In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

Marines 1702-1715
The regiment was raised originally for sea service and were at first called Villiers' Regiment of Marines, then named after the succeeding Colonels, Luttrell, Churchill and Goring. They were raised on 12th Feb 1702 at the start of the War of the Spanish Succession, along with five other regiments, to serve on ships. They were at the capture of the Spanish galleons in Vigo Bay in 1702, and Gibraltar in 1704. They served under Cloudesley Shovel at Nice and Antibes, and at the siege of Toulon in 1707.

In 1715 they were disbanded when the war ended, but were restored as a regiment of foot on the Irish Establishment without losing it's place in the line of seniority. They remained in Ireland for many years.

Dettingen 1743
During the War of Austrian Succession the regiment, called Handasyde's Regiment of Foot, took part in the battle of Dettingen near Frankfurt, on 27th June 1743. They fought with great bravery and attracted the attention of King George II who had taken upon himself the command of the army. Seeing the regiment's buff facings he shouted out to them "Bravo, the Buffs!" to which someone answered, "Sir, we are the 31st, not the Old Buffs." The King straightaway said "Then bravo the Young Buffs." and the name stuck. The awarding of battle honours did not begin until the 19th century so the honours for Dettingen and Gibraltar were not authorized until 1881 when it was decided to acknowledge the part played by regiments in the victories of the 18th century.
Fontenoy 1754
The allied army of British, Dutch and Austrian troops was commanded by the Duke of Cumberland at Fontenoy on 11th May 1745. The British regiments fought with great bravery but were forced to retreat, mostly due to the failure of the Dutch. The Grenadier Company of the 31st suffered so many casualties that only eleven men survived. On returning home the regiment was so depleted that it was not fit to take part in the suppression of the Jacobite Rebellion.
Florida and St Vincent
The regiment did not participate in the Seven Years War of 1754-63 but in 1765 were sent to Pensacola in West Florida which had been ceded to Britain by the Spanish. The regiment suffered badly from yellow fever whilst there. In 1772 they went on to St Vincent to bring stability to the island where Red and Black Caribs were in conflict. They returned home in 1774.
Canada 1776-1787
The 31st sailed west again in 1776 to garrison Quebec during the War of American Independence. The flank companies served under General Burgoyne and were forced to surrender at Saratoga. They served in Canada for eleven years before returning home.
French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

West Indies 1794-7

In the French revolutionary War the flank companies went to the West Indies, in 1794, to capture French held Islands. The battalion companies served in Walcheren until 1795, then joined their Light and Grenadier Companies in the West Indies to help capture St Lucia. Again the regiment was much depleted by yellow fever, so much so that when they arrived home in 1797 their strength was reduced to 85 men. By 1799 they were restored to strength and went to Holland and then on to Minorca.

Talavera 1809

A second battalion was raised in 1805 which served in the Peninsular War. They joined Wellesley's army in time for the battle of Talavera on 28th July 1809. They were in General Mackenzie's brigade of the 3rd Division along with the 24th and 45th Regiments, placed in reserve behind Cameron's brigade and the Guards. These brigades moved too far forward and were forced to retreat. Mackenzie's brigade filled the gap and repulsed the advance of the French.

Albuhera 1811

In early 1811 William Carr Beresford was commanding the Allied army besieging Badajoz. The infantry consisted of 8,738 British, 9,131 Portuguese and 12,593 Spanish. When Beresford heard that Soult was on his way from the south with 25,000 men he marched to meet him at Albuhera. The 31st were in the 2nd Division, brigaded with the 3rd, 48th and 66th under General Colborne. The battle of Albuhera, on 16th May 1811 was a particularly bloody conflict. Colborne's Brigade were in support of the Spanish battalions but Stewart, the Divisional commander sent the brigade round to the left of the Spaniards to bring fire to bear on the French flank. As they did this a terrible hailstorm broke and their powder was soaked. With visibility reduced they were unaware of the approach of French Hussars and Polish Lancers who crashed into them with tragic results. The brigade was virtually annihilated, although the 31st were the only regiment to form a square thus reducing their casualties. The other two brigades in Stewart's Division came up to reinforce the survivors. They formed a line two deep and engaged the French column in a close range shoot out which lasted nearly an hour. Hundreds of men were killed on both sides but the British had to suffer the terrible effect of grapeshot fired by the French artillery. The day was saved by the initiative of Lowry Cole and Henry Hardinge who brought the 4th Division into an oblique position causing unacceptable damage to the French and they retreated.

Beresford's reputation was badly damaged by this battle. The French had lost 7,000 men and the Allies 5,950 of which 4,200 were British. It was a victory, but the army was too much weakened to pursue the retreating French.

Peninsula 1813-14

The second battalion continued to serve in the second Division, in Sir John Byng's brigade, at Vittoria (21st June 1813), Nivelle (10th Nov 1813) and Nive (10th-13th Dec 1813). At the battle of Nive the 31st took part in the storming of the heights of St Pierre on 13th. The last battle they fought in this war was at Orthes on 27th Feb 1814. All these battles added another honour to those gained by the battalion at Talavera and Albuhera. But when they arrived back in the UK it was decided to reduce the size of the 31st and the 2nd battalion was disbanded on 24th October 1814.

Rosetta 1807

The first battalion was busy in the Mediterranean during this period. They went to Sicily in July 1806 and then joined the disastrous expedition to Egypt under Major-General Fraser. Following the capture of Alexandria in 1801 there had been a struggle for supremacy between Turks, Mamelukes and Albanians, with the latter coming out on top. Fraser was advised to capture Rosetta, 35 miles east of Alexandria but the force of 1,400 was inadequate. This force consisted of the 31st and the Chasseurs Britanniques, an Emigre regiment. They were ambushed and had to retreat suffering 185 killed and 282 wounded. A stronger force was sent in which included the 35th, 78th Regiments and De Roll's who ended up making a heroic last stand. The survivors were captured and suffered a cruel imprisonment. A full account of this campaign can be found at: 35th Foot Project

Shipwreck of the 'Kent' 1824
The Kent East Indiaman
The Kent East Indiaman
Part of the regiment was sent to Bengal in 1824 but their ship caught fire in the Bay of Biscay on 1st March. This occurred in very rough seas and all the passengers had to be rescued before the ship sank. There were 636 people on board, including 344 soldiers, 20 officers, 43 wives and 66 children. The senior officers were Lieutenant-Colonel Fearon and Major MacGregor. The situation was so desperate that some people sat on that part of the deck that was on top of a large store of explosives, hoping for a quick death in the event of an explosion. Luckily a passing ship, the 'Cambria' was able to rescue most of the passengers and crew, with great difficulty, but many of the children drowned in the attempt. A full account of this catastrophe can be read:here
First Afghan War 1838-42
The 31st spent 22 years in India during which time it fought in the First Afghan War and First Sikh War. After the disastrous retreat form Kabul in January 1842 an avenging army was sent in under the command of General Pollock. They were at Mazeena, the Tezeen Valley and Jugdulluck before capturing Kabul. It was not a victory that the British Army could be proud of, as wanton destruction was encouraged. Villages were looted and burned and the main bazaar at Kabul was destroyed. The 31st gained the battle honour CABOOL 1842 for this campaign.
First Sikh War 1845-6


The first battle of the war was at Mudki (or Moodkee) on 18th Dec 1845. The regiment, in the first Infantry Division, was brigaded with two sepoy battalions, all led by Colonel Samuel Bolton of the 31st. They moved ahead and forced their way into the Sikh lines, unsupported by the sepoy battalions. They overcame fierce resistance, captured a large battery and drove off the enemy infantry. Colonel Bolton was mortally wounded. He had survived the Peninsula War, although wounded at Albuhera, and commanded the regiment since 1835. Other officers killed at Mudki were Captain William Gibson Willies, Lt J Brenchley and Lt Henry W Hart.


The 31st were initially in reserve in Sir Harry Smith's Division at Ferozeshah, with the 50th and some sepoy battalions. But they and the 50th were in the thick of the fight on the first day (21st Dec 1845). On the second day Smith's Division faced an approaching fresh Sikh force. The 3rd Light Dragoons charged the enemy but were abandoned by their accompanying Native Cavalry who were fired on by the 31st as they rode off. Over the two days of fighting the regiment lost three officers, Major George Baldwin and Lieutenants Bernard and Pollard.


They had to face a barrage of round shot and canister as they advanced on the Sikh battery at Aliwal on 29th Jan 1846. But the 31st captured two guns and went on to secure the village of Aliwal thus endangering the enemy's left flank. Together with the other 3 brigades they drove the Sikhs across the Sutlej in what Sir Harry Smith called a 'glorious victory'.


At Sobraon the 31st were still in Harry Smith's division, on the right of the leading brigade. They were much reduced in numbers after the three previous battles and they were to lose many more on that day, 10th Feb 1846. The Colours were carried by W Jones, still an ensign at the age of 36, and Lieutenant Charles Hill Grant Tritton, aged 19. Just before the battle Tritton was offered some cold tea but the call for 'Fall in' sounded at that moment. "It's always the way," he said "when I want something I can't get it. Never mind, I'll have some by the by."

The advance to the Sikh batteries was made through a murderous hail of grapeshot and musket fire which caused many deaths. But they pressed on until they reached the earthworks that protected the enemy guns. Jones was killed and Tritton also, shot through the head, so Sergeant Bernard McCabe, an Irishman in the Light Company, seized the regimental Colour and climbed an earthwork to hold the Colour high to inspire the men of the 31st. He miraculously survived a hail of bullets and his action had the desired effect. Sir Harry Smith paid tribute to him later, claiming that McCabe's action shortened the battle. As the infantry surged into the Sikh camp there was bitter fighting and the Sikhs were driven back, but were not beaten until a final charge by the 3rd Light Dragoons pushed them to the river. The Sikhs retreated in good order, earning the respect of the British soldiers.

The casualty figures for the 31st for the war were 132 killed and 400 wounded.

The Young Buffs
Quick March: A Southerly Wind and a Cloudy Sky

Slow March: Lord Charles Montague's Huntingdonshire March

Corps of Drums and Musicians
1702 - 1881
1702 - 1898
Commanding Officers
1835 - 1882
1702 - 1881
Battle Honours
War of Spanish Succession 1701-15


War of Austrian Succession 1740-48


Peninsular War 1808-14


First Afghan War 1839-42


First Sikh War 1845-46


Crimean War 1854-5


Second China War 1857-60


1702 Villiers' Regiment of Marines
1714 Goring's Regiment of Foot
1751 31st Regiment of Foot
1782 31st (or the Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot
1881 East Surrey Regiment
Further Reading
History of the 31st/70th Foot, East Surrey Regiment
by H W Pearse
Spotiswoode/Ballantyne 1916

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