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The 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot

By John Downham

© Lancs Inf Museum & Lt Col E J Downham MBE BA DL

On 3rd January 1741 Colonel John Mordaunt was authorised to raise a new Regiment of Foot ‘by beat of drum or otherwise’.  Mordaunt’s Regiment was raised in Scotland, becoming Lascelles’ Regiment the following year when Colonel Peregrine Lascelles assumed command. The new regiment was initially ranked as the 58th of Foot, but when in 1751, to resolve persistent problems over precedence, all regiments of the line were ordered to be known by number, it was re-numbered as the 47th Regiment.

General Sir John Mordaunt, who raised and was the first Colonel of the 47th

General Sir John Mordaunt, who raised and was the first Colonel of the 47th

Peregrine Lascelles took over the new regiment one year after it was formed and remained its Colonel until his death in 1772, aged 88.The disaster at Prestonpans rankled to the end of his days, and his epitaph on a tablet in St Mary's Church, Whitby, refers to "a fruitless exertion of his Spirit & ability at the disgracefull rout of Preston pans. He remained forsaken on the field"

Peregrine Lascelles took over the new regiment one year after it was formed and remained its Colonel until his death in 1772, aged 88.The disaster at Prestonpans rankled to the end of his days, and his epitaph on a tablet in St Mary’s Church, Whitby, refers to “a fruitless exertion of his Spirit & ability at the disgracefull rout of Preston pans. He remained forsaken on the field”

The Jacobite Rebellion 1745-46. The young Regiment was employed for some time on the construction of strategic roads in Scotland,scattered in detachments with little opportunity for military training. Then on 25 July 1745 Prince Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland determined to overthrow King George.  The Royal Army in Scotland, commanded by General Sir John Cope, was utterly unprepared, its Regiments raw and inexperienced.  At Prestonpans,  21 September 1745, Cope was outmanoeuvred and his ill-trained army cut to pieces by Jacobite broad-swords.  Lascelles and eight of his companies shared in this rout and most of the survivors were taken prisoner, but two companies of the Regiment subsequently played an active part in holding EdinburghCastle against the rebels until relieved. Following the final defeat of the Young Pretender in 1746 Lascelles’ Regiment marched south to England and then, in 1748, moved to Ireland.

QUEBEC 1759

In 1750 Lascelles’ Regiment sailed for Canada, where they soon won distinction in action against the French and their Indian allies at Chignecto. In 1755 the now-renamed 47th were with the expedition which captured the French Forts Beauséjour and Gaspereau, while in 1758 the Regiment won its first Battle Honour and the nickname ‘Wolfe’s Own’ for its part in a bold amphibious operation to reduce the French fortress stronghold of Louisburg. The following year the 47th joined General Wolfe’s army directed against Quebec. The expedition sailed up the River   St Lawrence but was at first unable either to entice the French commander, Montcalm, out of his strong defensive positions or to approach the fortress. A gallant frontal assault at Montmorency failed bloodily, among those killed being Sergeant Ned Botwood of the 47th Grenadiers, a Regimental ‘character’ known throughout the Army for his ballad ‘Hot Stuff’. Finally Wolfe decided on an indirect approach. Slipping past the French shore batteries by night disguised as a supply convoy, Wolfe’s force disembarked at a small cove above Quebec, scrambled up the steep cliffs, and by daybreak 13 September 1759 was drawn up in line of battle on the Plains of Abraham, behind the French defenders and within a mile of the walls of Quebec. Wolfe had devised a firing method for stopping French column advances that called for the centre of his line – the 43rd and 47th Foot regiments – to hold fire until the advancing force was within 40 yards, then open fire at close range.  It was a tactic that only the most disciplined troops could be relied upon to perform. Wolfe had also ordered his soldiers to charge their muskets with two balls each in preparation for the engagement.

The British Regiments of Foot wait in perfect disciplined silence as the French approach

The British Regiments of Foot wait in perfect disciplined silence as the French come on. They stand fast until the enemy is less than 40 yards away before delivering two of the most devastating musket volleys in history.

Captain John Knox, of the 43rd, wrote in his journal that as the French came within range, the two regiments “gave them, with great calmness, as remarkable a close and heavy discharge as I ever saw.” After the first volley, the British lines marched forward a few paces towards the shocked French force and fired a second general volley that shattered the attackers and sent them into retreat. A British Army historian later wrote: “With one deafening crash, the most perfect volley ever fired on a battlefield burst forth as from a single monstrous weapon.” Following up with a bayonet charge which swept the French from the field, the battle was over within 15 minutes. Quebec surrendered a few days later. Two perfect musket volleys had settled the future of North America. General Wolfe was mortally wounded as the battle was won, and in his memory a thin line of black was included in the officers’ gold lace of the 47th and its successor regiments, down to and including today’s Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. At the dying request of Wolfe, the Commanding officer of the 47th, Lieutenant Colonel John Hale, had the honour of being sent home with the despatches describing the victory.

Captain John Hale, 47th Foot, in undress uniform. Hale joined the Regiment aged 14, fought in Scotland, won distinction at Beausejour, and commanded the 47th in the Louisbourg and Quebec campaigns. At the dying request of Wolfe, Hale was honoured by being sent home with the victory despatches. He was then commissioned to raise the 17th Light Dragoons, whose white uniform facings and death’s head badge referred to the 47th and to his friend Wolfe’s death at Quebec.

This was not the end of the campaign, for after a severe winter besieged in Quebec on short rations the 47th were involved in a second battle on the Plains of Abraham, 28 April 1760, when after a fierce infantry action the British were forced back into the town.  A relief force arrived the following month and detachments of the 47th served with the expedition against Montreal where, on 8 September 1760, the French capitulated and Canada passed into British possession.

THE WAR OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE 1775-83

In 1763 the 47th left Quebec for Ireland where they served uneventfully for the next ten years before again sailing across the Atlantic, this time to garrison the restive American Colonies, being quartered first in New Jersey.

Lexington and Concord In the autumn of 1774 the Regiment was moved to Boston, where British forces were being concentrated to counter the growing threat of armed insurgency. In the early hours of 19 April 1775 a small British force including the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 47th set out for Concord, some 20 miles away, to destroy a colonial munitions depot. At Lexington they were confronted by the local militia and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. A further engagement followed at Concord and the British column’s return march to Boston, reinforced at Lexington by a relief force including the rest of the 47th, was carried out under sustained fire from concealed insurgents.

A contemporary depiction of the British march back to Boston. The Flank companies of the 47th (and the 59th, later 2nd East Lancashires) marched & fought for some 50 miles in 17 hours, including a 7-hour, 18-mile running battle during with the rest of the 47th joined the fight. The 47th lost 18 killed and 55 wounded.

A contemporary depiction of the British march back to Boston. The Flank companies of the 47th (and the 59th, later 2nd East Lancashires) marched & fought for some 50 miles in 17 hours, including a 7-hour, 18-mile running battle during which the rest of the 47th joined the fight. The 47th lost 18 killed and 55 wounded.

Bunker’s Hill The British forces in America were greatly outnumbered and Boston was besieged by the colonists, but on the arrival of reinforcements the British General Gage decided to break this investment by capturing the commanding heights of Bunker’s Hill on the Charlestown peninsular. The Americans were strongly entrenched in a redoubt on the outlying Breed’s Hill feature against which, on 17 June 1775, the British force was most rashly launched in a frontal assault. Twice the attackers were bloodily repulsed, but a third desperate assault, in which the 47th took a leading part, carried the redoubt at bayonet point. Victory had been dearly bought, for nearly half the British assault force became casualties in an unnecessary triumph of dogged discipline and invincible gallantry over poor generalship.

Three times the British Foot regiments marched up Bunker's Hill. Twice they were thrown back with heavy casualties before the third assault, led by the 47th and the Royal Marines, finally carried the crest.  The 47th suffered 73 casualties.

Three times the British Foot regiments marched up Bunker’s Hill into a storm of entrenched fire. Twice they were thrown back with heavy casualties before the third assault, led by the 47th and the Royal Marines, finally carried the crest. The 47th suffered 73 casualties.

Saratoga. Early the following year the 47th were withdrawn to Canada where, after raising the American siege of Quebec and expelling them from Canada, they joined Major General Burgoyne’s expeditionary force for a decisive move against the rebel colonies. After early successes on the Canadian/New England frontier, including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne marched south to link up with Major General Howe. This combined operation was directed by a Minister 3,000 miles away in London who had unfortunately neglected to inform Howe. Burgoyne set out in September 1777 with some 7,200 men, including the main body of the 47th.  Detachments of the Regiment had been left to garrison the captured posts of Fort George and Diamond Island which they subsequently held against American attacks. The advance was strongly opposed from the start, and near Stillwater on 19 September Burgoyne with some 5,000 men was confronted by over 13,000 Americans in an entrenched position. A close, desperate but indecisive action followed, while a further gallant attempt on 7 October to turn the rebels’ flank met with a counter-attack in overwhelming force.  Mounting British casualties and growing American strength now forced Burgoyne to retire.  The 47th moved ahead to secure the road north and reported that a route could still be forced through the encircling enemy, but Burgoyne decided to halt at Saratoga, where the exhausted remnants of his force were surrounded. On 17 October a Convention was signed whereby Burgoyne’s army was to march out with the honours of war and be given free passage to England.  Unfortunately the American Congress did not keep faith with the Convention and the main body of the 47th were held as prisoners. Many soldiers of the Regiment eventually escaped but the remainder were not released until 1783.

THE LANCASHIRE REGIMENT 1782

In 1781 the surviving detachments of the 47th in Canada were returned to England to form the nucleus of a reconstructed regiment. They were initially quartered at Lancaster, moving to Warrington in 1782 and Preston in 1783, and it was during this first tour in Lancashire that in order to assist recruiting the Regiment received the county title which has ever since been borne with pride. On 31 August 1782 the following order was issued:

‘His Majesty having been pleased to order that the 47th Regiment of Foot which you command shall take the County name of the 47th, or the Lancashire Regiment, and shall be looked upon as attached to that County. I am to acquaint you that it is His Majesty’s further pleasure that you should in all things conform to that idea, and endeavour by all means in your power to cultivate and improve that connection so as to create a mutual attachment between the County and the Regiment which may at all times be useful towards recruiting the Regiment.’

The French Revolutionary War The 47th were not engaged for the first half of the long wars with revolutionary France.  After a tour in Ireland, 1784-90, the 47th proceeded on foreign service, yet again across the Atlantic,  in Canada, 1790-91, and the West Indies and Bermuda, 1791-1803.  A 2nd Battalion of the Regiment was raised in 1803.

THE NAPOLEONIC WARS

Monte Video 1807. In 1807 the 1st/47th joined an expedition against the Spanish Colonies in South America, taking part in the storming of Monte Video and the subsequent unsuccessful attempt to capture Buenos Ayres.  Shortly afterwards the  1st/ 47th sailed, via the Cape of Good Hope, to start a 20 year – long  tour of duty in the East Indies.

Barrosa and Tarifa 1811. Next to take the field were the 2nd/47th, who from 1809 were based in Andalusia providing garrisons at Gibraltar, Tarifa and Cadiz.  On 5 March 1811 the two flank companies of the 47th played a prominent role in the short but hard-fought victory of Barrosa, losing almost one third of their strength. In December 1811 the entire Battalion was with the British garrison of Tarifa when that fortified town at the extreme southernmost tip of Europe was besieged by the French.  By the end of the month a breach had been opened in the walls and on 31 December this was assaulted by some 2,000 French grenadiers and voltigeurs.  The 47th, together with the 87th, manned the walls and beat back the attackers with a terrific fusillade, thereby ending the siege.  The Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour ‘Tarifa’ and for many years celebrated the victory with a Sergeants’ Mess ball on Tarifa Day, New Year’s Eve.

The Fort at Tarifa. Its defence was marked for many years by a Sergeant's Mess Ball

The Fort at Tarifa. Its defence was marked for many years by a Sergeant’s Mess Ball

Puente Largo. After Tarifa, the 2nd/47th formed part of the garrison of Cadiz until the French siege of that place was lifted. In 1812 they marched north from Cadiz to join The Duke of Wellington’s army which was at that time retiring on its Portuguese bases under pressure from the united French armies. On 30 October they fought a heavy rearguard action at Puente Largo, south of Madrid, where ‘the enemy made a vigorous attempt to get possession of the bridge but were repulsed in a very handsome manner by the 47th Regiment’.

Vittoria 1813 The following spring Wellington advanced to drive the French out of Spain and on 21 June the 47th took part in the decisive Battle of Vittoria. Brigaded with the 4th and 59th (later 2nd East Lancashires), the Regiment stormed the village and bridge of Gamarra Mayor and ‘regardless of a heavy and destructive fire of artillery and musketry, pursued its steady, orderly, and not to be obstructed course without returning a shot, and at the point of the bayonet forced back the enemy, who retired in confusion with the loss of three pieces of cannon’. A fierce struggle continued around the bridge and the 47th had well over one hundred casualties when a general French retreat ended the battle.

San Sebastian 1813 The 2nd/47th were next engaged in the two month siege of the fortress of San Sebastian which ended on 31st August when the town was carried by storm. The Regiment, again with the 4th and 59th, pressed home its assault on the breaches in the face of determined resistance, suffering heavy casualties in repeated and desperate attempts to scale the walls. The assaulting columns, unable at first to force an entry, were ordered to lie down while British artillery bombarded the ramparts just above their heads. Suddenly a French gunpowder store exploded, the British infantry once more swarmed up the breach and after a desperate conflict drove the French back to the citadel, which surrendered eight days later. The storming of San Sebastian was the bloodiest engagement in the history of the 47th. Casualties amounted to 17 out of 22 officers and almost half the other ranks, while by the end of the day command of the battalion had devolved on a wounded subaltern. The town was sacked.

The storming of San Sebastian was the bloodiest day in the whole history of the 47th.

The storming of San Sebastian was the bloodiest day in the whole history of the 47th. 17 out of 22 officers and almost half the men were casualties.

Nive 1813 The capture of San Sebastian enabled the Duke of Wellington to break out from the Spanish Pyrenees into France. In a surprise attack on 7 October the 2nd/47th were among ‘the first British troops whose Colours waved over the sacred territory of Napoleon’, wading across the frontier river Bidassoa against light opposition as the bands played the National Anthem. The advance continued, and the Regiment were again heavily engaged in the hard-fought Battle of The Nive, 10-13 December. When hostilities ceased on 30 May 1814 the 47th were with the British force investing Bayonne.

OUTPOSTS OF EMPIRE 1815-54

In the 40 years between Waterloo and the outbreak of the Crimean War the 47th were only in England for four years. The Regiment otherwise served in overseas garrisons, guarding British trade routes and the frontiers of the rapidly expanding colonial Empire. Its stations spanned the world, from the West Indies to Gibraltar, Malta and the Ionian Islands, and on to Arabia, India and Burma. Ireland counted as a home posting, as indeed it was for many of the officers and men.  Overseas tours in the early 19th Century were frequently very long, and when the  1st/47th sailed from Cork in 1806 they were not to return to Britain until 1829, having in the meantime served in South America, South Africa, India, the Persian Gulf and Burma.

 INDIA 1807-1829

Long periods of garrison duty in Bombay, Poona and elsewhere were punctuated by military expeditions. In 1811 the flank companies formed part of a small force sent to subdue the rebel chieftain of Navanagar on the Gulf of Kutch, and in 1814 the two companies marched again to capture bandit strongholds in that area.

Third Mahratta War In 1817 the 47th were involved in the 3rd Mahratta War, also known as the Pindari War after the great bands of irregular horsemen who were terrorising the Punjab and Central India. It was an arduous campaign against a hard-fighting, mobile and numerous enemy, and for the 47th involved many exhausting marches and the storming of several hill-forts in the Gujerat area. By early 1818 the power of the turbulent Pindaris had been broken.

The Persian Gulf Other expeditions took the 47th overseas from India. The flank companies were with a small force which in 1809 captured the pirate lairs of Ras-al-Khyma and Quishm Island on either side of the Straits of Hormuz.  In 1812 Lieutenant Sadlier of the 47th was sent with a small regimental training team to train the Shah of Persia’s infantry. He was also the first European to cross the Arabian Desert. In 1819 the whole Regiment embarked with a second expedition against Ras-al-Khyma, which was again subdued after sharp fighting.

Burma 1825-26 In 1824 the 47th were at Calcutta when war was declared against the Burmese King of Ava, who had been making incursions into Assam. The Regiment had been ordered forward to Sylhet when it was diverted to deal with a serious mutiny at Barrackpore, where the 47th Bengal Native Infantry refused for religious reasons to cross the sea to Burma.

British soldiers force their way into a stockaded Burmese stronghold.

British soldiers force their way into a stockaded Burmese stronghold.

The 47th then sailed for Rangoon, where they joined the army which fought its way up the River Irrawaddy to Ava, near Mandalay. The Regiment distinguished itself in the capture of successive Burmese strongpoints, including the fort at Syrian, near Rangoon, and stockades at Donubyu, Prome and Malun, earning the Battle Honour ‘Ava’.

 THE CRIMEAN WAR 1854-55

In April 1854 the 47th Regiment sailed from Malta as part of an Anglo-French expedition to counter Russian expansion through the Balkans towards Constantinople and the Mediterranean.  Their objective was the great Russian Black Sea naval base of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. Staging through Scutari on the Bosphorus and Varna in Bulgaria, the 47th landed in the Crimea on 14 September with the 2nd Division.

The Alma. On 19 September the Allies marched south towards Sevastopol, and the following morning they were confronted by the Russians in a strong entrenched position covering the River Alma. A frontal attack was ordered, across the river and up a slope to capture the enemy redoubts. The 2nd Division advanced around the burning village of Bourliouk and forded the river in the face of sixteen enemy guns and six infantry battalions. Lord Raglan, the British Commander, then ordered up artillery to enfilade this position and the 47th moved forward in column to take the high ground on the Russians’ left flank. Tactically disadvantaged, the enemy were in full retreat. Casualties of the 47th Regiment at the Alma amounted to 4 killed (including two escorts to the Colours) and 65 wounded.

Inkerman Sevastopol was invested on 29 September and the 47th, encamped on Inkerman Heights, were soon busily engaged in building siegeworks and providing picquets. In the misty early morning of 5 November 1854 the Russians made a determined sortie from Sevastopol with some 35,000 infantry and 134 guns, their immediate objective being the Heights of Inkerman and the unsuspecting 2nd Division. The divisional picquets that morning on the forward edge of the Heights included two companies of the 47th commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Haly. The picquets stood their ground stoutly while the rest of the division got under arms. Haly led his Light Infantry forward in a gallant charge against the foremost Russians and cut three down before he was unhorsed and wounded. Several men came to his aid, including Private John McDermond who was awarded the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross.

Private John McDermond won the first VC to be awarded to a member of the 47th, later the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, by saving his fallen Colonel at the Battle of Inkerman. This portrait hangs in the Regimental Council Chamber of the Lancashire Infantry Museum.

Private John McDermond won the first VC to be awarded to a member of the 47th, later 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, by saving his fallen Colonel at the Battle of Inkerman. This portrait hangs in the Regimental Council Chamber of the Lancashire Infantry Museum.

Meanwhile the rest of the 2nd Division and others were joining the battle piecemeal, including the remaining companies of the 47th. Visibility was very poor and coordinated control almost impossible, so the battle was fought out at close quarters, often with the bayonet, as successive Russian columns emerged from the mist to be engaged by detachments and mixed parties of British Infantry. Eventually the Russians retreated with the loss of some 12,000 men. The Battle of Inkerman, ‘the soldiers’ battle’ as it became known, cost the 47th 19 dead and 47 wounded.

A Hard Winter Cholera had dogged the army ever since Varna, but the miseries of sickness and wounds were added to immeasurably by a terrible tempest of 14 November which sank 21 supply ships, levelled the tented camps and destroyed a large part of the army’s winter stores.  Snow followed the storm, and the ill-clad soldiers in the trenches before Sevastopol suffered great privations.  The correspondent of ‘The Times’ wrote as follows:

 ‘The condition of our army was indeed miserable, pitiable, heartrending.  No boots, no greatcoats – officers in tatters and rabbit skins, men in bread bags and rags; no medicine, no shelter; toiling in mud and snow week after week, exposed in open trenches or in torn tents to the pitiless storms of a Crimean winter.’

Men of the 47th in winter clothing huddle round a fire. Photographed by Roger Fenton, the world's first great war photographer

Men of the 47th in winter clothing huddle round a fire. Photographed by Roger Fenton, the world’s first great war photographer

Sevastopol Throughout this hard winter the Allies maintained their siege of Sevastopol, and when spring came to the Crimea some 500 guns were in position to bombard the defences. On 7 June 1856 the enemy’s advanced works were stormed. Eight officers and 300 men of the 47th commanded by Major Villiers, were part of the force which captured the Russian position known as the Quarries in fierce fighting and held it against repeated counter-attacks. The gallantry of the Regiment was most conspicuous on this occasion. The 47th were in reserve during the subsequent British attacks on the Redan but suffered a few casualties. The Russians evacuated Sevastopol on 8 September 1856 but the 47th remained in the Crimea until the following May. The Battle Honours ‘Alma’, ‘Inkerman’ and ‘Sevastopol’ on the Regimental Colours record a campaign marked by great courage and endurance.

THE FENIAN RAIDS

In 1861 the 47th sailed to reinforce the Canadian garrison in reaction to the American Civil War and the possibility, in particular after the Trent affair that year, of war with the United States. It was, however, not until 1866 that they were called on to defend Canada (for the third time) when a force of Irish Republicans launched an invasion across the Niagara frontier. The Fenians, however, hurriedly withdrew on the approach of regular British troops.

The Regiment remained in Canada until 1868.

 AMALGAMATION

The year 1881 saw the most far reaching changes to the British infantry. Under the Army reforms of 1 July that year, the Regiments lost their numbers and were linked in pairs and given ‘territorial’ titles and regimental recruiting areas.  The 47th   (The Lancashire) Regiment of Foot was linked with  The 81st (Loyal Lincoln Volunteers) Regiment of Foot to form the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The 47th became the 1st Battalion and the 81st the 2nd Battalion of the new regiment which established its headquarters in Preston.  As the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment, the old 47th  served on until 1949 when the two battalions were amalgamated.

The 47th became the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment, shown here with the colours they carried, as the 47th, in the Crimea, and a set of captured Russian drums.

The 47th became the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment, shown here with the colours they carried, as the 47th, in the Crimea, and a set of captured Russian drums.

In March 1970, The Loyal Regiment(North Lancashire) was amalgamated with the Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’ Volunteers) to form The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, which itself became part of the new Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2006.