Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)

Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)

Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) Cap Badge
Active 1661–1959
Country  Kingdom of England (1661–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1959)
Branch British Army
Type Line infantry
Role Infantry
Size 1–2 Regular battalions
1 Militia battalion (2nd Royal Surrey Regiment of Militia)
4 Volunteer and Territorial battalions
Part of Home Counties Brigade
Garrison/HQ Stoughton Barracks, Guildford[1]
Nickname(s) Kirke's Lambs, The Mutton Lancers
Motto(s) Pristinae Virtutis Memor (Mindful of Former Valour)
Vel Exuviae Triumphans (Even in Defeat Triumphant)
March Quick: The Braganza
Slow: Scipio
Anniversaries Glorious First of June (1 June)
Salerno (9 September)

The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) was a line infantry regiment of the English and later the British Army from 1661 to 1959.[2] It was the senior English line infantry regiment of the British Army, behind only the Royal Scots in the British Army line infantry order of precedence.[3]

In 1959, the regiment was amalgamated with the East Surrey Regiment, to form a single county regiment called the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment which was, on 31 December 1966, amalgamated with the Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment, the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) to form the Queen's Regiment. Following a further amalgamation in 1992 with the Royal Hampshire Regiment, the lineage of the regiment is continued today by the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires).[4]


The regiment was raised in 1661 by Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough as The Earl of Peterborough's Regiment of Foot on Putney Heath (then in Surrey) specifically to garrison the new English acquisition of Tangier, part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry when she married King Charles II.[5] From this service, it was also known as the Tangier Regiment. As was usual at the time, it was also named after its current colonel, from one of whom, Percy Kirke, it acquired its nickname Kirke's Lambs.[6]

In 1685, it was given the Royal title the Queen Dowager's Regiment of Foot (after Queen Catherine, widow of Charles II) and in 1703 became The Queen's Royal Regiment of Foot.[7] In 1715, it was renamed The Princess of Wales's Own Regiment of Foot after Caroline of Ansbach, then Princess of Wales, and was re-designated The Queen's Own Regiment of Foot in 1727 when the Princess became Queen. It was ranked as 2nd Foot in the clothing regulations of 1747, and was renamed 2nd (The Queen's Royal) Regiment of Foot by Royal warrant in 1751.[8]

In the Childers reforms of 1881 it became the county regiment of West Surrey, named The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). In 1921, its title was slightly altered to The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey). By 1950 it was known as The Queen's Royal Regiment. In 1959, it was amalgamated with the East Surrey Regiment, to form the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment.[9]


Early years

Soldier of the Queens regiment of foot, 1742

The regiment shipped to Tangier where it remained until the port was evacuated in 1684, when it returned to England. It took part in the suppression of the Monmouth Rebellion, fighting at the Battle of Sedgemoor, where it earned a widespread (but probably exaggerated[10]) reputation for brutality.[11] After the Glorious Revolution, it fought in Ireland for the new King, William III, defending the besieged Londonderry in 1689 and at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.[12] From 1692 to 1696 it fought in Flanders in the Nine Years' War, at the Battle of Landen and the recapture of Namur in 1695.[13]

During the War of Spanish Succession it served in the Iberian campaign, at Cadiz, Vigo, the sieges of Valencia de Alcantara, Alburquerque, Badajoz, Alcantara and Ciudad Rodrigo, and was virtually destroyed in the disastrous Battle of Almansa.[14] In the campaign in the Low Countries in 1703, it defended Tongres against overwhelming odds, giving Lord Overkirk time to re-group his forces, until it was eventually captured.[15] It was for this action that it was awarded its Royal title and its mottoes. It spent most of the remainder of the 18th Century on garrison duty, being one of the regiments involved in putting down the Gordon Riots.[16]

French and Napoleonic Wars

On the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, detachments were in the West Indies and acting as marines in the Channel Fleet, notably at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, where they served on Howe's flagship, Queen Charlotte and also on board Russell, Defence, Royal George and Majestic.[17] In recognition of the Regiment's service, it was granted the distinction of wearing a Naval Crown superscribed 1 June 1794 on its colours. Another Regimental tradition dating from this victory was that of drinking the Loyal Toast seated (as is Royal Navy custom, owing to the difficulty of officers standing in the low, crowded and often unsteady wardroom of a man-of-war). This tradition is maintained by the successor Regiment, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. The Regiment was then reunited and sent to the West Indies where it took part in the capture of Guadeloupe in 1794, although the occupation was short-lived owing to outbreaks of disease, particularly yellow fever, among the troops, and the capture of Trinidad in 1797. A second battalion was formed in 1795 and stationed in Guernsey before being shipped to Martinique, where it was disbanded in 1797, its personnel being absorbed by 1st Battalion.[18]

The Regiment was transferred to Ireland in 1798 where it helped put down the Irish rebellion and then took part in the unsuccessful 1799 Helder campaign.[19] In 1800, it was part of the abortive expedition to Belle Isle,[20] from which it sailed to Egypt where it fought at the Battle of Alexandria, the Siege of Fort Julien and the Siege of Alexandria.[21]

During the Napoleonic Wars, the regiment first fought in the Peninsular War at the battles of Vimeiro and Corunna.[22] It then took part in the disastrous Walcheren Campaign before returning to the Peninsula to fight at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, the second Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, the Battle of Salamanca and the unsuccessful Siege of Burgos.[23] By the winter of 1812, the Regiment was so depleted by casualties and disease that four companies were amalgamated with the equally weakened 2nd Battalion, 53rd Foot, to form the 2nd Provisional Battalion. Six cadre companies returned home to re-form. As part of the 4th Division, the Provisional Battalion took part in the Wellington's triumph at the Battle of Vittoria on 21 June 1813, followed by the Siege of San Sebastian and, 1814, the battles of Orthes and Toulouse.[24]

Post Napoleonic 19th Century

The Regiment was on garrison duty in Baluchistan when the First Afghan War broke out in 1839. It formed part of the force that attacked the previously-impregnable city of Ghazni, taking the city by storm because the army lacked siege equipment, and opening the way to Kabul. It returned to India in November 1839, storming the city of Khelat en route, and avoiding destruction along with the rest of Elphinstone's army.[25]

It was shipped to the Cape Colony during the Eighth Kaffir War in 1851. On February 25, 1852 a draft of 51 men under the command of Ensign Boyland were aboard HMS Birkenhead travelling from Simon's Bay to Port Elizabeth when the ship struck rocks. The troops were assembled on deck and remained at attention to afford the embarked women and children time to take their place in the lifeboats. Shortly after this the ship broke up and the vast majority of the troops on board were either drowned or fell victim to sharks. The bravery of the troops, made up of cadres from ten different regiments, led to the naming of Birkenhead Drill.[26] It once again became the 1st Battalion when the 2nd Battalion was reformed in 1857, and went to China in 1860 at the time of the Second Opium War, fighting at the Third Battle of Taku Forts and the capture of Beijing.[27] In 1897–98, it took part in the Tirah Expedition on the North-West Frontier.[28] The 2nd Battalion fought in the Third Anglo-Burmese War from 1886 to 1888 and in South Africa from 1899 to 1904 in the Second Boer War.[29]

A 3rd (Militia) Battalion was formed in late 1899 from the former 2nd Royal Surrey Militia, to provide troops for the Second Boer War. It had headquarters at Guildford. The Battalion was sent to South Africa in December 1899, and returned to the United Kingdom in May 1902, when it received a public welcome and reception at Guildford.[30]

The First World War

The Battle of the Lys. A picquet of the 10th (Service) Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) of the 41st Division behind a wire "block" on a road at St. Jean, 29 April 1918.

Regular Army

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 3rd Brigade in the 1st Division in August 1914, and spent the entire war on the Western Front.[31] The battalion saw action at the Battle of Mons, the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Aubers Ridge, the Battle of Loos, the Battle of Festubert, The Hindenburg Line, the Battle of Bellecourt, the Battle of Broodseinde, the Battle of Passchendaele and the Battle of Arras.[32]

The 2nd Battalion was in South Africa when war broke out and landed at Zeebrugge as part of the 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division in October 1914 for service on the Western Front.[31] It fought at the Battle of Ypres, Battle of Aubers Ridge, Battle of Festubert, Battle of Loos and the Battle of the Somme until November 1917, when it was sent to the Italian Front, taking part in the battles of the Piave and Vittorio Veneto.[32]

Territorial Force

The 1/4th Battalion moved to India as part of the Surrey Brigade in the Home Counties Division in October 1914 and remained there throughout the war.[31] The 3/4th Battalion landed in France as part of the 200th Brigade in the 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division in August 1917 for service on the Western Front.[31] The 1/5th Battalion moved to India as part of Surrey Brigade in the Home Counties Division in October 1914 but then transferred to Mesopotamia in December 1915.[31]

Returning prisoners of war were awarded a "Welcome Home Medal" at a reception in Guildford in January 1919. The medal has the regimental badge on one side and the inscription, "Prisoners of War The Queens Regiment Welcome Home" on the reverse and is dated MCMXVIII.[33]

Between the wars

The 1st Battalion spent the inter-war years on garrison duty, both in Britain and overseas. The 2nd Battalion took part in the Waziristan campaign of 1919-1920, attempting to pacify the tribal areas during the unrest following the Third Afghan War. It was in Palestine during the Insurgency of 1936-1939.[34]

The 4th and 5th battalions were both reformed in the Territorial Army, assigned to the 131st (Surrey) Infantry Brigade, alongside the 5th and 6th battalions of the East Surrey Regiment. However, in the reorganisation of the Territorial Army's infantry in the late 1930s, the 4th Queen's was transferred to the Royal Artillery and converted into the 63rd (Queen's) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.[35]

The regiment also raised by two new battalions, by the redesignation of the 22nd (County of London) and 24th battalions of the London Regiment, which disbanded in 1938, and became the 6th (Bermondsey) and 7th (Southwark) battalions of the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) and joined the 5th Battalion in 131st Brigade.[36]

Second World War

Regular Army

The 1st Battalion was serving in British India on the outbreak of the Second World War but did not see action until 1942 against the Imperial Japanese Army. The 1st Queens fought in the Burma Campaign throughout the war as part of the 33rd Indian Infantry Brigade,[37] 7th Indian Infantry Division, of the British Fourteenth Army under Lieutenant General William "Bill" Slim.[38]

The 2nd Battalion, initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Knox Ross until April 1940, spent the early years of the war in the Middle East and Syria before also going out to the Far East. They were part of the 16th Brigade, 6th Infantry Division which was later redesignated as the 70th Infantry Division and were involved in Operation Thursday, the second Chindits campaign.[38] The Chindits were the creation of Brigadier Orde Wingate. After suffering heavy casualties in the Chindits campaign, 2nd Queen's reverted to being an ordinary infantry battalion, nicknamed PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry), and served with 29th Infantry Brigade,[39] part of 36th Infantry Division from May 1945 onwards.[40]

Territorial Army

Infantrymen of the 1/7th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment, part of the 131st Brigade of the 7th Armoured Division, and a Stuart tank in Grazzanise, Italy, 12 October 1943.

The 1/5th, 1/6th, and 1/7th were all 1st Line Territorial Army battalions that were serving in the 131st Infantry Brigade, which was a part of the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division, a 1st Line Territorial Army division. The brigade was sent, along with the rest of the division, to France in 1940 to join the British Expeditionary Force and were quickly involved in the Battle of France and subsequent Dunkirk evacuation. They arrived in England and the division was led for a while by Major-General Brian Horrocks. The division was later sent to North Africa in mid-1942 to join the British Eighth Army and fought in the Battle of Alam el Halfa and later in the Second Battle of El Alamein where the 131st Brigade was assigned to the 7th "Desert Rats" Armoured Division and would remain with them for the rest of the war.[38] The brigade participated in the Tunisian and Italian Campaigns and the North West Europe Campaign. In December 1944, due to heavy casualties and a shortage of infantrymen in the British Army, the 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions were replaced by 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment and 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, both from the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division. The 1/6th and 1/7th would spend the rest of the war as training units with the 50th Infantry Division.[41]

The regiment also raised the 2/5th, 2/6th, and 2/7th which were all 2nd Line Territorial Army battalions serving in the 35th Infantry Brigade of the 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division, a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 44th (Home Counties) Division. They were also sent to France in 1940 and were involved in the Battle of Dunkirk where they suffered heavy casualties due to the men having very little training. The division was disbanded shortly after returning to England and the 35th Brigade was later redesignated the 169th Infantry Brigade. The 169th Brigade was to serve with the 56th Division for the rest of the war in the Italian Campaign in battles at Salerno, Anzio and in the final Allied offensive in Italy, Operation Grapeshot.[42]

In January 1944 Lieutenant Alec George Horwood of the 1/6th Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross whilst fighting in the Burma Campaign whilst attached to the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.[43]

The regiment raised many other battalions during the war, mainly for home defence or as training units. None of these units saw active service, they remained in the United Kingdom for the duration of war. They fulfilled a role of supplying the battalions overseas with trained infantrymen or were converted into other roles. For example, the 13th Battalion, raised in 1940, was assigned–in an infantry capacity–to the 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division.[44] The 14th Battalion was raised in Dorchester in early July 1940[45] commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wilkinson.[46] and in October the battalion was assigned to the 201st Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) and commenced anti-invasion duties. On 1 December 1941 the battalion was converted into the 99th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and it subsequently served in Italy.[47]

Post-war service and amalgamation

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1948 and its personnel transferred to 1st Battalion (which had previously been reduced to nil strength in 1947). The 1st Battalion served in Berlin during the blockade to 1949 then Iserlohn in BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) part of 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Crossed Keys) until 1953. The 1st Battalion fought the Communist guerrillas during the Malayan Emergency from 1954-1957. In 1957, it returned to Germany where, in 1959, it was amalgamated with 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, to form the 1st Battalion, Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment.[9]

Battle honours

The regiment's battle honours were as follows:[2]

Victoria Cross

The following members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Regimental Colonels

The Queen's Royal Regiment of Foot - (1703)
The Queen's Own Regiment of Foot - (1727)
2nd (The Queen's Royal) Regiment of Foot - (1751)
The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) - (1881)
The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) - (1921)


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