regiment.
VC WINNERS A total of 11 Victoria Crosses were won by men of the Middlesex regiment between 1854 and 1918. Four were awarded during the Crimean War, Two in the Third Maori War and Five during World war One. The first Victoria Cross was one at Sebastopol on the 22nd June 1855 by Sgt G Gardner.
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The Glories and Traditions of the British Army
The Middlesex Regiment Excerpt form the Navy and army Illustrated August 18th 1897 by Colonel W W Knollys
On the 1st July it was ordered that all regiments of the line were to be organised in territorial regiments, each regiment, with one or two exceptions, to consist of two battalions, with a varying number of Militia and Volunteer corps added. This plan was carried out with the result that the old regiments lost their time-honoured numbers, suffered a great diminution of esprit de corps, and in many cases were forced into military mariages de convenance. Through, however, the efflux of time, the feeling, almost universal, of soreness has abated, and the two line battalions have become homogenous.
Among the regiments thus compulsorily welded were the 57th and 77th. There had never been any relationship between the two regiments, and their connection with Middlesex had been little more than nominal. The 57th was originally raised in Somersetshire and Gloucestershire. The 77th was originally raised for the service of the Honourable East India Company, and its recruits were probably obtained not only in London, but in any other place where men could be induced to take a shilling. Both the 57th and 77th, however, won their chief honours in the Peninsula and the Crimea. Though administratively one regiment, they are never likely, in the future, to fight side by side; while, in the past, their histories are quite distinct. We have therefore written of them as separate battalions, which indeed they were until 16 years ago.
Among the territorial and trophy badges of the Middlesex Regiment is the Prince of Wales's plume and coronet, the origin of which I have been unable to trace; but it had been for many years borne by the 77th. In the "Records and Badges of Every Regiment and Corps in the British Army", by Henry Manners Chichester, late 85th Regiment, and George Burges-Short, late Major 3rd battalion the Manchester Regiment, it is stated that the Prince of Wales's plume is the old badge of the 77th regiment. Of the battle honours, "Albuera" commemorates the heroic conduct of the 57th regiment at the battle of that name.
Among the distinguished officers who have served in or been connected with either of the battalions who make up the Middlesex Regiment the following may be mentioned: 57th Regiment, Lord Hutchinson, who succeeded Sir Ralph Amercrombie in the command of the British Army when that distinguished officer was killed at the battle of Alexandria, and compelled the French to evacuate Egypt. He was appointed Colonel of the regiment in 1806. It is a coincidence that Lord Hutchinson was, when a Lieutenant, in the 77th or Athol Highlanders, one of the predecessors of the Middlesex Regiment. Another colonel of the 57th was Lord Hardinge, one of the chief actors in the battle of Albuera. He had, in 1804, been promoted to a company of the 57th, and served in that regiment for several years. There is a regimental tradition that Lord Hardinge, being once offered the colonelcy of a regiment of the Guards, declined saying "the 57th is good enough for me". Sir W Inglis, the officer who commanded the 57th at Albuera as Lieutenant-Colonel, was afterwards appointed Colonel of the regiment. In the 77th, two distinguished officers are included in their list of Colonels - Sir George Cooke, KCB, a guardsman who commanded the 57th regiment the First Division at Waterloo, where he lost and arm; and Sir Archibald Campbell, Bart, GCB, a veteran of the Peninsular, who is chiefly remembered as having commanded the British Army in the first Burmese war.
The 57th was one of ten new regiments raised in 1755-56, and began its existence in January 1756, the colonel being Colonel John Arabin of the 2nd Irish Horse. Excluding the regimental staff, the establishment was ten companies, each of three sergeants, three corporals, and seventy privates, besides officers. Two companies of about thirty of all ranks each were contributed by the Buffs, and the other new corps. The regiment was quickly completed, partly by voluntary, partly by enforced enlistment. By an Act passed at the time, magistrates were directed to "make a speedy and effectual levy of such able bodied men as are not younger than seventeen nor older than forty, and not papists, not under 5ft 4 in in height, not having a vote for Parliament men, not having support or maintenance, to serve as soldiers." Each parish had to supply a certain number of men, receiving 20S. for each recruit. Church wardens were to be paid not less than 5S. nor more than 40S. if the recruit had a wife or family. We presume that any person who fell within the above categories, but refused to enlist, was proceeded against as a rogue and a vagabond.
The clothing and equipment of the regiment when first raised was as follows:- The coat, waistcoat, and breeches were red, the facings were lemon coloured, the lace yellow, and the coats ample, loosely fitting garments, without collars but with a waistcoat underneath. Long white linen gaiters were worn. The Grenadiers had high conical cloth caps, the front lemon coloured, with the King's cypher and crown embroidered on it, and a small flap of red at the bottom. The back was red with the number of the regiment upon it, and a lemon coloured "turn-up". The caps of the drummers were similar. The battalion companies had three-cornered cocked hats laced with yellow. The uniform of the Grenadiers was the reverse of that of the battalion companies, being lemon coloured coats etc., faced with red. The officers' uniform was similar to that of the men. They frequently, if not generally, wore boots instead of gaiters. They had a cocked hat, laced with gold,, gold aiguilettes, and a crimson silk sash over the shoulder. The coat was also laced with gold. Sergeants had gold or silver lace, and worsted sashes; corporals were distinguished with shoulder knots. The men carried a knapsack- a leather bag with the hair left on- slung over one shoulder, the haversack being slung over the other.
As to arms, the Grenadiers had musket, bayonet, sword, and match-case, other men only musket and bayonet. There were two unpipeclayed buff belts for pouch and side arms. The sergeants had halberds and swords. All the officers carried swords in a frog attached to a belt under the undercoat, and in addition, the Grenadier officers, fusils; other officers, spontoons. In conclusion we may mention that knapsacks, haversacks, and water bottles were generally only used in the field.
The 57th regiment first saw active service during the American Rebellion. In the course of the war a spontaneous change in the uniform took place under the following circumstances. In 1777 after the battle of Brandywine, George Washington, with a view to harassing the British, caused several ambuscades to be arranged. One of these bodies, under General Wayne, was caught in its own trap. Major-General Charles, afterwards Earl, Grey gaining intelligence of General Wayne's position, determined to attack him by surprise. General Wayne's force, it may be mentioned, consisted of 1,500 men, with four field pieces. Parading the 42nd Highlanders, the 44th Regiment, and the 2nd Light Battalion - which comprised the light company of the 57th Regiment - after nightfall General Grey gave orders that not a shot was to be fired, and only the bayonet to be used. In profound silence the brigade moved off, the Light Battalion, with which rode the general himself, leading. Without meeting a soul, the British troops glided through the darkness till they had reached a spot about a mile from General Wayne's camp. All of a sudden a challenge was heard, and the next instant a couple of shots were fired, followed by the galloping off of two vedettes. Hastening the pace General Grey, a quarter of a mile further on, came on a forge, and ascertained from the blacksmith that General Wayne's camp was only a few hundred yards up the road. Compelling the man to act as guide, the British force was received after marching a quarter of a mile by another challenge. No reply was given, and the American picquet poured in a volley and then made off through the wood, firing as they went. The time of concealment had evidently passed and the moment for rapid action had arrived; so the general shouted "Dash on, light infantry." Without at first uttering a sound, or firing a shot, though their muskets were loaded, the "Light Bob's" rushed forward, guided by the fire of the bivouac fires, till they reached the camp, when with a ringing cheer they charged. The American, strange to say, had not been alarmed by the shots fired by the first two vedettes, and our troops found them rushing about panic-stricken and in the wildest confusion. The British made short work of them with the bayonet, and after a few minutes of slaughter the camp was in our hands, with as proof of our prowess, the four guns, 460 American corpses, 70 prisoners, the whole of the camp equipage, and 8 waggon loads of stores and ammunition. The survivors - many no doubt wounded - fled in terror, hotly pursued by our men till the darkness of the night and thickness of the woods caused the chase to be abandoned. The loss of the victors in this ably planned and well carried out enterprise was only 20 killed and wounded. It was afterwards ascertained the General Wayne had intended to surprise the British camp at 1 am, but the tables were thoroughly turned on him, for about midnight he was himself attacked and routed.
The Americans were furious at this disaster, and were so enraged that they vowed that they would give o quarter to the Light Infantry battalion, on whom had fallen the brunt of the fighting. Why they should have shown this savage spirit, it is difficult to understand, for the enterprise was a particularly legitimate operation of war and attended by no barbarities. Be that as it may, the 2nd Light Battalion, in order to save from murder other Light Battalions who had taken no part in the enterprise, and to show defiance of the enemy's threats, dyed their plumes red, and continued to wear them of that colour till a few years later all the light companies were ordered to wear green plumes.
In 1793-4 the regiment served in Flanders, and in 1795-6 it was occupied in capturing West Indian islands. It did not lose many officers or men in action, but the amount of sickness and the number of deaths from disease were appalling. From June 1796, when active operations ceased, to the end of the year, the regiment lost, out of a strength of 1,131 privates and a proportionate number of officers, non-commissioned officers and men,, 7 officers, 33 sergeants, 26 corporals, 19 drummers, and 474 privates. At the beginning of 1797 the regiment was further diminished by the deaths of 1 officer, 11 sergeants, 17 corporals, 13 drummers, and 177 privates. Before the end of 1797, 2 officers and 180 men were added to the death roll. The regiment had, however, in the latter part of 1796, received an augmentation from other regiments of 207 men. Notwithstanding, however, this accession of strength, the regiment was, as regards those who originally sailed from England, practically annihilated by disease.
Then came the Peninsular War, where its largest and most conspicuous crop of laurels was reaped. The scene of this glorious harvest was Albuera. On this occasion the 57th was the centre battalion of Major-General Houghton's brigade, the 29th being the right, and the 1st battalion the 48th regiment the left. An extract from "Maxwell's Stories of the Peninsula" shows how cool and gallant a chief the brigade had.
" Major-General Houghton at this time was on horseback in front of his brigade, in a green frock coat, which he had put on in the hurry of turning out. Some time afterwards his servant rode up to him with his red uniform coat. He immediately and without dismounting, stripped off the green and put on the red one; and it may be said that this public display of our colour, and of the British coolness, actually was done under a salute of French artillery, as they were cannonading us at the time."
Drawn up in line on the summit of the hill, it suffered terribly, as did also the other two regiments of the brigade, whole sections falling under the heavy fire of grape and musketry which, without ceasing, rent the line into fragments. The regimental colour was pierced by 21 bullets, the King's colour by 17, the latter also having its staff broken. Ensign Jackson who carried the King's colour, being hit in 3 places, went to the rear to have his hurts attended to. As soon as his wounds had been bound up, he returned to his regiment. On his arrival he found that Ensign Veitch, who had replaced him, had been severely wounded, but he obstinately refused to give up his precious charge to Jackson. Many companies had all their officers killed or wounded, and owing to the serious losses that the regiment had suffered, the line presented the appearances of a chain of skirmishers. A young officer, Captain Ralph Fawcett, only 23 years of age, had been mortally wounded, but indifferent to his own sufferings and fate, he caused himself to be placed on a hillock whence he continued to command his company, calling out from time to time to the men to fire low and not waste their ammunition.
Colonel Inglis of the 57th who, on Major-General Houghton being mortally wounded, had succeeded to the command of the brigade, was himself soon after struck by a grape shot, which penetrated the left breast and lodged in his back. Like the gallant Fawcett, he refused to be carried to the rear. Grievous as was his hurt, he remained where he had fallen, in front of the colours of his regiment, urging his men to keep up a steady fire and to "die hard". Hence the honourable sobriquet which distinguishes the regiment down to the present day. The General of the Division was wounded, and the commanders of all the 3 regiments of the brigade were hors de combat; indeed, every field officer of the brigade was killed or wounded. To make matters worse, ammunition was running short.
The brigade commanded by Houghton was in the centre - there were 3 in the division - and was in open column at the foot of the hill. On Colbourne's, the leading brigade, having been cut to pieces as it was in the act of deploying, General Stewart brought up Houghton's brigade. Warned, however, by Colbourne's disaster, Houghton's brigade was deployed into line before it mounted the ascent.
As soon as the brigade reached the crest, marching under a brisk fire from the enemy's light infantry, to which it did not return a shot, it found large masses of the French close in front of them, skirmishers being in the interval, while 40 pieces of artillery played upon the British battalions.
The 3rd brigade, Abercrombie's, of Stewart's Division, and Cole's, the 4th Division, coming up saved the 1st and 2nd brigades of Stewart's Division from absolute annihilation. The new comers, however, had to resist desperately, and suffered dreadful loss. Death and wounds, however, could not stop the gallant battalions, which alternately advancing and firing, gradually gained ground, till, at length, the French abandoned the field. To use the words of Sir William Napier "The mighty mass gave way, and like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep. The river flowed after in streams coloured with blood, and 1,500 unwounded men, the remnant of 6,000 unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill."
The 57th, on that bloody and glorious day, did indeed die hard. Marshal Beresford, in his dispatch about the battle, which was fought on the 16th May 1811, said that the dead, particularly those of the 57th, "were to be seen lying as they had fought in ranks, and every wound in front." The loss of the regiment was appalling.
Out of 30 officers and 570 men who had gone into action, only 10 officers and 150 men remained fit for duty. There is a tradition in the regiment that on the morning after the battle the whole of the rations of No.2 company were carried away by the drummer, who drew them in his hat. It is certain that the regiment was brought out of action by Lieutenant and Adjut. Mann, who in the morning had been only 14 in seniority.
Previously to the action the 57th was known in the army in Spain as the "Steel Backs" from the amount of flogging in the corps and the hardihood with which the men bore it. Ever since Albuera, however, the only nickname of the regiment has been "Die Hards".
The rest of the brigade likewise suffered severely. General Houghton was killed; the 1st battalion 48th lost its colonel and many officers and men; in the 29th the colonel was mortally wounded, and its casualty list was 7 officers and 77 men killed, and 13 officers and 232 men wounded.
The 57th have on several occasions paid heavy tribute to the god of battles. In the Crimea, the regiment lost: - killed in action, 3 officers and 60 men; died of their wounds, 5 officers and 21 men, died of disease, 2 officers and 188 men.
Forty-three years later, in the stress in the battle of Inkerman, the remnants of the 57th were lying down on the Home Ridge, and a fresh Russian column was advancing with the intention of pushing back the wearied infantry and capturing some guns in the rear. Captain Stanley, who was in command, saw that energetic action was needed, and rising up, he turned towards his men shouting "Die Hards! Remember Albuera". The effect was electrical - the men sprung to their feet and with a cheer followed their brave leader as he dashed against the mass of foemen. A desperate hand to hand fight ensued, but in the end the Russians were worsted and driven back. The Die Hards, however, lost many men in the savage scuffle, and amongst them their gallant leader, who was said to have slain ten men with his sword before he was himself killed.
Captain Stanley was succeeded in command by Captain Inglis, son of the commander of the "Die Hards" at Albuera. In the hand to hand contest Captain Bland received three terrible wounds in the head, which proved mortal. An officer who witnessed the charge, wrote of Bland, "Like an avenging angel he dealt death to every Russian within reach of his weapon. They appear to have marked him for their vengeance, for he certainly sent some 10 fellows to their account." Captain Stanley is mentioned by Kinglake as "Young Stanley", which is scarcely a correct description, seeing as he had held a commission in the 57th for nineteen years, and had previously served with distinction in the army of the Queen of Portugal during the civil war in that country. Returning to England in 1835, he obtained his commission in the British service under somewhat romantic circumstances. Many years previously, Prince William Henry - afterwards William 4th- when serving as a midshipman on the North American station, was present at a ball at Halifax. He was much struck with the charms of a young lady who was his partner in a country dance. On wishing her goodbye HRH promised her that if at any time she sent him a request, accompanied by the music of the dance, he would if possible grant it. Many years had passed away, the young midshipman had become an elderly king, the blooming girl had developed into a grey haired grandmother, and her grandson was Stanley. He on telling the old lady of his desire to become a British officer, touched a spring of memory. His grandmother resolved to see if the king considered the midshipman's promise sacred, and wrote to her former admirer, reminding him of his pledge and enclosing a copy of the music. The king wrote back that he remembered the matter well, and at once procured him an ensigncy without purchase in the 57th. We have mentioned that Captain Inglis, who succeeded Stanley in the command of the regiment, was the son of the former colonel of the regiment at Albuera. There was in the ranks another Albuera man's son, Sergeant Grace, who, when in reward for Inkerman, a sergeant in each regiment was given a commission, was the sergeant recommended by the 57th. Only a portion of the regiment went into action in the morning under Captain Stanley, and that portion numbered 8 officers and 189 men. Later in the day 150 more men sent from the trenches were marched to the field of battle, but they were not actually engaged, and suffered hardly any casualties. The loss therefore fell almost entirely on Stanley's party, and was 4 officers and 90 men killed, wounded and missing out of 197 of all ranks.
In the attack on the Redan on the 18th June, the 57th furnished the 400 men who constituted the storming party of the left column. On receiving the order to advance they were much delayed by crowds of soldiers of other regiments looking on. The regiment got within 20 or 30 yards of the Artakoff battery on the proper right of the Redan, its colonel, Shadforth, being slain close up to the ditch. Being unsupported and having lost heavily, the 57th could do no more; they stood their ground, however, until ordered to retire, when they fell back in skirmishing order, bringing with them their wounded. Their loss in 20 minutes was 5 officers and 105 men.
Not only at Inkerman did the "Die Hards" justify their name, for they fought bravely and suffered heavily in the hopeless and unsuccessful attack on the Redan on the 18th June 1855. On that occasion Colour-Sergeant Gardner performed the 2nd of the exploits which obtained for him the Victoria Cross. After the failure of the assault Sergeant Gardner, instead of returning at once to the shelter of the trenches, persuaded several of his comrades to stay out in the open and fire at the Redan. The brave little band obtained imperfect cover from the furious fire of the Russians by kneeling in shell craters, making use of some of the many corpses lying about as parapets. In these ghastly improvised breastworks they remained till all their cartridges were expended. Gardner's previous exploit was performed on the night of the 22nd March 1855. Between 11 and 12 at night three Russian columns crept silently out of Sebastopol, and under cover of darkness had arrived within a short distance of our right trenches before they were perceived. When challenged by our sentries, they replied "Bono Johnny," and were though to be French. In another minute the deception was at an end. Swarming over the parapet and into the trenches our men, taken by surprise and half asleep, were bayoneted right and left, some ven being thrust through as they lay sleeping in their blankets on the ground. The survivors were driven back after making what resistance they could with their hastily snatched up arms. Soon, however, they were rallied and made a counter attack. A fierce melee ensued, in the course of which Captain Headley Vicars of the 95th Regiment was killed, and at length the Russians were driven back to their own works. On this occasion Colour-Sergeant Gardner was orderly sergeant to the field officer of the trenches, and when our men were hurled back in confusion, he rallied a body and at their head charged the Russians.
Another "Die Hard" earned the second cross won by the regiment during the Crimean campaign by a conspicuous act of gallantry on the night of 23rd June 1855. Private Charles M'Corrie was in the trenches when a shell fell into the midst of the party to which he belonged. In another instant the burning fuse would have reached the powder and the charge, and the explosion in a narrow and crowded place would have caused fearful destruction. Not a moment was to be lost, and not a moment was lost. Regardless of the great probability that the shell might burst in his hands and blow him literally into fragments, M'Corrie, without a moment's hesitation, lifted up the missile and cast it over the parapet, where it immediately burst without causing injury. Here was shown quickness of perception, promptness of action, and indifference to peril in the highest degree.
The 57th shared in the unsuccessful assault on the Redan on the 8th September, 1855 but of that mismanaged affair the less said the better. The 57th played a small part in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, having arrived late on the scene. In the New Zealand war of 1860-66 the regiment was actively engaged and won honour for themselves as usual. Drummer Stagpool in 1863 won the distinguished service medal for having in a sharp action with the Maories brought in several wounded men though himself wounded in the head. A few weeks later the same brave fellow, in a fight near New Plymouth, together with Ensign Don, earned and were recommended for the Victoria Cross for having repeatedly under a heavy fire removed wounded men to places of safety. It is sad to have to chronicle that the ensign died of disease before he could receive the decoration. In the Zulu war of 1879, the 57th were again employed, but there is nothing special to chronicle in connection with that campaign. It is noteworthy that Lord Hardinge, whose name will always be associated with Albuera, was full colonel of 57th from 1843 till his death in 1856.
The 77th regiment is the 3rd corps which has borne that number, the two first being Highland regiments which only enjoyed a brief existence. The third 77th regiment became in 1881 the 2nd battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. It was raised in 1787, being one of four regiments formed at the expense of the East India Company. Embarking for Bombay in March 1788, it did not return to England till 1807. In the interval it saw much active service, taking part with Lord Cornwallis's war with Tippoo Sultan in 1790-91, in the reduction of Ceylon, and in the campaign of 1799, which resulted in the capture of Seringapatam. In the latter war it belonged to General Stewart's army from Bombay, and with the 75th and the Bombay Europeans constituted the centre brigade commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop of the 77th. On 6th March the regiment was engaged in a sharp action at Sedaseer, Tippoo Sultan having attacked a portion of Stewart's army with some of his best troops. This action would perhaps not have been worthy of notice here but for the fact that commanding a company in the 77th on that day was Lieutenant Alexander Lawrence, the father of Sir Henry and Lord Lawrence. On the 16th April General Stewart arrived before Seringapatam and effected a junction with the main army, under General Harris. Lieutenant Lawrence on the 22nd of April commanded two companies, with which he repulsed a sortie of the enemy, inflicting great loss on the latter.
On the 4th May Seringapatam was carried by assault after a desperate resistance, which cost the victors many lives. The arrangements for the assault were as follows. The command was entrusted to General Baird, a brave and distinguished officer, but of so bad a temper that when his mother learnt that in the previous war with Mysore her son had been taken prisoner and chained to a companion in misfortune, she exclaimed, in her broad scotch, "I pity the mon who is chained to oor Davie."
The attacking force was divided into two columns. The left column consisted of the flank companies of the three British regiments, ten flank companies of Bengal sepoys, and 50 artillerymen. The "forlorn hope" consisted of 12 men under Sergeant Graham. In support of this were two subalterns' parties of Europeans, one of which was under Lieutenant Lawrence. When the hour appointed had arrived, General Baird took out his watch, and remarking "The time has expired", jumped on to the parapet of the trench, and exclaimed, "Come my brave fellows, follow me and prove yourselves worthy of the name of British soldiers."
Fording the river, which was only knee deep, the column ascended the glacis. Arrived at the edge of the counterscarp the stormers found that they were separated from the breach by a deep ditch. Fortunately there were some rough steps which enabled them to descend. On arriving at the foot of the wall the "forlorn hope" stopped to fire. Lieutenant Lawrence, who on reaching the edge of the glacis had received a bullet in his left arm, but had nevertheless succeeded in crossing the ditch, saw the check. Rushing forward he hurrahed them on. Finding that he could not get them to advance, he pushed through the ranks shouting "Now is the time for the breach." Inspired by his example the men followed him, but at that moment he was struck by a second bullet, which carried off one finger of his right hand and shattered another. Even this did not quench the ardour of the brave Lieutenant, who kept his feet till the survivors of the forlorn hope were actually in the breach, when he sank to the ground insensible. After the capture of the place a soldier of the 77th passed by, and seeing an officer apparently dead, knew by the facings that he belonged to the 77th. Muttering to himself "One of ours", he looked closely, recognised Lawrence, and perceived that there was still life in him. By a prodigious effort - for Lawrence was 6 ft 2 in in height and stout in proportion- the soldier lifted him up and carried him to the rear, swearing that he "would not do as much for any other man of them." Of the four subalterns who volunteered for the storming parties, Lawrence was the only one who escaped with his life, and as we have seen was desperately wounded. The loss of the 77th during the siege was Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop, who was disabled in an encounter with a chief on the summit of the breach, Captain Owen, and Lieutenant Lawrence wounded, and including the above mentioned, 10 of all ranks killed, 51 wounded and 1 missing. Probably the man returned as missing was one of 13 British soldiers who were made prisoners during sorties and were barbarously murdered on Tippoo's orders. These unfortunate men were taken out of their place of captivity in batches and slain by their necks being twisted by professional athletes.
In 1807 the 77th returned to England, where they remained till 1809, when they took part in the abortive Walcheren expedition, which is commemorated by the following doggerel verse relating to the absence of concerted action between the General, the Earl of Chatham, and the Admiral, Sir Richard Strahan:-
"The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn, Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strahan; Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em, stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham."
Early in 1811 the regiment embarked for the Peninsular, and before the year was out had covered itself with glory at the action of El Bodon. In September, Marmot determined to introduce provisions into Cuidad Rodrigo, which had been blockaded by Wellington for some weeks. One of the results of this was the "Combat of El Bodon", as Napier calls it. In those days the term battle was reserved for great occasions. On the morning of 25th September General Colville, with the 5th and 77th, and the 21st Portuguese, with two batteries of Portuguese artillery and three squadrons of cavalry - two squadrons 11th Light Dragoons and one squadron 1st German Hussars - under Major-General Baron Alten, were attacked by overwhelming numbers. The assailants consisted of between 30 and 40 squadrons of French cavalry with 12 guns, followed by 14,000 infantry with a due proportion of artillery. The British occupied a height convex towards the enemy, and covered in front and on both flanks by bushes. It was, however, too large to be occupied properly by the small force at General Colville's disposal.
Montbrun, at the head of over 30 squadrons of cavalry, advanced by the road through El Bodon direct on Fuente Guinaldo, which was held by the English and Portuguese. This distinguished cavalry commander, noting his opponents' weakness, determined to attack before the supporting French infantry could come up. The Portuguese guns plied the French horsemen well with shot, but, nothing daunted, the gallant Frenchmen persisted. Crossing a ravine they rode up the height on three sides and arrived at the top only to be saluted with the fire of the defender's infantry and artillery and the heroic dash of the cavalry, who charged again and again the heads of the French columns and drove them back. Napier says the the British and German Hussars charged them no less than 20 times. That may be a loose expression, but it is certain that our horsemen charged the heavy masses of the French cavalry repeatedly, each time forcing them back. Not less gallant, however, than their opponents, the French each time rallied, and failure was followed by a fresh effort to crown the crest of the hill.
At length Montbrun brought up his guns. A squadron of the 11th Hussars, charging too far, became entangled in the intricacies of a ravine. The French profited by the opportunity, and charging the Portuguese artillery, captured two of their guns, cutting down the gunners who stuck to their pieces manfully.
Then occurred an incident almost without example in war. The 5th Regiment actually charged the French cavalry and recovered the guns, and the 77th on their left, under Lieutenant-Colonel Bromhead, at the same moment charged and drove back the French horsemen in their immediate front. By this time the French infantry were close at hand, and Lord Wellington sent word to Colville to retire. Then was accomplished another feat which reflects the highest credit on the 5th and 77th regiments. These two weak battalions were formed in one square. The 21st Portuguese formed another square, which was also joined by the Portuguese artillery, and the three squadrons who feared to be cut off as the French had turned our right. Thus the retreat was effected in two echelons, the 5th and the 77th being the nearest to the enemy. The movement to the rear had scarcely commenced when, to quote the eloquent words of Napier, " In an instant the whole of the French cavalry came thundering down upon them. But how vain, how fruitless, to match the sword with the musket; to send the charging horseman against the steadfast veteran. The multitudinous squadrons, rending the skies with their shouts, and closing upon the glowing squares, like the falling edges of a burning crater, were as instantaneously rejected, scorched and scattered abroad; and the rolling peal of musketry had scarcely ceased to echo in the hills, when bayonets glittered at the edge, and with firm and even step, the British regiments came forth like the holy men from the Assyrian's furnace."
The French cavalry made no more attempts to break the steadfast British square, and though they threatened the Portuguese square, they, probably deterred by the fact that it was supported by the Portuguese guns and our three squadrons, made no actual charge. During the remaining portion of the day the French contented themselves with following Colville, who had been reinforced, with mere artillery fire.
The loss of the 77th on this eventful day was 4 rank and file killed, 14 rank and file wounded, and 5 rank and file missing - a small list of casualties, but relatively large if we take into consideration the fact that according to one of the Duke of Wellington's letters, written a week later, the 77th did not number on the day of the action more than 250 rank and file. We may here take the opportunity of mentioning that the 11th Light Dragoons, of whom only 2 squadrons were present, lost 1 sergeant, 8 rank and file, and 9 horses killed; 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 lieutenant, 1 quartermaster, 1 sergeant, 17 rank and file, and 26 horses wounded. On the other side of the account it may be related that they captured 20 French dragoons. The Duke of Wellington was not lavish in praise, a fact which renders all the more valuable a highly commendatory general order on the subject which he issued on the 2nd October 1811, and from which we extract some of the most important passages. "The commander of the forces has been particular in stating the details of this action in the general orders, as, in his opinion, it affords a memorable example of what can be effected by steadiness, discipline, and confidence... It is impossible that any troops can, can at any time, be exposed to the attack of numbers relatively greater than those which attacked the troops under Major-General Colville and Major-General Alten on the 25th September; and the commander of the forces recommends the conduct of these troops to the particular attention of the officers and soldiers of the Army, as an example to be followed in all such circumstances."
At the capture of Cuidad Rodrigo by assault on the 12th January 1812, the 77th played a conspicuous part. The 3rd - Picton's - Division, to which the regiment belonged, was told off to attack the great breach. The left breach was stormed by the Light Division, and false attacks were made elsewhere. The Light division showed the most astounding intrepidity under the most desperate circumstances, and after suffering losses that may be called, without exaggeration, appalling, eventually succeeded. The task of the 3rd division, though arduous enough, not quite so arduous as that of the Light Division. Picton - who as Charles Lever says in "Charles O'Malley" was always in a heavenly humour when somebody was going to be killed- was a general to get the utmost out of his men, and on this occasion they fought splendidly, the 77th being among the leading regiments. Having escaladed the Fausse Braye, the 3rd division cleared it till they came to the foot of the great breach. This they mounted in the face of a most destructive fire, which every second stretched an officer or man among the ruins. The French from their entrenchments poured forth a constant stream of bullets, and were aided by the fire of their comrades occupying the houses in the rear of and overlooking the ramparts. Our men had forced their way up to nearly the top of the breach, but could not advance further in the teeth of the two guns which at only a few yards swept the narrow passage with grape. Die, Picton's men could; go back they would not. At length the other breach was carried, and the 43rd and the stormers of the Light Division came down on the flank of the defenders of the great breach. Three small expense magazines exploded about this time, and the defence weakening, the 3rd division, by a great effort, carried the retrenchments. The total loss of the allies in this siege was about 1,200 soldiers and 90 officers. Of these some 650 men and 60 officers were the casualties due to the assault.
This bloody drama was quickly followed by another of the same character at Badajos. After a short siege, on 6th April 1812, the Light and 4th Divisions were sent against the breach, while Picton, with the 3rd Division, in which was the 77th, was ordered to escalade the castle and the ramparts adjoining. It was about 10pm when the actual assault was delivered. After terrible loss, resulting from stones, logs, shells rolled down, a constant fire of musketry, and the breaking of ladder after ladder, the 3rd Division were repulsed. Nobly led, however, and with heroic courage they placed fresh ladders against the walls, and this time were successful. It was they, in fact, who captured the town, for the garrison had repulsed with gruesome slaughter the assault on the other breach; but the capture of the castle brought about the abandonment of that breach by the French. The grand total of the casualties in the assault was 3,022 of all ranks, including 5 general officers wounded. The loss of the 77th - a weak battalion it must be remembered - was only three officers and ten men wounded.
The Middlesex Regiment bears on its colours, in honour of these events, the words "Seringapatam" and "Badajos".
The 77th, reduced to a skeleton after their heavy losses, were soon after sent to Lisbon. There they remained until October 1813, when they embarked for Passages, and marching thence to Bayonne, took part in the investment of that town.
The 77th formed part of the Light Division in the Crimea. At the Alma it was not heavily engaged. At Inkerman it was in the thick of the fight and did splendid service under Colonel Egerton. Almost at the beginning of the action, when deployed in the mist and smoke, Lieutenant Clifford, ADC to Major-General Buller, commanding the brigade, saw a column of Russians coming up on the left rear of the regiment by a ravine. Clifford called out cheerily to the nearest men "Who will come and charge with me?" Comparatively few could hear, but of those who did a score or two followed him. Without waiting for them Clifford dashed on ahead and drove his way into the Russian column. The Russians, taken by surprise, were partially paralysed. A few, however, fired and used their bayonets, but Clifford killed one Russian, disabled another, and his handful of men coming up, a fierce melee ensued. Soon those of the enemy immediately opposed the the daring band fled down the ravine, throwing their comrades, already vexed by the fire of Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar's company of the Grenadier Guards on the opposite bank - into disorder and bringing about their retreat. As to the head of the column, which had been, so to speak, amputated by the daring rush of Clifford and his followers, they threw down their arms and surrendered.
About the same time a body of about 1,500 Russians bore down upon Egerton, who had but 260 men with him.. He gave the word "Fire a volley and charge," and nobly his men responded. Delivering their fire with deadly effect, They sprang at the Russians, and plunging into the mist, the smoke, and brushwood, penetrated into the crowd, and plying the bayonet and butt end vigorously, in a few minutes broke up and pressed back their adversaries. These they followed up to the foot of Shell Hill, where they maintained themselves till late in the fight, when Egerton was sent to another part of the field.
Late in the evening of 19th April 1855, Colonel Egerton, with a portion of the regiment, supported by a wing of the 33rd, in all about 600 bayonets, attacked certain Russian lodgments - afterwards called, in honour of the feat, "Egerton's Rifle Pits". These were carried by our men with the bayonet, scarcely a shot being fired by our people, though they were received with a shower of musket bullets. Our engineers resolved only to retain one , which they placed in a state of defence and connected with our nearest approach. It took some three hours to accomplish this task, performed under a heavy fire of artillery and small arms. It was at this time that Captain Lempriere, a very young officer who had fought manfully at Inkerman, was mortally wounded, being shot through the lungs as he stood by the side of Colonel Egerton. Egerton was very fond of the lad, whom he was wont to call his child, and lifting him in his arms, carried him to a place of shelter in the trenches, immediately after returning to his post. Immediately after Sergeant McDonald, a gallant sapper who won the Victoria Cross by his conduct on the occasion, fell badly wounded by a grape shot in the right side. Colonel Egerton, ever as mindful of others as he was careless about himself, strove to keep up the sergeant's strength by giving him brandy out of his flask. His deed of mercy had scarcely been done than the enemy made a vigorous effort to recapture the lodgment, and in assisting to repulse them Egerton was slain. Lord Raglan described the conduct of the troops as "admirable", and in his despatch declared the army could not have suffered a more severe loss than that of Egerton, "who was one of the best officers in the army".
On this occasion Sergeant John ark and Private Alexander Wright of the 77th won the Victoria Cross. Both had on previous occasions shown great courage.
Since the Crimea, the 77th has had little opportunity of distinguishing itself, for it only arrived in India in time to take part in the closing scenes of the Mutiny. It, however, has always maintained its high character, and for several years, while under the command of Colonel, now General, Kent, it was at the top of the list in musketry. Indeed, much was sacrificed for good shooting, and no soldier who was not at all events a fair shot could expect any indulgences or privileges.
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