Grenadier, The 57th Regiment of Foot, c 1775
The Regiment that featured most prominently in the American Revolution, was the 35th (later The Royal Sussex) who fought in the first of the battles, when the rebels were defeated at Bunker's Hill near Boston in June 1775. They defeated the rebels again at Brooklyn a year later, captured New York in September, won the battle of White Plains in October and remained in New York until the end of the year.
The 31st (East Surreys) were not so successful, through no fault of their own. They were sent to Canada in May 1776 and joined General Burgoyne's force. Ordered to move down the Hudson Valley to meet Lord Howe's army at Albany, in New York State, that were coming up the Hudson. Lord George Germaine, the supremely incompetent Secretary of State for War, failed to tell Howe of this plan, with the result that Burgoyne, unsupported and surrounded, had to surrender at Saratoga.
The 57th (Middlesex) also crossed the Atlantic at the end of 1775, were in action with the 35th at Brooklyn and spent most of the war in the area of New York. The Buffs landed in South Carolina in June 1781, won a bloody little battle at Eutaw Springs on 9 September, and in October, when Lord Cornwallis ended the war by surrendering at Yorktown, sailed to Jamaica.
The 50th (Royal West Kent) continued the naval traditions of The Queen's by serving as marines in a naval engagement off Ushant in 1778 - commemorating the event by thereafter piping the men to dinner.
In 1782 county titles were allotted to Regiments of Foot although they retained their numbers to indicate precedence. The Queen's were not affected, but the title of 'East Kent' was added to The Buffs (3rd Foot), the 31st became the Huntingdonshire Regiment and the 70th the Surrey Regiment. The 35th were associated with Dorsetshire, the 50th with West Kent and the 57th with West Middlesex.
The French, seeking revenge for defeat in the Seven Years War, came to the help of the American Colonists after Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, and in doing so, created the economic crises in France which led to the French Revolution. The deposed king, Louis XVI, was supported by Prussia and Austria who formed an alliance with Britain, Holland and Spain to restore the French monarchy - without success. Britain became involved in the war in 1793 and in the summer of that year The Queen's were divided into detachments serving in the fleet commanded by Admiral Lord Howe; in his flagship Queen Charlotte and in Royal George, Defence, Majestic and Russell.
On 19 May, 1794, cruising off Ushant, Lord Howe learned that the French fleet had put out of Brest and despite thick fog, set off to find it. The enemy was first sighted on 29 May but no attack was possible until 1 June. The British fleet formed line abreast to assault the French who were in line ahead on the port tack, and at 0900 hours on The Glorious First of June both fleets opened fire which continued until 1315 hours although the real battle was over by 1130 hours. British naval gunnery virtually destroyed the French fleet; 7 enemy ships were captured and 3,000 casualties inflicted, against 1,148 British casualties. Among those killed was Lieutenant Neville of The Queen's whose death, at the moment when Queen Charlotte broke through the enemy line, is commemorated in the well known picture often mistaken for the death of Nelson.
Death of Lieutenant Neville of The Queen's
The Buffs and the 57th spent many wretched months cooped up in troopships before reaching Flanders in the summer of 1794 and joining the Duke of York's disastrous expedition. He and his Hanoverian allies were defeated at Hondschoote in September 1794 and his force was finally evacuated from Bremen after an appalling march across northwest Europe in the worst winter for 50 years. Meanwhile the 50th, in league with Nelson were driving the French out of Corsica, and it became a regimental custom to place a wreath at the foot of Nelson's Column in London on Trafalgar Day (21 October).
During this war The Queen's, The Buffs, the 31st, 35th and 57th all served at various times in campaigns against French possessions in the West Indies because the Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, was convinced France could be defeated by cutting off all supplies from her fertile islands in the Caribbean. Battle casualties were very light but whole battalions were destroyed by yellow fever, dysentery and other tropical diseases.
In 1798 The Queen's were heavily involved in the French supported Irish Rebellion, and in the following year, with the 31st and 35th, took part in the Helder Campaign in Holland where the French were defeated in every engagement but failure of the supply system prevented the expedition from achieving anything. In 1800, the 35th, two battalions strong, recovered Malta from the French who had seized the island from the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, and the first British flag raised on the ramparts of Valletta was the King's Colour of the 35th. At midnight 20/21 September 1964, Lt S C Thorpe, 1st Bn The Royal Sussex Regiment lowered the Union Jack on Floriana Parade, Malta GC. The occasion was the moment of Independence granted to Malta on 21st September 1964. The Union Flag is now in the Regimental Museum.
The next major episode in the war was a combined operation in Egypt against Napoleon's 'Army of the East' which he had abandoned for political and other reasons, including the death of his ally Tippoo Sahib in battle in India and the loss of all his sea transport when Nelson won the Battle of the Nile in August 1798. The assault landing at Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria, on 8 March 1801, was a complete success in which The Queen's and the 50th were among the first to reach the shore, and the campaign ended with the occupation of Cairo and the expulsion of the French - conveyed back to France in British ships.
Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore and ally of Napoleon, had plans for his army and the French to drive the British out of those parts of India administered and defended by the Honourable East India Company. Because of his activities, in October 1787 four regiments were raised, in the name of the King but in the pay of the East India Company, to provide greater protection for British interests in India. They were designated the 74th, 75th, 76th and 77th Foot, and the 77th (East Middlesex) was destined to amalgamate with the 57th as the 2nd Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, nearly 100 years later. Recruits for the 77th came from all over the British Isles, assembled at Dover and arrived in Bombay in 1788.
The 77th fought their first battle at Peripatam in March 1799, forcing Tippoo Sahib an ally of the French to withdraw to his capital, Seringapatam, strongly fortified and built on an island in the wide but waist-deep river Cauvery. Volunteers of the 77th made up the 'Forlorn Hope' the pessimistic name given to an assault party of picked troops which led the attack on the city. Seringapatam fell and the body of Tippoo Sahib was found under a mound of corpses in the north gateway. Subsequently the 77th had the distinction of serving in the first independent command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Lord Wellington, in his campaign against the Mahrattas that ended with the capture of Arakeera in the hills known as the Western Ghats in January 1802. The French Revolutionary War was brought to an end by the Treaty of Amiens, signed on 27 March 1802.