39th Foot

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 39th Foot

Origin and History

The regiment was raised in Ireland, according to a royal warrant issued on February 13, 1702, as the "Richard Coote's Regiment of Foot". Until 1751, it would be known by the names of its successive colonels.

In 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the new regiment was stationed in Ireland where it remained for five years. In 1707, it was transferred from Ireland to Portugal. In 1709, it took part in the Battle of La Gudiña. In 1710, it operated in the Spanish Extremadura. In 1711, it took part in the capture of several small towns and in levying contributions in Spanish Extremadura.

In 1713, after the Treaty of Utrecht, the regiment was initially sent to Gibraltar but was later transferred to Minorca to form part of the garrison.

In 1719, the regiment left Minorca and embarked for Ireland where it was stationed for some years.

In 1726, the regiment embarked on board the fleet. In 1727, it took part in the defence of Gibraltar.

In November 1729, the regiment was ordered to proceed from Gibraltar to Jamaica. In 1730, it sailed to Jamaica where it remained until 1732.

In 1732, the regiment returned to Ireland.

In 1744, during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment proceeded from Ireland to Great Britain and was employed on board the fleet, as marines, until the end of the war. In 1746, it took part in an expedition against Lorient on the coasts of Bretagne.

In 1748, the regiment returned to Ireland.

On July 1, 1751, the regiment officially became the "39th Regiment of Foot".

In 1754, the regiment and a detachment of Royal Artillery were sent to India to protect the settlements of the East India Company. Before leaving Great Britain, the regiment was brought to full strength with drafts from other regiments.

During the Seven Years's War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • from March 14, 1752 to 1766: Colonel John Adlercron

Service during the War

In 1756, two companies of the regiment, recently raised in the Midlands, sailed from England to India. One of these companies was under the command of sir Eyre Coote. In August, 250 soldiers of the regiment, already stationed in India, were assigned to Robert Clive, along with 1,500 Sepoys, for his expedition against Calcutta which had been taken in June by the Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah. On October 15, the expedition sailed from Madras. Upon arrival, in November, the 2 newly raised companies were also assigned to Clive's force. On December 30, these two companies occupied Fort William near Calcutta.

On January 10, 1757, 170 men of the regiment along with 200 Sepoys arrived in front of the Fort of Hooghly . On January 11, they stormed Hooghly. On January 12, Captain Coote with 50 men of the regiment and 100 Sepoys marched to Bandel, a large village 5 km off, where they destroyed several granaries of rice. On January 19, the detachment returned to Calcutta. On February 4, companies of the regiment also took part in the combat of Calcutta against the army of the Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah. By April, the part of the regiment encamped at Chinsurah counted 3 captains, 4 lieutenants, 5 ensigns, 8 sergeants, 10 corporals, 7 drummers and 213 privates for a total of 250 men. The same month, part of the regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Forde was sent against Nellore on the river Pennar to collect revenues from the Nawab Mohammed Ali. The enterprise was unsuccessful. In June, about 250 men of the regiment took part in Clive's campaign in Bengal. On June 23, they were at the Battle of Plassey which subjected Bengal to the British crown.

In 1758, the detachment of the regiment operating in India was ordered to return to Great Britain. However, nearly all the detachment volunteered for the Bengal European Regiment. The remnants of the detachment finally sailed for Ireland. At the end of the year, they were wrecked on the coast of Ireland.

At the beginning of 1759, the regiment recruited to its establishment. As of May 30, it was stationed in England and counted 1 battalion for a total of 900 men. The regiment seems to have contributed troops to the British regiments sent to Germany to assist Ferdinand of Brunswick.



Uniform in 1757 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details
Musketeer black tricorne laced white and a black cockade (left side)
39th Foot Grenadier Mitre Cap - Source: Digby Smith and rf-figuren
British mitre with: a dark green front edged white embroidered with white floral twigs and with the white King's cipher surmounted by a crown (yellow with red cushions, white pearls and ermine headband); a small red front flap edged white with the white horse of Hanover surmounted by the motto "Nec aspera terrent" in white and with a dark blue bottom strip with yellow stripes; red back; a dark green headband edged white probably wearing the number 39 in the middle part behind; a dark green within white pompom
Neckstock white
Coat brick red lined grass green and laced white (white braid with a thick green grass waved line) with 3 pewter buttons and 3 white buttonholes (same lace as above) under the lapel
Collar none
Shoulder Straps brick red (left shoulder only)
Lapels grass green laced white (same lace as above) with 7 pewter buttons and 6 white buttonholes (same lace as above)
Pockets horizontal pockets laced white (same lace as above)
Cuffs grass green slashed cuffs laced white (same lace as above) with 4 pewter buttons and 4 white buttonholes (same lace as above) on the sleeve above each the cuff
Turnbacks grass green
Waistcoat brick red laced white (same lace as above)
Breeches brick red
Gaiters white with black buttons
brown, grey or black during campaigns (black after 1759)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather
Waistbelt natural leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black
Footgear black shoes

Troopers were armed with a "Brown Bess" muskets, a bayonet and a sword.

N.B.: It is very likely that the companies who served in India adopted lighter clothing when their regulation uniforms had worn out.


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King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a rose wreath around the regiment number "XXXIX" in gold Roman numerals.

Regimental Colour: grass green field, Union in the upper left canton, centre decorated with a wreath of roses and thistles on the same stalk around the regiment number "XXXIX" in gold Roman numerals.

King's Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Regimental Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf


This article is essentially an abridged and adapted version of the following book which is in the public domain:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical record of the Thirty-Ninth or, The Dorsetshire Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker, 1853

Other sources

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

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

George II: The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Harrington, P.: Plassey 1757 - Clive of India's Finest Hour, Osprey, 1994

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

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