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The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)

7 min read

Members of the Royal Fusiliers in the trenches at Gallipoli, 1915


In June 1685, less than a month after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion, the regiment was formed from two companies of Guards at the Tower of London. Its original name was the Ordnance Regiment and it was tasked with escorting the Train of Artillery, the ancestor of the Royal Artillery.

King James II also called it ‘Our Royal Regiment of Fusiliers’, making it the first ever regiment with the ‘Royal’ title. In 1747, it was made a line infantry regiment with the numeral seven.

Cap badge, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), c1898

A private of the 7th (Royal Fusiliers) in the Caribbean, 1805

Early years

Its first overseas deployments were to the Low Countries in 1689 and Spain in the 1700s. In 1713, it began 60 years rotating between England, Ireland and the Mediterranean, including two long spells with the Gibraltar garrison.

The regiment moved to Canada in 1773 but had to surrender to American revolutionaries two years later during the War of Independence (1775-83). Re-formed in New York in 1776 via prisoner exchanges, it fought for the rest of the conflict, but lost its colours at Cowpens in 1782.

Its early 19th-century postings included Copenhagen and the West Indies. A second battalion was formed in 1804 and served alongside 1st Battalion in the Peninsular War from 1809 to 1811. Both fought at Albuera (1811). The 1st Battalion also served in North America, fighting in the New Orleans campaign of the War of 1812 (1812-15).

The Royal Fusiliers and Coldstream Guards at the Alma, 1854

Members of the 1st Royal Fusiliers presenting arms, Tibet, 1904

Victorian campaigns

After garrison duties in England, Ireland, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and Canada, 1st Battalion served in the Crimean War (1854-56), the Indian Mutiny (1857-59) and on the North-West Frontier of India in the 1860s.

The 1850s also saw the re-formation of the 2nd Battalion, which was then used against the Fenian raids into Canada in 1866, in the Second Afghan War (1878-80) and the Boer War (1899-1902).

The unit became the city regiment for London in the 1881 Army reorganisation. It also sent four companies to Tibet in 1904.

Recruits for the Public Schools Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, August 1914

Soldiers from the 13th Royal Fusiliers rest after attacking La Boisselle, July 1916 

World Wars

By the outbreak of the First World War (1914-18) the regiment already had four regular battalions, but raised 43 more reserve, service, labour and garrison battalions. These served in Africa, the Middle East, Macedonia, Gallipoli and the Russian Civil War as well as on the Western Front. 3rd and 4th Battalions were disbanded in 1922 and the remaining two regular battalions served in England, Germany and India during the inter-war period.

1st Battalion was converted into a machine-gun battalion in 1937. During the Second World War (1939-45) fought in Abyssinia and Syria, where it was captured by the Vichy French in June 1941. It re-formed in Palestine later that month and went on to fight in Iraq and Italy, with 2nd Battalion joining it in the latter theatre in 1944.

The 2nd Battalion had earlier served in France and Belgium with the British Expeditionary Force, taking part in several defensive actions during the retreat to Dunkirk, including the Battle of the Ypres Comine Canal (1940). 


In what year was The Royal Fusiliers officially granted its fusilier title?

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Did you know...

Since its inception in 1685, the regiment had been armed with light flintlock fusils, rather than the heavier matchlock muskets used by the rest of the infantry. This made it the only English fusilier regiment to fight with fusils. Other regiments were granted the name purely as an honorary title.


Like all other infantry regiments, it was reduced to one battalion in 1947. It then went on to serve in the Korean War (1950-53), Sudan, Kenya and Germany.

Regimental museums

The National Army Museum works with a network of Regimental and Corps Museums across the UK to help preserve and share the history and traditions of the Army and its soldiers.

Discover more about The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) by visiting The Fusilier Museum at the Tower of London.

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