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The Somerset Light Infantry:
A History

 

 
1685

Raised by Theophilius, Earl of Huntingdon, at the request of James II to help squash the rebellions led by the Earl of Argyll and Duke of Monmouth. At this time the regiment was known as the Earl of Huntingdon's Regiment.

   
1688 Switched its allegiance to the Protestant William of Orange, Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinando Hastings becomes Colonel of the Regiment, thus it became Hastings' Regiment of Foot.
   
1689 Sent to Scotland to help smooth the accession of William of Orange. Took part in a battle against the Scots at Killekrankie. 
   
1695 Colonel Hastings proved guilty of extortion and relieved of his commission. Replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Jacob, thus becoming Jacob's Foot.
   
1701-3 Sent to Holland to take part in the War of Spanish Succession. The Colonel again changed, the regiment changed to the Earl of Barrymore's Foot. In 1702 the regiment took part in the sieges of Venloo, Reuremonde and the Fort of Chartreuse.
   
1704 To Lisbon, Portugal then onto Gibraltar, to protect 'The Rock' from a combined French and Spanish force. Gibraltar was taken by Britain for the first time and the Regiment gained it's first battle honour.

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1705-6 Joined the Earl of Peterborough's Expeditionary Force to Spain, taking part in the capture of Barcelona and of San Mateo.
   
1706 Barrymore's Foot was summoned to a meeting with the Earl of Peterborough, where it was mounted and became Pearce's Dragoons. Lord Barrymore, along with five Officers, ten Sergeants and ten Corporals returned to England and formed a new infantry regiment.
   
1709 The Regiment's first major defeat on the banks of the River Caya against the French and Spanish. Over three hundred men are captured and remain prisoners for the next year.
   
1711-28 Garrison duty at Gibraltar.
   
1743 War of the Austrian Succession where they took part in the battle of Dettingen as Pulteney's Foot. Awarded Dettingen as a battle honour.
   
1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion, Pulteney's Foot recalled from Flanders to Scotland, where it took part in the relief of Stirling Castle, before following the retreat of the Jacobite army. They took part in the battles of Fontenoy and Culloden. The Officers and Sergeants were awarded the honour of wearing their sash knotted on the right side, whilst the rest of the army were to wear theirs on the left.
   
1747 The Battle of Val, in Flanders, part of the War of the Austrian Succession.
   
1751 A Royal warrant, dated 1 July 1751, ensured consistency in uniforms, standards and colours. It also brought in the system of numbering the regiments of Foot according to their precedence in a complex hierarchy, thus Pulteney's Regiment of Foot became the 13th Regiment of Foot.
   
1782 All army regiments are linked to a county in order to aid the recruitment process. The 13th becomes the 13th (Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot.
 
1790-94 During the French revolutionary wars the regiment was sent to the Caribbean to increase the British presence in the Windward and Leeward Islands, before moving to Jamaica and then on to St. Domingo to help the French against the rebel slaves. Due to illness the regiment was reduced to just sixty men.
   
1801 The Defeat of Napoleon's army at Aboukir, allowing for a British advance to Alexandria. 'Egypt' and 'The Sphinx' added to the colours.
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1808 Sent to the West Indies, Martinique captured from France in just three weeks. Martinique added to battle honours.
   
1809 Guadeloupe captured from the French in only ten days.
   
1813-15 The American War, with the 13th on the side of Canada versus the United States of America. Used Light Infantry tactics for the first time.
   
1822 The 13th (Somersetshire Light Infantry) Regiment formed as a Corps of Light Infantry.
   
1823 Sail for India for the first time, the beginning of a relationship which would last until Indian independence in 1948.
 
1824-26 First Burmese War. Awarded the battle honour Ava.
   
1838-42 First Afghan War and siege of Jellalabad. Awarded the battle honours Ghuznee 1839, Afghanistan 1939 and Cabool [Kabul] 1842. The regiment is also awarded the honour of being named the 13th or Prince Albert's Light Infantry and is nicknamed the 'Illustrious Garrison'
   
1855 The Crimean War. Briefly based at Sevastopol. Awarded the battle honour Sevastopol and the Crimean medal.
   
1857 Indian Mutiny. The regiment only took a sideline role, so no battle honour was awarded.
   
1858 Second battalion raised.
   
1877-78 The 9th Kaffir War, in South Africa, fought by the 1st battalion.
   
1878-79 Zulu War. The 1st battalion become involved in the conflict, although takes no part in the famous massacre at Isandhlwana, nor the attack on Rorke's Drift. The Regiment's first Victoria Cross is awarded to Major William Knox-Leet and another battle honour is awarded.
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1881 The Territorial system is introduced, the regiment becomes definitely linked with Somerset, and is renamed Prince Albert's (Somersetshire) Light Infantry.
   
1885-7 Third Burmese War. The first action fought by the 2nd battalion.
   
1899-1902 Boer War, the 2nd battalion fought in the Relief of Ladysmith and received the battle honour South Africa 1899-1902. The 4th battalion was also awarded the battle honour, South Africa 1900-1901.
   
1908 'The Territorial and Reserves Forces Act' comes into force, which means the disbandment of Somerset's 4th militia battalion and the 3rd militia battalion becoming a reserve battalion.
   
1911 March 1st battalion sent to South Wales to keep order during the great coal strike.
September 2nd battalion sent to Tientsin, China, to play a role in an international peacekeeping force.
1912 The Regiment's title again changes, this time to Prince Albert's (Somerset Light Infantry).
1914-1918 The Great War. The 1st battalion fights on the Western Front for the duration of the conflict, whilst the 2nd battalion serves in India. In total nineteen battalions were raised seeing service in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Burma and at home. In total seventy-one battle honours were awarded, including the retreat from Mons, Le Cateau, Somme 1916 and 1918, Ypres, 1915, 1917 and 1918 and Cambrai, 1917 and 1918.
1919 Third Afghan war.
1920 Another name change to The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's).
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1939-45 World War II. The 1st battalion spends the majority of the war in India but fights the Japanese in the Arakan, Burma during 1943 and 1944. The 2nd battalion fights alongside the Americans in Italy and helps end the civil war in Greece. Ten battalions were raised seeing action across North-Western Europe and at home. In total twenty-eight battle honours were awarded, including Hill 112, Rhineland, North-West Europe 1944-1945, Cassino II and Burma 1943-44.
1947 2nd battalion in Austria performing peace keeping duties.
1948 28 February The 1st battalion are the last British troops to leave a newly independent India, aboard the Empress of Australia.
June Amalgamation of the 1st and 2nd battalions. The Somerset Light Infantry took over the training of the other Light Infantry divisions at Bordon in Hampshire.
1951 Involved in peace keeping duties along the Rhine.
1952-5 The Malayan Emergency.
1956 The Suez Crises, only the anti-tank platoon become involved, whilst the rest of the regiment remained in Malta before moving to Cyprus, to fulfil another peace keeping role.
1959 6 October: The Somerset Light Infantry was amalgamated with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry to form the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry. The county's Territorial Army alone keeps the name of the Somerset Light Infantry.
1968 The Light Infantry was formed on Vesting Day, 10 July 1968. All the Light Infantry regiments were amalgamated to form one. The 6th battalion the (Somerset and Cornwall) Light Infantry, a territorial battalion, maintains its Headquarters in Taunton.
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List of regimental battle honours

Other useful sources

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