54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot
Originally formed in 1755 at Salisbury as the 56th Regiment of Foot, it was renumbered as the 54th Regiment of Foot when the 50th Regiment and 51st Regiment were disbanded. The Regiment was renamed as the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot on 31 August 1782 when county association was introduced. As part of the Childers Reforms it was united with the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot, to form The Dorsetshire Regiment in 1881.
The 54th served at:
- Gibraltar Station 1756—1765
- America 1776—1781
- Flanders 1794—1795
- West Indies 1796
- Egypt 1801
- Gibraltar 1802—1805
- Cape of Good Hope 1806
- Buenos Aires & Montevideo 1806—1807
- Baltic 1813
- France 1814—1815
- Cape (South Africa) 1819
- Burma & India 1824—1840
- India (Indian Mutiny) 1857—1866 & 1871—1886
- South Africa 1900
During the American Revolution, the 54th Regiment assaulted Fort Griswold in Groton, Connecticut on September 6, 1781 in the Battle of Groton Heights. The battle resulted in almost 80 American soldiers being massacred by the British after the American commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Ledyard, had surrendered.
In May 1778 100 men of the 54th Regiment of Foot embarked on boats to attack saw mills at Fall River, Massachusetts. The galley Pigot and some armed boats were to provide support. Pigot grounded, but the attack proceeded anyway. A sharp skirmish ensued when the troops arrived at their objective. Even so, they were able to destroy one saw mill and one grain mill, as well as a large stock of planks and boards, other buildings, some cedar boats, and so on. They then withdrew, having lost two men killed and five officers and men wounded. As the tide returned, Pigot was floated off, but as Flora towed her off, Flora lost two men killed and a lieutenant severely wounded.
Sarah Sands fire 1857
On deployment to India during the Indian Mutiny about 350 men and five women of the headquarters, 54 Regiment, were aboard SS Sarah Sands, one of the earliest iron, screw type steamers, when fire broke out on 11 November 1857. The ship had been built in 1846 and had previously been chartered by the British government for the Crimean War and was again under charter transporting troops and a large amount of powder and ammunition carried in two magazines. The ship was a thousand miles from nearest land and outside shipping lanes, and if lost with all aboard would have been another mystery, though messages were placed in bottles that were never found. Some of the crew, which had been troublesome since sailing, abandoned ship in the two best boats leaving the ship's officers, remaining crew and men of the regiment to fight the fire. The ladies were put in a boat with what provisions could be found and Private William Wiles of the regiment and ship's Quartermaster Richard Richmond risked their lives to save the regimental colours from below decks.
The starboard magazine was cleared of explosives but the port magazine was reached only through suffocating smoke and volunteers led by Major Hughes cleared what they could but two large barrels of powder could not be brought up to be thrown overboard. At about nine in the evening the fire broke through the deck, set fire to rigging and shortly after the expected explosion of the powder occurred blowing out the after cabins, remnants of the salooon and ship's port quarter, even causing the ship's stern to momentarily dip under water. Though rafts had been prepared the remaining crew and troops continued to fight the fire through the night, cutting through the deck and using buckets to fight the fire that was beginning to turn the iron hull red hot. By nine the next morning the fire was under control but the ship's after portion was entirely burned out, with even glass in the ports melted, and flooded with loose water tanks smashing against the hull. Those in boats were recovered, the stern was strengthened with an arrangement of chain and leaks stopped with sail and steering managed by a system of six men sitting on planks rigged each side of the rudder controlling it using ropes. Thus the ship made the nearly thousand miles to Mauritius arriving on 25 November despite miseries endured with short rations of food and water. The regiment was sent to Calcutta in another vessel and Sarah Sands was repaired enough to sail for Britain and full repair to sail for Bombay as a sailing ship—where she ran aground and was so badly damaged that she was abandoned.
The iron construction, aided by three iron watertight bulkheads, one constantly kept cool by troops wetting it with water, saved the ship and probably all the lives and later substantially helped remove prejudice against iron vessels.
Battle honours won by the regiment were:
- Marabout, Egypt
- Second Burmese War: Ava
Colonels of the Regiment
Colonels of the regiment were:
56th Regiment of Foot - (1755)
- 1755–1757: F.M. John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll (Marquess of Lorne)
54th Regiment of Foot - (1756)
- 1757–1760: Gen. John Grey
- 1760–1770: Gen. John Parslow
- 1770–1801: Gen. Mariscoe Frederick
54th (the West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot - (1782)
- 1801–1807: Gen. Sir David Baird, 1st Baronet, GCB, KC
- 1807–1808: Gen. Oliver Nicolls
- 1808–1809: Gen. Hon. Edward Finch
- 1809–1816: Gen. James Ochonar Forbes, 17th Baron Forbes
- 1816–1841: Gen. Isaac Gascoyne
- 1841–1845: Lt-Gen. Sir Henry Sheehy Keating, KCB
- 1845–1850: Gen. Ulysses de Burgh, 2nd Baron Downes, GCB
- 1850–1856: Lt-Gen. William Alexander Gordon, CB
- 1856–1860: Gen. Sir William John Codrington, GCB
- 1860–1868: Gen. Mildmay Fane
- 1868–1876: Gen. Studholme John Hodgson
- 1876–1877: Gen. David Elliot Mackirdy
- 1877–1880: Gen. Lord Mark Ralph George Kerr, GCB
- 1880–1881: Gen. John Ramsay Stuart, CB
- "54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 18 April 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
- Edwards's Military Catalogue 1908.
- The London Gazette, 12 September 1778, p. 3.
- Bradlee, International Marine Engineering (February 1913), p. 82.
- Bradlee, International Marine Engineering (February 1913), pp. 82, 83.
- Bradlee, International Marine Engineering (February 1913), p. 83.
- Bradlee, Francis B. C. (1913). "The Burning of the Sarah Sands". International Marine Engineering. New York: Aldrich Publishing Company. 18 (February 1913). Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Brown, Steve; Burnham (Ed.), Robert (September 2014). "British Infantry Regiments and the Men Who Led Them 1793-1815—54th Regiment of Foot" (PDF). The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Edwards (1908). Edwards's Military Catalogue—Entry for Records of the Fifty-fourth, West Norfolk Regiment in 8 volumes by Roorkee, 1851. London: Francis & Co., The Athenæum Press. p. 64. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Pigot, Major General (1778). "Copy of a letter from Major General Pigot to Sir Henry Clinton". The London Gazette. London (12 September 1778). Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Narrative of the Burning of the Sarah Sands Screw Steam Ship With the Head Quarters of H. M. 54th Regiment On Board (1870 account by "A Late 54th Officer")