The old 6th Regiment of Foot began life in 1674 as a unit of émigré English troops in Dutch service. During the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, they came to Britain and fought under James II before being brought onto William III’s establishment and fighting at the Boyne in 1690 and bloody Aughrim in 1691.
In the 18th century, the regiment saw hard service under Marlborough, helped to defeat the Jacobites in 1745, and was given the precedence and number ‘6’ in 1782 after operations in the Americas, with the title ‘1st Warwickshire’.
With the start of the French Revolutionary Wars, the 6th took part in the invasion of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Lucia in 1794, before returning to garrison in Ireland, where they helped to thwart the French expedition during Wolf Tone’s rebellion in 1798.
After Roliça, Vimiero, and Corunna at the start of the Peninsular War, the 6th were sent to Walcheren in 1809, before returning to Iberia for the great, closing battles of Wellington’s campaign. During the assault on Echalar in August 1813 Wellington marvelled at the regiment’s attack against 6,000 Frenchmen, describing it as ‘the most gallant and the finest thing’ he had ever witnessed.
Colonial actions followed in the 19th century, culminating in Omdurman in 1898 and extensive operations in South Africa. It was the First World War, though, that saw the Royal Warwickshires come into their own. From 1914 to 1918, they raised 16 new battalions and won all six of their Victoria Crosses, including that of Private Arthur Hutt at Broodseinde.
- For many years, the 6th were referred to as ‘The Dutch Guards’ to reflect their origins.
- One of the six ‘Old Corps’, the badge of the antelope was always worn, although its origins are still a matter of debate.
This text appeared as part of the article about the Royal Warwickshire regiment at Passchendaele, featured in issue 80 of Military History Monthly. To read the article in full, click here.