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King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
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Military uniform prints of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry part of the Light Infantry Collection by Harry Payne and Richard Simkin, published by Cranston Fine Arts.
The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, until recently known as the King’s Own Light Infantry _South Yorkshire Regiment)-Regimental District 51-consists of the 51st and 105th Foot. The 51st were raised in 1755 as the 53rd, but the disbanding of two prior regiments gave the present numerical rank. Two years after their formation the 51st took part in the expeditions made under Mordaunt against the French coast, and the following year went to Germany. They fought at Minden, being on the right of the British line, in their first battle giving unmistakable earnest of their future fame, and before they returned home took part in the engagements at Corbach and Warbourg. Their next employment was at Minorca in 1771, where they very greatly distinguished themselves at St. Philip. The castle of this name, which commanded the harbour of Mahon, had been long considered impregnable, but at the time of the siege the upper works had been allowed to fall into decay. Parts, however, were bomb proof and of massive strength. An engineer officer present during the siege vouches for the following: - A shell falling without exploding upon one of the casemates produced a shock sufficient to throw to the ground a bottle and some glasses which were on a table in the building, without producing the slightest perceptible flaw in the arch! In 1781 the attacking force numbered at least sixteen hundred men, with a hundred and fifty guns and mortars. By November the place was closely invested on all sides, “and the little garrison thus cut off from all supplies of fresh food. The greater part of them had been long in the island, and were no doubt predisposed to the attacks of the scurvy, which now appeared amongst them, of exceptional virulence. In January 1782, things were even worse, for an aggravated form of typhus fever had also made its appearance. Nothing could exceed the devotion of the men. Scarcely a man could be persuaded to go into hospital if he could in any way avoid it, and the severity of by far the greatest number of cases was only discovered by men falling dead at their posts, or, when missed from their guards, by being found dead in some spot where they had gone to end their pain away from their comrades gaze. Early in February, four hundred and ten men being on duty, it was found that-sick and wounded included-only two hundred remained to relieve them, nineteen hundred out of the original garrison of over two thousand six hundred having actually died and been buried in the narrow precincts of the place within the space of six months. Only then was it determined to capitulate. As they sorrowfully laid down their arms, having marched out with the honours of war, ‘an involuntary shout burst from the enemy as they passed, and many of the French officers were affected even to tears.’”
In 1794 they were ordered to Corisca, and
were very actively concerned at the sieges of San Fiorenze and Bastia.
When the General Sir D. Dundas, resolved on an assault, the 51st
were directed to proceed along the seashore.
Arduous thought he march was, it was at last completed; the troops
converged in front of the redoubt, and “without firing a shot, swarmed
into the redoubt from three points, and by their bayonets alone swept the
French and Corsicans down the slope, and within five minutes the British
colours were flying from the redoubt, and the commandant, with a
considerable portion of the garrison, were disarmed and taken.”
Then followed the siege and capture of Bastia, and, after a few
less important engagements, Corisca was formally transferred to the
British Crown. In 1797 they
were with Sir John Stuart in Portugal, and the following year went to
India. Before long, however, they were transferred to Ceylon, and in
1800 had some sharp fighting with the Candyans, in which “the gallantry
of Ensigns Grant and Smellie and of Captain Pollock was conspicuous.”
Returning to England in 1807, they were present, two years later,
at Corunna and Walcheren. They then joined Wellesley and fought at Fuentes d’Onor and
Sabugal. “Salamanca” and
“Vittoria,” “Pyrenees” and “Nivelle” tell their own tale;
“Orthes” and the “Peninsula” complete the record of their triumphs
with the ‘conquering army.’ At
Waterloo they were on the left of the British line, and acquitted
themselves as might be expected from their traditions in that warring
chaos from which was to arise a newborn Peace.
It was in vein that the terrible squadrons of cirassiers charged
down again and again on the firm squares.
The 51st had gauged the calibre of these dashing
horsemen on many a peninsular field and this 18th of June-
They were engaged at Cambray, which was their last warlike achievement for many years. In 1837 they went to Australia, and nine years later to India. While here they were engaged in the Burmese War of 1852, and gained-not without hard fighting-the distinction of “Pegu.” Some of the 51st were on board the Sesostris, which so ably assisted the operations in the Rangoon River. In the attack on the golden Pagoda, the 51st were in the right column, which were the first to land, and four companies under Major Fraser, with some sappers and miners, formed the storming party. Heavy firing met them as they forced their way through the surrounding woods, and up the ladders against the stockade. Captain Blundell, of the leading company, fell mortally wounded, nor did he fall alone; but the dash of the attack was irresistible, and the White House of Guadama was in our hands. Greatly, too, did the regiment, or rather the detachment present with Sir John Cheape in his operations against Myat-Htoon, distinguish themselves. “Lieutenant Trevor, of the Engineers, with Corporal Livingstone and Private Preston, of H.M. 51st Foot, first entered the enemy’s breastwork, the two former each shooting down one of the enemy opposing their entrance. The lead devolved on Sergeant Preston, of H.M. 51st”
The following May they took Bassein, on which occasion, reported the General Commanding (General Godwin) , “the enemy appeared so completely surprised and paralysed by our approach that nearly all the men of H.M. 51st Foot got on shore under the Pagoda before a shot was fired.” But shots were fired soon, and as the gallant 51st stormed the Pagoda and Mud Fort, Major Errington fell wounded, and with him fell Captains Darroch and Rice and Lieutenant Carter. The 51st were engaged in the defence of Mataban, which was subjected to an unexpected, but not very formidable, attack by the Burmese. The regiment came home in 1856, returning to India two years later, and during the following nine years were engaged in the Punjab, and the disturbances in the Hayara district. After a short at home, 1872 saw them again in India, and five years later taking part in the Jowaki expedition. The Afghan War of 1878-80 completes-with the exception, too recent for mention here, of the records of the Burmese Expeditionary Force-the annals of the 51st. In the quasi-official account by Shadbolt, the doings of the 51st are set out with a minuteness, which the signally valuable nature of the service they rendered amply warrants. In November 1878, the 51st K.O.L.I., as part of the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, Peshawur Valley Field Force, advanced into the Khyber Pass, and the same day were engaged in the front attack on Ali Musjid. Marching from Jamrud, the regiment, under the command of Colonel Madden, came within range of the enemy’s guns about 1.30 p.m. and two hours later went into action, six companies occupying various advanced positions on the surrounding heights, and remaining engaged until darkness closed in. The casualties of the regiment during the day were, one man killed and two wounded. Early the following morning, three companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ball Acton, crossed the river to support the projected assault of the 3rd Brigade on a ridge to the enemy’s right. It was, however, discovered that the fort had been abandoned in the night, and Lieutenant-Colonel Acton’s companies shortly afterwards entered it. In the meantime two companies of the regiment, under Lieutenants Seppings and Bennett, took possession of the enemy’s camp by the river, capturing some twenty prisoners, two guns, and a quantity of ammunition.
The regiment remained at Ali Musjid on the further advance of the main body of the division. From the 24th to the 29th of November there was constant firing into the camp at night by the Afridis, considerable numbers of who assembled on the adjacent ridges. On the night of the 25th November a daring attempt was made by some two or three hundred of these tribesman to rush a small picket, consisting of one sergeant and fifteen rank and file, under Lieutenant Johnson, placed on a hill to the left roughly handled. Of the picket, Sergeant Binge was severely, and four men were slightly wounded. In consequences of the unsettled state of the tribes, the 51st were constantly on duty, for some time getting only one night’s rest out of four or five.
On the 19th December 1878, three companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Acton, left Ali Musjid on the first expedition into the Bazar Valley, and during the succeeding fortnight were engaged with the rest of General Maude’s force in destroying the villages and towers of the hostile Zatra Khel. While leading the column during its retirement from the valley on the 22nd December, the companies were engaged in some sharp skirmishing with the enemy on the surrounding heights. In the second expedition into the Bazar Valley, at the latter end of January, 1879, the regiment was again represented two hundred men under Major Burnaby marching from Ali Musjid on the 25th of that month, and after being engaged in the various operations of the expeditionary force, returning on the 4th February. In the meantime shots continued to be fired at night into the camp at Ali Musjid, severely wounding, on the 19th December, two sentries.n On the 8th March, 1879, the 51st K.O.L.I. were transferred to the 3rd brigade, 1st division, and on the 17th of the same month marched towards Jalalalbad, where they arrived on the 24th. Three companies under Lieutenant-Colonel Acton took part, en route, in an expedition sent out from Basawal to Maidanak on the night of the 19th to punish a section of the Shinwari tribe who had attacked a survey party under Captain Leach, R.E.; and on the 1st of April a company under Captain Kenneth accompanied the ill-fated expedition into the Lughman Valley, in which the greater part of a squadron of the 10th Hussars was swept away in the Kabul river and drowned.
After being encamped a month at Jalalabad, the regiment advanced to Safed Sang, where they arrived on the 27th April, and remained until after the conclusion of peace. On the 8th May they formed part of the guard of honour, which received H.H. Yakub Khan. Commencing the return march towards India on the 5th June 1879, the 51st L.L. after re-crossing the frontier, made their way to Cherat. The excessive fatigue and hardship endured on the March resulted in many casualties, no less than thirty five deaths occurring in the month of June, and nine more in July. In his report on the services of officers of the First Division Peshawur Valley F.F. the Lieutenant General commanding referred to the 51st as “a regiment excellent in its discipline, and excellent in the soldier like spirit it has shown throughout.” On the renewal of hostilities in the autumn of 1879, the 51st K.O.L.I. were again ordered up for active service, and as part of Brigadier-General Arbuthnot’s Brigade of Major-General Bright’s Division, marched to Jelalalabad, where they arrived on the 23rd October 1879. Four companies of the regiment escorted the ex-Amir Yakub Khan from that city to Basawal, starting on the 4th and returning on the 8th December 1879.
In the middle of December the regiment advanced to Safed Sang, and on the 17th of that month, in response to a request for reinforcements from Brigadier-General C. Gough, who was then at Jagdalak, three companies under Lieutenant-Colonel Ball Acton marched for Peiwar. Finding, on arrival, that Colonel Norman, commanding at that post, was also on route to open communication with the advanced brigade, and had bivouacked five miles further on the road, Colonel Acton detached twenty-five men top the Peiwar Kotal, and the following morning continued his advance. After marching four miles, he came upon the enemy assembled in considerable force, and turning up a nullah to their right, drove them from the position they had taken up. Communications were then opened with Colonel Norman’s force, and subsequently with that of General Gough after which the Peiwar party returned. On the 28th one company of the regiment quitted Peiwar for Jagdalak, and was replaced by another company. The following day a mixed force under Colonel Acton, including two companies of the 51st, also marched for Jagdalak, and when within sight of its destination again came into contact with a dispersed and large body of the enemy. In the encounter one man of the regiment was wounded. In the middle of January 1880, the headquarters of the regiment marched from Safed Sang to Peiwar, were they where rejoined by one of the companies from Jagadalak, and shortly afterwards received a welcome addition in the shape of a draft of 215 men who had recently arrived from England. During this month they were placed, by redistribution, in the 1st brigade, 2nd division, Kabul F.F. and ion that force being broken up in March became a unit of the Gandamak moveable column.
In the attack on Ali Musjid, in November 1878, the 51st were in the fourth brigade under Sir Samuel Browne, and wee sharply engaged, and had to regret the loss under exceptionally sad circumstances of Lieutenant Thurlow. He and Lieutenant Reid, also of the 51st, were riding some three miles distant from their cantonments when some forty Afghans attacked them. Thurlow was killed and Reid’s pony bolted, but directly he could master it the latter returned to attempt to bring off his friend’s body. Unable to do this himself-he was again shot at and narrowly missed- he returned to camp and brought out a detachment, “by which the body of the deceased officer was recovered and saved from mutilation.” For his gallantry on this occasion Reid received the Victoria Cross. A few days a large body of marauders attacked afterwards a convoy, commanded by Lieutenant Pollock, while proceeding to Jagdalak Kotal. The party was immediately reinforced by the company under command of Captain Nugent, with Lieutenant Reid, and the enemy were dispersed with considerable loss, eleven camels which had been driven off by them being recovered. On the 9th of April the companies at Jagdalak rejoined headquarters.
In the second week of April the regiment took part with the moveable column in the expedition into the Hissarak Valley, and were engaged in several sharp skirmishes with the enemy. On the night of the 12th, Serggeant McCarthy, a gallant and popular soldier, was shot while turning out his piquet; and in the course of the various operations return of the expeditionary force of the regiment was moved up to Jagadalak. On the 31st May, 1880, the 51st King’s Own Light infantry marched with the moveable column to Safed Sang, en route for the Lughman Valley, and for several days took part in carrying out the retributive measures with which that district was visited. On the 11th June, part of the rear guard, commanded by Major Burnaby, while re-crossing the Kabul River, was hotly fired on, Major Burnaby receiving a contusion of the face by a spent bullet. The hard work and exposure to which the column was subjected were excessive, and during the return march many men fell out from the ranks from exhaustion. On the 4th July, headquarters and four companies assembled at Peiwar, another company arriving next day, after a slight skirmish en route.
The last expedition during the war, in which the regiment took part, was one led by Colonel Ball Acton against the Ghilzai villages, Arab Khel and Jokan, which were destroyed in the first week in July, as punishment for various raids committed by the tribes on convoys. On the 9th August 1880, the 51st Kings Own Light Infantry commenced its return march to India, and after arriving at Peshawur on the 23rd of the month, proceeded to Lawrencepur, and eventually to Bareilly. The casualties of the regiment during the second campaign were, two officers and men killed, fourteen wounded, and 151 invalided, of whom twenty-two died. The 1-5th-the 2nd battalion of the Yorkshire Light Infantry-dates, as at present constituted, from 1839, when it was raised as the Second Madras European Light Regiment. The precursors of the regiment were the second Madras European Light Infantry, and as such did good service for many years in various engagements, which occupied our army. From 1839 to 1860 the 105th served in India and Burmah, and since then have served at Aden, making their first visit to England in 1874. It is from the 105th that the motto Cede Nullis is derived, but whence it comes is uncertain, no time apparently being known when it was not in use. Its first appearance in the Army List, however, is, according to Colonel Archer, in 1841. excerpt from Her Majesty’s Army By Walter Richards
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