The 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot:
In 1694, Britain was at war with France and William III, needing more troops ordered Colonel Thomas Farrington, an officer of the Coldstream guards to form a new Regiment. This Regiment became known as Farrington's Regiment of Foot following the custom of the period of naming Regiments after their Colonel. In 1751 (by which time the Regiment had changed its name eight times under successive Colonels) the system changed and all Regiments were given numbers based upon the date of their formation and the Regiment assumed the the title 29th Foot.
The first few years of the Regiment's history were spent in England and Ireland, though with the War of the Spanish Succession developing in Europe it was not long before Farrington's regiment joined the Duke of Marlborough's force in Holland where it arrived in March 1704. However it was several months before the Regiment became actively engaged, namely at the lines of Brabant whren Marlborough's force met that of Marshal Villeroi in an inconclusive action. This was followed in 1706 by a decisive British Victory at the Battle of Ramilies in which the Regiment gained the first of its many Battle Honours.
During a period of over sixty years between1746 and 1807, the 29th Regiment of Foot spent much of its service in North America and two incidents in which they were involved during this time are particularly worthy of note:
"The Ever-Sworded 29th" One night in September 1746, the Officers of the Regiment were at Mess in their Station in North America when they were treacherously attacked by Red Indians, who were supposed to be loyal. The attack was beaten off, but to guard against similar attacks in future the custom of wearing swords in Mess was instituted. This continued as a regimental custom after the Regiment left America, but in 1850 the custom was changed so that only the Captain of the Week and the Orderly Officer of the Day continued to wear their swords at Mess. This unique custom was maintained by the Worcestershire Regiment.
"The Boston Massacre" In 1770 the 29th Foot were stationed in Boston at a time when the discontent and hatred felt by the American colonists towards the Mother country, England was extended to the British Troops station in the Colony. Boston was a particular centre of discord and on several occasions there had been free fights between the townsfolk and members of the Regiment. On 5th March, it being their turn for Garrison Duty, the 29th provided a guard for the customs house, where a certain amount of cash was kept.
A mob of rioters tried to rush the post and the sentry called out the guard. The guard fixed bayonets and kept the crowd at bay, taking no more violent action, although being subjected to a barrage of abuse. However words led to blows and Captain Preston and Private Montgomery were struck down by one of the mob leaders. On regaining his feet Montgomery heard someone shout "Why don't you fire?" and thinking that this was an order to fire, he did so. Others followed him; three of the rioters were killed and several wounded, the rest of the mob running away. In memory of this incident which the Bostonians called the "Boston Massacre" the Regiment, being the first to shed the blood of the Colonists, was given the nickname 'The Blood Suckers' or 'The Vein Openers'. The incident led to the trial of Captain Preston, Private Montgomery and others of the Guard on murder charges, however, with the aid of John Adams (later to become the second President of the United States) as counsel for Captain Preston, they were totally exonerated by the judge and walked from the court free men.
CHANGE OF TITLE
In 1782 individual Regiments began to be linked territorially to counties and the 29th Regiment of Foot was linked to Worcestershire becoming the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WAR
In a decree of the French Convention of 1792, the Republic declared its intention to extend assistance to all dissident subjects of monarchist governments. This led eventually to War with Britain and her European allies resolving to contain the French ports and to attack her shipping. The most important French convoys came from the West Indies and these were protected by the French Navy. On 2nd May 1794 news of an important French convoy was received and the Channel Fleet under Lord Howe put to sea.
Aboard several of the men-of-war were detachments of the 29th Foot which, like a number of other regiments provided drafts to make up for a shorfall of Marines. On the 1st of June the British Fleet came into action against the French. The four hundred-plus of the Regiment were distributed among several ships: Brunswick, Ramillies, Glory, Thunderer and Alfred. Brunswick with 81 men from the 29th on board was played into battle by the ship's band and a drummer from the 29th, with a popular tune of the day, "Heart of Oak". Brunswick met and came to close grips with Le Vengeur a French ship of equal size and armament and for over two hours they fought. During the fierce fighting, the 29th Detachment Comander, a Captain, was killed and the Ensign and 20 others were wounded. At one stage of the Battle, Achille came to the aid of Le Vengeur but was quickly disabled by a broadside fromBrunswick. At last Brunswick and Le Vengeur drifted apart and the French ship, which was sinking, surrendered. The Battle was fought so far out into the Atlantic that it is known by its date - The Glorious First of June. For its share in the engagement, the Regiment was awarded the Naval Crown to be borne with its Battle Honours.
This important campaign, one of the most glorious in the annals of the British Army, was fought in support of the Portuguese and Spanish Allies whose territories had been violated. The 29th Foot was part of Sir Arthur Wellesley's (later to be created Duke of Wellington) Army - as was the 36th Foot, the first time that the two Regiments which were to become the Worcestershire Regiment were on active service together. The 29th embarked at Cadiz on July 1808 and claimed to be the first British unit to land in the Pennisula. It was commanded by the extrovert Lieutenant Colonel The Hon G A F Lake as they advanced towards Rolica. He rode into battle impeccably dressed as if, an observer noted, 'He was about to be received by the King'. Sadly though, it was to be the last time he was to lead his Regiment for he was shot by an enemy skirmisher. He was buried on the battlefield at a spot marked by a monument surmounted by a cross which is maintained by the Portuguese to this day. The musket ball which killed him and the gold medal which was awarded to him posthumously are on display in the Regimental Museum. The 29th saw fierce fighting during the day suffering 151 casualties, the highest figure in Wellesley's army. Four days later the Regiment fought at Vimeiro where the casualties were much lighter, only 14.
At Talavera the 29th again distinguished itself. The dominant feature was a hill about a mile distant from Talavera upon which Wellesley's left rested and as the Regiment was moving up to occupy it the French attacked. It was growing dark and in the half light they secured a foothold on the high ground. However the 29th rallied and charged up the slope at the double with bayonets fixed, cheering as they closed with the enemy and firing volleys at the same time, forcing the French to give way. During this battle the 29th captured two enemy colours although the Eagles which had been on top of them had been unscrewed and removed prior to their being taken, otherwise the honour of taking the first French Eagle would have fallen to them. They suffered 189 casualties in the days fighting. It was after this action that Wellesley wrote to the Viscount Castlereagh, the Secretary of State "My Lord...I wish very much that some measure could be adopted to get some recruits for the 29th Regiment. It is the best Regiment in this Army, has an admirable internal system and excellent non-commissioned officers...."
In 1811, at Albuhera, the Regiment was again to prove its mettle. As the Battle progreessed, casualties were heavy and in the centre stood the Colours, steadfastly carried by two Ensigns, Vance and Furnace. Both were boys of about eighteen and taking part in their first battle. As the ranks thinned, those that were left rallied on the Colours; which unfortunately formed a good aiming mark for the enemy. Two Colour Sergeants had been killed; Ensign Furnace was wounded. The remaining Colour Sergeant propped up his officer, who once more raised aloft the Colour. By now the Regiment had shrunk to a few small groups and the Colour Party itself was isolated. Ensign Vance fell, mortally hit and the last Colour Sergeant was killed. No help was in sight and in an effort to save the Regimental Colour from the French, young Vance ripped it from its pike and hid it, partly in his tunic and partly underneath his body. Ensign Furnace was dead and the King's Colour was his pall. Fresh troops came up; the French were repulsed and that night a search party found the Colours and their guardians. They were dead, but the Colours were saved.
On October 3rd 1811 the Duke of York issued orders for the 29th to return to England to recover and on November 2nd the Regiment embarked, under the command of Major Tucker, on HMS Agincourt, arriving at Portsmouth on December 1st.
The 29th was ordered to the Netherlands in April 1815 in order to take part in the Waterloo campaign. The Regiment landed at Ostend on June 13th but in spite of being rushed up by boat along the canal to Ghent, which was reached on June 15th, the Regiment arrived too late to take part in the battle itself.
SIKH WARS AND INDIAN MUTINY
The 29th played a distinguished part in the Wars against the Sikhs in the Sutlej and the Punjab between 1845 - 1850 gaining four Battle Honours; Sobraon, Ferozeshah, Chillianwallah and Goojerat as well as the Honour Punjaub. The Battle of Goojerat was the last occasion upon which the Colours of the Regiment were carried into action.