Origin and History
The regiment was raised on 23 September 1678 as “The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot” to serve against the rebel Covenanters. At an early date, it was equipped with the fusil, or light musket, generally a mark that the unit was designated for duty protecting the artillery train at a time when most regiments still carried matchlocks. In 1679, the regiment took part in the Combat of Bothwell Bridge against the Covenanters.
In 1685, the regiment was renamed the “Scots Fusiliers Regiment of Foot.” It quenched the rebellion of the Earl of Argyle in Scotland.
In 1688, the regiment was ordered to proceed to England to defend it against the threat posed by Prince William of Orange (the future William III). Early in November, it arrived in the vicinity of London. When James II fled to France, the Prince of Orange ordered the regiment to occupy quarters at Witney in Oxfordshire. In 1689, after the coronation of William III, the colonelcy of the regiment was conferred to Francis Fergus O'Farrell.
In 1689, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was sent to the Dutch Republic and took part in the Battle of Walcourt. In 1691, during King William's campaigns in Flanders, the regiment was also known as “O'Farrell's Fusiliers” so by then it had apparently received its fusils. In 1692, it took part in the Battle of Steenkerque; in 1693, in the battle of Landen. In 1695, the entire regiment surrendered as prisoners of war at Deinse. In 1697, it returned to Scotland.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive proprietors of the regiment were:
- from 1 January 1697: Colonel Archibald Row (killed in action at Blenheim on 13 August 1704)
- from August 1704: Colonel John, Viscount Mordaunt
- from June 1706: Colonel Sampson de Lalo (killed in action at Malplaquet on 11 September 1709)
- from 4 October 1709: Colonel John, Viscount Mordaunt (re-appointed to the colonelcy)
- from 1710: Lieutenant-General Thomas Meredith
- from December 1710 to July 1716: Colonel Earl of Orrery
Service during the War
In 1702, the regiment embarked from Scotland for the Dutch Republic. It did not join the army immediately on its arrival, but was stationed some time at Breda. In September it marched towards Flanders.
In April 1703, the regiment quit its winter-quarters and joined the army assembling at Maastricht where it was allocated to the brigade under Brigadier-General the Earl of Derby. It took part in the reduction of Huy. The regiment was afterwards detached from the main army, to take part in the capture of Limbourg. The siege of this place was commenced on 10 September, and the regiment was employed in carrying on the approaches, and in making the attacks; and in seventeen days the garrison surrendered at discretion. In October, the regiment marched back to Holland where it was stationed during the winter.
In May 1704, the regiment proceeded towards the Rhine. It then took part in Marlborough's march to the Danube, passing the Moselle and the Rhine at Koblenz and traversing minor German states and effecting a junction with an Imperial army. On 2 July, the regiment took part in the Battle of the Schellenberg where it had a few privates killed and wounded; also Captain Kygoe, Lieutenants Johnston and John Campbell, wounded. The Allied army then entered in Bavaria. The regiment formed part of the covering army during the siege of Ingoldstadt. On 13 August, it took part in the victorious Battle of Blenheim where it led several attacks against the fortified villages and suffered heavy casualties. The regiment had Lieutenant-Colonel Dalyel, Captain Stratton, jun., Captain Stratton, senior, Lieutenants Vandergracht, Hill, Campbell, and Travallion killed; Brigadier-General Row and Major Campbell died of their wounds; Captains Craufurd and Fairlee, Lieutenants Dunbar, J. Douglas, Elliott, Ogilvy, Maxwell, Stuart, Primrose, and Gordon wounded. After the battle, the regiment along with four other units escorted the French prisoners to Holland. It then took up its quarters.
In 1705, a number of recruits from Scotland having replaced the losses of the preceding campaign, the regiment appeared complete and in good order when it took the field. It was employed in the expedition up the Moselle. Then, returning to the Netherlands, it was, on 18 July, engaged at the forcing of the French Lines at Helixem and Neer Hespen.
On 23 May 1706, the regiment fought in the Battle of Ramillies. It then took part in the capture of Ostend, Menin, and Ath. It then passed the winter in garrison in Flanders.
During the campaign of 1707, the services of the regiment were limited to marches and occupying positions. It passed the winter in West Flanders. The Union of Scotland and England took place this year, which occasioned St. George's cross to be added to the colours of the Scots regiments, and St. Andrew's cross to the colours of the English regiments. The corps, previously designated Scots regiments, took the title of North British regiments.; thus, the present regiment became the “North British Fusiliers.”
In May 1708, the regiment again took the field. On 11 July, it fought in the Battle of Oudenarde. It then took part in the siege of Lille. The regiment had several men killed and wounded in carrying on the approaches, and at the attack of the counterscarp it had 13 men killed; 3 officers, 4 sergeants and 66 rank and file wounded. On 9 December, the fortress finally surrendered.
In 1709, having reposed a few months in quarters, and received recruits from Scotland, the regiment joined the army. In July and August, it was employed in covering the siege of Tournai which surrendered at the beginning of September. On 11 September, the regiment fought in the Battle of Malplaquet where its colonel, Brigadier-General de Lalo was killed. In addition to the loss of its colonel, the regiment had also Captains Monroe, Wemys, and Farley killed; Captains Montressor and Lowther wounded. The regiment was afterwards employed in covering the siege of Mons, which was terminated by the surrender of the garrison on 20 October. The regiment then marched into quarters.
On 14 April 1710, the regiment marched out of its winter-quarters towards the frontiers of France. It took part in the passage of the French lines at Pont-à-Vendin and in the siege of Douai which surrendered on 25 June. The regiment was then employed in covering the siege of Béthune, which place surrendered in August. The regiment was also with the covering army during the sieges of Saint-Venant and Aire; the former place surrendered on 30 September, and the latter on 9 November. The regiment took up its winter-quarters at Dendermond.
In May 1711, the regiment joined the army. On 5 August, it took part in the passage of the French lines at Arleux. It was afterwards employed in the siege of Bouckain whose garrison surrendered on 13 September.
In 1712, the regiment joined the army commanded by the Duke of Ormond. It advanced to the frontiers of Picardie; but a suspension of hostilities was soon afterwards proclaimed, preparatory to a general peace, when the British army marched to Ghent, and afterwards went into quarters.
In 1713, the regiment was renamed the “North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot”, and about the same time it received the title of “Royal”. It remained in Flanders until 1714, when it was posted to Scotland.
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.
Fusiliers were armed with a fusil without sling, a bayonet and a sword. Grenadiers were armed with a firelock with a sling, a hatchet, a bayonet and grenades.
From 1678 to 1712, the regiment had a red uniform with red facings; grey breeches and stockings.
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 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.
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.
Colonel Colour: white field; centre device (on a blue field) consisting of a thistle with crown above within the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” in gold.
Lieutenant-Colonel Colour: blue field with a white St. Andrew's cross; corner devices consisting of a white flame issuing from each angle of the cross.
Major Colour: blue field with a white St. Andrew's cross; corner devices consisting of a white flame issuing from each angle of the cross; a red pile wavy.
1st Captain Colour: blue field with a white St. Andrew's cross; corner devices consisting of a white flame issuing from each angle of the cross; the numeral I in the upper canton.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Twenty-First or The Royal North British Fusiliers, London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1849
- Clark, James: Historical Record and Regimental Memoir of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Formerly Known as the 21st Royal North British Fusiliers: Containing an Account of the Formation of the Regiment in 1678 and its Subsequent Services until June 1885, Edinburgh, Scotland: Banks & Co., 1885, pp. 1-22.
Farmer, John S.: The Regimental Records of the British Army, London: Grant Richards, 1901
Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol. 1 From the beginning to 1760, London: Kaye & Ward, pp. 12-54, 64, 137
Walton, Clifford: History of the British Standing Army A.D. 1660 to 1700, London, 1894, p. 180