HISTORY OF THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS

Originally formed in Devon in 1688 by Sir Richard Peyton, the Regiment was known by its successive Colonel’s names until 1751 when it became the XX Regiment of Foot. Serving King William at the Battle of the Boyne paved the way for its future successes at Aughrim and Egmont op Zee. During the hard fought War of the Spanish succession, the Regiment captured several Spanish ‘Men ‘O’ War in the Battle of Vigo Bay in 1702. Throughout the mid-part of that same century, the 20th Regiment of Foot distinguished themselves again and again in actions such as Dettingen, Fontenoy and Culloden.

The Battle of Minden in 1759, during the ‘Seven Years War’, proved the making of the combined Fusilier Regiments. Though formed originally only as a force to protect the Artillery’s flanks, under the overall command of Von Sporke, a tiny Fusilier contingent put to flight the entire French Cavalry of the Marechal De Contades. Though they were originally outnumbered by a massive 25-1, through considered, well disciplined volleys of musket fire from their ‘Long Land Muskets’, they changed the shape of warfare for centuries to come.

The Regiment was then dispatched to accompany General Wolfe to Quebec, and shared in the latter’s success in one of the most critical engagements, designed to push the French completely from the Canadas. The XX Foot were then sent to join the ill-fated General Burgoyne at Saratoga.

During the early portion of the Napoleonic époque, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Maida, wherein they helped inflict upon Napoleon, the first defeat of his armies in Continental Europe. Serving as an important component to the ‘backbone’ of Wellington’s forces in the Peninsular War, the XX Foot fought once more with distinction at Vittoria and the Pyrenees.

The Crimean War saw the 20th take part in most major battles along the peninsular. Present at the siege of Sevastopol, then at the Alma, the Regiment was due to be rested when the battle of Inkerman pushed them once more to the forefront of engagement. Fighting in dense fog, the Fusiliers routed a vastly superior Russian force at bayonet-point, as their new rifles proved useless in the damp conditions prevailing. After the siege of Lucknow in India, the regiment were moved to engage the Mahdi’s forces at Khartoum then Omdurman, in the Sudan. After the breaking of the British square at Omdurman, and subsequent allied victory, the Mahdi’s body was disinterred and thrown unceremoniously into the Nile. In 1881, the Regiment was renamed the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The second Boer War of 1899 proved seminal for second battalion as they pushed toward the Transvaal through Natal. Their engagement against Boer guerrillas at Spion Kop decimated 2nd battalion. In the final hours of the engagement, Boers of the Vryheid and Germiston Kommandoes are said to have wept at the site of a twelve year old bugle boy from Bolton lead the last 20 men of the Lancashire Fusiliers in a desperate bayonet charge on the hill top. With all officers and NCOs killed that day, the boy had seized the initiative, thereby buying time for the King’s Royal Rifles to reinforce them. Following the relief of Ladysmith, the Regiment was sent home, to be replaced latterly by the volunteers of 6th Battalion who were to take part in the protracted guerrilla war against Boer ‘Bitter Enders’.

Thirty Battalions were raised for World War One, fighting in every major campaign of the War. Notably, the Lancashire Fusiliers stationed in India were dispatched for training to Egypt, thence to the Dardanelles to win their famous ‘6 V.C.s before breakfast’ at Gallipoli. Storming ashore amid murderous Turkish gunfire, the Fusiliers were under the watchful gaze of Lord Hamilton, overall commanding officer of the expeditionary force. His comments to an aide were that he had “Today seen the most extraordinary act of courage, and from this day forward the Lancashire Fusiliers would be known as the first VC Regiment in the British Army.” The Somme battle was to be a ‘reward’ for the Fusiliers, who were tasked with spearheading the initial advance. Like the rest of this and subsequent campaigns of that war, it proved to be little better than a slaughterhouse. In amongst this maelstrom was born one of literature’s phenomenons. The author J.R.R. Tolkien served with both 11th and 13th Battalions on the Western front. A native of Bloemfontein in South Africa, Tolkien took his inspiration for the ‘Hobbits of the Shires’ in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ directly from his time with the Lanca’Shire’ Fusiliers. Known to be the bravest and shortest people in ‘middle earth’ the hobbits share many similarities with the Fusiliers, the average height of which, in 1915, was about 5 feet and 3 inches tall. The Lancashire Fusiliers however, finished WW1 with more Victoria Crosses than any other county regiment.

World War Two again saw Fusiliers committed to Battle throughout the world. Whether with the BEF in France and Belgium, the 8th Army in North Africa or the ‘Forgotten Fourteenth’ Army in Burma, The ‘Minden Boys’ were in the forefront of troubles throughout WW2. Their Victoria Cross count was further supplemented by a small, unassuming chap called Frank Jefferson, who at the Battle of Monte Cassino, single-handedly destroyed a German heavy assault gun and accompanying Infantry. He then re-loaded his PIAT launcher, chasing the German Mk IV tank that remained, down the road and away from his wounded comrades.

The post-war period saw action for the regulars and territorials in all of the significant actions of the 1950-60s period. Amalgamation with the other four Fusilier Regiments heralded the formation of the modern-day Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who serve her majesty presently in the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

http://www.friendsofthefusiliermuseum.co.uk