68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
68th Regiment of Foot
68th Rgt Glengarry.jpg
Glengarry cap badge of the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot
Active 1756-1881
Country U.K.
Branch Army
Type Infantry, Light Infantry
Size One Battalion
Two between May 1800 and September 1802
Motto Faithful
Colours Facing colour:
Dark Green up to 1816[1]
Bottle Green up to 1834[2]
Green up to 1861[3]
Dark Green up to 1881[4]
March I'm Ninety Five, (1856-1881)[5]
Anniversaries Inkerman Day (5 November)
Engagements Seven years war
Peninsular War
Crimean War
New Zealand Wars

The 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) was an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1758 and amalgamated into The Durham Light Infantry in 1881. It saw action during the Seven Years' War before being converted to Light Infantry in 1808, fighting with distinction in the Peninsular Army under Arthur Wellesley. It would go on to fight with some distinction during the Crimean War, was present during the Indian Mutiny and the New Zealand wars before returning to India between 1872 and 1888. It would become the 1st battalion of the Durham Light Infantry in 1881, the other regular battalion, the 2nd, being the former 106th Bombay Light Infantry.


In August 1756, after the loss of Minorca in the Seven Years' War, the 23rd Regiment of Foot, together with 14 other regiments was ordered to raise a 2nd Battalion, which it did while in Leicester.[6] On 22 April 1758 the 2nd battalion was separated from the 23rd regiment as a new regiment and ranked as the 68th in order of precedence with the appointment of a new Colonel as Lambton's Regiment of Foot or the 68th Regiment of foot.[7] (The practice of referring to regiments by their Colonel's name was gradually going out of fashion, being replaced by the regiments order of precedence.[8])

The Seven Years War[edit]

In May 1758 it marched to the Isle of Wight as part of the forces (14,000 soldiers in 5 brigades and 6000 marines) stationed on the island at the request of Britain's ally Frederick the Great of Prussia. The intention was to conduct raids (descents as they were then called) on the French coast to disturb privateers in the area, distract the French army and relieve pressure on Britain's allies, the Prussians.[9] The first expedition (3 Guards, 9 line regiments[10]) anchored at Cancale Bay, near St Malo, on 5 May, the grenadier company being part of the forces that destroyed four King's ships, 60 merchantmen and several privateers in Parame. The remainder of the regiment constructed fortifications around Cancale until taken off on 12 June. After threatening other ports in the region the fleet returned to Britain on 6 July.[11]

A second expedition involving the 68th on the French Coast was landed on 7 August in the Bay of Ureville and marched for Cherbourg. The town was taken with little resistance from the local militia or the Régiment de Clare, and the fort and harbour were demolished.[12] The troops left on 16 August but did not return to Britain. A third and final expedition was launched on 3 September; the 68th landed at Lunaire Bay, again near St.Malo, but suffered severe defeat after a concentrated French army engaged the British army at St. Cast. The Governor of Brittany, the Duc d’Aiguillon, led a force of 6,000 regulars, several squadrons of cavalry and the "Garde de Cote" militia against the British, who fought a rearguard action while evacuating the beach. The French claimed British casualties were 900 officers and men, with 600 taken prisoner. The 68th lost 70 men from Captain Revell’s grenadiers company who formed part of the rear guard with grenadiers from the other regiments left on the beach.[13]

The 68th disembarked at Cowes on 19 September, and in October the regiment marched into winter quarters at Rochester. With losses in expeditions (mostly from the poor conditions aboard ship)[14] and providing a draft of 173 men to the 61st regiment, it was very weak, and recruiting parties scoured the country to refill its ranks.[15] On 2 June 1759, the regiment embarked for Jersey. It arrived on 21 June and remained there until February 1760, returning to England. In March, 600 men of the regiment, in three groups of 200, were drafted into the British regiments in the West Indies, this reduced the regiment to a mere 58 rank and file.[16] The regiment was marched to Leeds, then Newcastle and billeted at Tynemouth Barracks. At this point, recruiting had enabled it to muster 9 (weak) companies consisting of 41 officers and 239 men.[17] There the 68th would remain through 1761, with a detachment sent to Durham to aid Civil power and providing a draft of 95 men for the 70th regiment. By May, the regiment was based at Hexham with its headquarters at Morpeth, it had a strength of 42 officers and 289 men. In January 1762, the 68th had grown to 415 men and was ordered to march to Berwick, where it transferred to the command of Lord George Beauclerk, commanding in Scotland (North Britain as it was referred to since the 1745 rebellion). It was quartered at the newly built Fort George and remained throughout 1762, until July 1963 when to was shipped to Ireland.[18][19]

The West Indies[edit]

In 1764 the regiment left Ireland on 2 June with a strength of just over half the establishment (250 privates, establishment: 423) and sailed for the Caribbean, arriving in Antigua after a swift passage on 21 June.[20] Eight uneventful[a] years passed until mid 1772, when six companies were sent to St. Vincent to fight rebellious Caribs, where more men were sick with diseases (63) than were killed or wounded in fighting (36). It was during this fighting that the motto, 'Faithful' was granted, and were placed on the Colours.[21]

In March 1773 the regiment left the Caribbean for Britain, where it over-wintered in Tynemouth. In May 1774 it returned to Scotland and Fort George, staying until December 1775, when it moved once more to Ireland.[22] It was while serving in Dublin that disputes with other regiments arose over the motto displayed on the colours (as it could implied that other regiments were less faithful), and the motto was not repeated on later colours.[23] The regiment was to spend seven and a half years deployed around Ireland, near the end of that time, August 1782, it was decided to attach counties to regiments to aid recruitment, and the 68th was allotted to County Durham, becoming the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot.[24]

In 1779, the regiment was in the news when one of its former officers, James Hackman, was hanged for the notorious murder of Martha Ray, mistress of the Earl of Sandwich.[25]

It left Ireland in September, at nearly full strength (793 all ranks), for Portsmouth.[26] In December the regiment was brought up to full strength (a war establishment of 847 all ranks) and was destined for service in Jamaica. News of the Peace of Paris caused a mutiny, especially among those men who had signed up only for 'three years service or the duration', and the regiment was put ashore from the transport ships it was in.[27]

After guarding prisoner of war at Winchester, in October the regiment was sent to Jersey and Guernsey. It left, after a brief return to England (June–September 1784) in early October 1785 for Gibraltar, and being briefly threatened with disbandment during the reduction of the Army's size in 1784.[28][29]

The regiments stay in Gibraltar was uneventful, except for the reduction to the peace-time establishment, and in December 1794 it was shipped to the West Indies (with the 46th and 61st regiments) as reinforcements for the British forces there.[30][31] The regiment was dispersed to the islands Martinique, St.Lucia and Grenada, where they fought runaway slaves, known as Brigands, who were assisted by the French.[32] The Brigands were defeated on 18 June 1796, but the 68th played no part having been reduced by fighting and especially Yellow fever to 61 fit men,[33] and after a draft to the 63rd regiment, 10 officers and 27 other ranks returned to Britain in September. After officers leave and discharges, only seven men marched away from Portsmouth.[34]

Recruiting began around the Midlands and by the time the regiment landed in Ireland in March 1797 it was 202 men strong.[35] Its strength fell, and by April 1798 when the 68th were called out to guard the guns at Dublin against the rebels, it fielded 36 men, by the end of 1799 it had grown to only 120.[36] In February 1800 while in Trim, the regiment received nearly 1800 Irish volunteers from the Militia, and after it had returned to England in March, it was divided into two battalions in May.[37]

In late November the two battalions separately embarked for the West Indies, arriving between late January 1801 and March, to be stationed on Martinique, Barbados, The Saints and Dominica.[38] Yellow fever soon hit, the end of the year over one quarter of the officers had died.[39] In April 1802, 360 men of 2/68th helped suppress an mutiny by the 8th West India Regiment on Dominica, caused by the unscrupulousness of their colonel .[40] By September the losses from disease were such that the two battalions were merged on Barbados.[41] The Treaty of Amiens was signed in 1802, returning St Lucia and Martinique to the French, however war broke out again in May 1803, and in June the 68th was sent (with the Royal Scots and the 64th regiment) to retake St. Lucia, the 68th was in reserve for the fighting and remained as the island garrison.[42] In February 1805, having lost 500 dead and 170 invalided to England, the regiment was moved to St. Vincent, and in April to Antigua. Here they stayed until June 1806, when it embarked for England with 140 men.[b][43]


The regiment spent the winter in Ripon, where by December 1807, after receiving recruits[c] and drafts from militias from Ireland, Durham and West Yorkshire it had a strength of 436 rank and file.[44] It remained in and around Yorkshire, and while in Hull was ordered to convert to light infantry, as the 43rd and 52nd regiments had been, to form a light brigade. Marched to Brabourne Lees, Kent to it was to train with the 85th regiment under the master of light infantry training, Lt. Col. Franz Von Rothenburg.[45] After more recruiting, almost one quarter of the regiment's men were from County Durham by the time the regiment left for Walcheren in July 1809.[46]

The invasion of Walcheren by an army of nearly 40000 men in 15 brigades, was an attempt to simultaneously destroy a French fleet together with the Antwerp shipyards and distract Napoleon from Austria.[47] Landing on the island on 30 July, on 1 August together with the 85th they pursued defending forces to the walls of Flushing, which fell after a siege on 15 August. Malaria now began to infect the troops and by 25 September was reduced to 99 fit men, with 384 men eventually dying from the 'Walcheren fever' as opposed to only 15 in combat.[48] The regiment left the island in December, landing at Deal.[49]

The regiment continued to suffer from the effects of malaria, and only by October 1810 was seen to be beginning to recover.[50] In February 1811, while three companies were billeted in Arundel, a party of officers and men assaulted some of the townsmen in return for repeated insults aimed at the officers,[51] resulting in the Courts-martial of the officers, and two Lieutenants becoming "prisoners of the civil power".[52] In June 1811 the regiment sailed for Portugal.[53]

The Peninsular War[edit]

Re-enactors in the uniform of the 68th Regiment during the period of the Peninsular War

Landing in Lisbon on 27 June, by 17 July it had reached Arronches, where it joined the newly formed 7th Division (nicknamed the 'Mongrels'[d]).[54] For the rest of the year the regiment marched around Northern Portugal, entering Spain in September to aid in the masking of Ciudad Rodrigo, returning to Portugal by October.[55] The effects of the Walcheren expedition were still with the regiment, with the marches increasing the sick-list and, until February 1812, 25 men dying every month. Throughout 1812, in-spite of replacements the number fit for duty rarely rose above 270.[56]

In January 1812 the regiment deployed with the 7th division as the reserve at Fuenteguinaldo during the capture of Cuidad Ridrigo.[57] Returning to Portugal on 19 January the regiment set off South on 20 February, crossing into Spain on 16 March, and again formed a covering force during the siege and capture of Badajoz.[58] The regiment returned to Portugal, where in May, it was inspected by Major-General Henry de Bernewitz, resulting in uncomplimentary observations.[59]


The regiment marched back into Spain with the 7th Division on 2 June, and on 20 June reached its position near Salamanca on the heights of Villares.[60] Late in the day the regiment, reinforced with a company of Brunswick Oels (owing to its still weakened state) was ordered off the heights and down into the village of Moresco. With detachments blocking each street and lane, the regiment fought off French attempts to take the village until ordered to retire back up the hill at nightfall.[61] One Captain W Mackay received 22 bayonet wounds but survived and later recovered.[62] On 22 June an attempt by Marmont to take the heights above Morseco was halted by the 68th, the Chasseurs Britanniques and the 51st Regiment.[63][64]

On 27 June the last of the Samalanca forts surrendered to the 6th Division,[65] and by mid July Marmont's reinforced Army began to manoeuvre against Wellington's.

It was an extraordinary and grand sight to see two armies drawn up ready for battle, and manœuvring during a whole day without fighting.

—Pte John Green, 68th Regiment, [66]

Early on 22 July the 68th and 2nd Caçadores skirmished with French Voltigeures probing for the flank of the Army, retaining control of a hill they were subject to artillery fire until relieved by the 95th Regiment in the afternoon.[67] By 4 o'clock it was back with the 7th Division and advanced against the French in the general action ending in their defeat.

Following the retreating French, on 12 August the 51st and the 68th were the first Regiments to march into Madrid, to great excitement from the population.[68] Late the next day the 51st, 68th and the Chasseurs Britanniques assaulted fortified buildings in the Buen Retiro Park garrisoned by some 2000 French troops who surrendered on the morning of 14 August.[69]

Wellington's army continued its advance besieging Burgos in September, with the 68th at Olmos covering the siege and constructing breastworks in the valley at Monasterio de Rodilla in mid October.[70] The French now showed signs of attacking British forces around Madrid, and Wellington began another retreat back to Portugal. The regiment went into winter quarters at Paços de Baixo and Paços de Cima in December.[71]


The battalion took a significant part in the splendid victory of Vitroria on 21 June 1813, when within a few hours a French army of 70,000 men was irretrievably beaten, and Joseph Bonaparte, whom Napoleon had made King of Spain, was forced to flee.


In July 1813 the British advance continued into the Pyrenees, pushing onward and upward. On 30 July, above Ostiz,'attacked 2 battalions of Clausel's flank guard, driving them by bayonet down into the valley'. It took over a month of constant fighting in terrible conditions to push the French back over the Pyrenees.
In November Wellington attacked the formidable position taken up by Marshal Soult on the Nivelle, and the skilful tactics of the English commander, combined with the determined bravery of our troops captured, in 24 hours, the position which the French Marshal had been three months fortifying. Col. Inglis wrote 'The 68th made the attack with its usual vivacity!' The Regiment numbered only 197 men.


With the same spirit the battalion fought at Orthez. The 1st Brigade, including the 68th charged where the 4th Division had been stopped earlier and carried the position. One Brigade of approximately 1000 men had defeated a whole French Division. Orthes was the last action of the 68th in the Peninsular War, since while at the capture of Bordeaux the abdication of Napoleon brought an end to the Peninsular War for the 68th.


68th Regiment in ordinary dress, 1855

New Zealand[edit]

Victoria Cross[edit]

The following men of the 68th Regiment won the Victoria Cross.

Pte John Byrne[edit]

On 5 November 1854 during the Battle of Inkerman, brought in a wounded soldier, under fire. "On 11 May 1855 he bravely engaged in a hand-to-hand contest with one of the enemy on the parapet of the work he was defending, prevented the entrance of the enemy, killed his antagonist, and captured his arms."

Captain Thomas de Courcy Hamilton[edit]

He was 27 years old, and a captain in the 68th Regiment of Foot during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 11 May 1855 at Sebastopol, the Crimea, in a most determined sortie, Captain Hamilton boldly charged great numbers of the enemy with a small force, driving them from a battery of which they had taken possession. He was conspicuous for his gallantry on this occasion and his action saved the works from falling into enemy hands.

Sgt John Murray[edit]

Born in Birr, County Offaly,he was approximately 27 years old, and a sergeant in the 68th Regiment of Foot, British Army during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 21 June 1864 at Tauranga, New Zealand, when the enemy's position was being stormed, Sergeant Murray ran up to a rifle-pit containing eight to ten of the enemy and, without any assistance, killed or wounded all of them. He then went on up the works, fighting with his bayonet.



  • General John Lambton April 1758-March 1794
  • Major General John Mansell March 1794-April 1794
  • Major General Thomas Dundas April 1794-August 1794
  • Colonel Alured Clarke K.B. August 1794-October 1794
  • Major General Charles Stuart K.B. October 1794-March 1795
  • General Thomas Trigge K.B. March 1795-May 1809
  • Colonel John Coape Sherbrooke G.C.B. May 1809-January 1813
  • Major General Henry Warde G.C.B. January 1813-April 1831
  • Colonel John Keane G.C.B., G.C.H. April 1831-April 1838
  • Lieutenant General William Johnston K.C.B. April 1838-February 1844
  • Major General Edward Gibbs C.B., K.C.H. February 1844-December 1844
  • Lieutenant General Charles Nicol C.B. December 1844-January 1850
  • Lieutenant General Douglas Mercer C.B. January 1850-May 1854
  • Lieutenant General William Lewis Herries C.B., K.C.H. May 1854-June 1857
  • Lieutenant General Robert Christopher Mansel K.H.June 1857-April 1864
  • General Lord William Paulet G.C.B. April 1864-


  1. ^ In terms of fighting; the establishment strength was reduced twice, buttons with the regimental number were introduced in 1767 and a light infantry company was attached in June 1771.
  2. ^ While in the West Indies, all regiments were continually strengthened with drafts of men, one for the 68th was described as being composed of 'deserters, recruits and culprits'.[73] The 'culprits' were mostly former Irish rebels of 1798, condemned to perpetual service in the West Indies, and passed from regiment to regiment as one went home.[74]
  3. ^ One of whom was John Green, the author of Vicissitudes of a Soldier's Life; or, A Series of Occurrences from 1806 to 1815
  4. ^ So called because of its diverse make up: (Germans (King's German Legion and Brunswick-Oels Light infantry), British, French (Chasseurs Britanniques) and Portuguese (Line Infantry and Caçadores)), and diverse uniform colours of: green and black (Germans), red (British and French) and blue and brown (Portuguese).[75]


  1. ^ Vane p. 66
  2. ^ Vane p. 72
  3. ^ Vane p. 95
  4. ^ Vane p. 105
  5. ^ Ward p. 247
  6. ^ Vane pp. 1-3
  7. ^ Ward p.28
  8. ^ Ward pp.23-4
  9. ^ Vane p. 5
  10. ^ Vane p.9
  11. ^ Ward pp. 33-36
  12. ^ Ward p. 37
  13. ^ Ward pp. 38-42
  14. ^ Ward p. 38
  15. ^ Vane p. 8
  16. ^ Ward p. 43
  17. ^ Vane p.9
  18. ^ Ward p. 10
  19. ^ Ward pp. 43-44
  20. ^ Vane p.11
  21. ^ Vane p. 15
  22. ^ Vane pp. 16-17
  23. ^ Ward p.53
  24. ^ Vane p. 20
  25. ^ Rawlings, Philip, Hackman, James (bap. 1752, d. 1779), in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) and online at Hackman, James (subscription required), accessed 16 March 2008
  26. ^ Vane p. 20
  27. ^ Ward p. 58
  28. ^ Vane pp. 22-23
  29. ^ Ward pp. 59-60
  30. ^ Vane p. 24
  31. ^ Ward p. 63
  32. ^ Ward pp. 63-75
  33. ^ Ward p. 73
  34. ^ Vane p. 29
  35. ^ Vane pp.29-30
  36. ^ Vane p. 30
  37. ^ Ward p. 79
  38. ^ Vane p. 33
  39. ^ Ward p.33
  40. ^ Ward p. 85
  41. ^ Ward p. 86
  42. ^ Vane pp. 36-37
  43. ^ Vane p. 38
  44. ^ Vane pp.38-39
  45. ^ Ward p. 95
  46. ^ Ward p.97
  47. ^ Ward p. 101
  48. ^ Vane p.42
  49. ^ Ward p. 106
  50. ^ Ward p. 107
  51. ^ Vane pps. 43-44
  52. ^ Ward p. 107
  53. ^ Vane p. 44
  54. ^ Ward p. 108
  55. ^ Ward Pp.111-112
  56. ^ Ward p.113
  57. ^ Ward p.114
  58. ^ Vane p. 47
  59. ^ Vane p. 49
  60. ^ Vane p. 50
  61. ^ Green pp. 88-89
  62. ^ Ward p. 116
  63. ^ Ward p.117
  64. ^ Green pp.91-92
  65. ^ Vane p.51
  66. ^ Green p. 96
  67. ^ Ward p. 119
  68. ^ Green pp. 105-106
  69. ^ Vane p. 52
  70. ^ Ward p. 122
  71. ^ Ward p. 123
  72. ^ Vane pp. 242-250
  73. ^ Vane p. 33
  74. ^ Ward p.88
  75. ^ Reid p. 64


Green, John (1827). The Vicissitudes of a Soldiers Life. Or a Series of Occurrences from 1806 to 1815. Louth: J & J Jackson. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
Reid, Stuart (2004). Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1908-14. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781841765174. 
Vane, Hon. W L (1913). The Durham Light Infantry. The United Red and White Rose. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 9781845741464. 
Ward, S P G (1962). Faithful. The Story of the Durham Light Infantry. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 9781845741471. 

External links[edit]