The 85th Regiment : History 1759 - 1881
The 85th regiment was originally raised in 1759 in Shrewsbury Castle. It was the first actual regiment of Light Infantry to be raised in the British Army.
The raising of the 85th Regiment (1759)
A soldier of the 85th in 1759
The original 85th Regiment was raised as “the Royal Volontiers” by Col. John Crawford in Shrewsbury Castle in 1759; it was the first actual regiment of Light Infantry to be raised in the British army.
Its first active service came during the Seven Years’ War (1756 -63) when it took part in operations against the island of Belle-Ile off Brittany in 1761 and in Portugal in 1763. Its never fulfilled its originally intended function - service in the woodlands of North America
The 85th was disbanded on the conclusion of the war in 1763 and a general reduction of the army.
The re-raising of the 85th in 1779
The 85th was re-formed in 1779 as “the Westminster Volunteers” during the American Revolutionary War and was sent to garrison various islands in the West Indies.
Decimated by disease in Jamaica, what had been described as “one of the finest corps that ever left the shores of England” was reduced to 71 men in two years; sent back to England in 1782, the 85th was disbanded in 1783.
The French Wars of 1793-1815
An officer of the 85th in 1808
Raised for the third time in 1793 as “the Bucks Volunteers”, a new 85th played a distinguished part in the long French Wars of 1793-1815
After extensive service in Flanders, on Madeira and in Jamiaca, the 85th served through the Peninsular War in Portugal, Spain and France between 1811 and 1814.
Designated and retrained as Light Infantry in 1808, the 85th were present at the major actions of Fuentes d’Onor in 1811, at Vittoria in 1813, fought throughout the Pyrenees operations in 1813 and followed the retreating enemy army into France itself in 1814.
The 85th in North America - Washington and New Orleans 1814-15
The Burning of Washington, August 1814
When the regiment had been brought up to strength, it was sent in 1814 to the United States as part of General Ross’s army destined for operations in Chesapeake Bay.
The 85th took part in the victory at Bladensburg in August 1814, capturing two American colours (now on display in the Regimental Museum) and then entered Washington with Ross’s army. The major public buildings in Washington, newly designated as the US capital, were burned down during this occupation.
Following the British repulse at Baltimore, where Ross was killed, the 85th was sent southwards to join the army under General Packenham which was to attack New Orleans.
The 85th played a distinguished part in the battle on January 8th 1815, capturing American gun positions across the Mississippi, but joined the general retreat when British attacks were repulsed and the battle lost.
The 85th in the 19th Century.
85th regiment : Other Ranks' Albert shako plate.
In token of its service during the French Wars, the 85th was designated “the Duke of York’s Light Infantry” in 1815, with the motto “Aucto Splendore Resurgo” (“I rise again in increased splendour”) in token of its numerous re-formations.
In 1821, after its officers defended King George IV during riots in Brighton, the 85th was designated “the King’s Light Infantry”.
For the next fifty years, the 85th saw little active service, being posted to relatively peaceful areas like Malta, Gibraltar, Ireland, Canada, the West Indies and South Africa. From 1856-61, they were on the frontiers of the Cape Colony and in 1868 were ordered to India.
On the outbreak of the Afghan War in 1878, the services of the 85th were not called upon, but when the campaign was renewed following the murder of the British resident in Kabul, Sir Louis Cavagnari, in September 1879, the 85th was ordered to the seat of war. However, they played little active role in operations against the Afghans, being largely employed on routine garrison and convoy escort duties on the frontier. Their most significant operation was against the Zaimusht, a troublesome frontier tribe whose capital, Zawa, was destroyed in 1879 by a column which included the 85th.
The regiment was sent to Natal in South Africa in 1881 but the brief 1st Boer War was over by the time they arrived and they shortly afterwards returned to England.
A new Regiment : The King's Shropshire Light Infantry
The 85th (King's) Light Infantry was amalgamated with the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment in 1881 to become the 2nd Battalion of the new King's Shropshire Light Infantry.