Saturday, 25 July 2015

The 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot: A short history

The 44th Regiment of Foot was originally raised in 1741 as James Long’s Regiment of Foot. It first saw action during the Jacobite Rising (1745-46) – where it took part in the Battle of Prestonpans – before being sent to Flanders. The regiment was originally ranked as the 55th Regiment of Foot, but in 1748 it was re-numbered as the 44th.

The regiment was sent to North America in 1751 and took an active part in the French and Indian War as well as the American War of Independence. During its time in North America it took part in:
  • Braddock's defeat (1755)
  • The Battle of Carillon (1758)
  • The Battle of Brooklyn (1776)
  • The Battle of Brandywine (1777)
  • The Battle of Monmouth (1778)
In 1782 the regiment was given a county designation and became the 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot.

During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment fielded two battalions. The 1st Battalion saw service in Spain during 1814 and from 1814 to 1815 in the War against the United States of America. During the latter conflict the battalion fought at:
  • The Battle of Bladensburg (1814)
  • The Battle of North Point (1814)
  • The Battle of New Orleans (1815)
The 2nd Battalion also saw service in Spain, and took part in:
  • The Battle of Fuentes de Onoro (1811)
  • The Siege of Badajoz (1812)
  • The Battle of Salamanca (1812): where the Imperial Eagle of the French 62nd Regiment was captured
It then took part in the Waterloo Campaign and fought at the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo.

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1816.

The regiment then began a period of colonial service. From 1824 to 1826 the regiment took part in the First Anglo-Burmese War, where it helped capture Arakan Province. It then played a part in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–1842), where it took part in the infamous Retreat from Kabul. During the retreat the regiment fought a running battle with the pursuing Afghans, and by the time it reached Gandamak it had been reduced to only forty men. They refused to surrender, and their Last Stand became famous.

Only two officers of the regiment survived the massacre. They were:
  • Captain Thomas Souter, who saved the regimental colours by wrapping them around his waist
  • Surgeon William Brydon, who carried the news of the battle to the British garrison at Jalalabad.
The regiment was completely rebuilt, and in 1854 it was sent to the Crimea as part of the Anglo-French army that was tasked with capturing Sebastopol. Whilst there it took part in:
  • The Battle of the Alma (20th September 1854)
  • The Battle of Inkerman (5th November 1854)
  • The Siege of Sebastopol
Once the Crimean War was over, the regiment embarked on a further period of colonial service, this time in Madras (Chennai), India. During the Second Opium War (1857 – 1862) it helped to capture the Taku Forts (21st August 1860), where Lieutenant Robert Montresor Rogers and Private John McDougall both won the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery. In September 1860 the regiment became part of the Shanghai Garrison before being moved to Hong Kong in November of that year. It remained in Hong Kong until the following October, when it returned to garrison duty in India.

As part of the Childers Reforms of 1881, the 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot was twined with the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot to form the Essex Regiment.


  1. Fascinating stuff there Bob. That picture of the last stand at Gandamark always gives me chills.

  2. Conrad Kinch,

    The thing that always interested me about the 44th was that despite its illustrious history, it was never a 'Royal' regiment until it became part of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

    All the best,