A Regiment of Foot, later the 34th Regiment was raised in 1702 by Robert, Lord Lucas a lieutenant colonel in Sir John Jacob’s Regiment. Interestingly, one of Colonel Lucas’s officers was a Captain Richard Steele who went on to found both the Tatler and the Spectator and was eventually knighted.
The Regiment recruited in an area reaching from Essex to Norfolk, apparently so successfully that its strength was increased from nine to 12 companies.
Companies of the 34th were soon sent to man the Landguard Fort, Sheerness, Tilbury and the Tower of London. Subsequently 300 men were sent out to the West Indies to make up the strength of the 6th Foot and the rest of the Regiment remained in Chelmsford. In 1703 quarters were taken in Carlisle Castle which was to be their depot for the next 250 years.
Involvement in the War of Spanish Succession followed in the army led by the Earl of Peterborough. During the siege of Barcelona, grenadiers of the 34th were among the troops who successfully stormed the fortress of Montjuich on the western side of the town. Ironically, a year later men of the 34th were themselves defending the breached defences against a French siege of Barcelona.
In the spring of 1707 the 34th, much reduced in numbers, returned to England. By April 1710 the Regiment had joined the Duke of Marlborough’s army in time to participate in the assault on the strongly fortified town of Dousy which was holding up the advance of the Allied army. Selected to take part in the main assault, which carried the fortifications, the 34th lost a total of 162 all ranks killed or wounded. In 1713, after taking part in the siege which brought about the surrender of Bouchain (1711), the Regiment returned to England.
Four years later the 34th moved to Ireland as garrison troops, moving away briefly for the expedition against Vigo in 1719.
In 1744 the Regiment joined the army of the Duke of Cumberland, fighting the French in the War of Austrian Succession. The 34th formed part of the rear guard at the battle of Fontenoy 1745, tasked with seeing that the withdrawal of the British Army remained orderly.
In 1745 the Regiment was one of several which were rushed home to deal with the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Charles Edward Stuart son of the Old Pretender had landed on the west coast of Scotland and many were rallying to him. A British army, which included the 34th, marched north under General Wade to deal with the situation. The 34th fought at Falkirk in January 1746 and the final battle of Culloden, 16th April 1746, where as Cholmondley’s (the name of the then Colonel) they formed on the right of the front line.
In 1752 the Regiment was sent to form a part of the garrison (which also included the 4th Foot) of Minorca commanded by General Blakeney and suffered a prolonged French siege in April 1756. Despite a heroic defence, Minorca eventually fell and the English regiments were forced to surrender to Marshal Richelieu who being a “chivalrous victor” allowed the English troops to march out “with their firelocks on their shoulders, drums beating, colours flying, twenty cartouches to each man and also a lighted match, and all their private effects in addition.” They were later shipped to Gibraltar.
After returning home, the 34th were sent to harass the Spanish in the West Indies in 1762, taking part in the successful siege and storming of Havannah.
Garrison duty in Florida (four years) and Ireland (seven years) followed, but the 34th arrived in Quebec in May 1776 and saw hard service in the backwoods. The Regiment’s grenadier and light companies served with General Burgoyne until surrender at Saratoga in October 1777. After being detained as prisoners of war – in direct contravention of the terms of the surrender – the Regiment finally returned to England in 1786.
The British government now realising the need to maintain a standing army attached regiments to territorial areas for recruiting and in 1782 became The 34th (or Cumberland) Regiment of Foot. The Regiment was once again in the West Indies and were involved in suppressing the Caribs on St Vincent before returning to England.
The 34th next went to the Cape of Good Hope in 1800 before moving on to India, where they became garrison troops in the Madras Presidency. After a period of inactivity, campaigning against the Mahrattas followed in 1814. The campaign reached its peak in 1817 and the native troops of the Mahrattas and Pindarees were crushingly defeated in early 1818.
Second Battalion is Raised
The British government was anxious about the defence of the UK mainland against a possible French invasion. As a result many regiments were ordered to raise a second battalion and the 34th was one of these. Placed on the establishment on 25th April 1804, after some ineffective and largely unnecessary enforced travelling, the battalion, 1,000 strong, embarked for the Spanish Peninsula in the summer of 1809. The Battalion was present at Busaco 1810 and engaged at Albuera 1811 where it suffered heavy casualties. The action at Arroyo dos Molinos where the 2/34th captured the drum major’s mace and drums of the French 34eme Regiment de Ia Ligne provided the Regiment with a Battle Honour unique in the British Army.
The Battalion played a prominent part at Vittoria 1813 and fought at the Battles of Nivelle, Nive and Orthes 1813-1814. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the British governments sense of new found security led to a reduction of the Army. In 1817 the 2nd Battalion 34th Regiment was disbanded and their Colours handed to the st Battalion.
Still in India, the 34th moved from the campaign area to Wallajabad until 1823. When volunteers to stay and serve with other corps in India were called for, 537 opted to stay and only 116 sailed for England. The Regiment went to Ireland in 1824 and from 1839 to 1842 served in Nova Scotia and Canada. From 1838 to 1841 rt served on the Upper Canada frontier with the United States at Amherstburg on the Detroit River.
From 1845 to 1848 the 34th served in Corfu and the lonian Islands, before being sent to Bardbados in 1850.
The 34th joined the Allied Army in the Crimea before Sevastopol in November 1854 and after suffering immense hardships were at the fall of the city in September 1855. Both Private William Coffey received the Victoria Cross 29th March 1855 and Private John Joseph Sims on the 18th June 1855.
Having returned home from the Crimea. the 34th was sent to reinforce the Army in India in August 1857. The Regiment was in action at Cawnpore where an appalling massacre of the garrison’s women and children took place. After Cawnpore, the 34th joined Sir John Campbell’s column which fought to relieve Lucknow and did so on 18th February 1858, after heavy fighting. On August 1860 Private George Richardson received the Victoria Cross for action undertaken at Kewanie, Trans-Gogra on 27 April 1859, for determined courage in having, although severely wounded, one arm being disabled, closed with and secured a rebel Sepoy armed with a loaded revolver”
In 1873 regiments were “linked” and the 34th Cumberland Regiment was linked with the 55th Westmorland Regiment their joint Depot was established at Carlisle Castle.
In 1881 the Cardwell reforms dictated that regiments must all have two battalions, one serving at home and reinforced the other which was overseas. Thus the 34th and 55th became the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Border Regiment .