80th Regiment of Foot

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The Staffordshire Regiment


  • 1793 raised by the Marquess of Anglesey as the 80th Regiment of Foot
  • 1802 absorbed the Staffordshire Volunteers and became the 80th Regiment of Foot (Staffordshire Volunteers)
  • 1881 amalgamated with the 38th Regiment of Foot to become the 2nd Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment
  • 1948 battalions amalgamated to form 1st Battalion (38th/80th) The South Staffordshire Regiment
  • 1959 amalgamated with the North Staffordshire Regiment to become 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Own) as part of the Mercian Brigade


This particular section is a history of HM 80th Regiment of Foot (South Staffordshire Regiment) extracted by Kerry Edwards from A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment (1705-1923) by James P. Jones. This section was part of the Family History in India website, which was designed to help people trace their British and European ancestry in colonial India by Cathy Day. Cathy has kindly allowed us to transfer this page to our wiki.

Raising and the War in Flanders, 1793-1795

The war with the French Revolutionaries led to an increase in the British Army and among the regiments raised was the 80th Foot. There were two others of that number before the Staffordshire one. In America in 1758, Thomas Gage, then a Colonel and later to become a General, raised a Light Infantry Regiment of five strong companies designed for scouting and skirmishing. The long muskets of the period were cut down to make carbines and the short barrels were browned. It spent its short life of six years in America and was disbanded soon after the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.

The second 80th, Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, was raised by public subscription in that city as one of the "Loyalty Regiments" in 1778. The declaration of war by France in that year caused a surge of patriotism in Britain for, while the war in America was unpopular, any conflict with France, long regarded as a national enemy, was a very different matter. Little is known of this unit except that it also served in America and fought with distinction under Cornwallis and was in the surrender at Yorktown. Like the first it had a life of six years before disbandonment; many years later a button belonging to this Regiment was found at Williamsburg and is now in the Museum.

The third, the 80th Staffordshire Volunteers. later to become the 2nd Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment, was raised by Lord Henry William Paget in 1793, the "Letter of Service" authorising its formation being dated 12th September. Paget's appointment as Lieutenant-Colonel was the result of a personal application to Mr Pitt. From the present Marquis of Anglesey's "Two Brothers in the Netherlands, 1794-1795", published in the 1954 Summer and Autumn Journals of the Society for Army Historical Research and from information kindly supplied by the Marquis, interesting details are given of the raising of this new Regiment and its service in Flanders.

Henry Paget was twenty-six when he got command; his younger brother, Edward, held the same rank in the 28th Gloucesters at the age of eighteen! Both had very distinguished military careers, each lost a limb in his country's service and both were Colonels of the 80th , although Henry was officially termed Commandant. He and his Regiment were indeed fortunate in having the wholehearted support of his father, the Earl of Uxbridge, a wealthy and influential landowner in Staffordshire and also Colonel of the Stafford Militia. To his eldest son, Uxbridge gave much financial help and warmly encouraged men from the Militia to transfer to the new unit, many of them were his tenants. He awarded the two Majorities in the unit to his brothers-in-law, Forbes and Josiah Champagnee both of whom were to command later; thus Paget's Majors were also his uncles. These brothers had seen service in America and writing many years afterwards the first Marquis of Anglesey stated: "They were greatly useful in forming the Regiment and in instructing me for I had everything to learn."

The Earl generously gave commissions, which he could have sold. to the young sons of officers he knew and the adjutant was one Faucet (?) from the "Glouster" Militia and he also had a company. Again quoting the first Marquis: "Twas a beautiful Battalion of the very finest young men, many valuable non-Commissioned Officers that my father gave me, together with 20 or 30 Volunteers from his Regiment and a set of Officers of the best character and conduct." It seems probable that the twenty or thirty were also NCOs, for the greater part of the unit's original establishment of seven hundred came in fact from the Stafford Militia and thus the Regiment was given the name of Staffordshire Volunteers. As the 80th was sent from its Depot at Chatham to Guernsey after only ten weeks training, the men would be up to the rather low Militia standard when they transferred; in March 1794 the strength was increased to one thousand rank and file.

By a coincidence two other sources of information on the early days of the 80th have come to light in recent years. A book 'Trusty and Well Beloved' edited by Caroline Duncan-Jones deals with the life and letters of William Harness, who, having served in the 69th and 29th Regiments, raised the necessary quota of men to become a company commander in the newly-formed 80th. His previous service was rewarded by his promotion to Major before leaving Guernsey and as the establishment then allowed two Lieutenant-Colonels, both Champagnees held this rank. Harness is writing to his wife and gives an interesting account of his twelve years in the Regiment; most of his letters are written as a field officer and he does not hesitate to criticise his seniors.

A small leather-covered book, now in the Museum, contains the journal of Thomas St. George, who was commissioned as Ensign in Guernsey at the age of seventeen in 1794 and served in the 80th until his transfer to the 12th Foot in 1804. He accompanied his regiment to Flanders and the Isle Dieu and in 1796 as a Captain was sent to the Midlands on recruiting duties, but unfortunately he gives no particulars of his military duties during this period. Instead he records two leaves in Ireland and pleasure tours in the South Midlands with a wealth of detail, which suggest the guide books from which they may well have been copied. However, his almost day to day description of the Flanders campaign is of real interest and shows him as a well educated and intelligent young man: it is probable that John St. George who also served in the 80th and whose medal is in the Museum, was his brother.

In Guernsey Paget got down to as much training as the place would permit and laments that the "uncommonly fine recruits" which the Earl continued to find had to sleep on the transports and only come on shore for exercise presumably drill and maybe musketry. Obviously accommodation on the Island was limited and full. The fact that the Band were all gentlemen in appearance and behaviour would be some consolation to Paget's father for having to provide them with "Scarlet Cloath (superfine)." It was not all work at Guernsey, the Islanders being very friendly and hospitable and Harness mentions one party to celebrate a British naval victory, during which the senior officers of the 80th consumed an incredible amount of wine, which was cheap and good.

Paget accused the Governor, who feared invasion, of trying to keep the Regiment on the Island and there may have been some reason for the complaint. When Lord Moira sailed for Flanders the 80th did not accompany him and its Commanding Officer's indignation was inflamed by the fact his younger brother was in the thick of the fighting. At last orders came, but there was a further delay before they could be implemented and meanwhile Paget was on a cruise in a ship lent by the navy and was very lucky to be landed in Holland about the same time as his men. As a regiment the 80th was almost consistently unfortunate in its sea voyages and this was certainly no exception. Leaving Guernsey on 3rd September 1794, the convoy was delayed for two weeks by contrary winds in the Downs and did not reach Flushing until the end of the month. The transports, which had recently visited the West Indies, had not been fumigated and the result of this neglect was that soon after disembarkation the 80th was stricken with a form of yellow fever and lost, from sickness or death, over a third of its strength.

In Flanders at this time the British Army had withdrawn behind the Dutch frontier. The lack of co-operation between the Allies has been mentioned and much of the reason for the failure of the campaign was the unreliability of the Austrians and Dutch, both of whom were subsidised by Britain with money which ought to have been spent on her own miserable troops. Apart from being unwilling to fight, the Dutch would not even go to the trouble and expense of fortifying their own towns and the Austrians were badly led and lacking in enterprise. With such Allies the Duke of York was in a most difficult situation; he himself had no experience as a commander and it is likely that much of his future fame as a first-class administrator was the result of the lessons learnt in Flanders.

On arrival at Flushing the 80th joined Lord Cathcart's 6th Brigade, which soon moved to Dordrecht and here the delayed effects of the yellow fever took a heavy toll on the unit. Leaving its many sick behind it came up with the main British forces on the River Maas, but enemy pressure forced the Duke to evacuate his positions and, moving north, he crossed the Waal by a pontoon bridge. For some time the 80th helped to hold the right bank of the river, suffering intensely from the bitterly cold weather, which allowed the French to cross the rivers where they wished; soon even their guns could move over the thick ice.

At an attack on Bommel on the last day of 1794 the Regiment had its first real action of the war and Ensign John Hervey was the first to place his Colour on the dyke which protected the town. The 19th, Green Howards, and 80th advanced across the slippery ice and then took Bommel with little difficulty. beating off a counter-attack with such heavy loss that the French asked under a flag of truce for permission to remove their dead and were given an hour to do so. St. George states that the 80th only had one man killed and four wounded though fired on from all quarters. After a night in the open fields in a snowstorm the Regiment with others moved back to Tuil across the river and took its turn on picquet duty before marching the twelve miles to Buren on the night of 3rd/4th January. Buren is about half-way between the Waal and the Lech and it is here that the 38th and 80th were in reserve on 5th January.

During that month the 80th did a good deal of marching and counter-marching and for a week was based on Eulenburg, crossing the Lech several times until it suddenly and unexpectedly thawed. Lacking support from its Allies, with frozen rivers in front and a torrent behind, the British Army was in a perilous situation, which was rendered even more desperate by the French who crossed the frozen Maas and Waal in strength and had reached Meteren, north of the latter river, before there was any attempt at a counter-attack. This was led by the Hanoverian General Walmoden and was made by five regiments, the 80th being one, and in the sharp fight which followed the enemy was driven back across the Waal with heavy loss, British casualties being about fifty. Writing just after the action, Paget told his father: "The 80th were fortunate to be engaged and did very handsomely" and adds an ominous postscript: "A bad season for fighting."

This was endorsed by St. George, who curiously does not mention the action at Meteren. By the middle of January the Allies were no longer able to hold the line of the Lech and the retreat to the north was probably the most ghastly in the history of the British Army. St. George relates that during the dreadful night march from Eulenburg to Amersfoort on 14th / 15th January, a distance of twenty-five miles, the cold was intense and the bitter wind so strong that the troops could scarcely wrestle against the driven snow. To lie down was fatal and when the carts went back to pick up stragglers they found two pathetic groups, one consisting of seven men, a woman & a child and the other a man, a woman with two children & yet another woman overtaken in labour. All were dead. The few found alive lost hands and feet from frostbite and would not survive the long retreat.

Cathcart's Brigade, consisting of Light Cavalry and four Foot regiments, of which the 80th was one, made a circuitous detour well away from the rest of the force along the shores of the Zuider Zee; more than 170 miles through desolate country in the depths of a particularly severe winter. Even before the retreat the army was in a most deplorable state as a cutting from an old undated newspaper in the Museum records. "The new levies which successively joined the Army were, with a few honourable exceptions. of the most wretched description. The 78th and 80th were well composed. well equipped and efficient. The 85th, 87th and 89th were in appearance a disgrace to any service and the laughing stock of all who beheld them." The callous writer might have reserved his scorn for the authorities and not the unfortunate regiments; it was not their fault.

But for the Earl of Uxbridge the 80th might well have been one of them and as it was the inefficiency of both the State and the service had done much to ruin what had been a fine regiment. The sole redeeming future of this appalling campaign was the undoubted heroism of the ill-fed and worse-clad British troops who were defeated not by the French, but by a combination of unreliable Allies, incompetence at home and in the field and a very harsh winter. One serious defect of the British Army at this period was the lack of experienced or even capable officers. As has been seen by Paget's appointment it was easy for a man with influence to obtain command and most had neither his ability nor enthusiasm; some lacked courage and four were tried by Court Martial for cowardice after a single skirmish. Drunkenness was rife and the Colonels, some young and many owing their ranks to patronage and jobbery, were not the men to enforce discipline or even to realise its necessity.

In addition there was an acute lack of drivers for the artillery, then civilians; a corrupt commissariat, which cheated the troops of food and pay and sold the animals' forage; and finally an almost useless medical corps manned by the dregs of the profession. All these contributed to the makings of the tragedy which befell this most unhappy expeditionary force.

During four days of the retreat northwards the extreme cold, together with insufficient food and a serious lack of suitable clothing, killed over 6,000 men, women and children. Of this dreadful total the 80th lost 228 dead and 210 were later discharged as unfit for any type of service. Sick and wounded died where they fell or were frozen to death in the ambulance carts. And this while being pursued by a strong, but fortunately rather unenterprising enemy who had, of course, his own difficulties. Moreover this ghastly withdrawal was through a country in some places bitterly hostile to the British, for while the Dutch were friendly enough and at times even hospitable to parties strong enough to be feared, they ruthlessly murdered the many stragglers.

Throughout February the retreat continued and while St. George gives the route and the daily marches, which varied from eight to fifteen miles space forbids fuller details. On the 11th the 80th crossed the Ems at Leer, but was ordered to re-cross on the 14th to keep the enemy away from the river; the frost continued and it marched over the ice. For the next week the 6th Brigade held a bridgehead which at places was as far as fifteen miles from the Ems and on the 20th the Light Companies of the Brigade and an Emigrant Regiment were formed into a unit under Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes Champagnee as a rearguard. During one withdrawal Champagnee had a narrow escape when he was chased by French Hussars across a river until the ice gave way and he spent a most uncomfortable half-hour in the semifrozen water before he managed to scramble up the bank. When the Light Companies tried to make a stand it was found, somewhat belatedly, they had no ammunition and Cathcart ordered them to make the best retreat they could: by forming line when the French got too close, they reached the protection of the main body of the rearguard.

That same night, 20th February, a detachment of the 80th formed a covering party to allow the Brigade to retire, but before the withdrawal commenced there was a brush between a strong French party and British cavalry led by Paget. There was grave concern as to the fate of the main portion of the Brigade and particularly the 80th and 84th, presumably the rear units, and great relief when they marched in. Unfortunately their servants and baggage were too far ahead and were captured, together with the sick, by a raid of French cavalry. The lack of ammunition for the Light Companies and of an escort for the baggage indicate bad staff work. Reading St. George's journal, it appears the French Hussars were more enterprising than the British cavalry.

During the remainder of the month the 80th was on outpost duty every second day. On 1st March the covering force was withdrawn and the Regiment moved, as usual in two wings, but when they reached the Ems the ice had melted and they had to march to Meppen, where there was a bridge. The river crossed, the 6th Brigade marched up the right bank to Leer and there on the 20th helped to repel a strong enemy attack on the town, but the chief credit for the victory goes to the British artillery which inflicted severe loss on the French. The last stage of this tragic retreat commenced on 30th March, when the 6th Brigade, with Paget now in command, marched via Oldenburg to Bremen and as at the latter town they had "colours flying etc." to quote St. George, it would appear that with better weather both morale and conditions had greatly improved.

Lieutenant-General Harcourt, the British Commander, took the salute at Bremen on 5th April, but the 6th Brigade was not allowed to stay in the Free Town which was neutral. The Guards however were not so scrupulous and insisted on staying in Bremen and St. George states the soldiers had better quarters than their captains. Although what was left of the 6th Brigade embarked on the 12th it did not sail until the 24th and Portsmouth was not reached until 9th May; St. George estimates the strength of the British Army as seventeen thousand, but he may not have included the cavalry which left later.

Fortescue considers that if the retreat had lasted another four days scarcely a man would have survived. He quotes a letter from General Walmoden to the Duke of York who had gone home before the retreat. "Your army is destroyed. The officers, their carriages and a large train are safe, but the men are destroyed." This terrible indictment was only too true; so great was the disgrace and misery of the campaign that no British account of it was published for many years. The future Duke of Wellington, who had served in it as a regimental commander, refused to discuss it and would only say: "I learnt what one ought not to do, and that is always something." He certainly took the bitter lesson to heart. It is of interest that the 80th received its baptism of fire quite close to Arnhem, where it was to earn such great fame 150 years later.

Service in Isle Dieu and the Egyptian Campaign of 1801

Paget had originally asked for the command of a cavalry regiment and when the 80th returned to England he set about getting one. It was first necessary to regularise his position in the Army and it is interesting to see how this could be done by the son of a wealthy and influential nobleman. Lord Henry was re-commissioned in the 7th Fusiliers on the 11th March 1795, and promoted Captain in the 23rd, Royal Welch Fusiliers a fortnight later. On 20th May he was a Major in the 65th , York & Lancaster Regiment and in under a month became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 16th Light Dragoons. He was made a Colonel in the Army, Brevet rank, on the 3rd May 1796, and Lieutenant-Colonel of the 7th Light Dragoons in April the next year. His future brilliant military career is history.

By what may be described as a form of inverted nepotism, his uncle, Forbes Champagnee, took over the 80th in June 1795 and Major General John St. Leger was appointed Colonel. No Colonel of the 80th held the executive command and none apparently ever served in the Regiment. In July, after two months in the Gosport and New Forest areas, the 80th with five other corps embarked at Southampton for a secret expedition to France, but after the defeat of the French loyalists at Quiberon the scheme was countermanded and the Regiment went into barracks near Southampton, having spent over three weeks at sea; about this time drafts came from the 85th Shropshires.

Only twelve days later the 80th, then seven hundred strong, again embarked at the same port with three other units for yet another secret landing on the French coast with the aim of assisting the Royalists of La Vendee who were in revolt against the Revolutionary Regime. If Dundas, Secretary for War, had learnt anything from the tragic failure in Flanders, it was not apparent in this expedition. which was as badly planned and even more futile than the last. The bulk of the invaders were British equipped troops raised by the exiled French nobility and, as the convoy consisted all told of 136 sail, the force was a large one.

It was first proposed that the British 1st Brigade 12th Suffolks, and 80th, with artillery, should attack the island of Noirmoutier off the estuary of the Loire, but as it could be reached from the mainland at low tide it was decided to take the Isle Dieu instead. The Brigade landed without opposition and captured the odd hundred men, who 40 formed the small garrison. Contrary winds and probably confusing orders had considerably delayed the expedition, so that the island was not occupied until the end of September. More British and Emigrant troops arrived during October but bad weather hindered an attempt to invade the mainland and when it was tried nothing was accomplished. The French Royalist troops who did land were no match for the revolutionary soldiers and the Count of Artois, brother of the exiled French King, refused to commit himself on shore. thereby condemning the brave and loyal Vendeans, who had assembled to meet the invaders, to a cruel and certain death.

Meanwhile the situation of the lst Brigade, still on Isle Dieu was grave, for there was no harbour or even a safe anchorage and although with excellent seamanship the Navy landed and embarked troops and horses, both food and forage were short. Matters became so serious that actual starvation threatened not only the garrison, but also the 1,800 inhabitants.

When at last orders were received for the evacuation of the island on 2nd December, a fortnight was needed to embark men. horses and stores, another to reach Spithead and a further week to land at Southampton. No result whatsoever had been achieved. sickness was prevalent and the 80th, still suffering from the after-effects of Flanders, lost half its strength. It must be remembered, however, that many of the recruits then accepted would be turned down in more modern times. The whole project for helping the French exiles was badly conceived and at the wrong time of the year, with the usual callous disregard for those involved.

The 80th disembarked on 6th January 1796, and marched to Eling Barracks near Southampton; it left on the 19th and for a month, in the depth of winter, was continually on the move until it reached Lyndhurst on 20th February and prepared for another voyage. On 1st April, Captain St. George, from whose journal much of the above is taken, left Lyndhurst for Wolverhampton on recruiting duties; his party consisted of two subalterns, ten sergeants, ten corporals and eight drummers and was to form the Depot of the Regiment when it went overseas. With regret we part company with St. George. Forbes Champagnee handed over to Josiah on the 8th on transfer to the 29th Regiment presumably because the more senior a regiment the less likely it was to be disbanded; he died about twenty years later as a Lieut. General. From Harness's letters we read a good deal about Josiah, and allowing for the fact that Harness disliked him, it may well be that Forbes was a better and more popular commander than his brother.

French occupation of the Netherlands meant that Britain was at war with the Dutch, much to the satisfaction of the Army, which had every reason to hate its late Ally. In 1795 a British force had seized the Cape of Good Hope, a Dutch possession and an invaluable staging port on the route to the East. The 80th sailed for South Africa on 12th April and after the slow. uncomfortable and wearisome voyage of those days reached Simon's Town on 26th July 1796, and soon afterwards took part in an almost unique military operation. Early in August a Dutch naval squadron, with reinforcements for the East Indies, put into Saldanha Bay some sixty miles north of Cape Town and Craig, the British Governor-General of the Cape. took immediate steps to deal with it. He informed the Admiral, who was at sea with the fleet, and ordered a military force. which included the 80th , to co-operate with the Navy.

The troops left on 12th August and by forced marches across sandy. desolate and waterless country arrived at Saldanha on the 16th. The British fleet, delayed by a storm, arrived at much the same time and while these warships blocked the exit from the bay, the soldiers lined the shore. The seven Dutch men-of-war were trapped and possibly in no condition to fight, even if they wanted to: they surrendered on the 17th and while some of the 80th found guards on the enemy ships, the remainder marched or sailed back to Cape Town. As the Cape was now firmly held by the British, until the short-lived and ineffectual Treaty of Amiens handed it back to the Dutch in 1802, the military were mostly withdrawn and the 80th sailed for India on 6th December.

It disembarked at Madras two months later and after a brief stay of a fortnight, left for Trincomalee in Ceylon with Josiah Champagnee commanding as a Brevet Colonel and Ramsay and Harness serving as Lieutenant-Colonels. Although Ceylon may be described as the Regiment's first peace station it was little less deadly than war, for during a period of four years with little or no fighting the 80th lost by death, 5 officers and 368 other ranks, and many more would be invalided out of the service. Yet these figures, large as they are, were not in any way abnormal for the time, and Harness compares the health of the 80th favourably with that of the regiment it relieved. The chief cause of sickness among the troops was undoubtedly excessive drinking of the vile native spirits and particularly a form of toddy made from the coconut. In Ceylon Champagnee was both civil and military commandant of the Trincomalee district and Ramsay commanded a fort with two companies and probably also had civil duties. Harness had the other eight, companies of the Regiment at Trincomalee and was C.O. to all intents except for the pay, a considerable grievance to him.

At this time the French occupation of Egypt was a cause of great concern to the British Government and although Nelson's decisive victory of the Nile in 1798 had prevented any exploitation towards India yet the short Mediterranean route was closed to Britain. It was decided to expel the French by a giant pincer movement of two forces, one of which was already in the Mediterranean under General Abercromby, herded in overcrowded, stinking transports. The other was to sail from India and advance from the Red Sea. That this hazardous operation was successful was due more to Abercromby's leadership and the hard fighting of his troops than any careful planning from London.

In February 1801 the 80th, still in Ceylon, was placed with other units under the command of Colonel Wellesley to take part in the Indian expedition and for once no wives were allowed to accompany the troops. By the time the Regiment and the 19th Green Howards were ready to leave for Bombay they had already consumed most of the rations earmarked for the journey and more had to be obtained locally.

The expedition under General Baird left Bombay with the 80th in three warships, one carrying four companies and two of 70 guns each with two companies; owing to sickness Wellesley did not sail. The Regiment had more than its share of misfortune before reaching Egypt; one of the 70s with Champagnee, his HQ and two companies on board was prevented by contrary winds from entering the Red Sea and had to return to India. According to Harness, Champagnee was last heard of "filling his water casks at Goa" and in a letter home to his wife Harness roundly accuses his commanding officer of cowardice, but his keen dislike of his senior gives the impression that the statement was more spiteful than true. However, it is doubtful if Champagnee wanted to go to Egypt. for he had been talking of taking sick leave with a view to retirement for some time. In the event he returned to Ceylon and became Colonel of the 1st Ceylon Regiment, so it may well be he put profit before military glory; later he rose to the rank of General.

The other "70" was wrecked off the inhospitable coast of what was then Abyssinia with the loss of five lives, the mess plate and the regimental records. The survivors were rescued by the Navy and landed at Suez as the first to arrive from India. The remaining four companies disembarked at Kesseir on the Red Sea on 8th June, further progress up the coast not being possible, and after waiting for other troops including a Division from the Cape, Baird decided to march across the desert to Keneh on the Nile. Kosseir was a collection of verminous mud huts and had a bad water supply, so the first party of the 80th would be glad to move on 19th June.

The journey was a formidable one of over 120 miles with heavy going under a grilling sun and was only made possible by the lavish use of camels as water carriers. Some of the skins used as containers cracked and much of the precious liquid was lost; in fact the route must have been abandoned had not water been found about halfway. The excellent orders issued proved that the staff fully realised the difficulties and hardships to be overcome. Detachments started at 5 pm and the rate of march was calculated rather optimistically to be two and a half miles an hour. O.C. parties were ordered to keep the men in the tents at the staging camps by day and they were to keep as quiet as the plague of flies would permit. Troops carried a rice ration, which they cooked themselves, probably in small messes, and meat was sent on to depots at Moilah and Legaitte, respectively forty-five and ninety-two miles from Kosseir. The men drank the water in which the rice had been cooked and were issued with a pint of wine a day. half of which was put in the water, in a laudable attempt to disguise its taste, and strict water discipline was maintained.

On leaving Kosseir the wing of the 80th had a strength of 17 officers and 343 other ranks. It had concentrated at Keneh by 6th July. the detachments doing the 120 miles in 15 days, which under such conditions was quite good going; but dysentery from the sand and bad water had taken a heavy toll and there were some cases of temporary blindness and other eye troubles. From the strength return issued at Rosetta on 5th October, three men had died, but of the hundred sick only six were in hospital. At Keneh it was learnt that Cairo had surrendered, thanks to Abercromby's victory at Alexandria, in which that gallant and beloved leader was mortally wounded, but the port itself was still held by the French and Baird was ordered to Rosetta to join the main British force. From Keneh the 80th went down the Nile by boat to Cairo and was one of the first regiments to enter the city and to be stationed at the Citadel. When that fortress was handed over to the Egyptian Army in 1947, a plaque, showing the dates of the 80th's various stays there, was presented to the Regiment.

After the two shipwrecked companies had joined the unit at Cairo, it sailed in August to Rosetta and camped at El Hamed, where it learnt that Alexandria had fallen and there was now no prospect of a battle. To add to this disappointment it was announced that the British force from India was not on its way home, as had been hoped and expected, but was to return to India. The 80th arrived at Alexandria on 10th December and spent the next five months either there or at Damietta.

In 1800 the Colonelcy of the Regiment had been given to Gerard, later Lord, Lake soon to win great fame in India and to become Commander-in-Chief. The actual command of the 80th in Egypt was probably held at different times by both Ramsay and Harness and as the former was appointed Colonel of the future 2nd Ceylon Regiment in 1801, he may have left Egypt before the unit. There was also another Lieutenant-Colonel in the 80th, Montresor, who was O.C. Left Brigade on the move to Rosetta.

It is pleasant to record that the men who arrived too late to fight were treated with real generosity by the Governments at home and Bengal; they received prize money for the campaign, were thanked by Parliament and the Governor of Bengal, and the Regiments were awarded the Battle Honour for the campaign. The Grand Sultan of Turkey, Selim III, was also grateful and generous for he presented every officer in both armies with a handsome gold medal and the N.C.O's had a silver one. He expressed his cordial thanks to the force from India for its perilous march across the desert, which had hitherto been considered impossible.

In May 1802 Baird's troops commenced the journey to India with a move to Cairo by boat and then struck across the desert to Suez. which was reached by the 80th on 8th June. The next day it embarked in two transports, Harness and half his men being in the 'Calcutta' which struck a rock off the coast during the first night at sea. Lieutenant Cookson volunteered to take thirty men on shore by boat with a rope and thus establish communication with the land. but the boat was immediately swamped and twelve were drowned; however Cookson and the remainder managed to struggle ashore. Those on board spent a nerve-wracking night in the doomed transport expecting every moment to be their last. At dawn the frigate Romney rescued those on board the Calcutta and also with great difficulty those on shore. who were dragged through the sea and surf by a rope and arrived on board completely exhausted. From the overcrowded Romney crew and troops saw the transport smashed to pieces.

Obviously the frigate could not take half the Regiment to India, so the naval commander Sir Home Popham landed all ranks at the small, dirty village of Tor, near the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula. Thanks to naval efficiency it was possible for them to re-embark almost at once in the Wilhelmina and make a safe voyage to Madras, where, after quarantine, the journey was resumed to Bengal. Popham appears again in this history, so a letter written to him by Harness has some interest. After paying tribute to the well-trained boat crews. whose skill alone made rescue possible, Harness refers to Sir Home's humane and personal attention to the troops, many of whom were suffering from exposure. Twice since leaving India had the Royal Navy come to the rescue of the 80th in the nick of time.

The Regiment was allowed two months in Calcutta for re-equipment before sailing for Madras which was reached on the 2nd September 1802, and where the details and families from Ceylon would rejoin, if they had not already done so. Meanwhile the companies, which had been driven back to India, had not been idle. One detachment under Captain White was ordered to the Portuguese settlement of Deman, north of Bombay, to protect the colony against a French attack from Mauritius which did not come off; it seems a curious assignment for British troops. The other party, a company commanded by Lieutenant Brandish, was actively employed against a refractory Mahratta chief and took part in the assault and capture of the fortress of Kadi in the Central Provinces.

The detachments, consisting of about three weak companies, then reunited and marched to the Malabar Coast, where they formed part of a force under Montresor, who must have been sent back from Egypt. Punitive expeditions against the Nairs of Wynand and Coliote apparently met with indifferent success for these warriors caused more trouble later.

For its part in the Egyptian campaign the 80th received its first Battle Honour:

The Sphinx superscribed "EGYPT".

It is rather surprising that during the 1881-1901 period the Regiment wore the Sphinx as a helmet plate without the Knot. Possibly it was to commemorate that both Battalions had seen active service in Egypt. A bar to the General Service Medal inscribed "Egypt" was granted by an order dated 11th February 1850! Only four officers and three men of the 80th could be traced to receive it.


Southern India 1803-1817

At the commencement of the nineteenth century the British held much of the coast of India and all Bengal with a mixed force of regular regiments, European corps, paid and administered by the East Indian Company, native regiments and subsidised allies. The interior of the sub-continent contained many warlike groups of people, some of whom had been well trained by French officers, and as in addition there was a real threat of a French invasion, a large force was necessary to protect the factories of the Company.

Orders issued in 1803 show attempts to check some of the abuses and indiscipline in the King's regiments during this period. Adjutants were sometimes civilians employed as confidential clerks by COs; in future they had to be commissioned. Paymasters were forbidden to indulge in private trading, but there is no mention of a ban on other officers doing so, and if one had been already made, it was frequently ignored. The above seem reasonable and mild, but the code of discipline for other ranks was very different: for mutiny or striking a superior the penalty was a thousand lashes on the bare back, and threatening language entailed eight hundred. Offering violence was punished with solitary confinement with a good chance of a flogging first, and desertion could earn up to fourteen years transportation to Australia or foreign service for life probably in the West Indies. In spite of these instructions mutiny or gross insubordination were often dealt with by a firing squad, a quicker and certainly far more humane method of killing than the eight hundred or one thousand lashes.

After six months in Madras the 80th less the three companies in Malabar, was ordered to take the field under General Stuart as part of a force ordered to attack the powerful Mahrattas, who had formed temporary alliances for this war against the British. Trained by capable French officers the Mahrattas were formidable opponents and it required the military skill of both Wellesley and Lake to crush them.

In March 1803 the Regiment picked up a detachment at Poonamallee, a few miles east of Madras, and joined its Brigade on the banks of the Pombooda River. The operations were on a vast scale for, while Stuart's task was to guard the southern frontier of the Mahratta territory known as the Doab, Wellesley was directing the main attack far to the north; with him was Harness in temporary command of the 75th Regiment. Further north still Lake, the Regiment's Colonel, was starting a campaign which was to take Delhi. Altogether 1803 was a busy year for the Army in India. The unspectacular role of the troops in the south entailed endless marching, numerous patrols and many alarms, but no pitched battles and little real fighting. This unsatisfactory form of warfare lasted for eighteen months before peace was declared.

At Cannanore, on the Malabar Coast, the Regiment was reunited after five years separation in September 1804. The Digest states that the detached companies had been continually employed against hostile native chiefs for two years and that since the return from Egypt there had been 145 deaths in the unit. After two months for reorganisation, it was again on active service, the Nairs of Wynand being once more on the warpath. These patriots, or bandits (possibly both) were difficult to bring to action as they wisely avoided any form of pitched battle and relied on the dense country they knew well to prepare their ambushes, raids and most important of all their lines of retreat. Such guerrilla warfare gave the lightly clad natives a great advantage over the cumbersome and slow-moving British columns, which had to compete against a hot, steamy climate in wooded and hilly terrain which was difficult to penetrate. The food was probably unsuitable and the water bad and when the enemy was discovered he unsportingly used poisoned arrows!

One can sympathise with the historian of the 80th , who complained that the service was most harassing and fatiguing, as unattended with reputation as it was unprofitable. The last was important for prize money meant much to the Army in those days and in the south there was no chance of fame, loot or battle honours, as there was for those regiments fighting in Central and Northern India. However, such a campaign taught the troops toughness and adaptability, and so well were these lessons learnt that the enemy leaders were captured and the country more or less pacified in five months, so that by May 1805 the 80th was back in Cannanore. Meanwhile Harness had died at the early age of forty-two in 1804, while serving as a Brigade Commander under Wellesley; the warm friendship with both that austere man and also the dour General Baird is evidence that he was a keen and efficient officer. He was followed in 1805 by Forbes and meanwhile the unit was commanded by White.

On 5th May 1807, after two years in Cannanore, the unit moved to Seringapatam, the journey taking a fortnight, it was here joined by a draft from the Stafford Militia, which had marched from Madras via Bangalore in European clothing! The callous lack of elementary common sense on the part of the authorities helps to explain the tragic stay in Seringapatam, where in 18 months the 80th lost 223 dead with many more discharged to die either on the journey home or in England. Apparently Seringapatam had its own type of malignant malaria and this caused the deaths and incapacity of so many of the veterans of Egypt, who deserved a better fate.

Cannanore had been left without a British garrison and before long it was threatened by the nearby state of Travancore. Captain Dalrymple, 80th was ordered to march to the port with four companies, having left one on detachment enroute he was joined by Major Sturt with three more companies and he of course assumed command of all six. His party was to be the nucleus of a force detailed to invade Travancore under a Lieutenant-Colonel Cuppage who had also native troops with him. Apparently the Travancore army preferred civilian opponents for there was no fighting, although the British column marched deep into enemy territory and presumably brought back hostages and indemnities. Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes and the remainder of the Regiment joined Sturt and his strong detachment at Cannanore in 1809 and spent over two years there and as there is no mention in the Digest of any large number of deaths it was no doubt a more healthy station than Seringapatam. There were, however, other methods of dying as an extract from the proceedings of a court martial shows:

"Lieutenant Taunton, 22nd Light Dragoons, was charged with 'Behaving in a Scandalous and Infamous manner unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman, in that he, in the Mess of the 22nd Light Dragoons, being himself sober, did deliberately provoke and pick a quarrel with Lieutenant Cadenski of the 80th Foot, who was intoxicated, and challenged him to fight with swords across the Mess Table, thereby mortally wounding the aforesaid Lieutenant Cadenski."

Taunton, who was fortunate not to be charged with murder, was cashiered. Such courts martial were frequent, drunkenness and duelling being the usual charges, and although the 80th did not have many, in another regiment five such cases were tried by one Court!

In 1810 White took over from Forbes, who as a Colonel in the Army moved to be promoted. These ranks in the Army were really a form of Brevet and have been so described for convenience. Although the term did not come into use until later, officers in those days received pay for their appointments and not their army rank and the most sought-after was Colonelcy of a regiment. The 80th returned to Seringapatam in 1811 and remained there for two years when it moved to Quilon, near the toe of India. This was the last station of its tour and again death took a heavy toll, for during the stay in Seringapatam and its first two years in Quilon there was a loss of 183 officers and other ranks, White being one of the former. He was followed by Sturt and the other Lieutenant-Colonel was Edwards, probably the last survivor of the original 80th , still serving with the unit he also was to die in India.

The system of purchasing Commissions could not meet the urgent need for officers in that country and of the twelve newly-gazetted Ensigns posted to the Regiment between 1812 and 1817 only one bought his first appointment. Three of the others, however, came from the Stafford Militia and such transfers were normally free. Of the twenty-two promotions during the same period, only two were purchased. the remainder stepping into the places of their dead comrades.

Men were still enlisted for life. but a recent order had permitted a limited engagement of seven years. From an order dated 1816, which authorised the return home of these short-service men who had completed their time, and which directed they were to be treated kindly as loyal soldiers who had faithfully served His Majesty, it appears they were not popular. The majority of the 80th recruits continued to come from the Stafford Militia, thus justifying its designation of "Staffordshire Volunteers". Others came from the Militias of Devon and Shropshire, but the bulk of reinforcements were from the units ordered home. As will be seen from the 80th itself, such men volunteered in large numbers and they must have had good reasons. for while the "Call of the East" may be felt at home, it is not always noticeable whilst actually out there.

Bounties persuaded some, as did entanglements with native women, and for men of good character there were opportunities of civilian employment if and when they could get their discharge. Most probably preferred the chance of a quick death from tropical diseases to a slow one from starvation at home. Many men lost all touch with their homes on enlistment and had nowhere to go to in England or Ireland.

The Indian establishment of a British regiment, as augmented in 1810, was large, with over 50 officers and nearly 1,100 other ranks; but it is doubtful if these numbers were maintained and certainly the 80th was much below this strength some years before it went home. New Colours were presented to the Regiment in 1814 at Quilon and these had heavy Sphinxes instead of the regulation spear-heads. The innovation was unofficial and also impracticable, for the new tops were so weighty that they had to be unscrewed before the Colours were carried any distance. After over three years at Quilon, the 80th was ordered home and was relieved in November 1816 by the 89th Royal Irish Fusiliers, before marching to Madras. At Trichinopoly during the journey the usual orders were received allowing eligible men to transfer to any regiment in the Madras Presidency and as the 53rd, Shropshires, were on the spot and, as it was a regiment with whom the 80th had close and friendly relations, 273 men promptly went into it.

Another 116 volunteered for the Madras Europeans, one of the Honourable East Indian Company's units and later to become the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

At Madras the 80th erected a monument to Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards as a token of respect and affection to a deservedly popular officer. Sturt transferred to the 69th and Cookson, the hero of the wreck off Abyssinia, took the unit home. It arrived in Madras on 15th January 1817, and what was left of it embarked on the chartered ships Lucy and Maria and sailed on 20th March. The strength return indicates that there was little inducement for officers or sergeants to remain in India for thirty-two of the former and thirty-six of the latter were on board with only 143 rank and file. The following order was published by the Commander-in-Chief Madras Presidency a few days before the Regiment left. "Lieutenant-General Sir Thos. Hislop avails himself of the opportunity to record in General Orders that the conduct of HM 80th Regiment whilst under his command has been such as to merit approbation to entitle that responsible Corps to the public expression of His Excellency's cordial wishes for its future honour and prosperity. Meanwhile, there had been changes in the Colonels; in 1808 Lord Lake died after a distinguished and gallant career and was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Paget brother of the founder of the 80th . He held the appointment until 1815 when the vacancy occurred in his old regiment the 28th Gloucesters. He was followed by Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Campbell; these Colonelcies were awarded for distinguished service and none of these officers had had any previous connection with the Regiment; it is most doubtful if Lake or Paget ever saw it whilst Colonel.

The 80th arrived at Spithead on 3rd August 1817, after nearly twenty-one years abroad. Mostly in India.

Service Dates

East Indies service highlighted pink.

1793-94 Chatham
1794 Guernsey
1794-95 Campaign in the Low Countries
1795 Isle Dieu Expedition
1796-97 Cape Town
1797-1801 Trincomalee, Ceylon
1801-02 Egypt - Detachment at Malabar Coast
1802-03 Madras. Det. Poonamallee
1803-04 Operations in Southern Mahratta Country
1804-07 Cannanore
1805 Operations against Nairs of Wynaud
1807-09 Seringapatam
1809-11 Cannanore
1811-13 Seringapatam
1813-17 Quilon
1817-18 Chatham
1818 Colchester. Dets.
1818-19 Hull. Dets.
1819 Glasgow. Dets.
1819-20 Aberdeen. Dets
1820 Edinburgh
1821 Gibraltar
1822-28 Malta
1828-30 Corfu, Ionian Islands
1830-31 Cephalonia, Ionian Islands. Det. Ithaca
1831-32 Lancashire and Cheshire
1832 Dublin
1832-33 Belfast. Dets.
1833-34 Naas, Co. Kildare. Dets.
1834 Lancashire and Cheshire
1834-35 Salford
1835 Liverpool. Dets.
1835-36 Chatham
1836-37 Sydney, N.S.W. Convict escort duty to Australia
1837-41 Windsor, N.S.W. Dets. including Norfolk Island
1840-44 Det. in New Zealand
1841-45 Parramatta, N.S.W. Dets.
1845 Agra
1845-46 1st Sikh War
1846-47 Lahore
1847-52 Dinapore, Bihar
1847 Meerut
1852-53 2nd Burma War
1853-54 Calcutta
1854-55 Fort George, Scotland
1855 Portsmouth
1855-56 Aldershot
1856-57 Fort Beaufort. Cape Colony. Dets.
1858-59 Indian Mutiny
1859 Cawnpore
1860-61 Saugor, Central Provinces
1862-64 Jhansi, U.P. Dets. Gwalior and Seepree (Sipri/Shivpuri), Central India
1864-65 Dum Dum
1865 Bhutan Field Force
1866-67 Devonport
1867 Portland. Det. Weymouth
1867-68 Aldershot
1868-69 Fleetwood. Dets. Leeds and Liverpool
1869-70 Birr, Co. Tipperary. Dets.
1870-72 Belfast.Dets.
1872 Singapore Dets. Penang and Malacca
1872-76 Hong Kong
1875-76 Det. Perak Operations
1876-77 Singapore
1877 Kingwilliamstown, Cape Colony
1877-78 Pietermaritzburg, Natal. Det. Newcastle
1878-79 Zulu War
1880-81 Dublin
1881-83 Tralee, Co. Kerry
1883-84 Lichfield. Det. Weedon
1884-86 Manchester. Det. Weedon
1886-88 Plymouth
1888-89 Devonport
1889-91 Curragh, Co. Kildare
1891-93 Aldershot
1893-95 Cairo
1895-97 Wellington, S. India. Det. Cannanore
1895-98 Dets. Calicut and Malapuram
1897-1900 Thayetmyo Burma, Det. Meiktila
1900-02 Amballa and Subathu, Punjab. India
1902-04 Agra
1904-07 Allahabad Det. Benares
1907-11 Pretoria, Transvaal
1911-13 Lichfield
1913-14 Aldershot
1914-18 France and Flanders
1918-19 Duren, Germany
1919 Liverpool
1919-20 Lichfield
1920-22 Cork
1922-23 Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh
1923-26 Plymouth

80th Foot Sea Voyages 1793-1817

Sailed from Chatham December 1793 arrived Guernsey 9 January 1794.

Sailed from Guernsey 3 September 1794 to Flushing, Island of Walcheren arriving at the end of the month.

Sailed from Bremen 18 April 1795 arriving Portsmouth 9 May 1795.

Sailed from Portsmouth 19 August 1795 to Queberon Bay arriving 12 September 1795

Sailed from Queberon Bay 30 September 1795 to Isle Dieu arriving 1 October 1795.

Sailed from Isle Dieu early December to Southampton arriving 6 January 1796.

Sailed from Portsmouth for South Africa 12 April 1796 reaching Symonds Bay 26 July 1796.

Sailed for India 6 December 1796 on 5 Indiaman under command of Josiah Champagne disembarking at Madras Heads 11 and 15 February 1797.

Sailed for Trincomalee (Ceylon) 25 February 1797 arriving there 14 March 1797.

Sailed from Trincomalee to Bombay enroute to Egypt 13 February 1801.

Sailed from Bombay in 3 warships - the Headquarter ship being prevented from entering the Red Sea due to contrary winds. 1 ship was shipwrecked off Abyssinia with the loss of 5 lives, the Mess Plate and Regimental Records.

Sailed from Suez to Bombay 9 June 1802 in two transports - the 'Calcutta' struck a rock and the men were picked up by the 'Romney'. Re-embarked on the 'Wilhelmina' to Madras and then on to Calcutta arriving there August 1802. Then sailed to Madras reaching there on 2 September 1802.

Sailed from Madras on chartered ships Lucy and Maria 20 March 1817 for Spithead arriving there 3 August 1817.

1846 at Lahore

During 1846 the 80th Regiment at Lahore was bolstered by large numbers of volunteers from units leaving India including the 39th and 9th Regiments of Foot.[1]

External Links

Historical books online

  • The Story of a Soldier's Life by Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley 1903. Volume I, Volume II Archive.org
Includes 2nd Burma War, Indian Mutiny, 2nd China War, and war service in Africa. He initially was with the 80th Regiment of Foot.


  1. "Charles Taylor, 80th Regiment of Foot, 1843-1853", see External links above.