The Manchester Regiment Forum

The Early Years => 63rd Regiment 1758 - 1881 => Topic started by: jf42 on April 22, 2016, 12:34:18 AM

Title: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 22, 2016, 12:34:18 AM
Greetings. I am a blow-in from the C&BM Badge Forum, where there has been a discussion  about the 'Fleur de lys' emblem of the 63rd Regiment.

Re. the possible connection between the FdL  of the 63rd and the nickname of ' Bloodsuckers' later associated with  the Regiment, I was wondering if anyone knew what the earliest contemporary reference to that nickname might be. It is referred to widely in 20th century anthologies but  I can't see a mention of it in Slack's  1884 History , for instance.

Any guidance appreciated.
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: mack on April 22, 2016, 04:27:17 PM
I believe it was adopted by the 63rd in the 1750s around the time the regiment defeated the French in the west indies,and used up till the amalgamation in 1881.

mack ;D
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 22, 2016, 05:30:38 PM
Thanks, Mack. I am after chapter and verse, though. I suspect there will be nothing as early as 1759.

However, somebody using the phrase  around  1795-97 or 1811-12, when we know officers were wearing the Fleur-de-lys and the 63rd were in the West Indies,  would at least put the nickname and the emblem in the same context. Failing that, someone in the C19th using the nickname first-hand would be useful.

 Am I right in thinking the Manchesters'  museum is closed at the moment?
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: Robert Bonner on April 22, 2016, 08:19:20 PM
Brigadier-General Westropp is the accepted authority on the fleur de lys and on page 278 of Wylly's 2nd volume of the History of the Manchester Regiment - 1925 he states:

It (the fleur de lys) has been engraved on the mess plate for over a century and more, and is said to have been cut on the gravestones of those who fell in the American War of Independence.  The regimental nickname of 'bloodsuckers' originated  (such is the tradition) from the numerous small fleur de lys cut on the gravestones in America which resembled that insect.

No-one has ever come up with a better explanation.

Sadly the museum is closed at the moment due to adjacent major building work.  We will report progress on the forum.
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: timberman on April 22, 2016, 08:23:28 PM
Welcome to the forum.

63rd Foot.
Nickname The Bloodsuckers
First used 1808
The Fleur-de-lys shako badge bore a similarity in appearance
to the blood-sucking insects in the West Indies that spread
the disease which virtually wiped out the regiment


96th Foot
Nickname The Ups and Downs
First used 1803
Because of their regimental number


Robert looks like we both posted at the same time.
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 22, 2016, 10:08:29 PM
Thanks, Robert and Timberman.

I had read Brigadier Westrop's account in Colonel Wylly's history. That was one of the reason's for my enquiring here. I am a little sceptical as I am not sure many soldiers in America were granted burial with an individual grave marker, at least, not the enlisted men. There cannot have been  much more than a dozen or so officers' graves scattered from Boston to the back country of the Carolinas, with perhaps a melancholy cluster around Philadelphia. Would that have been  sufficient to give rise to the  nickname?

 Did Brig. Westrop have a particular insect in mind I wonder, when he referred to the bloodsucker as  'that insect'-  ? I know that it has been taken to mean 'mosquito' by numerous commentators over the years, which is not unreasonable given the toll taken over the years by mosquito-borne diseases on British troops in the West Indies and the southern colonies. I have to say the FdL looks more like a tick to me, but  what do I know? I am no more of an entomologist than the Brigadier. The American War may nonetheless be relevant since it was the last time British troops faced French troops loyal to the House of Bourbon, although I think only the Light company of the 63rd actually faced French troops in action, at Yorktown.

Timberman, you mention 1808 as the first time the nickname 'Bloodsuckers' was used. That is just what I was hoping to find out. Do you by chance have reference to the source of that date? The gap between first recorded appearance  and a traditional date of origin for these informal distinctions  is usually the most interesting place to explore.

I was wondering, do either of you happen to know if the museum holds either of the officer portraits  from the 1790s that show the FdL on the epaulette- or even an early coat with FdL in situ?
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: timberman on April 22, 2016, 10:48:10 PM
I found the reference to it here

Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 22, 2016, 11:53:54 PM
Timberman, thanks.  I know that list. I think it is not entirely reliable,  drawing itself on secondary sources from many years ago with some entries which are now out of date, and some creaky old errors which are still being repeated 100 years after they were first coined.

It would be good to know where the Napoleon Series compilers took the date for 'Bloodsuckers' from.  I wonder if they simply  confabulated it from  the 1808 campaign in Martinique.  It's not an unreasonably proposition. A reference would be nice, though. Sadly, the email links are dead- or were when I last tried to use them. I might try again.

Thanks again,

Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: Robert Bonner on April 24, 2016, 10:58:30 AM
JF.  Although the museum is temporarily closed there is a great deal of information available on the museum website.  Go to the sub-heading Object Focus and the to officers coat.  You will then see a uniform of the period with its description of the fleur de lys on its tailcoat.
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 24, 2016, 01:16:57 PM
Robert, thanks for that tip. A fine item. According to my reading the FdL was moved from the officer's epaulette to the tail of the coat, when regulations re. the former were changed, circa 1811. It may be, re-reading Brig Westrop's article (conveniently linked to the website), that there are no surviving epaulettes from the earlier period. That means that the two officers' portraits  from 1795-97 may be the only known evidence  for  the FdL being worn on the  epaullette, as well as the earliest evidence for use of the emblem (apparently on the sword belt plate as well).  Both paintings date from the tail-end of a period following the AWI when quite a number of regiments had been informally adopting non-regulation emblems on coats and headgear.  Curiously, in many cases  something of a mist hangs over the origins of those emblems that survived into the 19th, and from which a number of cherished traditions have arisen.

The FdL of the 63rd is one of the few  regimental emblems that was not challenged in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, perhaps because of the discreet place where, by that time  it was being worn. The regimental papers having been lost at Helvoetsluys in January 1795, with no subsequent request to explain the FdL to the authorities, may explain why the origins were not recorded again and had been forgotten by 1855, when use of the emblem was discontinued, permission having been refused for lack of recorded authority. Why, when other similar emblems had been being authorised, or at least winked at,  this strictness is difficult to explain. Perhaps it was the change in culture following the Duke of Cambridge's appointment as Commander-in-Chief in 1850.
Title: Re: 'Bloodsuckers'
Post by: jf42 on April 24, 2016, 01:59:04 PM
I forgot to add a link to the thread to the C&B Military Badge Forum that prompted my enquiry. It's a little jumbled up but contained in a number of files is an interesting compilation of  notes from 1955 on the Fleur de Lys, which supplements the Wylly/Westrop material.