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A Brief History of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps 1755-1915

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A Brief History of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps 1755-1915
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Author(s): Edward Hutton
Date Published: 2012/04
Page Count: 128
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-829-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-828-6

Riflemen in green

Popular historical fiction has brought focus to Wellington’s Green jacketed riflemen. The hero of those novels is, as most readers know, a member of the 95th regiment. The subject of this book concerns the history of that regiment’s brother, and indeed senior, Rifle corps, the 60th. The two regiments can be differentiated by the red collar and cuffs of the 60th. This regiment had its origins in the Seven Years War as it was fought in the New World—the French and Indian War—when those in the regiment were principally hardy backwoodsmen well suited to fighting in the terrain of the eastern woodlands. Styled the ‘Royal Americans’ it recruited among American colonists who were, of course, fighting to preserve their homelands. The regiment, which now forms part of ‘The Rifles’ in the modern day British army, fought with distinction throughout the Napoleonic Wars particularly under Wellington in the Iberian peninsula. The many small wars of the 19th century during Queen Victoria’s long reign provided ample opportunity for the 60th’s particular style of skirmishing warfare. This short, historical overview enables students of British rifle regiments to gain an appreciation of the services of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (as it was styled at the time of first publication of this book) up to> Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

We were to hold the trench when taken, and to ‘consolidate our position.’ To this end D Company, under Captain Poë, was told off to do the attacking, and was to go right on and out the other end with what was left of the Company, making room for B and C (under Major Bircham and Captain Hunter), who were to hold the trench, and carried shovels and sandbags for that purpose. A Company (under Lieutenant Lawrence) was left in reserve. A party of twelve bomb throwers, under an officer, went with the leading Company. The attack was to be supported by the fire of two brigades R.F.A., and the first gun was to be the signal for the advance. The battalion filed along in the order named into the trench, from which the attack was to be launched.<br>
It was a full moon, although there were luckily a few clouds about. When it was judged that about two platoons would have got into No. 21, the signal was given to the guns to open fire at 12.30. Punctual to the second we saw the first flashes in the distance behind, followed by the welcome scream overhead, and then the flash of the burst beautifully low on the enemy’s main parapet. It was known that the enemy had a machine gun trained on the point where we had to leave the trench, and soon we heard the deadly sound of it, followed by a roar of musketry and more machine guns, some of them, we hoped, our own on the Mound, and over all the boom and crack of the field guns and bursting shrapnel.<br>
A man was hit in the leg close to us, and there were sounds of others having been wounded further forward, and the line was moving on very slowly, too slowly for it to be good. Presently Barker came limping back, hit in the foot when trying to get out of the German trench, and he told us that we had progressed about eighty yards down the trench, and were held up by a sort of barrier, but that Poë and Eden were getting the men out of the trench to go round it, and all seemed well. There was still a forward movement going on, so we waited till the middle of C Company was level with us, and then went on as fast as the ground would allow across the 100 yards to No. 21 past the line of crouching men, between two dead corporals, who were propped up like sentries marking the entrance, and into the indescribable filth of the trench.<br>
The parapet was very low and very thin, and the trench was full of corpses of every Regiment, and nationality and age, and in a variety of attitudes, some still grasping their rifles with fixed swords projecting from the mud, ready to stick one in the leg as one floundered through the mud. The only way to prevent oneself sinking up to the waist in some places was to step on the corpses. Having recovered our breath here, we rushed across the intervening ten yards into the German trench, and found it so full of men that it was impossible to pass along it. So we got out and crawled along until we found a gap in the wire, and then dropped down into it again. The trench was about five feet deep, well boarded and revetted, and had a strong sandbag parapet, with loop-holes on the ground line.<br>
We walked on until we came to a certain corner, about eighty yards along, and here we found Bircham at the head of his Company and about six of D Company. Thirty yards beyond the corner was the barrier, a sort of fort in the trench, very strong with sandbags and wire, and between it and the corner there was a heap of thirty of our dead and wounded. Anything that showed round the corner got a bullet, and as I stood behind Bircham more than one missed his head by inches, and one went through the shoulder of his coat. It was clearly impossible to do anything here, for almost the whole of D Company had disappeared, and with them, as I feared, Poë, Lagden, and Eden.<br>
No one could advance round the corner in the narrow trench, while anyone who attempted to get out and go round was instantly shot by rifle and machine-gun fire from the enemy’s main trench some fifty yards in front. So we decided to go and find if anything could be heard from our own trenches further along to the right, for I still hoped that some of D Company might have gone on beyond the barrier. We went back the way we had come, passing Poole, still disdaining to lie down, and swinging his stick as if nothing in the world was going on. We heard nothing, and so came back again: we settled to go and talk to the general on the telephone, after ordering C Company back under cover.
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