South Essex Regiment

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The South Essex Regiment, later the Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers, is a fictional infantry line regiment in the British Army that was created by Bernard Cornwell in the Sharpe series of books.

Fictional history[edit]

It first appeared in Sharpe's Eagle, commanded by Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson. Sharpe was transferred to the South Essex when his previous regiment, the 95th Rifles, was withdrawn back to England, and made a captain shortly after the battle of Valdelacasa in which the South Essex and the Spanish Regimento de Santa Maria were badly mauled by French cavalry. In this action, both the South Essex and the Regimento de Santa Maria lost their Colours. Simmerson tried to ruin Sharpe's career (and save himself) by blaming the loss of the Colours on Sharpe. However, Sharpe then captures an imperial eagle, in doing so, recovering some honour and the South Essex's pride.

After Simmerson showed ill judgement and cowardice at the Battle of Talavera (where Sharpe captured a French Imperial Eagle, which then went on to be displayed on the regiment's Colours), Colonel William Lawford, an old friend of Sharpe's, took command. Lawford was wounded in 1812 and after this the South Essex went through a string of colonels.

In Sharpe's Regiment, the South Essex is renamed the Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers (in reality, the Prince of Wales' Volunteers was (or is) the South Lancashire Regiment). When the regiment returns to Spain it is commanded by Colonel Bartholomew Girdwood, who suffers a breakdown during an attack into French soil. Sharpe leaves the regiment soon after, and Colonel Joseph Ford takes command. The regiment does not appear again until the Battle of Waterloo, where Sharpe and Sergeant Patrick Harper save the regiment from the advance of Napoleon's Old Guard at the end of the battle, where Sharpe is finally given command of the regiment by the Duke of Wellington.

Battle honours[edit]

This is a rough list of battle honours that it is likely the regiment would have gained during the Sharpe Series:

The regiment's fate after Waterloo is unknown. It is likely to have been disbanded due to its high regimental number (this is stated in the Sharpe Companion) but it could have been merged with the 44th Regiment of Foot or the East Essex which lost many men at Quatre Bras. In the latter case it would have become the Essex Regiment under the Cardwell Reforms and the battalion carrying its traditions would have been disbanded and the honours continued. This is of course speculation, but there are several similarities between the East and South Essex – both captured French Imperial Eagles, both have yellow coat facings, and they share a county designation.

Regimental Colonels[edit]

This is a rough list of the colonels of the regiment described in the books and the period they served as colonel. There are gaps where colonels are not known in the books. The Prince Regent, later George IV was the colonel in chief and added his patronage in 1813. Sir Henry Simmerson (1809) was the first Colonel, raised the regiment and led it on its first campaign. Relieved from command by the next colonel, William Lawford (1809–1812) who commanded the regiment during the Portugal campaign before being wounded at Ciudad Rodrigo. The regiment would then be commanded by a former staff officer of General Sir Thomas Picton, Colonel Windham from the siege and storming of Badajoz until his death shortly before the Battle of Salamanca (1812). It is then commanded by the American expatriate Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Leroy until his death at the Battle of Vitoria (1813). Lieutenant Colonel Bartholomew Girdwood would then assume command of the now renamed Prince of Wales Own Volunteers until his mental breakdown at the Battle of the Nivelle (1813). Sharpe would be in effective command until the French capitulation at the Battle of Toulouse (1814). The regiment is reformed after Napoleon's escape from Elba and the resumption of hostilities and is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Ford until his mental collapse under fire at Waterloo, where Wellington gives command of the regiment to Sharpe where they assist in defeating the Old Guard.

Structure[edit]

2 Line Battalion

  • Light Company

Attached Regimental Units

The light company of the battalion which fought in Portugal and Spain is notable for including both regular light infantry and riflemen, as a result of Sharpe's unit of the 95th Regiment of Foot being merged with the light company after Sharpe was gazetted captain of the company.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]