The East Surrey Regiment-Regimental District
No.31-is composed of the 31st and 70th regiments.
The 31st were originally Marines, and were formed into a
regiment of foot in 1715. Their
first important fighting was at Dettingen, where they gained the
approbation of George II., and at the same time as a consequence the
sobriquet of the young Buff’s, the king having mistaken them for the
famous 3rd Regiment. Fierce fighting, too, did they have at Fontenoy, where it is
recorded, only eleven men of the grenadier company came out of action.
Four years later they served at Minorca, then, after a short
sojourn at home, in Florida, and the Carib War in St. Vincent, where they
did good service. In 1776
they were quartered in Canada, some garrisoning Quebec, others
participating in the misfortunes which attended General Burgoyne’s army
at Saratoga. In 1794 the
flank companies served at Martinique, Guadaloupe and St. Lucia, and
returned home in 1797, “reduced to a mere company.”
Soon after a 2nd battalion was formed, which obtained,
for the East Surrey the Peninsular distinctions on their colours.
They fought at Talavera; at Albuhera the 31st
alone of the splendid regiments that charged against the advancing column
of the enemy “being formed in column, stood their ground,” and escaped
the disastrous onset of the French cavalry.
Yet their loss was very heavy, and-as had been recorded in
connection with the “Die Hards,”-“at the close of the action the
dead and wounded men of our gallant 31st and 57th
Regiments were found lying in two distinct lines on the very ground they
occupied when fighting.” In
his account of the action, Lord Wellesley wrote: “This little battalion
alone held its ground against all the Colonnes en masse.”
The story of “Vittoria” and “The Pyrenees,” of
“Nivelle” and the “Nive,” has before been told, and the 31st
bear these names on their colours. At
St. Pierre they formed part of the right wing under General Byng, and the
important part they played in that most brilliant victory may be gauged by
the fact that when their gallant leader was elevated to the percentage as
Earl of Stafford, the regimental colours of the regiment formed a portion
of his coat-of-arms. They
fought at Orthes, and bear that name as well as the “Peninsula” on
their colours. Like many
other 2nd battalions they were disbanded at the Peace, leaving
a record of services of which any corps might be proud.
The 1st battalion meanwhile had been serving in Sicily,
Egypt, Spain, Genoa, and various other places, all of them witnesses to
the courage and discipline of the regiment, though the names of none of
them are found amongst the distinctions. In 1824 they were ordered to India under Colonel Pearson and
Major McGregor, and wee on the ill-fated Kent East Indiaman when she
foundered. As the official
record expresses it: “In the midst of dangers against which it seemed
hopeless to struggle-at a time when no aid appeared, and passively to die
was all that remained-each man displayed the manly resignation, the ready
obedience, and the unfailing discipline characteristics of a good
soldier.” Fortunately the
great majority were saved, only seventy-six out of a total of nearly five
hundred being lost. During
their stay in India they took part in the Afghan and Sikh Wars, and were
with Pollock’s avenging army after the massacre of Cabul.
They fought at moodkee; at Ferozeshah fell Major Baldwin of the
regiment; at Ailwal they were remarked as being “emulous for the
front;” “Sobraon” gives the final gleam to the lustre of their
Indian achievements. Then
followed a period of comparative peace till, in May 1855, they arrived in
the Crimea. In this war they
took part in the assaults on the Redan of the 18th of June and
8th of September, and bare “Sevastopol” in commemoration of
their gallant conduct. After
peace was declared they were dispatched to the Cape and in 1858 to Bombay,
their next service of note being the China Campaign of 1860.
Here they were in the First Division, and after the fall of the
Taku Forts marched to Tientsin, detachments being subsequently stationed
at Ho-see-woo and Yung-tsan to keep the road clear between that city and
our camp. The regiment
returned home in 1863, since which date they have not been engaged in any
operations, which call for notice.
The 70th-the 2nd battalion of
the East Surrey Regiment-was formed in 1756 from the 2nd
battalion of the 31st, so that the recent amalgamation has
replaced it in its original position.
Colonel Archer cites the fact that a few years after the
incorporation of the regiment, “five companies were embarked on board a
naval squadron as reinforcements for Madras, but nothing more is known of
them.” In 1764 the 70th
were ordered to the West Indies, where they remained for some ten years,
subsequently serving for four years in Canada, during which time they
received the territorial designation of “The Surrey Regiment.” To anticipate for a moment the order of events, we find that
in 1812 they were officially styled the “Glasgow Lowland Regiment,”
but during a subsequent sojourn in Canada-namely in 1825-they received
their original and present title again.
In 1794 they took part in Sir Charles Grey’s expedition in
Martinique, and during the operations connected therewith gained the
distinction of “Guadaloupe.” For
many years following their sphere of duty lay mainly amongst our various
colonies and possessions, chiefly in Canada.
In 1848 the 70th were ordered to India, and during the
mutiny were engaged on the Pewhawar frontier.
In 1863 they were with Sir Duncan Cameron in New Zealand, and took
part in the attack on the Gate Pah, the evacuation of which by the Maories
was discovered by Major Greaves of the regiment, who, regardless of the
possible fatal result to himself, made a reconnaissance of the position.
Returning to England in 1866, they remained on this country for
some five years in 1871 being again ordered to India. In the Afghan campaign of 1878-79 the 70th were in
the Candahar column, and afterwards served with the Thull Field Force.
Their last active service was in the Egyptian campaign of 1884,
during which they acquitted themselves with great credit, under General
Graham, in the fighting which took place round Suakin, Hasheen, and Tamaa.
Excerpt from Her Majesty's Army By