Thomas Fairfax's Foot

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> Thomas Fairfax's Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was initially formed from Irish troops in the winter of 1674-1675 in the Dutch Republic for service with the Dutch Army. In 1675, many English gentlemen received commissions in the regiment. In 1676, it took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1677, in the Battle of Mont-Cassel; in 1678, in the Combat of Saint-Denis.

In 1679, after the Treaty if Nijmegen, the regiment remained in the Dutch service and assumed garrison duties in Grave. In 1684, it was transferred to Mechlin.

In 1685, the regiment, along with five other British regiments, was recalled to England to quench Monmouth Rebellion. However, it landed in England after the defeat of Monmouth at the Battle of Sedgemoor. It then proceeded to Blackheath and then to Hounslow Heath where it was reviewed by the king. The rebellion having been suppressed, the regiment returned to the Dutch Republic and was again employed in garrison duty.

In 1687, when James II demanded the return of the British regiments in the Dutch service, the States-General, in concert with the Prince of Orange, resolved not to part with these favourite corps, for whose services they expected soon to have urgent occasion; at the same time they laid no constraint upon the officers, but allowed them either to remain in the Dutch Republic or to return to England, at their own choice. Out of 240 officers, only 60 embraced the latter alternative.

In 1688, the colonelcy of the regiment having become vacant by the death of Colonel Monk, it was conferred by the Prince of Orange on Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tollemache (aka Talmash), formerly of the Coldstream Guards. In November of the same year, the six British regiments in the Dutch service were part of the Prince of Orange's Army who landed on the Devonshire coast. The regiment landed at Brixham key, 4 km from Dartmouth, from whence it marched to Exeter and afterwards to Honiton, where, on the night of 13 November, it was joined by a number of men of the Earl of Oxford's Horse and Duke of St. Alban's Horse, and of the Royal Regiment of Dragoons, who had quitted the service of King James. Once the Prince of Orange had become king of England as William III, the regiment, who had marched to the vicinity of London and then proceeded into quarters in the western counties, was placed on the English establishment. Dating its seniority from 5 June 1685, the day on which it first received pay from the British crown during Monmouth Rebellion, the regiment obtained rank as Fifth Regiment of Foot in the British Line. In June 1689, the regiment marched from the west of England for London, and was quartered in Southwark until October, when it embarked at Deptford and Greenwich for Plymouth, and in December marched into Cornwall, with detached companies in Devonshire.

In the Spring of 1690, during the Williamite War, the regiment was sent from Bristol to Ireland, landing at Belfast on 30 April. On 11 July, it took part in the Battle of the Boyne and then occupied Dublin. In 1691, it took part in the sieges of Athlone and Limerick before returning to England.

Towards the end of February 1692, during the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment was sent to Flanders but it was soon recalled to England to defend the country against a possible landing of a French army. The regiment landed at Greenwich in the early part of May and was stationed along the southern coast. In October, now that all threats of invasion had vanished, the regiment marched to Portsmouth to assume garrison duty. During the summer of 1693, the regiment was embarked on board the fleet, and, proceeding with an expedition to Martinique, it effected a landing, drove the enemy's troops from the coast, and laid waste several French settlements on that island. In the autumn, it landed at Portsmouth and marched into cantonments in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. During the winter, the regiment was part of a strong reinforcement sent to Flanders. In December, it embarked at Greenwich and Deptford, and lander at Ostend. It then marched to Sluys where it remained several months. From mid-May 1694, the regiment campaigned in Flanders and Brabant. On 26 August, the colonel of the regiment died; William III conferred the vacant colonelcy on Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Fairfax, by commission dated 6 November. In the Autumn, the regiment marched into barracks at Bruges. In 1695, it took part in the covering of the siege of Namur. From Namur, the regiment marched to Nieuport and encamped on the sand-hills near that town. Towards the end of October, it marched to Bruges. In 1696, the regiment covered Ghent and Bruges. It passed the winter in its former station at Bruges. In the spring of 1697, the regiment marched from Bruges to Bruxelles. In December, it returned to England.

In 1698, the regiment proceeded to Ireland. It then counted one battalion of 10 companies for a total of 34 officers and 411 men.

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

  • since 6 November 1694: Thomas Fairfax
  • from 5 February 1704 until 15 December 1732: Thomas Pearce

From 1713, the regiment remained in garrison at Gibraltar for a period of fifteen years.

Service during the War

During the early part of the war, the regiment was stationed in Ireland.

On 5 February, 1704, Queen Anne appointed Colonel Thomas Pearce from a newly-raised regiment of foot (afterwards disbanded) to the colonelcy of the regiment in succession to Thomas Fairfax.

On 22 May 1707, the regiment sailed from Cork as part of a reinforcement of four regiments sent to Portugal. On 8 June, it landed at Lisbon. This seasonable reinforcement arrived soon after the defeat of the Allied Army at Almanza (25 April), at the moment when the Franco-Spanish had captured Serpa and Moura in the Alentejo, and seized on the bridge of Olivenza in Portuguese Estremadura. A Franco-Spanish army was menacing the important place of Olivenza with a siege. The arrival of this reinforcement revived the drooping spirits of the Portuguese. These four regiments, being the only British troops in that part of the country, were disembarked with every possible expedition, and marched to the frontiers under the command of the Marquis de Montandre, when the enemy immediately ceased to act on the offensive and retired. The four regiments, having halted at Estremos, a strong town of the Alentejo, remained in this pleasant quarter during the summer heats, and afterwards encamped in the fruitful valley of the Caya near Elvas, having detached parties on the flanks to prevent the enemy making incursions into Portugal, in which service the regiments were engaged until November, when they went into quarters in the towns on the frontiers of Portugal.

In the Spring of 1708, the regiment again took the field and was encamped at Fuente de Sapatores between Elvas and Campo Mayor. The British division was soon afterwards increased to six regiments; and the little army in the Alentejo was commanded by the Marquis de Fronteira; but the characteristic inactivity of the Portuguese occasioned the services of the regiment to be limited to defensive operations. In the Autumn, it was encamped at Campo Mayor, and afterwards proceeded into cantonments.

In the Spring of 1709, the regiment moved from its quarters and was again engaged in active operations. It was first encamped near Estremos. On 23 April, it proceeded to Elvas and was subsequently encamped with the army on the banks of the Caya, where the Earl of Galway, who had been removed from the army in Catalonia, appeared at the head of the British division. On 7 May, the French and Spaniards, commanded by the Marquis de Bay, marched in the direction of Campo Mayor, when the Portuguese generals, contrary to the advice of the Earl of Galway, resolved to pass the Caya and attack the enemy. The Portuguese cavalry and artillery took the lead and, having passed the river and gained the opposite heights, opened a sharp cannonade. When the Franco-Spanish cavalry advanced to charge, the Portuguese squadrons faced about and galloped out of the field, leaving their cannon behind. The British division, arriving at the moment, repulsed the enemy. Then its leading brigade (3 rgts), commanded by Brigadier-General Thomas Pearce, charging with great fury, recaptured the Portuguese guns. However, this brigade pressed forward too far and was surrounded and taken prisoners. At the same time, the regiment, along with three other British regiments, made a determined stand, bearing the brunt of the enemy's reiterated attacks with admirable firmness, until the Portuguese infantry had retired; then retreating orderly. In this battle, the regiment lost 150 men killed or wounded. It passed the night at Arronches. It was afterwards encamped at Elvas, was subsequently in position on the banks of the Guadiana and again passed the winter in cantonments in the Alentejo.

In the Spring of 1710, casualties of the preceding campaign having been replaced by recruits from England, the regiment again took the field. It was employed in the Alentejo; but the army was weak and unequal to any important undertaking, and the French having had some success in the province of Tras os Montes, occasioned a detachment to be sent thither. In the Autumn, the army advanced across the Guadiana. On 4 October, the army arrived at the rich plains of Xeres de los Cabaleros on the river Ardilla in Spanish Extremadura. It was resolved to attack this place by storm on the following day. On 5 October at 4:00 p.m., as part of a brigade under the command of Brigadier-General Stanwix, the regiment advanced to attack the works near Santa Catharina's Gate by escalade. A few minutes after the regiments had commenced the assault, the governor sent proposals to surrender, which were agreed to, and the garrison, consisting of 700 men, were made prisoners of war. The army afterwards retired to Portugal by the mountains of Orlor, and went into quarters.

In May 1711, the regiment formed part of the army which assembled at Olivenza and, having passed the Guadiana by a pontoon bridge at Jerumencha, advanced against the enemy, who took refuge under the cannon of Badajoz. The regiment was afterwards engaged in the capture of several small towns, and in levying contributions in Spanish Extremadura; but the summer passed without any occurrence of importance, excepting a discovery made by the Earl of Portmore, who commanded the British troops in Portugal, of a clandestine treaty in progress between the crown of Portugal and the enemy, in which the former had agreed to separate from the Allies; and, to give an excuse for this, a mock battle was to have been fought, in which the British troops were to have been sacrificed. This treaty was broken off, but the British Government soon afterwards entered into negotiations with France.

In 1712, the regiment continued in Portugal. During the Summer, it was encamped on the pleasant plains of the Tarra. In the Autumn a suspension of hostilities was proclaimed at the camp by Major-General Pearce and the regiment went into cantonments.

In 1713, the regiment proceeded from Portugal to Gibraltar which had been ceded to Great Britain at the Treaty of Utrecht.


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.

Farmer mentions "Facings - at first yellow, subsequently changed to green" without specifying the date at which the change occurred. Mill mentions that facings were gosling green since the creation of the regiment. Here we have made a tentative reconstruction of the regiment with gosling green facings.


Uniform in 1702 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
Farmer and Mill
Fusilier black felt tricorne laced white
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 red 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 tufted laced loops ornamenting the buttonholes down to the waist

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

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

Turnbacks none
Waistcoat long red waistcoat with pewter buttons
Breeches red
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 gaiters were gradually adopted during the campaigns in the Low Countries
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather strap with a brass buckle
Waistbelt natural leather waistbelt with a brass buckle worn above the coat
Cartridge Box natural leather cartouche box hanged at the crossbelt

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 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.


no information found


Cannon, Richard: "Historical Records of the British Army – The Fifth Regiment of Foot or Nothumberland Fusiliers, London: William Clowes and Sons, 1838

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

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

The Royal Sussex Regimental Society

Walton, Clifford: History of the British Standing Army A.D. 1660 to 1700, London, 1894, pp. 92, 854

N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.