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29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot

Last updated: 7 July 2014

Other ranks' glengarry badge, 29th (The Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot, 1874-81Other ranks' glengarry badge, 29th (The Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot, 1874-81
NAM. 1970-12-181

Introduction

In 1694 Thomas Farrington, a Coldstream Guards officer, was commissioned to raise a regiment of foot. This regiment was disbanded in 1698, but Farrington raised another in 1702.

The re-formed unit fought at the Lines of Brabant and at Ramillies before assisting in the siege of Ostend. It then fought at Gibraltar then in Canada. When the British Army was reorganised in 1751 the unit was given the number 29.

The unit's colonel from 1752 to 1761 was George Boscawen, who freed ten black slaves given him by his brother Admiral Edward Boscawen and enlisted them as the regiment's drummers. This tradition continued until 1843.

Eight men of the unit's grenadier company were tried for murder when it accidentally opened fire on rioters at Boston in 1770, though only two of them were convicted of manslaughter and the rest exonerated, thanks to their defence counsel John Adams, a future American president.

After a brief spell in England, the regiment returned to Canada in 1776 to repulse the American Revolutionary attempts to capture Quebec. It then fought onboard ship in the Battle of Valcour Island and on land in the Saratoga campaign, during which its flank companies were captured. After the British defeat, it withdrew to Canada then England, where it was recruiting in Worcester in 1787. 'Worcestershire' had been added to its title five years earlier.

In 1791 the regiment was in Windsor, where King George III's daughter Princess Augusta presented it with 'The Royal Windsor', a march she had composed herself. The regiment's opening land engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars came in Holland in 1799, though detachments from it had already served as marines on board two British ships at the Glorious First of June in 1794, gaining the regiment a naval crown.

A grenadier and light infantryman of the 29th Regiment of Infantry, 1812A grenadier and light infantryman of the 29th Regiment of Infantry, 1812
NAM. 1950-11-33-33

It was then one of the first British units to arrive in the Peninsula in July 1808 and fought at Rolica, Vimeiro, Talavera and Albuera, capturing two French Colours and gaining the accolade 'the best Regiment in this Army' from Arthur Wellesley, the commander-in-chief and future Duke of Wellington.

However, it suffered such losses there that it had to return to England in 1811 to recruit back up to full strength. It was then quickly redeployed to Canada in 1814 for the War of 1812 and to Belgium for the Waterloo campaign in 1815, though in both cases it arrived too late to see any major action.

It spent the first post-war decades on garrison duty in England, Ireland, Mauritius, India and Burma, fighting in the First and Second Sikh Wars and sending a major detachment to defend the Grand Trunk Road between Kabul and Bangladesh during the Indian Mutiny. It then returned to garrison duties in the British Isles, Malta, Canada and the West Indies in the 1860s and 1870s.

The unit had served alongside the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot in the Peninsula and the two units began recruiting from the same Worcester depot in 1873. Eight years later, in 1881 they were amalgamated to form The Worcestershire Regiment, whilst the 29th was in India and the 36th in Ireland.

Key facts

Nicknames:

  • Two and a Hook (referring to its numeral 29)
  • The Ever Sworded 29th (the regiment's officers all wore swords even when off-duty in the mess right up until the 1850s, in obedience to a 1740s order given after the regiment was surprised at night by native Americans whilst land-clearing)
  • Vein Openers (for the actions of its grenadier company in the Boston Massacre, sometimes seen as the opening action of the American Revolutionary War)
  • The Blood Suckers (also after the events at Boston)
  • Guards of the Line (though a line infantry regiment, several of its early colonels had been Coldstream Guards officers, so the 29th Regiment's drill and uniform was modelled on those of that unit)
  • The Old and Bold
  • The Saucy Greens
  • The Star of the Line

Titles to date:

  • Thomas Farrington's Regiment of Foot
  • 29th Regiment of Foot
  • 29th (the Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot
  • 2nd Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment
  • The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment (29th/45th Foot)
  • 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters)

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