The Northumberland Fusiliers

In the reign of James 2nd, the Dutch Government, in accordance with the terms of a treaty concluded by Sir William Temple, formed a division of British troops in Holland. These first saw service at Grave in the same year; and after the capture of the place four regiments were formed, of which the “Irish” was the forerunner of the Northumberland Fusiliers. It saw much hard fighting with the brigade at Maestricht, Mont-Cassel, and St. Dennis; and after a short visit to England to be in readiness to take part against the Duke of Monmouth, it returned to the Continent, to accompany, three years later, the army of the Prince of Orange to England, with which it landed on Brixham Quay. “It had the virtue to say-We will return to our native country, but it shall be to serve a better King than James.” But it took no part in the Civil Wars until 1691, when it was present at the battle of Boyne, and at many of the skirmishes, such as Athlone, which occurred before the temporary pacification of Ireland at the end of 1691. After sharing in the descent on Martinique in 1693, it returned to England to embark for Flanders, and saw some service there, until the treaty of Ryswick terminated hostilities. It is curious to compare the form of attack then, with that at present in force. In the storm of Maestricht the column of assault was composed of two sergeants and ten firelocks; one sergeant and twelve grenadiers; one officer, one sergeant, and twelve grenadiers; one lieutenant, two sergeants , and thirty firelocks; one sergeant and twelve men with half-pikes; one captain, one lieutenant, two sergeants, and fifty firelocks; one sergeant and twelve men with half-pikes; one captain, one lieutenant, one sergeant, and twenty-eight men with spades and shovels. The support was one captain, one sergeant, and fifty-eight men. The regiment’s next active service was in the Peninsula, where it remained from 1707 to 1728, during which time it took part in the actions of Caya and Xeres, and was present in the first defence of Gibraltar, which was besieged by the count de la Torres without a declaration of war. It took part in the expedition to St.Malo and Cherbourg, which was captured, and a number of it’s brass guns and mortars transferred to England, and in other desultory affairs on the French coast; but it embarked for the more severe work of the campaign of 1760-62, and saw much hard fighting at Corbach, Warburg (where many men fell exhausted from heat-apoplexy and over-exertion), Zierenberg, Campen, Kirk-Denkern (where it helped capture the guns and colours of “Rouge” regiment), Capelnhagen, Eimbeck, Foorwohll, and Groebenstein, where it held the wood of Wilhelmsthal, and took a French standard and above twice its own number prisoners. In its ranks, too, fought a women on this occasion-one Phoebe Hassel-who lies in Hove Churchyard. Wilhelmstahl is the first name entered on the regiment’s battle-roll. In memory of this battle, too, for many years after, the 5th was distinguished by wearing grenadier caps instead of three-cornered hats, and by carrying, among the band, a third colour-a small green silk banner, bearing the badge of the regiment; but when this, with the old colours, was destroyed in a fire in Gibralter, and new colours were presented in 1835, they were reduced to the customary two. As a mark of distinction, however, the King demanded that the name should be borne on the colour, in memory of the field on which it originally took its Grenadier cap from the enemy, that the regiment should wear grenadier caps with the badge of St.George and the Dragon on the back, and the king’s cipher, “W.R. IV.,” in front; but it was not designated a Fusilier regiment until 1836. The uniform had followed more or less the dress of the army. In 1688 the head-dress was a hat with flowing white feather, the coat of red, with lining and cross-belt of buff. The standard was of green silk, with the royal arms. In 1799 the head-dress was a cocked hat with red and white plume; the red coatee had breast-piece and cuffs of “gosling green;” the lace was white with two red stripes. In 1835 the usual swallow-tailed coatee with gold epaulets and scales was worn by the officers. The Grenade with the figure “V” on it ornamented the coat-tails and the breast-plate, as well as the back of the head-dress. The facings were authorised to be a “handsome and lively green.” The band at this time appear to have worn white costumes throughout, on which the facings and worsted epaulets of the same colour were conspicuous. The feather in the head-dress, which distinguished the 5th from the Fusilier regiments, had also undergone changes. It had been won from the enemy at St.Vigie, when a sufficient number of white plumes were captured from the French Grenadiers to decorate the men; but in 1829 the white feather was directed to be worn by all line regiments except Rifles and light Infantry, and, to continue the distinction, authority was granted later in the year for the Fifth to wear a feather of red and white. An order of merit had also been introduced in the regiment in 1761, consisting of three medals of gilt metal with the number “V.” on the face, for “merit;” of silver for fourteen years of “military merit,” and of silver, with the recipient’s name, after twenty-one years’ “good and faithful service.” They were attached to a green ribbon, and were presented annually. To return to the history of the regiment, it saw further fighting in 1762 at Lutterberg, Homburg, and Cassel, and came back to England the next year, embarking again for the American War of Independence in 1774. It was present at Lexington, when the first shots in the war were fired; Bunker’s Hill, where eight officers and 128 men were killed and wounded, and where, with three days’ provisions, knapsack, and ammunition, each man was carrying about 125 lb; at Long Island, whitw plains, forts Lee and Washington, Brandywine, Germanstown, ect.; and then it took part in the reduction of the island of St. Lucia, and other operations in the West Indies. At the former place it behaved with great gallantry, and its commanding officer, Sir William Meadows, though wounded, encouraged his men to make a stand on the heights of St. Vigie, standing in front of the colours, and saying, “Soldiers, as long as you have a bayonet to point against the breast of an enemy defend these colours.” In 1799 a second battalion was raised, and both proceeded to Holland to take part in the actions at Walmenhuysen, Shoreldam, Egmont-op-Zee, and Winkel, soon after which the above 2nd battalion was disbanded, but re-formed two years later, and the 1st embarked for the attack on Buenos Ayres. In the Peninsula both ballalions served, at first individually, and then collectively, and the regiment bears for its services the names of “Roleia,” “Vimiera,” “Corunna,” “Busaco,” “Ciudad Rodrigo,” “Badajoz,” “Salamanca,” “Vittoria,” “Nivelle,” “Orthers,” “Toulouse,” and “Peninsula” on its colours; but it was also represented at Talavera, Redinha, Sabugal, Fuentes d’Onor, El Bodon, the Pyrenees, the Nive, and Gave d’Oleron. It was especially mentioned in despatches by Wellington after the brilliant affair of El Bodon, when he says, “The conduct of the 5th Regiment, commanded by Major Ridge, in particular affords a memorable example of what the steadiness and discipline of the troops and their confidence in their officers can effect in the most trying and difficult situations”; and it again behaved with desperate gallantry at the storm of Badajoz, where Colonel Ridge was slain. “No man died that night with more glory; yet many died, and there was much glory.” Its next active service was in India from 1857 to 1860. It was present at the first relief of Lucknow, and inits subsequent defence, at the Alumbagh, and in the Oude campaign. The right to bear “Lucknow” on its colours was the reward of its faithful service, and three Victoria Crosses were won-by Private McManus, Sergeant Robert Hale, and Private Patrick McHale. The latter showed distinguished gallantry, for “on every occasion of attack Private McHale had been the first to meet the foe, amongst whom he caused such consternation by the boldness of his rush as to leave little work for those who followed to support. By his habitual coolness and daring and sustained bravery in action his name has become a household word for gallantry among his comrades.” “Afghanistan, 1878-80” is the last name on the battle-roll, and this was earned by hard service with the Peshawur Field Force, with General Gib’s column at Lundi Khotal, and on the line of communications through the Khyber Pass. The present uniform is scarlet with white facings; on the colours are the badge of St. George and the Dragon, apparently adopted when it first came on the English establishment, the motto “Quo Fata vocant,” and in three of the quarters the united red and white rose crowned. It is probably due to the nature of the badges that roses are worn in the men’s caps on St. George’s Day. The “George” and mottoare worn on the grenades which decorate the collar and the cap. It is the only regiment of Fusiliers that wears a feather. The 3rd battalion is the Northumberland Militia, which formerly had a badgeof “Libertas et navale solum,” with a castle, which seems to have been worn since its first formation in 1759. It was embodied from 1778 to 1782, and took and active share in the suppression of the Gordon riots; was again embodied from 1784 to1802, and from 1803 to 1814, and, finally, from 1855 to 1856, during the Crimean War. The volunteer battalions are the 1st Northumberland, with grey uniform and scarlet facings (Hexham); the 2nd Northumberland, scarlet and green (Walker Newcastle-on-Tyne); and 3rd Newcastle-on-Tyne Volunteers, scarlet and white (Newcastle). The oldest nickname is the “Shiners,” from their smart appearance on parade; but they have also been known as “the Old Bold 5th,” “the fighting 5th,” and “Lord Wellington’s Body-Guard.” This latter title arose in 1811, when it was the only British corps in the village of Fuente Guinaldo, which was the general’s head quarters.

Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
Victoria Cross Winners
This list was compiled and sent in by David Prince

Joe Robinson (1RNF / 1RRF) and John Buckley (1RF /3RRF) attend the plaque unveiling in Plymonth March 2015

Jeremy Clarkson made a programme on Major Cain and is on You Tube
(The Victoria Cross: for Valour part 1)
Click here to see it, it is in 6 10 minute parts