George Villiers' Marines

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> George Villiers' Marines

Origin and History

The military soon realised the advantage of having troops trained to the use of arms on board of ships, as well as on land.

In November 1664, on the eve of the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-67), King Charles II created a corps specifically for sea-service. This corps was commanded by the Duke of York (the future King James II), then Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, and was designated “The Admiral’s Maritime Regiment.” This was followed in June 1665 by the formation of The Holland Regiment, Both regiments were on the Navy Establishment, and served with the fleet during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In May 1667, both regiments were transferred to the establishment of the Guards and Garrisons. Detachments from the existing regiments of foot guards were detailed for sea service as well.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74), a number of regiments were raised for service with the fleet. Furthermore, battalions for sea-service were also formed by drafts from the land-forces. Several companies of the Foot Guards were employed on the Marine duty. On 7 June, these companies took part in the Battle of Solebay against the Dutch fleet. They were also engaged in several other actions during the war. Nevertheless, all these regiments, battalions and companies remained part of the land forces.

In 1689, King William III incorporated “the Admiral’s Regiment” (which was then considered the third regiment of infantry) in the 2nd Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards. In January 1690, two Marine regiments were added to the Navy Establishment for service on board the fleet.

In July 1698, a new establishment of the marine forces was ordered. There were four regiments in this new establishment: one was formed from the original two regiments raised in 1690, and three regiments were formed by the reassignment of three regiments of foot. In May 1699, these four regiments were all disbanded.

In February 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the British Parliament enabled Queen Anne to increase the efficiency of her navy, by forming Corps of Marines, which could act at sea as well as on land. On 1 June, six regiments, including the present regiment, were accordingly added to the regular Army as a Marine Corps. Each of these regiments comprised twelve companies of 59 men each. In addition, six regular regiments of infantry were appointed for Sea-service. Colonel William Seymour was nominated to superintend the Marine forces and promoted to brigadier-general.

On March 14, a Royal Warrant was issued, authorising Colonel George Villiers to raise a regiment of marines consisting of 40 officers and 793 other ranks, more precisely

  • staff
    • Colonel George Villiers
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Lutterel
    • Major Thomas Carew
    • Surgeon James Church
    • Surgeon’s Mate William Church
  • 12 companies, each of:
    • 1 captain
    • 1 first lieutenant
    • 1 second lieutenant
    • 2 sergeants (an additional sergeant for the grenadier company)
    • 3 corporals
    • 2 drummers
    • 59 private soldiers

Commissions of the field-officers were antedated February 12, 1702. The rendezvous of the regiment was appointed to be Taunton and Bridgewater. The regiment was raised in the West County as the "George Villiers' Regiment of Marines" and was ranked as 2nd marines.

On 25 December 1703, each company of marines was increased to 100 men. Thus, the six marine regiments numbered a total of 8,166 officers and men.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive proprietors of the regiment were:

  • from February 1702: George Villiers (drowned in December 1703)
  • from 6 December 1703: Alexander Lutterell (died in 1706)
  • from 1 February 1706: Joshuah Churchill
  • from 1 March 1711 to 1716: Sir Harry Goring

On 25 March 1713, the regiment was converted to a line infantry unit and was transferred to the Irish Establishment. This regiment later became the 31st Regiment of Foot, afterwards the East Surrey Regiment.

Service during the War

N. B.: throughout the war, marines served on board the fleet in detachments regardless of the regimental structure. For example, the naval force under Admiral Sir George Rooke that took Gibraltar in August 1704 carried about 2,200 marines from all six regiments. Likewise, the battalions of marines part of the expeditions to Port Royal in 1710 and Quebec in 1711 were formed from all six regiments as well.

In 1702, five companies the regiment were selected to take part in the expedition against Cádiz. In late May, these companies embarked at Plymouth and joined the fleet assembled at Portsmouth. In July, the expedition sailed for Cádiz. On 15 August, the regiment landed at the Bay of Bulls between Rota and Fort Santa Catarina. The attempt on Cádiz failed and the troops were re-embarked. On 30 September, the expedition sailed from Cádiz. On October 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Vigo Bay where it served on board the fleet. In November, when the troops arrived in Great Britain, the regiment was stationed at Plymouth.

On 6 January 1703, seven companies of the regiment were stationed at Plymouth. On 27 January, four companies were ordered for embarkation on board of the ships Suffolk (70) and Grafton (70), which proceeded on service to the coast of Spain, to join the fleet under Admiral Sir George Rooke, and continued in that quarter and in the Mediterranean during that year. In December, Colonel Villiers was drowned. On 6 December, he was succeeded in the colonelcy by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Lutterell. On 7 December, two companies were lost in the Great Storm.

In February 1704, the regiment proceeded, under Admiral Sir George Rooke, to Lisbon, from whence it proceeded to Barcelona. On 19 May, the troops were landed at Barcelona under the command of the Prince von Hessen-Darmstadt. However, the force was insufficient to capture the place and were re-embarked on 20 May. The fleet next proceeded to attack the Fortress of Gibraltar. On the afternoon of 21 July, the Prince von Hessen-Darmstadt effected a landing with 1,800 British and Dutch Marines. After a bombardment of three days, the governor was forced to capitulate. On the evening of 24 July, the Allies took possession of the fortress. In October an Franco-Spanish force besieged the Fortress of Gibraltar. The regiment then took part in the defence of the place during this siege which lasted for seven months. After selecting a sufficient force to garrison Gibraltar, the Marine Corps were distributed in the several ships of war which were then collected in the Tagus, to cooperate with the land forces on the coast of Spain.

At the end of May 1705, the regiment was selected to take part in the expedition against Barcelona. On August 22, the fleet anchored before the city. The regiment then participated in the siege and capture of Barcelona which surrendered on 6 October.

In 1706, the regiment took part in the capture of Carthagena, Alicante, Ibiza and Majorca.

In 1707, the regiment took part in the unsuccessful siege of Toulon which was finally raised on 10 August.

In 1708, the regiment took part in the capture of the Island of Sardinia, Cagliari capitulating on 13 August. The fleet then sailed for Minorca, arriving before Port Mahon on 28 August. For the conquest of the island, all Marines fit for service were drawn from the ships about to return to Great Britain, and were incorporated in the four marine regiments which would be employed in the reduction of this island. The officers of Holt’s Marines and Shannon’s Marines returned to England to recruit new troops. By mid-September, the island had been conquered.

In the early part of 1709, an armament was prepared to attack the French settlement of Port Royal in Acadie. The expedition was entrusted to Colonel Nicholson of the Marines, and to Captain Martin of the Navy. The squadron proceeded to Boston, where it was reinforced by some ships and by provincial auxiliary troops. On 24 September, the troops disembarked near Port Royal which surrendered on 1 October. The marines took possession of the settlement which was renamed Annapolis Royal in honor of Queen Anne. Meanwhile in Europe, part of the regiment took part in the unsuccessful defence of Alicante.

On 3 July 1710, part of the regiment took part in the expedition in Languedoc. The same year, a detachment of the regiment formed part of the Marine Battalion of 400 men, which took part in the capture of Port Royal in Acadia.

In 1711, a detachment of the regiment formed part of the Marine Battalion of 600 men, which took part in the unsuccessful expedition against Québec.

Uniform

There were still no regulation concerning uniforms and colonels were responsible for the clothing of their soldiers. Therefore, there were wide variations from one regiment to another.

Hairs were worn long in a “long bob”. They were sometimes tied at the back of the neck. The hair bag was also already in use.

Men as well as officers were clean-shaven. Officers sometimes wore small moustaches.

Privates

Uniform in 1707 - Copyright Kronoskaf
'Uniform Details' in 1707 as per Vilalta, Farmer and Lawson
Headgear
Musketeer black unlaced tricorne

For the uniform of 1702, Lawson and Cannon mention a high crowned leather cap covered with cloth of the facing colour and ornamented with devices, the same as the caps worn by the grenadiers

Grenadier cloth cap with a raised and stiffened front decorated with the embroidered crowned Royal cypher or the colonel's crest; and with an embroidered grenade at the back of the cap
Neck stock knotted white linen neck-cloth with ends hanging or tucked into the top of the coat
Coat scarlet frock-coat lined yellow with pewter buttons along the full length of the right side and 1 pewter button on each side in the small of the back

N.B.: the coats of grenadiers had white tufted laced loops ornamenting the buttonholes down to the waist

For the uniform of 1702, Lawson mentions a red watermen’s coat

Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets placed low on the coat, each with 3 pewter buttons
Cuffs yellow, each with 3 pewter buttons

N.B.: the cuffs of grenadiers had white tufted laced loops ornamenting the buttonholes

Turnbacks none
Waistcoat long yellow waistcoat with pewter buttons
Breeches white
Stockings during campaigns, a first pair of finer stockings was pulled up under the breeches at the knees while a coarser pair of white stockings was worn over them, pulled over the knees and fastened with a leather strap and buckle
Gaiters buff
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather strap with a brass buckle
Waist-belt buff waistbelt with a brass buckle worn above the coat
Cartridge Box black pouch carried in front, with bayonet belt attached

Grenadiers had a pouch on a shoulder belt to carry grenades

Bayonet Scabbard black leather with a brass tip
Scabbard black leather with a brass tip
Footwear shoes fastened with a strap and buckle


Musketeers were armed with a musket without sling, a bayonet and a sword. Grenadiers were armed with a firelock with a sling, a hatchet, a bayonet and grenades.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms almost identical to those of privates with the following differences:

  • tricorne laced silver
  • silver braids on the seams of the coat

Sergeants initially carried a halberd and corporals a musket. Gradually, all NCOs were equipped with musket.

Officers

Officers wore beaver tricornes laced gold (probably reserved to superior officers) or silver (probably reserved to subaltern officers). They also wore the fashionable full flowing curled wigs. On service they usually plaited their wig.

A large gorget was worn around the neck tied with ribbons. The gorget was gilt for captains, black studded with gold for lieutenants and silver for ensigns.

Officers usually wore uniforms somewhat similar to those of privates (even though there were not yet any regulation compelling them to do so), made of finer material. Their coats were decorated with gold or silver braids down the seams and on the sleeves; and with gold or silver embroidered buttonholes. Cuffs were usually of the same colour as the coat instead of the distinctive colour of the regiment.

The waistcoats of officers were often decorated with gold or silver fringes.

A crimson sash (often interwoven with gold or silver and fringed similarly) was worn around the waist.

Breeches were tied with rosettes below the knee.

Officers wore gloves, often decorated with gold or silver fringes.

Officers carried a sword and a half pike or a spontoon.

The cartouche box of officers were often covered in velvet and decorated with gold or silver embroideries.

Musicians

Drummers and hautboys usually wore coat of the facing colour of the regiment, decorated with lace on the seams of sleeves and back and on the buttonholes. Their coat was decorated with the crowned King's cypher or the Colonel's crest embroidered on the breast and back. Sometimes their coat had hanging sleeves.

Colours

no information found

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Thirty-First or The Huntingdonshire Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1850
  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Marine Corps

Other sources

Farmer, John S.: The Regimental Records of the British Army, London: Grant Richards, 1901

Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. I, MacMillan, London, 1899, p. 400

Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol. 1 From the beginning to 1760, London: Kaye & Ward, pp. 55-56

Mills, T. F., Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website which unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the web)

Roll of Honour, 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot], retrieved Nov. 7 2012

Vilalta, Lluís: “Catalonia Stands Alone - 1713-1714: The Catalans' War”

Wikipedia 31st Foot

Acknowledgement

Wienand Drenth for additional information on the lineage and history of the regiment