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The Douglas Regiment





Louis XIV's army: Pikeman, Régiment Douglas, c.i667-1669 This Scottish unit in French service had red coats lined white. The 'Roman' style helmet shown appears to have been very popular during the 1660s and 1670s. (Sources: Mallet, Les Travaux de Mars, 1672; Leask & McCance, Regimental Records of the Royal Scots, 1915, quoting 1667 clothing shipment.)
The Royal Scots are the oldest regiment in the British armed forces. I will not dwell to much on its oldest roots, suffice to say that it started as a regiment in the service of Gustav Adolphus, and in 1625 a detachment of the Royal Scots landed in Scotland under Colonel Robert Hepburn. From Scotland Hepburn passed to French service and was killed in 1636. He was succeeded by Colonel George, who was killed in an assault on Chatillon in 1637. He was succeeded by Colonel James Douglas for whom the regiment was renamed as Régiment de Douglas.

Régiment de Douglas

1637 Col. Lord James Douglas
1645 Col. Archibald (Douglas), Earl of Angus
1655 Lt-Gen. Lord George (Douglas), 1st Earl of Dumbarton, KT
1688 Gen. Frederick Herman (Schomberg), Duke of Schomberg, KG [MGO 1689-90; killed at the Boyne]
1691 Col. Sir Robert Douglas, Bt (of Glenbervie) [killed at Steenkirk]
The Douglas regiment fought the Spaniards in 1638-1639 and participated in the 1638 siege of St. Omer and other operations in the Spanish Netherlands. The Douglas regiment then went to Piedmont and served the Prince of Savoy. In August-September 1643 it participated in the Siege of Turin and garrisoned for a time. In 1644 it was back in the Spanish Netherlands and helped the Siege of Gravelines. In 1645 James Douglas fell in a skirmish near Douai, and was succeeded by his eldest brother Archibald Douglas, later Earl of Angus and Ormond, his command was however a merely nominal one.

During the Fronde the Douglas regiment served in the 1650 Siege of Paris. In November and December 1652 it besieged Bar-le-Duc and later in December it participated in the conquest of Ligny. In 1653 Archibald Douglas was succeeded by his half brother Lord George Douglas, later Earl of Dumbarton. In 1658 the regiment was in the Battle of the Dunes. In 1660 it went into garrison in Avennes. In 1661 Charles II asked the regiment back from Louis XIV and it arrived in 1661 or 1662.

In 1662 the Douglas regiment was sent back to France. In 1665 Charles II declared war on the United Provinces. On 1 March 1666 Colonel George Douglas therefore went to Paris to ask for leave to return the regiment to England. In June 1666 the regiment landed in Rye and it was quartered at Chatham till about July 1667. During the Dutch raid on Chatham the regiment tarnished its reputation by plundering after the Dutch soldiers had left. On 12 October 1667 it embarked at Rye and went back to France. In chauvinist 19th century English books there are mentions of the Douglas regiment fighting for pre-eminence with the Picardie regiment, but this is not likely. By an ordonnance of 26 March 1670 Louis XIV ordered the rank that each regiment had. By this the Douglas regiment ranked 13th, behind the regiments of Sault, Bandeville and Saint Vallier.

In the Franco-Dutch war the regiment had two battalions. It participated in the 1672 Siege of Graave and the famous 1673 Siege of Maastricht. It then continued fighting on the Upper Rhine, where it participated in the Siege of Dachstein in January 16757. On 9 March 1675 Lord George Douglas was created Earl of Dumbarton. In July 1675 300 men of the 'Régiment de Douglas' left Trier in order to attack the town of Bidburg in (then) Luxemburg. In the subsequent conquest Count Douglas was wounded by a musket ball. Later in 1675 it participated in the defense of Trèves. In 1676 the Douglas participated in the Siege of Bouchain, which started on 2 May. The Douglas regiment was mentioned as being in the trenches on 7 May 16769. In 1677 it was in the Upper Rhine campaign, which ended in November 1677.

The Douglas regiment returns to England

On 29 January 1678 Lord Dumbarton went to France to retrieve his regiment in order to serve in England. This may have taken some time, but on 1 September they mustered in Hertfordshire, 21 companies strong. This year it also got a grenadier company under Captain Robert Hodges. In England the Roman Catholic Lord Dumbarton could not officially hold his commmand, and so he was officially removed from his command by Charles II. In April 1679 the Douglas regiment landed at Kinsale and was transferred to the Irish establishment. In 1680 the Siege of Tangier by the Moors led to 16 companies of the Douglas regiment being shipped thither. At Tangiers the Douglas regiment saw heavy fighting in 1680 and after that it returned to England in the winter of 1683-1684. In 1684 the Douglas regiment was titled as 'The Royal regiment of Foot'.

The Douglas regiment under James II

Upon the accession of James II/VII on 6 February 1685 Lord Dumbarton was appointed commander in chief of the forces in Scotland. Lord Dumbarton fought with his regiment in the Battle of Sedgemoor. In August 1685 James II restored Lord Dumbarton to the full command of his regiment. In November 1685 Lord Dumbarton was appointed as a lieutenant-general. On 20 March 1686 the second battalion was ordered to Scotland. In June 1686 the first battalion, with the grenadiers, was moved to Hounslow Heath. Afterwards it went into garrison in Portsmouth. In August 1687 it left Portsmouth and went to Yorkshire. In 1688 the second battalion of the regiment returned to England and was at Ware Herts in August. The first defended the Thames, and in September both were joined at Gravesend. In late November both battalions were at Andover, and from there they marched to Warminster. Lord Dumbarton was with his regiment, but did not get permission to take action, the force retiring on Windsor. On 23 December 1688 James II left England and Lord Dumbarton followed soon after.

The Nine Years War

Schomberg's regiment

On 5 January 1689 the regiment was ordered to march form Oxford to various stations in Suffolk, no doubt as a prelude to embarkation to the Low Countries. Shortly after Schomberg was appointed as colonel. This was a breach with the tradition of having a Douglas as colonel, but even more importantly, it ignored the fact that Scotland had not yet recognized the Prince of Orange as King William II of Scotland. At Ipswich one of the battalions mutinied and refused to embark. Most of them then marched with arms and four guns from Ipswich to the Isle of Ely and County of Lincoln, intending to make their way to Scotland under the leadership of Lieutenant Alexander Gawen. Near Sleaford these soldiers were however surrounded by cavalry and forced to surrender. These 500 soldiers and 20 officers were then escorted to London. Gawen got off with being dismissed from the service. As an aside it might be remarked that this mutiny was the cause for creating the Mutiny act.

After this mutiny the Schomberg regiment was divided into two parts which might not have reflected the two battalions from before the Glorious Revolution. One part went to Scotland to recruit, but this was probably only after William III had established his authority there. Another part was ready to fight and was called first battalion On 9 March 1689 Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Robert Douglas, a second cousin of the earl of Dumbarton, was made commander of this regiment. It embarked for the Low Countries and joined the Alliance army near Tirlemont on 10 June 1689. On 25 August 1689 the regiment was in the Battle of Walcourt. On 6 October 1689 Schomberg's regiment was in the alliance order of battle near Alteren with one battalion. At the end of the campaign the second battalion joined the first. The Schomberg regiment then wintered in Brugge and Gent.

In Frederic Schomberg was in high command in Ireland, and would be killed on the Boyne on 12 July 1690 (N.S). The Schomberg regiment continued in Flanders and probably started the campaign near Gent and Brugge. It probably missed the Battle of Fleurus by still being near Gent and Brugge, and arriving in the main army a few days after. On 5 August 1690 the Schomberg regiment was in camp near Genappe. In mid-August 1690 the Schomberg regiment was camped near Halle. On 1 September 1690 Schomberg's regiment was in the main force at Saint Quentin's Lennick.

The Douglas regiment

On 5 March 1691 Lieutenant-colonel Robert Douglas of Glenbervie was promoted to colonel. In June the 'Duglas' regiment camped near Oprebayx. On 26 June 1691 the Douglas regiment was camped near Gemblours. On 3 August 1692 the Douglas regiment participated in the battle of Steenkerque. Here its first battalion was in the advance guard and suffered 177 killed and 86 wounded. The second battalion came off with 2 killed and 2 wounded. Colonel Douglas was amongst those killed.

Lord Orkney's regiment of Foot

George Hamilton (First Earl of Orkney on 3 January 1696.) was the fifth son of the Duke of Hamilton and had been a company officer in the regiment in 1684, when his uncle the Earl of Dumbarton was colonel. In January 1692 he had been made colonel of the Fusiliers, but after distinguishing himself at Steenkerque (Steenkirk) he was appointed as colonel of the Douglas regiment that same month.

In June 1693 the Hamilton regiment camped near the Abbey of Parck with 2 battalions. In July 1693 the Hamilton regiment was in the Battle of Landen. Here it saw heavy fighitng in the villange of Neerlanden. In October the regiment was back in Brugge. In May 1694 the first batallion was near Louvain, but the second stayed back in Brugge until June. In 1695 the regiment participated in the Siege of Namur. Here the regiment participated in some assaults. On 10 July 1695 Hamilton was promoted to brigadier-general.

It is sure that during the Nine Years War the regiment was considered to be the first of his majesties ordinary regiments of foot and was often designated as 'Royal'. On the other hand the title Royal probably referred to the King of Scotland. It's notable that in the 1699 disbandings the later 2nd, 3rd and 4th Foot were the only regular infantry to be kept on the English establishment. Orkney's regiment was listed as 'Royal Foot' as the first of the regiments that had to survive the 1699 disbandings by being on the Irish establishment.

The War of the Spanish Succession

In 1701 both battalions of Orkney's regiment sailed for the United Provinces. In the operations against Kaiserswerth Orkney's was part of the army commanded by Athlone. After Marlborough had taken command Orkney's was in the July 1702 camp at Dukenburg, designated as 'Orkneij's'. The regiment might have participated in the Siege of Roermond. It wintered in Breda. There is no record of the regiment being involved in any conspicuous action in 1703.

In early May 1704 Lord Orkney's regiment was one of those that marched to the Danube. In July it fought in the Battle of the Schellenberg. In the assault party there were five British battalions; 2 of Orkney's regiment; one of the Guards and one of the Ingoldsby; the other unknown. Each of these British battalions suffered about 200 casualties, and the Earl of Orkney was severely wounded. In August 1704 the Battle of Blenheim followed. Here one of Orkney's battalions assaulted Blenheim. After this battle the second battalion was employed in conducting the prisoners to the United Provinces.

In early 1705 there were some difficulties with some of the recruits being English. On 8 March the colonel embarked with the Duke of Marlborough for the United Provinces. The 1705 campaign then opened with the failed move up the Moselle. In July the first battalion was in the successful siege of Huy. In mid July the Battle for the lines of Brabant followed.

In May 1706 Lord Orkney's regiment mustered with the British forces at Bilsen north-west of Maastricht. On 23 May it fought in the Battle of Ramillies. The second battalion of the regiment was in Meredith's brigade, which attacked on the right. The first battalion was in the struggle for Offus. After the battle the regiment was engaged in the sieges of Dendermonde, Oostende, Menin and Ath. Orkney's regiment wintered in Gent.

In 1707 the regiment continued in Flanders, but nothing of note happened. The only significant event was the union of England and Scotland, which made Orkney's regiment a British in stead of a Scottish one. In March 1708 the regiment was called back to Britain in order to counter the French invasion attempt. Orkney's regiment reached Tynemouth, but did not disembark and were back in Oostende on 20 April. Soon after the alliance was surpised by the loss of Gent and Brugge. In early July the alliance army moved west and the regiment found itself in the Battle of Oudenaarde.

Next came the Siege of Lille. During this siege a battalion of Orkney's regiment under Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton fought in the Battle of Wijnendaal. The regiment saw heavy fighring in the siege and in November 1709 it was part of the force sent to relief the Siege of Brussel. The regiment ended the campaign with the Siege of Gent. Gent then became their winter quarters.

In 1709 the regiment started in the Siege of Tournay, the siege of the town ending on 29 July. The regiment then became part of the covering force, and the grenadiers moved on to the siege of Mons. In September 1709 both battalions were in the Battle of Malplaquet. The campaign ended with the surrender of Mons. In 1710 Orkney's regiment participated in the Siege of Douai, and later in those of Bethune and Aire. In 1711 Orkney's participated in the Siege of Bouchain. In 1712 nothing much happened, except that the regiment occupied Dunkirk as parrt of the negotiations between France and Britain.

On 31 January 1711 the Earl of Orkney had been appointed as general. On 23 April 1713 the regiment was described as 'The Royal regiment of foot, commanded by the Earl of Orkney. It was a fortnight after the accession of George I that the regiment moved from Nieuwpoort to England. After that it went to Ireland.

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