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Regimental ties - Military badges of honour and remembrance

Updated on January 7, 2015

British Regiments and their neckties; plus a few nuggets of historical interest.

Did you realise that Frank Carson (stand-up comedian) was a Para? And so was Bernard Cribbins?

And that there's one regiment, which has the dubious honour of having fought on both sides in the English Civil War?

And that a Royal Marine's greatest comfort in the field is his "dit"?

And that all Victoria Crosses come from a small back-street jeweller's shop just off Piccadilly in London?

The history of military units is fascinating; and is as much the history of the nation as it is the story of one particular band of brothers (and sometimes sisters). And so it goes for the history of their traditions, uniforms, ensignia and "colours"..

A regiment's "colours" take second place only to the monarch, in allegiance and affection. For on their colours lies emblazoned a listing in gold braid wire and silk of the battle history of the unit. Every soldior, sailor or airman who has fallen for their country is symbolically stitched permanently for all to see, in silk and precious metal, through these flags of honour. And so in miniature, in short hand, in "everyday" casual, natural reverence are they remembered.in the serviceman's own private colours - his regimental or unit necktie. It is a quiet acceptance of kinship, (brotherhood no less) with whoever has gone before, and whoever will come after.

A serviceman's life (both during and after service) is not always the bed of roses we would wish for; so anything that reminds him he is not and never will be alone ever again, is rightly revered and treasured. And such is his regimental tie. Even if not worn, its presence (in a bottom drawer or even just in a past memory) somewhere in his life, should offer solace and fortitude when times prove hard.

3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery
3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery

3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery

Battle Honours include engagements at Balaclava in the Crimea War and the Battle of Waterloo, where they were "hotly engaged" defending Hougement Farm. During World War 11 they took part in the siege of Tobruk until 21st September 1941. On parade (with guns) they take precidence over all other military units.

4th 7th Royal Dragoon Guards
4th 7th Royal Dragoon Guards

4th 7th Royal Dragoon Guards

In 1854, during the Crimean War, an earlier incarnation of the Royal Dragoon Guards utterly routed nearly 3,500 Russian Cavalry in the often forgotten "successful" charge of the Heavy Brigade; with minimal loss to themselves, and so demoralised the Russian horseman that they did not dare to follow up the subsequent disaster to the Light Brigade later that same day.

During the Boer War of 1899-1902 two officers, who would later become British heroes, first came to prominence - Lieutenant Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement; and Captain L E G Oates, who would later choose sacrifice rather than impede the progress of captain Scott's ill-fated Antartic Expedition.

At the outset of the First World War, C Squadron, the 4th Dragoon Guards had the honour of the first action by the British Army in the War, with Corporal Thomas firing the first shot and Captain Hornby the first officer to draw blood with his sword.

5th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
5th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

5th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Raised by the Sutherland family in 1799 and at a request from the Throne, a proportion of the able-bodied sons of tenants on the Sutherland estates were required to join the ranks as a test of feudal duty. This form of conscription is probably the last instance of the exercise of feudal influence on a large scale in the Highlands.

In the Crimean War the regiment won immortal fame when, under Sir Colin Campbell, the regiment formed line in two ranks and repelled a charge of Russian cavalry, thus creating the descriptive British military epithet of "The Thin Red Line".

The Argylls have the distinction of being the only infantry regiment to bear the honour "Balaclava". And they have the right to march through the Royal Burgh of Stirling with bayonets fixed, flags flying and drums beating.

7 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery
7 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery

7 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery

 

9th 12th Royal Lancers
9th 12th Royal Lancers

9th 12th Royal Lancers

An incident at Waterloo illustrates the sometime horror, and often contradictory nature of 19th century warfare. During an attack by French lancers, a British officer was unhorsed.. He was desperately wounded having been run through at least three times by lance and sword and was left for dead. Despite being robbed and used as firing cover by a French tirailleur, Ponsonby survived until he was made more comfortable by a major of the Imperatrice Dragoons of the Imperial Guard, an incredible gesture of soldierly solidarity by a sworn enemy. Having being ridden over by the advancing Prussians late in the day he was eventually found by a private in the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) who stood guard over him all night. Ponsonby survived despite his injuries which left him with a useless left arm and severe limitations of movement.

14th Regiment Royal Artillery
14th Regiment Royal Artillery

14th Regiment Royal Artillery

 

29 Commando Royal Artillery
29 Commando Royal Artillery

29 Commando Royal Artillery

The batteries of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, provide artillery support to 3 Commando Brigade in the form of 105mm howitzers, mortars and Naval gunfire. All members of 29 Commando are volunteers from other Royal Artillery regiments and are Commando trained.

101 airborne
101 airborne

101 airborne

To halt the German offensive through the Ardennes Forest in 1944, the US 101st Airborne Division was sent into action defending the critical road junction at Bastogne, Belgium.The division was surrounded by strong enemy forces that demanded its immediate surrender. Responding to the German ultimatum, Brigadier A C. McAuliffe made history with his famous one-word reply - "Nuts!"

Adjutant General's Corps
Adjutant General's Corps

Adjutant General's Corps

 

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

16 VC's have been awarded to the Argyll's since its formation in 1794 as the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders.

Army Air Corps
Army Air Corps

Army Air Corps

One of their most successful exploits during the war was the attack on Pegasus Bridge, which occurred on 6 June 1944, prior to the landings on Normandy. Once the three gliders landed, some roughly which incurred casualties, the pilots joined the glider-borne troops (Ox's & Bucks Light Infantry) to act as infantry. The Bridge was taken within ten minutes of the battle commencing and the men there withstood numerous attempts by the Germans to re-capture the location. They were soon reinforced and relieved by soldiers from Lord Lovat's 1 Special Service Brigade, famously led by piper Bill Millin.

Black Watch
Black Watch

Black Watch

The title “The Black Watch” was derived from the dark colour of the tartan and the original role of the Regiment to “watch” the Highlands . The name has remained and is now incorporated in the official name of the Regiment.

14 VC's

Commando Para
Commando Para

Commando Para

 

Duke of Lancaster's
Duke of Lancaster's

Duke of Lancaster's

The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was the first of the new infantry regiments formed through recent restructuring of the British Army's infantry forces to be presented with new Colours.

Privates in the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment are known as Kingsmen; uniform buttons display the emblem of the King's Regiment - the Fleur de Lys; the white horse of Hanover is displayed on the colours; the motto of the new regiment remains:

'Nec Aspera Terrent'. (Difficulties be Damned)

Gordon Highlanders
Gordon Highlanders

Gordon Highlanders

The regiment was first raised on the 10th February 1794 by the 4th Duke of Gordon and his wife the Duchess Jean. She rode through country fairs in highland bonnet and regimental jacket. History (or possibly myth) tells us how she would place a golden guinea between her lips and offer a kiss to any man who would take the kings shilling. On one occasion, a blacksmith, renowned for his strength and good looks and who had turned down other offers of recruitment, took the kiss and the guinea; but to show it was not the guinea that had tempted him, threw the guinea into the crowd.

Gurkha
Gurkha

Gurkha

26 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to this pugnacious regiment, and due to the recent political manoevres, veterans now have the right to spend their retirement in the mother country, the United Kingdom - Thanks Joanna.

Help for Heroes
Help for Heroes

Help for Heroes

Need we say more. We all owe it to them to wear one.

Honourable Artillery Company
Honourable Artillery Company

Honourable Artillery Company

The regiment has the rare distinction of having fought on the side of both Parliament and the Royalists during the English Civil War 1642 to 1649. .

The HAC can trace its history as far back as 1087, receiving a Royal Charter from Henry VIII , when Letters Patent were received by the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George authorising them to establish a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgonnes.

The word "Artillery", originally described bows and arrows, crossbows and other projectile weapons, with guns termed "great artillery".

Household Division
Household Division

Household Division

In the middle ages, the most able warriors were pressed into service as the personal bodyguards to the monarch and their household. As a result, Household troops are commonly termed Guards. Thus developed the practice of calling a country's finest military units Household or Guards regiments.

The Life Guards and the Blues and Royals along with the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, and the Welsh Guards comprise the Household Division. These regiments are all units of the regular army. In 2004, however, the Minister of Defence announced that the Foot Guards would gain a reserve (or Territorial Army) battalion, the London Regiment. The Household Division and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery are collectively referred to as the Household Troops.

Intelligence Corps
Intelligence Corps

Intelligence Corps

Past members include:-

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir

M. R. D. Foot

Malcolm Muggeridge

Enoch Powell

Laurens van der Post

Anthony Powell

King's Own Scottish Borderers
King's Own Scottish Borderers

King's Own Scottish Borderers

At the outset of the battle of Loos in World War One the battalion was confronted by poison gas and heavy artillery fire. The legendary 'Piper of Loos' led the assault from the trenches, playing the Regimental March and Charge. Although badly wounded in the legs, he followed the Jocks towards their objective until the severity of his wounds forced him to withdraw.

Piper D.Laidlaw,V.C., Fr.C. de G. 7th KOSB. Loos, 25th September 1915.

King's Royal Hussars
King's Royal Hussars

King's Royal Hussars

14th (King's) Hussars

Formed as Dormer's Dragoons at the time of the First Jacobite Rebellion, they gained a reputation second to none as Light Cavalry during the Peninsula War. At Vittoria in 1813 they captured the chamberpot belonging to Joseph Bonaparte earning them the name 'The Emperor's Chambermaids'

In 1920, whilst carrying out operations against Turkish Nationalists, they performed the last British military cavalry charge.

Light Dragoons
Light Dragoons

Light Dragoons

In the Crimean War (1854-56), the 13th Light Dragoons were in the forefront of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Tennyson's poem of that name ("Into the valley of death rode the six hundred")

Merchant Navy
Merchant Navy

Merchant Navy

Over 30,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in World War Two, mostly during the Battle of the Atlantic. Although Merchant Navy officers wore a uniform similar to The Royal Navy, ordinary Merchant sailors did not, and this often brought about problems when they were on leave - civilians taking them for draft dodgers and submitting them to abuse. To put a stop to this, merchant sailors were issued with a special lapel badge to show their true service to the nation. Because they were as much in the "front line" as most combat troops, they suffered a greater percentage loss than any other "civilian" grouping during the conflict. And because there was no upper age limit to the recruitment of Merchant Sailors, The Merchant Navy sufferered unusually severe losses in "older" men; those with families, who would normally have been beyond active service age. And as the Atlantic War went on for the whole of the 6 year conflict, (and the fact that there was no upper limit to the number of operations undertaken) the Merchant Navy can pride itself on having exposed its men to the most sustained tenure at the sharp end, than that served by any other British Military unit, save the Royal Navy sailors who guarded them in escort ships.

Mercian Regiment
Mercian Regiment

Mercian Regiment

 

Parachute Regiment
Parachute Regiment

Parachute Regiment

Did you know that these men served in the Parachute Regiment?

Frank Carson - Comedian and Operation Musketeer veteran

Lewis Collins - Actor

Billy Connolly - Actor and Comedian

Bernard Cribbins - Actor

Tim Healy - Actor

Trevor Rees-Jones - Dodi Al-Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales' former bodyguard

Richard Todd - Actor

Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (PWRR) is the senior English infantry regiment of The Line.

The forebear regiments of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment fought in nearly all the major campaigns and wars in which the British Army was engaged. They have won 57 Victoria Crosses

Queen's Dragoon Guards
Queen's Dragoon Guards

Queen's Dragoon Guards

 

Queen's Own Yeomanry
Queen's Own Yeomanry

Queen's Own Yeomanry

 

Queen's Royal Hussars
Queen's Royal Hussars

Queen's Royal Hussars

The Queen's Royal Hussars (The Queen's Own and Royal Irish) (QRH) is the senior United Kingdom light cavalry regiment.

Queen's Royal Lancers
Queen's Royal Lancers

Queen's Royal Lancers

The regiment's nickname, the 'Death or Glory Boys', comes from their cap badge - "the motto". It features a pair of crossed lances, from the 16th/5th Queen's Royal Lancers, together with a death's head, below which is a ribbon containing the words 'Or Glory'. This originally comes from the 17th/21st Lancers, and was the cap badge of the 17th Lancers (the original 'Death or Glory Boys').

Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force

So much has been written, filmed and spoken about the RAF during the early stages of the Second World War, that it is often forgotten just how one simple factor made their War-winning success possible.

Some dry figures will illustrate this sad but supremely pertinent fact; that it wasn't their superior skills in the air, or their brilliant planes, or their technological radar-supported advances that won these early battles against an overwhelming enemy force - it was their superior ability to take the pain of loss. This simple, but bloody fact separated the RAF from the Lufwaffe and led ultimately to their final victory.

For every 100 Allied sorties in France during 1940 (i.e. aeroplane take-offs) around 6 never came back - compared to less than half a plane lost per 100 Axis sorties.

This improved slightly after Dunkirque with Allied losses per 100 sorties in Britain dropping to 3%, while Axis losses climbed to a dizzying almost 1%. Yet it was the Axis that blinked first.

So, the RAF acheived victory by simply being able to grit their teeth harder, and longer than the Germans in this terrible "who lets go of the burning brand first?" game of aerial chicken. The men of the RAF (thankfully) were able to withstand the pain of loss more effectively than the Axis powers.

For at no stage during the opening salvoes of WW11 did the RAF ever reduce their "loss per sortie" rate to anything less than three times the rate Germany experienced, And yet they still emerged victorious. As the ultimate definition of stubborn bravery, this will take some beating.

Per Ardua Ad Astra

Queen's Royal Irish Hussars
Queen's Royal Irish Hussars

Queen's Royal Irish Hussars

 

Royal Anglian
Royal Anglian

Royal Anglian

 

Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Medical Corps

Royal Army Medical Corps

 

Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery

Royal Artillery

62 VC's have been awarded to the regiment.

The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sebastopol. Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves.

If you are ever wandering through Burlington Arcade, next door to the Royal Accademy in Central London, you may, if your eyes are good, spot a small photograph in the lower right corner of the window of a jeweller's shop. It is a small picture of a Victoria Cross, and it is there to modestly show that this is the Jeweller that has forged every Victoria Cross since God knows when. Go take a look; if it doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, you're in need of treatment.

Royal Dragoon Guards
Royal Dragoon Guards

Royal Dragoon Guards

 

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

 

Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers

Royal Engineers

38 VC's awarded. The most famous of which would be that of John Rouse Merriott Chard, 1879, for the action at Rorke's Drift, in the ZULU War in South Africa. (Played by Stanley Baker in the film Zulu)

Royal Logistic Corps
Royal Logistic Corps

Royal Logistic Corps

 

Royal Marines
Royal Marines

Royal Marines

Anyone who has served in the regiment will be familiar with the term 'Dits'. Telling stories or ‘spinning dits’, is fundamental to life in the Corps. 'Dits' are a crucial means by which members of the Royal Marines maintain their history, communicate to each other knowledge, skills, and the attitudes so necessary to their performance during operations.

The regiment has won 10 VC's.

Royal Navy
Royal Navy

Royal Navy

 

Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers

Royal Regiment of Fusiliers

the RRF wears a red over white hackle. This distinction was originally a white plume which His Majesty's Fifth Regiment of Foot had taken from the head dress of fallen French troops at St. Lucia in December 1778. This was changed to a "bloodied" hackle as it was reputed the regiment dipped their hackles in French blood during the St Lucia battle.

Royal Regiment of Scotland
Royal Regiment of Scotland

Royal Regiment of Scotland

 

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

At Waterloo the commanding officer of the Royal Scots Greys (a forunner to the present day regiment) was last seen alive with both his wrists slashed, holding the reins in his teeth charging towards the French Artillery batteries. Napoleon referred to the Scots Greys as "Those terrible Grey Horses".

The cap badge features an eagle, representing the French Imperial Eagle captured by Sergeant Charles Ewart of the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo, from the French 45th Regiment of Foot. It is worn with a black backing to commemorate the murder of their Colonel-in-Chief Tsar Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.

The regiment has won 3 Victoria crosses.

Royal Signals
Royal Signals

Royal Signals

 

Royal Tank Regiment
Royal Tank Regiment

Royal Tank Regiment

During World War One, walking sticks were often carried by officers. Such sticks came to have a new and greater use with the introduction of tanks which often became 'bogged' on battlefields, particularly in Flanders. Officers of the Tank Corps used these sticks to probe the ground in front of their tanks testing for firmness as they went forward. Often the commanders led their tanks into action on foot. To commemorate this, officers of the Regiment carry Ash Plant Sticks instead of the short cane customary to other Arms.

Royal Welsh
Royal Welsh

Royal Welsh

At Rorke's Drift, in the Zulu War, eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded. Seven to the 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot,

The award to Bromhead (Michael Cain in Zulu) was in breach of military protocol. Both Chard (Stanley Baker) and Bromhead were recommended personally by Lord Chelmsford, not their immediate commanding officer.

In 1881 the regiment became the South Wales Borderers and in 1969 was amalgamated with The Welch Regiment to form the present Royal Regiment of Wales.

Sandhurst
Sandhurst

Sandhurst

Some interesting students who have passed through The Royal Military Accademy Sandhurst (RMAS)

Keith Floyd (Royal Tank Regiment)

Simon Mann (Scots Guards) - mercenary

Will Carling (Royal Regiment of Wales)

Victor Silvester. Dancer, author, musician and dance band leader.

James Blunt (Life Guards) (Coldplay)

David Croft (Royal Artillery) - television writer (Dads' Army)

David Niven (Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment))

Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet (16th The Queen's Lancers)

The Rt Hon. Iain Duncan Smith (Scots Guards) - Member of Parliament

Despite urban myths to the contrary, Idi Amin did not attend the RMAS

The Rifles
The Rifles

The Rifles

The "Rifles" as a nickname for the original regiment came from the unusual nature of their firearms. When most regiments were still issued with smooth-bore muskets, the rifling or helical grooving of some weapons as an aid to accuracy, led to their common name.

The accuracy of a rifled projectile is often misunderstood, many thinking the bullet screws itself through the air thus reducing lateral movemet. In reality it is the gyroscopic effect of a rapidly spinning slug of metal, which keeps its direction in order. And as with a toy gyroscope and its reluctance to be pushed out of alignment or position, so the rifled bullet maintains its position, attitude and direction in space.

Their dark green uniform also initiated another rather insulting name - that of the "sweeps". But in the Peninsular war the French simply called them Grasshoppers ("Sauterelles" in french).

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