18th Century Living History

History

The Durham Light Infantry in the Seven Years War.

The early years of the Seven Years War would see British military strength stretched increasingly thin, the war would eventually be fought across the Americas, Europe and India and would be dubbed by Churchill as the “First World War”. To subliment the army in 1756 fifteen regiments were authorised to raise a second battalion. One of these regiments would be the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusilliers, or Huske’s regiment of foot. In 1758 each of these new battalions became a new regiments and were numbered 61 to 77, the 2nd battalion the 23rd foot would become the 68th foot.

John Lambton, the senior Captain of the Guards, would become the Colonel of the regiment and his letter of service was given on the 13th May 1758 authorising him to raise recruits for the new regiment, the 68th foot. John Lambton was a member of the old Durham family and he would begin the link with the county and start the process that would lead to the regiment becoming the Durham Light Infantry.

In May 1758 the 68th foot was stationed on the Isle of Wight, part of a 14,000 army stationed on the Island at the bequest of Britains ally Frederick the Great of Prussia. The purpose of the force being to divert French forces by descents upon the French coast from the ongoing campaigns in Europe. The first expedition anchored at Cancale Bay, near St.Malo, and after pillaging that village and a attempt at taking Cherbourg returned to on the 1st July.

A second expedition involving the 68th on the French Coast would be embarked on the 23rd July, disembarking on the 7th August in the Bay of Ureville and marched for Cherbourg. The town was taken with little resistance and the fort and harbour were demolished, after a few minor skirmishes the 68th sailed for England on the 16th August.

A third and final expedition was launched in succession, the 68th would land at Lunaire Bay on the 3rd September, but would suffer severe defeat after a concentrated French army engaged the British army at St. Cast. The Governor of Brittany, the Duc d’Aiguillon, would lead a force of 6,000 regulars, several squadrons of cavalry, the “Garde de Cote” and militia against the British who fought a rear guard action while evacuating the beach. The british casualties were between 600 and 700 officers and men, with between 300 and 400 taken prisioner by the French. The 68th itself lost 73 men from Captain Revell’s Grenadiers company who formed part of the rear guard force left on the Beach.

The 68th disembarked at Crowes on the 19th September, and proceeded to its former camping ground at King’s Forest. In October the regiment went into winter quarters at Rochester. With losses in expeditions and providing a draft of 173 men to the 61st regiment it was very weak indeed and recruiting parties scoured the country to refill its ranks.

On the 23rd March 1759 the regiment marched from it’s winter quarters at Rochester to Southampton where it would remain until the 2nd June where it embarked on three transports for Jersey. It would arrive on the 21st June and would remain here until the February 1760 when it would return to England. March 1760 would see around 600 men of the regiment drafted to fill up British Regiment in the West Indies. The regiment would march to Leeds, recieving orders on the 10th May to march to Newcastle and billet at Tynemouth Barracks. At this point it mustered 9 companies consisting of 41 officers and 239 men only.

Here the 68th would remain through 1761, with detachments sent to Durham to aid Civil power and providing drafts to fill up other regiments. In May the regiment was based at Hexham with its headquarters at Morpeth. It mustered a strength of 42 officers and 289 men. In January 1762, the 68th had grown to 415 men and was ordered to march to Berwick where it transfered to the command of Lord George Beauclerk, commanding in Scotland or North Britain as it was referred to since the 1745 rebellion. It was quartered at the newly built Fort George and remained throughout 1762 through to 1763 and the end of the war.

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