The Royal Fusiliers

The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)-Regimental district No.7-are comprised of the old 7th foot. In 1685 a large regiment was formed, chiefly from the old London Bands, and designated the Ordnance Regiment, receiving at the same time the appellation of Royal Fusiliers. Their first service was at Walcourt, then in the Irish wars consequent in William’s accession to the throne. After this they joined the troops in Holland, where they experienced some severe fighting. They were represented at Steenkirke; at Landen they fought with unexampled courage, nearly all their officers being either killed or wounded; for their gallantry in storming Namur they received the special thanks for William. They took part in the Duke of Ormond’s expedition against Vigo, and in 1703 served as marines. Hurrying over the following years-during which we note that the regiment served as marines on board the fleet of the unfortunate Byng, which did not relieve Minorca-we come to the era of the war in America and Canada, during which they experienced some severe reverses, though throughout their consistent courage gained them unqualified praise. In the defence of St. John’s a great number were made prisoners’ they fought at Staten Island; at the capture of Fort Clinton-where the troops, unsupported by artillery, “crossed ground swept by ten guns, and without firing a shot pressed forward to the foot of the works, climbed over each others shoulders to the walls and drove the enemy back”-the 7th gained great distinction. At Cow Pens, in December 1781, the regiment suffered severely from the unfortunate repulse experienced by our troops under Colonel Tarleton; their colours were taken, and many of their numbers killed and wounded. Shortly after that they returned to England and were on duty in various places, being for some rime under the command of the Duke of Kent, father of her present Majesty. In 1807, they were with the forces dispatched against Copenhagen, and a couple of years later under Colonel Packenham to Martinique. Here, at the stubborn fight on the heights of Surirey, the Royal Fusiliers gave striking evidence of their splendid fighting capacity. Meanwhile, the 2nd battalion of the regiment was with Wellesley in Portugal, and first met the foe at Talavera. Here, we learn from the official Record, the Royal fusiliers “met the storm of war with unshaken firmness,” and succeeded in capturing seven guns. Both battalions were at Busaco; where, however, they did not come in for very much actual fighting. After a sharp skirmish at Burlada, the 7th and 23rd were formed into the famous Fusiliers Brigade, under Pakenham, the command of the battalions being given to Vigers and Blakeney. At Albuera, the account of the magnificent charge of that Fusiliers Brigade still kindles into enthusiasm the most listless and unemotional. The tide of war seemed turning steadily against us: “we had lost a whole brigade of artillery; a large number of our men were prisoners; a deep gully prevented the English from using their bayonets, and affairs wore a most unpromising appearance.” As the history of the Royal Fusiliers expresses it, a crisis had arrived, and a mighty, a determined, a desperate effort alone could save the allied from defeat. Sweeping onward in seemingly resistless force were three columns of exultant French, supported by cavalry and artillery, each columns mustering about twice the number of the force that was about to check their insolent progress. That force was the Fusilier Brigade. In front of the advancing French were their lancers surrounding our guns that they had captured.

Their pride was short lived; the stern, avenging British line swept them aside and recovered the guns, then moved forward against the dense columns of the enemy. “Such a gallant line startled the enemy’s masses, which were increasing and pressing forward as to an assured victory; they wavered, hesitated, and then vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while the fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistle through the British ranks. Myers was killed, other officers fell wounded, and the Fusiliers battalions struck by the iron tempest reeled and staggered like sinking ships. Suddenly and sternly recovering they closed on their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what majesty the British soldiers fight! Nothing could stop our astonishing infantry. No sudden burst of undisciplined valour, no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order, their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in front, their measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every formation, their defending shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as foot by foot, and with a horrid carnage, it was driven by the incessant vigour of the attack to the edge of the hill. In vein did the French reserves endeavour to sustain the fight. Their efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass, like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the ascent. The rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and fifteen hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill” (Napier). Well may the record of the Royal Fusiliers assert that they “exceeded anything that the usual word ‘gallantry’ can convey.” Thirty-two officers, thirty-four sergeants, six hundred and thirty-eight soldiers, and express the loss in killed and wounded the 7th sustained that day.

They fought again with great credit at Aldea de Pont and at Ciudad Rodrigo, though in the latter operations they were not largely engaged. At Badajoz it was Captain Mair of the 7th who led the storming party against the Trinidad bastions, while others of the regiment under Captains Cholwick attacked the breach in the curtain. Two hundred and thirty-two were killed and wounded during the assault. At Salamanca Captain Crowder gained the majority for dislodging, with only two companies of the regiment, a force of five hundred Frenchmen from a village they occupied. At Vittoria their position was against the enemy’s centre, and materially assisted in the crushing defeat of Joseph’s army; while, as evidence of the splendid state of discipline which they had attained, it may be mentioned that amidst the dazzling temptations which surrounded them, no case of that plundering on which the British commander commented so severely was reported in the ranks of the 7th. They fought in the battles of the Pyrenees, notably at Roncesvalles and Villalba, on the Bidassoa and at Orthes. At Tolouse they were not seriously engaged, and with this battle ended their glorious peninsular record, for their services in the West Indies prevented their participating in Waterloo. In the expedition against New Orleans, which, barren of profitable result as it was, reflected nothing but credit on the troops engaged, the Royal Fusiliers again distinguished themselves, at the same time incurring considerable loss. From that time till the war with Russia in 1854 the 7th were not engaged in any warlike service. In the Crimea they were in the Light Division under sir George Brown. Their splendid charge at the Alma, under Lacy Yeo, will long be remembered-how in the teeth of a storm of bullets they pressed on, though those who bore the colours were shot down in terrible succession, and how Private Lyle of the regiment helped Captain Bell to capture the Russian guns. At the famous sortie from Sebastopol of the 26th October and at Inkerman they fought, and throughout the prolonged siege acquitted themselves as might have been expected Jones gained the V.C. for the dauntless way in which, despite receiving a wound in the early stage of the fighting, he led his men to the numerous attacks, and at the assault of the Redan Lieutenant Hope and Private Hughes gained the same priceless decoration. In the following of September a non-combatant officer of the regiment, Assistant-Surgeon Hale, gained another Cross for his unremitting care of the wounded whom the heavy fire, which drove all but himself and Lieutenant Hope away from the spot, could not induce him to leave for a moment. During the Indian Mutiny the 7th were employed in Scinde, and a few years later in the disturbances on the Northwest Frontier. Passing over fifteen years, during which the history of the 7th was that any distinguished regiment in times of peace, we find the next employed in the Afghan campaigns of 1878-80. In the sortie from Candahar of 16th August, 1880, under General Brooke, the Royal Fusiliers were commanded by Major Vandaleur,. The admirable courage and dash they displayed were unable to prevent the effort from being a failure, a failure, moreover, which cost the lives of Major Vandaleur and Lieutenants Wood and Marsh-“two gallant officers, mere lads,”-and numbered Lieutenant de Trafford amongst the wounded. But Lieutenant Case and Private James Ashford each earned the Victoria Cross for rescuing a wounded comrade under a searching fire. With Afghanistan ends the long roll of warlike achievements, which are to be credited to the Royal Fusiliers. Extracted from ‘Her Majesty’s Army’s’

How Lieutenant Maurice James Dease, Of The 4th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers Won The V.C. At Mons

On reaching Mons on August 22nd 1914, the part assigned to the British force was that of extending the French line in a northwesterly direction. The line taken extended along the line of the canal from Conde on the west, through Mons and Binche on the east. From Conde to Mons inclusive was held by the Second Corps, and on the right of the Second Corps from Mons the First Corps was posted, while the 5th Cavalry Brigade was at great Binche. The forward reconnaissance was entrusted to Brigadier-General Sir Philip Chetwode, with the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and with the assistance of a few squadrons, sent forward by General Allenby, most useful work was done. Several encounters took place, in which the British showed to great advantage, and some of the squadrons penetrated as far as Soignies. It was evident from the start that the area, which covered the loop of the canal, had been marked down by the enemy as the weakest point in the defence. If they succeeded in crossing the canal close to the salient, the British would perforce have to abandon the line of defence along the straight reach to Conde. For the time being, therefore, it was resolved to confine all efforts to the salient. With dawn on Sunday, August 23rd, came the first shell in the great battle of Mons. The bombardment increased as the morning advanced, and when at 8 a.m. fresh batteries came into action, the first infantry attack was launched against the Nimy Bridge, at the northwest corner of the canal loop. The northern side of the canal, throughout the entire length covered by the attack, is dotted with small fir plantations; and, screened by these; the enemy poured a deadly fire from machine guns on our troops, besides massing infantry attacks at whatever point they chose. With superior numbers Von Kluck could afford to throw away life freely, and about nine o’clock four battalions were suddenly flung at the head of the Nimy Bridge.

It was only defended by a single company of the Royal Fusiliers, under Captain Ashburner, and a machine gun in charge of Lieutenant Dease. As the enemy advanced in close column their font sections collapsed under the deadly fire poured into them by the British machine guns and rifles. They fell back in haste to one of the plantations, and then after half an hour advanced in extended order. The attack was checked, but not stopped. As Captain Ashburner was hard pressed on the Nimy Bridge, Second Lieutenant Mead was sent with a platoon to support him. He was at once badly wounded in the head; but after being dressed, returned to the firing line, where in a few moments he was shot through the head and killed. Captain Bowdon-Smith and Lieutenant smith then came up with another platoon, but within ten minutes they were both badly wounded. The position was now growing very desperate. Lieutenant Dease had been hit three times while working his machine gun, Captain Ashburner was wounded in the head, and Captain Forster, in a trench to the right, had been shot through the right arm and stomach. Towards midday the attack against the straight reach of the canal became general, and the German infantry, coming out from the cover of the fir plantations, worked their way to within a few hundred yards of the water, and from the cover of the trees kept up a continuous rifle and machinegun fire. They made no real advance, but when the Nimy salient was abandoned the retirement of the troops to the left of it became imperative. This however, was no easy matter. Before they reached cover they had to cross two hundred and fifty yards of flat open ground, which was swept by a storm of shrapnel and machinegun fire. Lieutenant Dease, who had stood by his gun all through, was now quite unable to move, having been hit no less than five times. Lieutenant Steele, who alone of the whole section was neither killed nor wounded, caught him up and carried him from the fire zone to a place of safety, and here he subsequently succumbed to his wounds. For the most gallant part he took in the defence of the Nimy Bridge a posthumous award of the V.C. was made. Extracted from 'Deeds That Thrill The Empire'

THOMAS ASHFORD (Private) Royal Fusiliers

CHARLES FITZCLARENCE Captain, Royal Fusiliers (Now Major, Irish Guards) The Victoria Cross was awarded to this officer for three distinct acts of bravery during the siege of Mafeking. On October 14th 1899, Captain FitzClarence, with hs squadron of the Protectorate Regiment, which consisted of only partially trained men who had not before been under fire, went out to render assistance to an armoured train, sent out from the town. The Boers were numerically far superior, and the position began to look very serious for the squadron, who at one time wer completely surrounded. Captain FitzClarence, however, handled his men in so splendid a manner, and inspired them with such confidence by his calm bearing and personal courage, that they succeeded in relieving the armoured train, and inflicted, besides, a severe loss on the enemy, accounting for fifty killed and a great number wounded, the moral effect of which had a most important bearing in later actions with the enemy. Again, on October 27th 1899, he led a night sortie and attacked the enemy’s trenches. A hand-to-hand combat ensued with the bayonet, and the enemy were driven out with a great loss. He was the first in the trench, and killed four Boers himself with his sword. Major-General R.S.S. Baden-Powell, in command at Mafeking, reported that but for the personal bravery and dash of this officer, the attacks would have been failures, with heavy loss of life and prestige on our part as a result. On December 26th 1899, Captain FitzClarence was conspicuous for the spirit, leading and bravery during the action at Game Tree, near Mafeking, in ehich engagement he was severely wounded through both legs. Born on May 8th 1865, Major FitzClarence is the son of Captain the Hon. George FitzClarence, R.N., third son of the first Earl of Munster. Educated at Eton and Wellington College, he entered the Royal Fusiliers November 10th 1886, serving for some years with the Egyptian Army, but the investment of Mafeking in which he so greatly distinguished himself, was his first active service. In October 1900 he was transferred to the Irish Guards, being in the following month, promoted Major by brevet, is a Staff College officer, and at present Major of Brigade at Aldershot.

WILLIAM NORMAN (Private) 7th Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) On the night of December 19th 1854, when placed on a single sentry duty a considerable distance in advance of the others in the White Horse Ravine (a task requiring much courage and vigilance, as the enemy’s picket was only 300 yards distant), three Russians crept up under cover of brushwood to reconnoitre our position. Without any noise, lest he should give the alarm, Private Norman went stealthily towards them, and single-handed, captured two of them.

WILLIAM HOPE (Lieutenant) 7th The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regeiment) Later Lieut. –Col. City of London A.V. On June 18th 1855, our troops were forced to retire after the attack on the Redan. Lieutenant Hope, being informed by Sergeant Major William Bacon that an officer, Lieutenant Hobson, had been severely wounded and was lying outside the trenches, started off to search for him, and found him in the old agricultural ditch running towards the left flank of the Redan. He then went for assistance, and four men returned with him, but he saw the officer could not be removed without a stretcher, so went back across the open ground to Egerton’s Pit. Having been able to secure what he needed, he again faced the rain of bullets, carrying the stretcher, and was finally able to convey Lieutenant Hobson to shelter. During the entire accomplishment of his humane action, the fire from the Russian batteries was heavy and continuous. Colonel Hope, born April 12th 1834, is the son of the late Rt. Hon. John Hope. Educated at Hatefield and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Besides the heroic act related above he is stated to have saved the lives of thousands of men on November 15th 1855, by his personal exertions and heroic bravery in extinguishing the fire in the roof of a magazine containing 160 tons of powder. He is the inventor of the Shrapnel shell for rifled guns and many other improvements in was material.

THOMAS EGERRTON HALE, M.D. (Assistant Surgeon, now Surgeon-Major, Retired) 7th the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)

MATTHEW HUGHES (Private) 7th of Foot, The Royal Fusiliers Colonel Campbell, 90th Light Infantry, specially noticed the gallant conduct of Hughes on June 7th 1855 as the storming of “the Quarries.” He twice went for ammunition across the open ground, also going to the front and bringing in Private John Hampton, who was lying wounded. On June 18th 1855, he volunteered to bring in Lieutenant Hobson of his regiment, who had been shot, and in performing this humane act was him severely wounded.

A complete list of all the
Royal Fusiliers Victoria Cross Winners

Thanks to David Prince who sent in the list of VC's below
Compiled and Edited by J P Kelleher 2010

Lt. Dease and Private Godley awarded the first Victoria Crosses of World War One.

Lieut. Dease

Private Godley

Lieut. Dease and Private Godley share the distinction of having been awarded the first Victoria Crosses of World War One. Their action took place on the 23rd of August 1914 in the first major clash between the Germans and British.

The 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers had marched rapidly to Mons on the 22nd August and had taken up a position along the line on the canal between Conde and Binche with Mons to their rear. There were a number of crossing places on the canal, one of which was the Nimy Bridge, which was allocated to a rifle company and a heavy machine gun to hold.
Serious fighting started at dawn on the 23rd and by 8 a.m. with the canal crossings under increasing artillery bombardment, the first German infantry assault was launched and beaten off. Masses of Germans then fanned out into the plantations opposite the Nimy Bridge and started to lay down heavy rifle and machine gun fire. The Commanding Officer of the Royal Fusiliers committed two further reserve platoons to the bridge area to assist in the defence.

The vital ground for the Fusilier Company was the sandbagged Maxim Machine Gun on the bridge which was able to sweep the enemy on the far bank with sustained heavy fire. It was commanded by Lt Dease who had been hit thrice in the early action, was severely wounded. Seeing the need for more men to fire the gun Private Godley volunteered and clambered into the gun-pit where he took over the weapon. Dease by now had been hit five times and was in a critical condition but insisted he had to stay with his command and help to target enemy and assist as he could.

Godley was now single handed, the remainder of the machine gun section dead or wounded. For a further two hours he held the position with long bursts of fire, during which he was wounded twice.

By 11a.m. it was clear that the British could not hold the canal and preparations were made to withdraw under fire. This is a difficult operation and is dependent on the outer defence line holding until the last possible minute. A great deal of responsibility therefore fell to Godley. The 4th Bn. Royal Fusiliers managed somehow to get back across 250 yards of open ground into the town of Mons as Godley fought on.

He finally ran out of ammunition and with a final act of defiance, stripped down the machine gun and threw the parts into the canal.

During the withdrawal Lt. Dease was carried by his comrades to the edge of Mons where he died of his wounds. Private Godley was captured and spent the rest of the war in a German Hospital and then as a prisoner of war.

Chance discovery leads to new memorial for mystery Royal Fusilier Jewish WW1 soldier