The Sikh Wars, 1845-49

Featured

Sikh War Case

The Sikh War Case

In the 1840’s the 29th Regiment of Foot were on garrison duty in India, and took part in both Sikh Wars. Despite being outnumbered and against some of the best troops in the world, the British fought two bloody and successful campaigns against the Sikhs, with the 29th in the thick of the action. The 29th fought in the centre at the battle at Ferozeshah, and repeatedly stormed the Sikh fortifications at Sobraon, despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered.

During the Second War they fought at Goojerat (alias Gujerat) and Chillianwallah, where the 29th took heavy casualties taking a line of Sikh guns. A few years later, detachments from the 29th also served in the Indian Mutiny.

Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

This jacket, or tunic, is traditionally referred to as the ‘Sikh Chieftain’s tunic’, although its small size means that it probably belonged to a young prince or a son of a chief. It was picked up on field at Sobraon by an officer in the 29th Regiment.

Between 1845 and 1849 the 29th fought in two wars against the Sikhs in north western India. The Sikhs were a very martial nation, and their Army was very well trained and equipped in modern warfare. The battles in the two Sikh Wars were very hard and bloody, and this jacket has always been a proud trophy and a popular attraction in the museum.

 The jacket and other material from the Sikh Wars currently forms part of the exhibition ‘Anglo-Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics’ being held at Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester from 11th March to 4th June 2017. The exhibition is being developed by the Sikh Museum Initiative and hosted by Leicester City Council.  Please follow the links for more information.Anglo-Sikh Museum Initiative

Advertisements

The Third Battle of Ypres, ‘Passchendaele’ 31 July – 10 November 1917

The Museum opens a new display to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Passchendaele and the role of the Worcestershire Regiment in it.

Passchendaele is not only infamous for the number of casualties but the mud. Many drowned in the thick quagmire, caused by weeks of relentless rain.

Wounded Canadians on way to aid-post during the Battle of Passchendaele. Image courtesy of Library & Archives Canada.

 

The Ypres Salient was one of the most intensely fought over sections of the Western Front. Early in 1917, the British high command laid down plans to seize control of the area once and for all. The starting point was the capture of the Messines Ridge, to the south of Ypres.

Following an initial bombardment which had lasted two weeks, with over 4.5 million shells fired. The Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele, began at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when 2,000 Allied guns opened up once more on German lines.   By the end of the three-month long campaign, more than 500,000 men from both sides are believed to have been wounded or killed; The Worcestershire Regiment alone sustaining 2759 casualties.

This British-led offensive in Flanders aimed to break out of the Ypres Salient, capture the vital German rail hub of Roulers and ultimately take Ostend and Zeebrugge from where German submarines operated. Following the Battles of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August) and Langemarck (16-18 August) the offensive entered a new phase when between 20 September and 9 October forces under Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig fought eastward along the Menin Road, through Polygon Wood and around the villages of Broodseinde and Poelcappelle, where Private Frederick Dancox won his Victoria Cross.

Private Dancox bravely enters a German blockhouse during the Battle of Poecappelle, taking control of a machine gun and prisoners.

Only on 12 October did the first attack on Passchendaele take place. When this failed, fighting to secure the village continued from 26 October. When the offensive was closed down for the winter on 10 November the advance to Passchendaele had pushed the German army back just five miles.

The Battle of Roliça (Rolica), 17th August 1808

rolica

The Battle of Rolica 1808

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 1st August 1808, 8,740 troops of a British expeditionary force under Wellesley’s temporary command began to disembark at the mouth of the Mondego river, west of Coimbra. Four days later, a further 4,750 troops – freed-up from Andalucía following the Spanish victory at Bailen on 20th July – began to come ashore. By 10th August, the combined army of 13,500 men was marching on Lisbon. At Leiria, Freire, commander of the local Portuguese army, somewhat grudgingly loaned Wellesley 2,000 troops under the command of Colonel Trant, a British officer in the Portuguese service. Wellesley reached Alcobaça on the 14th, by which time he was fully aware that a French army under Delaborde stood in his path one day’s march away at Obidos. On the 16th, Delaborde redeployed his force of some 4,350 men along a low ridge east of Roliça, 6km south of Obidos.

The Battle

At dawn on the 17th, Wellesley advanced from Obidos in a crescent-shaped formation, with the two wings under Trant and Ferguson thrust forward. Just as his forces were in danger of being enveloped, Delaborde fell back to a much stronger position on the heights above the village of Columbeira.

After taking time to re-group, Wellesley again pushed forward, intending his centre to assault the heights only after Trant and Ferguson were in a position to provide support on both flanks.

 

Lt Col Lake

Lt. Col. George Lake.

In practice, the 29th Regiment led by Lt. Col. George Lake forged on ahead through a gully in the hillside and, despite coming under fire from three sides, was able to reach the brow of the hill before being broken by a French charge. The gallant – if foolhardy – Lake was killed while 6 officers and 30 other ranks were captured. The survivors of the 29th fell back down the hillside into the ranks of the supporting 9th Regiment. By now, Wellesley had ordered the 5th, 9th, 82nd and 45th Regiments into a frontal attack against the heights. After two hours of bitter fighting during which the French threw back three assaults, the British finally gained firm footholds along the crest. With his right flank now under threat from Ferguson, Delaborde disengaged from the battle as best he could and with no little skill. French losses amounted to 600 men killed or wounded and three guns; of the 474 British and Portuguese killed, wounded or taken prisoner, nearly half were from the 29th Regiment.

rolica2

Memorial to Lt. Colonel Lake

Private Thomas Turrall VC- 3rd July 1916

Thomas Turrall VC (440x640)

Pte. Thomas Turrall VC. Turrrall was awarded his VC for gallantry at La Boisselle 3rd July

Born on 5th July 1885 in Birmingham, Thomas George Turrall was educated at the Dixon Road School in Small Heath, Birmingham. He trained to be a painter and decorator but in 1915 he joined the 10th Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment.

Thomas Turrall was a powerfully built man who was known throughout the Battalion as being a character. In fact prior to the battle where he won his Victoria Cross, his platoon commander, Lieutenant Richard William Jennings, decided to release him earlier from the Battalion Guardroom were he was serving a short sentence. The two men were known to have a mutual respect for one another.

In early July 1916, the Battalion were part of the 19th (Western) Division on the Somme. During the night of the 2nd/3rd July, 57 Brigade which included the 10th Battalion were ordered to continue an attack started that afternoon by 58 Brigade. At 0300 hrs the Battalion crossed no-man’s land taking many casualties and then became involved in heavy hand to hand fighting which lasted until dawn. Lieutenant Jennings then led a small party of men, which included Private Turrall to attack a position to the flank. It was during this action that Private Thomas Turrall won his Victoria Cross.

His Citation reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. During a bombing attack by a small party against the enemy the officer in charge was badly wounded, and the party having penetrated the position to a great depth was compelled eventually to retire.
Private Turrall remained with the wounded officer for three hours under continuous and very heavy fire from machine guns and bombs, and, not withstanding that both himself and the officer were at one time completely cut off from our troops, he held to his ground with determination, and finally carried the officer to our lines after our counter attacks had made this possible.”
London Gazette, September 9th 1916

Lieutenant Jennings was able to recount Private Turrall’s action but then died of his wounds a few hours later.

Turrall GH drawing

Turrall rescuing Lt . Jennings at La Boisselle. Drawing by Holiday

Private Turrall, the third person from Birmingham to receive the Victoria Cross was congratulated by the then Lord Mayor, Neville Chamberlain. The people of Small Heath where he lived presented him with a gold watch and £250. He collected his Victoria Cross with his young daughter from Buckingham Palace. He kept in close contact with the Regiment after the war, attending many Regimental functions as the guest of honour. He died on 21st February 1964 in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, at the age of 78.

The Worcestershire Regiment at the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916) was a joint operation between the British and French armies, intended to deliver a decisive victory over the Germans on the Western Front. For many in Britain, the resulting battle remains the most painful and infamous episode of the First World War.

In December 1915, Allied commanders had agreed to launch a joint attack in the region of the River Somme in the summer of 1916. Intense German pressure on the French at Verdun throughout 1916 made action on the Somme increasingly urgent and meant the British would take on the main role in the offensive.

They were faced with German defences that had been carefully prepared over many months. Despite a seven-day bombardment prior to the attack on 1 July, the British did not achieve the quick breakthrough that had been anticipated and the Somme became a deadlocked battle of attrition along a 15 mile front

 British casualties on the first day – numbering over 57,000, of which 19,240 were killed – making it the bloodiest day in British military history. Over the next 141 days, the British advanced a maximum of only seven miles. More than one million men from all sides were killed, wounded or captured.

From the outset The Worcestershire Regiment experienced heavy fighting.  Six Battalions were in action on the fateful 1st July 1916, these were:  1st; 3rd; 4th; 1/7th; 1/8th and 10th.  They were later joined by the 2nd and the 14th Battalions.

During the five months of fighting on the Somme, the Regiment took part in the following actions:

The Worcesters at High Wood

The Worcesters at High Wood

Beaumont Hamel, 4th Battalion, 1st – 3rd July
Leipzig Salient (1st Phase), 3rd Battalion, 3rd – 8th July
La Boisselle, 10th Battalion, 3rd July
Contalmaison, 1st, 1/7th, 1/8th, 4th Battalions, 6th – 10th July
Ovillers, 3rd, 1/8th, 1/7th Battalions, 10th -17th July
Bazetin Ridge, 2nd, 1/7th, 1/8th, 4th Battalions, 15th – 21st July
High Wood, 2nd, 10th Battalions, 15th – 23rd July
Pozières Ridge, 1/7th, 10th, 3rd Battalions, 20th July – 23rd August
Leipzig Salient (2nd Phase), 3rd , 2nd Battalions, 23rd – 26th August
Delville Wood, 2nd Battalion, 24th August
Leipzig Salient (3rd Phase), 3rd, 1/7th, 1/8th, Battalions, 2nd – 3rd September
Ancre Heights, 3rd, 10th Battalions, 2nd – 24th October
Transloy Ridges, 10th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 1/8th, 14th Battalions, 12th October – 5th November
Ancre, 10th, 14th, 2/7th Battalions, 13th – 21st November

Turrall rescuing Lt . Jennings at La Boisselle.  Drawing by Holiday

Turrall rescuing Lt . Jennings at La Boisselle. Drawing by Holiday

As a result of the courage and resolve of the Regiment, its officers and men were accorded a total of 50 Honours and Gallantry awards.  These included:  two Victoria Crosses; awarded to Pte T.G. Turrall of 10th Battalion at La Boisselle on 3rd July 1916 and Lt. E.P. Bennett of 2nd Battalion at Transloy Ridge on 5th November 1916, and 7 Distinguished Service Orders; 17 Military Crosses; 20 Distinguished Conduct Medals; and 4 Military Medals.

Lt. Bennett wininghis Vc at Transloy Ridge

Lt. Bennett wining his VC at Transloy Ridge

Regimental casualties on 1st July 1916 were recorded as 102.  A further 613 were killed in action during the period to November, with other casualties recorded as an additional 3090 wounded and 519 men missing.

The Regiment was subsequently awarded the following battle honours:

The Somme (1st July – 18th Nov)                    Pozieres (23rd July – 3rd Sept)

Albert (1st July – 13th July)                              Le Transloy (1st Oct – 18th Oct)

Bazentin (14th July – 17th July)                        Ancre Heights (1st Oct – 11th Nov)

Delville Wood (15th July – 3rd Sept)               Ancre (13th Nov – 18th Nov)

Captain E.P. Bennett VC

Captain E.P. Bennett VC

 

The Glorious First of June 1794

In June 1794 Britain had been at War with Revolutionary France for 14 months.  France was on the verge of starvation due to a bad harvest and political upheaval. As a result, the French had assembled a convoy of some 117 merchant ships, filled with grain and other stores, in Chesapeake Bay, in America.

The French strategy to ensure the safety of these ships was, an immediate escort of 4 ships of the line, commanded by Admiral Vanstabel, to accompany the convoy – a second squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Neilly, to sail to meet the convoy and escort it back to France while the main French Fleet, commanded by Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, was to sail from Brest to provide any necessary cover should the convoy be threatened by the Royal Navy.

In April 1794, Admiral Richard Howe had assembled the British Fleet, consisting of 32 ships of the line with attendant frigates, off the Isle of Wight. Owing to a shortage of Marines the 29th Regiment of Foot, along with a number of other line regiments, had to provide drafts for sea-service.

1jun_29th

Men of the 29th Regiment on board the Brunswick

Over four hundred officers and men of the regiment were distributed among five ships; “Brunswick”, “Ramillies”, “Glory”, “Thunderer” and “Alfred”.

MONTHLY RETURNS—1st JUNE, 1794.

SHIPS.

Captains Subalterns Serjeants Drummers Rank & File

NAMES OF OFFICERS.

“Brunswick” 1 1 2 1 76 Captain A. Saunders, Ensign Harcourt Vernon.
“Ramillies” 2 2 1 73 Lieut. Jas. Monsell, Ensign George Dalmer.
“Alfred” 3 2 1 75 Lieuts. R. Harrison and John Tucker, Ensign L. A. Northey.
“Glory” 1 2 2 1 98 Captain Wm. Jaques, Lieut. W. T. Bertrand, Ensign Patk. Henderson.
“Thunderer” 2 2 1 73 Lieut. Josh. Clavey  and C. Bulkeley Egerton.

The French convoy sailed from America on 11th April and on 2nd May Howe sailed from Spithead with 26 ships of the line. After a reconnaissance of the port of Brest to confirm that the French Fleet had not sailed, Howe placed himself between the convoy and their covering force. On 19th May, Howe’s frigates report that the French Fleet had sailed out of Brest and he immediately set off in pursuit.

Loutherbourg,_The_Glorious_First_of_June

The Glorious First of June

On 28th May, at about 8:10 am a frigate made the signal for “a fleet bearing South West” directly to windward. It was not until 6 pm that action commenced and lasted until 10 pm. British casualties were only twenty-two killed and wounded. On next the morning it was hazy and the action continued from 9 am until nearly 4 pm when the French bore away to support their disabled ships. The 30th was very foggy and there was no action that day. However on the 31st, the fog cleared about 2 pm and the French were sighted far to leeward.

On the 1st of June, at 5:45 am Howe counted 34 sail of the enemy and gave chase.  The general action commenced at 9:15 am.

2016-05-31 12.35.59

The Brunswick  and Le Vengeur from a print in the Museum Collections

The “Brunswick”, with 81 men of the 29th aboard was played into battle by the ship’s band and a drummer from the 29th to the tune of ‘Hearts of Oak’. “Brunswick” was in the thick of the fighting and endured a tremendous onslaught, being engaged for a considerable time with three French seventy-fours. One of these “Le Vengeur” she sank. At one stage of the battle another of the seventy-fours seeing that “Brunswick” was much weakened, determined to board and manned her yards and shrouds with a view to running alongside and flinging in all her crew at once. “Brunswick” with great intrepidity and coolness reserved a whole broadside and waited her approach; then in one discharge the “Brunswick” dis-masted her and “scattered her crew like so many mice on the ocean“.

During the fierce fighting, the 29th detachment Commander, a Captain  Saunders was killed and the Ensign Vernon and 20 others were wounded.

M1552

Naval General Service medal bearing a clasp for the 1st of June issued to a soldier of the 29th Regiment.

This Battle was fought far out in the Atlantic and so it has always been known by its date “The Glorious First of June”.  For its share in the engagement, the 29th Regiment was awarded a Naval crown to be borne with its Battle Honours.

Crown

Naval Crown awarded to the 29th Regiment

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Ramilles 23rd May 1706

In 1706 King Louis XIV of France wanted to avenge the defeats inflicted on him at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 by the Grand Alliance during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713).  In 1706 Marshal Villeroy was therefore pushed into leaving the safety of the lines of Brabant and crossed the River Dyle with 60,000 men.

It being ascertained that Villeroy, “having received reinforcements, and depending on his superiority of numbers,” had crossed the great Gheete and was advancing on Judoigne, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to attack him in this position.

Early in the morning of the 23rd of May, the army of the allies was put in motion, and on approaching Mierdorp, the enemy was discovered moving towards Mont St. Andre, between the two Gheets and the Mehaigne, and taking up the very ground which the confederates hoped to occupy.

ramilles-cropped

Contemporary print of the Battle of Ramilles from the museum collection (M5)

As the heads of the eight columns of the allies cleared the village of Mierdorp, they diverged into an open plain, and the 5th and 6th, in one of which was Meredith’s brigade, were ordered to march on the steeple of Offuz.

In the approaching battle Meredith’s brigade was composed of Orkney’s, Ingoldsby’s, Farrington’s, Meredith’s, and Lord North and Grey’s regiments. It formed the right of the 2nd line of infantry, and subsequently took part in the attack on Ramillies.

The enemy’s left and centre, stretching from Autreglise to Ramillies, whilst protected from attack in front, by marshy ground, was for the same reason unable to act on the offensive. Their right occupied the open space between Ramillies and the Mehaigne, and their position being concave in shape, afforded great advantages to the assailants.

By one o’clock, the allies were drawn up in two lines, in order of battle the infantry in the centre, the cavalry on either flank.

Perceiving that the “Tomb of Ottomond,” between Ramillies and the Mehaigne, was the key of the enemy’s position, the Duke of Marlborough ordered the British, Dutch, and German infantry composing the right, supported by the cavalry, to make a demonstration against the enemy’s left. This feint had the desired effect, for Villeroy hurried up reinforcements from his centre. Marlborough at once ordered the infantry on the right, to retire a short distance, and the 2nd line marching rapidly to its former left, formed in rear of the centre, and joined in the attack on Ramillies, which was surrounded by a ditch, and in which village twenty battalions had been posted. The enemy’s right, having, after a stubborn resistance, been turned, and their troops driven out of Ramillies, the battalions, which had made or sustained the attack on that village,” supported by the British horse, were ordered to penetrate through the swamp towards Offuz.

The enemy however, gave way without waiting their approach, and were pursued by the cavalry from 4.30 to 10.00 p.m.

This battle cost the French 13,000 in killed and wounded, whilst eighty colours and standards, together with almost the whole of the their artillery, and baggage were captured.  The allied losses were—killed 1066 (of which 82 were officers), wounded 2567 (of which 283 were officers).

The immediate result of this victory was the acquisition of nearly all Austrian Flanders ; Brussels, Louvain, Alost, Luise, and nearly all the great towns of Brabant opened their gates on the approach of the allies. Bruges and Ghent speedily followed their example. Daum and Oudenarde soon declared for the Austrian cause. Antwerp capitulated on the 6th of June.

 

The Mercian Regiment in Afghanistan

New Afghanistan display in the Worcestershire Solider Gallery

New Afghanistan display in the Worcestershire Solider Gallery

The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire) has created a new display, in the Worcestershire Soldier Gallery, to mark the end of the combat role of the Mercian Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

2014 marked the end of a 13 year deployment of British troops in  Afghanistan during which time the three battalions of the Mercian Regiment, and its antecedents, have been deployed almost continuously.

Soldiers from the Worcester and Sherwood Forest regiment lift Davey Graham 21 from Nottingham to be medivaced out off the Green zone in Hellmand provence , Southern Afghanistan after being injured by a gun shot wound in an Ambush by the Taliban

Soldiers from the Worcester and Sherwood Forest regiment lift Davey Graham 21 from Nottingham to be medivaced out off the Green zone in Hellmand provence , Southern Afghanistan after being injured by a gun shot wound in an Ambush by the Taliban

Through the personal stories of those on the ground, the new display seeks to provide a snapshot of this pivotal point in the history of Afghanistan. The display is composed entirely of new objects, photographs and video collected by the 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and the Mercian Regiment in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2014.

It aims to help our visitors understand the challenges that soldiers from the County Regiment faced from initial peaceful deployment through to high intensity combat missions and the critical role of mentoring and training of the Afghan National Security Forces.

The Storming of Bangalore 21st March 1791

bangalore

The death of Colonel Moorhouse at Bangalore.  Moorhouse is surrounded by men of the grenadier and light companies of the 36th Foot

In spring 1791 Lord Cornwallis with a mixed force of British and native troops attempted to capture the fortress of Bangalore from Tippoo Sultan the ruler of Mysore.   Arriving before the town on 5 February, Cornwallis found he had insufficient troops to invest the fortress and town so he encamped on the north-eastern side.  Bangalore consisted of a fort proper and a pettah, or fortified town, adjoining to it. It possessed two gates, the Mysore or southern and the Delhi or northern gate. Tippoo had thrown eight thousand men into the fort, nine thousand into the town, and then had retired with the remainder of his force to a position some six miles to westward. Cornwallis decided that the town should first be carried, in the hope that its position and the supplies hoarded within it would facilitate the siege of the fortress.

Accordingly at dawn of the 7th March, the Thirty-sixth Foot and a battalion of Bengal Sepoys moved off to the attack of a gateway on the northern face of the town, four heavy guns following them in support. A flèche which covered the gate was speedily carried with the bayonet.  The storming party then pushed on across the ditch and through the belt of thorn to the inner gate. Here the advance was checked, for the gateway had been built up with masonry upon which field-guns could make no impression; and the party perforce remained halted for some time under a galling fire until the heavy guns could be brought forward. A small breech was made at length; and Lieutenant Ayre being hoisted up by the grenadiers, contrived to creep through it. General Medows, then turned to the grenadiers of the Thirty-sixth with the words, “Well done. Now, whiskers ! Support the little gentleman.” A few more men managed to crawl after Ayre, and opened a sally-port for the entry of the rest. The garrison was then quickly beaten back under the guns of the fort, and within two hours two-thirds of the town were in possession of the British.

Meanwhile, Tippoo set his whole army in motion as if to turn Cornwallis’s left, at the same detaching six thousand men to reinforce the garrison, which had rallied under the cannon of the fort, and with them to re-take the town. Cornwallis, divining his intention, manoeuvred to foil the turning movement, but lost no time in strengthening his force within the walls. The attack of the Mysoreans upon the town was delivered with unusual spirit and resolution; but after a short exchange of volleys the Thirty-sixth and Seventy-sixth, with two Sepoy battalions, cut matters short by clearing the streets with the bayonet. Gathering impetus from success, they swept the enemy out of the town, with a loss of over two thousand killed and wounded. The casualties on the British side amounted to one hundred and thirty, of which no fewer than one hundred occurred among the Europeans. Among the fallen was Lieutenant-Colonel Moorhouse, who was killed while bringing up the heavy guns to the first attack on the gate.

The Orders issued by Lord Cornwallis on the day after the fall of the fortress are preserved in the records of the 36th Foot, and are as follows:

“LORD CORNWALLIS feels the most sensible gratification in congratulating, the officers and soldiers of the army on the honour able issue of the fatigues and dangers they have undergone during the late arduous siege. Their alacrity and firmness in the execution of their various duties, has, perhaps, never been exceeded, and he shall not only think it incumbent on him to represent their “meritorious conduct in the strongest colours, but he shall ever remember it with the sincerest esteem and admiration.”

“The conduct of all the regiments which happened, in their tour, to be on duty that evening, did credit in every respect to their spirit and discipline; but his Lordship desires to offer the tribute of his particular and warmest praise to the European grenadiers and light infantry of the army, and to the THIRTY-SIXTH, Seventy-second, and Seventy-sixth regiments, who led the attack and carried the fortress, and who, by their behaviour on that occasion, furnished a conspicuous proof, that discipline and valour in soldiers, when directed by zeal and capacity in officers, are irresistible.”

The fortress was to fall three weeks later on the 21st March.

 

 

5 March 1770: 29th of Foot caught up in the Boston Massacre

A contemporary engraving depicting the 29th firing upon the crowd during the Boston Massacre

A contemporary engraving depicting the 29th firing upon the crowd during the Boston Massacre

In 1770 the 29th Foot were stationed in Boston at a time when the discontent and hatred felt by the American colonists towards the Mother country, England, was extended to the British Troops stationed in the Colony. Boston was a particular centre of discord and on several occasions there had been free fights between the townsfolk and members of the Regiment.

On 5th March, it being their turn for garrison duties, the 29th provided a guard for the Customs House, where a certain amount of cash was kept. A mob of 100 rioters tried to rush the post shouting, ‘Kill the soldier, kill the damned coward, kill him, knock him down!’ and the lone sentry called out the guard who came to his assistance. The guard, consisting of Captain Thomas Preston, a corporal and six men, fixed bayonets and kept the crowd at bay, taking no more violent action, although being subjected to a barrage of abuse.

However, words led to blows, and Captain Preston and Private Montgomery were struck down by one of the mob leaders. On regaining his feet, Montgomery heard someone shout ‘Why don’t you fire?’ and, thinking that this was an order to fire, did so. Five or six more shots were fired in quick succession: three of the rioters were killed and five wounded. The rest of the mob ran away.

The Old State House, Boston MA, site of the Boston Massacre

The Old State House, Boston MA: site of the Boston Massacre

In memory of the incident which the Bostonians called the Boston Massacre, the Regiment, being the first to shed the blood of the colonists, was given the nickname ‘The Blood Suckers’ or the ‘Vein Openers’.

The Incident led to the arrest and trial of Capt Preston, Pte Montgomery, 7 other soldiers and 4 civilians on a charge of murder.  However, with the aid of John Adams (later to become the 2nd President of the United States) as counsel for Capt Preston, six were acquitted, while two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences; they received a branding on the hand.

Extracted from ‘The Worcestershire Regiment: A Brief History’