The 82nd (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) Regiment
by Allan Percival
A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History
The 82nd Regiment of Foot was raised in September 1793 as the British Army expanded to face the armies of hostile, revolutionary France. First formed in Stamford, Lincolnshire, by Major General Charles Leigh, late of the Foot Guards, it also recruited from Lancashire, Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire. General Leigh was serving in the Prince of Wales’s Household (later George IV) and by Royal consent his new regiment proudly took the title of “The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers”.
Unusually, the 82nd did not develop any county or regional connections during its 88 years of existence, until under the Army reforms of 1881 it became the 2nd Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers).
The 82nd saw brief duty in Windsor and Hampton Court, but was soon posted to Gibraltar in August 1794, not quite a year after its formation. A second battalion (2nd/ 82nd) was raised and was also sent to Gibraltar, but the two new battalions were to have little time together. In 1795, the 1st / 82nd was ordered to embark for the West Indies where valuable French sugar islands might be captured. The 2nd/82nd was then disbanded and its soldiers drafted into other units in Gibraltar.
1795 West Indies – Santo Domingo and 1,000 dead.
In early 1795, British attempts to drive the French out of Santo Domingo (now Haiti) were going badly. More than half of the force was stricken by disease, and, in July 1795, badly needed reinforcements were diverted to Jamaica to put down a slave revolt. The arrival of the 82nd in August 1795 permitted a limited offensive. Raw troops, too few of them and virulent disease prevented much success. Nine hundred British soldiers died in eight weeks. By November 1796, the 82nd had fewer than 100 men fit for duty. The wasteful struggle against yellow fever, local insurrections, the French and latterly also the Spanish, lasted until the end of 1797 when the British left the island. The 82nd was posted to Jamaica for a year. The West Indies were far from the paradise that they have since become. Service in the islands could be little short of a death sentence. Of the 22 officers and 1,000 soldiers of the regiment who had sailed from Gibraltar in 1795, only one officer and 22 men were still with the Colours when, less than four years later, it at last returned to England in January 1799.
At home, the 82nd was re-built with volunteers from the militia regiments of Kent, Shropshire, East Yorkshire and Middlesex.
1800 – Expedition to Belle Isle……. abandoned. Minorca and home.
In June 1800, the 82nd Regiment sailed with a small force for south Brittany to occupy the island of Belle Isle, off Quiberon Bay. The aim was to support a French royalist insurrection against the revolutionary government, but the rising had already faltered and the French garrison was strong. In some confusion, the British abandoned the plan to land the troops.
They sailed on to garrison Minorca in the Mediterranean which had been captured from the Spanish in 1798. The 82nd came home when the island was restored to Spain after the Peace of Amiens of March 1802. They were to serve in England and Ireland until 1807.
The Peace of Amiens lasted just over a year. When the war resumed, the 82nd raised a second battalion at Horsham in Sussex which was to supply drafts of replacements to the 1st Battalion overseas until 1815.
1807 – Attack on neutral Denmark
By 1807, Napoleon had – temporarily – defeated Russia, broken Prussia, and subdued Austria and Sweden. It only remained to defeat Britain. To gather enough ships for an invasion, he planned to force Denmark and Portugal to hand over their fleets to French service. The British, unsurprisingly, had no intention of allowing him to succeed.
In 1801, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson had attacked the Danish fleet at Copenhagen after the Danes conceded to “armed neutrality” against British trade. Now once again, the British intended to attack Copenhagen unless the neutral Danes agreed to anchor their fleet in British ports until the end of the war. As expected, they refused.
So in July 1807, 27,000 troops, including German regiments in British pay, set sail for Denmark in 442 ships. The 82nd Regiment was landed at Warbeck north of Copenhagen on 15 August. Copenhagen was bombarded and the defenders capitulated on 6th September. British casualties were light – 10 killed, 178 wounded – but the 82nd was the hardest hit battalion with five dead and 19 wounded. There were some 400 Danish military casualties and 1,500 civilians died.
Under the capitulation terms, the British occupied the Citadel of Copenhagen and commandeered 33 Danish warships and naval stores and arsenals. After releasing prisoners of war, they sailed home October.
The 82nd had distinguished themselves in action, and their commanding officer earned a knighthood. They returned to acclaim in England that Napoleon’s invasion plans had been set back, but recriminations abroad about the doubtful legality of the attack on a neutral country. No battle-honour was granted for the expedition, unlike in 1801 when two regiments were awarded the Naval honour “Copenhagen”.
1808 – Driving the French from Portugal
In late 1807, Napoleon persuaded his wary Spanish allies to allow a small French army to cross Spain and attack Portugal which was defying his ban on trading with Britain. The Portuguese capitulated and the French occupied Lisbon in November 1807. In the spring of 1808, Napoleon declared his own brother Joseph as King of Spain and expelled the Spanish royal family. The Spanish rose in revolt against their former ally, re-gained Madrid from Joseph and appealed to their supposed enemy, Britain, for help. So did the Portuguese, and thus began the Peninsular War.
The 82nd Regiment, sailing to Cadiz in December 1807, was dispersed by a storm in the Bay of Biscay and was scattered between Britain and Gibraltar, with some troops even ending up in Sicily. The regiment was not reunited until May 1808 when it joined a British army assembling at Mondego Bay, Portugal, under Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, [later Duke of Wellington] to help the Portuguese and Spanish.
The army marched to Lisbon and in the brief battles of Rollica (17 August) and Vimeiro (21 August), the outnumbered French were defeated. The 82nd suffered 16 casualties. [The battle honour ‘Rollica’ was later added to the Regimental Colour but mis-spelt because officers could not read Sir Arthur Wellesley’s handwriting.]
Trapped in Lisbon by the Spanish insurrection and the Royal Navy, the French offered terms to stop fighting and leave Portugal. This was accepted at the Convention of Cintra, and British ships duly transported thousands of fully-armed French troops home to Brittany, free to fight again.
The news upset the Portuguese, who were not asked, and then caused outrage in Britain. The army commanders, including Wellesley, were ordered home to face a court of inquiry. Wellesley, who was not the senior officer involved, was absolved.
1808- 1809 North Spain – The Terrible Retreat to Corunna
In Lisbon, Wellesley was replaced in October by Lieutenant General Sir John Moore. Moore marched east with 20,000 troops to help the Spanish. Napoleon had crossed the Pyrenees, defeated several Spanish armies and again occupied Madrid. With 80,000 troops, the Emperor now moved to trap and destroy Britain’s small army. Lt Gen Moore abandoned his own plans and, on 28 November, he began to retreat across the barren, freezing mountains towards the port of Corunna, 300 miles away. During the long, demoralising retreat, discipline broke down in many regiments and a rabble of an army eventually straggled into Corunna, where it destroyed its own stores and many horses and waited for rescue by the Royal Navy. Napoleon returned to Paris and left his generals to complete the British army’s destruction.
Sir John Moore hoped to save his army without a fight and, on 16 January 1809, he was within a day of sailing when the French attacked Corunna. Outnumbered, the ragged British battalions drove off the French for long enough to get more than 20,000 men embarked for home. Sir John Moore was not with them. Mortally wounded, he was one of 800 British dead buried at Corunna. Many sick were also left behind. The 82nd Regiment, defending the western road to the town gates, had no part to play in the battle although it had lost 228 casualties already and had left dozens of sick men in Lisbon. Spanish troops fought until the British were safely at sea before they surrendered Corunna to the French.
At home, the shocking defeat in Spain and the pitiful state of the returning soldiers caused a public outcry. Sir John Moore had been badly defeated but he had at least saved Britain’s only army to fight again and had diverted Napoleon from the conquest of Portugal, however uneasy the small British force that remained in Lisbon.
1809 – Spain – A Small Part at Talavera.
In April 1809, Lt Gen Sir Arthur Wellesley was ordered back to Lisbon to command an army of 20,000, including German regiments. The army crossed into Spain and won a grim defensive victory at Talavera on 27 July 1809. Outnumbered two to one, the British suffered over 5000 casualties and were forced to retreat the next day. Two officers and 64 men from the 82nd who had been left sick in Lisbon fought with a makeshift “Battalion of Detachments”; five were casualties. By December, the British were back in Lisbon and on the defensive. Wellesley was made Viscount Wellington of Talavera. (‘Wellington’ after the Somerset town which had some connection to his ancestors.)
1809 – The River Scheldt – a huge expedition ends in disaster
Six months after escaping Corunna, the 82nd Regiment joined an expedition much stronger than the Spanish one with an objective only 200 miles from London. In July 1809, Britain committed 40,000 troops and over 600 ships to try to capture the port of Antwerp on the River Scheldt. The strongest expeditionary force which had ever left England was intended to stop Antwerp becoming a commercial rival to London; to bottle-up the Dutch fleet; and, it was hoped, to show British resolve against France and restore some military prestige after the defeat in Spain.
The 82nd Regiment, re-built from its home battalion, mustered 1,000 troops and was one of the strongest units to embark. They were landed on Walcheren Island at night on 30/31 July but the advance bogged down in a struggle to capture Flushing. Hopes of taking Antwerp ended there. The British lost 106 soldiers in battle but a fever epidemic killed 4,000. The expedition was abandoned and the troops evacuated in December. Some 1,870 fever victims died after being brought home and 11,500 men were still on the sick list in February 1810. The 82nd, which fought well, did not escape the suffering.
1810 South Spain – A fiasco near Malaga.
In 1810, the 82nd Regiment was posted to Gibraltar. In mid October, the Governor of Gibraltar sent an unusually motley force to attack the small French-held port of Fuengirola, west of Malaga. They were supposed to foment Spanish insurrection and help in the capture of Malaga. The troops were 340 men of the 89th Regiment (Princess Victoria’s), a Spanish battalion and 500 Poles, Italians and Germans who had deserted from the French. The port was fiercely defended by Polish troops in French pay and the attack failed The 82nd Regiment sailed in a slow transport ship as reinforcements. They sent ahead 80 men aboard HMS Rodney who could only land and hold off the Polish troops while the ramshackle allies ran for the boats. The British major-general in command and the unfortunate soldiers of the 89th had already been taken prisoner. The 82nd returned to Gibraltar with the rescued survivors.
1811 – South Spain – The desperate battle of Barossa
The important port of Cadiz was besieged by 16,000 French troops. In January 1811, the Spanish and British planned to attack them from the east and from within the port at the same time. Under Spanish command, 8,000 Spanish and 5,000 British troops marched from Algeciras. Two companies of the 82nd from Gibraltar served in a composite battalion known as Browne’s Flankers. On the 5th March, at Barossa, 8,000 French took the allies by surprise and threatened to surround them. The Spanish fled. To gain time for other British units to come up, Browne’s battalion of 536 men, including the companies of the 82nd, was thrown into a hopeless attack uphill against 5,000 French troops on Barossa Ridge. They lost 236 men (44%), the highest losses of any British battalion in the battle. Stubborn fighting eventually forced back the French. Allied losses were 1,740 and French 2,400. Indignant with the Spanish troops, the British abandoned the mission and the French blockade of Cadiz continued unhindered until August 1812.
1811 – South Spain – Defence of Tarifa
Four companies of the 82nd were among 3,000 British and Spanish in the little, fortified port of Tarifa, on the Straits of Gibraltar. On 21 December 1811, 15.000 French troops attacked them from the land side. After some confusion over whether to evacuate by sea, the defenders held off the French. After 14 days, stricken by fever and exposure and swamped by torrential rain, the French gave up and left. They had suffered about 680 casualties, the British 69, the Spanish two…
1812 North Spain and the retreat from Burgos
In 1812, the Duke of Wellington resumed his offensive in Portugal. With Spanish forces and guerrilla fighters, he thrust into central Spain, dividing the northern and southern French armies. At Salamanca on 22 July, Wellington’s sudden attack defeated 40,000 French troops in an hour’s fighting which led to the liberation of Madrid in August.
The 82nd Regiment arrived from Gibraltar to join Wellington’s army, marching north to Burgos on the road to the French frontier. The British siege of Burgos began on 19 September and lasted for five weeks. It failed. With 60,000 French troops moving against Madrid, Wellington began a retreat which ended at the Portuguese border at Ciudad Rodrigo on 18 November. Against strict orders, the 82nd had marched from Lisbon without blankets for the troops and they suffered badly from sickness even before a half starved retreat of over 200 miles in atrocious weather. The British lost 6,000 men and the French re-occupied Madrid.
While the British recovered in their winter quarters, Napoleon’s legions died in their infinitely harsher retreat from Moscow and 1813 seemed to hold some prospect of allied success in the Peninsula…
1813 Marching to the Pyrenees and the victory of Vitoria
In the spring of 1813, the 82nd had 470 men fit for service – half the full strength of a battalion – but not unusual in the army. In May, the Duke of Wellington advanced from Portugal with 100,000 British, Spanish and Portuguese troops in two columns into the heart of Spain. Using pack-mules instead of heavy wagons, the army marched on undefended back roads. The Royal Navy provided supplies through the northern port of Santander. Each time the French chose a strong position to defend the main highway northwards, they found Wellington had already outflanked them to the west. By the 12th June, the British were past Burgos – of bad memory. The French withdrew to the next route centre of Vitoria where they concentrated. And so, with no major fighting, Wellington pushed the French armies towards the Pyrenees – an advance of 400 miles.
Wellington attacked Vitoria on 21 June. He decoyed the main French defence to the south and then attacked from the west. The battle was won by late afternoon. The French lost 8,000 casualties and withdrew eastwards while the British troops plundered the pay chests and baggage they had left behind. The British had 5,000 casualties but only two-thirds of the infantry saw heavy fighting. The 82nd Regiment, with six killed and 40 wounded, escaped lightly. Wellington was appointed Field- Marshal.
The Vitoria campaign ended French hopes of holding Spain but no invasion of France was in prospect because they still held the key Spanish border towns of San Sebastian and Pamplona, and their armistice with Russia and Prussia released troops from central Europe. Wellington’s 60,000 men besieged the two towns and tried to watch 50 miles of Pyrenees frontier. The French gathered 80,000 troops across the border and launched mass surprise attacks on two main passes in July 1813, aiming to break the sieges of Pamplona and San Sebastian and cut off Wellington’s army in the north west.
1813 – The Battles of the Pyrenees
The 82nd Regiment was deployed in the Baztan Valley near the Maya Pass when the French attacked at dawn on 25 July. [Baztan is now called Elizondo and the Pass of Maya is the Pass of Olsondo] Some 20,000 French troops attacked the pass. Weight of numbers slowly drove back the British to the ridge at Atchiola. A strong detachment of the 82nd Regiment was at the highest point of the ridge supporting the 71st Regiment (Highland Light Infantry). They fought until their ammunition was spent. The 82nd’s soldiers were reported as then rolling boulders down onto the French The two weak British brigades at the Maya Pass (6,000 men ) fought three French divisions ( 20,000 ) for nearly ten hours. The French had captured the pass but failed to break through and did not renew their attack the next day. They lost about 2,000 men, the British 1,500. The detachment of the 82nd lost eight killed and 71 wounded. The Duke of Wellington’s despatch on the battle commended their conduct.
On the same day, the French launched 40,000 men at the Pass of Roncesvalles which was defended by two brigades, one British- Portuguese and one Spanish who resisted stubbornly but, again, the French took the pass. In the night, the allies retreated towards Pamplona – against Wellington’s orders. They took up a strong position on a ridge at the village of Sorauren and halted the French after four hours’ fighting on 28 July. Wellington counter-attacked on 30 July and drove the French back across the passes. From 25 July to 2 August, the 82nd Regiment lost 173 casualties.
1813 – Taking the war into France
In September 1813, Russia, Prussia and Austria re-entered the war against Napoleon and invaded France. In Spain, Wellington’s army took San Sebastian and Pamplona and marched for the French frontier in October. They fought to cross the River Nivelle in November (73 casualties in the 82nd Regiment) and the River Nive in December(82nd not engaged) and crossed the River Adour in February 1814.The French army concentrated at Orthez where they were defeated in a hard fight on 27 February. The 82nd had 31 casualties. It was their last battle of the Spanish war. .
The war ended when the Prussians and Russians entered Paris on 31 March 1814. The British occupied the regional capital of Toulouse in April. Napoleon was banished to Elba, Wellington became the British ambassador in Paris and the 82nd Regiment settled into occupying the south of France.
1814 – War against the United States of America
After four hard years of war in Spain, with no home leave, the 82nd Regiment was transported directly from France to Canada, arriving in Quebec on 25 June.
The United Sates of America ( then 17 states ) had declared war on Britain in 1812, accusing the British of impeding US commerce with Napoleon’s Europe and of arresting US sailors as Royal Navy deserters. With Britain over-stretched by the European war, belligerent Americans also saw the prize of extending their revolution to the vastness of Canada.
There was some fierce fighting before British regular troops, Canadian militia and allied Indian tribes repulsed three invading American armies in 1813. The Americans attacked again in March 1814. The 82nd Regiment, delayed by bad roads, reached the hard-pressed Niagara frontier at the end of August. They fought in a counter attack at Fort Erie in September (25 casualties) but not much more happened on that front. Veteran British regiments arriving from France and a Royal Navy blockade wore down the Americans and in August, the British captured Washington and burnt the White House. In December, the Americans defeated a British attack on the huge trading centre of New Orleans. With nothing decisive attainable by either side, a peace treaty was signed in March 1815 which restored the status quo of 1812.
The 82nd Regiment left Canada in June 1815 for England, and then served briefly with the British occupation army near Paris.
1815 – Second Battalion, 82nd Regiment, disbanded.
The 2nd Battalion, which had only served in Britain, was disbanded on Christmas Day 1815. Since 1805, it had supplied 2,750 trained men for the 1st Battalion overseas.
At the end of January 1816, a large party of the 82nd Regiment, along with the 2nd / 59th Regiment (later 2nd East Lancashire Regt), sailed from Ramsgate for Ireland in three transports. All were wrecked in a storm off Kinsale Head. The 82nd lost some 280 soldiers, wives and children, when the Boadecia sank. It was the 82nd’s worst disaster in a single day. The 59th also had grievous losses when the Sea Horse sank.
1816 – 1855 Home and Empire
After two years in Ireland, the 82nd Regiment served routinely at the Cape of Good Hope, in Mauritius ( to 1831 ), back home to Scotland and Ireland ( to 1836), in Gibraltar ( to 1839 ) and then in Jamaica (1839 – 43 ), where 200 men were lost to fever. From 1843 until 1848 they served in Canada before at last returning home.
In July 1853, the 82nd Regiment received the unwelcome order from the Commander in Chief to remove the distinctive Prince of Wales’s Feathers emblem from their caps and replace it with the plain numerals “82”, to conform to the rest of the line infantry.
1855 – The Crimea – Sevastopol
Britain and France declared war on Russia in March 1854 to prevent the Czar carving up the decrepit Turkish Empire and opening a way to the Mediterranean Sea. The allies invaded the Crimea, blockaded the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, and besieged the port’s landward defences.
The 82nd Regiment, stationed in Edinburgh, had a posting to India postponed and in 1854 sent drafts of troops to other regiments which were embarking for the Crimea. The 82nd’s commanding officer and two full companies went to the 34th Regiment (later The Border Regiment). It was not until 4 September 1855 that the 82nd Regiment itself, 576 strong, arrived at Balaclava, south of Sevastopol. Four days later Sevastopol fell to the allies. Diplomatic pressure from Austria ended the war in April 1856 and Russian expansion towards the Mediterranean was (temporarily) checked. British fatal casualties were 2,769 in battle and 16,037 from disease. The 82nd Regiment saw no fighting but lost a few men to disease. They nevertheless received the battle honour “Sevastopol” which, later, duly appeared on the colours of the South Lancashire Regiment.
1857 The Indian Mutiny – Relief of Lucknow
The 82nd came home in August 1856. On the other side of the world, the Chinese, resentful of European incursions, seized a British-flagged ship, Arrow. Britain moved to protect her interests on the China coast and the 82nd Regiment was among battalions which sailed for Hong Kong in February 1857. The Regiment was at Singapore when news reached them of crisis in India and they re-embarked for Calcutta.
In India, the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), originally a trading organisation, ruled vast areas with the distant approval of the British Government. British army regiments were deployed in the Company’s service alongside some regiments of European mercenaries and three separate, large armies of Indian soldiers with HEIC British officers – the Bengal, Bombay and Madras armies. In May 1857, a series of mutinies within the Bengal army and wider civil revolts drove the British out of Delhi and sparked insurrection across large areas of northern and central India.
The 82nd Regiment arrived at Calcutta in October 1857. By then, Delhi had been recaptured. The British community in Cawnpore (now Kanpur) had been massacred but in Lucknow, the capital of Oudh Province, British troops and civilians and loyal Indians were trapped in the British governor’s ‘Residency’. With 1,500 women, children and sick and wounded, they were defending themselves against perhaps 50,000 mutineers. Troops who had fought through to them in September (the first “Relief of Lucknow’) were trapped alongside them.
The 82nd reached Cawnpore, 60 miles from Lucknow, in November. The British had recaptured the town and now defended a vital bridge of boats across the River Ganges. The Regiment was split up. Two companies – 10 officers and 200 men – provided an escort for the Commander-in-Chief, Lt Gen Sir Colin Campbell who marched for Lucknow with a strong force. The rest joined a weak force which was left to defend the bridge and the town and its supply dumps.
There was savage fighting in Lucknow. On the 14th November the relief column attacked and took control of the La Martiniere College and the Dilkusha, one of the palaces of the Kings of Oude. Two days later the Secunderabagh was stormed. Finally, the breakthrough came on the 18th when the wall of the Moti Mahal palace was breached and the British forces at last made contact with the garrison which had held out for so long. The Residency itself was finally relieved on the 19th, at a final cost to the British of 500 casualties. The sick, the wounded and the women and children were brought out and the defenders of the Residency slipped away silently at night on the 23rd, ending a siege of 146 days. A 12-mile-long convoy began the trek to Cawnpore. The 82nd lost 16 men in the Relief of Lucknow.
On the 28th, the convoy reached Cawnpore, incredibly without loss, to find that the town had been over-run and the supplies lost in three days of fighting. But the vital Ganges bridge was still in British hands. The defenders, including companies of the 82nd, had been overwhelmingly out-numbered and at one point discipline had failed among some of them. Sir Colin Campbell’s troops drove off the mutineers and the Lucknow survivors were escorted away to safety.
The 82nd Regiment soldiered on in Oudh and Rohilkund provinces. In February 1858, 100 men were trained to use artillery in the fort at Fatehgarh, north of Cawnpore guarding fords on the Ganges. In April, four companies were with Lt Gen Campbell’s column which defeated rebels at Bareilly, the capital of Rohilkund. In May, half the battalion was with a small force which marched for days in blazing heat to rescue British troops besieged in Shahajanpore. Men died of sunstroke. More small fights followed for the 82nd before peace was restored in most parts by July 1858.
The British Government abolished the HEIC and took direct control of the British territories in India and, in 1877, Queen Victoria was pronounced Empress of India. The 82nd Regiment served in Delhi (1860 – 62) and on the north-west frontier (1862 – 64)
Routine service in Aden, Britain and Ireland followed until 1881.
1881 – The 2nd Battalion, the South Lancashire Regiment
On 1 July 1881, Army reforms saw the most far-reaching changes for the infantry. The line regiments lost their numbers and were given new “territorial” titles and recruiting areas, often regardless of any regimental preferences. Thus the 82nd Regiment of Foot (The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) which had no county connections, was linked with the 40th( 2nd Somerset ) Regiment of Foot to become the South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers). The 40th became the 1st Battalion and the 82nd became the 2nd Battalion. In 1958, the regiment amalgamated with the East Lancashire Regiment to become The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) which in turn, in 1970, amalgamated with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment to become The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.