Author Topic: Background History of the 63rd Regiment of Foot  (Read 9011 times)


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Background History of the 63rd Regiment of Foot
« on: December 17, 2011, 10:40:33 PM »

For most of its history the regiment was a single battalion, but a 2nd Battalion existed from 1804 until 1814 during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.
[edit] Seven Years' War

In 1758, the 2nd Battalion of the 8th (The King's) Regiment of Foot formed the 63rd Regiment of Foot. Later that year, the newly created 63rd, along with a number of other regiments and various other assets, set off for the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which was a French territory, with the intent of capturing the island for Britain during the Seven Years' War. The invasion began in January of the following year, though many of the soldiers were suffering from a variety of ailments synonymous with service in the Caribbean at that time, which severely sapped the energy and fighting efficiency of the men.

The British troops landed after the Royal Navy bombarded Basse-Terre, the west part of the island, including Fort Royal, a large citadel. By 24 January, British troops had entered the main town. The citadel there had been abandoned, though French forces on the island had merely dispersed to fight a guerrilla campaign against the British forces now in control of Guadeloupe. The enemy had a considerable force, a number of companies of marines, as well as a few thousand natives who could prove deadly in terrain that they knew well.

The 63rd suffered a number of attacks while garrisoning the citadel alone, the rest of the force having moved to the more hospitable east of the island. During one attack, the regiment's commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Desbrisay was killed. The French governor finally surrendered on 1 May. The 63rd's duties on the island were, however, not over. They remained there for a further five years. The territory was returned to France by the Treaty of Paris. However, this would not be the last time Guadeloupe was captured by Britain in a war against France.
[edit] American War of Independence

In 1764 the regiment reached Ireland, and would have a largely uneventful time there. In 1775 the 63rd arrived in America in response to a request for reinforcements due to the outbreak of the American War of Independence. The regiment took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill, with a third attack, which ended in a bayonet charge, finally breaking the Americans. The 63rd remained in Boston after the battle, the town becoming increasingly more uneasy to be in. Finally, in March 1776 the regiment, along with the rest of the forces in Boston, departed, heading for Halifax in Canada.

The regiment took part in the Battle of Long Island, a devastating blow against the Americans, though astonishingly, the American leader General George Washington, managed to reverse the blow that had been struck against much of the Continental Army's morale in this battle, soon after. Grenadier and Light companies of the 63rd also took part in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. The main force of the 63rd took part in the Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery. In 1777 the regiment moved to Philadelphia and in the following year took part in the Battle of Monmouth.

In 1779 the 63rd took part in a number of engagements, though in 1780 the 63rd would become involved in the campaign in the Carolinas, a campaign that would see their most active involvement in the war. The 63rd took part in the siege and subsequent capture of Charleston, and became the garrison force for the town once the rest of the forces proceeded to other objectives. Elements of the 63rd's light company had become mounted infantry, in effect dragoons. That year the dragoons of the 63rd, augmented by a detachment from Tarleton's Legion, under the command of the dashing, if somewhat controversial Banastre Tarleton, attacked an American under the command of General Thomas Sumter.

Soon after that engagement, the dragoon element of the 63rd, joined Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton's, taking part in a number of successful harassing engagements against American forces. The regiment also took part in number of battles under the command of Lord Cornwallis between 1780-81, as well as taking part in another engagement near Camden in April 1781, as part of a force under the command of General Rawdon.

In 1782 the regiment was designated the 63rd (the West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot.
 French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars

In 1794 the 63rd joined British forces already taking part in the Flanders Campaign, as part of 1st Brigade commanded by Lieutenant-General Friedrich von Buttlar. The regiment was involved in a number of actions, though in 1795, the British withdrew from the Netherlands. That same year, the 63rd were part of a force designed to take a number of Caribbean islands under Dutch and French control. However, tragedy struck, when their transport ship sank, with the loss of 150 men of the 63rd. The remnants of the regiment did however take part in the expedition. The regiment took part in a variety of operations in many islands in the Caribbean, remaining in the region until 1799, when they departed for Britain.

In that year the 1st Bn of the 63rd took part in another expedition in the Netherlands, seeing a number of actions in the campaign. Later that year the regiment joined the garrison at Gibraltar. Soon after, it was deployed to Ireland. In 1807 the regiment was involved in a very brief expedition to Madeira, a Portuguese-controlled territory. The expedition was under the command of Major-General William Beresford, soon to make his name in the Peninsula War. Once the expeditionary forces landed, the Portuguese Governor agreed to all demands made by the British.

In February 1808 the regiment was stationed in Barbados. They took part the expedition to Martinique, with the intention of capturing the island for Britain, which the British force duly did. The 63rd became the garrison for island, suffering heavily from diseases one would expect in such tropical weather at that time. In 1810, part of the 63rd took part in the capture of Guadeloupe, a duty the regiment had participated in many years before. The 63rd was returned to Martinique, rather than becoming garrison troops for Guadeloupe. In 1814 the regiment was based in Barbados, but just a year later, returned to Guadeloupe with a British force, with the intent of recapturing the island, which had been restored to French rule in 1814. The regiment finally departed the Caribbean in 1819.

The 2nd Bn of the 63rd took part in the Walcheren Expedition, assisting in the capture of a number of towns on the island. The force, however, would suffer from a terrible illness known as Walcheren Fever, which killed 4,000 British soldiers, with many thousands more also suffering from it. It was such a debilitating illness that many soldiers still suffered from its effects in 1812. Indeed the Duke of Wellington requested that no unit that served in the campaign be sent to him.
[edit] The Garrison years

In 1820, the 63rd were deployed to Ireland, a deployment that would last until 1824. In 1826, the 63rd was involved in an expedition to Portugal due to fears of impending insurrection in the country, landing in the country in 1827. The rebel cause largely subsided, thanks largely in part due to the expedition made by the British.

In 1829, the 63rd began providing escorts for convict ships traveling to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). The rest of the regiment became garrison troops in the latter colony. A detachment of the regiment was present at the foundation ceremony of Perth in 1829, and had arrived in Western Australia that same year, on the warship HMS Sulphur. The officer commanding the detachment of the 63rd at the ceremony Captain Frederick Chidley Irwin, would later have two stints as administrator of Western Australia.

In 1830 the battalion was involved in internal security duties in Van Diemen's Land, in order to prevent further incidents by the native Aborigines there. Such duties later expanded to the rest of Australia. The regiment left Australia in 1833 and in 1834 was based in India. In 1838, the 63rd deployed to Burma, a deployment that proved uneventful, the returning to India in 1842. They returned to Britain in 1847.

 The Crimean War

The 63rd landed in August 1854 from Ireland, the year the Crimean War began. The regiment was part of the 4th Division, which was to play a prominent role in the war. It took four days to complete the landing, a length that would prove indicative of much of the logistics and organisation of the war.

The regiment took part in a number of engagements during the Battle of Inkerman. The 63rd, along with the 21st poured heavy fire into a Russian force attacking position known as 'Home Ridge'. The two regiments fire was horrendous upon the Russians, indeed it completely halted their attack toward the British position. Seemingly under their own authority, the two regiments then advanced, in a professional formation, upon the Russian forces, pushing the enemy back. The engagement became one of movement, with a large dose of hand-to-hand fighting also being involved. The stubbornness of both sides not to withdraw and to concede defeat was evident, with the two British regiments, as well as the Russians suffering rather heavy casualties.

Many of the men had been drafted in while the 63rd had been stationed in Ireland, due to shortage of men, which they drastically needed with the outbreak of war. They had no experience of fighting, especially in such incredibly poor conditions as what faced the soldiers that fought in the Crimean War. Despite this fact, many individual soldiers, including many drafted in Ireland, showed immense heroism and performed great deeds of honour during the action. At one point the standard bearers, an Ensign James Hulton Clutterbuck, was killed carrying the Queen's Colour, and Ensign Heneage Twysden was mortally wounded carrying the Regimental Colour. A Colour Sergeant and Sergeant retrieved the fallen Colours despite being wounded themselves and both advanced carrying them under great danger to themselves. Another Sergeant later retrieved the body of the dead Ensign Clutterbuck, in which he succeeded in doing so under great personal danger. Further fierce fighting took place, the two regiments carried on, and soon after, pushed the enemy back a considerable distance. The shot-up Colours are still in the possession of the present-day regiment, The King's and remain a vivid symbol of The King's bloody past.

The 63rd also took part in the bitterly long Siege of Sevastopol. The war had been cruel upon the 63rd, and due to limited manpower in early 1855, the regiment was withdrawn from the line. They returned later that year after drafts of soldiers arrived to bring the regiment up to a greater strength. The regiment was part of a force designed to assault a part of the great fortress of Sevastopol on 8 September 1855, during the last day of the long siege, known as the Great Redan. In the early hours of the 9th the Russian forces withdrew, with immense explosions destroying the fortress of Sevastopol, as well as the town itself.

 An era of relative peace

Many important reforms were implemented in 1873 by the then Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell, which became known as Cardwell's Reforms, though further reforms in 1881 would lead to the amalgamation of the 63rd and 96th into The Manchester Regiment.

Upon them departing the Crimea at the end of the war in 1856, the regiment sailed for Nova Scotia, Canada. Upon their arrival at the dockyard in Halifax, a large crowd of many thousands came out to greet the 63rd, as if they were a modern-day football team.They remained in Canada until 1864, having played a prominent role in the country. They returned to the UK in 1865, spending a number of years there in various parts of the country.

In 1870 the 63rd reached the sub-continent, being based in various parts of British India. The regiment had a brief involvement in the Second Afghan War in 1878. In 1881, while still stationed in India, the regiment, under Childers Reforms, a continuation of Cardwell's Reforms, saw the 63rd amalgamate with the 96th Regiment of Foot, to form The Manchester Regiment, becoming the city regiment of its namesake.