The Manchester Regiment (now part of The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment)
The Manchester Regiment traces its ancestry to the summer of 1685 when James II expanded his Army by twenty regiments, one of which was the Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment, later numbered 8th of Foot. Recruiting from Hertfordshire, Derby and around London, the Regiment was assembled at Hounslow, wearing the Stuart colours with yellow facings to their red coats.
Of the first seventy years of its existence the Eighth (The King’s Regiment) served more than fifty-four overseas, first in Ireland and then, between 1701 and 1714, continuously on the Continent. It fought with distinction in Marlborough’s eight campaigns in the Low Countries, its brilliant part in the Battle of Oudenarde marked for its tenacity and courage. The Allied Army, including the Russian infantry and Hanoverian cavalry, then advanced into France besieging the great fortress of Lille and it is ironic that the British Army would, two hundred years later, be fighting in the same battlefields; but this time being allied with the French against the Prussians and Hanoverians!
The outbreak of the Seven Year’s War in 1756 brought about an expansion of the Army and the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Foot was amongst those raised. In April 1758, the 218th became a separate regiment numbered the 63rd Foot, soon to serve overseas in the West Indies, as part of an expedition to seize the French- occupied islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Some years on, the 63rd sailed for Grenada and were joined in 1794 by the King’s Regiment themselves. In 1809, both the 8th and 63rd from Nova Scotia and Barbados respectively assaulted Martinique.
Of the first sixty-two years of its separate existence, the 63rd had served fifty-five overseas, some thirty-one in North America and the West Indies. In the American War of Independence, the 63rd served at Bunkers Hill and participated in the capture of New York and Charleston, while the King’s Regiment were guarding settlements in Canada. Much fighting took place around the Niagara Peninsula, close to the Falls themselves, marked by a long and freezing winter. The 96th Foot, eventually destined to be linked with the 63rd to form the Manchester Regiment, was established as such at Manchester in January 1824, being the consequence of a major re- organisation of the Army, when many old Regiments were disbanded and new ones formed and re-numbered in the first decades of the 19th century. The eventual 96th were bequeathed the battle honours won by the Minorca Regiment in 1801 during the decisive battle of Alexandria against the French in Egypt and honoured as “The Queen’s German Regiment”.
Over the next decades, from Waterloo to the Crimean War, the 8th, 63rd and 96th were spread overseas on various garrison duties and individual actions from India to New Zealand. The 63rd were part of the expeditionary force in the Crimea in 1854. During the battle for Mount Inkerman, the Regiment held out against Russian infantry attacks, suffering grievous causalities against the overwhelming odds but distinguishing themselves in the action. In April 1846, the 8th sailed for India, a tour which was to last 14 years, during which tenure the Regiment, marching from Jullundur, took part in the besieging of Delhi in 1857. It was then that the 8th first dyed its white drill uniform as 'khaki or mud colour’ as used by the Sikhs, an example soon followed by other regiments. The 8th led the assault on the Water Bastion breach, supported by the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers and the 4th Sikhs, and fought it out in the narrow streets and house to house till resistance crumbled. Active operations, including the Relief of Lucknow, went on for a further 18 months and the Regiment (soon to include the newly formed 2nd Battalion) was almost continuously in the held.
The 2/8th or the 63rd Foot were part of General Robert’s force which took Peiwar Kotal in November 1878. Strongly defended by the Emir of Afghanistan’s regiments with 18 guns and several thousand tribesmen. Roberts brilliant plan to overwhelm the mountain defenses was by frontal attack supported by an outflanking maneuver, the 63rd being in action alongside the 5th Gurkhas (F.F), 5th Punjabis and the 72nd Highlanders. General Robert’s victory at Kandaha, following the famous march from Kabul, soon dramatically ended the war and, in 1880, the 63rd were ordered to Egypt where the complete rout of the Egyptian Army enabled the Regiment to return to the United Kingdom; but it was at Alexandria that the 63rd first met the 96th, soon to be amalgamated as The Manchester Regiment. The 63rd Foot became the 1st Manchester’s in 1881 and, on their return to the UK adopted, amongst the Regiment’s marches, the tune “Zakhmi Dii" (Wounded Heart) to commemorate their service on India’s Northwest Frontier.
Shortly, under the Cardwell Reforms, the title of the 8th was changed to The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) but the old numbers have ever since remained entrenched as part of the regimental lore of both Regiments.
Both the 1st Manchester’s and 1st King’s took part in the fighting against the Boers in South Africa during 1899-90, taking part in many severe actions against a well-equipped, technically sound and elusive enemy, eventually necessitating the raising of additional line battalions, albeit for a short duration.
Within a decade the British Army was to be involved in Continental warfare of a nature and scale un-paralled in the history of mankind. The 1st Manchester’s were serving in India when the Great War broke out while the 1st King’s and 2nd Manchester’s were part of the British Expeditionary Force which landed at Le Havre in mid-August1914. Under the Commander-in- Chief, Field Marshal Sir John French, the 8.E.F. comprised six Infantry and one Cavalry Divisions, the 1st King’s Regiment being part of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division while the 2nd Manchester’s were part of the 14th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division.
The 1st Manchester’s were the British battalion of the 8th (Jullundur) Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division having joined this formation in 1912. Other units of the Jullundur Brigade were the 47th Sikhs and 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force) while a fourth battalion, the 28th Punjabis, were to be replaced by the 15th (Ludhiana) Sikhs when the Indian Corps (1st Cavalry, 3rd Infantry, 7th infantry Divisions) embarked for France and the War in August 1914.
In 1958 The Manchester Regiment merged with The King's Regiment (Liverpool) to become The King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool). In February 1992 a formal affiliation between The King's Regiment and the 5th Sikh Regiment (the successors to the 47th Sikhs) was officially approved by the British and Indian Governments. On 1st July 2006 The King's Regiment merged with two other Lancastrian Regiments to become The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. (Note: KORBR was only part Lancastrian, the border being a significant part of their history)