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Coldstream Guards

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1st Battalion, The Coldstream Guards are currently based in Aldershot as part of 12 Mechanised Brigade (12 Mech Bde).


The Coldstream Guards is the oldest serving regular Regiment in the British Army. These pages describe the highlights of the Regiments history and offer you an insight into some of the Customs and traditions formed in the past that exist to this day.


"The town of Coldstream, because the General did it the honour to make it the piece of his residence for some time hath given title to a small company of men whom God hath made instruments of Great Things; and though poor, yet honest as ever corrupt Nature produced into the world, by the no dishonourable name of Coldstreamers." Thomas Gumble 1671

The First 50 Years

Oliver Cromwell, after raising the New Model Army in 1645 to fight against the Royalists, finally defeated them in 1649. This paved the way for the execution of Charles I on 30th January 1649. With the Civil War over, Cromwell held unprecedented power in England. Ireland, however, was still in a state of revolt and Cromwell led a force across the Irish Sea to impose his rule on the country. During the campaign, he became impressed by the military qualities of a certain Colonel George Monck and determined to give him command of his own regiment. Cromwell created a completely new body of men, by taking five companies from the Regiment of George Fenwick and five from the Regiment of Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, then Governor of Newcastle. Both these formations had been raised as part of the New Model Army in 1645. Cromwell formed the new Regiment on 13 August 1650 and gave it the name, Monck's Regiment of Foot. The modern-day Coldstream Guards is directly descended from Monck's Regiment of Foot and is therefore the oldest Regiment in continuous service with the British Army.

Scotland at this time still held great sympathy for the Royalist cause. Charles Stuart, on his return from exile, seized the offer of a Scottish army to help reclaim the throne of England. On hearing this news, Oliver Cromwell, now back from Ireland, marched north, and decisively defeated Charles's army at the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September 1650. Monck's Regiment of Foot took part in the battle under Cromwell. Afterwards, Cromwell ordered a special medal to be struck and awarded to the officers and men of the New Model Army. The Coldstream Guards are the only surviving Regiment to have earned this early example of a campaign medal.

After Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, Charles saw again his opportunity to reclaim the English throne. On 1st January 1660, General Monck assembled a large part of his troops in the little town of Coldstream on the Scottish border and decided to march to London. The march took five weeks and Monck entered the capital on 3rd February for the first time. Despite some opposition to his ideas, Monck managed to break the army's domination of the Government and brought about the election of a freely-chosen parliament, which met on 25th April 1660. One of the first acts of this new Parliament was to vote for the return of the Monarchy.

On 25 May 1660, the King landed at Dover, where General Monck welcomed him. During the journey to London, the King showed his gratitude to General Monck by bestowing on him the Order of the Garter, which is now the basis of the Regimental cap star. On 26 August 1660, Parliament passed an act ordering the disbandment of the entire New Model Army. No exceptions, including General Monck's regiments, were allowed, although one concession was made: they should be the last to disappear.

This concession had far reaching effects. On Sunday, 6 January 1661, two days before Monck's Regiments were to be disbanded, an armed revolt occurred against the King, forcing an alarmed Parliament somewhat reluctantly to call on Monck's Regiment of Foot for help. Monck's men, veterans of a decade of hard campaigning, swiftly quelled the rebels and ended the rioting. A grateful Parliament repealed the order for disbandment. On 14 February 1661, Monck's Regiment of Foot paraded at Tower Hill. The men symbolically laid down their arms and with them their association with the New Model Army. They were immediately ordered to take them up again as Royal troops in the New Standing Army.

The new Regiment received the title of The Lord General's Regiment of Foot Guards and became Household Troops from that moment. A Royal Commission placed them as the second senior Regiment of Household Troops. However, the Regiment, to make its views clear on the injustice of this decision, took as its motto the phrase Nulli Secundus, or Second to None. To this day, the Regiment does not accept that it should ever be referred to as The Second Guards. Monck, who had become the Duke of Albemarle, died in April 1670 and the Lord General's Regiment was conferred upon the Earl of Craven. From this time the Regiment became officially known as the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards.

The Regiment saw much active service over the next few decades. In 1678, it served in Flanders before taking part in the Battle of Sedgemore in 1687, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion. The Regiment sent a detachment of two officers and 130 other ranks to Tangier in 1680 to form part of the King's Battalion stationed there. The Regiment's first Battle Honour immortalized this campaign. After 1688 and the accession to the Throne of William and Mary, the Regiment embarked for Flanders again and took part in the Battle of Walcourt (1689), the Limden campaign (1693) and the Siege of Namur (1695), the latter forming the second Battle Honour. After several further major engagements, the 1st Battalion came home in November 1697 after the signing of the Peace of Ryswick.

The 18th Century

In July 1702, six companies of the Coldstream joined a composite Battalion of Guards sent to Cadiz and Vigo. In July 1704, 400 men of the Coldstream and 200 men of the 1st Guards formed a composite Guards battalion for service in Portugal, seeing action in Gibraltar and Spain as well.

The renewal of the war in Flanders again saw the Regiment on active service and it took part in the Battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. From 1715 to 1742, the Regiment enjoyed its first long spell of peace. This was eventually broken by the dispatch of seven companies to Spain, which culminated in the surrender of Vigo in May 1742. King George II was now on the throne of England and the 1st Battalion, with two other Guards battalions, embarked once more for service in Flanders to support of the cause of Maria Theresa. The Battalion was present at, although not heavily involved in, the Battle of Dettingen, the last in which an English King personally commanded his troops.

The Regiment played a distinguished part in the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. Although it did not result in a Battle Honour, this was one of the most glorious battles ever fought by the Brigade of Guards. The Brigade marched for half a mile under heavy fire to halt thirty yards from the French Guards. The French fired first, doing little damage; the British then fired with deadly effect and decimated the enemy ranks.

The 2nd Battalion proceeded to Flushing in 1747 and joined the Allied Army until after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749. In July 1760, the 2nd Battalion went to Germany with two other Guards battalions to campaigns under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and the Marquis of Granby. It played a distinguished role in the Battle of Wilhelmstal and at the Castle of Arnoneberg. The Battalion returned home in 1763.

In 1776, following the outbreak of the War of lndependence in the American Colonies, the three regiments of Guards under the command of Colonel Mathew of the Coldstream formed a composite force. The Coldstream contingent consisted of 307 men of all ranks. Early in 1777, this force formed two separate battalions with Colonel Mathew elevated to Brigadier. The battalions fought throughout the War and returned home after Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown to a stronger American force of some 20,000 men, including 7000 French troops.

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

As a result of the French Revolution in 1793, Britain joined the confederacy against the Republican Government. Once more the Coldstream 1st Battalion joined the 1st Battalions of the other two Guards Regiments to form a Guards Brigade. The Brigade, consisting of four battalions (the fourth being made up of the Grenadier companies of the three Regiments), embarked for the Continent. The Brigade distinguished itself in subsequent actions, including the sieges of Valenciennes and Lincelles, and in several small engagements and skirmishes of less importance. The Coldstream arrived home in May 1795. In 1799, brigaded with the 1st Battalion 3rd Guards under General Burrard, they embarked again for service in Holland. There they took part in the campaign led by Sir Ralph Abercrombie that ended with the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee.

After taking part in the expedition against Vigo, the 1st Battalion sailed to join the Army in Egypt, once more under the familiar command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie. A series of operations ended with the surrender of the French Army of Occupation in Cairo. The Regiment was awarded the distinctive badge of the Sphinx, superscribed Egypt, for their conspicuous service the campaign that blighted Napoleon's dream of world conquest. The Battalion returned home after a short stay in Malta.

The 1st Battalion was sent with a British Force to [1] in 1805 but returned home in 1806; in 1807, they landed on the Danish coast and took part in the investment of Copenhagen. The Battalion, still in the same brigade, moved to Portugal in January 1809 to join Sir Arthur Wellesley's Army. The Battalion served at the Passage of Douro, the capture of Oporto and the Battle of Talavera as well as the Sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Burgos and San Sebastian, the Battles of Fuentes d'Onor(Fuentes Onoro, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Bidassoa, Nive, Nivelle and the investment of Bayonne.

The 2nd Battalion joined the Walcheren Expedition, where they served as Flank Companies. These companies served under General Graham at Cadiz and fought at the Battle of Barossa. After this, the companies, along with those of the other Regiments of Guards, returned home. In 1813, six companies of the 2nd Battalion proceeded to Holland and took part in the unsuccessful but gallant assault on Bergen-op-Zoom. They stayed garrisoned in Brussels and later at Ath.

When Napoleon escaped to France from Elba, the companies at Ath were reinforced from home by four companies and the Headquarters of the 2nd Battalion, which now made the 2nd Battalion complete. The 2nd Battalion joined the 2nd Guards Brigade and moved with it towards Waterloo. The Duke of Wellington identified the Chateau, or farm complex, of Hougoumont, in the right centre of his defensive line, as one of three key points for breaking up French attacks. He ordered a force consisting of the four light companies from the 1st and 2nd Guards Brigades to occupy and defend Hougoumont, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun, 1st Guards and Lieutenant Colonel James Macdonnell, 2nd Guards.

The French first attacked Hougoumont at 11.00 oclock on 18th June and continued to do so for the next eight hours, creating a battle within a battle. At one desperate moment, a small French detachment succeeding in entering the courtyard but were repulsed by a party of 2nd and 3rd Guardsmen, led by Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell and including Sergeant Graham, who succeeded in closing and holding the courtyard gates shut against further assaults.

The troops in Hougoumont acted as a thorn in the side of Napoleon's left flank throughout the day by causing delay and diversion of forces. It is estimated that the 3,500 British and German soldiers, either in or around Hougoumont, kept over 14,500 French troops at bay. 8,000 French soldiers lost their lives trying to capture the Chateau.

Sergeant Graham, Coldstream Guards and Sergeant Fraser, 3rd Guards each received a special medal for their brave conduct. When a patriotic rector left £500 in his will for the bravest man in England, Wellington, asked to adjuticate in this sensitive issue, nominated Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell for his role in closing the gates at Hougoumont. Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell promptly shared the prize with Sergeant Graham. Today, the Sergeants' Mess of the 1st Battalion remembers Sergeant Graham's gallantry every year during the tradition of Hanging the Brick.

The 2nd Battalion took part in the subsequent occupation of Paris, remaining in France until the summer of 1816. The 1st Battalion went to Portugal in 1827-28 and the 2nd Battalion to Canada during the troubles of 1838-42. The latter campaign, the details of which are now long-forgotten, is well remembered by the Regiment because of the tale of Jacob, a white goose whose head and neck is preserved in Regimental Headquarters, complete with a brass officer's gorget bearing the inscription, Jacob, 2nd Coldstream Guards, Died on Duty. Jacob saved the lives of many Coldstreamers by giving the alarm one night as a band of rebels, intent on a surprise attack, approached the encampment. Jacob returned to London with the 2nd Battalion as a treasured pet and stayed in the Regiment for many years before being run down by a hansom cab outside the Portman Street Barracks. His loyalty is not forgotten and he remains, in the annals of the Regiment, the only example of any animal approaching the status of official mascot.

In 1831, by the sanction of King William IV, the Coldstream adopted the bearskin cap that had previously been worn by the Grenadier companies of the Regiment. A red plume worn on the right side distinguished the Coldstream from other Regiments.

The Victorian Age

The lst Battalion embarked for the Crimea in 1854 and played an important part in the Battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sevastopol. The Treaty of Paris brought peace on March 1856 and the 1st Battalion returned to England in June of that year. Four Coldstreamers- Brevet Majors Goodlake and Conolly and Privates Strong and Stanlake- received the Victoria Cross (which had been instituted in early 1856) on their return.

From 1856 to 1882, the Regiment enjoyed a long period of peace. However, in August 1882, the 2nd Battalion embarked from Ireland to join the Guards Brigade for service in Egypt against the rebels under Arabi Pashi. The Brigade consisted of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, commanded by Major General HRH the Duke of Connaught, KG. The arrival of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards completed the Brigade. The campaign ended after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir and the 2nd Battalion returned home.

Early in 1885, the 1st Battalion embarked for the Suakin Campaign and took part in the actions at Haskin and at Tofrek, returning home in September. From 1885 to 1897, the Regiment was once more left undisturbed by operations or administrative change. In 1897, Parliament sanctioned the addition of a 3rd Battalion to the Regiment. HM Queen Victoria presented New Colours to the new Battalion at Aldershot in July 1898. In 1899, on the outbreak of the Boer War, the 2nd Battalion left for South Africa, and the 1st Battalion also embarked from Gibraltar for the same destination. By November, both Battalions had encamped near the Orange River Station and later played a very distinguished part in the campaign that followed. On the conclusion of peace in May 1902, they arrived home together at Aldershot.

On September 29 1906 the 3rd Battalion left England for Egypt, returning in March 1911.

World War I

On August Bank Holiday 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany and the Coldstream were immediately involved. The 1st Battalion, as part of 1st Guards Brigade, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, as part of 4th Guards Brigade, all moved to France immediately. The Regiment suffered heavily throughout the War: on 29 October 1914 at Gheluvelt, for example, the 1st Battalion suffered such causalities that it had no officers left and only 80 men. Four days later, after reinforcement, it had once more been reduced to no officers and 120 men only. The Regiment took part in many of the Wars most significant engagements, including the Retreat from Mons, the battles at Marne, Aisne and Ypres during 1914 - 15 and those at Loos, the Somme, Ginchy and the 3rd Battle of Ypres in the Wars later stages.

The First World War brought significant change to the Coldstream, including an additional, 4th, Battalion. For instance, from 1915 onwards the Regiment was composed mainly of short service officers and men who had joined for the duration of hostilities but not for a life-long career. The men of the Guards Brigade had always been called Privates but on 22 November 1918 the King granted them the title of Guardsmen as a mark of His Majesty's appreciation and pride of the splendid services rendered by the Brigade of Guards during the War. During the post-war rationalization of the British Army, the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion was disbanded).

Two decades of peace followed the First World War. In 1936 all three Battalions of the Regiment received new Colours from HM King Edward VII, and in the autumn of the same year the 3rd Battalion helped suppress the disorders in Palestine.

World War II

On the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, despite being woefully under-equipped (in common with the rest of the Army), took to the field with the British Expeditionary Force in France. During the following six years the Coldstream fought throughout Europe and North Africa: France 1939 - 40, Egypt 1939 -42, North Africa 1942, Italy 1943 - 45, Normandy to Baltic 1944 - 45. The battles are too numerous to detail in this brief account, but during the War the Regiment served both as dismounted Infantry and as Armoured Battalions (equipped with Sherman and Churchill tanks). Throughout the war they amply lived up to the Regimental motto of Second to None. Two additional battalions, the 4th and 5th, were also raised during the war.

After the German surrender, the Guards Division gave up its armour at a ceremonial parade attended by Field Marshal Montgomery and became part of the Army of Occupation as an Infantry Division in the area of Koln. The 4th and 5th Battalions disbanded in 1946 and distributed their personnel between the newly formed 1st and 2nd Guards Training Battalions. The 2nd Battalion arrived home in September 1946 from Trieste where it had been since the German surrender in Italy in May 1945.

The Post-War Years

In the autumn of 1946, the Guards Division also disbanded. The 1st Battalion came home to the barracks at Pirbright. In 1947, volunteers from the Brigade of Guards trained as parachute troops, with the Coldstream contributing five officers and 150 other ranks. This Guards contingent eventually became the No 1(Guards) Independent Company The Parachute Regiment.

Full ceremonial dress was re-introduced in the summer of 1948 (khaki had been worn throughout the war years), but the old Guard Order of Slade-Wallace equipment and folded cape gave way to the waist belt and bayonet frog only.

The 2nd Battalion sailed on September 5th 1948 with the 2nd Guards Brigade to the Far East and subsequently took part in the operations against the Communists in Northern Malaya. The 1st and 3rd Battalions deployed on peacekeeping duties in Palestine from 1946 - 1948. The 3rd Battalion was placed in suspended animation in 1959.

Since then the Coldstream have been engaged in keeping the peace in a number of locations including Kenya from 1959 - 1962, Aden in 1964, Mauritius in 1965, Cyprus in 1974 as part of the UN, and on numerous occasions in Northern Ireland. The 1st Battalion was deployed to the Gulf from London in 1990 and served in Bosnia in 1993-4 in an Armoured Infantry peacekeeping role.

In 1993, the 2nd Battalion was also placed in suspended animation as a result of defence cutbacks. No 7 Company now carry the Colours of the 2nd Battalion.

External links

The Coldstream Guards webpage