Sunday, 29 November 2020

What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? Part Two

  If you read some of the post of this blog you might have gathered I have an interest in military history. British military history is an interesting series of subjects and while doing a bit of reading a thought came to me. What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? The Army prides itself on its history and every regiment has a proud history, one of the things that makes the British Army interesting is the different identities, traditions, music. and uniforms & insignia of individual regiments. Thus the question which regiment is the oldest? There are actually quite a few claimants to that title, which I will examine here in Part Two, if you haven't already I suggest you read Part One before reading any further here.

Household Cavalry

Trooper of the Blues & Royals mounting Queen's Life Guard 
Picture Credit: Harland Quarrington/MOD/OGL v1.0
The Household Cavalry is the most senior regiment in the Army specifically the Life Guards which is one of the two distinct regimental identities that form the Household Cavalry. But does that make it the oldest?
The regiment is about as old as the Coldstream Guards mentioned in part one. Although it does not trace this history through the Life Guards but through its other regimental identity the Blues and Royals.

The Blues & Royals trace their linage back to the Civil War to a regiment of Horse raised by Sir Arthur Haselrig (who we have already mentioned in Part One in relation to the Coldstream Guards)  for the Parliamentarian Army (perhaps one of the little ironies of history the regiment now part of the Household Division that guards the Monarch). Haselrig's regiment became known as the London Lobsters or simply the Lobsters. It was one of the few regiments raised as a cuirassiers and equipped with armour, so it is probably somewhat appropriate that the Household Cavalry today wear armour as part of their mounted full dress uniform. However unlike the modern cuirass which dates from the 19th Century the armour worn by the lobsters reached from the head to the knee. This is possibly where their nickname came from as the wearing of such extensive armour had become uncommon by the Civil War period due to its cost (although helmets and breastplates were still common). However Haselrig raised and equipped the regiment with his own money.
Cuirassier's armour Savoyard Style made 1600-1610
Similar to that worn by the Lobsters. Morges Museum
Rama/Wikimedia Commons/CC-by-sa-2.0-Fr

Following the restoration the regiment was disbanded along with the New Model Army in December 1660. However as a result of the rioting in early 1661 which sparked fears of an uprising the regiment was re-raised. However unlike the Coldstream Guards who took up arms for the King the same day they severed their links with the New Model Army, Haselrig's regiment wasn't re-raised until 26th January 1661, leaving a one month gap in the history of their otherwise continuous service. 

In February 1661 Charles II placed the Earl of Oxford in command and due to their blue coats the regiment was re nicknamed the 'Oxford Blues,' which would eventually be shortened to 'The Blues.'
The regiment was formally named the 'Royal Horse Guards' in 1750 however they continued to wear their blue coats and so continued to be known as 'The Blues.' To this day the Blues and Royals wear a dark blue tunic with their Full Dress Uniform. The regiment would serve with distinction both at home and abroad until it was amalgamated with the Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) in 1969 to form the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards & 1st Dragoons). The Blues and Royals would join with the Life Guards in 1992 to form the Household Cavalry. Although as the Household Cavalry is a corps, both regiments would retain their identity and status as regiments in their own right even if they work together operationally. 

Although they missed out on being the oldest continuously oldest regiment by a month, the Household Cavalry is the oldest serving cavalry regiment. 
So far we haven't looked at any regiment outside of the Household Division. But what's the oldest regiment of the line?

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Drum Majors of the Regimental Band (right) and Pipes & Drums of 1 Scots (left)
note the wearing of trews rather than the kilt by the1 Scots drum major
Picture from the band's Facebook

The current Royal Regiment of Scotland was formed in 2006 through the amalgamation of the Scottish line regiments. The Royal Scots Borderers 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots) was formed through the amalgamation of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers. The 2nd to 5th battalions each carried the title of their antecedent regiment with reserve 6th and 7th battalions carrying on the name of the 52nd lowland and 51st Highland Volunteers.  
The Royal Scots is the oldest of the Royal Regiment of Scotland's antecedents. It was often said that the Royal Scots was the oldest regiment in the army. By the rank and numbering system of regiments used throughout the 18th and well into the 19th century the Royal Scots was the 1st Regiment of Foot, which certainly makes them the most senior among the infantry of the line. This is doubly impressive when one takes into account that the number of seniority denotes not when they were raised but when they were listed on the English Establishment an anomaly that saw the Scots Guards listed as the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards despite the fact they were older than the 1st and 2nd Foot Guards. This testifies to the age of the Royal Scots a regiment so ancient that it was nicknamed 'Pontius Pilot's Bodyguard.'  

The Royal Scots trace their origins to 1633 when Sir John Hepburn was granted a warrant by Charles I to recruit a Scottish force of 1200 men to aid the French in the Thirty Years War. Many of its ranks had previously served with Hepburn in a previous regiment he raised for service in Sweden in 1625, but returned home with him when he quarrelled with Gustav II Adolf in 1632. 
Following Hepburn's death in 1636 his brother took command of the regiment before it passed to Lord James Douglas in 1637, becoming known after that as Douglas' Regiment. It stayed in French service until 1660 when it helped secure England for the restored Charles II. It then spent a period varying between English and French service until 1678 when the French Army disbanded the British Brigade following the Treaty of Nijmegen. However although France was obligated to repatriate its British units it did not want to get rid of experienced troops and put so much pressure on members of the regiment (by now known as Regiment de Dumbarton) to stay that those that remained with the regiment returned to Britain in financial difficulty. 
It was temporarily put on the English Establishment in 1679 becoming the 1st Regiment of Foot or the Royal Scots. Four companies of the regiment formed part of the Tangier garrison in 1680 thus gaining the regiments earliest battle honour 'Tangier' and the title 'His Majesty's Royal Regiment of Foot' (Royal Scots).
documentary of the Royal Scots' 350th birthday in 1983
Note the presenter claims its the Army's oldest regiment

The formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006 was controversial not only because it was amalgamating what many perceive as the Army's oldest regiment; but because unlike the highland regiments which were each forming an individual battalion, the two lowland regiments were being forced to merge to form a single battalion.  
Salt was rubbed in the wound when it emerged the entire regiment would be kilted. Although today the kilt is widely seen as Scotland's national dress, historically it was only worn in the highlands. With the exception of pipers the Royal Scots had never worn the kilt (tartan wasn't formally adopted until the late Victorian era) and the required adoption of this highland garment by what was now the Royal Scots Borders was seen as the suppression of the battalion's lowland identity. Fortunately though the Dress Regulations of the Royal Regiment of Scotland allowed the battalion pipe bands to wear their historic uniforms. Drummers and Drum Majors of the Royal Scots Borders therefore wear trews (tradtional tartan trousers) rather than the kilt (although only the drum major wears the Hunting Stuart tartan of the Royal Scots, the drummers wear the Leslie Tartan of the KOSB) thus preserving at least some aspect of the lowland identity (interestingly though the same regulations allow for the wearing of trews in cold weather) of the oldest regiment of the line. 
Royal Scots Boarders (1 Scots) entering the grounds of Holyrood House
note that while the guard wear government tartan kilts of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
The drummers & drum major wear trews in their antecedent tartans

Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia)

The Royal Regiment of Scotland might be the oldest regiment of the line but they are not the oldest regiment in the army. The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers is older. It having always been a reserve regiment probably meant it was overlooked in favour of the Royal Scots. 

Among the squadrons of this regiment is the Royal Jersey Field Squadron (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) which claims its origins to 1337! If we accept this claim this would be by far the oldest unit in the army. However the history is patchy to say the least. It does appear that there has been some form of militia on the island of Jersey since 1337, however it has been raised and disbanded many times. 
Members of the Jersey Field Squadron RE in Full Dress
preparing the Royal Standard during 2012 Royal Visit
Photo Credit: Dan Marsh/flicker/CC BY-SA 2.0
The Royal Militia Island of Jersey as an organised military force (rather than a feudal militia) seems to date from 1622 when three standing regiments of militia were raised in the north, south and east of the island. The militia took part in the 1781 Battle of Jersey where they successfully helped the regular army defend their island from a French invasion force. 
To mark the 50th anniversary of this they were designated the Royal Jersey Militia in 1831. A company of the Royal Jersey Militia was detached to the 7th (service) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles for the Great War. The rest of the militia stayed in Jersey however many of Jersey men including many of its ranks left the island and volunteered for service with other regiments. It was reconstituted as the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey in 1921. In WW2 the militia left the island and served as the 11th (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Battalion Hampshire Regiment throughout the war. 
The Royal Militia was formally disbanded in 1953, however it was reformed as a Territorial Army unit in 1987 as the Jersey Field Squadron (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Royal Engineers. It came under the command of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers in 2007.

the garb of a Tudor archer in Monmouthshire Regiment Museum
in Monmouthshire Castle. Credit: Rock Drum/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
Even without the Jersey Field Squadron the Royal Monmouth Royal Engineers is one of the oldest regiments in the army. The regiment traces its history to 1539. This was around the time that Henry VIII created the Union between England and Wales and dissolved the monasteries. The union of England and Wales created two new counties which included Monmouthshire and the militia first mustered in 1539. This was just one year before Henry VIII appointed Lord Lieutenants to several counties to raise and maintain county militias loyal to the King. The Monmouthshire militia was initially known as the Posse Comitatus (the Power of the County) and evolved into the Trained bands under Elizabeth I and finally the Monmouthshire Militia Regiment under Charles II.
For most of its existence it was a regiment of infantry. As the Monmouth and Brecon Militia Regiment it gained its first 'Royal' title in 1804 becoming the Royal Monmouth and Brecon Militia. The 'Brecon' part of the title was dropped in 1820. During the reorganisation of the reserve in 1877 it became a militia regiment of the Royal Engineers and designated the 'Royal Monmouthshire Engineers (Militia).' Its current title was granted in 1896 making it a rare example of two 'royal' titles. 


It might arguably have the oldest sub unit in the army but it is not quite the oldest regiment, although it is the only regiment in the Army (both regular and reserve) to retain it's 'militia' title.

Honourable Artillery Company

The oldest regiment in the British Army is another regiment of the Army Reserve. The Honourable Artillery Company's charter was granted in 1537 making it two years older than the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers. However the HAC's origins may stretch back all the way to 1087.
The HAC Company of Pikemen & Musketeers, Lord Mayor's Show 2011
Photo Credit: Randolph/English Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
In the year of 1087 (reign of William II) a society of armed citizens was formed in the City of London for the protection of the goods of merchants. However to link this to the HAC might be a bit if a stretch. The HAC's official date of inception is 1537 which still makes them the oldest regiment in the army. Henry VIII granted the Overseers of the Guild or Fraternity of St George a charter to raise a perpetual corporation "for military exercise and training for the better defence of the Realm". 
The HAC is not part of the Royal Artillery but a separate regiment. The word 'artillery' in the regiment's name reflects on its age, for it is not a reference to field guns or siege weapons but to projectile weapons in general. The regiment's original name was the "Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgoones" (hand guns as in hand held guns like an arquebus). 
The HAC has been described as a regiment since the 17th century. Its' title 'Honourable Artillery Company' was first used in 1685 and the title was formally granted by Queen Victoria in 1860.  

The HAC has played a role in the founding of both the Grenadier Guards and the Royal Marines. Men from the HAC who followed Charles II into exile were among those who served in the guards regiment formed in exile. This regiment would go on to become the Grenadier Guards. Likewise in 1664 the HAC were involved in training of what would become the Duke of York & Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot. This regiment was raised in the HAC's New Artillery Gardens. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War these soldiers were mobilised to serve on ship and were the forerunners of the Royal Marines.
HAC fireing a gun salute at the Tower of London
marking the centenary of WW1 on 05/08/2014
Credit: Sgt Steve Blake RLC/gov.uk/OGL 2


Currently its principle role is battlefield surveillance and target acquisition, but it also has a light battery paired with 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. In addition to this the regiment performs many ceremonial roles in and around the City of London. It provides guards of honour for state visitors at the London Guildhall. It also has a specific ceremonial sub unit the 'Company of Pikemen and Musketeers' who parade in 17th Century uniforms using period appropriate drill, commands and with period appropriate arms. They perform all over the world but are seen annually providing the ceremonial bodyguard for the Lord Mayor of London during the Lord Mayor's Show. The HAC's artillery battery also perform gun salutes from the Tower of London on great state and royal occasions. 
As well as its military duties both operational and ceremonial the HAC also provide a detachment of Special Constabulary in support of City of London Police. All this is mainly done by reservists for whom the army is mainly only a part time second job, so I think its fair to say that the Army's oldest regiment lives up to its history in the present. 
Company of Pikemen & Musketeers drill display in France
Note the 17th C drill & words of command
(I particularly like the command for stand at ease at the end)

All the regiments that have been looked at here have long and distinguished histories, but this is only a snap shot at the long and illustrious history of the British Army there are many more historic regiments not included here and everyone I am sure will not only work in a manor worthy of the finest traditions and history of the Army, but will continue to add new and worthy chapters to that history in the future. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

RAF Space Command Badge

 Following on from the announcement by the Prime Minister to increase funding for Defence part of which will go to an RAF Space Command I thought what would their badge be like?

Patch of the UK Space Operations Centre
Unlike what happened in the United States this Space Command will not be a separate service branch of the Armed Forces but will be an organisation within the Royal Air Force. Which is sensible giving that the RAF already operates a Space Operations Centre as part of 11 Group. However it is modest and defence analysts have said in some articles that it need expanding, and turning it into it's own 'Command' is probably a good way to go about it. Secondly by keeping it as part of the RAF it avoids some the PR disaster the US Space Force got with the comparisons to Star Trek and Starship Troopers SciFi series. 

At present the UK Space operations Centre already has a patch that appears to be worn on uniforms. I actually like it however while it is an acceptable uniform patch I think its to much in the American Air Force style. I think the RAF Space Command would have something more heraldic and less like a logo, an emblem that could be placed on a ceremonial standard.

So here is my proposal. First off is the name. I have specifically used the title "Satellite and Space Command" specifically as people are familiar with the widespread use of satellites to show this is not a type of SciFi space marines. 
The badge follow the standard pattern of RAF heraldry with the emblem being within a blue edged circle and wings surmounted by the crown, with the motto on a scroll below.

The emblem itself is symbolic of digital and satellite communications. It is set upon a black field rather than the more usual white field to be more distinctive and is something I thought could be unique to the Satellite & Space Command and any squadrons or groups that are subordinate to it. The emblem itself features two crossed lightning bolts with a beacon superimposed upon them. Emerging from the flames of the beacon is an armillary sphere .
beacons historically were used for signalling and combined with the lightning bolts is a symbol of electronic and digital communication. Armillary spheres were historically used by astrologers and schoolers to model objects in the sky in relation to the Earth or latterly the Sun. Hence when all these elements combine I think they are a good way of using timeless objects to symbolise the modern concept of manmade satellites. 
The motto is the same as that of the RAF which I think is an appropriate motto for the Space Command as it is generally translated to "Through adversity to the Stars". 



Friday, 13 November 2020

What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? Part One

 If you read some of the post of this blog you might have gathered I have an interest in military history. British military history is an interesting series of subjects and while doing a bit of reading a thought came to me. What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? The Army prides itself on its history and every regiment has a proud history, one of the things that makes the British Army interesting is the different identities, traditions, music. and uniforms & insignia of individual regiments. Thus the question which regiment is the oldest? There are actually quite a few claimants to that title, which I will examine here.

Royal Bodyguards

Gentlemen at Arms in the Palace of Westminster
Posted by Reddit user U/Terfan 
A good place to start this quest might be the Queen's bodyguard. Surely the honoured task of guarding the person of the sovereign would fall the oldest and most prestigious regiment. Well the closest and most senior Royal Bodyguard is Her Majesty's Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms aka the Honourable Band of Gentlemen Pensioners or simply the Gentlemen at Arms. These guards are seen in the closest proximity to the monarch at various ceremonies and although they wear 19th Century uniforms they trace their history all the way back to 1509 when Henry VIII raised a Troop of armed gentlemen to act as his mounted escort. It naturally consisted of members of the nobility. It accompanied Henry to France and saw action in the Battle of  the Spurs in 1513. They last saw action during the Civil Wars when one Gentleman Matthews saved the life of the Prince of Wales at the Battle of Edgehill
However despite being the most senior Royal Bodyguard they are not the oldest. That goes to the perhaps more well known Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard (often simply called the Yeomen of the Guard). Unlike the Gentlemen at Arms the Yeomen of the Guard's uniform is almost unchanged since Tudor times. Often they are mistaken for 'Beefeaters' who are in fact the Yemen Warders of the Tower of London, however it is a forgivable mistake given that they share their history and their uniforms are almost identical. 

Yeomen of the Guard at 2008 Garter Day Service
note the cross belt over left shoulder (public domain)
The Yeomen of the Guard claims to be the oldest military corps in the world. It was formed by Henry VII following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. In 1509 Henry VIII moved out of the Tower of London for more comfortable accommodation. While this meant that the Yeomen of the Guard moved with the King the Tower retained its status of a Royal Palace (and still does), so it was decided a small detachment of Yeomen would remain to garrison the Tower. This is when the Yeomen Warders became distinct from the Yeomen of the Guard (note that the Gilbert & Sullivan opera 'The Yeomen of the Guard' (Act 1 click here)is set before this distinction took place.). 
The Yeomen of the Guard served wherever the King lead his army last seeing action in 1743 at the battle of Dettingen (the last time a reigning British monarch personally led troops in combat). 
Yeomen Warders in ceremonial dress (note no cross belt)
at the Ceremony of the Constable's Dues
Picture credit Peter Rowley/Flicker/CC BY 2.0) 

Despite these long and illustrious histories and the fact it might include the world's oldest military corps the Royal Bodyguards do not qualify for being the British Army's oldest regiment because they are not considered part of the Army. Although they may have seen action in the past the gentlemen and yeomen of the 21st century are ceremonial bodyguards they are however mainly formed of former Armed Forces personnel. The Gentlemen at Arms are former commissioned officers. They wear a uniform styled after a dragoon of the 1840s and are armed with swords and ceremonial battle axes (which are each three centuries old). 

The Yeomen of the Guard are formed of former non commissioned or Warrant Officers with at least 22 years military service. Its membership is drawn mainly from the Army but also accepts Royal Air Force, Royal Marines and (recently) Royal Navy personnel. 35 members of the Yeomen of the Guard are selected to become Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Bodyguard the Yeomen of the Guard Extraordinary (aka Beefeaters). Unlike the Gentlemen at Arms and Yeomen of the Guard who only perform their ceremonial duties when summoned to do so, Yeomen Warder is a full time job and as such they not only work but live in the Tower of London. The ceremonial dress for the Yeomen is a Tudor bonnet, scarlet Tudor tunic with gold and black lace emblazoned with the Royal Badge of a rose, thistle and shamrock and Royal Cypher, scarlet britches and tights. They are armed with a partisan. The Yeomen of the Guard are distinguishable from the Yeomen Warders as they wear a scarlet and gold cross belt (although if you visit the Tower they will likely be wearing their non ceremonial undress uniform which is still Tudor style). 
An honourable mention should also be made for Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers they date from 1676 and unlike the London based bodyguards which are drawn from the former members of HM Armed Forces membership of the Royal Company of Archers is via election by other members.  
 So although not the oldest regiments in the army the Sovereign's bodyguard are the oldest military institutions in the country. But what's the oldest regiment in the army?

The Foot Guards

From left to right Guardsmen from the Grenadier, Scots, Welsh, Irish & Coldstream Guards
in Full Dress Uniform (note collar badges and button spacing) 
Surely the regiments that guard the Monarch and the Royal households are among the oldest regiments? There are five regiments of Foot Guards who regularly perform these 'public duties' and although two of them (the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards) were raised in the 20th Century the other three (Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards) date back to the 17th Century. So these are some of the oldest regiments in the army.

 In fact if you google "oldest regiment in the British Army" the Coldstream Guards are top of the list. Even the regiments motto is "Nulli Secundus" (Second to None) seems to state this. The Coldstream Guards were formed in 1650 however they were not formed as guards. Of the three regiments of Foot Guards raised in the 17th Century only the Grenadier Guards were formed as Foot Guards. The Coldstream Guards were not even royal troops but republican! 
A Captain of the Coldstream Guards and guardsmen at 2011 Royal Wedding
note buttons arranged in pairs, Garter star collar badge and red plume on right of Bearskin
Picture Credit Magnus D/Flicker/CC BY 2.0
The regiment that would become the Coldstream Guards was formed by Colonel George Monk as part of Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian Army. Although 1650 is the date the regiment was formed if we trace it's linage back to its oldest possible antecedent regiment (which is what nearly all other regiments of the Army do) we discover its actually a little bit older. The regiment was formed in the Scottish town of Coldstream through the amalgamation of men from George Fenwick's Regiment and Sir Arthur Hazelrigg's Regiment. Both these regiments were raised as part of the New Model Army of 1645 and both contributed five companies each to form the new regiment. On the restoration General Monk the regiment's colonel greeted King Charles II as he landed, and the King bestowed him with the Order of the Garter, which is why the Coldstream Guards wear the Garter Star as their cap badge and collar badge. The regiment was to disband along with the rest of the New Model Army on 8th January 1661 but on the 6th January riots in London spread out of control, and the government fearing an uprising called in the regiment to restore order. Following this the regiment was spared disbandment (the only regiment of the New Model Army to be spared or was it?) and made a royal regiment of Foot Guards. 

Grenadier Guards sentry at Buckingham Palace. Note grenade collar badge,
buttons arranged singularly & white plume on the left of bearskin
Photo Credit Edgar Eli/Wikimedia/CC BY 3.0
The Grenadier Guards by contrast trace their linage back to a regiment of British expatriates raised in Flanders in 1656 to protect the exiled Charles II. It was raised by the Earl of Rochester but when he died in 1658 command passed to Lord Wentworth. This regiment was know simply as the Royal Regiment of Guards although it is also sometimes referred to as Lord Wentworth's Regiment. 
When the King returned to the British Isles in 1660 another regiment of Guards was formed under the command of John Russel. On the death of Lord Wentworth in 1665 these two regiments were amalgamated to form the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards which was granted the title of 'Grenadier Guards' via Royal proclamation in 1815 following service in the Napoleonic Wars (hence the regiment's flaming grenade badge).  The rivalry between the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards is well known, it is the popular complaint of the Coldstream Guards that they should occupy the Grenadier Guard's position as being the senior regiment of Foot Guards because they are older. But is that a fair complaint?

For the third most senior regiment of Foot Guards is actually the oldest. It is perhaps one of those ironic little twists of history and something typically British that until the formation of the Irish Guards in 1900 the oldest of the Foot Guard regiments was regarded as the most junior! The Scots Guards trace their history back to 1642. The regiment was raised by the Marquess of Argyll under the authorisation of Charles I. The regiment was among nine Scottish regiments raised for service in Ireland. The previous year (1641) a Catholic rebels began an uprising against the mainly Protestant settlers of Ulster (many of whom were also Scots) and the uprising had spread across the island. This Scottish Army would see seven years of service in Ireland before returning to Scotland where what was left of it became known as 'the Irish Companies.' (in an interesting side note this Scottish Army played an important role in the ecclesiastic history of Northern Ireland for its chaplains founded the first Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which is now the largest Protestant denomination in the province). 
Scots Guards at funeral of Baroness Thatcher 2013
Note buttons arranged in threes, thistle collar badge and no plume in bearskin
Photo Credit Ronnie MacDonald/Flicker/CC BY 2.0
Following the execution of Charles I, Charles II was crowned King of Scots at Scone and the Irish Companies were renamed the 'King's Lyfe Guards of Foot' in 1650. The regiment went on to face the invading English Parliamentarian Army at the Battle of Dunbar (where they found themselves on the opposite side what would become their fellow Foot Guards regiment the Coldstream Guards), from there they accompanied Charles II on his invasion of England before finally being defeated in 1651. Charles fled into exile and the regiment all but ceased to exist. However following the restoration in 1660 the regiment was re raised at Edinburgh and Stirling as the Scottish Regiment of Footguards. In the following years the regiment saw service against the Scottish Covenanters (somewhat ironic giving that their history with Lord Argyll and their service in Ireland), before being brought south to England in 1687 and being placed on the English establishment as the third senior regiment of Foot Guards (the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards being on that establishment much earlier).

The Coldstream Guards may be younger the Scots Guards but the reason they come up first in the google search is because the claim to be the oldest regiment in continuous service. However history buffs love to obsess over minor details and technicalities and despite this claim the regiment technically dates from 1661. This is because despite what is stated above the regiment that was formed in Coldstream was technically disbanded along with rest of the New Model Army in 1661. What actually happened was the regiment paraded for the last time at Tower Hill and symbolically laid down their arms and their association with the New Model Army. The men were then ordered to take up their arms again as Royal troops in the new standing army. This means that they technically formed a new regiment all be it a carbon copy of the one that was just disbanded. Of course most people would probably agree that this disbandment was merely a symbolic act and that in the real world the regiment that marched away from Tower Hill after the ceremony was the same regiment that marched to it. 
I'm not including this point to challenge the Coldstream claim only to illustrate a point that the answer to which regiment is the oldest depends on how you define and measure age. It also shows how many claimants to the title of oldest regiment use technicalities. The Coldstream's claim to be the oldest regiment is based on the technicality that they are the oldest in continuous service however that claim can also be challenged on the grounds of a technicality. 

 All five regiments of Foot Guards as well as being operational soldiers take part in the oldest military ceremonies still practiced: The Changing of the Guard, Trooping the Colour, Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London (video below) etc. I have only really touched on their origins here and regardless of who might be the oldest they all have long and distinguished histories to be proud of up to the present. 
Soldiers from the oldest continuously serving regiment in the army
performing the oldest regular military ceremony in the world
alongside members of the oldest military body in the UK
Old clip from 1960s of the Irish Guards performing the ceremony of the keys
Note that the .303 SMLE No.4 rifle and No.9 bayonet still in service here

 So in conclusion to part one. Of the three most senior Foot Guard regiments I would say the Coldstream Guards arguably have the longest history of continuous service, with the Grenadier Guards being the longest continuous service to the crown, and the Scots Guards having the earliest date of origin. 
But there are other regiments of the line that can claim to be the oldest regiment in the British Army which will be looked at in Part 2.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Dunluce Castle - Romanticism, Legend, History and ghost stories.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle in the direction of Portrush at Sunset
Credit to David Getty & Causeway Coast Community

 On the Ulster coastline in the County of Antrim between the popular seaside town of Portrush and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giants Causeway, sits another one of Northern Ireland's iconic land marks. It is not iconic because of its history although it is historic, but rather because of its dramatic and romantic appeal. I am of course talking about Dunluce Castle, or perhaps more accurately what is left of it because the castle is a ruin. An 1840 travel guide depicts a romantic and dramatic picture describing "The picturesque ruins of Dunluce Castle lay scattered over the surface of a rocky promontory projecting boldly into the wild and turbulent waters of the North Atlantic. These were once the feudal halls of powerful chieftains long ages ago shattered, unroofed and despoiled by war; and now but the naked wreck left by the slow mining hand of time." More recently it appeared in the Game of Thrones series as Pyke Castle (although it is almost unrecognisable due to the large amounts of CGI)

I visited Dunluce in August and took some pictures while I was there and thought I'd share them while telling the story of one of Northern Ireland's most iconic landmarks. Since the place is in ruins it has not surprisingly gained a reputation for being haunted so since its October and Halloween is approaching I'll throw in a couple of ghost stories too. Starting off with a brief history

The MacQuillans and the MacDonnells

A little bit like Game of Thrones much of the castle's story revolves around the rivalry of two great clans, with a little bit of conflict with the Crown thrown in for good measure. 
A hiding place dated to the early Christian period
cut into the rock in the castle inner ward
There has been human settlements on and around Dunluce since pre history (the 'Dun' in the name suggests the presence of a ringfort) and there was a castle at or near Dunluce in the 13th Century however the history of the current castle begins in the early 16th Century. According to the guide leaflet I got when I visited the earliest standing remains of the castle date to around 1500 and accordioning to DiscoverNorthernIreland it was first documented in 1513.
The MacQuillans were of Scottish descent and came to Ireland in the 13th Century as gallowglasses, They became lords of a territory known as the Route the 15th Century which basically extended between the Rivers Bann and Bush (its a little more complex but thats perhaps a subject for a different time). The MacQuillans were powerful in fact the name of their territory is thought o derive from the word "rout" which was the common term for a private army. 
A view of the Inner Ward from the Outer Ward
The MacQuillans built the castle however in 1554 another Scottish family fought with the MacQuillans for possession of the castle. This was the MacDonnells who were a sept or branch of the Clan MacDonald. As a result the castle changed hands between the two clans various times before the MacQuillans were finally beaten in 1565 at the Battle of Aura. The battle took place in a bog Oral tradition tells us that the MacDonnells lead by the fantastically named Sorley Boy MacDonnell stood on firm ground but by covering the bog with reeds and rushes were able to trick the MacQuillans to enter the bog where they were easily cut down. 


The inner ward sits on an outcrop the outer ward is to the left
The outer ward was used to greet guests, house visitors and staff, and featured
lodgings, a stable, and possibly a brewery (arguably the most important building)


A view from the lodgings

remains of a fireplace in the outer ward lodgings

inside the lodgings in the outer ward, another fire place is to the right

Path down to the cave beneath the castle known as the Mermaid's cave
Due to Covid19 restrictions it was closed on the day of my visit so I have no pics of the cave


The Castle under the MacDonnells

After taking possession of the castle permanently Sorley Boy made it his seat of power, and as such made it more comfortable. He rebuilt much of it in the Scottish style of the period and much what survives of the castle can be traced to this period. However that was not the end of conflict at Dunluce Castle. For after taking his land from the MacQuillans the MacDonnells spent much of the remainder of the century trying to keep it from the forces of Elizabeth I. In 1584 the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrot laid siege to and took Dunluce Castle for the Crown. Local legend goes that Sorely Boy was able to retake the castle by being hauled up the cliff in a basket (presumably with some of his men at arms) by one of the servants in the castle. Sorely Boy and Perrot reluctantly entered into negotiations which culminated with Sorley Boy pledging loyalty to the Queen and she regranted him his lands and the castle.  

The Funnel and the Bridge. Originally this was a draw bridge 
but it was later replaced my a stone arch and wooden walkway
The Gatehouse to the left was originally built by the MacQuillans but was rebuilt
in its present Scottish style by the MacDonnels as was the curtain wall to the right
note the openings added to house cannon from a wrecked ship of the Spanish Armada

An impression of how the funnel, gatehouse and curtain wall looked in the 17th Century



Detail of the First Trust £10 note featuring the Girona
Sorley Boy appears to have mostly remained loyal to the Queen although there is one event where that loyalty can be questioned. On the night of 26th October 1588 the Spanish Galleass 'Girona' was making her way around the Antrim coast to Scotland. Girona was one of the ships of the Spanish Armada. Following the Armada being scattered by the wind and by English fire ships it made its way around Scotland and Ireland in order to return to Spain and lost many ships in the process. The Girona was one of the many stragglers, she was designed for the calm waters of the Mediterranean and was unsuited to  
19th Century engraving of the wreck of the Girona
Lacada Point and the Spanish Rocks are in the background

the British coastline. After making repairs in Donegal it was decided to sail for neutral Scotland rather than attempt to make the perilous trip to Spain . After passing Lough Foyle she was caught in a storm and was driven onto rocks not to far from Dunluce Castle at Lacada Point (the rocks in question would from henceforth be known as the Spanish Rocks) and sank with the estimated loss of 1300 souls. There were nine survivors who despite his allegiance to the Queen Sorley Boy helped escape to his kin in Scotland. However Sorely Boy also salvaged riches from the wreck with which he was able to improve the castle including two ship's guns which were installed in the curtain wall beside the gatehouse. 
The Girona has become another part of the local folklore and is even depicted on the reverse of the £10 Northern Ireland banknotes that were issued by First Trust Bank prior to 2019 (although no longer being printed they are still legal currency until June 2022)

The Earls of Antrim

Armorial bearings of the Earl
of Antrim at Dunluce
Sorely Boy was a winner and was successful in walking the tightrope between rebellion and loyalty to the crown to secure his family's future as the rulers of Dunluce Castle and the lands around it. Sorely Boy's 4th son Randal succeeded him as head of the clan, and with the support of the new King James I founded a town outside the castle in 1608. This town was inhabited not just by Scottish settlers but also many local Irish tenants. In 1618 while much of the rest of Ulster was undergoing the plantation, the King made Randal the 1st Earl of Antrim increasing the lands, power and wealth of the MacDonnells further. Randal set about making the castle more comfortable and built the manner house in the centre of the castle as well as remodelling some of the other buildings in the castle. 
This was heyday of the castle however for the town of Dunluce was burned to the ground in the 1641 rebellion and following the Cromwellian reconquest of Ireland the lands of Dunluce were granted to Cromwell's soldiers and the castle was abandoned. However it was reoccupied with the restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the town rebuilt. However unlike most of the other plantation towns, Dunluce was not a success. It's economy suffered from the lack of a natural harbour making trade difficult and it was abandoned again by the 1680s never to be reoccupied or rebuilt. 
The ornate frontage of what remains of the Manor House

In 1635 the second Earl married the widow of the Duke of Buckingham and she lived here
It is said she was always uneasy being so close to the sea, and left after part of the savants' quarters collapsed

The interior of the manner house with its big fire places and large windows


Plaque at Dunluce depicting the Manor House


The Kitchen Collapse and the ruin of the Castle

The Kitchen next to the Manor House
Local legend has it that sometime towards the end of the castle being occupied there was a great feast being held on a dark and stormy night. However the feast was cut short when the Earl and his guests heard a mighty crash and screams; as the storm caused the cliff supporting the kitchen to collapse into the sea taking the kitchen with it, as well as all those that were in it at the time. Only a single member of the kitchen staff survived and this was a young serving boy who happened to be standing in the one small corner of the kitchen to remain as the rest plummeted into the sea. The wife of the Earl refused to live in the castle after that and the MacDonnells abandoned the castle leaving it to fall to ruins. 
We know this is the kitchen due to the large ovens
Ask anyone in Northern Ireland what happened to Dunluce castle and they will tell you some form of that story. While it is a great story it is I am afraid just a story. The kitchen did not fall into the sea, in fact if you visit the castle you can clearly see the remains of the kitchen complete with its great stone ovens. However like most legends it does have a basis in fact, the MacDonnells did indeed leave the castle for the more comfortable Glenarm castle and this remains the seat of the Earls of Antrim to this day. Alexander MacDonnell the 3rd Earl of Antrim was the last of the MacDonnells we know was born at Dunluce Castle. During the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he raised a regiment for James II, and with that regiment went to take over the garrison of Londonderry but had the gates closed upon his men (starting a stand off that would end in the Siege of Derry), thus setting into action a chain of events the would cumulate in the vanquishing of James II to be replaced as King of Ireland, England and Scotland by William III & Mary II
Antrim finding himself on the losing side was no longer able to support the expense of maintaining the cast and thus abandoned it to ruin. At some point  a portion of the in the inner ward fell into the sea, giving rise to the legend of the kitchen. Although despite that fact it is said that on dark stormy nights you can still hear rock shattering and the ghostly cries of the servants as they once more plunge to their deaths in the icy sea below.
The Courtyard of the Inner Ward housed servants' quarters and workshops

Inside the remains of one of the buildings in the Inner Ward Courtyard

The chimney of the above building

Looking out at the coast

The  rear most building of the court yard fell into the sea 
long ago. This corner is all that is left

A view of the white rocks with Portrush in the distance

The ghosts of Dunluce

Like all good castles Dunluce has its fair share of alleged hauntings. As well as the souls of the kitchen staff reliving the night of their death (even though the kitchen never actually collapsed and is largely still intact today) there are other apparitions and panorama activity that have been reported over the centuries. 
We will star with the south east tower. This is the one beside the curtain wall closest to the gatehouse. For it is said to haunted by the spirit of Peter Carey. Carey was the Constable of the castle after it fell to the Queen's Lord Deputy, however when Sorley Boy MacDonnell retook the castle he took his revenge on Carey by hanging him from the southeast tower. It is said his spirit never left that tower and is allegedly seen on dark nights roaming the ramparts. Carey's ghost is identifiable as he is in a dark purple cloak and is wearing a ponytail which might actually be the rope that killed him. Visitors to the castle also report feeling someone push past them inside the southeast tower despite the fact they are the only ones there.
Originally built by the MacQuillans to protect the Curtain Wall
It was improved by the MacDonnells and features gun loops
The castle's constable was hanged from this tower in 1584

View of the outer ward from one of the cannon ports

A view of the lodgings from the gun port

These columns were part of a loggia which overlooked
a garden before the manor house was built 

Next is the north east tower which is said to be haunted by a white lady. There are slightly different variants of the story, however they all agree that the white lady is the spirit Mave McQuillans who was imprisoned in that tower by father to prevent her from seeing the man she loved (a match her father evidently did not approve). However here the stories differ for one read that she pined away in the tower and died of a broken heart. She is said to have met her lover at the castle when he was either a prisoner or one of the soldiers tasked with guarding it, stories differ. Another version of the story states that Mave fled with her lover to the Mermaid's Cave to escape to Portrush in a boat hidden in the cave. However the sea proved to rough and they pair drowned. While her lover's body was washed ashore the next morning the Sea refused to give up Mave's body and as such she was denied a Christian burial. Where the stories agree again is that Mave's spirit haunts the tower she was imprisoned in. After the tragedy servants refused to enter the tower however on the rare occasion a living soul entered the tower it is said that it was spotless, without even a speck of dust. The ghost of Mave apparently keeping it clean. Because the tower Mave is still said to reside in the tower it became known as the MacQuillan Tower even after the MacDonnells took over.
The north east tower was built at the same time
as the south east. Both were closed off as Covid19 percussions 
It retains its Irish style with an upper room and separate
ground floor vault. 

Likewise the MacQuillan Banshee still haunts the castle and lands surrounding it. It is said that screams of the Banshee echo around the castle whenever a member of the Clan MacQuillan is on their death bed. Some have even said the screams originate from the north east tower leading some to speculate that the spirit of Mave and the Banshee are one in the same. 
In the 16th Century a woman in white was said to appear on the cliffs beside the castle every day at sunset. She was said to always gaze out to sea and some accounts state she wailed like a fury, but all agreed she soon disappeared. No one knows exactly who this was, some say it is the spirt of Mave MacQuillan, some that it was the Banshee and some that it is both. A story says that in 1534 one of the MacQuillan children saw the Lady in white on the shore, where she disappeared into thin air in front of him. He returned the next night with his siblings but the lady didn't appear. There continued to be reports from locals of the Lady walking along the shore before sunset throughout the following decades. When the child now a man in his 30s returned to the spot he originally seen the apparition the lady materialised to him. He attempted to speak with her but once again she vanished and has not been seen since.
Poltergeist activity has also been reported in the castle reception and gift shop. Staff report that they will come to work in the morning to find that someone has rearranged the shelves during the night, despite the fact the shop is locked and there is no sign of a break in. Sometimes they will also find the radio has been turned on despite the fact it was switched off at the end of the day before!

The Castle today 

The castle ruins have inspired music, art and literature and are today still the property of the
MacDonnells although the seat of the Earldom is Glenarm castle. However Dunluce is a monument in state care being cared for by the Northern Ireland Department for Communities (Previously the NI Environment Agency). The Government of Northern Ireland have had guardianship of the ruins since 1928 and seek to preserve them as much as possible for the benefit of future generations. Although undoubtedly one day nature will take her course and the ruins will fall to the sea. However until that day comes (hopefully in the far future) the castle will no doubt continue to awe and inspire. 
Dunluce Town however has been likened as an Irish equivalent of Atlantis. The town was considered lost to history until archaeological discovery in 2011. It was found that it may have been built on a grid system with complex houses with indoor toilets (new in Europe at the time). Its estimated 95% of the town is yet to be rediscovered. 
The above feature digital reconstructions of the ruins of six British castles first of which is Dunluce. In the meantime if you are ever on the North Antrim coast I would recommend spending some time to explore these majestic ruins and soak up the history and the legends.