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11th Regiment of Foot - Early days of the Regiment

11th Regiment of Foot - Early days of the Regiment

The Regular Army dates back to the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 when Charles II raised regiments of Guards. However, it was the protestant Duke of Monmouth's landing at Lyme Regis in June 1685 that gave birth to the senior of our constituent regiments, which eventually became the Devonshire Regiment. Monmouth landed just west of The Cobb and assembled his 150 men in the Market Square, where, with banners flying, they rallied support for a rebellion against Catholic King James II. One hundred men from Lyme joined the rebels, and marched north.

With the Duke of Monmouth and his army, made up largely of peasants armed with pitchforks and scythes, approaching Bristol, the local commander of the Kings Army, the Duke of Beaufort was commissioned to raise:

'a corps of musketeers and pikemen composed of men of distinguished loyalty who resided in the disturbed districts of Devonshire, Somersetshire and Dorsetshire'

This corps included the Beaufort Musketeers, who were to become the North Devonshire regiment.

By 24 June 1685, attack seemed imminent. He therefore drew up what forces he had, some on Radcliffe Mead and a smaller force in the Lamb Ground to meet the intruders. The following day tension in the city was at its height. What the inhabitants do not appear to have known was that Monmouth had been deflected from his course by two parties of royalist Horse who had come upon him at Keynsham - about four miles south-east of the city. After calling a council of war, the rebel leader led his now dispirited army back to Bridgwater and to ultimate defeat at Sedgemoor on the night of 5th July 1685.

In the aftermath of Monmouth's Rebellion the King called for well-disciplined and regularly paid army but after the Civil War, during which the people of England having gained a healthy suspicion of the military, the need for a sizeable standing army was only grudgingly acceded too.

The Glorious Revolution

Having been raised to keep James II on his thrown three years earlier, Hamner's Regiment, as a part of John Churchill's (later the Duke of Marlborough) Army failed to save the king for a second time. As a result of religious strains, in November 1688 the Dutch Prince William of Orange was invited by protestant politicians to invade England. Catholic King James II fled London when John Churchill and the Army declined to fight the 'invader'. By February 1689, William and his English wife Mary were offered the crown.

The constitutional settlement following the Glorious Revolution shaped the formation of the British state for the following centuries, and the ensuing wars that the regiments took part in, contributed to Britain's rise as an international power.

The first of these wars began almost immediately, when James returned to Ireland determined to take back his throne.

Operational Service in Ireland

The Regiment's first engagement and battle was fought in Ireland on the banks of the River Boyne, on 1 July 1690 for King William III against his father in law, the erstwhile king, James II. James, with the support of Louis XIV of France, who was at the height of his drive to make himself master of Europe, landed in catholic Ireland at the head of a small French force, in March 1689. Around this force he gathered support from the openly rebellious Irish. At stake were the British throne, French dominance in Europe and Religious power in Ireland.

Hanmer's regiment had been in Ireland from 1689, when it took part in the relief of the siege of Londonderry. The following year William led his army of 36,000 men south to confront James's 25,000 strong Jacobite Army.

William distracted a large proportion of the Jacobite army by a flank march to the west, leaving the centre, including Hanmer's Regiment free to attack across the Boyne against a lightly held font. Having established a bridgehead the Wiliamite Army drove the Jacobite Army but had to hold out against a series of cavalry counter attacks. The enemy cavalry nearly broke through but were held by the disciplined volleys of the infantry and were finally broken by the arrival of Williams and his cavalry.

James's Army were forced back but they made a disciplined withdrawal and escaped the destruction that William had planned for them. Hanmer's Regiment had played a creditable part in what was its first proper battle.

Hanmer's (11th/Devonshire) Regiment

Remaining in Ireland until 1703, the Devonshires then joined John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough's, army in Holland, where they assisted to capture the fortress of Huy and the city of Limburg, then held by the Spaniards. The Regiment's next campaign was in Portugal in 1705, and, after a visit to England, again in 1708.

The year 1709 was a memorable year for the Devons, as they were again in Holland and with the Duke of Marlborough's forces, taking part in the siege of Mons. While working in the trenches within one hundred yards of the French palisades, the Regiment was attacked by a strong force of the enemy. The grenadiers, who were protecting the working party, were thrown into confusion by the attack. Nothing daunted, the soldiers of the Regiment threw down their picks and spades, drew their swords and counter-attacked with such vigour that the French were driven back over the palisades of Mons, with severe losses. Some of the soldiers of the 11th even followed the enemy over the palisades into the fortified town. During the attack and counter-attack the Regiment sustained 160 casualties. For some twelve months the 11th Foot was engaged in operations against fortified towns on the French Belgian border: Douai, Béthune, Aire, and St. Venant.

In 1711 the 11th formed part of the unsuccessful expedition against the French in Canada.

Except in 1715 and 1719, where the 11th gave a good account of itself in Scotland, the Regiment's history is uneventful for some thirty years. In 1719 Spanish troops landed in Ross-shire, and were joined by the Scottish clans of the neighbourhood. The 11th formed part of a small force which, charging with the bayonet, dispersed Spaniards and Highlanders, won the Battle of Glenshiel, and broke the insurrection.