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’

The Regimental Badge

badge_web

The badge of the Worcestershire Regiment from 1881

Men of the Worcestershire Regiment in 1897 - note the star on the soldiers 'valise' or leather backpack.

Men of the Worcestershire Regiment in 1897: note the star on the soldier’s ‘valise’ or backpack.

The regimental badge of the 29th Regiment of Foot until 1881

The regimental badge of the 29th Regiment of Foot until 1881

The Star of the regimental badge is that from the Order of the Garter, and was used by Colonel Farrington, founder of the 29th Regiment of Foot. He had been an officer in the Coldstream Guards, and kept the Star for his new Regiment. As a result, the 29th were nicknamed ‘Guards of the Line’.

The number of the regiment in written in the centre of the star in Roman numerals. The lion above it may be copied from the Royal Crest.  It is believed that it was presented to the 29th when they were on duty at Windsor in 1791.

The 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment also used a star in their badge, which bore their motto ‘Firm’. It was worn from the 1770s at least, although the origin is unknown, and became official in 1810.

The Regiment also used to use the Naval pattern of crown on their badges to commemorate their service with the Fleet at the Glorious First of June in 1794. This link to their maritime service is also remembered in two of the regiment’s marching tunes, Hearts of Oak and Rule Britannia, both traditionally associated with the Royal Navy

In both regiments, the Star was worn for many years on the Valise – part of a soldier’s backpack. When the regiments were amalgated to form the Worcestershire Regiment in 1881, the badge incorporated the star, the lion of the 29th and the motto of the 36th.  Thus the regiment continued to remain ‘FIRM’.