The Northumberland Fusiliers
In the reign of James 2nd, the Dutch Government, in
accordance with the terms of a treaty concluded by Sir William Temple,
formed a division of British troops in Holland.
These first saw service at Grave in the same year; and after the
capture of the place four regiments were formed, of which the “Irish”
was the forerunner of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
It saw much hard fighting with the brigade at Maestricht, Mont-Cassel,
and St. Dennis; and after a short visit to England to be in readiness to
take part against the Duke of Monmouth, it returned to the Continent, to
accompany, three years later, the army of the Prince of Orange to England,
with which it landed on Brixham Quay.
“It had the virtue to say-We will return to our native country,
but it shall be to serve a better King than James.”
But it took no part in the Civil Wars until 1691, when it was
present at the battle of Boyne, and at many of the skirmishes, such as
Athlone, which occurred before the temporary pacification of Ireland at
the end of 1691. After
sharing in the descent on Martinique in 1693, it returned to England to
embark for Flanders, and saw some service there, until the treaty of
Ryswick terminated hostilities.
It is curious to compare the form of attack then, with that at
present in force. In the
storm of Maestricht the column of assault was composed of two sergeants
and ten firelocks; one sergeant and twelve grenadiers; one officer, one
sergeant, and twelve grenadiers; one lieutenant, two sergeants , and
thirty firelocks; one sergeant and twelve men with half-pikes; one
captain, one lieutenant, two sergeants, and fifty firelocks; one sergeant
and twelve men with half-pikes; one captain, one lieutenant, one sergeant,
and twenty-eight men with spades and shovels.
The support was one captain, one sergeant, and fifty-eight men.
The regiment’s next active service was in the Peninsula, where it
remained from 1707 to 1728, during which time it took part in the actions
of Caya and Xeres, and was present in the first defence of Gibraltar,
which was besieged by the count de la Torres without a declaration of war.
It took part in the expedition to St.Malo and Cherbourg, which was
captured, and a number of it’s brass guns and mortars transferred to
England, and in other desultory affairs on the French coast; but it
embarked for the more severe work of the campaign of 1760-62, and saw much
hard fighting at Corbach, Warburg (where many men fell exhausted from
heat-apoplexy and over-exertion), Zierenberg, Campen, Kirk-Denkern (where
it helped capture the guns and colours of “Rouge” regiment),
Capelnhagen, Eimbeck, Foorwohll, and Groebenstein, where it held the wood
of Wilhelmsthal, and took a French standard and above twice its own number
prisoners. In its
ranks, too, fought a women on this occasion-one Phoebe Hassel-who lies in
Hove Churchyard. Wilhelmstahl
is the first name entered on the regiment’s battle-roll.
In memory of this battle, too, for many years after, the 5th
was distinguished by wearing grenadier caps instead of three-cornered
hats, and by carrying, among the band, a third colour-a small green silk
banner, bearing the badge of the regiment; but when this, with the old
colours, was destroyed in a fire in Gibralter, and new colours were
presented in 1835, they were reduced to the customary two.
As a mark of distinction, however, the King demanded that the name
should be borne on the colour, in memory of the field on which it
originally took its Grenadier cap from the enemy, that the regiment should
wear grenadier caps with the badge of St.George and the Dragon on the
back, and the king’s cipher, “W.R. IV.,” in front; but it was not
designated a Fusilier regiment until 1836.
The uniform had followed more or less the dress of the army.
In 1688 the head-dress was a hat with flowing white feather, the
coat of red, with lining and cross-belt of buff.
The standard was of green silk, with the royal arms. In 1799 the
head-dress was a cocked hat with red and white plume; the red coatee had
breast-piece and cuffs of “gosling green;” the lace was white with two
red stripes. In 1835 the usual swallow-tailed coatee with gold epaulets
and scales was worn by the officers. The Grenade with the figure “V” on it ornamented the
coat-tails and the breast-plate, as well as the back of the head-dress.
The facings were authorised to be a “handsome and lively
green.” The band at this time appear to have worn white costumes
throughout, on which the facings and worsted epaulets of the same colour
were conspicuous. The
feather in the head-dress, which distinguished the 5th from the
Fusilier regiments, had also undergone changes. It had been won from the enemy at St.Vigie, when a sufficient
number of white plumes were captured from the French Grenadiers to
decorate the men; but in 1829 the white feather was directed to be worn by
all line regiments except Rifles and light Infantry, and, to continue the
distinction, authority was granted later in the year for the Fifth to wear
a feather of red and white.
An order of merit had also been introduced in the regiment in 1761,
consisting of three medals of gilt metal with the number “V.” on the
face, for “merit;” of silver for fourteen years of “military
merit,” and of silver, with the recipient’s name, after twenty-one
years’ “good and faithful service.”
They were attached to a green ribbon, and were presented annually.
To return to the history of the regiment, it saw further fighting
in 1762 at Lutterberg, Homburg, and Cassel, and came back to England the
next year, embarking again for the American War of Independence
in 1774. It was present at Lexington, when the first shots in the
war were fired; Bunker’s Hill, where eight officers and 128 men were
killed and wounded, and where, with three days’ provisions, knapsack,
and ammunition, each man was carrying about 125 lb; at Long Island, whitw
plains, forts Lee and Washington, Brandywine, Germanstown, ect.; and then
it took part in the reduction of the island of St. Lucia, and other
operations in the West Indies. At
the former place it behaved with great gallantry, and its commanding
officer, Sir William Meadows, though wounded, encouraged his men to make a
stand on the heights of St. Vigie, standing in front of the colours, and
saying, “Soldiers, as long as you have a bayonet to point against the
breast of an enemy defend these colours.”
In 1799 a second battalion was raised, and both proceeded to
Holland to take part in the actions at Walmenhuysen, Shoreldam, Egmont-op-Zee,
and Winkel, soon after which the above 2nd battalion was
disbanded, but re-formed two years later, and the 1st embarked
for the attack on Buenos Ayres. In
the Peninsula both ballalions served, at first individually, and then
collectively, and the regiment bears for its services the names of “Roleia,”
“Vimiera,” “Corunna,” “Busaco,” “Ciudad Rodrigo,” “Badajoz,”
“Salamanca,” “Vittoria,” “Nivelle,” “Orthers,”
“Toulouse,” and “Peninsula” on its colours; but it was also
represented at Talavera, Redinha, Sabugal, Fuentes d’Onor, El Bodon, the
Pyrenees, the Nive, and Gave d’Oleron.
It was especially mentioned in despatches by Wellington after the
brilliant affair of El Bodon, when he says, “The conduct of the 5th
Regiment, commanded by Major Ridge, in particular affords a memorable
example of what the steadiness and discipline of the troops and their
confidence in their officers can effect in the most trying and difficult
situations”; and it again behaved with desperate gallantry at the storm
of Badajoz, where Colonel Ridge was slain. “No man died that night with more glory; yet many died, and
there was much glory.”
Its next active service was in India from 1857 to 1860.
It was present at the first relief of Lucknow, and inits subsequent
defence, at the Alumbagh, and in the Oude campaign. The right to bear “Lucknow” on its colours was the reward
of its faithful service, and three Victoria Crosses were won-by Private
McManus, Sergeant Robert Hale, and Private Patrick McHale. The latter showed distinguished gallantry, for “on every
occasion of attack Private McHale had been the first to meet the foe,
amongst whom he caused such consternation by the boldness of his rush as
to leave little work for those who followed to support.
By his habitual coolness and daring and sustained bravery in action
his name has become a household word for gallantry among his comrades.”
“Afghanistan, 1878-80” is the last name on the battle-roll, and
this was earned by hard service with the Peshawur Field Force, with
General Gib’s column at Lundi Khotal, and on the line of communications
through the Khyber Pass. The
present uniform is scarlet with white facings; on the colours are the
badge of St. George and the Dragon, apparently adopted when it first came
on the English establishment, the motto “Quo Fata vocant,” and in
three of the quarters the united red and white rose crowned.
It is probably due to the nature of the badges that roses are worn
in the men’s caps on St. George’s Day.
The “George” and mottoare worn on the grenades which decorate
the collar and the cap. It is
the only regiment of Fusiliers that wears a feather.
The 3rd battalion is the Northumberland Militia, which
formerly had a badgeof “Libertas et navale solum,” with a castle,
which seems to have been worn since its first formation in 1759.
It was embodied from 1778 to 1782, and took and active share in the
suppression of the Gordon riots; was again embodied from 1784 to1802, and
from 1803 to 1814, and, finally, from 1855 to 1856, during the Crimean
volunteer battalions are the 1st Northumberland, with grey
uniform and scarlet facings (Hexham); the 2nd Northumberland,
scarlet and green (Walker Newcastle-on-Tyne); and 3rd
Newcastle-on-Tyne Volunteers, scarlet and white (Newcastle).
The oldest nickname is the “Shiners,” from their smart
appearance on parade; but they have also been known as “the Old Bold 5th,”
“the fighting 5th,” and “Lord Wellington’s
Body-Guard.” This latter
title arose in 1811, when it was the only British corps in the village of
Fuente Guinaldo, which was the general’s head quarters.