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FAMOUS REGIMENTS AND THEIR HISTORY
The Battle for Rorke's Drift...22nd January 1879.
On the 22nd of January,1879,during
the Zulu war,most of the companies of the 1st battalion 24th foot were at
Isandhlwana, having the Queen's Colour (Flag)with them.Here they were overwhelmed
by a great army of Zulus and slaughtered almost to a man.When the commanding
officer,Col.Pulleine,saw that it was evident all would be lost, he ordered
Lieutenant Melvill to take the Colour and try to save it by getting back to
the remaining companies at Helpmakaar,across the Buffalo river.On his way
to the river he was joined by Lieutenant Coghill, who had been sent back owing
to a severley injured knee.Both young officers were mounted, but the track
to the river was strewn with boulders, making progress slow and difficult
- in fact, some swift Zulus came near enough to throw their spears at them.On
reaching the river it was found to be in flood.Melvill stripped the Colour/flag
from the Pike and both Officers plunged into the torrent.Coghill reached the
other side safely, but on looking back he saw Melvill in difficulties; he
had become seperated from his horse and had been washed against a rock in
mid stream, with the Zulus firing at him.Coghill at once rode back into the
river but his horse was killed instantly.Melvill could not hold onto the Colour,
which the swift current tore from his grasp.Both Officers reached the far
bank safely, but in a very exhausted state, and were soon done to death by
the some Zulus who had crossed lower down.
Elated by their great success at Isandhlwana, the Zulu army raced on to Rorke's drift, where there was only one company of the 2nd Battalion 24th foot,under Lieutenant Bromhead.,with some personnel of the Royal Engineers and other corps. about 100 all ranks, under the command of Lieutenant J.M.Chard R.E. When Chard and Bromhead learned of the disaster at Isandhlwana they immediately took measures to protect their small post.In the afternoon of the 22nd of January, about 600 Zulus approached the post,soon followed by the main body,estimated at 3,000.The little garrison, firing with great accuracy, kept the enemy at bay for a time, but they were gradually pressed back.The Zulus set the hospital on fire and by it's light the British were able to pick off the enemy better.When dawn came on the 23rd no Zulus were seen except for over 350 dead that lay in front of the post, the remainder having retired.
The news of this heroic stand by a handful of British Soldiers against enormous odds thrilled all of Great Britain and did something to assuage the anguish of Isandhlwana.
The bodies of Melvill and Coghill were found by a search party on 4th of February 1879, and also the Colour case and crest at the head of the pike.Eventually the Colour itself was lifted from the water where it had become wedged between some boulders.This same tattered Colour can now be seen hanging in Brecon Cathedral, Wales in the South Wales Borderers own chapel of rememberance..
As soon as the regiment came home in the Summer of 1880,Queen Victoria expressed a wish to see the Colours, and it was taken to Osborne House,Isle of Wight, for her inspection, to the pike of which Her Majesty attatched a wreath of immortelles.Later the Queen commanded that as a "lasting token of her act in placing a wreath on the Queen's colours,1st Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot, to comemmorate the devotion displayed by Lieutenants Melvill and Coghuill, in their heroic endeavour to save the Colour on the 22nd of January 1879, and of the noble defence of Rorke's Drift, Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to command that a silver wreath shall in future be borne round the staff of the Queen's colour of the 24th Regiment."
These silver wreaths were borne by both battalions of The South Wales Borderers, and the original wreath with which the Queen decorated the colour of the 1st battalion is preserved in the Officer's mess.
11 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the gallant men of the 24th Foot,The South Wales Borderers, a record for a single battle, whose valour, in their service to their Queen and country,went over and above the call of duty.
The traditional history of this badge, which is from the arms of the Earl of Seaforth who raised the 72nd foot,later 1st Battalion ,in 1777,is that when in 1266 the King Alexander 2nd of Scotland was hunting in Mar Forest he was suddenly confronted by an infuriated stag, which charged him, knocked him off his horse and began to savage him on the ground.He shouted for help, and was promptly answered by Colin Fitzgerald, who rushed up and with a delft blow with his sword severed the animals head, immediately behind the antlers(hence no neck on the badge) In gratitude for saving his life the King granted Fitzgerald a stag's head with the motto "Cuidich'n Righ" as a badge to his coat of arms.One of Fitzgeralds descendents became the Earl of Seaforth in 1623.
This regiment was raised
in 1680 and it is believed that William the 3rd granted it the Lion.As it's
"ancient badge" it was confirmed to the regiment by the Royal Warrant
of 1st of July 1751.
The title the The Kings Own has an interesting history.In 1684 the regimental title was H.R.H. The Duchess of York and Albany's Regiment of foot", but when the Duchess became Queen Consort in 1685 the title was altered to "The Queen's Regiment of Foot".With the accession of George the 1st the title was again altered to His Majesty's Own Regiment of Foot", usually abrreviated to "The King's Own".
This regiment was formed in 1859 and was known in it's early years as The Robin Hoods Rifles.It's first parade took place on the green at Nottingham Castle, and an engraved stone near the terrace doorway records this fact.During the war in South Africa at the beginning of the 1900's it sent contingents to the cape, and South Africa, ...1900-02.on the badge commemorates this.On the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908 it became the 7th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters, this being changed to 7th(Robin Hood) Battalions a few years later.It served with distinction in the Great War, 1914-1918.In December, 1936, it underwent a change of role and became the 42nd (Robin Hoods,Sherwood Foresters)Searchlight Regiment.R.A..It served again overseas in the 2nd World War,arriving in Normandy in 1944.Further changes of title took place,until finally it was designated 577 L.A.A./SL Regt,R.A. (Robin Hoods Foresters), T.A.
6th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers.
The Great War. 1914 - 1918.
Raised in South Wales in September,1914,the 6th service Battn went to France a year later as the Pioneer Battn of the 25th Division, and spent the winter in the Armentieres sector doing heavy work in flooded trenches.
In the Spring of 1916 the Battn was in the line at Vimy and Neuville St. Vaast,where 2 companies did fine work consolidating the craters of mines blown under the German line.They were persistently shelled,and at times had to break off their work to repel an attack,but eventually handed over a thoroughly well organised position to the relieving infantry.This exploit was rewarded with 2 MC's and 5MM's.
In the Great Battle for the Somme in the Summer of 1916 the battalion was continuously employed.On one occasion they carried out a magnificent piece of Pioneer work by digging 700 Yards of communication trench from on captured trench to another (the Regina Trench) under heavy shell fire,Only good discipline and a fine spirit could have accomplished this task, and the battalion was deservedly complimented upon it.
Their next major engagement was at Messines in July1917. Throughout April and may they were hard at work preparing for the battle, making communication trenches,tramways and roads, and building a bridge for tanks over the River Douve.In the attack on 7th june,in which the 5th Battn in the 19th Division also took part, the 25th Division captured all their objectives.By the evening,2 companies of the 6th,had constructed400 yards of trench tramway through the captured area,and 2 others had opened a road to within 300 yards of Messines,all in spite of continued hostile shelling and machine gun fire.By 15th june, when they were relieved, they had suffered over 100 casualties.
Moved further North for the 3rd battle of Ypres,the 25th division early in August relieved the 8th Division after the latter had been held up in it's attack on the Westhoek Ridge.The combination of bombardment and rain had reduced the trenches to a fearful state, the mud thigh deep in places and movement impossible.Added to this the working parties were shelled by Artilery and machine gunned by aircraft.Eventually, on the 10th of August 1916, the 25th Division took the ridge,B company of the 6th doing splendid work in consolidation.Its runner was conspicuous for his gallantry.Though hit in 1 eye,besides being three rimes buried when taking a message back, he persisted in duly delivering it before getting his wounds attended to.
The Winter of 1917 was spent in digging reserve lines and in March 1918, the 6th like the 5th Battn,found itself in the british Third Army, bearing the weight of the Northern part of the great German drive on Amiens.This meant 6 days of hard digging and stubborn fighting, in which the high qualities of the battn were magnificently displayed.Moved up to the North after this trying experience the 6th, with the 5th and 2nd Battalions met the full force of the new German offensive on the Lys,by which they sought to exploit the limited success gained in the drive on Amiens.On the 10th of April, the battn lost 80 killed and two wounded in a most gallant attack on Ploegsteen village.The attack failed, but the Germans were temporarily checked.One CSM took command when both leading company commanders were wounded, handling his men admirably and carrying his company commander back to safety.He was awarded the DCM.
Heavy fighting continued daily and by the 15th April, when it was withdrawn, the 6th had suffered over 400 casualties in constant rearguard actions.Like the 5th Battn, it had shown that it could fight as well as dig , and uphold the old traditions of the 24th Foot.
With the 5th Battn,the 6th shared the Battle honour of "Aisne,1918".here the wearied Battn had to undergo the pressure of another attack, and displayed in meeting it the same sterling qualities which had carried it through the battle of the Lys.It cost it 250 casualties.
This was it's last taste of infantry fighting.In the susequent advance to victory in the Summer and Autumn of 1918, it was fully employed in repairing the communications,often in the most difficult conditions and under heavy fire.The Battn was finally disbanded in the Autumn of 1919.
At the battle of Waterloo
on June 18th 1815, when the great Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon, the
Royal North British Dragoons,as this regiment was then designated was the
Scottish element in this famous union Brigade...Sergeant Charles Ewart of
the Regiment, with great intrepidity,attacked the standard bearer of the French
45th Regiment and captured the flag.The flag was surmounted by an Eagle.In
commemoration of this brilliant exploit, the regiment has adopted the Eagle
as the main device of it's badge ever since.
Description of badge
An Eagle in Silver Plate,with a Wreath around it's neck standing on a tablet inscribed "Waterloo" also in silver plate; below the Eagle, a scroll inscribed "Royal Scots Greys" in gilt.(The officer's badge is described;) other ranks have the same badge in corresponding metals.
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