Bombay European Regiment
Origin and History
The treaty, signed on June 28, 1661, which led to the marriage of Catherine of Braganza with King Charles II of England, specified that the port ans island of Bombay (present-day Mumbai) were transferred to England. Earlier, in March 1661, Sir Abraham Shipman had been permitted to raise a force of 400 men for the King’s service in the East Indies. The unit was organised in four companies. Shipman was appointed commander-in-chief of the island of Bombay. In April 1662, the unit embarked on board six ships and sailed for Bombay, arriving there in October. Difficulties arising with the Portuguese administrators, troops were finally landed on the island of Angediva at the end of December. In 1663, the regiment fortified the island of Angediva. By June, illness had reduced it to 4 officers and 140 men. Sir Shipman died of fever on April 6, 1664. Prior to his death, he had designated Humphrey Cooke to assume command of his unit. Finally, on February 2, 1665, Cooke and the remnants of the unit took possession of Bombay. By February 25, the unit could field only 111 soldiers. On November 5, 1666, Sir Gervaise Lucas arrived at Bombay to replace the late Sir Shipman as governor and commander of the soldiers but Captain Gary assumed effective command of the unit. By the end of 1667, the regiment was a mixture of 93 English, 42 Portuguese and French, and 150 Natives for a total of 285 men, including officers. On March 27, 1668, the King of England transferred the Island of Bombay to the East India Company. In December, most of the officers and soldiers of the regiment (only two companies) entered into the service of the East India Company.
In 1670, part of the regiment was sent to the defence of the English factory at Surat while the other part defended Bombay. In 1671, recruits arrived from England bringing the unit to a total of 280 men, including officers. A detachment was sent to Surat. In 1672, when war was declared with the Dutch, the two companies of the regiment were strengthened to 130 men each and the fortifications of Bombay were completed. In 1673, the regiment contributed to the repulse of a landing attempt by the Dutch.
In 1679, a Maratha force attacked the Island of Bombay but, after a few naval engagements, an agreement was concluded with the administrators of the East India Company.
In May 1684, the regiment was increased to three companies for a total of 462 men and instructions were issued to discharge the Topasses and reduce each company to 100 men. In 1687, the seat of government of the Presidency was transferred from Surat to Bombay.
In 1689, the Great Mughal sent an expedition against Bombay. His troops landed on the island near the fort. In 1690, they made themselves masters of Bombay. In 1691, an agreement was finally reached and they evacuated the island.
In 1720, 400 men of the regiment (now counting a total of eight companies) took part in an unsuccessful expedition against the pirate stronghold of Gheriah (present-day Vijaydurg). From the eight companies of the regiment, two were stationed at Tellicherry; one, at Anjengo; and five (including the grenadier company) at Bombay. Furthermore, a small troop of 40 mounted men, known as dragoons, was attached to the regiment which also counted some artillerymen. By 1724, the regiment had been reduced to four musketeer companies and one grenadier company under Major Stanton. In 1727, the troops of dragoons was disbanded and its men incorporated into the grenadier company.
In 1733, a detachment of 3 officers and 100 men defended the Island of Andheree against the Maratha Admiral Tulaji Angre. Furthermore, 200 men of the regiment unsuccessfully laid siege to Nelleseran. The same year, two additional companies were raised from draft from the other five companies.
In 1739, the Maratha invaded the Island of Bombay but negotiations avoided the fall of the fort. In 1742, the regiment was designated for the first time as the “Bombay European Regiment”. It then consisted of 1,591 men.
By 1742, the European companies present at Bombay were designated as the "Bombay European Regiment".
In 1747, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), 300 men of the regiment were sent to the relief of Fort St. David. In 1748, they took part in the combat of Cuddalore and in the unsuccessful attack on Ariancopang. In 1749, this detachment took part in the capture the fort of Devi Cottah. In March 1751, it returned to Bombay. Meanwhile, in 1748, 900 men of the regiment took part in the recapture of Surat.
In 1749, the artillerymen forming part of each company were formed into a distinct Artillery Company and the regiment was reorganised in ten companies under the command of a major. Each company consisted of:
- 1 captain
- 1 lieutenant-colonel
- 1 ensign
- 4 sergeants
- 4 corporals
- 3 drummers
- 70 privates
Furthermore, the first, or Major’s Company, was commanded by a captain-lieutenant and included an adjutant, a sergeant-major and a drum-major.
In May 1751, a detachment of 100 men of the regiment was sent to defend Surat against the enterprises of the Suffdir Khan who had almost conquered the town when a peace agreement was reached on April 14, 1752. Meanwhile, in October 1751, the two companies (54 Europeans and 488 Topasses) based at Tellicherry had been forced to retire to Eddicote.
In October 1752, the regiment received 120 Protestant recruits and a complete company of Swiss soldiers under Captain de Zeigler. By 1753, the regiment counted six companies totalling 1,351 men. In 1754, two companies of the regiment (450 men under Captains Forbes and de Zeigler) along with three companies of Sepoys were sent to Madras to reinforce Lawrence’s Corps and fought in the combat of Elmiseram against an army of French and Mysoreans. On January 11 1755, peace was concluded between the French and British in India.
During the Seven Years' War, the battalion was under the command of:
- from September 20, 1750: Major William McKenzie
- from 1753: Major Sir James Foulis
- from 1761: Major Govin
Service during the War
In February 1755, the two companies previously sent to Madras formed part of a force under Lieutenant-Colonel Heron, an officer newly arrived from England, which was employed to bring under subjection to the nawab the Polygar chiefs in the countries round Madura and Tinnevelly. This was entirely a jungle warfare. In October, Captain de Zeigler retired and, as there is no further mention of the Swiss Company, it is probable that it was henceforth recruited and treated as the remainder. In the autumn, Commodore James sailed for Madras in the Protector (44) to bring back the detachment (now only 250 men) of the regiment which had been lent to that Presidency. They arrived at Bombay on November 11 and 12. During this campaign, they had suffered 123 casualties.
In February 1756, part of the regiment participated in the siege and capture of Gheriah. On October 29, two companies of the regiment (approx. 400 men) under command of Captains Buchanan and Armstrong, with Captain-Lieutenant Egerton, Lieutenants Palmer, Govin, Moltimore, Walsh and Ensign Robertson, with some artillery details, embarked on the ships Revenge, Orica and Mahumty to be transported to Bengal. Commodore James was in command of the squadron.
In March 1757, the two companies sent to Bengal arrived at Calcutta. They immediately joined Clive’s Corps for the expedition against Chandernagore. The place surrendered on March 23 and the two companies were left there to garrison the place. On June 5, Captain Buchanan died and Lieutenant Palmer temporarily assumed command of his company. On June 12, the two companies were relieved by 100 sailors and joined Clive's army who undertook its famous campaign in Bengal. On June 23, the Bombay detachment fought in the battle of Plassey.
In 1758, the two companies of the regiment serving in Bengal were incorporated in the Bengal European Regiment.
In 1759, a company was raised to take the place of the two companies detained in Bengal. On February 12, the artillery was separated from the infantry and formed into a separate corps. At the end of February, 800 men of the regiment under Captain Lane and 1,500 Sepoys were sent to the relief of Surat. During the storming of the Castle of Surat, the regiment lost Captains Inglis and Funge, Ensign Scoone and 40 men were killed.
In 1760, the Presidency of Bombay sent three companies of Royal Artillery and Captain Gore’s Company of the regiment (100 Europeans and 122 Topasses) to reinforce the British army operating on the coast of Coromandel. In May, Captain Gore’s Company arrived at Madras aboard the Godolphin. They joined Coote’s Army and from September, took part in the Siege of Pondicherry which finally surrendered on January 15, 1761.
Information about the uniforms worn by the troops of the East India Company during the Seven Years War are scarce. Here we assume that this regiment wore the same regiment as the Bengal European Regiment.
|Coat||brick red lined buff with 3 white buttons under the right lapels
|Waistcoat||buff laced white|
Troopers were armed with with a "East India" flintlock musket and a bayonet.
According to Carman, in 1759, the Bombay European Regiment continued to wear scarlet with green facings.
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This article contains texts from the following sources, which are now in the public domain:
- Mainwaring, A. E.: The Records of the Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, London: Humphreys, 1911
- Carman, W. Y.: Indian Army Uniforms under the British from the 18th century to 1947 – Artillery, Engineers and Infantry, London: Morgan-Grampian, 1969, p. 161