Fusiliers of Renown

Fusiliers of Renown

Lord Herbert

Lord Herbert of Chirbury who raised the regiment in 1689 and served as the first Colonel of the Regiment.

Lord Herbert of Chirbury

Sir William Howe was a former Colonel of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. As Commander of His Majesties Forces in North America during the American Revolution, Howe served from the Battle of Bunker Hill until just before the British evacuation of Philadelphia in 1778.

Sir William Howe

During the Crimean War at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September1854, Sergeant Luke O’Connor, although seriously wounded with a musket ball in the chest, won the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross by carrying forward the Regimental Colours. He later became a Major General and Colonel of the Regiment.

Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie

Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Lexington and Concord and left one of the more valuable and unbiased accounts of that engagement. He later went on to serve as an aide to General Sir Henry Clinton.

Captain Thomas Saumarez

Captain Thomas Saumarez of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from a miniature circa 1783. The uniform worn is an example from the waning years of the American Revolution, and Saumarez’s diary of his service has become an important source for scholars of the American Revolution.

Siegfried Sassoon

Poet and author Siegfried Sassoon won the nickname “Mad Jack” for his bravery and almost complete disregard for his own safety in conducting trench raids while serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the First World War. His exploits won him the Military Medal and he was wounded severely twice .

Robert Graves

Robert Graves served with Siegfried Sassoon in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the First World War. He later wrote the famous memoir of his experiences “Goodbye to All That,” Among his more notable works were “I, Claudius”, “Sergeant Lamb’s America”, and “Proceed Sergeant Lamb” the later two being novels based on the diary of Sergeant Roger Lamb.(see below) Interestingly Graves’ works were first published in the United States by The Hudson Review, a literary quarterly founded and edited by Frederick Morgan, father of Gentleman Volunteer Jeff Morgan of the Colonel’s Company, Royal Welch Fusiliers in America.

Ich dien 

Sergeant Roger Lamb (no picture available) left one of the most interesting accounts of the American Revolution written from either side. Originally in the 9th Regiment of Foot, Lamb took part in Burgoyne’s invasion from Canada which ended with the British surrender at Saratoga. Placed in captivity with the “Convention army,” Lamb eventually escaped to New York City where he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a sergeant, taking part in the Southern campaign that culminated with the surrender at Yorktown. His memoirs, “Original and Authentic Journal of Occurances During the Late American War” was published in Dublin Ireland in 1809.

Private Frank Richards

Private Frank Richards served in both the 1st and 2nd Battalions during the First World War and is one of only five men to have survived the entire war from 1914 until 1918. His memoir, “Old Soldiers Never Die” is still considered today as one of the best accounts of daily life in the trenches from the perspective of a “ranker.” Richards also published “Old Soldier Sahib” a memoir of the Royal Welch Fusiliers’ service in India prior to the First World War. He was awarded the Dinstinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal for his service during the war.

Captain James Churchill Dunn

Although technically Captain James Churchill Dunn DSO, MC (and Bar) DCM was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, he served with the Royal Welch Fusiliers for three years as Medical Officer during the First World War and left an amazingly detailed informal history of the regiment’s service in that conflict. His “The War The Infantry Knew 1914 – 1919” has been hailed as an epic account of trench warfare by historian John Keegan. Dunn, who was known to have ignored his medical non combatant status and gone over the top on several raids as a fighter, originally published anonymously, although his contemporaries Graves and Sassoon later confirmed the good doctor’s identity.

Ellis Humphrey Evans

Hedd Wyn (1887-1917), born Ellis Humphrey Evans , Son of Evan and Mary Evans, of Trawsfynydd, Merioneth was a sheep farmer turned poet-soldier who was killed during the First World War. Evans – who chose Hedd Wyn (‘white peace’) as his pen name – was born in Penlan, Trawsfynydd the eldest of eleven children, and lived for much of his life at Yr Ysgwrn, a hill farm east of Trawsfynydd. He began writing Welsh-language poetry at an early age; when aged 24 he was awarded a chair at Bala; others followed at Llanuwchllyn, Pwllheli and Pontardawe (the latter in 1915 with the First World War underway). Wynn sat out the war for three years as a sheep farmer until he was called up for military service in 1917.  Following a spell of training in Liverpool Private Evans was despatched for active service in Flanders and found himself stationed with 15th Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the notorious Pilckem Ridge immediately prior to the opening of the Passchendaele offensive (3rd Ypres). It was at Pilckem Ridge that Wyn was killed during fighting on 31 July 1917 .  Buried initially on the battlefield (out of necessity) his body was subsequently moved to Artillery Wood cemetery following the armistice. September that year brought a posthumous award of the chair at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for his verse poem Yr Arwr (‘The Hero’).  Wyn had written the poem while serving in Flanders and completed it shortly before his death under the nom-de-plume of ‘fleur-de-lis’.  The chair itself was draped in black in memorial of Wyn following the announcement of his win and revelation of the author’s actual identity. A Welsh-language film based on Wyn’s life was produced in 1992, Hedd Wynn.

William Blakeney was born in Ireland in 1735 to Colonel John Blakeney and Grace Persse Blakeney. Like other sons of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, he pursued a military career. On June 6, 1756, Blakeney obtained an ensign’s commission in the 27th Regiment of Foot, also known as the Inniskilling Regiment, which was then stationed in his native Ireland. The British Army’s expansion in response to the Seven Years’ War soon gave Blakeney a chance to advance in rank without the expense of purchasing his next commission. On August 26, 1756, he became a second lieutenant in the new-raising 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment of Foot or Royal Welch Fusiliers. That battalion was ultimately redesignated as the 68th Regiment of Foot, but Blakeney somehow arranged a transfer into the 1st Battalion. On September 27, 1757, he was promoted to lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He accompanied the 23rd Foot and five other British infantry regiments sent to Germany in August 1758. One year later, Lieutenant Blakeney participated in the memorable Battle of Minden (August 1, 1759), where he was wounded. He sustained a second wound at a subsequent engagement in Germany. The scarred lieutenant was named regimental adjutant on May 20, 1761. He became the 23rd’s captain-lieutenant on July 14, 1762, which made him the acting commander of the colonel’s company. Blakeney purchased his captaincy and his own company on October 6, 1762. Interestingly enough, he would continue to act as the 23rd’s adjutant until May 11, 1763.
On September 6, 1770, Captain Blakeney married Sarah Shields, the daughter of Samuel Shields, a prosperous resident of Newcastle. According to one source, the couple had three daughters, but that appears to be incorrect. Hugh Montgomery Massingberd claims in Burke’s Irish Family Records (London: Burke’s Peerage Ltd, 1976), that the Blakeneys had eight sons, at least five of whom became soldiers (including Field Marshal the Right Honorable Sir Edward Blakeney). In addition, a sixth son was an officer in the Royal Navy. Sarah Blakeney would die on May 31, 1799.
Captain Blakeney presumably went along with the 23rd Foot when it sailed to New York in 1773. By the eve of the American War in April 1775, the regiment was stationed in Boston and Blakeney commanded its grenadier company. According to Mark Urban’s 2007 history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the American Revolution, Blakeney was a quarrelsome man who did not approve of fighting a war against his American cousins. He led his company during the botched expedition to Concord that sparked a shooting war, April 18-19, 1775, and he managed to return to Boston unscathed. He was not so lucky at the Battle of Bunker Hill (or Breed’s Hill), June 17, 1775. Both he and his two lieutenants fell wounded during Major General William Howe’s assaults on the Rebel lines. This is not surprising, as only five members of Blakeney’s company came out of that pyrrhic victory unhurt.
Fortunately for Blakeney, he recovered from his wound and returned to England on leave. When Major Henry Blunt sold out of the Royal Welch Fusiliers to become the lieutenant colonel of the 4th Regiment of Foot (or King’s Own Regiment), Blakeney jumped at this chance and purchased the freshly vacated majority on November 24, 1775. Although the Royal Welch Fusiliers would see plenty of action over the next two years in the New York and Philadelphia campaigns, Blakeney failed to return to America and rejoin the regiment. Despite growing pressure from General Sir William Howe, the 23rd Foot’s colonel, and various members of the British government, Blakeney refused to leave England, claiming to be in ill health. He even had the gall to ignore an order from George III to sell his majority and leave the 23rd Foot. Despite this intransigence, the obdurate Irishman was named a brevet lieutenant colonel on November 24, 1778. Blakeney was finally forced into retirement in April 1779, and Thomas Mecan became the Royal Welch Fusiliers’ major.
Blakeney and his family lived in the Newcastle area, where his wife had inherited property. Most of the couple’s children were born there. At the same time, Blakeney did not completely forsake all his ties to Ireland. He entered the Irish Parliament in 1781 as the M.P. for the family borough of Athenry. He held that seat until 1783. He sat for Athenry again from 1790 to 1799.
The rising menace of Revolutionary France caused Blakeney’s neighbors in Newcastle to form an association to defend the British constitution. Blakeney’s military background made him a natural choice to serve on that committee, and he was duly named to the association on December 17, 1792. When the city raised a regiment of volunteers in response to legislation passed in 1794, Blakeney became its first colonel. In 1803, Blakeney received an appointment as the inspecting field officer for the Newcastle district.
Colonel Blakeney died on November 2, 1804. He was not quite seventy. His family buried him in accordance with his will, which specified “with no parade, but decently.” The old soldier was laid beside his wife, who had predeceased him by five years, in All Saints Church.
Erik Goldstein, the Curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, facilitated the purchase of the Blakeney portrait miniature, which was recently sold by a direct descendant. Major Blakeney sat for this likeness in 1778 while the Royal Welch Fusiliers served in the colonies. That would mean the face we see here is that of a man in his early 40s.
Major Blakeney wears a scarlet regimental coat with dark blue facings. His buttons are gilt, and his buttonholes are adorned with rectangular loops made of thin gold lace. It bears noting that the buttonholes on the lapels are set in pairs. Blakeney sports a pair of all-gold epaulettes, which would be fitting for a fusilier field officer in 1778 (fusilier officers in battalion companies also rated two epaulettes). The epaulette straps appear to be scarlet, but are covered on top with either gold lace or gold embroidery. There are no regimental devices visible on the epaulette straps. The portrait miniature also shows Blakeney wearing a white ruffled shirt with a black neck stock and a white waistcoat. The fact that so little of the shirt collar shows above the stock is in keeping with British military fashion in the late 1770s. The waistcoat is closed by a single row of smaller gilt buttons. Blakeney wears his brown hair simply. It is set en queue with a short top and short sides. A white leather sword belt is draped over Blakeney’s right shoulder. It has a rectangular gilt plate bearing the Prince of Wales’ coronet and three feathers.