The First Regiment of Foot
The Royal Regiment, The Royal Scots

        The First Regiment of Foot, was the first Infantry Regiment of the Line in the British Army.  It was formed in 1633 when Sir John Hepburn, under a Royal Warrant granted by King Charles I, raised a body of men in Scotland for service in France.  By 1635, Sir John Hepburn commanded a force of over 8,000, including many who had fought as mercenaries in the "Green Brigade" for King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.  


         It was by virtue of the Royal Warrant that the entire Regiment was considered as British; a regular force in a standing Army which could be recalled to Britain at will.  In 1661, the Regiment was summoned to Britain to bridge the gap between the disbandment of the New Model Army and the creation of a Regular Army, and was organized along the same lines as the British units in foreign service. The Regiment was thus the original model for all others.

        In 1680, the First Regiment of Foot was sent to Tangier and won its first battle honour.  On its return to England in 1684, the title "The Royal Regiment of Foot" was conferred by Charles II.  During Monmouth's rebellion in 1685, five companies formed part of the force concentrated against the rebels who they met at Sedgemoor.  The following year, the Regiment was divided into two battalions and was not to have less until 1949.

        The Royal Regiment saw service under Malborough during the war of the Spanish Succession and followed this with garrison duty in Ireland where they it remained until 1742.  From this date the two battalions were usually to be separated and posted far apart.  The 1st Battalion moved in 1743 to Germany to take part in the Austrian War of Succession, and was involved in the Battle of Fontenoy.  In the following year, the 2nd Battalion became involved in the fight against the Young Pretender which culminated in the Battle of Culloden.  In 1751 the army was numbered and thereafter the Regiment was officially designated the First or Royal Regiment of Foot.

        The war of Austrian Succession had not settled the chief issue between Britain and France - colonial supremacy.  Both in India and America the fighting continued and most of the Regiment's active service in the 35 years which followed was to be in the New World.  From Canada to the West Indies, during the Seven Years War the 2nd Battalion found itself involved in many actions including the capture of Montreal in 1760 and Havana in 1762.  Then, after a period of home service and in the Mediterranean, it was the turn of the 1st Battalion for service in the West Indies.  Disease rather than the enemy accounted for most deaths; between 1793 and 1796 the British lost 40,000 men in the West Indies of which The Royals lost five officers and 400 men, well over half the battalion strength.

        During the Napoleonic Wars the Regiment was increased to a strength of four battalions. The 1st Battalion spent the entire period of the war in the Americas and the 2nd Battalion took part in the capture of Egypt (1801), then moved to the West Indies (1803-05), before traveling to India, the first time that any part of the Regiment had been there.  They were to stay until 1831. In contrast the 3rd and 4th Battalions, remained in Europe with the 4th Battalion on home service until 1812 supplying drafts for the other three battalions.  The 3rd Battalion first saw action at Corunna in 1808 and then took part in the Peninsular War.  There followed the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo which cost the Battalion 363 casualties out of a strength of 624.  Two years later it was disbanded; the 4th Battalion having suffered a similar fate the previous year.

        The next ninety years produced a considerable number of moves for both battalions with action in India in 1817-31 where the 2nd Battalion was stationed.

        The Crimean War was the next major campaign for the First Regiment of Foot.  The 1st Battalion arrived in time for the Battle of Alma.  This battalion also fought in the battles of Inkerman, and Sevastopol.  The 2nd Battalion arrived in time for the assault on the Quarries in June of 1855.  Both battalions were in the unsuccessful  assault in June on the Redan, and the final dreadful assault in September, 1855.  

        The Regiment's first Victoria Cross was won by Private Joseph Prosser of Moneygall, Ireland.  Private Prosser was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the First Regiment of Foot ( Royal Scots, The Lothian Regiment ). It was on the 16th of June 1855, during the Siege of Sevastopol, that he performed two acts of heroism.  

        During the initial stages of the land battles of the Crimean War, the 1st Battalion was part of the 3rd Division.  Later, in front of Sevastopol, both battalions became part of the Highland Division under Sir Colin Campbell.  Following the army reforms of the 1870s, the numeric identification, First Foot, was done away with, and the territorial name for the regiment, The Royal Scots, has been used since that time.


For the above information, we are indebted to the Royal Regiment's Web site, Edinburgh, The Victoria Cross Web site, and Into Battle! British Orders of Battle for the Crimean War, 1854-1856, Ron McGuigan, 2001, Withycut House, Bowdon, ISBN 1-899244-02-6.


St. David's Day, 2007