Saturday, 1 October 2022

Soldiers of Shropshire Museum - Shrewsbury Castle


As regular followers of the blog will know I am a keen supporter of the UK's Regimental Museums, dotted around its various counties and districts, and custodians of a treasure trove of historical military artefacts recounting the remarkable histories of their local regiments in the British army and the tradition of service to the reigning monarch and the country throughout the intervening centuries.

JJ's Wargames- Regimental Museums

It is this long and rich history and the traditions that have evolved from it that gives the British army a solidity like no other and from which it can draw inspiration when it is needed most, that is in the heat of battle and in the face of the enemy, and the badges carried today, together with their mottos and other regimental traditions passed on to their modern successors, help to remind British soldiers of their history and the service demanded of them.

That said these museums also allow those of us with an interest in military history in general and the history of the British army and its campaigns specifically to get close up with items that evoke and bring to life the rather sometimes 'matter of fact' accounts from books alone and get another insight into the men who served in the ranks as well as the opportunity to see items that one could only imagine the stories they could tell if they could speak.

These collections, the buildings they are contained in and the staff who maintain and facilitate public access need to be supported by those of us who are interested and keen to make sure they are around for future generations to enjoy seeing and so whenever I am in a new town I like to make a visit and share the experience here on the blog to hopefully encourage others to develop the habit.

Such an opportunity presented itself when Mr Steve and myself spent a very pleasant couple of days based in Shrewsbury in sunny July this year, exploring historical and military sites in the area and planning in some time to visit Shrewsbury Castle, an interesting historical military building in its own right, but also home to the Soldiers of Shropshire Regimental Museum.

Shrewsbury Castle is a Grade I listed red sandstone building that stands on a neck of high ground in the meander of the River Severn and was the original site of the castle ordered to be constructed by King William I, William the Conqueror circa 1067, immediately following the conquest, making it one of the earliest fortifications from that period.

Shrewsbury Castle, an earth and timber motte and bailey castle, as it may have looked at the time of Roger de Mungumeri (Roger de Montgomery) in the late 11th century.

The castle was later greatly extended by Roger de Montgomery in 1070, becoming one of the great Welsh Marcher strongholds and formed the key strongpoint for the town that grew around it and later reinforced with an adjoining town wall that followed the curve of the nearby river providing a natural moat to its circumference.

The castle was successfully besieged in 1138 by King Stephen during his struggle in The Anarchy with Empress Maud and was later briefly occupied by Llewelyn the Great, Prince of Wales in 1215. Much of the original medieval features have been lost or incorporated into the later Tudor residence created during Queen Elizabeth I's reign and repairs carried out to it after the damage it received during the English Civil War, with further repairs carried out by Thomas Telford in 1780, that has created the building that greets the modern visitor today.

Shrewsbury Castle c1778 - Thomas Pennant

The grounds leading up to the main hall provide space for the display of several pieces of artillery ranging from the ancient to the relatively more recent periods of British history, but I always have a tinge of sadness seeing these remarkable weapons left to the mercies of the British weather.

The 5.5 inch gun was the type used by Medium Regiments Royal Artillery in WWII, such as the 75th and 76th Shropshire Yeomanry in Italy

As the son, grandson and great grandson of former artillerymen I always take an extra interest in the 'Gods of War' and the sight of the 5.5 inch howitzer, 25-pounder and a replica Roman ballista provided a great excuse to linger in the extraordinary summer sunshine we were enjoying in July before entering the museum building.

Both artillery pieces were presented to the museum by the Shrewsbury Branch, Royal Artillery Association.
The 25 Pounder Gun that was the standard gun used by Royal Artillery Field Regiments and Commonwealth artillery in WWII, also seeing action in Korea, Malaya and the Arabian Peninsular

The Soldiers of Shropshire Museum is the Regimental Museum housing the collections of the main county regiments, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI), the Shropshire Yeomanry, the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery and related county militia, volunteers and territorials.

The highest award for gallantry in the British forces, 
the Shropshire Regiments proud display of the ten recipients 
of the Victoria Cross, one, second from bottom, being for a very famous action,
awarded to Acting Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton, 
Commissariat & Transport Department, ex 85th Light Infantry.
For conspicuous gallantry during the defence of Rorke's Drift,
Natal, 22-23rd January 1879. Citation reads;
'Was instrumental in organising the defence and though severely
wounded, in fighting off repeated Zulu attacks.'

The collections displays uniforms and artefacts relating to these various formations right through from the first regiments raised in the county, the 53rd Foot, the Shropshire Regiment and the 85th Light Infantry in the 18th century, through the various units involved in conflicts through the 19th century, the two world wars and the wars of the inter war years, right through to the modern British army and The Rifles, the successors to the KSLI.

In 1992 the museum was the target of a terrorist attack and like a phoenix rising from the ashes was completely refurbished and reopened in 1997, and proudly living up to the motto of the Light Infantry 

'Aucto Splendore Resurgo' - 'I Rise Again with Increased Splendour'

The story of the Shropshire regiments starts in 1755 with the raising of the 55th Foot later renumbered the 53rd Foot in 1757 which was one of ten regiments, raised to defend British colonies in North America, with the commission granted to Colonel William Whitmore of Apley, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Colonel Whitmore, served in the 3rd Foot Guards and was later promoted to Lieutenant General, dying in 1771, and is depicted below in the dress coat of a general officer

Colonel, later Lieutenant General William Whitmore was the first colonel of the 55th Regiment of Foot, later renumbered the 53rd Regiment of Foot for service in the Seven Years War.

In the Seven Years War the 55th served at Ticonderoga before transferring to Gibraltar in 1763, where it was in garrison until 1768 before transferring to Ireland, where it remained for the remaining time, except for one year in Minorca in 1771.

Arnold's column is shattered in fierce street fighting during the Battle of Quebec - Charles William Jeffreys

With the start of the American War of Independence in 1775, the regiment was brought up to strength in Cork, Ireland, where it had been on garrison duty, and sailed for North America in 1776, arriving in Quebec in May 1776 to help raise the siege by the American army under Generals Montgomery and later Benedict Arnold, the former being killed in December and the latter wounded, during the abortive attempt by the American army to break into the city.

A replica uniform of the 53rd Foot looking as they would have done on arrival at Quebec in 1776 and before the changes to the uniform made in preparation for the Burgoyne expedition, that saw cut down short tailed coats and light infantry style caps issued to centre company men, better suited for operating in the broken, wooded terrain they would be marching through. 
 Soldiers of Shropshire - 53rd Foot in the War of American Independence

The regiment was organised around ten companies under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Watson Powell, who took command in 1771, with an experienced cadre of officers which included five of the seven captains having served with the regiment for twenty years, and with a transfer in of eighty soldiers from the 36th Foot to bring it up to strength, saw it showing 537 men with the colours in Canada. 

The replica uniform of the 53rd Foot was supplied to the museum by the American re-enactment group
 His Majesty's 53rd Regiment of Foot, of Hudson's Falls New York. The lanyard on the right shoulder indicates a corporal of a centre company, he carries a captured early style American colour and the leather knapsack on the ground at his feet displays the regimental insignia of the 53rd Foot.

Replica headgear for the 53rd Foot and their time in North America, with a grenadier bearskin, light infantry cap and 'Burgoyne' centre company cap issued to both centre companies and likely the grenadier companies, who very often put their bearskins into store and adopted the cap with a red horsehair plume to designate their elite status.

The 53rd, under the command of General John Burgoyne took part in the mopping up actions following the breaking of the siege of Quebec in 1776 with the Battle of Trois Rivers on the 8th June trapping 2,000 American soldiers under Brigadier-General William Thompson, that saw Thompson captured and the the loss of around 30-50 Americans in their retreat.

Following these operations that came to an end in October 1776 and the Battle of Valcour Island and the capture of Crown Point, the regiment formed part of the army led by Burgoyne on his fateful campaign in 1777 along the Hudson Valley.

The 53rd Foot were now led by Major William Hughes as Colonel Powell was appointed brigadier-general in command of 2nd Division and the army's advance would see the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and the detailing of eight companies of the 53rd (432 men) to garrison it whilst the grenadier and light companies as part of the combined battalions of grenadiers and light-bobs marched on to Albany and eventual defeat and capture at Saratoga on the 17th October 1777.

The replica centre company cap displays a nice touch with the addition of the regimental lace and button to the side ribbon bow.

Fort Ticonderoga was assaulted by 500 Massachusetts militia soldiers under Colonel John Brown as early as the 18th September 1777 as the Americans attempted to cut Burgoyne's supply line from Canada, that saw Brigadier Watson Powell's reply to a summons to surrender by Brown with a short, rather dismissive note;

A copy of Brigadier Watson Powell's message to Colonel Brown when summoned to 
surrender Fort Ticonderoga to the Americans. It reads
'Sir, the garrison intrusted to my charge I shall defend to the last. I am your humble servant. H Watson Powell.'

With Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, the 53rd Foot burned Fort Ticonderoga and its outlying defences on Mount Independence and retired to the Canadian frontier.

Replica and actual items carried and worn by soldiers in America, together with a nice model of Fort William Henry of 'Last of the Mohican's' fame, together with an nice panel at the back of the display outlining the campaign of 1776-77 and the 53rd's roll in it. - Close ups of the items are added below.

The 'musket tool' seen right with an original and a replica was new to me as, unlike the artillery where a 'pricker' was often inserted into the vent of the gun-barrel to pierce the cartridge to allow the powder inside to take a flame or spark more easily, the infantry bit off the top of their paper cartridges (seen right) and poured the powder into the barrel of their muskets, before ramming home the ball, followed by the wad of paper, thus negating any need to 'prick'. So I guess this might have been used to remove any fouled priming powder in the musket vent following several rounds of firing.

William Digby was the Senior subaltern in the grenadier company of the 53rd Regiment and his journal of the campaign in 1776-77 can be read in the following link;

Two extraordinary items of the 53rd Foot and their time in America can be seen in the collection with these preserved remains of the Regimental Colours and their finials carried throughout their time during the American War.

These colours are the second stand issued to the regiment in Cork in 1774 and were handed over to Colonel R. D. H. Elphinstone of the regiment in 1790 when new colours were issued and were displayed in his country house near Aberdeen until the contents of the house were sold in 1903 and the colours were returned to the regiment (KSLI) by the then Lady Elphinstone.

The survivors of the 53rd Foot that retired into Canada would serve in the frontier battles of 1778 to 1783, receiving eighty-five soldiers from the 62nd Foot, and later seeing action under Major Christopher Carleton during Carleton's Raid in 1778, later taking part in the Burning of the Valleys Campaign of 1780 and the Royalton Raid of that year under Lieutenant Houghton, burning three towns in eastern Vermont.

Whilst serving in Canada in 1782, the 53rd Foot was designated 'The Shropshire Regiment' and henceforth recruited in the county.

JJ's Wargames - AWI Mohawk Valley Collection

These actions form the basis of my own Mohawk Valley Campaign collection of figures and thus seeing the collection of items at the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum were of added interest for me. 

Principally following the British Army's experience in fighting in America and following their relearning of old lessons in skirmish warfare in their first campaign to Flanders at the start of the French Revolutionary War, their arose a re-emergence of interest in the need for a dedicated corps of light infantrymen specifically trained and maintained as units in their own right rather than the previous reliance on foreign mercenaries and the formation of adhoc units of combined light company men drawn from the line battalions that stripped those units of their dedicated skirmish trained troops.

William Viscount Pultney, first commanding officer of the 85th Light Infantry or 'Royal Volontiers', 
the first British Light Infantry Regiment raised in 1759 in Shrewsbury.

It is tempting to think that the first dedicated light infantry battalions raised by the British Army were Sir John Moore's, Shorncliffe trained, 43rd and 52nd regiments of the famous Light Division, in January 1803, but in fact the first dedicated British light infantry regiment was raised much earlier in 1759 in Shrewsbury, the 85th Light Infantry or Royal Volontiers, and yes that is how they spelt Volunteers in 1759, by Colonel John Crauford, with a very much light-infantry sounding sir-name, and an officer of the 13th Foot. 

85th Light Infantry Officer with fusil and stick - Bryan Fosten, from a contemporary engraving.

The first commanding officer of the 85th Light Infantry was William Viscount Pultney, son of the Earl of Bath and who also raised the Shropshire Militia in 1762.

The 85th Light Infantry were in fact raised for service in the wooded terrain of North America and the need for such troops in the Seven Years War, however in the event they were never sent to America but served in the expedition to Belleisle, an island off the west coast of Brittany in 1761 and in the expedition to Portugal in 1762, before disbandment in Salisbury at the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.

Private, 85th Foot, 1760 - Paul Chappell (Osprey)
Illustration based on a contemporary drawing and a report of an inspection 
carried out at Newcastle upon Tyne on 10th March 1760.

In 1778 the 85th (Westminster Volunteers) were raised in London by Lords Harrington and Chesterfield for service in Jamaica, spending two years there, seeing little action but suffering severely from sickness.

The Battle of the Saintes 12th April 1782 - The close of the battle with the setting sun representing the Ville de Paris striking her colours to the Barfleur, Admiral Lord Hood. The ship was later sunk off Newfoundland when transporting the 85th (Westminster Volunteers). Engraving after Robert Dodd - Royal Collection Trust.

They embarked for home on the Ville de Paris, the flagship of the French fleet taken by Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes on the 12th April 1782.

However on the way home the fleet was struck by a tornado off the coast of Newfoundland and almost totally destroyed, taking with it the greater part of the 85th, with the regiment formally disbanded after the peace in 1783.

In 1793 the 85th Regiment was raised by Sir George Nugent on the Marquis of Buckingham's estates for service in Flanders in 1794 with the Duke of York in the French Revolutionary War, after seeing service in garrison on Gibraltar, later returning to the Netherlands as part of the failed Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland.

Both the 85th and 53rd Regiments would see service in the Napoleonic War.

I featured my own representation of the 2/53rd Foot as they would have appeared in the Peninsular War and more specifically for my Talavera project.

JJ's Wargames - 53rd Foot, Shropshire Regiment

The Soldiers of Shropshire Museum holds some interesting items from this period for both the Shropshire regiments.

General Lord Hill, GCB, GCH, KC (1772 - 1842) -Painted by his sister Emma c1820
Rowland Hill, served in the 53rd  (Shropshire Regiment) and the 86th (Shropshire Volunteers) from 1791-94. He served in Flanders 1793-94, and then in Gibraltar and Egypt in 180, going on to become one of the greatest British generals of the period serving under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War, and commanding 2nd Corps as Wellington's right-hand man in the Waterloo campaign in 1815. Known as 'Daddy' Hill by his men because of the concern he showed for their welfare, he was appointed Colonel of the 53rd in 1817 and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828 a post he held until the year of his death in 1842. He lived at Hardwicke Grange, Shropshire and is buried in a simple tomb in Hadnall Church near Shrewsbury and his statue crowns the column on the outskirts of Shrewsbury that commemorates his victories.

I visited the battlefield of Salamanca in Spain back in 2019 where the 2/53rd Foot under Lt. Colonel Bingham saw action as part of Major-General Hulse's brigade, Sixth Division under Major-General Sir Henry Clinton.

The area of ground over which the 2/53rd advanced to attack the French at Salamanca
JJ's Wargames - Battle of Salamanca, Peninsular War Tour 2019

The 2/53rd was the battalion on the extreme eastern end of Clinton's Line and, seemingly slightly detached from the other battalions in the brigade, gained the attention of the French dragoons.

I used Sir Charles Oman's map to illustrate the positions from where I photographed the battlefield, and Clinton's 6th Division can be seen in support of Cole's Division to the left of the Lesser Arapiles before it crossed the valley to attack the French line on the opposite Greater Arapiles ridge. Boyer's French Dragoons can be seen hovering to the rear and who attempted to attack the 2/53rd during the advance as described by Adjutant Lieutenant John Carss

Adjutant Lieutenant John Carss described the attack;

"Our regiment was formed on the left of the line and a little from the division, to support a pass in order to prevent the enemy from flanking us.

We had fired about 10 rounds .... when about two or three hundred of the enemy's cavalry supported by infantry made a charge and totally surrounded us. They called out 'Surrender'. We answered 'No'. Our brave fellows kept up such a blaze on them that in about five minutes we drove them off after killing or wounding nearly one half; in this charge we had about five officers wounded and about 40 rank and file killed and wounded. We formed line and advanced."

Interestingly Captain Blackall is an officer of the first battalion 53rd foot, who at the time of Salamanca were serving in India, so I assume he is one of the first battalion officers appointed to the cadre that helped raise the second battalion.

The Military General Service Medal for 1793 - 1814 was issued in 1848 following much pressure to do so in the wake of the issuing of a medal for those who served in the Waterloo campaign 1815, thus the MGS was only awarded to survivors, thirty-four years after the last battle commemorated on the ribbon clasps, with over 26,000 being awarded.

Only 129 officers and men of the 53rd survived to claim their MGS in 1848.

With 29 different battle clasps, 15 was the most issued to any one soldier, and the most granted to a soldier of the 53rd was 9 clasps and to the 85th, 4 clasps, with those illustrated below seeing 7 clasps issued to Sergeant Stapleton and Private Unwin of the 2/53rd.

The 2/53rd was a veteran hard-fighting Peninsular battalion, arriving in Portugal in 1809 and returning home in July 1814 during which it saw action at Second Battle of Porto, May 1809, Battle of Talavera, July 1809, Lines of Torres Vedras, 1810, Blockade of Almeida, April 1811, Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, May 1811, Battle of Almaraz, May 1812, Battle of Salamanca, July 1812, Siege of Burgos, September 1812, Battle of Vitoria, June 1813, Battle of the Pyrenees, July 1813, Siege of San Sebastien, autumn 1813, Battle of Nivelle, November 1813 and the Battle of Toulouse, April 1814

The 85th served in Flanders in 1809 and in Portugal, Spain and Southern France from 1811 to 1814, seeing action at Fuentes de Onoro, 1811, Badajoz, 1812, San Sebastien, 1813, Battle of Nivelle, 1813 and Battle of the Nive, 1813.

In 1814 they were sent to North America to serve in the War of 1812, seeing action during the burning of Washington in 1814 and at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

Battle of Bladensburg, August 24th 1814 - Richard Schlecht.

The regiment was awarded the battle honour 'Bladensburg' for its service during the Washington campaign, during which it captured the standards of the Harford Light Dragoons and James City Light Infantry.

There followed the unsuccessful attacks on Baltimore, from which came the song 'The Star-Spangled Banner', now the anthem of the United States of America and the defeat at the Battle of New Orleans, the latter after peace had already been signed in January 1815.

Standard of the 1st Harford Light Dragoons, US Army, taken by the 85th Regiment and Bladensburg, outside Washington on 24th August 1814.

American Colours captured at Bladensburg, 24th August 1814, left - James City Light Infantry, right- 1st Harford Light Dragoons.

Only 146 officers and men of the 85th survived to claim the MGS in 1848.

The long-long war against France and Napoleon was finally ended with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo on June 18th 1815 and the surrender of the former Emperor of the French, General Bonaparte to Captain Maitland of His Majesty's ship Bellerophon on the 15th July 1815, that would see the danger to peace in Europe finally banished to the Atlantic island of St Helena at which he arrived on the 15th October 1815.

Napoleon would remain on the island for another six years, dying there on 5th May 1821.

The officer responsible for preventing any escape attempts was Sir Hudson Lowe, Governor of St Helena together with the 2nd/53rd sent to guard the detainee.

The former Emperor is said to have struck up a friendly relationship with them referring to them as his 'Red Regiment' and an officer of the 53rd, Captain Poppleton was appointed as his ADC.

As mentioned, the first battalion of the 53rd spent the majority of the Napoleonic War in India (1805 to 1823), taking part most notably in the Nepal War of 1814-16, when the British first met the Gurkhas on the battlefield.

Two notable events in the Regiment's history was the storming of the fortress of Callinger near Allahbad, 1812 and the fortress of Kalunga in Nepal in 1814.

The death of Major-General Robert Rollo Gillespie at the siege of Kalunga 1814 with the men of the 53rd Foot in combat with Nepalese defenders.

Both the 85th and 53rd regiments would be kept busy in the 19th century with Britain's focus on Empire and in particular the wider conquest of India.

Replica uniform of a sergeant of the 53rd Regiment at the Battle of Sobraon 1845.
Based on contemporary drawings, the headdress is the 1844 pattern 'Albert' shako with tropical white cover, the only concession to the heat of the Punjab, the red coat and red facings of the regiment and the sergeant is armed with the 1840 percussion-carbine.

Sikh sabres or tulwars, the standard weapon of the Sikh mounted warriors and 
taken by the 53rd during the Sikh Wars 1845-49

In 1821 the 85th were based in Brighton with the duty of guarding the Pavilion, a favourite retreat of King George IV. It was during their time that the king's safety was threatened by demonstrators and in recognition for the protection he was given by officers of the regiment the king commanded that they would be retitled The King's Light Infantry and to wear the blue facings of a Royal Regiment.

The Sovereign's Colour of the now 85th Regiment 'King's Light Infantry', bearing the battle honours, Peninsula, Fuentes d'Honor, Nive and Bladensburg

As befitting a Royal Regiment the 85th changed its facing colour from yellow to blue.

Snider Enfield Conversion Percussion Rifle 1868, the first breech-loader to be adapted as the standard weapon for British Infantry.

Top and centre, Afghan jezail flintlocks c1840 with East India Company locks, taken by the 85th KLI in Afghanistan 1880. Bottom Martini Henry Rifle Mark II for Line Infantry 1877, introduced in 1871 the .45 calibre rifle was a single shot breech loader, being quick to load, accurate and with a long range, it was a revolutionary advance in weaponry. It remained in use for twenty years and saw service in the Ashanti War, 1874, Afghan War, 1878-80 and the Zulu War 1879.

In late 1879 a British Field Force was sent to Afghanistan under the command of Sir Frederick Roberts to avenge the murder of the British minister in Kabul.

Officer's patrol jacket, 85th KLI c1880, with embroidered major's crown on the collar, the jacket being worn for everyday wear in barracks and around camp

The 85th formed part of General Tyller's brigade sent to the Kurram Valley. It saw action in December in and around Zawa.

From then on the regiment was based Pelwar Kotal protecting the British supply line.

The 85th were awarded the battle honour 'Afghanistan 1879-80' for their service in the 2nd Afghan War.

In 1881 war broke out in Egypt and Sudan in what became called the Egyptian later Sudan Campaign or Mahdist War with the rise of the Sudanese religious leader Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah.

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah

The Egyptian campaign was the last in which the British Army wore their traditional scarlet uniform.

1st KSLI in Egypt 1882

Officers scarlet lightweight frock coat c 1882-1890 worn by Captain F.W. Robinson 1KSLI

In 1881 the British Army saw a massive reorganisation, not for the first or last time, designed to make it a better fit for the conflicts to come but reconfirming the army's links to its regional attachments and regimental traditions.

The Cardwell Reforms saw the creation of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) with the amalgamation of the 53rd and 85th Regiments.

In 1899 war broke out in South Africa with the Boers, sparking the Boer War of 1899 - 1902 that would see the deployment of the new regiment when the 2nd battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry landed in Cape Colony.

Other ranks khaki drill uniform 1900.
This uniform was worn by Lance Corporal E. Link, Volunteer Service Company attached to 2KSLI in South Africa. Both this and his First World War uniform survive and are in the regimental collection.
He wears the foreign service helmet and is armed with the Lee Enfield Mk 1 long pattern rifle.

In February, 2KSLI took a leading part in one of the decisive battles of the war when 4,000 Boers under General Cronje were forced to surrender at Paardeberg.

Battle of Paardeberg (Horse Mountain) 18th - 27th February 1900 - A. H. Hidler

In June 1900, after a march of 425 miles, 2KSLI entered Pretoria, capital of the Transvaal. The main fighting was over but the guerrilla war continued for another two years, with 2KSLI mainly involved in tedious guard duties.

Peace was signed in June 1902 and the 2KSLI was redeployed to India.

First World War 1914 - 1918
The two world wars would see the advent of mass mobilisation of the population and in World War One, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry would raise twelve battalions and be awarded sixty battle honours during the course of the war.

At the start of the war four battalions were available and in the first two months of war, Lord Kitchener's appeal produced enough volunteers to raise four new battalions (5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) in Shrewsbury for the New Armies.

Losses among the new battalions were staggering, with the 5th formed in August 1914, serving on the Western Front from May 1915 until disbanded early 1918 due to manpower shortages during which the battalion lost 667 men killed.

Likewise the 6th lost 555 men killed May 1915 to war end, 7th (Pals) battalion, 1048 men killed between July 1915 to war end, and the 8th suffering much less, with only a short spell on the Western Front in 1915 before deploying to Salonika where it spent the rest of the war, later being absorbed into the 2nd battalion, having lost 136 men killed.

German (Maxim) 08 Spandau Machine Gun captured during the First World War.

Second World War 1939 -1945
The regiment raised four battalions in the Second World War, with the 1st Battalion returning from India in 1938, later joining the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in September 1939 at the outbreak of war.

Evacuated from France in 1940, its next actions were in North Africa (1943) and Italy (1943-45), with the latter deployment including the landing at Anzio.

The 2nd Battalion landed on Sword Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944, before fighting its way through France, Holland and Germany until May 1945. It was joined by the 4th (Territorial) Battalion, which landed in Normandy on the 14th June 1944, and the 6th Battalion, which had been converted to artillery as the 181st Field Regiment before arriving in France.

Battle of France 1940

North Africa, Sicily 1943 & Italy 1943-45

Shropshire Yeomanry Battle-dress blouse, worn by Sergeant John Butt, 1943-45,
with formation badges for 1st and 6th Army and SY badge on the beret.

Battle Trophies - German and Italian Air Force flags captured by 1KSLI on the island of Pantellaria, 11th June 1943

1st Bn. KSLI in the Anzio Beachhead, January 1944

D-Day, Normandy and Germany 1944-45

D-Day Landing Beaches 6th June 1944

Battle-bowler worn by Captain M. J. Whitlock, 2nd Bn. KSLI, displaying damage on the rim from a bullet or shell fragment.

4th Battalion KSLI TA in North West Europe 1944-45.
Mobilised in Shrewsbury on 3rd September 1939, forming part of 53rd Welsh Division, the battalion with its brigade joined 11th Armoured in 1942. Landing in Normandy on the 14th June it joined allied troops in heavy fighting in the close Normandy countryside and in the breakout in August 1944, being the first allied infantry to enter Antwerp in Belgium. During the Arnhem battles, the Battalion reached the River Maas where Sgt, G. H. Eardley won the Victoria Cross at Schaartven east of Overloon on 15th October 1944. In 1945, 4KSLI crossed the Rhine and was the first allied unit to reach the River Elbe.

Other ranks general service cap 1944-45 with KSLI badge and green backing.

One of the most remarkable treasures held by the museum and one sought after by other collections who have made approaches to obtain this very rare item is the baton of Grand Admiral Kartl Donitz, seen below, personally presented to him by Adolf Hitler in 1943 with gold, platinum and silver on blue velvet over an aluminium core.

Donitz commanded the German U-boat fleet, 1939-43, before being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, 1943-45 and was Hitler's chosen successor as leader of the Third Reich, a post he held from 30th April - 23rd May 1945.

Donitz along with other members of the Nazi government were arrested in Flensburg on 23rd May 1945 by Major-General 'Jack' Churcher, commanding 159 Infantry Brigade, which included 4th KSLI.

Korea 1951-52

On the 25th June 1950, North Korea launched an all-out offensive and invaded South Korea. In April 1951 1st KSLI as part of 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade, later to become 1st Commonwealth Division was sent to Korea. The battalion spent much of its time in defensive positions on the River Imjin doing dangerous patrol work. During the campaign, 1KSLI took a prominent part in the operations around and capture of Hill 227 and sadly lost 62 men killed or died of wounds. The battalion was awarded the battle honours Kowang San, Hill 227 and Korea 1951-52.

A crew of the Shropshire's Medium Machine-Gun platoon

Kenya Emergency 1955-58 (Mau Mau Uprising)
In May 1955, 1KSLI sailed for Kenya to help quell the rebellion started by members of the Kikuyu tribe claiming the lands occupied by European settlers.

By 1955 the campaign was in its later stages, but several Mau Mau gangs operated in the forests. During the battalion's first operation Lt-Col Brooke-Smith was killed by one of his own men when inspecting ambush positions. By late 1956, the emergency had ended, and soon Kenya was granted independence. While based in Kenya 1KSLI was also involved in Bahrain (1956) and in support of the Emir of Dhala on the Yemen frontier (1958).

The Post Cold War era
As mentioned previously, the British Army has gone through several reorganisations in its long history and the pace has increased with the end of WWII and the end of empire, then the Cold War giving way to the Modern era with Britain like other Western modern democracies keen to reap the benefits of the collapse of the Soviet Union with reductions in military spending, which now seems to perhaps have come to an end with more recent tensions and conflicts around the globe prompting more investment in the military.

In 1968 the regiment was amalgamated with the Durham Light Infantry and the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry to form the Light Infantry Brigade.

In 2007 another round of amalgamations meant the Light Infantry was merged with The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry and The Royal Green Jackets to form The Rifles.

Multi-Terrain Pattern MTP as worn in Afghanistan. Kevlar (ballistic nylon)
helmet with helmet cover and eye protectors, the load-carrying equipment
comes with light nylon straps, and quick release belts and connectors.

The SA 80 Bullpup Assault Rifle introduced in 1985 and made by Heckler and Koch (UK), firing standard NATO 5.56mm rounds from a 30 round magazine, with a range of 500m, weight of 4.98 kg and a cyclic rate of fire of 600 to 770 rounds per minute. Perhaps the marmite of assault rifles that had a poor start with a shoddy first incarnation, later developments seemed to have smoothed out a lot of the problems, all be it the sight still gets stick from some, Those that like the weapon seem to really appreciate the shorter barrel and the ease of carrying the weapon in and out of vehicles, that presents more of a problem with longer barrelled options. 

Introduced in 1962 the General Purpose Machine Gun or G.P.M.G replaced the well loved Bren gun of WWII fame and continues in service today. Operated by a two man team, shown here in its 'light' role with bipod, the gun can also be used in the sustained fire mode complete with tripod mount. The belt section is loaded with 7.62mm expended blank ammunition for training. The gun has a range of 800 metres in the light role and 1,800 metres in sustained fire, with a rate of fire of 100 rounds per minute (light role), 750 rounds per minute belt-fed.

Light Support Weapon L.S.W. is the light machine gun based on the SA 80 rifle but with a heavier longer barrel and bipod support. The weapon comes with the 30 round magazine and has a comparable rate of fire and range to the rifle.

Battle honours festoon the Regimental Colour of the 4th Battalion K.S.L.I presented by the Princess Royal in 1964, prior to the amalgamation of the regiment in 1968 with the Durham Light Infantry and the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry to form the Light Infantry Brigade. Note also the French Croix de Guerre under the battalion numeral awarded to the battalion by the French government for its gallantry at Bligny Hill on the 6th June 1918 as described below.

Shropshire's Bravest Battalion - Volunteers at Copthorne Barracks

'The 4th KSLI was to endure many more losses in campaigns across the Western Front before their attention was focused on the Champagne region, where this plucky Shropshire regiment was sent to support the French. It was here that the battalion showed true gallantry in the capture of the prominent Bligny Hill. Moving towards the enemy over open ground, the men marched at 120 paces a minute, so rapidly that much of the German artillery’s fire went over their heads. They captured the hill and remained steadfast through 12 tortuous hours of heavy shelling and gas attacks. Before reinforcements arrived, the battalion was reduced to just 100 exhausted men.

The attack was witnessed by the French General, Berthelot, who was so impressed with the ‘gallantry and dash’ of the 4th KSLI that he secured an immediate award of the Croix de Guerre avec Palme for the whole battalion. The battle is still remembered at an annual Bligny Day service in Shrewsbury, and the award is on display at Shropshire Regimental Museum.'

Mr Steve and I really enjoyed exploring the treasures in Shrewsbury Castle and if you're in Shrewsbury and enjoy visiting Regimental Museums, then the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum is a great place to visit and well recommended.


  1. Excellent museum. I spent a couple of nights in Shrewsbury as a base to explore a number of military museums in the general area.

  2. An enjoyable and informative read. I lived in Shropshire for a few years in the 70's and can remember the castle, but don't think I went to the museum. Thanks for putting this together.

  3. Hi Chaps,
    Thanks for your comments.

    I never cease to be amazed at some of the very special artefacts these regimental museums have that you wont see anywhere else and that capture the time and era they represent. In this case the Donitz Admiral's Baton was such a surprise when I saw it.

    The other aspect is to see the pride in the locality with each of the local regiments obviously held with great affection by the local people whose family members served with them and often made the supreme sacrifice.

    Even today with our modern regiments being the incarnations of our old numbered battalions, you see people line the streets of a given town prepared to cheer a regiment that has just returned from active duty and been given the freedom of the city and you appreciate how strong that affection remains today.


  4. You never cease to surprise me. My late mother was a great fan of the museum and town. I think originally a Cadfael thing. I poked my girl, woke her up actually and said look at that. Thank the lord for good women. Mothers and wives. And tolerance. That was one of the finest posts I have ever read.

    1. Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your very kind comment, it's so much fun putting the blog together when others let you know that they have enjoyed the read,

      All the best

  5. Great Tour. Thank you

    1. Hi,
      Thank you and glad you enjoyed the post.