Colours of The Royal Surrey Regiments of Militia

2nd Royal Surrey Militia Colours

Figure 29The 2nd Surrey was raised in 1758 as a consequence of the Militia Act of 1756. Its first Colours were granted in response to a request by Lord Onslow, Colonel of the Regiment and Lord Lieutenant of the County, on 25th June 1759. The First Colour was the Great Union, while the Second Colour was white, bearing in the centre Lord Onslow’s Arms, which are described in Burke’s General Armoury as:

“Argent, fess gules between six Cornish Choughs proper. Crest – an Eagle sable preying on a partridge or, motto over ‘Semper Fidelis’. Motto – “Festina Lente”.

In November 1759 the 2nd Surrey was divided into two battalions each of five companies and on 1st January 1760 Lord Onslow applied for a second stand of Colours for his 2nd Battalion. These were not granted, and the Regiment was reduced to one battalion in 1762.

The old white Colours continued in use until 1798 when new Colours were presented while the Regiment was forming part of the coastal guard against French invasion. The ceremony took place at Ealing Barracks, West Cowes, IOW, with Lieutenants AG Onslow and R Frederick being the Ensigns. The event was reported satirically in a Punch magazine article of the day.

2nd Royal Surrey Militia Colours
Figure 62

This stand of Colours conformed more to the pattern of those held by Regular Regiments. Their size was six feet long and five feet deep with pikes bearing a spear point. The first Colour was again the Great Union, still without the red saltire of St Patrick, and in the centre a Royal Crown with below it a scroll bearing the title “II Royal Surrey Militia” (see figure 63), the Regiment having been honoured by being given the distinction “Royal” and allowed to display the Garter Star as its badge.

The Second Colour was now the blue sheet of a Royal Regiment. In the first canton was the union with a Roman figure II in the centre of the Union. In the centre of the Colour was a red roundel bearing in the centre His Majesty’s royal cipher surrounded by the Regimental title and surmounted by a royal crown. Around this was a union wreath – at this time only of roses and thistles.

These Colours were destroyed by a fire at the Tower of London on 30th December 1841, where they were being stored while the Militia was in temporary abeyance.

Colours of the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia
Figure 63
Colours of the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia

Correspondence exists between Lancaster Herald (the Inspector of Colours) and the Regiment as a result of which new Colours were presented to the Regiment by Viscountess Cranley on 19th May 1854 at the training ground, Woodbridge Road, Guildford. These Colours followed the same scheme as those of 1798, although the size was now reduced to four feet long and three feet nine inches deep. The Union was now in its modern form including the red saltire of St Patrick, and shamrocks were added to the wreath of roses and thistles to form the union wreath. Lastly, the cipher of Queen Victoria replaced that of King George III on the Second Colour, now called ‘Regimental’.

The Regimental history by Colonel John Davis, published in 1877, gives a quaint description of the ceremony – prior to it, Colonel the Earl of Lovelace gave a series of “splendid entertainments” at his mansion at Horley Towers. The officers did likewise at their impromptu mess at the White Hart Hotel. After the warning bugle at two o’clock orders were given that “no person was to be admitted through the gate without a card from the Reverend W Bennett”. Dress was forage caps, arms and accoutrements, and the parade was witnessed by a large assemblage of the neighbourhood.

Two modifications took place in these Colours. First, in 1858, the spear points on the pikes were replaced by royal crests. Secondly, as a result of the part played by the Militia during the Boer War, the Battle Honour SOUTH AFRICA 1900-1902 was emblazoned on the Regimental Colour below the wreath. This was the first and only battle honour won by the Militia Regiments.

As a result of Cardwell’s and later Haldane’s Reforms, the 2nd Surrey became the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of The Queen’s. Along with all regiments of Militia, it remained on the Regimental order of battle, inactive, from 1919 to 1953 when it was disbanded. The Colours appear to have been kept for some years at the Regimental Depot, and subsequently in the Museum. When the Museum moved to Clandon, an unknown stand of Colours was found. The identification of these Colours with the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia was made clear by a label affixed to what were only tattered fragments, and which read “do not unroll”. The reason for this was made clear when inspection revealed that these six foot Colours were paint on silk, and pieces fell off as the pikes were raised from their resting places. When the Regimental Colour was inspected, enough was seen to reveal the design of Colours presented in 1854. The Colour background was of royal blue, the name of the Regiment in a red roundel outlined in gold, surrounding the royal cipher “VR”. Since that time, the Regimental Colour has been permanently unrolled and some restoration has taken place. A stand of Colours for the 3rd Bn The Queen’s was designed, but never made, in 1907.


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