The Colours of The East Surrey Regiment
(and its forebears the 31st and 70th of Foot)
Thirty-First Regiment 1848-1864
These Colours, presented by Prince George, Duke of Cambridge at Dublin on 19th May 1848, were the first issued to the Regiment in Queen Victoria’s long reign. They incorporated the changes laid down in the 1844 Regulations, in which the First, or King’s Colour, was to be called ‘The Royal’ (until 1892 when changed to ‘Queen’s), and the second was now entitled ‘Regimental’. The size of Colours was altered to six foot flying, by five foot, six inches deep, in 1855. These Colours appear to be of the six foot six inches flying, by six foot two inches deep size. The facing Colour of the Regimental Colour is buff. The central design of this Regimental Colour has the county title on a red ground, a circle within the Union Wreath of Roses, Thistles and Shamrocks, and the battle honours authorised in 1847.
These Colours had a comparatively uneventful life compared with their famous Sikh predecessors. The Thirty-First arrived in the Crimea in May 1855, and the new Colours were first carried in action at the first battle of Sebastopol a month later. After the Crimea, the Regiment served in the Mediterranean, South Africa and India, and saw action in the fighting leading up to the capture of the Taku Forts in China in 1860, and against the Taiping rebels in 1862.
They were retired in 1864, and laid up in St Mary’s Church, Huntingdon, three years later over the memorial to those of the 31st who fell in the Crimea. It was appropriate that they hung in St Mary’s, as they constituted one of the few links with the County of Huntingdon, whose name was added to the Regimental Line Number in 1782. They were netted in 1926. There is a photograph of these Colours in The East Surrey Journal for November, 1931, and a reproduction of a contemporary print in Dino Lemonfides British Infantry Colours. On redecorating the church in the 1970s, the Church Council decided they no longer wanted these venerable relics. A faculty was therefore obtained for their removal. The Colours, still affixed to their original pikes with spear-heads, were in a bad way, although the Regimental Colour showed the central device and all battle honours, save one, in excellent condition.
Great concern and interest was shown by the Sergeants’ Mess of 1st Queen’s, and CSM Paddy Ryan retrieved the Colours from Huntingdon. The Regimental Colour was restored at the expense and initiative of the Sergeants of 1st Queen’s and found a home in their Mess, beautifully cased and displayed, with the original pike framed above.