In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

Origins of the Regiment
Oliver Cromwell, whilst campaigning in Ireland, was impressed with the military qualities of Colonel George Monck and promised him his own regiment. To create this regiment, men were taken from two other regiments that had been in existence since the raising of the New Model Army in 1645, five companies from George Fenwick's regiment and five from Sir Arthur Hazelrigg's.

The regiment was formed on 13th August 1650, becoming the oldest English regiment and called Colonel Monck's Regiment of Foot.

Battle of Dunbar 1650
Battle of Dunbar
The Dunbar Medal
The exiled Prince Charles, later Charles II, landed in Scotland in June 1650 and tried to reclaim the throne. One of the regiments to offer him support was the Earl of Argyll's which was the original title of the Scots Guards. Cromwell marched north and and fought Charles's army at Dunbar on 3rd September 1650. Cromwell's army was suffering from hunger and sickness and would have had to retreat if the Scots had only waited. But Cromwell outsmarted them and after heavy fighting put them to flight. Monck's Regiment fought their first battle 3 weeks after they were formed, and won. To celebrate the victory, Cromwell had a special medal struck to give to every officer and man in his army.
Coldstream is a town on the river Tweed that divides Scotland from Northumberland. It was here, in 1659, that General Monck had assembled a force of 7,000 men which included his Regiment of Foot, his newly raised Regiment of Horse, two other cavalry regiments and three more of infantry. Oliver Cromwell had died in 1658 and the Rump Parliament had been recalled. Political confusion reigned and civil unrest was everywhere in London. Monck took upon himself to bring order to the country. He marched south and arrived in London on 3rd Feb 1660. He managed to break the army's domination of Parliament and bring about the election of a new Parliament of which he was member for Devon. One of the first acts of the new House of Commons was to vote for the restoration of the Monarchy.

As General Monck was largely responsible for the return of Charles II, it was fitting that he should be at Dover to greet him and provide the escort back to London. One of the rewards that Monck received was to be made Duke of Albemarle so that his Regiment became known as the Duke of Albemarle's or The Lord General's Regiment. Unfortunately, Parliament passed an act on 26th Aug 1660 ordering the disbandment of the New Model Army which included Monck's Regiments of Foot and Horse. But it was decided that these two regiments should be the last to go.

Venner's Revolt, 1661
In January 1661 a revolt arose led by Thomas Venner. His followers called themselves the Fifth Monarchy Men and were causing trouble in the city. The King's Regiment of Guards led by John Russell were unable to cope with the situation so Parliament called on the Lord General's Regiment to restore order. The rebels were soon rounded up and the situation defused, proving that Monck's men should not be disbanded. Because of this, Charles issued a warrant authorising the establishment of a standing army, on 26th Jan 1661. This was the birth of the British Army.
The Lord General's Regiment of Foot Guards
Tower Hill
Tower Hill
The disbandment was still on the Statute Book and had to be formally complied with. And so it came about that The Lord General's Regiments of Horse and Foot paraded at Tower Hill on 14th February 1661 to lay down their arms as men of the New Model Army and take them up again as Royal troops. The regiment was now a regiment of Foot Guards. They were ranked in seniority below Lord Wentworth's and John Russell's Guards but always regarded themselves as 'Second to None'.
New York 1664
The regiment were part of a detachment that captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch, This was led by Captain Robert Holmes who was both a Royal Navy captain and a Coldstream Guards captain. This was not so unusual at the time, General Monck won several naval battles, famously ordering the fleet to 'Charge!' After the capture of New Amsterdam it was named New York after the Duke of York.

When General Monck died in 1670 the regiment received the title of the Coldstream Regiment of Guards. Up until then the various companies were known by their commander's name but the companies were now formed into battalions. A composite battalion of 1st Guards and the Coldstream were sent to fight in the Second Dutch War of 1672-4.

Tangier 1680
The chief city of Morocco was given to Charles II as a wedding present when he married Katherine of Braganza. The Moors resented it's occupation by infidels and attacked it constantly, cutting off the water supply. So reinforcements were sent in 1680, consisting of the composite battalion, led by Colonel Sackville. The struggle with the Moors ended in victory for the British and the Guards earned their first battle honour.
Grenadiers 1678
Around this time the Guards regiments were reorganised to include a Grenadier Company. The 1st and Coldstream Guards were the first regiments in the British Army to have them. The men were equipped with fused grenades and a hatchet to act as shock troops in battle. Their uniform differed from the other companies, mainly being distinguished by a fur cap. See Grenadier 1680 This later changed to a cloth cap with an embroidered front.
Double Ranking
In 1687 the Foot Guards followed the Horse Guards arrangement of double ranking whereby a Guards officer would have an army rank higher than his regimental rank so that a Captain in the Guards would be a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army. This was extended to Lieutenants in 1691, having the rank of Major, and eventually, in 1815, Ensigns carried the rank of Lieutenant. This system was abolished in 1871.
Divided Loyalties
When William of Orange landed in Devon on 5th Nov 1688 the country and the army was divided between those who supported the Catholic King James II and those who supported Protestant William. James did not want a civil war and fled London on 11th December. The Earl of Craven, Colonel of the Coldstream Guards wanted to take his regiment to confront William but James forbade him. When William became king he was naturally wary of the Guards regiments and moved them out of London. The Earl of Craven was replaced as Colonel at the end of April 1689 and the regiment sent to Flanders.
War of the League of Augsburg 1689-97

Landen 1693

The 1st Battalion were part of the 2nd Guards Brigade at the Battle of Landen on 29th July 1693, which was a defeat for the British and Dutch forces fighting a numerically superior French army. The Guards defended the village of Neerwinden together with the Royal Scots, the 7th Fusiliers and some Hanoverians. The defense lasted all day until ammunition ran out. They lost 4,000 men and were forced to withdraw and cross the river by night under cover of a British cavalry action. King William proved himself a brave commander under fire and had to be rescued at one point.

Namur 1695

Tower Hill
The Coldstreamers' second battle honour was gained at Namur which was a victory for William's army. On August 30th, preceded by their grenadier companies, the two Guards Brigades advanced steadily with shouldered arms across half a mile of flat, open country, against the concentrated fire of the French defenders. On reaching the palisades, they thrust their flintlocks through, fired one volley, then flung themselves over the ramparts and stormed the defences. Lord Cutts commanded both Guards Brigades with great bravery and afterwards was appointed Brigadier of the Guards.

Brest 1694

Lieutenant-General Thomas Tollemache suggested the idea of an attack on Brest to William and it was approved, with Tollemache leading the expedition. Thomas Tollemache (also Talmash or Tolmach) being a staunch supporter of William III, was made Colonel of the Coldstream Guards in place of Lord Craven in 1689. The plan to attack Brest was leaked to the French via Jacobite informers. It has been suggested that William told The Duke of Marlborough in the hope that he, in turn, would tell his Jacobite friends so that King Louis would divert his troops to Brest while the real attack took place elsewhere.

A composite Guards battalion sailed into Camaret Bay but was met by stiff resistance from the fore-warned French. The attack failed and Tollemache was wounded. He was taken to Plymouth but died soon after.

War of the Spanish Succession 1702-13
A dispute that started in 1700 with the French claim to the vacant Spanish throne broke out into open warfare two months after Queen Anne came to the throne (8th March 1702). The Duke of Marlborough took the army on his march to the Danube but the Coldstream Guards did not go on campaign until 1708 when they were part of a composite battalion with the 1st Guards and took part in the Battles of OUDENARDE (11th July 1708) and MALPLAQUET (11th Sep 1709). Before that however, the regiment was involved in Spain and Gibraltar.

Gibraltar 1704-5

A composite Guards battalion of 200 First Guards and 400 Coldstream Guards was sent to reinforce the Rock after it had been captured from Spain. They successfully repelled several attacks and earned another battle honour. They then pushed on into Spain and captured Barcelona in 1705 but after suffering from sickness and hunger lost the Battle of Almanza where they were forced to surrender. During this campaign they were commanded by Colonel Andrew Bissett.

War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48

Dettingen 1743

Tower Hill
Dettingen is well known as the last occasion that an English monarch took part in a battle. On 27th June 1743, King George II led an army of British, Hanoverians and Austrians along the north bank of the Main as part of a general withdrawl. The presence of French troops at Dettingen was a surprise to the Allies and they were in a bad place between the river and the wooded hills. The infantry and cavalry fought very well considering their lack of experience and the fact that French artillery were pounding them from the south bank of the river. The French were led by the duc de Noailles at Dettingen. He sent word to the duc de Grammont who was on the south bank to move some men around behind the Allies from Aschaffenburg. On seeing this, the Hanoverian General Ilton sent his troops and the Foot Guards to the rear to face any threat from that direction but it never came and the Guards were disappointed to have been removed from the fight. In the event the French were disorganised and lost the battle, suffering 8,000 casualties, many of them drowning in their retreat across the river.

Fontenoy 1745

The Battle of Fontenoy, which took place on 11th May 1745, was not classed as a battle honour for the Guards but it certainly should be. It was a magnificent display of valour on the part of the whole brigade and heavy losses were sustained.

Fontenoy, 8 kilometres southeast of Tournai in Flanders, lies on the river Scheldt. The French, 52,000 strong, were commanded by the Comte de Saxe, and the Allies, 50,000 strong, composed of British, Hanoverian, Dutch and Austrians were under the Duke of Cumberland in his first overall command. The Dutch and Austrians attacked the French on their right, while the British and Hanoverians went up against the well-prepared French left. The Coldstreamers were on the left of the Guards Brigade which was commanded by Colonel George Churchill of the Coldstream Guards.

They advanced with muskets shouldered taking many casualties, until they reached the ridge, behind which were four complete, unscathed battalions of the French Guards. It was at this point that Lord Charles Hay of the 1st Guards addressed the French before both sides blasted away at each other. The British came off best but even though they advanced into the French camp they had to retreat through lack of support. The Brigade lost more than half their number and Marshal Saxe went on to conquer Flanders.

The Jacobite Rebellion 1745
The Guards brigade was ordered home when news was received of an uprising led by Charles Stuart, grandson of James II. The Scottish Jacobites had defeated the English at Prestonpans in September 1745 and were moving south. A scratch force was sent to head them off. This included the Grenadier Companies of the Guards battalions that were in London. When the threat faded, Cumberland pursued the Scots with mounted troops and relieved Carlisle. The Guards were part of this force in the role of mounted infantry. They returned home before the Battle of Culloden.

Cumberland returned to Flanders in 1747 after defeating the Jacobites, and took with him a fresh Guards Brigade made up of the 2nd Battalions of each regiment. They stayed until the end of hostilities in 1748 after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

The Seven Years War 1756-63

St Malo 1758

The raid on St Malo was one of several abortive attacks along the north coast of France. This was the first time the Guards had been involved in this war. They were formed into a brigade of the 1st battalions of each regiment. The attack on St Malo was in September 1758 and proved disastrous. The rearguard consisted of the first battalion of the 1st Guards but included the Grenadier Companies of the Coldstream and Scots Guards. They were cut off and had to fight against superior numbers until ammunition ran out. 800 were killed and the same number wounded.

Wilhelmstal 1762

A Guards Brigade of 2nd Battalions from each regiment led by Coldstream General Julius Caesar was sent to Germany in 1760. The grenadier companies of each regiment were formed into a composite battalion, a practice that was followed for the next 50 years. The Battle of Wilhelmstal took place on 24th June 1762 and mostly involved the cavalry. The Guards returned home in 1763.

The War of American Independence 1775-83
A composite battalion of men from the three Guards regiments commanded by Colonel E Mathews of the Coldstream Guards, set sail in March 1776, arriving in North America five months later. They had to fight almost immediately and helped capture New York. They were involved in most of the campaign and served two years in New York on garrison duty. By 1777 they were re-organised as a brigade. They were at a disadvantage in their red coats and a decision was made to form a light company. These men acted as skirmishers and fought an unconventional type of warfare that was new to the British army. The formation was only a temporary measure and they were absorbed back into the other companies after the war.

In February 1781, the Brigade distinguished itself at the flooded Catawba river in North Carolina and six weeks later, on March 15th defeated a numerically superior force of Americans at the Battle of Guildford Court House, losing half their number.

Yorktown 1781

The Brigade had only 500 men at the siege of Yorktown. The Americans were led by Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who directed the practical and engineering aspects of the siege with such success that the British were forced to capitulate. The Brigade of Guards went through the humiliating surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British Army in Yorktown on 19th October 1781.

The French Revolutionary Wars 1793-1802
The Guards Brigade at the beginning of hostilities consisted of the 1st Battalion of each regiment and a Flank Battalion made up of Grenadier Companies and the newly re-formed Light Companies. They sailed for Holland in February 1793, very ill-prepared, with no transport, no reserve ammunition and few stores.

Lincelles 1793

Major General Lake was sent to re-take Lincelles from the French after it had been given up by the Dutch. He had with him 1,200 men from the three Guards regiments but was supposed to have re-inforcements from the Prince of Orange. According to Dutch reports of the battle, the Dutch took part and suffered heavy casualties, but the British account insists that only the Guards stormed the town. The French were well fortified with 5,000 men and artillery at the top of the hill so the advancing Guards were an easy target. The 1st Guards bore the brunt of their fire but the hill was taken and the bayonet was used with great enthusiasm. The French were unused to such robust treatment and fled. The Coldstreamers lost Lt-Col Bosville and 9 others, with 44 wounded.

Egypt 1800-01

The 1st Battalion served under Sir J M Pulteney at Ferrol and Vigo, in north-west Spain and then on to Gibraltar where, in September 1800 they joined Sir Ralph Abercromby's expedition to Egypt. They were brigaded with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards and formed part of a force of 16,000 men. In December, they sailed to Minorca and then on to Marmorice Bay in Turkey, where they trained hard at landing from boats under fire.

Aboukir Bay 1801

Aboukir Bay
The site chosen for a landing was Aboukir Bay on the Nile delta, 10 miles east of Alexandria. The fort of Aboukir overlooked a beach two miles wide and was manned by 2,000 French troops. Abercromby made a personal reconnaissance and planned for a dawn attack on 8th March 1801. They were to assault the beach in three lines of boats, fifty men to a boat. The Guards Brigade was in the centre under Major General the Hon George Ludlow of the 1st Guards.

The men were ordered not to load their muskets, 'to keep their powder dry'. The boats approached the beach in silence with the men sitting in an orderly fashion. When the French had recovered from their astonishment, they opened fire with round-shot, grape-shot and chain-shot. The first boat to be hit was full of Coldstreamers. On landing the remaining men formed up as if on parade but were in disarray after a French cavalry charge. They were helped by the 58th Foot who gave them covering fire to drive off the cavalry and enable the Guards to advance. The French withdrew and a bridgehead was established.

The Coldstream Guards were also present at the battle of Alexandria on 21st March 1801 where Abercromby received a thigh wound which became gangrenous and caused his death. In June, Cairo was captured, but Alexandria didn't capitulate until September. The Guards sailed to Malta in December and after three weeks came home. The battle honour for Egypt was granted on 6th July 1802 and a Sphinx has been emblazoned on their colours ever since.

Hanover and Copenhagen

England and France made peace in 1802 but by May the following year war broke out again and England was under threat of invasion. But the Navy ensured that this did not happen. The Coldstream Guards were again brigaded with the Scots Guards. In 1805 the 1st Battalions of each regiment went to Hanover to take part in an abortive foray. But in 1807 the Brigade had more success at Copenhagen where they captured the port and the whole Danish fleet.

The Peninsular War 1808 - 1814

Talavera 1809

The 1st Guards were in the Peninsula from the beginning but were reinforced by the 2nd Guards Brigade (Coldstream and Scots) in May 1909. In overall command was Sir Arthur Wellesley, under whom they successfully crossed the Douro, captured Oporto and covered themselves in glory at Talavera on 28th July 1809. They were part of Sherbrooke's 1st Division, in the centre of the line. They suffered a severe artillery bombardment and then an attack by 15,000 French infantry. They held their fire until the enemy were at a range of 50 yards and then fired a withering volley. As the French struggled to recover, the Division charged them and drove them back. Unfortunately they pressed on too far and had to be rescued by the 48th Foot. The Coldstreamers lost 300 out of 1,000 men. They were awarded a battle honour for Talavera on 12th Feb 1812 and a special medal was struck for 'meritorious officers'.

Fuentes d'Onoro 1811

Wellesley withdrew to his well prepared defensive lines of Torres Vedras for the winter. 1810 was not a very active year but in the spring of 1811, after a long march, the Guards Brigade were present at Fuentes d'Orno (3rd-5th May 1811) where the 1st Division was now under the command of Maj-Gen Miles Nightingall, a hypochondriac who managed to get himself wounded in the foot. Only the Light Companies saw action, while the rest of the Brigade remained on the crest of a ridge overlooking the village, also suffering casualties from artillery fire. It was a victory against the French, led by Massena, but Wellesley, who was now Viscount Wellington of Talavera said that 'if Boney had been there we should have been beat'. However, it was a battle honour for the Coldstreamers.

Barossa 1811

A composite Guards Battalion was sent to Spain in March 1810 which included 3 companies from the 2nd Battalion, all commanded by Maj-Gen W T Dilkes. They were garrisoned in Cadiz but found themselves under siege for two and a half years. In 1811 they were part of a sortie under Maj-Gen Thomas Graham which turned out to be a hard 15 hour march to Barossa followed by a desperate fight, lasting an hour and a half, against a well-rested force that was twice their number. They suffered the loss of a third of their number but earned a battle honour and another gold medal for the officers. They returned to Cadiz where the siege continued.

Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz 1812

Although the Guards Brigade were part of the 1st Division which was present at all the major battles of this year they did not have a central role. In the unwritten rules of war, armies were supposed to rest during the winter months but Wellington stole a march on the French and besieged Ciudad Rodrigo in January. The siege lasted from 8th January to 19th and Viscount Wellington received an Earldom as a reward. He moved on to Badajoz, in April, which was not so easy. Another unwritten rule of war at the time was that during a siege, if the walls are breached, the besieged must surrender. But the French Governor, Armand Philipon decided to make life very difficult for the British. As a result, when the town was finally captured the soldiers went on the rampage that lasted for two days.

Salamanca 1812

The Battle of Salamanca was fought on 22nd July 1812. The action took place south of the Spanish city of Salamana which is on the River Tormes, 100 miles north-west of Madrid. Wellington commanded an army of 50,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish against Marmont's French. It was a brief battle lasting less than an hour, resulting in a resounding victory for the Allies and the shattering of the French Army of Portugal. The Allies marched triumphantly into Madrid on 12th August and then moved on to besiege Burgos in September. But this had to be abandoned on receipt of news of the impending approach of King Joseph and Marshal Suchet. Wellington was forced to withdraw to Portugal on a march that brought considerable suffering to his hungry troops.

Two Guards Brigades, 1813

When the siege of Cadiz was lifted after Salamanca, the composite Guards Battalion were free to join Wellington's army. There were now two Guards Brigades, both of which had Coldstream Guards. The 2nd Brigade was composed of the 1st Battalions of the Coldstream and Scots Guards while the 1st Brigade was composed of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Guards and the composite battalion of Coldstream and Scots Guards. After a quiet winter they moved north-east to drive the French from Spain. They crossed the Duoro on 4th June and won the Battle of Vittoria on 21st June 1813.

San Sebastian 1813

Storming Party, San Sebastian
Storming Party, San Sebastian
The last two obstacles to Wellington in Spain were Pamplona and San Sebastian. The task of storming the fortified coastal town of San Sebastian was given to Lieut-Gen Thomas Graham who had commanded the Guards at Cadiz. The siege took 9 weeks from 12th July to 8th Sept and resulted in heavy casualties. The Guards battalions offered a volunteer party of 200 which suffered the loss of 160. The first storming of a breach took place on 25th July and failed, but on 31st August the attack succeeded and the town was taken. The French still occupied the castle which was not surrendered until 8th September. Much of the horror of Badajoz was repeated at San Sebastian and this time the looting, raping and killing lasted a week.

Adour 1814

The Guards Brigades were involved with the crossings of various hazardous rivers. These were the Bidossa 7th Oct 1813, the Nivelle 10th Nov 1813, the Nive 9th Dec 1813 and the Adour 23rd Feb 1814.

The 2nd Guards Brigade distinguished themselves on this last operation when 6 companies of the Scots Guards and two of the Coldstream crossed the river before dark and held a precarious bridgehead all night, until relieved the next morning. The operation is also of interest because this assault force used a new rocket battery against the French and it apparently had a very discouraging effect on them.

Bayonne 1814

The Guards were not involved in the battle of Toulouse but Bayonne proved to be a final and tragic chapter in the Peninsula War for them. The French commander of Bayonne, Thourenot made a sortie from the town with 6,000 men and was met by both Guards Brigades. This was a confused battle in the dark on the night of the 10th April 1814 (5 days after Napoleon had abdicated), and 506 men from the Guards were lost, including Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Sullivan. These men lie in a special Guards cemetery which still exists today.

Bergen-op-Zoom 1814

In March 1814 a composite Brigade of Guards, numbering 1,000 men, from all three regiments joined an unsuccessful expedition against Antwerp. The fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom was the scene of a disaster when a failed attack ended in the death or capture of two thirds of the Guards Brigade.

The Waterloo Campaign 1815
The leaders of the Allied nations were assembled in Vienna, carving up Napoleon's empire when they heard of his escape from Elba. When it was realised that this was a serious comeback the four countries, Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia agreed to contribute 150,000 men each to an army to be led by Wellington. In the event, only Britain and Prussia provided troops although the British Divisions included a large number of Hanoverians and King's German Legion.

The Coldstream Guards were represented by their 2nd Battalion in this campaign. They were in the 2nd Guards Brigade with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards under Major-General Sir John Byng. The two Guards Brigades were in the 1st Division under Major-General George Cooke. On Thursday 15th June 1815 the Guards brigades were camped at Enghien. Many of the officers were at Lady Richmond's Ball in Brussels with Wellington. Some time after midnight, news came through that Napoleon's army was two and a half miles away from Quatre Bras, so everyone had to move fast.

Quatre Bras 1815

The Guards had very little sleep that night and set off at a brisk pace, arriving at the cross roads at 1700 hrs on 16th June by which time the battle had been going for three hours. It was a hot day and the men were exhausted and thirsty after their 26 mile march but they had to go straight into battle as they arrived. Despite this they managed to fight bravely against the French in Bossu Wood. The battle was a long hard struggle and the men were exhausted.

Waterloo 1815

The hot weather turned into a severe thunderstorm and torrential downpour on the evening of the the 17th. The army spent the wettest night many of them had ever experienced and woke up on sodden, muddy ground. It was 18th June 1815. The two armies were occupying ridges with 1,200 yards between them along a frontage of about 4,200 yards. Napoleon delayed the start of the battle in the hope that the ground would dry out, so little happened until 11.30am.


Map of Hougoumont
Map of Hougoumont
From Wellington's viewpoint the three main buildings that formed landmarks on the battlefield were La Haye Sainte in the middle, Papelotte on the left, and Hougoumont on the right. The chateau of Hougoumont was a manor house and farm with ornamental garden, orchard and woods. The 1st Guards were posted on the ridge behind the chateau and some of them had been involved in a skirmish around Hougoumont on the evening of the 17th. But the defense of the buildings was given, initially, to the Light Companies of the Coldstream and Scots Guards under the command of Coldstreamer, Lieut-Col James Macdonnell, the personal choice of Wellington. They spent the morning barricading all the gateways into the enclosure of buildings, except for the north gate which had to remain accessible to supplies and reinforcements.

Closing the North Gate
The first attack came from troops in Reille's Corps under the command of Jerome, who was ordered by his brother Napoleon, to take Hougoumont at all costs. He took the order literally and many Frenchmen died in the attempt, by the end of the day the number was 8,000. The first attack was repulsed by firing from within the chateau and outside. More attacks came, but thankfully without artillery which could have destroyed the walls of the enclosure. Those guardsmen who were still outside managed to withdraw into the chateau and the north gate was shut, but before it could be barricaded it was rushed by a party of 12 brave Frenchmen led by Lieutenant Legros, a large man with an axe. They barged in but all died fighting. Only a young French drummer was allowed to live. The closing and barricading of the gates was accomplished by Macdonnell and nine others.

Fighting Outside Hougoumont
Sir John Byng ordered three companies of the Coldstream Guards under Lt-Col Dan Mackinnon to go down and support the beleaguered garrison. They drove the French from the west wall and entered the enclosure. Napoleon himself became involved and ordered howitzer fire to be used. Incendiary shells were fired at the buildings and they caught fire, killing many of the wounded who were inside. Colonel Alexander Woodford entered the struggle with the remainder of the Coldstream Guards, leaving two companies on the ridge to guard the Colours. They fought their way into Hougoumont to reinforce the defenders. Woodford outranked Macdonnell but at first declined to take command away from him.

The End of the Battle
The situation became critical at one stage so that the King's German Legion were sent forward to counter-attack on the outside of the building. This effectively proved the last straw for the French who gave up their attempts to take Hougoumont. Woodford was commanding the garrison at the end of the battle when Wellington ordered a general advance to pursue the French. The force inside the enclosure ranged from 500 to 2000, but they managed to keep a whole French Corps occupied all day. The casualty figures for the Coldstream Guards on the 18th June was one officer and 54 other ranks killed, 7 officers and 249 other ranks wounded. Four men were unaccounted for.

The Cato Street Conspiracy 1820
The Conspirators
Arthur Thistlewood was the leader of this revolution that never was. His plan was to burst into the house of Lord Harrowby and kill him and members of the Cabinet who were dining there. The heads of Lord Sidmouth and Lord Castlereagh were to be cut off, stuck on poles and carried down Oxford Street. Thistlewood promised his followers 'anarchy and confusion'. The conspirators met in a hay loft over a stables in Cato Street, off the Edgware Road. Most of them had doubts and some of the men had been tricked or coerced into taking part in the mad scheme, so they all needed a serious pep talk from their leader.

But the whole thing never got off the ground because the police had been tipped off and reinforcements were sent for in the form of a platoon of Coldstream Guards. On the 23rd February 1820 Lieutenant Frederick Fitzclarence, three NCOs and 30 men of the 2nd Battalion marched off from Marylebone's Portman Barracks. The men were issued with 20 rounds of ammunition but not told where they were going. The stables was already surrounded by 12 policemen but shooting had already started as the soldiers approached.

Fitzclarence dashed into the building and would have been shot if Sergeant Legg had not thrust his arm against the pistol. Fitzclarence and Private Muddock climbed the ladder to the loft which was in darkness. Muddock bumped into one of the plotters who tried to shoot him but the gun misfired and the man pleaded "Use me honourably!" Muddock arrested him and was later asked by his officer why he had not stuck him with his bayonet. "Why, your honour, I had him by the heels, and I took his pistol from him, and I wanted no more."

Thistlewood and a few others managed to escape but nine men were taken to Bow Street with an assortment of home-made weapons and bombs. The escapees went to the house of a 'friend' called Harris who betrayed them. They received a call from the police and six of the Guards. Thistlewood and four others were hanged publicly outside Newgate Prison on 1st May. The rest were sent to the colonies.

Canada 1839-42
Jacob the Goose
The time between Waterloo and the Crimean War was called the long peace, lasting 38 years. There were no serious campaigns in that period but in 1839 a Guards Brigade was sent to Canada. This was made up of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. They were required to deal with a revolt by the French element of the population. They were not involved in serious fighting but their stay lasted until 1842.

One snowy night the rebels tried to launch a surprise attack on the Coldstream Guards. The attack was foiled because a white goose called Jacob gave the alarm. The regiment was so grateful to the goose that they took him back to England as a mascot. He was said to have paraded up and down alongside the sentry. He died in 1846.

The Crimean War 1854-6
Map of Crimea
Since the revolutionary year of 1848, Europe had changed. There had been uprisings in Italy, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Now France had a new Emperor Napoleon (1852) and Tsar Nicholas I was watching the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the hopes that he might gain control of Constantinople, an important port and gateway to the Mediterranean. The Ottoman Turkish Empire included Greece, the Balkans, Wallachia (Rumania), Moldavia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine.

The Turks provided Muslim policemen to guard the Christian holy places in Palestine, notably the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Virgin at Gethsemane. The police were kept busy maintaining the peace between fighting monks from the Greek Orthodox on one side and Catholics on the other. This squabble became a pretext for the superpowers to start a war. France sided with the Catholics, Russia sided with the Greek Orthodox and blamed Turkey for not providing proper protection. Britain acted as intermediary.

The argument escalated when the Russians invaded Moldavia and Wallachia, but these were north of the Danube, and only nominally part of the Ottoman Empire so war could still have been averted. However, they were given an ultimatum to withdraw which went unheeded so the Turks went on the attack and won the first battle of the war at Oltenitsa. But the real world-shaker was the ruthless destruction of the Turkish fleet at Sinope on 30th November 1853 by Russian ships using explosive shells for the first time in naval history.

Britain was not prepared to have her naval dominance threatened and was worried about Russia having access to the Mediterranean as well as getting too close to India's north-west border. Napoleon III of France was itching for a fight so Britain and France, the age-old enemies joined forces and declared war on Russia on 28th March 1854.


The Coldstream Guards left Malta on 21st April 1854 and landed at Scutari on 29th April. Seven companies travelled on HMS Vulcan and one company with the Grenadier Guards on the Golden Fleece. They left there and sailed up to Varna on 13th June.


The British, French and Turkish force numbered 61,000. In May 1854 they established a base at Varna on the west coast of the Black Sea, the French arriving first. Lord Raglan, a former Grenadier Guards officer, commanded the British Army. The 1st Division was commanded by the Duke of Cambridge and comprised the Brigade of Guards and the Highland Brigade. The Guards Brigade was commanded by a Coldstreamer, Brigadier-General Bentinck. The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards was brigaded with 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards and 1st Battalion Scots Guards. The plan was to capture the port of Sevastopol by land so the force set sail for the Crimea and landed at Kalamita Bay on 14th September.

Battle of Alma 1854

Storming the Redoubt
This was the first major action of the war, 20th Sept 1854. The Russians were in a fortified position on hills overlooking the Alma which is a small fordable river. The Allies had to cross the river and ascend the hill to get to them. The main objective was the Great Redoubt where the Russian Battery was. While French and Turkish troops made a flanking movement from the seaward side, the Light Division crossed the river and fought their way up. The Guards and Highlanders of the 1st Division were sent in to support them, the Grenadiers and Coldstreamers reached the other side of the river and paused to form ranks but the Scots Guards went straight on up, meeting the Light Division coming back down. The Guards' advance, combined with the French and Turkish push, caused the Russians to withdraw and the Allies claimed a victory. The British losses were 2,000, the French 1,000 but the Russians lost 5,000.

Battle of Inkerman 1854

The battle took place on a hill not far from where the Battle of Balaklava took place. The Guards were not involved in that battle but their main area of action in the Battle of Inkerman was on the north-east corner of the battlefield at the Sandbag battery on 5th November 1854. The siege of Sevastopol was under way and a large force of Russian troops attempted a night-time sortie under cover of fog. There were 40 battalions of Russian infantry split into two groups. Because of the fog, however, they were unable to link up and confused fighting broke out in isolated areas. The Sandbag battery exchanged hands many times and hand-to-hand fighting became desperate. But the Allies won the day (or night) and the Russians retreated back to Sevastopol having lost 11,000 men compared with 4,500 Allies. The Coldstream Guards lost eight officers and 64 other ranks.

The Siege of Sevastopol 1854-5

The supply vessels needed a harbour and Balaclava was established in September. A southern attack on Sevastopol would have been the best option because of the proximity of supply but the Russian engineer Todleben had made effective defenses against land attack. Entrenchments, rifle-pits and gigantic earthworks were built in the space of a fortnight. But the worst aspect of the siege was the terrible weather and lack of warm clothing. A storm on 14th November wrecked ships in the harbour depriving the army of vital supplies. Cholera and other illness claimed many lives. Things improved in the spring of 1855 when a railway was built between Balaklava harbour and the camp. But the siege was the longest in military history and only ended on 9th Sept 1855. During the time spent in trenches some unorthodox methods were adopted such as the organisation of a group of Sharpshooters led by Major Goodlake of the Coldstream Guards. Both he and Private Stanlake won VCs for their efforts. Another VC was won by Private Strong in the last days of the siege. The war officially ended in March 1856 so the Guards Brigade did not reach England until July.

Badges 1813-1881
Colours 1660-1881
Corps of Drums and Musicians 1745-1881
Nulli Secundus
Second to None
The Coldstreamers
The Nulli Secundus Club
The Lilywhites
1650 - 1881
1650 - 1881
Commanding Officers
1830 - 1881
1650 - 1881
Battle Honours
Defence of Tangier 1662-80

War of the League of Augsburg 1689-97
NAMUR 1695

War of Spanish Succession 1701-15
Gibraltar 1704-5

War of Austrian Succession 1740-48

French Revolutionary Wars 1793-1802
EGYPT 1801

Peninsular War 1808-14

Hundred Days 1815

Crimean War 1854-5

1650 Colonel Monck's Regiment of Foot
1661 The Lord General's Regiment of Foot Guards
1685 The Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards
1815 Coldstream Guards
Further Reading
Origin and Services of the Coldstream Guards
(2 Vols) by Col D MacKinnon (1833)

The Early History of The Coldstream Guards
by G Davies (1923)

A History of the Coldstream Guards
by Lieut-Col Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg

A History of the Foot Guards to 1856
by Major H L Aubrey-Fletcher (1927)

The Colours of the Guards Division
by N P Dawnay (1975)

Colours and Customs of the Coldstream Guards
by Col E R Hill (1951)

The Story of The Guards
by Julian Paget (Michael Joseph 1979)

The Queen's Guards
by Major Sir Henry Legge-Bourke (Macdonald 1965)

Sharpshooter in the Crimea: The Letters of Captain Goodlake VC
by Michael Springman, ed and trans (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military 2005)

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