Last updated: 7 July 2014
On the outbreak of war with revolutionary France in 1793, most counties raised militias and Staffordshire was no exception. However, its militia was unusual in that in September of that year it was formed into a regular line infantry unit, under the colonelcy of Lord Paget. This was given the numeral 80.
In its first two years of existence the unit was sent to garrison Guernsey, fight in Flanders and support an abortive attempt to land a French Royalist force in Brittany. In 1796 it was sent to the Cape of Good Hope and a year later to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
In 1801 the regiment was sent to Egypt to join General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s expedition, only arriving after losing all its mess-plate and regimental records in a shipwreck. It did however win a sphinx in its cap badge for the campaign.
In 1802 it absorbed the Staffordshire Volunteers, incorporating their name. The regiment was then shipwrecked again on its way from Egypt to India, where it remained until 1817, fighting in the 2nd Maratha War (1803-05) and against the Nairs of Wynaud and the Travancore rebellion (1808).
The 1820s saw it in the Mediterranean, garrisoning the British possessions and protectorates of Gibraltar, Malta and the Ionian Islands. It then spent 1831-36 in England and Ireland before escorting convict ships sailing to Australia.
From Australia it sent detachments to Van Deiman’s Land, Norfolk Island and New Zealand before the regiment sailed to India in 1845. On that voyage one of the detachments was wrecked yet again, leaving it marooned on Little Andaman Island for 50 days.
The Indian posting lasted until 1854, including the 1st Sikh War of 1845. The regiment was also heavily involved in the 2nd Burma War (1852), participating in the storming of Rangoon, Pegu and Prome.
After a brief spell on home service, the regiment was sent to the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon again in the late 1850s, from where it moved to India on the outbreak of the Mutiny (1857-59). This new Indian posting lasted until 1866 and also involved service in Bhutan.
Several years’ home service followed, before the regiment was sent to the Far East in 1872, sending three companies to Perak and garrisoning Singapore and Hong Kong. In 1877 it moved to Natal, fighting in the Kaffir and Zulu Wars (1879). During the latter Samuel Wassall won the regiment’s only Victoria Cross for his conduct at Isandlwana.