Colours Of The Royal Surrey Regiments Of Militia


Tracing the history of these famous Corps is difficult, as early records are scanty. Of the three Surrey Regiments, the First could trace its descent from the Fyrd of Saxon times, from the Trained Bands of the Tudors and the Stuart Militia. The earliest document in the Public Record Office relating to the Surrey county force is an incomplete muster roll of 1522 (Henry (VIII). In 1587, the Surrey Militia was present, with 1,900 all ranks, in the camp at Tilbury where forces were being assembled to repel a landing from the Armada. Contingents furnished during Elizabeth I’s reign served overseas, under the Earl of Essex in the Low Countries and France, at the relief of Calais, and at the capture of Cadiz in Spain. Under James I the Trained Bands were first reorganised as Militia. The establishment of standing forces in peacetime under the Protectorate resulted in adoption of the standard red coat in place of the mix of coloured coats, worn at the whim of colonels: green for example, is mentioned in a record of 1643. A preserved muster roll of 1697 shows the then Duke of Norfolk in command with fifteen companies, each of around 150 men, stationed at Croydon, Reigate, Guildford, Kingston and other Surrey towns.

It was the practice to disembody Militia regiments during periods of peace, and for nearly a century up to 1757 the regiments in Surrey were practically untrained and disorganised, until an Act of Parliament of that year reestablished the force. Responsibility for raising personnel rested with Lord – Lieutenants, one of the many causes of the Civil Wars. Uniforms now consisted of cocked hat, long red coat with skirts hooked back to show white facings, red waistcoat and breeches with white gaiters. Colours, when held, consisted of a King’s Colour based on the Union, and a white Regimental Colour, usually bearing the arms of the Lord Lieutenant.

The Militia served during the American War on home duties and was commended thus in the General Officer’s Dispatches for its part in quelling the Gordon Riots of 1780:

“And for their deeds and conduct in modern times, our fathers have told us how
during the Gordon Riots, when they, who should have protected the State and
Commonwealth hesitated and looked coolly on, the Surrey Militia cleared with the
bayonet the City bridges, and rolling back the flood of anarchy and rebellion, saved
the metropolis and Empire from pillage and fire.”

Granted the title of ‘Royal’ in 1804, the Militia served for several years in Ireland until 1811 and performed a variety of duties during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1815 large numbers of Surrey Militia recruits fought with Regiments at Waterloo, clothed in the uniform of their own Corps, which included sugar-loaf hats, red jackets, white breeches and black gaiters.

The advent of Napoleon III brought a massive increase in strength and the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia was raised at Kingston-upon-Thames in 1853. With the introduction of territorial affiliations in 1881, the 1st Royal Surrey Militia became the 3rd Battalion of The East Surrey Regiment, and its facings changed from Royal Blue to White. The 2nd Royal Surrey Militia became the 3rd Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment and the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion of the East Surreys.

In 1908 the former Militia battalions formed the Special Reserve under Haldane’s Reforms, and during the Great War supplied large numbers of trained men for the army overseas. Indeed, the BEF in 1914 could not have been brought up to strength and deployed abroad without them.

Disembodied in 1919, the Militia remained on the Regimental orders of battle until all militia regiments and special reserve battalions were formally disbanded under Army Order 47 of 1953.


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