In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

The Origin of the Fusiliers
Fusiliers 1685
The Royal Fusiliers were the only regiment to be raised as fusiliers; all the others had the title of Fusilier conferred on them as an honour. The original purpose of the Fusiliers was to guard the artillery which was manned by men who worked for the Board of Ordnance and trained only to handle and fire guns. They were vulnerable to attack and the infantry was there to protect them. At that time the ordinary regiments of infantry used matchlock muskets which required the soldier to carry a lighted taper to ignite the powder on the flash pan. This meant that they were a danger to the artillery whose barrels of gun powder could be detonated by the smouldering tapers. The Fusiliers were issued with a more sophisticated weapon called a fusil which was a flintlock musket, not requiring the lighted taper. These muskets were more expensive so they were limited only to Fusiliers at this stage. For the same reason the Fusiliers did not at first have a grenadier company like other regiments because they also needed to have a lighted taper for igniting their grenades.
Raising of the Regiment 11th June 1685
In the reign of James II England was predominantly a Protestant country, but with a Catholic King. This put the army in a difficult position because their loyalty was expected to be for their sovereign as well as their country. To ensure the army's loyalty to the crown, James replaced Protestant officers with Catholics. In 1685 the Monmouth Rebellion prompted James to raise more regiments and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was one of them. On 11th June 1685 he commissioned George Legge, Lord Dartmouth, as Colonel to raise volunteers to serve in the new regiment. Lord Dartmouth was in fact a Protestant, but he was loyal to James and proved this by quitting the Colonelcy soon after James fled the country in 1688. The first Fusiliers were men of Lord Dartmouth's independent company who were based at the Tower of London. The Tower was the main depot for the artillery, also called ordnance, and Dartmouth was already the Master-General of Ordnance, based at the Tower. There were two independent companies, the second one being commanded by Captain Robert St Clair, so the two companies formed the 1st and 2nd companies of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, also called the Ordnance Regiment. It is not known how long the companies had been embodied before 1685 but it means that although the official date of the raising of the regiment is 11th June 1685, the nucleus had existed for some years prior to that date. They continued to be based at the Tower of London, along with the artillery, and regarded the City of London as their recruiting area.

Regimental Strength

The establishment of the regiment was set at 12 companies of fusiliers and one company of miners. Each company had a Captain and two other officers, 3 sergeants, 2 corporals, 2 drummers and 100 privates. The company of miners were added to carry out the hard work of digging. This was an important part of warfare at that time because sieges were the usual form of conflict and the besiegers would dig themselves in and tunnel underground towards the walls of the city.

Camp on Hounslow Heath

King James was a keen military man and he ordered that a camp be set up on Hounslow Heath where his regiments could assemble for parades and mock battles. The Fusiliers went there in August 1685 for what was to be the first annual camp that lasted several weeks. It was a display of the King's power but at the same time good free entertainment for the people of London.

The Tower of London

While the summers were spent on Hounslow Heath the rest of the year was spent at the Tower of London. In the Spring of 1688 James sent 7 Protestant bishops to the the Tower where they were guarded by the Fusiliers. Because the men were mostly Protestant themselves the prisoners were well looked after and did not lack whatever comfort they required.

Marine Detachment
When the King heard about the Bishops' easy confinement he decided to separate the regiment. In Sep 1688, after they returned from Hounslow, Colonel Lord Dartmouth was appointed Commander of the Fleet and took a detachment of Fusiliers to the mouth of the Thames to act as shipboard marines. His lordship obviously did not do a very good job because on 5th Nov 1688 William of Orange landed at Torbay unopposed. As the Protestant William advanced on London with his army of Dutch and British troops the leaderless Fusiliers in the Tower were unsure of their role. But within a week James had fled the country and the regiment's dilemma went with him. They handed over the Tower of London to the Dutch Guards and marched off to Barnet. An important principle had been established: the loyalty of the army coincided with the best interests of the nation. Soldiers were the king's men, but only when there was no conflict between king and country.
Walcourt, 25th Aug 1689
Lord Dartmouth quit his Colonelcy in 1689 and other officers loyal to King James also left the regiment. These included Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tollemache who went on to become a Lt-General and Colonel of the 5th Foot, Captain St Ange who was imprisoned in Newgate, and Captain Soper. In 1689 the Fusiliers were taken to Flanders to take part in the war against the French, for their first battle, at Walcourt. The army was commanded by John Churchill The Earl of Marlborough and the battle was short and bloody but ended with a victory for the English troops and some battle experience for the Fusiliers who were no longer escorts to the artillery, but fighting alongside the rest of the infantry. Marlborough was rewarded for his good work by being made Colonel of the regiment.
Cork and Kinsale 1690
Bombardment of Cork
King William was distracted from his continental war against Louis XIV when the exiled James came to Ireland to drum up Catholic support. The battle of the Boyne had already been fought by the time Marlborough arrived in Ireland with the Royal Fusiliers. He was given the task of reducing the forts at Cork and Kinsale. On 21st Sep 1690 they landed in Cork Bay and laid siege to the town.

There was a period of guerrilla warfare before a breach was made in the fortress and the Fusiliers were part of the brigade which waded through river and marsh to storm the defences. The surrender was quick, and the army moved on to Kinsale which soon capitulated. The two actions had lasted 37 days and the regiment was quartered in Kinsale for the winter. But here the Fusiliers suffered from sickness and 180 men were bed-ridden. It seems that the officers had little sympathy for their incapacitated rank and file.

War of the League of Augsburg 1689-97

The Defence of Namur, May 1692

King Louis XIV decided to besiege Namur at the junction of the Sambre and Meuse. It was garrisoned by a mixed force of Dutch, German, Spanish and British troops. The Royal Fusiliers and one other British regiment were part of the defence. The French were commanded by one of the best generals at that time, Luxembourg. He was aided by the siege engineer genius, Vauban. King William attempted to relieve the defenders by was prevented, with the result that the siege did not last long and on 5th June the fortress capitulated.

Steenkirk, 24th July 1692

William managed to surprise the French near Steenkirk by sending an advance party through woods to approach the enemy flank. When Luxembourg reacted he ordered the artillery to fire on the allied army. Unfortunately the cavalry became caught up in a place that impeded the work of the infantry and while the 13 British regiments were in the thick of the fight the Dutch support troops were held back by Count Solms who was generally blamed for the allied defeat. The battle was hopeless but convinced William that he could rely on the bravery of the British soldiers more than any other group. 3,000 men were killed and many important officers with them.

Landen, 19th July 1693

In July 1693 the Fusiliers were at Landen, part of an allied army of 20,000 sent to assist the city of Liege. The French were still commanded by Luxembourg and they attacked the allies with a larger force. The British regiments once again bore the brunt of the fierce fighting and the Fusiliers were in the middle of it. The Fusilier defences were assailed several times and the enemy beaten back. Their Colonel, Edward Fitzpatrick was wounded and Lieutenant-Colonel Whalley, who had raised one of the original companies in 1685, was killed. The weight of superior French numbers forced the British to retreat. At one point the Fusiliers faced about and caused their pursuers to falter. The casualty figures for the rank and file are not recorded but they must have been high judging by the officer numbers; 5 killed and 6 wounded.

Siege of Namur, 6th July - 22nd Aug 1695

The Fusiliers entered the trenches on the 6th July and two days later were ordered to assault La Bouge. The London Gazette published this account of the action: 'At the head of these attacks were 120 armed Fusiliers, carrying fascines before them, and 120 Grenadiers followed by a hundred workmen with tools and gabions... The signal being given at 6.30pm the several battalions marched forward with the greatest courage and undauntedness that ever was seen, without taking any notice of the enemy's fire, which was very furious; the Fusiliers in front carrying their fascines to the very palisades when, laying them down, they fired upon the enemy, and the Grenadiers threw their grenades into the tower and works, while the battalions marched close after them in order with their arms shouldered till they came so near that they presented over the palisades, drove the enemy from thence and pursued them through a large place of arms to the bottom of that work.'

On 17th July the Fusiliers were sent in to the attack on the counterscarp and were watched by William who exclaimed to the Elector of Bavaria, "See my brave English!" The town surrendered at the end of July but the French, under their commander Boufflers moved into the citadel and that was defended against a bombardment on 11th Aug and an assault led by Lord Cutts on 20th. The Fusiliers were in this assault and it ended successfully so that by 22nd Aug the siege was over. Boufflers and his men marched out and the Peace of Ryswick was finally signed in Sep 1697.

The War of Spanish Succession 1701-15

Cadiz 1702

The raid of Cadiz was a blot on the history of the British army. It was intended that the capture of this port would give the Alliance a base for operations in the Iberian Peninsula but it started badly with a landing that caused the drowning of about 20 men, including Fusiliers. There followed the attack on Port St Mary which had been evacuated and was laid open for plunder. Not only the soldiers and sailors but the officers removed furniture and valuables. The Colonel of the Fusiliers, Sir Charles O'Hara was one of the guilty senior officers who, when they returned to England, were tried but he was acquitted for the crimes of pillage and theft. Cadiz itself was left untouched as the commanders, Admiral Rooke and the Duke of Ormonde, decided against it. They did, however, attack Vigo on the way home, with more success.

Spain 1706-9

The Fusiliers took part in the Peninsula campaign of 1706-9 in which they captured Barcelona in May 1706 and defended it against its subsequent siege. They went on to distinguish themselves, fighting bravely in the hopeless defence of Lerida alongside the 30th Foot in 1707. Their numbers were severely depleted after this battle so that they barely existed as a regiment. In 1709 they were in garrison at Tarragona and were afterwards posted to Minorca.

Service in the Mediterranean
From 1713 to 1718 the Royal Fusiliers were stationed in Port Mahon on the island of Minorca where the accommodation was said to be 'abominable; any self-respecting pig, being bred for the slaughter, would have refused them.' In June 1718 in consequence of a fresh rupture with Spain they were embarked, with 3 other regiments, to sail to Sicily to help fight against the Spanish. They served as marines for this campaign and were present at the sea battle off Messina. After that they were employed on the Sicilian coast, paying occasional visits to Mahon, until May 1719 when they returned to Britain. There is a blank period at this time in the regimental records but it is thought that the 1720s were mostly spent in Ireland or as an aid to the Civil Power in the west of England. Then from 1732 to 1749 they were in Gibraltar.
The Seven Years War 1756-63

Minorca 1756

Execution of Admiral Byng
The bungled attempt to relieve the garrison at Fort St Philip at Mahon is another sad episode in the history of the Fusiliers. They were once more stationed at Gibraltar when Admiral Byng was ordered to sail for Minorca which was under threat from the French. Due to the lack of clear communication between the Government and General Fowke, Governor of Gibraltar, and the lack of cooperation between Fowke and Byng, there was a delay in setting sail which proved crucial to the ensuing sea battle. The Admiral wanted the Fusiliers on board because he was short-handed and need them as marines. On 20th May they engaged the French fleet and the regiment fired volleys from the starboard side of HMS Ramillies under the command of Captain Edgar. Some of the British ships had been badly damaged and there were many wounded men. Byng could not land at Port Mahon and he decided not to pursue the French, so he returned to Gibraltar with the intention of going back to Minorca. This left the garrison at Fort St Philip to fight alone and they soon capitulated. Before the fleet was ready to return Byng was dismissed and recalled to London to stand trial for treason.

War of American Independence 1775-83

Chambly and St John, Oct 1775

The Fusiliers had been in Quebec since 1773 and found themselves in the first action of the war. They were split into three with one company remaining in Quebec and the rest divided between the small fort of Chambly and Fort St John (St Jean) which were on the route from Maine into Canada. In the autumn of 1775 a force of American colonists under Richard Montgomery entered Canada intending to enlist support from French Canadians and drive out the British. They besieged Fort Chambly on the Richelieu River and cut it off from supplies and any hope of relief from Montreal. The garrison of 83 Fusiliers under Major Stopford surrendered on 20th October. The fort at St John suffered a similar fate and had to capitulate on 3rd Nov so that Colonel Prescott, 11 officers and 120 fusiliers became prisoners of the Colonists and the regimental Colours were captured.

Quebec 1775-6

Captain Owen's Company
One company remaining in Quebec was commanded by Captain Owen and were expecting to remain undisturbed in winter quarters as had been the custom in European warfare. Montgomery's army of Colonists, emboldened by their success at Chambly, St John and Montreal, made their way along the St Lawrence River and attacked Quebec which was garrisoned by British regulars and Canadian militia, commanded by General Guy Carleton who had served under Wolfe in the 1759 battle. Montgomery was joined by a force of 600 Americans under Benedict Arnold who had made an epic and arduous trek approaching Quebec from the south. Montgomery decided to besiege the defences under cover of a snowstorm which occurred on 31st Dec 1775. Arnold's men attacked the barricades on the northern part of lower Quebec where Captain Owen's fusiliers were posted. Arnold was shot in the ankle and had to be taken to the rear but Daniel Morgan took over command and captured the barricade. However, they advanced too far and were outnumbered and trapped. Montgomery had been killed in the battle on New Year's Eve and Arnold organised a blockade. The Americans braved the freezing winter months in an unsuccessful siege. The next spring, as soon as reinforcements arrived, the garrison issued out and drove the Americans out of Canada. The Fusiliers were reunited after an exchange of prisoners.

1777 - 1780

In Oct 1777 the regiment took part in a successful expedition against American Forts on the Hudson and then wintered comfortably in Philadelphia. In the summer of 1779 they were on board ship for a series of attacks along the Connecticut coast under General Tyron. In 1780 the Fusiliers joined Sir Henry Clinton's expedition against South Carolina. They landed in February and after some minor battles besieged Charleston which capitulated within 2 months. The CO of the Fusiliers, Lt-Colonel Alured Clarke was appointed Commander of Charleston and later Savannah.

Cowpens, 17th Jan 1781

Banastre Tarleton was a more able and adaptable general than most but even his enlightened methods of warfare could not help his men at the battle of Cowpens in Jan 1781. The Fusiliers were placed under his command to fight alongside his light infantry legion to pursue Daniel Morgan's Virginian militia. The Americans were expert at guerrilla warfare while the British were still hidebound in their tight formation open-field tactics. The Fusiliers were in the first line at the battle of Cowpens on 17th Jan with cavalry on either flank. Whether by accident or design, the Colonists retreated and caused the Fusiliers to give chase. They were in some disorder when Morgan ordered his men to face about and fire at the British. The tables were turned and the Americans now gave chase, capturing Tarleton's artillery and the Colours of the Fusiliers. This was the second time they had been captured, having been returned at Quebec in 1776.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
The Fusiliers were granted the dubious honour of being commanded by the HRH Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, future father of Queen Victoria, during the last decade of the 18th century. The dates are somewhat confusing as N B Leslie's Succession of Colonels (1974) says that he was Colonel of the regiment from April 1789 to August 1801, while Chichester and Burges-Short, in their Records and Badges of the British Army (1900) say that he was the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding from 1790 to 93 and again from 1796 to 99. At this time the same book tells us that the Fusiliers were at Gibraltar and Quebec, and then Nova Scotia where for a short time the regiment was split into 2 battalions. Michael Foss's history of the Royal Fusiliers (1967) agrees with Leslie saying that Prince Edward became Colonel in April 1789 and that the Fusiliers, in Gibraltar, chafed under his severe discipline, making him unpopular, but that in 1791 the regiment went to Canada where things improved: '..the Prince, in spite of his severity, worked hard for the benefit of the regiment. In his ten years of command in Canada and the Caribbean, Prince Edward demanded the highest standards, but he recognised service too, and in those 10 years he recommended no less than 8 NCOs for commissions. When he left the Fusiliers in 1801 he had laid the foundations of competence and discipline on which the regiment built so successfully in the Peninsular war.'
Napoleonic Wars 1803 - 1815

Second Battalion Formed 1804

The second battalion that had been formed in Nova Scotia c1795 was short lived, but in 1804 the war against Revolutionary France was resumed and the British Army was once more increased. The 2nd Battalion was again raised, this time from the army of reserve in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Myers who was later killed at Albuhera. The 1st Battalion at this time was serving in the Bahamas and Bermuda, from 1802 to 1806, under Lt-Col E M Packenham, who was later killed at New Orleans. The 2nd Battalion served initially to make up the ranks of the 1st but was sent to Portugal in April 1809 to take part in a very important period in the regimental history.

Copenhagen 1807

The 1st Battalion returned from the West Indies in 1807 and was sent to Copenhagen to witness the bombardment of the city from 2nd to 5th Sep 1807, and enter it when it surrendered. The Fusiliers were part of a 25,000 strong army that was sent with the Royal Navy to commandeer the Danish fleet to keep it out of Napoleon's clutches. After this the Fusiliers sailed to Halifax in Nova Scotia.

Martinique, Feb 1809

The British sent a force of more than 10,000 men to capture the West Indian Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe from the French. A naval force under Rear-Admiral Cochrane assembled in Barbados, in Jan 1809, with the army under the command of Lieutenant-General George Beckwith, Governor of Barbados. The 1st Battalion of the 7th Royal Fusiliers sailed from Halifax with the 23rd Welsh Fusiliers and the 8th Regiment, all commanded by Major-General Sir George Prevost. They first stopped off at the Leeward Islands and then sailed on to Barbados. The 7th and 23rd Fusiliers were in the 1st Brigade, under Brigadier Daniel Hoghton, together with part of the 1st West India Regiment and the RA. This brigade was part of Prevost's 1st Division.

The expedition sailed on 28th Jan and arrived off Martinique on 30th. The French regular troops numbered 2,400, aided by a local militia of 2,500, so the British outnumbered the enemy two to one. The main body of the militia were neutralised by the 2nd Division under Maitland, at Lamentin on 2nd Feb. The 1st Division landed unopposed at Robert Bay on the east side of the island on 30th Jan. They then marched across the centre of the island and occupied Morne Bruneau on 1st Feb. Here the enemy tried to arrest their progress and the Fusilier brigade was ordered to attack. The flank companies of the 7th and the light company of the 23rd were ordered to turn the right flank. Hoghton led the rest of the 7th Fusiliers and one company of the West India Regiment in a frontal attack which quickly drove the French off the heights of Sourier and back to their entrenched camp. In this action 250 casualties were sustained.

This success was unfortunately followed by a failed attack the next day, on the 2nd Feb, also led by Hoghton, which resulted in the loss of 7 officers and 180 men. The fighting at Morne Bruneau did not end until 5th Feb when the French evacuated their redoubt and camp. There only remained the stronghold of Fort Desaix which was bombarded from 19th to 24th Feb. The campaign had lasted only 27 days and was regarded as a great success. General Beckwith assured the commanding officer of the Royal Fusiliers, the officers, NCOs and soldiers, that 'he will not fail to lay their meritorious exertions before the King.' The regiment sailed back to Halifax and then on to Lisbon. They had earned their first battle honour MARTINIQUE which was not granted until 5th Sep 1816. The date 1809 was added in 1909 to distinguish it from the earlier operations of 1762 and 1794.

Talavera, 27th & 28th July 1809

The 2nd Battalion under Lt-Col Myers landed at Almeda in April 1809, and in May they marched with Campbell's Brigade to Oporto. The Spanish army under General Cuesta advanced on Madrid without waiting for British support and were driven back across the Guadarama by Joseph Bonaparte. Wellesley interposed his British troops between the French and the fleeing Spanish and took up a position at Talavera. The Fusiliers were in the centre of the line where there was a large artillery redoubt and vineyards to the front of them. This redoubt was stripped of its guns when the Spanish army of 6,000 quitted the field after the first day, the 27th July. The regiment was not much in action on the 27th but throughout the sleepless night there was much stalking of French picquets in the vineyard. On the 28th July the fighting was desperate. The Fusiliers were newly recruited from Yorkshire and were confused when the French called to them in Spanish as they approached but the outlying picquets ran back to raise the alarm and the men sprang up to receive the attack. The French opened fire and the Fusilier line wavered so Lt-Col Myers jumped off his horse and exhorted the men, "Come on Fusiliers!" This gave the men fresh heart and the other officers were inspired by their CO to urge the men forward. The casualties were high and the wounded suffered terribly in the hot sun but the battle was won. Wellesley praised the 2nd Battalion and Sir William Myers in his despatch.

Busaco, 27th Sep 1810

The 1st Battalion arrived at Lisbon in the summer of 1810, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Blakeney who later became a Field Marshal and Colonel of the regiment. Wellesley was retiring on his lines of Torres Vedras and on the 27th Sep 1810 the battle of Busaco was fought. The 1st and 2nd Battalion were positioned on a range of rocks but not prominently engaged. Two privates were killed and one officer and 22 rank and file wounded. The 2 battalions and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers formed a Fusilier Brigade, commanded by Colonel E M Packenham who had been the CO of the Fusiliers from 1806 to 09.

Albuhera, 16th May 1811

The Brigade was part of Lowry Cole's 4th Division in the pursuit of Massena's withdrawing army in the spring of 1811. There was action at Redinha in March and Oliveza in April. Then they laid siege unsuccessfully to Badajoz but it turned into a blockade and there was Soult's approaching army to confront. Cole's division arrived after the battle of Albuhera had begun on 16th May. Beresford commanded the British who were in trouble and about to concede defeat. But his ADC, Colonel Hardinge took it upon himself to call in Cole's 2 brigades, the Portuguese and the Fusilier Brigade which was now commanded by the 28 year-old Colonel Myers.

The French occupied the higher ground and the Division advanced under heavy fire from their guns which were using grapeshot as well as ball and shell. The line moved on up the slopes while gaps appeared in the ranks as men were blown away. The officers set a brave, almost suicidal example and paid a heavy price. Colonel Blakeney led the 2nd Battalion and Major J M Nooth, the first. Out of the brigade, 45 officers were lost including 3 commanding officers, one of which was Myers. The rank and file were thinned from 1,500 to 500. Major-General Lowry Cole wrote afterwards: ' example of steadiness and heroic gallantry which history, I believe, cannot surpass.' In his 'Experiences', Sergeant Cooper stood on the ridge after the French had broken and rushed down the other side of the hill 'in the greatest mob-like confusion.' He surveyed the empty battlefield. "We piled our arms and looked about. What a scene! The dead and wounded lying all around. In some places the dead were in heaps. One of these was nearly 3 feet high, but I did not count the number in it." Blakeney was wounded and the two battalions had lost 117 killed and 588 wounded. At the end of the battle the regiment hardly existed but its reputation had been established beyond any question. In the course of their successful charge they recaptured a 6-pounder gun and the Colours of the 3rd Buffs.

Winter of Discontent, 1811 - 1812

Fusilier 1812
The survivors of Albuhera could not rest on their laurels or bask in their glory and good luck. In 1811 they had another unsuccessful attempt at Badajoz but better luck at Aldea de Ponte on 27th Sep where they charged at the pursuing French and routed them. The two battalions were separated at this stage and the 2nd was posted to Jersey to provide draughts of recruits for the 1st. In winter quarters the 1st Battalion suffered from sickness and low morale. There were new recruits from England, mostly very young from different militia regiments. The accommodation and food were very poor and they could not cope with the cold and wet conditions. Out of 400, nearly 300 either died or were invalided within a year of arrival. Old soldiers also fell victim to disease and discipline did not ease up. There were many cases of flogging and hanging.

Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz 1812

In Jan 1812 the regiment was involved in the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo which was captured on 19th Jan with the loss to the regiment of 2 killed and 8 wounded, and in April they again laid siege to Badajoz. The nightmarish storming of the breaches caused more death and misery for the men. On the evening of 6th April two parties of Fusiliers were led into separate breaches. Ladders were brought in for the men to descend into the fortress once they had climbed the piles of rubble. There was a terrific explosion of shells and gunpowder which killed many and they then had to contend with musket-fire and missiles thrown from the parapets as they descended and many fell into the water-filled ditch to drown. The French had worked hard to produce wooden beams with sword blades protruding which were hurled down at the storming parties. From this siege 66 Fusiliers were killed, including 7 officers, and 166 wounded.

Salamanca, 22nd July 1812

The regiment were at the major battles from 1812 to 1814 and earned a battle honour for Salamanca where they were commanded by Major J W Beatty. Early in the day two companies of Fusiliers were sent forward to dislodge 500 French who occupied a village in front of the 4th Division. Captain Crowther led this party and was successful enough to earn praise and promotion from Lord Wellington. Later in the day the regiment were in the thick of the fight to prevent the French dominating the road to Cuidad Rodrigo. They drove the enemy from one height to another and captured a position that had 30 guns. One officer, Capt Prescott, was killed and 11 wounded. 19 men were killed and 168 wounded. Wellington attributed much of the success of the battle to Colonel Packenham.

Vittoria, 21st June 1813

The French were being pushed out of Spain but made an effort to turn the tide at Vittoria. The Fusiliers had been reinforced with a fresh draft of 327 NCOs and men bringing them up to more than 1,200. On the 19th June they were directed to attack the village of Montevite which was done without loss and on the 21st they were in the line that attacked the enemy centre under Wellington's direction. They moved forward through a cornfield in good order causing the French to retreat. When they reached the Zadora they were posted opposite the bridge of Nanclares and waited for the order to cross. The French retreat resulted in the loss of quantities of baggage and treasure which was too much of a temptation to most of the British who left the ranks to seize whatever plunder they could. The Fusiliers, however, impressed observers with their restrain and discipline. The battle had been an easy victory and the loss to the Fusiliers was 2 killed and 2 wounded.

Pyrenees, July 1813

When Wellington's men reached the Pyrenees after blockading Pamplona and they faced a determined counter-attack from Soult's army. The Fusiliers were at Roncesvalles on 25th July and involved in fierce fighting which brought about the deaths of a lieutenant and 6 men, and the wounding of a sergeant and 23 fusiliers.

Pamplona, 28th - 30th July 1813

The 4th division was forced back to Pamplona and the regiment was in position on the heights in front of Villalba. They were soaked in a heavy rain storm and on the 28th July saw the enemy columns approach. As they came up the slopes the Fusiliers charged down on them with bayonets fixed, alongside the 40th, 20th and 23rd. In his despatch Wellington praised the gallant 4th Division which had so frequently distinguished itself, and now 'surpassed their former good conduct.' As if this battle was not enough there was more to come over the next two days. The caualties sustained were; killed: 4 officers, 3 sergeants and 40 fusiliers. Wounded: 7 officers, 11 sergeants and 148 fusiliers. They were next in the passage of the Bidassoa and camped on the heights of Liran where they received a draft of men from the 2nd Battalion which was now in Jersey. On 10th Nov the army was at the banks of the Nivelle and had established itself in France.

Orthes, 27th Feb 1814

The next battle for the Fusiliers was at Orthes in which the regiment moved on St Boes and acted as light troops to cover the advance of the army. They were accompanied by the 20th and 23rd, and engaged the enemy until 2pm when the 5th Division took over and bore the brunt of the action. One sergeant and 5 fusiliers were killed, 4 officers, 4 sergeants and 52 fusiliers were wounded.

Toulouse, 10th April 1814

In March the regiment along with other battalions were detached and sent towards Bordeaux whose inhabitants declared their support for the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, so the army was reunited and took part in the final battle at Toulouse on 10th April 1814. The Fusiliers were not seriously engaged and lost only one man killed and 3 wounded, whereas the total Allied losses were 4,650 killed or wounded. The French army, having lost 3,200, withdrew into the town to defend it to the end, but Napoleon abdicated and hostilities ceased. The regiment returned to Bordeaux and on 14th June they embarked at Pouillac and sailed on the 'Clarence' to Plymouth. After a short stay at Totnes they proceeded to Portsmouth to be joined by the 2nd Battalion who came over from Jersey.

New Orleans 1815
In would have been only right for the Royal Fusiliers to have a well earned rest after the hardships and horrors of the Peninsula but instead they were sent to the United States to fight a war over the Louisiana Purchase. They sailed under Admiral Cochrane from Plymouth in Oct 1814 and arrived, via the West Indies, off the coast of Louisiana. From there they sailed in boats to Pea Island near New Orleans where they set up camp. The Americans, commanded by Andrew Jackson, had constructed redoubts and trenches on the approach to the city. Jackson organised an attack on the British camp on 23rd Dec but it was inconclusive. Major-General the Hon Sir Edward Michael Pakenham arrived on Christmas Day and was not happy with the position of his army.

Death of Pakenham
On the morning of the 8th Jan the regiment formed the reserve to General Gibbs' brigades who made up part of the storming party. The attack failed due to the fact that the ladders were not prepared, and many were killed and wounded. Pakenham himself rode forward to try and encourage the wavering troops but was mortally wounded. The storming parties were leaderless and reluctant to retreat without an order to do so. Eventually they fell back and the Fusiliers and 43rd Regiment moved forward for another attack, thus discouraging the enemy from pursuing the retreating British. It was a resounding defeat of the British invaders, with their losses amounting to 291 killed and 1,267 wounded, compared with the Americans' 13 killed and 39 wounded. Troops in a supporting role usually suffer few casualties but the Fusiliers lost 2 officers, one sergeant and 23 rank and file killed, 4 officers, 6 sergeants and 62 rank and file wounded. The army withdrew to the ships covered by the Fusiliers who stayed facing the enemy until 19th Jan. They were taken to the Isle Dauphin in West Florida where an attack on Mobile was decided upon. Fort Bowyer at the mouth of the bay was captured. When news of the Treaty of Ghent reached the army the British sailed home.

France 1815 - 1818
They subsequently returned to England in June 1815 and were redirected to Ostend for the renewed conflict. They landed there on 18th June, the day of the battle of Waterloo. They arrived in Paris on 6th July and set up camp there for 3 months. They were at various times posted at the Pas de Calais, Cambray and Valenciennes, and in 1818 sailed back to England, landing at Dover on 2nd Nov.
Riot Control in Ireland
The Fusiliers were in Brighton in 1822 and guarded King George IV at the Pavilion in that year. They were stationed in Malta in 1829 where they were presented with new Colours by Lady Augusta the wife of their commanding officer Lord Edward FitzClarence who was the son of the future King William IV. In 1836 King William presented the regiment with a gift of silver plate at Windsor. By 1842 they were in Gibraltar building a road on Windmill Hill. In the 1840s they served in Ireland, dealing with rioters at a time of civil unrest and famine. Their Colonel and former commanding officer, Sir Edward Blakeney was Lord Justice of Ireland at this time. In 1848 the regiment went to Canada.
Crimean War 1854-1856

Cholera in Varna

The Royal Fusiliers were sent off to war for the first time since 1814, forty years earlier. They marched from their barracks in Manchester and embarked on the Orinoco to arrive at Scutari on 22nd April 1854. There they were badly provided for, having no beds and only a greatcoat to sleep on. They were moved to Varna on 1st June where they suffered from Cholera which broke out among the whole Light Division, to which the Fusiliers were posted. They marched to Monastir to avoid it but in August they returned to Varna, a distance of only 26 miles but which took 3 days and many deaths.

Battle of the Alma, 20th Sep 1854

The British and French armies, numbering 60,000, were embarked to take them over the Black Sea to the Crimea where it was planned that they were to capture the Russian port of Sevastopol. They landed at Calamita Bay on 13th Sep 1854 and were able to establish a deep beachhead of 6 km without opposition. After 6 days they marched south, crossing the river Bulganak and reaching the river Alma on 20th Sep. The 100 guns of the Russian artillery were placed on the heights on the other side, a natural defensive position. The Royal Fusiliers were in the Light Division, commanded by their future Colonel, Sir George Brown, on the left of the first line. As they advanced the line deteriorated so that one end lagged behind. NCOs were struggling to get the men to form a straight line, but the commanding officer Lacy Yea told them, "Never mind forming. Come on, men; come on anyhow!" The Fusiliers were among the first of the troops to have been issued with the new Minie rifle which proved effective when the Russians charged down on them. The Minie had a much longer range than the smooth bore muskets as used by the Russians, and their infantry were checked. The battle was greatly weighted in the allied favour as a result of this rifle.

The Alma
The Russian artillery in the Great Redoubt on Kourgane Hill fired down at the Fusiliers and many men were killed and injured but they struggled on up and scrambled over the ramparts to capture the redoubt. Unfortunately the 1st Division, of Guards and Highlanders, was too slow and were unable to provide reinforcement before the Russian counter-attack. The Fusiliers were obliged to retreat down the hill covered by fire from the Welsh Fusiliers. But they in turn retreated from a Russian charge, and crashed through the Scots Guards causing a gap in the 1st Division line. However the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards, also armed with the Minie Rifle, prevailed and the Great Redoubt was recaptured. The final act of the battle was the amazing feat performed by the Highland Brigade on the left of the line. The Russians retreated to Sevastopol but the allies failed to pursue them because the French General St Arnaud would not allow Lord Raglan to do so.

The Royal Fusiliers lost 42 men killed and 165 wounded. Their Colour was temporarily mislaid but not captured by the Russians. The Colonel of the regiment, Sir Edward Blakeney wrote to Colonel Yea, 'I cannot find words to express how proud I am at the conduct of my gallant, and not to be surpassed, regiment.' The Alma was the last straightforward conventional battle to be fought by the regiment.

The Gun Battery, 19th October 1854

An eye witness account written by Alfred Oliver of the Royal Fusiliers tells of an attack made by the Russians on 19th Oct while his company were on picquet in the Gun Battery where a party of sailors manned a Lancaster siege gun. The Fusiliers fought the attackers for 4 hours and the company in the battery had to retire to the left of the emplacement to avoid the enemy fire from the opposite hill. They were under such pressure that the officer commanding the company ordered the midshipman in charge of the gun to spike it and leave but the young 'Middy' refused and was able to use the gun to good effect on the tightly packed columns of Russians as they retreated back to Sebastopol: 'It was really dreadful to see the havoc she made among them - one roundshot mowed down about a hundred or more.'

Inkerman, 5th Nov 1854

The Light Division reinforced the 2nd Division who had successfully pushed back the Russian attack on Home Hill in the early hours of 5th Nov. The Russians counter-attacked which weakened the them and the intervention of the Light Division was timely. The involvement of the Royal Fusiliers is not clear as indeed nothing was clear on that day (and night) because fog obscured everything resulting in fragmentation so that small groups fought in close bayonet-to-bayonet combat without the control of a senior officer. Fusilier Alfred Oliver wrote home on 20th Nov 1854,

'Now then for the 5th November - a proper Guy Fawkes Day. The night previous, two companies of our regiment were on picquet on the advanced battery and we had a wet day and night - it still rained on the morning of the 5th, besides being very misty. We had just got home and had not had time even to take our belts off when the alarm was given and we marched up to the Redoubt when we ascertained that the Russians had been turning out during the night and had about 40,000 or 50,000 men, 65 guns posted on the Hill. ...Our two companies got the order to skirmish and the grape and common shot poured around us like hailstones. How I ever escaped God only knows....Not long after this several more were killed and wounded on my right and left by cannon shot and shells exploding. One poor fellow was burnt all over - shell exploded just beside him....We have, out of 34 officers who came out, 6 with the regiment at the present time - the remainder are killed, wounded or sick, they are going sick by the dozens. Our men are dying like rotten sheep. Our regiment which came out 950 strong is now about 350 effective men.'

Captain Hugh Hibbert wrote to his father on 28th Nov:

'150 were killed and wounded at that battle at the Inkerman of the 5th of November. What a Guy Fawkes day they made for us. Upwards of ten thousand Russians were killed outright piled up on the top of each other and about 15 thousand wounded, in fact the whole of the reinforcement from Silistria were slain. I am sure there never was such close fighting before, for the whole day. The bayonet was at work and as fast as one man fell another filled up his place. The 1st and 2nd Divisions were principally engaged. Our regiment was on duty in the trenches that day and it was a stray ball that took poor Troubridge's legs off. I am glad to say that he is going on very well and will soon recover, but to find himself a cripple for life.'

Sebastopol 1854-55

The lack of supplies of food and clothing for the men caused very great loss in deaths and sickness. The suffering of the men was almost incredible. On 15th Jan 1855, Capt Hibbert wrote:

'I should, without intending to croak at all, be very sorry to see another Inkerman as I really do not think that the men have the physical power to withstand numbers as before. Their pluck is still the same, but the poor fellows are literally worn out with fatigue and hardships and are giving in very fast. Our numbers are reduced to a fearful extent and every day a gradual diminution. We muster ourselves scarcely 250 men and this is a large average compared with other regiments. The cold here is something frightful and I am obliged when out at night, which is 4 nights out of every week, to forbid any sleeping as death would be certain to follow. I have seen men from such fatigue fall fast asleep and awake perfectly stiff, frost bitten all over and are only reserved from death by being run up and down violently to get up the circulation.'

The weather improved after the spring so that when he again wrote on 19th May the main difficulties were picquet duty and cholera:

'I suppose they intend to have another try as new batteries have been built much nearer and filled with guns of much larger calibre. At present nothing is going on except perpetual night runs as we are not fifty yards apart and two minutes would get them into our trenches. You can fancy this intense anxiety of mind when one is in an advanced rifle pit with a few men and the night so dark that you cannot see the other side of the parapet. I frequently sit all night on the top of the parapet tears running from my eyes from perpetual straining and listening for the slightest sound. Then turning round and saying in a whisper, now then men stand to your arms, here they are. The men are so brave you would hardly believe it, we receive them with a cheer that makes their blood run cold I am sure. When daylight comes we all sleep from pure exhaustion as this goes on all night. The trench work comes round to us about every third day. In the interim the whole thing is forgotten. We have such splendid weather here, it is a beautiful climate. There is always a fine sea breeze blowing which takes off the heat of the sun. It would suit you to a nicety, not variable like England and not too hot. Of course it will be much hotter. I am sorry to say that the cholera has broken out again but do not be alarmed. I am not the least. It is confined at present to unaclimatized people and drafts newly come out. It was expected, and from the quantity of carcasses, both men and horses, buried all round us, was to be expected. The sanitary arrangements are good, considering all things.'

The Quarries, 7th June 1855

The Light Division moved camp on 5th June, to Aladyn where the Fusiliers received instruction on the use of the new Minie rifles which had been issued in May. The Quarries were entrenchments between the Redan and the British positions, fortified by the Russians and the ground in front littered with fougasses, forerunners of land-mines. The Quarries gave the enemy a vantage point from which to harass the British trenches and batteries, as well as serving as a buffer to the Redan. By the end of May the French and British agreed on a combined attack on the Quarries and the Mamelon Vert (Kamchatsky Redoubt), preceeded by a bombardment of the town. On 7th June the Fusiliers had a hard fight in the attack, braving the guns in the Redan which poured grape and cannister at them. They were fighting in the open as opposed to the relatively safe haven of the trenches, and soon ran short of ammunition so that men like Matthew Hughes were sent back for more. He won the VC for his bravery under fire, and for rescuing two men and being wounded himself. Captain Jones also won the VC leading his men to repel repeated nocturnal assaults by the Russians despite being wounded. The battle for the Quarries ended in success for the British and also for the French who stormed the Mamelon.

The Redan, 18th June 1855

The Redan was the focus of the British siege of Sebastopol but it was only one of the Russian fortifications constructed outside the city. It bristled with guns, sometimes in two tiers, behind embrasures protected by rope mantelets which shielded the gunners from rifle fire. A wide road led up towards it, concealing a battery in which troops could be collected and rushed forward to defend it. About 50 yards in front of the ditch a rampart had been made of brush and branches to impede the advance of enemy troops. It was many feet high and several more deep. The assault by the British on the 18th June was timed for 8am to coincide with a French attack on the Malakoff. But the French attack began two hours earlier which put the British on the back foot. The bombardment was hell for the Russians but when that stopped and the infantry advanced it seemed like a blessed relief to them, and they were free to pour a terrible storm of bullets and grapeshot which killed so many of the exposed troops so that the ground was littered with dead and dying. The rest retreated and had to wait until nightfall to retrieve the wounded. The losses were enormous. William Russell the war correspondent for the Times wrote:

Lt Hope at the Redan
'Poor Colonel Yea saw the consequences too clearly. Having in vain tried to obviate the evil caused by the broken formation and confusion of his men, who were falling fast around him, he exclaimed, "This will never do! Where's the bugler to call them back?" But alas, at that critical moment no bugler was to be found. The gallant officer, by voice and gesture, tried to form and compose his men, but the thunder of the enemy's guns close at hand, and the gloom, frustrated his efforts; and as he rushed along the the troubled mass of troops, endeavouring to put them into order for a rush at the batteries, a charge of their deadly missiles passed, and the noble soldier fell dead in advance of his men.'

The battle of the Redan was a shambles but it produced great feats of heroism, only a few of which were recognised with the award of the VC, the newly instituted decoration for bravery. Matthew Hughes rescued a wounded officer and Lieutenant William Hope saved the adjutant by fetching a stretcher. The battle ended in defeat which came as a great shock to the British and French alike as they had been successful up until then.

1st Battalion in India 1858 - 1870

Yusufzai Field Force 1863

The 1st Battalion arrived in India in 1858, too late for the Indian Mutiny but they took part in the Ambela Campaign of 1863 led by Sir Neville Bowles Chamberlain to suppress the Pashtuns of the Yusufzai tribes on the border between India and Afghanistan. The tribesmen had regrouped around the defensive fort of Malka after a successful British campaign in 1858, but it was decided to send Chamberlain's field force to destroy Malka. The route to this fort was through the Ambela Pass which was assumed to be safe because of the friendly Bunerwal people. However, they turned out to be as anti-British as the Yusufzai. The force of 6,000 men suffered 1,000 British casualties, as well as Indian troops. The campaign ended in December 1863 with a degree of success and Malka was burned down. It is not known what part the Fusiliers played but 3 VCs were won by British officers serving in the Indian Army which, along with the high percentage of casualties, indicates the ferocity of the fighting.

The inability of the army at that time to prevent unnecessary death was again apparent at Saugor where Cholera and fever cost the Fusiliers 134 men, along with 8 women and 33 children between the years 1866 and 1869. The officers who escaped the illness spent the time playing polo, a game that was taken very seriously by the regiment. The Fusiliers were sent back to England in 1870.

Canada 1866-67
Canada 1866
The recently raised 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, under the command of Lt-Col Joshua Cooper, were stationed at Brantford in Upper Canada from early October 1866 to July 1867. They were there to reinforce the Canadian Militia during a Fenian uprising. In early June 1866 there had been a battle at Ridgeway when the Irish Fenian Brotherhood crossed the Niagara River and defeated 850 Militia before withdrawing back to New York State. The 2nd Battalion was given the Kerby House, the largest hotel in the province to quarter the officers and some of the NCOs. The Town Hall and the Union School were also put at their disposal. It is not known if they had to deal with any Fenians. In anticipation of their arrival the local newspaper, The Brantford Expositor, wrote, 'We shall be glad to welcome some portion of Her Majesty's forces to Brantford, and will endeavour to make their stay here as pleasant as possible, but we must give them generally to understand, at the very outset, that the girls around these parts are all engaged.' A week before their departure the paper wrote, 'Colonel Cooper and the officers have hosts of friends who will regret very much their departure. Wherever they go they will carry with them the good wishes of the people of Brantford.' The Fusiliers marched out of Brantford with the band playing, on Wednesday 24th July 1867.
2nd Battalion in India 1873 - 1889

Kandahar 1880

The 2nd Battalion, which had been raised in 1858 by Poulett Somerset, was sent out to India in 1873 after seeing service in Gibraltar and Canada. They had time to acclimatize before taking part in the Second Afghan War of 1879-80. The Royal Fusiliers were one of four battalions sent to defend Kandahar against a large Afghan force led by Ayub Khan. The garrison numbered 4,200 and the numbers were increased slightly when General Burrows' greatly reduced column reached the city after the disaster at Maiwand, but they were in a pitiful condition after their 45-mile desert trek. The Afghan inhabitants were forced out of Kandahar leaving only British and Indian troops.

In August the tribesmen fired their guns on the city from Deh Khoja and Deh Khati, prompting the British to send out a sortie to Deh Khoja. This attack failed and the brigadier in command was killed along with 100 other casualties. Private Ashford of the Fusiliers was awarded the VC for heroism in this action. The garrison was in great danger of being overrun by vastly superior forces so Lord Roberts conceived a plan to march a force of 10,000 on the arduous 320 mile route from Kabul to relieve them. This famous march took 20 days and they arrived on 31st Aug 1880. The Afghans had lifted the siege, however and retired on the village of Mazra near which the battle took place. The battle mostly involved the 92nd and 72nd Highlanders as well as the 2nd Sikh Infantry and the 5th Gurkhas. It was a decisive victory for the British/Indians and Ayub Khan became a fugitive.

The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
The 2nd Battalion sailed from Gibraltar on the Pavonia, and arrived at the Cape about 18th November 1899, and was at once sent round to Durban. Along with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, they formed the 6th or Fusilier Brigade under Major General Barton, which was originally intended to be part of the 3rd Division under General Gatacre, but the stress of events necessitated the breaking up of that division.

The brigade was present at Colenso and formed the right of the infantry advance, otherwise the flank nearest to Hlangwane Mountain. The Royal Fusiliers were on the extreme right and not heavily engaged in the fighting so had few casualties. After this General Barton was ordered to provide a guard for the railhead at Chieveley. The brigade was part of the drive to relieve Ladysmith and the brigade captured Pieter's Hill successfully on 27th Feb 1900 which was the culmination of a series of actions between 14th and 27th Feb. In this period the battalion had lost one officer and 3 men killed, 4 officers and 70 men wounded.

Mounted Infantry Section
The 5th and 6th Brigades formed the 10th Division under Lt-General A Hunter. The 6th Brigade assembled at Kimberley and fought an action at Rooidam on 5th May in which the Fusiliers attacked and defeated the Boers. Detachments from the Fusilier battalions joined a column to relieve Mafeking which was accomplished on 17th May. The Fusilier Brigade was split up on 21st June and the Royal Fusiliers and Royal Irish Fusiliers were sent to the east of Pretoria and these two regiments took part in many operations in the Eastern Transvaal. The Royal Fusiliers along with the Connaught Rangers were put into a column under Colonel Mahon. This column supported Ian Hamilton, who with a full infantry brigade marched on the north of the railway in the general advance eastwards, and upon 24th July, along with other troops, occupied Bronkhorst Spruit.

Twelve officers and 15 non-commissioned officers and men of the battalion were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch. The Royal Fusiliers remained in the Eastern Transvaal under various brigadiers, including General Paget, till February 1901, when they were railed to Rosmead, in Cape Colony, where rebels and raiders were then causing Lord Kitchener no little anxiety. Here they had a worrying life, not very fruitful of glory. The enemy was more elusive than ever. In May 1902, just as the curtain was about to drop, the battalion had another sea voyage, being taken round to Port Nolloth, on the west coast of the colony, to assist in the relief of Ookiep, which was successfully carried out.

Captain Charles , one of the many officers fighting for the credit of their regiments but not with them, gained the VC at Mafeking on 14th October 1899 for great gallantry when in command of his squadron of the Protectorate Regiment, a mounted rifle unit raised on 15th Aug 1899 in Cape Town and Mafeking, and disbanded in Oct 1900.

Expedition to Tibet 1904
Tibet, under Manchu control, had excluded foreigners since the early 19th century and its aloofness was regarded as an affront to British Imperial power. Besides, there was a suspicion that Russia was interested. The Tibet Frontier Commission was the brainchild of the Indian Viceroy, Lord Curzon, and the team of diplomats was headed by Colonel Francis Younghusband. The object of the expedition was to provoke the Tibetans into a confrontation and secure the safety of the neighbouring states of Sikkim and Burma. Brigadier-General James Macdonald was the commander of the expedition and his troops were made up of Gurkhas and Indian troops of Pathan and Kashmiri origin who would be better suited to the altitude and climate in Tibet. Although there were British soldiers and civilian journalists etc in the expedition there was no British unit involved until the Royal Fusiliers arrived later on.

Camp near the Gyantse Jong
The first battle started unexpectedly during a meeting between the British and Tibetans at Chumik Shenko which turned nasty when a Sikh soldier was shot in the face. The ensuing fight was more of a massacre because the Maxim-gun detachment was ordered to open fire against men armed with primitive matchlock muskets. Leaving 700 dead and 168 wounded, the expedition pressed on and had a less easy fight at Red Idol Gorge. The Tibetans again came off worst losing around 200 dead. When the expedition reached Gyantse, the third largest town in Tibet, they entered the place unopposed and enjoyed a restful interlude with the Mission HQ set up at Chang Lo Manor. Macdonald took the main force back to secure the lines of communication. But while he was a way, Younghusband and the mission escort of the 8th Gurkhas and 32nd Sikh Pioneers, commanded by Lt-Col Brander, heard that the Tibetans had assembled troops at Karo La and set out to meet them in battle. This action was successful but the Mission HQ was attacked while the escort was away, and Younghusband's small band of men repulsed them but with the loss of 3 dead. The Tibetans also occupied the fortress of the Gyantse Jong.

The 1st Btn Royal Fusiliers were stationed at Lebong in India when they were called on to be the only British battalion to join the reinforcements sent to Gyantse. They contributed 4 companies, the 40th Pathans sent 6 companies and there were several artillery pieces. They met up with Macdonald's force in early June at New Chumbi. Meanwhile there had been more skirmishes at Gyantse in May including an attack on Palla Manor in which 400 Tibetans were killed or wounded.

The enlarged force under Macdonald's command proceeded towards Gyantse and fought actions, on 26th June at Niani, a fortified monastery, and 28th June at the ancient Tsechen monastery which was looted by officers and soldiers and later burned down. When they reached the formidable Gyantse Jong stronghold the artillery had a hard job creating a breach in the wall but it was accomplished on 6th July, and the 8th Gurkhas stormed in led by Lieutenant John Grant who won a VC. The Royal Fusiliers followed them in and the defenders retreated. More looting followed including religious sites which were supposed to be respected.

The advance to Lhasa was made by the members of the commission led by Colonel Younghusband, together with a reduced force of soldiers which was to include the Royal Fusiliers. The remainder of the force was required to protect the lines of communication. This, however, was a source of discontent among the officers and men of the Indian regiments who had been part of the original expedition and regarded the final push to the fabled city of Lhasa as an honour that should have been conferred on a unit more deserving than the Fusiliers. Notwithstanding the unpopularity of the regiment the Royal Fusiliers undertook the journey, crossing the River Tsangpo which took 4 days, and arriving at Lhasa on 3rd Aug 1904. It was the first time since 1811 that foreigners had beheld the Potala Palace. Corporal Croath of the Fusiliers wrote in his diary:

'...the huge upstanding mass of the Potala Palace to my left. For sheer bulk and magnificent audacity, lamaism could do no more in architecture. It is a simple marvel in stone, nine hundred feet in length and seventy feet higher than the gold cross of St Paul's Cathedral. It suggests the massive grandeur of Egyptian work.' But when he entered the town with Younghusband's escort he found: 'great pools of black-scummed water. Under some squalid willows the main drain of the town runs foetidly between black banks. On these stinking eminences herds of black pigs were grouting about among rubbish heaps.'

Younghusband forced the Tibetans to sign a worthless treaty despite the fact that the Dalai Lama had fled to Mongolia. It was part of a ceremony that took place on 7th Sep 1904. The Fusiliers escorted Younghusband into the Potala smartly dressed and wearing nailed boots that could not cope with the polished ramps. They slid about wildly, causing the monks much amusement. One of the trophies brought back to England was a Tibetan wild ass which was paraded through the streets of the City of London where the Fusiliers exercised their privilege of marching with fixed bayonets.

The Royal Fusilier Battalions pre-1914
The Regulars had four battalions by 1900:
1st Battalion. Stationed at Kinsale
2nd Battalion raised in 1858. Stationed at Calcutta
3rd raised in 1898. Stationed at Lucknow
4th raised in 1900. Stationed on the Isle of Wight

After 1881 the Militia contributed 3 battalions:
the 5th (Royal Westminster Militia). HQ at Hounslow
the 6th (Royal London Militia). HQ at Hounslow
the 7th (Royal South Middlesex Militia). HQ at Finsbury

Additionally there were 4 Volunteer battalions:
1st VB (Fitzroy Square)
2nd VB (Westminster)
3rd VB (Hampstead)
4th VB (Shaftsbury)

The Volunteers were converted to Territorials in 1908 so that at the beginning of the war there were four Territorial battalions which had all served in the Boer War and had battle honours for SOUTH AFRICA 1900:
1st (City of London) Battalion. HQ at Bloomsbury
2nd (City of London) Battalion. HQ at Westminster
3rd (City of London) Battalion. HQ at St Pancras
4th (City of London) Battalion. HQ at Shoreditch

World War One 1914-1918

4th Battalion at Mons, 22nd Aug 1914

Resting at Mons
The 4th Battalion under Lt-Col McMahon arrived at Le Havre on 13th Aug 1914. It was made up of 734 reservists, and as they marched along the quay they were cheered by French soldiers. The Fusiliers began to whistle the Marseillaise and that was followed by 'Hold your hand out you naughty boy' which the French mistook for the British national anthem because they respectfully removed their hats. The march took them up a steep hill to the rest camp but their tents weren't ready and they had to sleep in the open. It rained heavily that night and they were soaked to the skin. The next day a train took them to Landrecies and one can only imagine the strong smell of wet uniforms in the crowded carriages. They marched to Noyelles and by the evening of the 22nd Aug they were at Nimy just north of Mons.

The Battle of Nimy, 23rd Aug 1914

The 4th Royal Fusiliers moved up to the village of Nimy, on the outskirts of Mons, on the eve of the battle. It had been a long march to Mons, and the men were weary, but setting up position alongside the Conde canal bank offered little protection for the rifle companies, so the night was spent in digging in or using material found in the surrounding area to make improvised firing positions. At Nimy itself Y Company (Captain L.F.Ashburner) of the battalion was set up with its left flank on the Nimy railway bridge and the right flank on a swing bridge, which had been closed to stop the movement of traffic. In the early hours of 23rd August 1914 a German patrol was heard and at first light was spotted and fired upon, hitting four of the men and wounding the officer who was taken prisoner. It transpired that this officer was Lieutenant von Arnim, son of the commander of IV German Army Corps who had been observing the Fusiliers from the Nimy road.

German attacks on Nimy soon began, and artillery fire fell on the area between the two bridges. Lieutenant Maurice Dease, in command of the machine gun section, had placed his two guns on the south side of the railway bridge in two sandbagged emplacements. These laid down deadly enfilade fire into the ranks of the advancing German infantry, but they soon came under fire themselves;

Nimy Bridge
The machine gun crews were constantly being knocked out. So cramped was their position that when a man was hit he had to be removed before another could take his place. The approach from the trench was across the open, and whenever a gun stopped Lieutenant Maurice Dease... went up to see what was wrong. To do this once called for no ordinary courage. To repeat it several times could only be done with real heroism. Dease was badly wounded on these journeys, but insisted on remaining at duty as long as one of his crew could fire. The third wound proved fatal, and a well deserved VC was awarded him posthumously. By this time both guns had ceased firing, and all the crew had been knocked out. In response to an inquiry whether anyone else knew how to operate the guns Private Godley came forward. He reached the emplacement under heavy fire and brought the gun into action. But he had not been firing long before the gun was hit and put completely out of action. The water jackets of both guns were riddled with bullets, so that they were no longer of any use. Godley himself was badly wounded and later fell into the hands of the Germans. For their bravery Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Private Sidney Godley were both awarded the Victoria Cross - the first British soldiers to receive the award in the Great War.

The attacking German Infantry were from German 84th Infantry Regiment (1st Schleswigsches Infanterie-Regiment 84) and the men of the 4th R Fusiliers shot down the "feldgrau" in masses as they advanced in parade ground fashion. The German 84th Infantry recoiled from the rapid fire that they put down. Each British infantryman was firing at a rate of approximately one round every four seconds, a rate of fire so great that many of the Germans believed it to be from massed machine-guns. The hail of lead that flew across the canal into their advancing massed ranks reaped a heavy toll. This rapid fire was a result of training given by their CO Norman McMahon the Musketry Maniac who had been Chief Instructor at the British Small Arms School at Hythe between 1905 and 1914.

Meanwhile the right flank of Y Company at the swing bridge was also under threat. A German soldier called Niemeyer had jumped into the canal and swum to the bridge, set the swing mechanism in motion again and re-opened the bridge. Germans began to stream across towards Nimy and about 1.40pm McMahon gave the order to withdraw. This was done in "perfect order" according to the regimental history, and the Retreat From Mons began.

Captain Ashburner's Y Company at the Nimy bridges had suffered around 75 casualties, and in total the battalion lost about 150 officers and men. The majority are commemorated on the La Ferte sous Jouarre Memorial to the missing, while a few are buried at St Synphorien Cemetery, just outside Mons; including Maurice Dease VC. He was originally buried close to the Nimy railway bridge, but his grave was moved to this cemetery in the 1920s.

Rouge Maison Salient, The Aisne, Sep 1914

The retreat from Mons took the 4th Battalion through Le Cateau where they were in reserve but suffered some casualties. They crossed the Marne unopposed but sustained more casualties at Veuilly on 10th Sep. On the 13th They crossed the Aisne via a narrow plank bridge and set themselves up to the left of Rouge Maison Farm to spend a wet night in the open. On the 14th they realised that they were too far forward and the Germans were able to fire on their right flank. Under heavy firing from machine-guns and artillery the enemy attacked and although some positions were held, others were forced to withdraw. Four officers were killed, one wounded, and 200 other ranks were killed or wounded. On the 19th Sep they came under heavy bombardment but a German attack was beaten off and they spent eight nights in the trenches there before they were relieved by the Lincolns. Total casualties for the battle of the Aisne were 5 officers killed and 300 other ranks killed or wounded.

Herlies, Oct 1914

The 4th Battalion was divided at Herlies, with Colonel McMahon taking 3 companies around to approach the village from the north while Captain Swift and W Company accompanied the Lincolns in forcing the Germans out with the bayonet. The company lost an officer killed and 10 other casualties. One officer in McMahon's wing of the battalion, was killed in unfortunate circumstances on the 17th Oct. Lt Longman was having tea with 3 other officers of Z Company in a farm at Petit Riez when a bombardment started at 5pm. The three officers ran out of the building while Longman thought he had a better chance inside. But a shell burst into the room and he was killed as he sat at the table. Lt Moxon's platoon supported the Royal Irish at Le Pilly while the battalion held the west side of Herlies. On the 20th a heavy bombardment turned the village into a devastated ruin and enemy infantry came in. Captain Carey was sent with a company to give support to the Northumberland Fusiliers but he was severely wounded as they went over open ground. Moxon was also wounded. The regiments withdrew from the area in such a hurry that ammunition and rations had to be abandoned. They made a night march to Pont du Hem which they reached on 23rd Oct. They had suffered the loss of 5 officers and 150 other ranks killed or wounded.

Neuve Chapelle, 25th-27th Oct 1914

Officers of the 3rd Londons
The 4th Battalion were given little rest and were ordered to retake lost trenches on the outskirts of Neuve Chapelle. Sir Francis Waller led Z Company in a charge against the enemy, and was mortally wounded. They captured the trenches and the town was cleared of Germans. Y Company and half of Z Company all under the command of Major Mallock remained in the front line while the rest went into billets. On 26th Oct the Germans attacked in the early hours and a fierce engagement took place in which the trenches were defended until most of the Fusiliers had been killed or wounded. The whole battalion was involved as the day wore on and some trenches were lost, but on the following day, the 27th, they were aided by French Alpine troops and almost regained the lost positions, but at a heavy cost in casualties. Major Mallock was severely wounded and the battalion was reduced to 8 officers and 350 other ranks. They were relieved on the night of the 29th Oct and marched to Merris. They were later complimented by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien:

"I simply cannot find words enough to express my admiration for the way in which your regiment has behaved. All through the campaign up to now they have had the hardest work of any regiment in the brigade, and any work they have had to do they have carried out exceedingly well. In fact, I can say that there is no better regiment in the British Army than the Royal Fusiliers."

Herenthage Wood, Ypres, 6th-8th Nov 1914

On the night of the 6th Nov the battalion took over positions from the 6th Cavalry brigade east of Hooge and were placed on the edge of Herenthage Wood between French Zouaves and the Northumberland Fusiliers. On the 7th the Zouaves were destroyed by artillery fire and on the 8th there was shelling and an attack that was dealt with by Y Company. The enemy occupied the wood and threatened the battalion's flank. Two officers, Stapleton Bretherton and Jackson led 62 men of Y Company in a brave counter-attack which, along with the advance of the West Riding regiment restored the line. But the 2 officers and their men had all sacrificed their lives.

Ypres, Nov 1914

On 11th Nov there was a bombardment, the worst the men had ever seen, which went on for two and a half hours. Many men in the front trenches were killed or buried. Captain Routley was in command of these trenches, and in a desperate situation. He was wounded in the head but led the men in fending off an attack by the German 4th (Queen Augusta's) Guard Grenadiers. Some of the men retreated and caused panic amongst the new arrivals to the battalion who were manning the reserve trenches. Colonel McMahon tried to rally the men as they attempted to run away but he was hit and fell on one knee, then a shell burst near him and he was killed. By the evening only 2 officers and 50 men were left fit enough to carry on. They were reinforced by 50 more the next day and held on until 21st Nov when they handed over to French troops. On that day they were reinforced by a further 300 reservists and some officers from the 1st Battalion headed by Major Hely-Hutchinson who became CO in place of the badly missed Colonel McMahon. The new CO had to deal with discipline in the ranks which had become slack with the shortage of NCOs. In the space of 4 months the 4th Battalion had lost over 50 officers and 1,900 other ranks, killed, wounded or sick.

1st Battalion at Fleurbaix, Oct-Nov 1914

Trench Warfare
The 1st Battalion marched south and reached Fleurbaix on 23rd Oct to support the right flank of the Welsh Fusiliers. They went into trenches and were shelled and sniped at by the Saxon soldiers 150 yards to their front. On 5th Nov they sustained 20 casualties and on the 9th a shell made a direct hit on a trench and killed one and wounded 3 men. Sergeant Tuersley was wounded in assisting Cpl Taimer who had been hit, but continued to help him though the trench was still under fire. Three days later a dug-out in which Capt H J Shaw was sleeping was knocked in at 3.30am and when the earth was removed he was dead.

The 3rd Londons at Neuve Chapelle, March 1915

The 3rd (City of London) Battalion were one of the Territorial battalions that were originally known as Volunteers. They had been the 11th Middlesex (Railway) Volunteers until they were joined to the Royal Fusiliers in 1890. They had fought in the Boer War and had been reduced from 13 to 11 companies after that. Now as the 3rd Londons, as they were known, they entered France in January 1915 and were with the Garhwal Brigade of the Meerut Division at Neuve Chapelle. Their first experience of battle was on 10th March 1915 while they were in position along the Estaires-La Bassee road. They had to move forward in the morning to replace infantry who had advanced. Two companies went forward to support the advance and another two went to a circular breastwork on the right of the trench called Port Arthur. One of the advancing companies was ordered to secure a house on the corner of the village which was thought to contain 12 Germans. Captain Pulman led his men towards it but there was a whole company of Germans in the house well armed with machine guns. Pulman and 12 men were killed and the rest took cover. A popular officer by the name of Lieut Mathieson shouted "Come on boys, don't be shy!" and led the nearest men onward but was shot dead almost immediately. The company, however, managed to capture the house.

The companies in 'Port Arthur' were then ordered to deal with an enemy trench that was blocking the advance, and they made a heroic charge to capture this position. Lieut Crichton was one of the first casualties of this action but after the first wound he still urged his men forward until another bullet killed him. Many of the Londons were killed in this charge but the survivors reached the trench and captured it. They remained there for 4 days, beating off counter-attacks and sending out patrols under the command of Captains Livingston and Moore. In one patrol Sergt W Allen won the DCM when he discovered bridges which had been placed by the Germans in preparation for an attack. He removed them, thus foiling the enemy attack. The 3rd Londons lost 8 officers and 340 other ranks in the battle of Neuve Chapelle 1915.

The 4th Londons at Neuve Chapelle, Mar-Apr 1915

The 4th (City of London) Territorial Battalion originated in 1860 when several rifle corps were raised in the Tower Hamlets area. They served in the Boer War as the 1st or Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteer Brigade and afterwards were placed initially in the Rifle Brigade, then in May 1904 they became the 4th Volunteer Battalion Royal Fusiliers. They were the 4th (City of London) Territorial Battalion in 1908, with their HQ at 112 Shaftsbury Street. The 4th Londons went into the trenches for the first time on 12th/13th March 1915, at Rue des Berceaux, Neuve Chapelle, with their battalion HQ at Vieille Chapelle. Later they were visited and praised by Major-General H Keary, commander of the Lahore Division for 'their admirable conduct under the most trying conditions.' They made a forced march to Ouderom on 25th April and delivered an attack in support of the Connaught Rangers at St Jean which was unsuccessful because of poison gas. Another unsuccessful attack was made the next day, on 26th April, with heavy losses; Lt Coates and 32 other ranks were killed, 7 officers and 165 men wounded.

3rd Battalion in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915

In March 1915 the 3rd Battalion were in trenches east of Kemmel. It was here that on 9th March their CO Lt-Col Guy du Maurier was killed during a bombardment by a direct hit on battalion HQ. They then took over trenches from the French at Gravenstafel in the Ypres area on 20th April. They were to the right of a Canadian battalion and it was there on 22nd April that they experienced the first gas attack by the Germans. It was mostly French troops that were affected, to the left of the Canadians. On 25th April the Germans attacked the Surreys on the right of the Fusiliers. They gave their neighbours machine-gun support, killing many Germans. But the next day the battalion was almost surrounded when the enemy penetrated to the left rear of their position. The enemy infantry was ejected but there was a heavy bombardment which prevented any movement. Between 22nd April and 3rd May the 3rd Battalion lost 7 officers and 100 men killed, 13 officers and 363 other ranks wounded, but they had not lost any ground. On 3rd May the battalion was ordered back but on 8th May they had to support an attack by the East Surreys during which time they lost an additional 2 officers and 40 men killed, and 3 officers and 141 men wounded.

Gallipoli 1915

The 2nd Battalion returned from India in December 1914 and were in England until March 1915 when they sailed to Malta on the Alaunia and after a few days went on to Alexandria where they practiced disembarkation onto landing craft.
HMS Implacable
They then went to Lemnos on 11th April for more practice, and then on 23rd April embarked for final preparations on Tenedos. Here they were split; W and X Companies with HQ went on HMS Implacable at 7pm on 24th April while Y and Z Companies boarded a minesweeper. The approach to Gallipoli was made at night in bright moonlight. But the moon had set at 3.30am when the companies on Implacable were loaded onto boats. These were towed in while the fleet bombarded the well-prepared Turkish positions on the peninsula.

The 86th Fusilier Brigade was chosen to land first, to cover the landing of the other units. The landing place of the 2nd Battalion was X Beach, a 200 yard long beach with a 100 foot high cliff rising steeply with no natural path up. The men of W and X Companies, under the command of Lt-Col Newenham, rowed their boats rapidly and beached them before jumping in the water. They were soaked through which made their task all the more difficult.
X Beach
However, under cover of bombardment from Implacable they scaled the cliff and captured the first trench. Y and Z Companies followed a little later and Newenham took part of the battalion to the right to link up with the Lancashire Fusiliers who had trouble reaching the landing place.

A hill between the two landing places, known as Hill 114 had to be taken despite the landmines. They charged the trenches with bayonets fixed and dislodged the Turkish defenders. Meanwhile X Company at first achieved success having moved off to the left of X Beach, but the second line of Turks proved less easy to deal with. Y Company had to come to their aid as heavy fighting ensued. The whole battalion effort look as if it would fail but Col Newenham contacted the 87th Brigade who were landing at X Beach. With the help of the Border Regiment and the Inniskilling Fusiliers they managed to hold the line despite constant attack though the night. The Turks pulled back when dawn broke and the battalion had achieved it's objective but at the cost of half its strength in killed and wounded. Included in the list of wounded was the CO, Lt-Col Newenham whose injury was serious enough for him to lose a leg. On the 26th April there were concerted attacks made by about 2,500 Turks but they were unsuccessful, the enemy withdrawing to Achi Baba. On 27th there was a general advance and the 86th Brigade was in reserve.

The Royal Fusiliers and the Lancashire Fusiliers were tasked with attacking a spur northeast of Krithia but the battalion, under the command of two officers, Cripps and O'Connell, had to dig in under heavy fire and were unable to proceed. Cripps was wounded and the casualties were mounting. The progress that they did manage was wasted because there was a lack of support and the ground was lost. The battalion had started out with 26 officers and 948 other ranks and finished the 3 days fighting with 12 officers and 481 other ranks.

The Forked Nullah, 1st-2nd May 1915

The Gallipoli campaign now stagnated into trench warfare but on 1st May the Turks made a determined attack on the right of the 86th Brigade held by the Munster Fusiliers which, due to the loss of officers, was the weakest part of their line. After heavy shelling a force of 16,000 Turks attacked and entered a forked nullah that divided the Munsters from the rest of the brigade. There was a fierce bayonet fight that penetrated to Scots troops in the reserve trench. The Royal Fusiliers were in a further reserve trench and sent in Z Coy under Capt North-Bomford and Lt Jebens to assist the beleaguered Munsters and Scots. They charged into the nullah which was full of the enemy and succeeded in restoring the situation, even managing to send back 40 prisoners. With the help of Y Coy the line was held throughout the night despite repeated attacks. Lt John Anstice distinguished himself keeping the men tirelessly supplied with ammunition, water and rations but was killed, thus earning a (rejected) recommendation for the VC. Both North-Bomford and Jebens were wounded and another officer, popular with the men, Capt Thomas Shafto, was killed while examining the front line early on the morning of 2nd May.

Second Battle of Krithia, 6th-8th May 1915

The battalion was now down to 6 officers, the commanding officer being Capt Hope-Johnstone. Other ranks numbered 425. On May 6th they were on the left of a brigade advance, in support of the Hampshires. Their left flank was on the Saghir Dere (Gully Ravine), and in 4 hours hard fighting they took the line forward several hundred yards but had to dig in fast under fire. They then had to support the Essex Regiment when they went forward and were shelled all day on the 7th. After more shelling on the 8th they went into reserve.

Third Battle of Krithia, 4th June 1915

They were back in action again on 17th May, and on the 22nd they captured a Turkish trench. However this had to be abandoned after a counter-attack and they suffered 40 casualties. The third battle of Krithia began on 4th June in which W Coy under Captain Amphlett charged a machine-gun redoubt that they discovered was manned by German sailors from SMS Breslau. They captured 4 heavy naval machine-guns and, according to RSM Huband, "one ugly looking customer ...evidently the naval equivalent of a military pioneer sergeant. He was armed with a rifle, revolver and a serrated sword." The officer, Capt Amphlett, who had been a police magistrate in Grenada before the war, was killed. The battalion was able to sweep past the redoubt and achieve the objective. But they had to advance further to strengthen the gains made by the Manchester Brigade of 42nd Division, thus creating an irregular salient in the Turkish lines.

The 5th June was a quiet day but on the 6th, after some loud bombing, a large body of men were seen retiring and they went into the Fusilier trench on the left of the position. The trench was becoming choked with men and Major Brandreth had to clear the trench to restore order. But Turks attacked the position from the rear and many men were shot in the back. The rest of the battalion were unable to support them and they suffered heavy loss. Ten new officers were lost, including Major Brandreth, leaving only one, 2nd Lt Cooper. On the 7th June the battalion was relieved and they marched to Gully Beach with only 2 officers and 278 men. They were later reconstituted with young semi-trained men and a draft of officers, one of whom was Captain A A C FitzClarence, the 6th member of that branch of the royal family to serve in the Royal Fusiliers.

The new officers were all but wiped out on 28th June when the battalion made an attack which advanced them 1,000 yards. They impressed The Times correspondent with their steadiness under fire which was mostly shrapnel. There was hand-to-hand fighting during the night and they finished the 24 hour battle in a state of exhaustion and desperately thirsty. 3 officers, including Capt FitzClarence, and 27 men were killed; 3 officers and 175 men wounded, and 3 officers and 57 men were missing. Not long after this, on 15th July the battalion was sent to Lemnos for rest and recuperation, and a new CO took over, Major Guyon. They also received fresh drafts of men from the 3rd 5th and 7th Battalions who came from France.

Scimitar Hill, Sulva, 21st Aug 1915

They returned to the trenches in early August and relieved the Border Regiment. The trenches were, in places, only 15 yards from the enemy and the Turks were able to throw grenades into their trench. The Fusiliers retaliated with 'jam-tin' bombs and trench mortars. On 19th Aug they were moved to C Beach at Sulva and marched to Chocolate Hill. From here the two bigades, 87th and 86th, were ordered to take Scimitar Hill. After the bombardment which started at 2.30pm, they filed along a trench which was exposed to enfilade shrapnel fire so that the way was blocked by dead and wounded. The artillery fire also set the bushes on fire beside the trench. During the night there were desperate attempts to dig a connecting trench to the Yeomanry on their right but the men were sniped at and progress was slow. The horrors of this type of warfare continued until 8th Sep when they were shipped off to Imbros, but sickness with diarrhoea was rife. The casualty figures up to 14th Sep 1915 were:

Dead: 19 officers, 260 other ranks
Wounded: 40 officers, 914 other ranks
Sick: 24 officers, 376 other ranks
Missing: 7 officers, 96 other ranks

Total casualties: 1, 736

The Great Flood, 26th Nov 1915

At 5pm on 26th Nov it started to rain, so heavily that the trenches soon filled with water. Then a tremendous flood swept over them from the Turkish trenches bringing dead animals and men into their trenches. Several men were drowned and the area turned into a lake. Men stood in small groups, soaked and without rifles, on any ground available. There was a short truce as both sides were in this predicament. By 10pm the men were in a terrible situation because the wind was now very cold and two men from W Coy froze to death. It snowed on the 27th and the next day the battalion was evacuated with great difficulty as the men were hardly able to walk. A brave group of men were sent back to their trench, as an outpost, commanded by 2nd Lt Camies where they suffered from intense cold. They were supposed to be relieved by another regiment but unfortunately the relief force became lost and Camies and his men were finally found at 4am on 30th Nov, in a pitiful condition. The battalion was now down to 10 officers and 70 effective men. The 2nd Battalion, along with 2/3rd Londons who had joined them in September, remained in Gallipoli until they left for good, arriving in Alexandria on 8th Jan 1916.

The 1st Londons at Aubers Ridge, 9th May 1915

The 1st (City of London) Territorial Battalion was formed originally in 1859 as the 19th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, became the 10th in 1880 as part of the KRRC, and in 1883 joined the Royal Fusiliers as their 1st Volunteer Battalion. They were based at 33 Fitzroy Square and became part of the Territorial Army in 1908. In the area adjoining Neuve Chapelle, on 8th May 1915 four companies of the 1st Londons moved to assembly positions south of the Rue Petillon. The next day, after a bombardment to clear the German wire traps, the battalion advanced by platoon rushes. In this action the battalion lost 3 officers and 120 men killed, with 2 officers and 194 men wounded. Conan Doyle's history of WW1 he says of this heroic attempt: 'They advanced over 400 yards of open with the steadiness of veterans.' They were unable to achieve their objective and were ordered to withdraw to the crossroads at Rue du Quesnes.

3rd Battalion, Bellewarde Ridge, 24th May 1915

After a 10 day lull in the fighting the Germans inflicted more damage on the Royal Fusiliers in one day than they had sustained in their history: 536 dead. The 3rd Battalion had suffered from a poison gas attack between Shelltrap Farm and Bellewarde Lake. Then the bombardment started. This was so intense that many men left their trenches in panic, exposing the left flank of the battalion which was south of the Ypres-Roulers railway. A half company under 2nd Lts Sealy and Holleny was sent to occupy the deserted trenches north of the rail line. The seperated sections of the battalion were cut off from each other because shell-fire had cut the lines. Major Johnson was ordered to make a counter-attack on Bellewarde Ridge with support from the Buffs and East Surreys but it was unsuccessful and Johnson was wounded. The enemy worked their way around to the south of the railway and were firing on the battalion flank. They had been in possession of the Fusiliers' fire trenches since early morning and could not be dislodged. The third line of trenches was held by a small remnant of the regiment plus 200 survivors from the Buffs. The effects of the gas had made the fighting that much harder. By the end of the day, 24th May, the only officer left was Major Baker, and the 3rd Battalion had sustained 536 men killed and 194 wounded leaving only 150 men out of 880.

4th Battalion at Bellewarde, 16th June 1915

As one of the battalions in the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division, the 4th Btn Royal Fusiliers were ordered to straighten the line that had been dented by the German possession of Bellewarde Lake with an attack on the Ridge. They were in position east of Cambridge Road trench at 1.30am on 16th June 1915. The Royal Artillery bombardment was effective in removing the barbed wire and demoralising the Germans so that the capture of their trenches was easier than usual. However the two supporting companies of the battalion advancing on the west bank of the lake advanced too quickly and became victims of our own artillery fire. Major Hely-Hutchinson went into the wood to bring the remaining men back to a communication trench which became subject to enemy counter-attacks until they were ordered to retire. Many acts of bravery were performed by men of the battalion throughout the day, Lance Cpl Filter and Sgt Jones manned machine-guns while wounded, Sgt Smith tended 2 wounded men under fire, Private Beckett was killed while helping a wounded soldier, and Private McGee continued to deliver messages through shell-swept areas, receiving two wounds. At the end of the day the ground gained had been lost to the enemy. Out of 22 officer there were 15 casualties, and out of 820 men, 376 were wounded or killed, victims of gas, shells and bullets. The battalion was now commanded by Captain de la Peverelle.

Battle of Loos, Sep 1915

By the time that the battle of Loos began there were 9 regular and service battalions on the Western Front. Service battalions were those raised by Lord Kitchener's recruiting campaign to augment the regular army. The 12th Service Battalion arrived in France on 1st Sep 1915. They were in the 73rd Brigade of the 24th Division, and reached Beuvry on the 24th Sep after a series of tiring marches. The 73rd Brigade were directed to the area of Fosse 8 where the battle of Loos was most intense. The CO, Col C J Stanton was promoted to command a brigade so that Major Garnons-Williams was placed in command of the battalion. They relieved the Black Watch but became split in two parts in the confusion of taking over trenches under shell-fire. Garnons-Williams had part of 1 Coy and the whole of 2 Coy with him and he unfortunately was killed on the first day of arriving at Loos. His men were forced to retire as they were under attack from both sides. The other part of the battalion, under Major Compton, had halted in the dark and came under fire whilst out in the open. They were placed in the old British firing line, a precarious position, from the 26th to the 28th, suffering continual bombardment in that time and taking heavy casualties. Four officers were killed, 6 wounded and 2 captured. Of the other ranks, 20 were killed, 27 wounded, and 206 captured or missing.

The Hohenzollern Redoubt, 27th Sep 1915

The 3rd Battalion was ordered to attack the Hohenzollern Redoubt at 2am on the morning of 27th Sep 1915. The battalion, under the command of Major Baker established themselves on 3 sides of the redoubt with the East Surreys on the other. The redoubt was partially occupied by the Germans and they attacked the north face with grenades. They were repulsed by 3 Coy, and another attack on the south face was repulsed by 2 Coy but they came under a fierce attack and were driven back to a communication trench. A counter-attack was made by a company of the Yorks and Lancs, and joined by 2 and 4 Coys Royal Fusiliers which was successful. There were more grenade attacks on the 30th Sep but at 4am that night they were ordered back to Beuvry. They had lost 6 officers killed and 12 wounded. The other ranks sustained 337 casualties.

The Chord, 2nd Mar 1916

There were two defensive areas of the Hohenzollern Redoubt that were called Big Willie and Little Willie, after the Kaiser and his son. Between these two was a connecting trench called The Chord which was the objective of an attack made by the 8th and 9th Battalions The Royal Fusiliers. They exploded mines to destroy the Chord but it was only partially successful so 50 men of A Coy, 8th Btn under Captain Mason and Lt Wardrop, and 50 men of B Coy, 9th Btn under Captain The Hon R E Phillips made a rush to the Chord. But a mine exploded and buried 20 of Phillips's men and wounded Phillips. Of the other party only Lt Wardrop and one other man survived to reach the Chord. Other companies sent forward reinforcements and the objective was reached. There were still Germans in the Chord, dazed by grenades so would not surrender, and had to be killed. C Coy of the 8th Btn under Major Elliott-Cooper made a rush and seized a crater in the area known as the Triangle as well as other craters. Sergeat Cronyn rushed down the southeast face of the Triangle into Big Willie throwing grenades into the crowded dug-outs until he was held up by a group of Germans. The position was secured and held throughout the night when the enemy counter-attacked with grenades. The CO of the 9th, Lt-Col Gubbins was awarded the DSO, Elliot-Cooper, Phillips and Lt E W T Beck won the MC, and the DCM was awarded to Sgt Cronyn, Lance-Cpl A Lowrey and Private McIntosh. Both the 8th and 9th Battalion had lost heavily but their operation had been a success.

The St Eloi Craters, 27th Mar 1916

The British high command seemed preoccupied with keeping a straight line along the front and any 'bump' had to be smoothed out. There was such a bump, or salient formed by the Germans at St Eloi in the Ypres area, 600 yards in length and 100 yards deep. The units chosen to deal with this were the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers and the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. O'Neill's account has this footnote to the page:

'There is little use in amplifying this account. The episode seems, on calm reflection, to have been the most tragic of any in which the Royal Fusiliers figured. There can be no possible doubt as to the skill of command. No troops could have done better, but a certain glamour surrounded the action of the Northumberland Fusiliers because of their greater success. It is one of the many instances in which the caprice of fate involved a great injustice.'

On 27th March 1916 six huge mines were detonated which killed many Germans. The explosions were so big that they were felt many miles away. Half a minute later the two Fusilier battalions charged forward, the Northumberlands to the right where they met little opposition but the 4th Battalion were met by intense fire from machine-guns and artillery. The enemy were fully alert and the wire was still intact. Some of them reached the first trench which was captured but they could make no further progress. These men were cut off and could not be relieved for 24 hours. Many of the wounded had to stay where they were for two days while a brave rescue was carried out by Rev N Mellish for which he received the VC. Captain Moxon and 5 other officers were killed, 4 others wounded. The other ranks lost 255 killed and wounded. The attacks and counter-attacks continued in this area until 19th May.

The Somme, July 1916

Beaumont Hamel, 1st July 1916

As if their experience at Gallipoli was not enough suffering the 2nd Battalion were in the worst part of the line when the battle of The Somme opened on 1st July.
Off to The Somme
Beaumont Hamel was a formidable German redoubt, north of the Ancre, that was the target of the 2nd Battalion's attack. The barrage started at 5.15am and at 7.20 a huge mine was exploded. At once D Coy rushed forward with machine-guns to occupy the crater but were unable to get beyond the nearest lip. The rest of the advance was futile because they couldn't even reach the German wire. The Royal Artillery concentrated on firing at the enemy rear trenches so the front line was able to continue firing. The men who were stuck in no-man's land had to retreat. The CO, Lieut-Col A V Johnson was wounded and half buried in a trench by a British shell and had to be evacuated. The rest of the battalion suffered heavy casualties, 3 officers killed and 28 wounded. The other ranks lost 490 in killed and wounded. It took 48 hours for the wounded to be cleared from the field. They were relieved on the 4th July and left the Somme area before the end of the month.

Gommecourt, 1st July 1916

Further north the 2nd Londons were at the Gommecourt salient, in the 169th Bde of the 56th Div. At 1.30pm D Coy were ordered to attack the Ferret Trench in the German first line but Lt H W Everitt and his men were under fire a soon as they went over the top and made no headway. A and C Coy were also sent in but Capt Percy Handyside of C Coy was killed and in A Coy only 35 men survived. In all ten officers were killed that day and 241 other ranks. There was a truce for an hour while both sides collected their wounded.

During this time the 3rd Londons in the same salient had to abandon an attempt to dig a communication trench. German shelling almost wiped out no.15 Platoon so that only the officer and one man survived. The 3rd lost 3 officers and 120 other ranks. The 4th Londons were on the right and were unable to provide support at Fetter Trench. They sent out 6 runners with messages and only one returned without having found his objective. Both A and C Coy lost all their officers and were brought back by CSM Davis. Out of 23 officers and 700 men the roll call that night registered only 7 officers and 356 men. Five officers were killed and eleven wounded or captured.

Montauban, 1st July 1916

Many acts of individual bravery were recorded in the part played by the 11th Battalion in their advance and attack on Pommiers Redoubt. A machine-gun was rushed by Lance-Corporal Payne. 2nd Lt John H Parr-Dudley was killed after he led his men in a charge to deal with Germans who were impeding the battalion's progress. Private W T Taverner stood up on the emplacement to direct men forward in the face of machine-gun fire, thus winning the MM. Private J Nicholson killed 6 enemy snipers and knocked out a machine-gun. During a pause in the fighting singing was heard which indicated high morale in the battalion. Capt Johnson was able to attack the redoubt from the rear and assist the Bedfords in their frontal advance. 2nd Lt Savage dealt with snipers in Beetle Alley. The battalion had made good progress and were below Mametz Wood but they had some hard digging to do to secure their position, a difficult task when the men were so tired from lack of sleep, but they kept going all day and night. Four officers had been killed and 49 other ranks. 148 were wounded, 4 were shell-shocked and 17 missing.

La Boisselle, 7th-8th July 1916

On 7th July the 13th Battalion were in front of La Boisselle and had lost contact with their brigade. On his own initiative the CO ordered them to advance and Major Ardagh led off with 1 and 2 Coys. No2 Coy was held up but managed to get through and the right flank was swung back to within 1,000 yards west of Contalmaison. They were shelled by artillery while 3 and 4 Coys under Capt Nelson pushed on to the next line. They advanced well so that after two days they had captured a battery of field guns, some machine-guns and nearly 200 prisoners. One officer of the battalion had been killed, 2 wounded while the other ranks lost 20 killed, 127 wounded and 13 missing.

Ovillers, 7th July 1916

The 8th and 9th Battalions in 36th Bde, 12th Div were sent in to capture the village of Ovillers on 7th July. The 8th was on the right and suffered so heavily that they were practically destroyed. The bombardment began at 4.30am and at 8.26am A and D Coys crawled over the parapet and lay down until the barrage was over. Lt-Col Albermarle Cator Annesley DSO ordered them up and led with stick in hand. They were cut down by machine-gun fire but they captured the first and second trenches. Colonel Annesley was wounded in the wrist and then in the ankle. The 8th Battalion had reached its objective just before the Colonel was shot above the heart and fell into a shell-hole. He lay there until evening when he was retrieved and sent to Albert where he died the next day. Out of 800 the battalion ended up with only 160. All the officers were either killed or wounded. Amongst the dead were Captains G R A Featherstonhaugh, Robert Chard and Henry Franklyn. The Adjutant, Capt Arthur Robertson-Walker was never seen again. Among the other ranks Lance Corporals William Green and Fred Baston, and Privates Frank Sharples, Tom Gurney, Ernie Shelvey. The 9th Battalion fared almost as badly. Officers killed included Capt Gerald Rawlins, 2nd Lt Arthur Cook, Captain The Hon Rowland Philipps Street, 2nd Lt Robert Osborne, 2nd Lt Bindett, 2nd Lt Edward Peacock, 2nd Lt John Manson and 2nd Lt Evelyn Vere-Smith. Lt Garrood was missing and 7 others wounded. The survivors numbered 180.


15th July 1916. The 10th Battalion were directed towards the orchard on the south west of Pozieres. Some success at 9am when Lt F M Taylor and D Coy captured the orchard but the other companies were pinned down by machine-gun fire. A second advance at 6pm failed. They sustained such heavy losses that the battalion was taken out of the line.


High Wood, Bazantin-le-Grand. 19th July 1916. 20th Battalion. 6 officers killed, one missing, 7 wounded. 375 other ranks killed wounded or missing.

Delville Wood.

20th-24th July 1916. 4th Battalion 2nd Lt Sparkes killed. 12 officers and 340 other ranks killed or wounded.

Longueval Alley, Delville Wood.

25th-27th July 1916. 17th Battalion. Lt Richmond and 15 others gassed on the first day. 118 casualties in 3 days.

Bernafay Wood.

27th July 1916. 23rd Battalion lost 12 officers (5 killed) and 276 other ranks. 22nd battalion lost Capt Grant killed and 4 officers wounded, and 189 men killed, wounded or missing.

Waterlot Farm, Delville Wood.

30th July 1916. 24th battalion. Capt Meares and 2 officers killed from C Coy. Eleven survivors out of 114 other ranks.

Pozieres Ridge.

3rd Aug 1916. 8th Battalion with the 6th Btn The Buffs. Lt Wardrop and 2nd Lt Stiles were killed, and 150 casualties.

Ration Trench, Pozieres.

4th-7th Aug 1916. The 8th and 9th Battalions with the Sussex Regt. and New Zealanders. L-Cpl Camping and 2 other men of the 8th Btn braved snipers to speak German to the Jaegers and persuade them to surrender. The 9th Btn were subjected to flame-throwers and there were heroic incidents. Pte Leigh Rouse MM continued to throw grenades even though burned and choking. Sgt Charles Quinnell DCM set a fine example and led patrols to gain information. L-Cpl Cyril Cross DCM took a Lewis gun to a shell-hole and inflicted many enemy casualties to curtail the flame-throwers. Pte Tom Crow DCM continued to fight in the face of great danger and was wounded while pursuing Germans. All these men belonged to A Coy, commanded by Captain G L Cazalet MC DSO who led his men across the open on the night of the 5th and in less than 45 mins had achieved his objective, and was responsible for the defence of 500 yards of Ration Trench the flank of which was held by the enemy. Though wounded he refused to leave the trench, and it was owing to his fine example that his company, though almost quite new to warfare, behaved so finely. The 8th Btn lost Lt J A Pearson killed and 30 others killed or wounded. The 9th lost 5 officers killed, 7 wounded. Other ranks lost 281 in killed, wounded and missing. The survivors marched to Bouzincourt and on 10th Aug were inspected by the King and Prince of Wales.


Fusiliers Resting
16th-18th Aug 1916. The 4th Battalion commanded by Major Meade failed to make headway. All the officers were killed or wounded and the men suffered 160 casualties. 1st Battalion had 23 casualties from Royal Artillery fire on 10th Aug and Lt W van Grierson bravely rescued men who had been buried but was killed in the process. Pte Tanner and Cpl Silcox rescued Pte Lynch from no-man's land in daylight, under machine-gun fire. The 1st Battalion succeeded in capturing Guillemont station on 17th Aug but had 66 casualties.


21st Aug 1916. The 1st Battalion coped with a fire in the ammunition dump at Bernafay Wood. The mortar ammunition caused continual explosions which threw men into the fire. RSM Hack won the MC when he rescued injured men in the face of flying fragments. 2nd Lt Tiffany of the 12th Battalion rescued men from the fire. In the afternoon of the 21st Aug the battalion was in battle against targets named as Hill Street and Brompton Road. Capt Bell led 70 men of A Coy and won the DSO, and Lt Jacobs won the MC for displaying courage and coolness. Sgt Pye volunteered to deliver a message which won him the DCM.

Ginchy 9th Sep 1916

On 3rd Sep Ginchy was siezed but then recaptured by the Germans so that another attack was launched on 9th Sep. In this, A Coy of the 2nd Londons took up a position in Leuze Wood, suffering heavy casualties. Capt Long and 2nd Lt Lockey were killed so the company was commanded by CSM Pellow. B Coy attempted to support them but failed with severe losses. However the battalion had contributed to the advance of the 56th Division.

The Introduction of the Tank 15th Sep 1916

The 2nd Londons were part of an important advance that began on 15th Sep after a 36 hour bombardment. This action was different in that the tank was introduced for the first time. The area of advance was south of the Ancre and north of the Albert-Bapaume road heading towards Flers. The Royal Fusiliers were also represented by the 26th (Bankers) Battalion and 32nd (East Ham) Battalion which were in the 124th Brigade, 41st Division commanded by General Lawford, an ex-Fusilier. Both these battalions had been in France for 4 months but this was their first experience of battle. They were in support of the Queen's West Surreys and the KRRC with 3 tanks allotted to their brigade. The 32nd was reduced to two groups, one under Capt Robinson which reached Flers, captured three guns and about 50 prisoners, and the other under Lt Aston which followed a tank beyond Flers. The 32nd Battalion lost 10 officers wounded and 283 men killed, missing or wounded.

In the 26th Battalion Capt Etchells won the MC for reorganising the battalion after they were hit by their own barrage and protecting his men behind a tank. This enabled them to reach the northeast of Flers but the battalion lost 5 officers killed and 4 wounded, with 255 men killed, wounded or missing. The medical officer attached to the 26th, Lt J McIntyre was awarded the MC for his persistence in helping wounded men despite him being buried by shell explosions on 4 occasions. The 2nd Londons attacked Loop Trench but lost 3 officers killed, 2 wounded.

Thiepval 26th Sep 1916

The 11th Battalion took part in the capture of Thiepval, in 54th Brigade. In this action D Coy was led by Capt Richard Thompson, described as the best company commander the battalion ever had. He led his men on to the Brawn Trench near Thiepval Village but was hit in the head. He carried on but was hit again and killed. The battalion fought every yard of the way but were held up west of the chateau. They were helped by a tank and Lance-Corporal Tovey of B Coy single-handedly captured a machine-gun. Another heroic officer was Major Arthur Hudson who commanded A Coy. He was wounded in the shoulder but carried on fighting in an area near the chateau until they had won their objective. He was then shot in the thigh and died of his wounds on 2nd Oct.

The battalion came across well constructed dug-outs one of which was very deep and garrisoned like a fortress. This had to be burned out as the Germans refused to surrender. Most of the occupants were either shot as they ran out or burned to death. They took 14 prisoners. Lt Sulman commanded C Coy which came across a German Telephone HQ, found by Corporal Rudy DCM. He and 4 men cut the wires which prevented communication with the enemy artillery. They were fighting alongside the Middlesex Regt and part of the Northants and had to continue through the night but they finished up having captured Thiepval which had withstood attacks for two years. Capt Johnson and Lt Sulman were awarded the MC. Private Edwards of the Middlesex Regt won the VC and was later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers in April 1918.

Bayonet Trench 7th Oct 1916

When the French army advanced on Sailly-Saillisel the 4th Army was operating in support on a front between Les Boeufs and Destremont Farm. Four battalions of the Royal Fusiliers were on a line just north of Flers with the 26th (Bankers) on the left and the 9th on the right. The attack began at 1.45pm on 7th Oct in which the 8th and 9th Btns suffered heavy losses and failed to reach Bayonet Trench, their first objective. The Germans were being relieved at the time of the attack and so were in greater numbers and able to pour heavy fire on the Fusiliers. The 9th had 15 officer casualties and 250 men. B Coy was reduced to 12 men. The 8th had 9 officers and 244 men killed and wounded. The 26th and 32nd (East Ham) Btns fared almost as badly. The 20th (Publics Schools) Battalion were in trenches near Morval in the last week Oct and suffered 75 casualties, 5 of which were officers. They then moved to positions to the east of Flers and made 3 attempts to establish a bombing post which cost them another 100 casualties.

The Battle of Ancre 13th-16th Nov 1916

This important action, along with the other actions that had taken place since 1st July 1916, came under the all-embracing title Battle of The Somme. Royal Fusilier battalions in the Battle of the Ancre were the 4th 7th 10th (Stockbrokers) 13th 17th (Empire) 22nd (Kensington) 23rd (1st Sportsmen's) 24th (2nd Sportsmen's). The German defences were very strong in the area of Beaucourt-sur-Ancre and Beaumont Hamel and became the subject of a 2 day bombardment prior to the advance. The initial advance of the 2nd Division involved the 24th (2nd Sportsman's) Battalion. This was one of the units raised by the efforts of Mrs Cunliffe-Owen. They left the trenches at 5am on the 13th Nov, in a dense fog. The barrage was still firing, with British shells landing 20 yards ahead of them as they progressed. Some shells fell short causing casualties but the attack was a success and shell-shocked Germans surrendered readily.

On the left of the 24th Btn was the 2nd HLI supported by the 17th (Empire) Btn Royal Fusiliers, raised from ex-pats living in the Americas encouraged to join up by Sir Binden Blood. They linked up with the 2nd Ox & Bucks LI to progress beyond the third line of enemy trenches. Their advance had reduced their 4 companies to 180 men but they reached Munich Trench and hung on there until the next day. The 22nd (Kensington) Battalion and the 23rd (1st Sportsmen's) supported the left of the attack but the 22nd were not able to make progress until 15th Nov when they seized the Quadrilateral. The 4th Battalion reinforced them, suffering only 8 casualties and the position was relieved on the 16th Nov. The 23rd Btn supported other units on 14th Nov in the attack on Munich Trench.

The 7th Battalion was engaged immediately north of the Ancre on 13th Nov and were fired on from a strong redoubt on their left. The leading companies pulled back to a trench where men from other units had gathered. Captains Foster and Clarke took all these men forward and rushed a German trench. Casualties were suffered but they captured the trench and left a detail under Sergeant Bright to defend it against counter-attack. The rest of the men advanced to the Green Line which was held until 9pm on the 13th Nov. Bright's men worked hard all day and Private Hawkesley heroically lay on the parapet with a Lewis gun to deter the enemy. Meanwhile, D Coy of the 7th Btn under Captain Cyril Rattigan had been isolated and reduced to 50 men. They were pinned down in front of enemy wire and Rattigan was killed. They were brought back by Lt Downing using a mine shaft.

On 14th Nov the 13th Battalion moved off too eagerly and were casualties of their own barrage. They then came under fire from Beaucourt village. Captain Goddard joined the remnants of the 7th and 13th Btns to add to the attack on Beaucourt which had been the subject of a charge of a force under Lt-Col Bernard Freyberg VC. The crowning moment of the battle, however, was the capture of the redoubt by the 10th (Stockbrokers) Battalion who employed the services of a tank to intimidate the Germans so that they took 270 prisoners and rescued 60 British prisoners. The battle of the Ancre had lasted 4 days and ended in a great victory for the British against impregnable fortifications. General Ludendorff, in his War Memories called it 'a particularly heavy blow, for we considered such an event no longer possible.'

Boom Ravine 17th Feb 1917

This battle was fought by the 11th Battalion, who were in the 54th Bde, 18th Division and is remembered in Royal Fusilier history for being led mostly by the NCOs. Their objective was South Miraumont Trench which had to be reached by crossing a 40-foot deep sunken road called Boom Ravine. The early hours of 17th Feb 1917 were dark and misty and the mud was very slippery because of a thaw. The assembly place was very crowded and made dangerous by a German barrage, since the element of surprise had been lost. By the time the attack was signalled there were only 2 unwounded officers and it was not long before these became casualties. CSM Fritterer was now in command and they took 100 prisoners at Boom Ravine. Up until then they had followed a creeping barrage but the artillery had no way of knowing that the infantry were delayed at the Ravine. So the Germans were able to respond to the attack and inflicted heavy casualties. They were held up by wire and had to take cover in shell-holes. Officers from battalion HQ, including Lt-Col C C Carr, managed to reach them and the line was halted. The casualties were 3 officers killed, 11 wounded, and the other ranks lost 36 killed, 162 wounded and 69 missing. The advance was maintained and the action achieved its objective.

Sergeant Palmer's Heroism 17th Feb 1917

On the same day, 17th Feb, the 22nd Battalion, which had been raised by the Mayor of Kensington, in the 99th Bde, 2nd Division, started off as a flank battalion from a position between the east and west Miraumont roads. They were held up by machine-gun fire which jeopardised the attack, so Lance-Sergeant Palmer cut his way through wire under fire, rushed the trench and was able to neutralise the machine-gun. He and some other men remained in place for 3 hours to ensure the battalion's progress. They were subjected to repeated attacks which were repulsed with grenades. When the supply of these ran out he he made his way to battalion HQ for more. The position had been lost by the time he returned and Palmer was shaken by an explosion. But he gathered some men together and restored the situation so that the flank was guarded once more. He was awarded the VC for his actions and later promoted to lieutenant. Other acts of bravery were carried out by the 22nd Btn that day including the Lewis gun section and Major John Walsh's greatly mourned death.

Arras 9th April 1917

After the Somme the Germans were in retreat and there were successful advances made with few casualties. The 4th Battalion, however, suffered heavy casualties in their sector. They moved off from south of the Arras-Cambrai road at 7am and kept their line steady despite shell-fire. W Coy on the right suffered more than the rest from machine-gun fire from a well organised defence below Tilloy, called the Harp. All the officers of the company were wounded and command fell to 2nd Lt the Earl of Shannon, who, though wounded, led the company from Nomeny Trench and was the first man into String Trench where many losses were suffered. Altogether the battalion lost 225 killed and wounded. Capt Alvan Millson and 2nd Lt William Paddock were killed, Capt Furnie and 2nd Lt Marlowe were severely wounded, and 7 others were wounded. The Earl of Shannon was killed four days later on 13th April.

Monchy le Preux 11th April 1917

Two battalions of the Royal Fusiliers worked together to advance on Monchy le Preux a village on a small 90ft hill. The 13th Btn and 10th (Stockbrokers) Btn were brought to a halt at the Feuchy-Feuchy Chapel road and they dug in for the night. At noon on 10th April they reached the outlying woods of Monchy but were now subjected to a heavy barrage which caused many casualties. They dug trenches west of the village which were completed by 4am on 11th April. At 5.30am the 13th dashed forward and ended up north of Monchy where they stayed all day. The 10th stormed the village itself under a heavy bombardment and entrenched on the west side. There was a blinding snowstorm during these operations and they lost heavily. The 10th had 12 officers and 240 other ranks wounded, while the 13th suffered somewhat less. The battalions were highly praised for their courage, tenacity and skill.

Guemappe 13th April 1917

On 13th April the 4th battalion was in action again in a move against Guemappe. They approached the target under fire from both sides and nearly all the officers became casualties. The Earl of Shannon was killed as well as 2nd Lt B Martin. Capt Gibson was severely wounded and two other officers wounded. Despite depleted numbers they continued for another 3,000 yards adding Capt Barrett to the list of wounded officers and 86 other ranks. The advance had caused equal destruction to 3 other battalions including the Northumberland Fusiliers. They were ordered to withdraw at 1am on the 14th April having failed to achieve their objective.

Second Battle of the Scarpe 23rd April 1917

In the preparation for this battle the 7th Battalion, consisting of 18 officers and 358 men, must have been exhausted having had to dig a line of trenches 200 yards from the enemy. These were destroyed by artillery and had to be dug again before 8pm on the 22nd April. At 4.45am they set off behind a creeping barrage but found the enemy wire uncut apart from one narrow opening where they became congested and vulnerable to bombing and machine-gun fire. The gunners and bombers were rushed and neutralised, and positions were established 25 yards from the railway with trenches dug to link up with 6th Brigade on the left. The attack was a success but the battalion was almost destroyed. Four officers were killed and 8 wounded. The 10th and 13th Battalions were also engaged in this battle, and the 2nd Battalion suffered heavy losses in their attack launched from Shrapnel Trench.

2nd Lieut Jeffcoat's Action 29th April 1917

The German defences at Oppy were the subject of an attack by the 24th (2nd Sportsmens) Battalion on 29th April. They suffered losses as a result of advancing further than the units on their flanks. Further south the 22nd Battalion were held up by wire and a whole platoon was killed. 2nd Lt Stanley Jeffcoat who had recently joined the battalion took some men and found a gap in the wire through which they gained access to a trench and proceeded to bomb it up. He enlisted help from men of the 63rd Division and progressed along the trench, ably assisted by CSM Roger, fighting and bombing with great skill and tenacity. He was fatally wounded and was recommended for the VC. His actions brought about the battalion's success that day.

The Scarpe 3rd May 1917

The 8th and 9th Battalions fought together on the 3rd May with a combined total of 900 men. Their task was to advance 1,000 yards and attack an enemy position that stretched 9,000 yards in width. This seems like an impossible target as it meant that each man was responsible for a 10 yard portion of German trench, assuming they reached their objective alive and unhurt! The 9th started at 3.45am from a trench, south of the Scarpe, that was blocked at one end, with Germans the other side of the block. A small party of the 9th had got too far ahead and were cut off. They were captured but later escaped. In this battle Major Maurice Coxhead, acting CO of the 9th, was killed. He had provided a valuable diary of events for historians. At the start point he had greatly improved the chances of his men when he reorganised them in the confusion of the German counter-attack from the other side of the block. The 8th Btn was fired on from a machine gun position at Roeux so that they sustained heavy casualties. By nightfall the battalion formed one company after losing 282 killed and wounded. The combined battalions were now commanded by Lt-Col Elliott-Cooper. Some men who were taken prisoner were placed in a dug-out by the Germans and were in great danger when a British grenade was thrown in. Corporal Jarratt immediately jumped on it and had his legs blown off. The severe injuries killed him but he had saved his fellow prisoners from death or injury and was awarded a VC. The 4th Battalion also sustained 299 casualties after attacking from a line 1,000 yards east of Monchy and reaching the east side of the Bois des Aubepines.

Territorial Battalions, May 1917

The 2nd Londons made an advance in the dark on 3rd May to capture Cavalry Farm on the Arras-Cambrai road. They held onto the buildings for 24 hours but had to relinquish them as they were exposed on both flanks. A sergeant volunteered to go out and find the battalion that was supposed to be on their left flank but walked into a dug-out that was occupied by the enemy. He was taken prisoner but by dawn on 4th May he had persuaded the 17 Germans to surrender! The 1st Londons had fought on the 3rd May with considerable loss, but they re-captured Cavalry Farm on 14th May.

It was in May that the 4th Londons and the 2/3rd Londons took over from the Australians at Bullecourt. On the 14th, after a bombardment of 19 hours they were attacked by the 3rd Prussian Guard. They defended themselves tenaciously and held off the enemy but at heavy cost to themselves. Lt-Col The Rev Percy Beresford commanded 3rd Londons and was awarded the DSO. He died on 26th Oct 1917, aged 42. A very brave individual action was fought by 2nd Lt Wilfred Hall of 2/3rd Londons who was killed at the second battle of Bullecourt on 15th May 1917.

Messines-Wytschaete 7th-10th June 1917

There were two phases to the battle, the first was to seize the German defences on the Messines-Wytschaete ridge and the second was the Oosttaverne line. Mines had been dug under the positions and these were detonated at 3.10am on 7th June 1917. A bombardment followed that, and then the infantry advanced. The 26th (Bankers) Battalion of the 41st Division had a trouble-free attack to reach the Dammstrasse, and the 32nd (East Ham) Battalion followed on to dig in beyond Obstacle Trench. They had started out with 17 officers and 551 other ranks and achieved their goal having lost 6 officers and 167 men, killed and wounded. This was considered to be acceptable loss weighed against their success.

The 1st and 12th Battalions in the 17th Brigade were ordered forward after mid-day when the temperature was uncomfortably hot. The 12th reached the Dammstrasse and beyond after 2pm while the 1st Btn, advancing at 3.10pm, made rapid progress because the wire had been cut by the barrage and the enemy demoralised. 2nd Lt Field's men from D Coy rushed a strong point and captured 25 prisoners and 2 machine guns. Another strong point was rushed by 2nd Lt Edward Shoesmith who was killed. There was a danger that a gap between two companies would be exploited by the enemy but it was filled by 2nd Lt Mander and his platoon. Sgt Haldane distinguished himself tending to the wounded and carrying them back despite being wounded himself. He collapsed from loss of blood. The Rev George Studdert Kennedy was awarded the MC for his work with wounded men. The battalion established themselves near the road running northeast of Oosttaverne having lost 5 officers and 110 men.

The 12th Battalion moved forward to relieve the front line near the Roozebeek stream with their HQ at Oosttaverne Wood and at 9.30pm on 9th June they suffered a serious loss of officers when a shell landed on their HQ wounding 4 of them. The CO, Lt-Col Harold Compton and two others later died of their terrible wounds. The command was replaced by Major Neynoc and the battalion was relieved in the following evening. During the withdrawal they were shelled and lost another 52 killed and wounded.

Battle Wood 14th June 1917

Pillbox Emplacements
On the 12th June the 12th Btn relieved the DLI at Impartial Trench to prepare for an attack on the concrete pill-box fortifications north of the railway at Battle Wood. The attack, in conjunction with the 8th Buffs started on 14th June at 7.30pm. The artillery bombardment had not affected the pill-boxes and no.4 Coy had to deal with one that contained 20 men and a machine gun. After a fierce fight they killed the occupants, while another pill-box was captured when 40 Germans came out. Half of then were killed and 20 taken prisoner. The battalion were ordered to establish 5 strong positions which they managed to do as well as capture the pill-boxes which had been a thorn in the side of other battalions. Their casualties were 3 officers killed and 4 wounded and 92 other ranks killed or wounded. By an unfortunate coincidence the battalion HQ was again destroyed by a German shell on 31st July, which buried, gassed and killed Lt Harold Martin and injured and gassed 5 other officers, including the CO, Major Neynoc. Another shell caused 19 more casualties a few days later.

Ypres 31st July 1917

The fighting at Messines was a prelude to the Third Battle of Ypres that began on 31st July 1917. The 26th Btn were fighting in heavy rain at Battle Wood on that day and lost 160 killed, wounded and missing. To their right was the 24th Division in which were the 1st and 12th Btns who both suffered heavy casualties. They advanced towards Shrewsbury Wood but were held up at the German trench between Clonmel Copse and Shrewsbury Wood. Lt Wilfred Flack and his men in the 1st Btn rushed a machine-gun and knocked it out with a rifle grenade. When C Coy reached the trench their officer, Capt Leeming was killed near Bodmin Copse. The worst of the fire was coming from Lower Star Post and it caused the battalion on their right to swerve, and this resulted in a corresponding swerve of the 1st's right hand company.

East of Ypres 1917
The 12th Btn passed through the 1st at Jeffrey Avenue after suffering heavy loss. Six officers had been killed and two wounded before they reached that point. Beyond that they were halted by fire from the west edge of Bodmin Copse. No.3 Coy rushed this strong point but there was another halt on the eastern edge of the copse. The advance was abandoned and a final line established 500 yards west of Bassevillebeek. This was held by both battalions as well as the 3rd Rifle Brigade and the Leinsters. Lt-Col Henry Hope Johnstone, CO of the 12th was killed as they moved into position and Capt Simkins assumed command. The 1st Btn had lost 3 officers killed, 9 wounded, and 277 men killed and wounded. The 12th lost 9 officers and 170 other ranks killed and wounded, and because of the lack of officers the 12th were relieved at 11pm. The men trudged back across the hard fought ground which was now even boggier due to the heavy rain. The 1st were relieved on the following day, leaving many wounded lying in no-man's land because the stretcher-bearers had become victims themselves.

Klein Zillebeke, 5th Aug 1917

The 32nd (East Ham) Btn had moved up to the front at Klein Zillebeke, and at 4.10am on 5th Aug the Germans advanced on them after a barrage through a smoke screen. They penetrated the left flank and threatened their rear. At noon the enemy were in Jehovah Trench just north of Klein Zillebeke road but a brave action led by Major Robinson, Capt H L Kirby and 2nd Lt G W Murrell cleared the enemy from these danger spots.

10th Aug 1917

The 11th Battalion in the 54th Brigade suffered heavy casualties when there was an unsuccessful advance on 10th Aug. B and D Coys were on the right flank near the Menin road and came under sustained fire from Inverness Wood. They swerved left and penetrated Glencorse Wood which was defended with pillbox emplacements. Capt Gray of D Coy reached Fitzclarence Farm with some of his men. He was shot in both knees but was firing from a shell-hole, and Capt Fuller of B Coy was hit in the head whilst rushing a machine-gun. The battalion became detached from the brigade and trapped by German counter-attacks. There was courageous leadership from NCOs Sgts Wilson, Berry and Burch, and Cpl Hallett. Most of the men retreated to where the 55th Bde were established, but some were cut off and had to fend for themselves. Private Arthur Jakes spent the day sniping from an advanced shell-hole and after dark, found his way back through German lines. The battalion were relieved early next morning but had lost 17 officers and 328 other ranks killed and wounded.

Langemarck 16th Aug 1917

The Territorial Battalions fared badly in the second attack on 16th Aug. One platoon of the 2nd Londons was forced to surrender when they were surrounded and ran out of ammunition at Polygon Wood. The CO Col Kellett and almost all the officers were casualties. They finished up with only Capt Stevens and 50 men fit for action. The 4th Londons were sent up against the German pillbox defences and were unable to avoid suffering heavy casualties. The 3rd Londons also failed to capture their objectives.

Bodmin Copse 22nd Aug 1917

A small-scale but significant action was fought by a platoon of the 1st Battalion near Bodmin Copse on 22nd Aug. It's success prompted the GOC to urge all other units to follow their example. At zero hour two trench mortars opened fire on an enemy strong point, quickening the rate of fire at zero plus 5 mins. At zero plus 7 the range was lengthened and the men advanced, 20 men under 2nd Lt Stonebanks in 2 waves under fire from the German strong point. Stonebanks ordered the two flanks of his lines to converge on the enemy flanks while the centre kept up a sustained covering fire. The enemy was enveloped and surrendered so that a machine-gun was captured and brought into action against German positions, and 35 prisoners taken. Only 4 men out of the 20 were wounded.

Menin Road Ridge 20th Sep 1917

The 20th Sep was the date for a general push along an 8 mile front between the Ypres-Comines Canal and the Ypres-Staden Railway combining British, Australian and South African troops. The territorial battalions of the London Regiment in the Ypres area had second and third line battalions but the first and second had been amalgamated in May 1916 so that the third lines were now second. The 2/3rd Londons were in the 173rd Brigade, 58th Div, and operated on the right of the Division, north of St Julien. They and the other battalions were successful in taking their objective, and the 2/4th Londons made a brave charge with the 8th Liverpool Irish and 2 tanks on Schuler Farm.

Tower Hamlets Spur 20th-24th Sep 1917

The 26th and 32nd Btns were in support but had to take the Tower Hamlets Spur. They had heavy casualties, the 32nd losing most of its officers. The men were down to half their number but they succeeded in causing the enemy to surrender. The 26th lost their CO, Lt-Col McNichol, killed, while Major Maxwell was awarded the DSO for his leadership. The other officers were either killed or wounded. Some men of the 26th were trapped in a forward position and without food. On 22nd Sep Private Sturgis volunteered to go back for supplies but was buffeted by explosions and fainted when he arrived at HQ. He accompanied a small party of men with food and ammunition but they were caught in a barrage which held them up. The men were inclined to give up and go back but Sturgis threatened to shoot them if they did not carry on with their task. They eventually succeeded in finding the front line and the battalion was withdrawn on the morning of the 24th Sep. They had suffered 363 casualties including 23 officers.

Polygon Wood 26th-30th Sep 1917

In the Zonnebeke area the 3rd Division attacked at 5.50am on 26th Sep, and the 4th Btn stood to. It wasn't until 5.30pm that they were ordered forward to occupy the old British front line at Bremen Redoubt. This was a dangerous move that brought them many casualties from enemy aircraft and artillery. On reaching the redoubt they were again bombarded and moved forward 300 yards to a position where, under the command of Major Winnington-Barnes, stragglers were rallied. They moved forward once more at 1am on 27th Sep, to a position west of the road running north-west of Zonnebeke. They had the 13th King's on their right and the 59th Division on their left. At 2pm they went forward again 200 yards to Jacob's House to connect up with the East Yorks and KSLI. Many more casualties fell from fire coming from Hill 40. They dug trenches in two lines and were finally relieved on 30th Sep having lost 205 men.

Gheluvelt Wood 30th Sep 1917

The 13th Btn came under heavy bombardment of trench mortars on 30th Sep while they were on the Menin Road near Gheluvelt Wood. They had an advanced post in a blockhouse commanded by 2nd Lt Shorman, which was attacked by German flame-throwers and captured. The men inside were all killed or wounded. The battalion counter-attacked by sending no.2 Coy under Capt Whitehead and the blockhouse was recaptured. The fighting was bitter and hand-to-hand, resulting in a total of 26 casualties. Capt Whitehead received the MC while CSM Edwards and Private W Digby were awarded the DCM.

Broodseinde 4th Oct 1917

The success of Capt Whitehead's men on 30th Sep did not help the 13th Battalion at the beginning of October 1917 when they were nearly wiped out. They had already suffered from an enemy bombardment but on 2nd Oct, no.1 Coy was severely reduced at Bodmin Copse. They then made an attack on the morning of the 4th after a night of heavy blustery rain, with a strength of 13 officers and 233 other ranks. They advanced at 6am closely following a barrage, but the artillery had failed to destroy a blockhouse called Lewis House lying to their right front. Machine-gun fire reduced the leading platoon under 2nd Lt Allen to 2 men. To add to their troubles the Royal Artillery field guns were firing short on the Fusiliers, especially no.3 Coy. Their were able to cover the flank of the 5th Division but did not deal with German defences to the north of Gheluvelt Wood. This partially successful attack left them with only 38 effective officers and men.

Poelcapelle 9th Oct 1917

The weather deteriorated in the early days of October and heavy rain impeded the artillery so that there was less chance of advancing under cover of a barrage. At 5.20am the 2nd Battalion launched an attack in the pitch dark, in support of the Lancashire Fusiliers. They were south of the Ypres-Staden Railway and were part of a British effort combined with the French. Capt Hood with 2 platoons of Y Coy pushed forward to reinforce the leading battalion but came under heavy fire from Conde House on the Poelcapelle road. However this group consolidated the line 250 yards north of Conde House. 2nd Lt Saul with a platoon from Z Coy followed Capt Hood, as all the other officers of Z Coy were now casualties. W Coy advanced through the Lancashire Fusiliers with the Worcesters on their left but were held up by inaccurate friendly fire from the artillery who were firing short. At Conde House, Sgt Jack Molyneux of W Coy was awarded the the VC for is bravery. He organised a bombing party to deal with a machine-gun that was holding up the battalion. He cleared the trench, captured the gun and then led his men on to Conde House which he reached first, and was engaged in hand-to-hand fighting when the men caught up with him. They captured around 25 prisoners, and Molyneux's action allowed the Fusiliers to continue. The 2nd Battalion was unable to achieve the objective that it had been given because no troops were to be found ahead of them. They established a line 200 yards below the road that ran from the Poelcapelle-Houthulst road northeast to the Ypres-Staden railway. They had performed their task in dreadful mud and persistent rain and lost many men.

The Territorials at Passchendaele 26th Oct 1917

The terrible fate of the second line battalions of the London Regiment at Passchendaele makes sad reading. They were positioned with the 58th Division below the Poelcapelle-Spriet road on 26th Oct. A Coy of the 2/2nd Londons under Capt Harper were successful in clearing 4 pillboxes, and D Coy commanded by 2nd Lt J P Howie captured 32 prisoners when he stormed another pillbox. D Coy spent the day there under attack, and C Coy also had a difficult day pinned down by fire from Moray House. The 2/2nd Londons sustained 386 casualties in this attack plus 11 officers, 3 of whom were killed. The regimental history then goes on to say that the 3rd Battalion 'were not so fortunate'.

For this battalion, the 2/3rd Londons, the horrible conditions were their undoing. Although the rain had stopped, the mud was wet and thick. As the men tried to push their way through it they were cut down by German snipers. They lost their popular CO Lt-Col Beresford and had to retreat ending the day with only 2 officers and 17 effective men. The 2/4th Londons were also greatly reduced on this day, suffering the loss of 11 officers and 368 men killed and wounded. Many men were drowned in shell-holes.

7th Battalion 30th-31st Oct 1917

The 7th Battalion moved into position below Lekkerboterbeek on 28th Oct and went into the attack at 5.50am on the 30th. The communication with their HQ failed and they lost 4 runners in the attempt to gain contact. The left of the line was held up by a German strong point that remained a problem throughout the day and was a thorn in the side of the 63rd Division. 2nd Lt Hawkins was sent in with a party to operate 2 Stokes Mortars but they were soon out of action. An enemy shell destroyed one gun along with its double crew, and the other malfunctioned due to the mud. To the east of this, 600 yards away, the progress was not successful although a pillbox was captured. The battalion were relieved on the evening of 31st although they were still in their advanced positions. All the wounded had been evacuated including Cpl Hancock who was taken prisoner but handed back on the condition that he did not reveal any information about German dispositions. Their withdrawal to Irish Farm took them through a gassed area and they were attacked by aeroplanes but there were no more casualties to add to the 65 men and 2 officers killed, and the 148 men and 4 officers wounded. 19 men were missing.

The End of the Battle of Ypres Nov 1917

The 11th Battalion saw the closing stage of the Battle of Ypres in Nov 1917. On 10th Nov they took over a position south of Houthulst Forest. The shell-holes were filled with water contaminated by Yellow Cross gas, caused by shells that had killed and gassed 21 of their men. The adjutant, Capt Ormonde Whiteman was killed by a shell on 22nd Nov whilst sheltering behind a pillbox. On the night of the 24th/25th Nov Private T Wright accompanied an officer in the Houthulst Forest area when they saw a German officer and a large corporal approaching. They hid and waited for them to pass towards the British lines before confronting them with a demand to surrender. The Germans tried to get away but the officer was shot in the leg and Private Wright knocked down the corporal. They were both captured and found to have maps and documents with useful information. Wright was awarded the Military Medal for his action.

Cambrai: Noyelles 20th Nov 1917

Tank Park at Cambrai
On 20th Nov 1917 the battle of Cambrai began, advancing against a section of the formidable Hindenburg Line that was not so strongly defended. The 2nd Battalion approached the front via Peronne and Equancourt so that they were in position behind and to the right of the 16th Middlesex at Fins and Queen's Cross, at 5.20am on 20th Nov. One hour later they advanced in diamond formation, W Coy in front, X Coy on the right, Y on the left, and Z in support. Their progress was rapid until they were held up at Marcoing where 2nd Lt Burton was killed by machine-gun fire and 2 other officers were wounded. There was some street fighting before the village was cleared and 100 prisoners taken. They encountered more resistance on the road to Noyelles but with the help of tanks managed to reach their objective, and dug in at 3.15pm. A patrol from W Coy went forward to secure the canal bridge but the River Escaut had to be crossed. This caused a hold-up because the river bridge had been destroyed. There was a wooden bridge intact at the Chateau to the southeast of the village which was seized and secured so that strong points could be established.

21st Nov 1917

On the following day there was a determined counter-attack by the Germans at 7.30am which took advantage of the lack of defence on the outskirts of Noyelles. They set up a strong point at the church which made life difficult for the 2nd Btn. 2nd Lt Robert Sparks was killed but 2nd Lt Peel managed to take out two of the enemy machine-guns. The 18th Hussars reinforced the battalion and two tanks were brought in which forced the enemy out and the Royal Fusiliers, who had captured 400 prisoners, were able to hand over to the 1st Btn The Buffs.

La Vacquerie 20th Nov 1917

The 8th and 9th Btns operated on the south flank of the advance, following the tanks from the Gonnelieu Trenches to Barrier Trench south of la Vacquerie. The 8th lost one officer and 15 men killed, while the 9th Btn, commanded by 21 year-old Lt Col W V L van Someren DSO, lost 94 men including 3 officers. In the evening they occupied trenches between Bleak House and Bonavis Farm. The 8th then took over from the 9th Btn on 22nd Nov and carried out a local attack on Pelican Trench along with the 35th Brigade. They ere initially successful but were counter-attacked and lost 400 yards of trench. However they set up bombing blocks to the rear of the lost trench and were relieved by the Sussex Regt. They suffered the loss of 58 men in this short action.

Tadpole Copse 25th Nov 1917

Tadpole Copse west of Moeuvres was a tactical point on the Hindenburg Line, on the left flank of the Bourlon Ridge position. It was stormed by the Queen's Westminsters on 22nd Nov but recaptured by the Germans two days later. The 4th Londons attacked and recaptured the trenches again, and a patrol under Capt Duthie gathered in 3 enemy machine-guns. They also beat off a German attack in the night. The 2nd Londons fought for several days on the left of the position and needed to stay on the alert between attacks. 2nd Lt Long of the 1st Londons distinguished himself on the night of the 22nd when his patrol captured an enemy patrol.

The German Counter-Attack 30th Nov 1917

The initial success of the battle at Cambrai had created a salient in the line which the Germans intended to squeeze from either side. The 8th and 9th Battalions suffered heavy casualties on the southern side of the salient near Bourlon Wood, when, on 30th Nov the enemy infantry advanced after an intense artillery bombardment. On the right of the 9th Btn, the 35th Brigade was pushed back but B Coy managed to forced their opponents back 200 yards. D Coy were surrounded and nearly wipe out. The battalion engaged in bombing encounters all day and were harassed by planes. They were helped by some men of the Norfolks but finally withdrew to the reserve line having lost 4 officers killed, 9 wounded and 208 men killed or wounded. The 8th Btn, meanwhile found that the Germans had moved around to their right rear and were cut off. Most of the battalion withdrew to the reserve line and were facing strong opposition only 50 yards away. At this point the CO of the 8th, Lt-Col Elliott-Cooper collected all available men and charged forward. The impetus of their attack took the enemy by surprise and forced them back but there was machine-gun fire to bring them to a halt and the CO was wounded. He ordered a withdrawal and was himself captured. He died in captivity so that he never received his VC medal. The 8th had 10 officers and 247 men on their casualty list.

1st Dec 1917

The ordeal of the 2 battalions did not end there because the Germans repeatedly attacked them, and at 12.30pm opened up a bombardment and sent in bombing attacks. The battalions were forced to withdraw 150 yards to just north of the Cambrai road, and held their position. They had performed very impressively and were able to hand over an organised position to relieving troops. The 9th Btn was the only unit to hold its positions south of the Cambrai-Gouzeaucort road for these two days, during which time they received no rations and their supply of bombs had depleted.

Masnieres 30th Nov 1917

A speedy attack by the Germans at 7am on 30th Nov threatened the British artillery and exposed the left flank at Masnieres. The 2nd Btn played a significant part in the fight to hold them off. Two companies were brought back from the other side of the canal to form a defensive flank as far as Les Rues Vertes. Two platoons of X Coy were sent to help defend the ammunition dump, but that had already fallen into enemy hands. Captain Robert Gee was at brigade HQ when he received the order to gather whatever men he could to deal with enemy incursions. They built a barricade and fought off Germans for 5 mins before a Lewis gun came up. Gee was determined to reach the ammunition dump beyond his barricade, and he knocked a hole in a house wall big enough to crawl through. There he found the storemen dead and the QM sergeant missing. On climbing over a wall to the bomb store he was seized by two Germans. He managed to escape from them with the help of an HQ orderly. He got onto the road to find that 30 more men had arrived to reinforce his group. He split the men up for various tasks and set about recapturing the bomb store. More men arrived from the Guernsey LI and he had enough to establish posts on the 3 bridges over the canal. A bombing party also cleared the houses on the Marcoing road, an action that convinced the Germans that a counter-attack was in progress and they began to fall back.

They had enough ammunition and bombs to supply troops on the other side of the canal and they were able to take control of the chateau. Capt Gee went onto the roof of this building and was able to see the Germans digging in 100 yards away. Enemy machine gun posts were targeted with a Stokes mortar but one machine gun at the end of the village was putting up a stubborn resistance. In order to bring up a mortar the Captain had to reach the barricade from the shell-hole where he was sheltering. He ran back and was just jumping over the barricade when he was shot by a sniper and wounded in the knee. He asked to be allowed to carry on but was ordered to go back for medical attention. His actions on that day earned him the Victoria Cross. The defences of Les Rues Vertes were taken over by W Coy under Capt Lathom Browne, and one platoon of W Coy under 2nd Lt Brain held a lock bridge near the sugar factory. These positions were staunchly defended for the rest of the day and throughout the following day, despite a determined enemy assault. The exhausted 2nd Battalion were withdrawn just before midnight on 31st Nov.

Bourlon 30th Nov 1917

Another VC was being won on the same day, in the Bourlon area, by Captain Walter Napoleon Stone, a 3rd Btn officer attached to the 17th Empire Battalion. These men were British subjects recruited from North and South America by the British Empire Committee chaired by Sir Bindon Blood. They were placed in a long trench called the Rat's Tail which took the brunt of a huge attack made by 4 German Divisions. Capt Stone was ordered to withdraw his exposed company. He sent back 3 platoons but remained behind with a rearguard to give them time. His last stand was one of the great heroic feats of the war. He and his men fought with rifles bayonets and grenades while Capt Stone stood at the forefront, with telephone in hand to report back vital information. It was a suicidal act of defiance and they were all killed. The battalion was, for the most part, withdrawn to a safer part of the line but C Coy remained in the Rat's Tail behind a block and fought throughout the day. An official account stated that: 'the men were really enjoying the experience of killing Germans in large numbers at point-blank range.'

Bapaume-Cambrai Road 6th Dec 1917

Four men of the 24th Btn won the Military Medal for their actions on 6th Dec when the enemy attacked one of their bombing posts, 100 yards south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. Thanks to the bravery of Sgts A F Wood and E Tarleton, and L-Cpl G Day, the Germans were driven off. Later a patrol under Sgt D McCabe was sent out to locate enemy troops that had entered the village of Graincourt. Not only did the patrol locate them but they engaged them and inflicted heavy casualties. The unsuccessful battle of Cambrai was brought to a close at this stage.

Regimental Marches
The British Grenadiers
The Seventh Royal Fusiliers
Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense
Evil to him who evil thinks
The Hanoverian White Horse
The Elegant Extracts
Colonels in Chief
1685 - 1968
Commanding Officers
1685 - 1968
1685 - 1968
1685 - 1968
1685 - 1968
Musicians and Band
1685 - 1968
Battle Honours
War of the League of Augsburg (1689-97)

NAMUR 1695

French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1802)


Peninsula War (1808-14)


Crimean War (1854-56)


Second Afghan War


South African War (1899-1902)

SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902

World War One (1914-1918)

AISNE 1914 1918
YPRES 1914 1915 1917 1918
SOMME 1916 1918
ARRAS 1917 1918
CAMBRAI 1917 1918

Second World War (1939-1945)

NORTH AFRICA 1940 1943

Korean War (1950-53)

KOREA 1952-3

Battle Honours
Not Emblazoned
World War 1

MESSINES 1914 1917
HOOGE 1915
ALBERT 1916 1918
ANCRE 1916
VIMY 1917
ITALY 1917-18
EGYPT 1916

Second World War (1939-1945)

SYRIA 1941
ITALY 1943-5
GREECE 1944-5

1685 The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers or The Ordnance Regiment

1751 The 7th Foot (Royal Fusiliers)

1881 Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)

1968 The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Amalgamation with Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers and the Lancashire Fusiliers) in the Queen's Division

H M The Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB
Suggested Reading
For England and St George, A History of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
by Simon Dunstan (London 2000)

Elegant Extracts: A Duobiography
by Edmund Malone and George Hawes (Lovat Dickson & Thompson 1935)

The Frontiersman's Pocket Book
by Geoffrey Pocock (Phillimore 2004)

The Royal Fusiliers [City of London Regiment]: History of the 2nd Battalion in North Africa, Italy and Greece
(Gale & Polden, Aldershot 1946)

Historical Records of the Royal Fusiliers
by Lt-Col P Groves (Guernsey 1903)

The Royal Fusiliers
The Royal Fusiliers by Michael Foss (Hamish Hamilton 1967)

The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War
by H C O'Neill (Heinemann 1922)

Always a Fusilier: The War History of the Royal Fusiliers
by C Northcote Parkinson (Sampson Low 1949)

Voice From the Ranks: A Personal Narrative of the Crimean Campaign by a Sergeant of the Royal Fusiliers
(London: The Folio Society 1954)

Fusilier Cooper - Experiences in the 7th (Royal) Fusiliers during the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Campaign to New Orleans
by John S Cooper (Leonaur 2007. Eyewitness to War Series)

Gowing of the Royal Fusiliers
by T Gowing (Leonaur, Eyewitness to War Series)

A History of the 22nd (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers
by Major Christopher Stone (1923) (Reprint published by Naval & Military Press 2001)

The Second Nineteenth, Being the History of the 2/19th London Regiment
by Major F W Eames (1930) (Reprint published by Naval & Military Press 2005)

The 23rd (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers (First Sportsman’s): A Record of its Services in the Great War 1914-1919
by Fred W Ward (Sidgwick & Jackson 1920)

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