The Regiment dates as far back as the Elizabethan period. The Constable, as Lord Lieutenant of Tower Hamlets, held the right to call upon citizens of the local Tower Hamlets to fulfil garrison guard duty at the Tower since at least 1554.
In 1605 the Privy Council extended the right of the Constable to exact guard duty from Tower Hamlets to the raising of militia companies called Trained Bands. In January 1643 Parliament directed that the “Companies of the Trained Bands belonging to The Tower, were to be a Regiment under the Command of the Lieutenant of The Tower”.
At the Restoration on St George’s Day 1661, the Regiment secured Tower Hill and the approaches for Charles II’s coronation procession from the Tower to Westminster. In 1662 the City of London Militia Act confirmed the Constable’s authority to raise the Tower Hamlets companies as the Standing Militia of the Tower.
In the year 1674, ten companies of Englishmen were raised to fight against the French in Holland. These companies were formed into four Regiments. When the Monmouth Rebellion threatened James II in 1685, two Regiments were called back to England. These Regiments later became the 5th and 6th of Foot, their relative seniority based on the order in which they disembarked. (Both later became Fusilier regiments – see below)
In June 1685, as the Monmouth rebellion gathered pace, James appointed George Legge, Lord Dartmouth, Constable of the Tower and Master General of the Ordnance, to form an Ordnance Regiment within the Tower for the protection of the cannon, its soldiers to be equipped with the ‘snap-hance’ musket which was the same as the French long ‘fusil’ musket. The two “ancient” Tower Hamlets guard companies of the Tower, and one of miners, formed the core of the King’s “My Royal Regiment of Fuzileers” augmented by a further 10 companies raised in the Tower Hamlets.
This Regiment became the 7th of Foot, the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Other infantry regiments subsequently became Fusiliers, the most famous of which were the Royal Northumberland (5th of Foot), Lancashire (XX of Foot) and in the 1960s the Royal Warwickshire (6th of Foot). These, together with the Royal Fusiliers, came together in 1968 to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1968 – England’s infantry at its very best.
The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers inherited a unique history and set of traditions from its four former regiments. Each former regiment has an exceptional place in military history for the following action:
• 6 Victoria Crosses won by the Lancashire Fusiliers at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915
• The Royal Warwickshire’s led the way on D-Day
• Royal Fusiliers counter attack at Albuhera in 1811 undoubtedly saved Wellington’s campaign in Spain against Napoleon.
• Northumberland Fusiliers winning of the Hackle at the battle of St Lucia
All four regiments fought in WW1, raising 196 battalions between them, and were represented in every major campaign.
In WWII all four regiments took part in some of the most incredible operations of that period, from the Lancashire Fusiliers operating as Chindits against the Japanese in Burma to the Royal Warwickshire’s D-Day landing and the Royal Northumberland and Royal Fusiliers fighting in North Africa and Italy.
After WWII the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and Royal Fusiliers fought in Korea and all four regiments saw service in one of the many trouble spots around the world from Malaya to Kenya.
The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed on April 23rd 1968, as part of the British Army reforms and saw the creation of one of the first ‘large infantry regiments’.
The Regiment was made up with the amalgamation of the four English Fusilier regiments, which consisted of:
• The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
• The Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers
• The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
• The Lancashire Fusiliers
Since 1968 and the Regiment’s formation, Fusiliers have seen service across the world and found themselves at the sharp end in countries as diverse as Northern Ireland and Cyprus. More recently the Regiment served in the Balkans, the first and second Gulf Wars and the Afghanistan campaign.
The Regiment is widely recognised for its distinctive red and white Hackle which is worn by all ranks. The Hackle which was handed down from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was awarded in recognition for the defeat of the French at the Battle of St Lucia in 1778 where the white hackles were removed from the French dead by the Fusiliers.
In 1829 King George IV ordered a white plume to be worn by all line infantry regiments, but in order not to take away from the 5th (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot’s battle honour, their plume was distinguished with a red tip making the plume red over white.