55th Regiment Crossing Bayonets with the Russian's c1855
55th Crossing Bayonets With

In 1755, England and France were once again about to go to war and it was necessary to increase the size of the British Army.

Several new regiments were raised and one of these was the 55th which was raised in Stirling by Colonel George Perry. In point of fact, the Regiment as raised was numbered 57th, but the subsequent disbandment of the 50th and 51st in America caused the 57th to be promoted two places in the Army List.

In 1758 the Regiment was in Canada and within an overall three pronged British attack against French possessions, became part of an expedition led by General Abercromby against Fort Ticonderoga. The fiercely conducted assault failed against the fort’s impregnable defenses, with the 55th suffering heavy casualties – so much so that it was 1759 before they could take the field once more. More campaigning in Canada and North America followed, before England took control of all Canada. Localised, if fierce, actions against Indians followed.

The 55th spent 1765 to 1775 in Ireland and were then sent to Boston for the American War of Independence. The Regiment fought in the New York campaign of 1776, then Brandywine and Germantown 1777. The 55th went to Florida in November 1778 then on to the West Indies, where they spent several years, mainly as the garrison for the island of St Kitts, returning to England in 1785.

The British government, appreciating the need to maintain a standing army in the wake of the American Revolution, attached regiments to territorial areas for recruiting purposes and in 1782 the Regiment became The 55th (or Westmorland) Regiment of Foot.

By November 1788 the 55th was in Scotland, prior to a move to Ireland but the French Revolution heralded yet another conflict with France. By 1794 the Regiment was fighting in Flanders, but their light companies were posted to the West Indies, fighting at Martinique, St Lucia and Guadeloupe.

At the close of 1795 an 25,000 strong expedition, which included the now up to strength centre or battalion companies of the 55th, was sent to bolster the British presence in the West Indies. Storms at sea dissipated much of this force, but the 55th recaptured St Lucia – for the third time – before sailing back to England.
There was no respite for in no time the Regiment were in Holland with the Duke of York, returning in 1799.

In 1802 the 55th sailed for the West Indies, where they garrisoned Jamaica for 10 years, relieved only by an attack on San Domingo.

In 1810 four companies were shipped back to England, followed by two more in 1811. In 1813 the Regiment was included in a force led by General Sir Thomas Graham and designed to drive the French out of Holland.

On 8th March I 814 the 55th was involved in an abortive attack on Bergen op Zoom. The Regiment continued to serve with the Allied army for a while, but sailed for England in June 1814. The 55th remained in England in I 8 15, ineffectively being moved from one station to another.

In 1821 they sailed to Cape Town, where they stayed until 1827, fighting the local Kaffirs. A move to India followed, involving the Regiment in an expedition against the rebellious Rajah of Coorgin 1834.

In 1841, having been overseas since 1821, the Regiment was expecting to be sent home, but instead was sent to China to the army of Sir Hugh Gough. As well as heavy fighting there was also loot to be had and each member of the Regiment earned some prize money from the campaign. Indeed, the Regiment still has a ‘China” fund used for benevolent purposes for retired soldiers. A Chinese Imperial Dragon Standard was captured at Chusan by Lieutenant Butler, the only one to be captured during the war.

The Left Wing of the 55th moved from mainland China to Hong Kong in 1843 and remained there for a year. Between July and December 1843 four officers and 238 NCOs and men out of a total of 13 officers and 501 men died of fever. At one time the Left Wing was reduced to 277 sickly men.

The 55th was in the 2nd Division of the British Army sent to the Crimea in 1854. At the Battle of the Alma 20th September of that year the Regiment took part in the first attack across the River Alma and up the heights, an attack carried out under heavy Russian fire. The Regiment also fought at the Battle of Inkerman on 4th November 1854 in order to stem a Russian attack designed to push the Allies out of Balaclava. Private Beach was awarded the Victoria Cross for protecting an officer from Russian bayonets. After this battle, the allies settled down to a long siege of Sevastopol through the bitter winter of 1854/1855 and were present at the eventual fall of that city. Brevet-Major Frederick Cockayne Elton was awarded the Victoria Cross on the night of the 4th August 1855.

In December 1864 the 55th formed part of the force sent to Bhootan on the North East Frontier of India to quell trouble which had broken out amongst the hill tribes of that remote area. The Regiment was withdrawn when 400 officers and men were in hospital with “Bhootan Fever” many died.

In 1873 the 55th Westmorland Regiment was linked with the 34th Cumberland Regiment and in 1881 became the 2nd Battalion The Border Regiment under the Cardwell Reforms.


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