The Royal Welsh Museum FAQ's
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The Sphinx with the word ‘Egypt’ was awarded as a Battle Honour to both the 23rd and 24th Regiments in July 1802. They were part of a force of 33 British regiments which helped to defeat Napoleon's Army in Egypt in 1801. The Sphinx was later chosen as the centrepiece of the cap badge and the collar badges of the South Wales Borderers. Today, the Sphinx is one of the devices emblazoned on the Regimental Colour of The Royal Welsh.
The Army Reforms of 1782 sought to allocate infantry regiments to specific recruiting areas. The 6th and 24th of Foot were allocated to the County of Warwickshire - they were given the titles 6th (1st Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot and 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot respectively. The reason for the choice of Warwickshire is not known. However, the scheme failed for the 24th as no permanent recruiting base or depot was established in that County. The 24th continued to recruit where best it could. However in 1873, it was given a permanent depot in Brecon and a recruiting area in the border counties of Wales. Six years later, a large number of young men from Wales served in the Anglo-Zulu war. Interestingly, there were only two Warwickshire-born men present at the famous defence of Rorke's Drift.
The film ‘Zulu’ has had a great influence on our understanding of what happened at Rorke's Drift. The role of Frank Bourne was well portrayed by actor Nigel Green and his performance in the film is certainly a memorable one. Frank Bourne himself was a 'high flyer'; a Colour Sergeant at age 24 after a mere 6 years’ service. He very much contributed to the success of Rorke's Drift and was rewarded with a Distinguished Conduct Medal, an annuity of £10 and offered an immediate commission. He declined the commission, but accepted the pension; the same sum as that was paid to the Victoria Cross recipients.
Why does the museum contain artefacts from the Monmouthshire Regiment? Is this regiment related to the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot?
The Army Reforms of 1782 sought to allocate infantry regiments to specific recruiting areas. The 43rd Regiment of Foot was allocated to the County of Monmouth. Later in 1803, the 43rd was given a Light Infantry role. In the reforms of 1881, the 43rd was linked to the 52nd Foot to form the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. This regiment became the 1st Green Jackets in 1958. Its regimental archives are held in the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester. The Monmouthshire Regiment (which never had a link with the 43rd Foot) was formed in 1908 out of the three Volunteer Battalions of the South Wales Borderers that were recruited in Monmouthshire. The Monmouthshire Regiment was the territorial force element of the South Wales Borderers. The Monmouthshire Regiment fought with distinction during the two World Wars but disappeared in the Territorial Army reforms of 1967. The Regimental Museum in Brecon is the custodian of the artefacts and archives of the Monmouthshire Regiment.
Who were the defenders of Rorke's Drift? Is there a list? I think I have a relative who was there on 22/23 January 1879.
Nominal rolls of those actually present during the fighting at Rorke's Drift on the 22/23 January 1879 exist. One was known to have been compiled by Lieutenant Chard, and the other by Colour Sergeant Bourne.
Why is there so little about Lieutenant John Chard in the museum? After all, he commanded the mission station at Rorke's Drift
John Chard was the senior officer at Rorke's Drift and naturally took command. He was a Royal Engineer. The Regimental Museum in Brecon commemorates the history and soldiers of the 24th Regiment, South Wales Borderers. More on John Chard can be found at the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham.
The March song was ‘The Men of Harlech’, which is the Quick March of The Royal Welsh today. The 24th Regiment, who defended Rorke’s Drift, officially adopted the tune a year after the famous battle. It is doubtful whether the soldiers of the 24th actually sang this tune at Rorke's Drift - although we would like to think they did - as the Regiment Quick March in 1879 was ‘The Warwickshire Lads’.
By Army Order No 56 of February 1920, a long standing dispute between the War Office and both former regiments (Royal Welch Fusiliers and Welch Regiment) was finally resolved when these regiments were allowed to change the method of spelling their titles to the 'Old English' version 'Welch' which had been used unofficially from a long time. A cap badge with the spelling 'Welsh' is almost certain to date from the First World War.
Both 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) and 41st (The Welch) Regiment marched with a goat at their head. It was apparently a custom of some long standing in the 23rd Foot, when in 1777 when Major Robert Donkin reported that his regiment marched with a goat at their head. Queen Victoria gave 23rd Foot their first ‘royal’ goat in 1844. The first goat of the 41st (The Welch) Regiment was adopted during the Crimea War (1855) though the reason why a goat was chosen as a mascot is obscure. The first goat from the royal herd presented to 41st Foot was in 1862. The 24th (later South Wales Borderers) never adopted the goat as a mascot. On amalgamation in 1969, the last goat of the Welch Regiment was re-named Taffy I of the Royal Regiment of Wales. His official name on the battalion ration register was ‘Gwilym Jenkins’. Whenever possible the goats are selected from the royal herd which was started at Windsor in the time of Queen Victoria, and is now located at Whipsnade Animal Park. In recent times, when no goat was available from the royal herd, the Queen has been pleased to present a wild goat from the mountains of North Wales, where herds still exist, particularly on the Great Orme at Llandudno. This herd is known to have some Windsor blood in its ancestry.
Drawing upon the traditions of the antecedent regiments, in The Royal Welsh, the goat of the 1st Battalion is named ‘Billy’, 2nd Battalion ‘Taffy’ and in the 3rd Battalion ‘Shenkin’. The term ‘mascot’ was never used in The Royal Welch Fusiliers. The goats of 2nd and 3rd Battalions are dressed in a green coat with gold piping and regimental crest whilst the goat of the 1st Battalion remains undressed.
In the days when soldiers had pigtails they were worn powdered and greased. In order to protect their jackets the pigtails were enclosed in what was known as a ‘queue bag’. In 1808 hair was ordered to be cut close to the neck and the queue was abolished. The officers of the Royal Welch Fusiliers decided to retain the ribbons with which the queue was tied, and, using an old slang term for a wig, they were known as the ‘Flash’. In 1834, when the 23rd Foot arrived in England, an inspecting General complained about the ‘superfluous decoration on the collar of the coat’ and the matter was referred to the King. King William IV was pleased to approve the Flash ‘as a peculiarity whereby to mark the dress of that distinguished regiment’. Until 1900 it was worn only by officers, warrant officers and colour sergeants of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, but in that year its use was extended to all ranks when in full dress. In 1924 it was approved for wear on ceremonial parades and when walking out. Today, the Flash is worn by all who are ‘badged’ The Royal Welsh, including regular, territorial and cadet battalions. It is worn at the back, sewn inside the collar, in Full Dress, No 1 and No 2 dress, and consists of five black ribbons; the soldier’s flash is 153mm (6 inches) long; that for officers and warrant officers is 230mm (9 inches) inches long.
The custom of wearing the white hackle (or more correctly ‘a plume’) originated when, in 1702, the 23rd Foot was formed into a regiment of fusiliers and a grenadier company style head-dress was introduced throughout the regiment. It was officially sanctioned in 1789 when the colour of the hackle was laid down as white. After the introduction of the blue beret, it was, in 1950, authorised as a distinction in fusilier regiments. It is worn by Non Commissioned Officers and Soldiers of The Royal Welsh when in No 1 Dress (blue beret) and with a khaki beret when in No 2 Dress and in combat/training dress. The hackle is not worn when soldiers are wearing Gore-Tex or camouflage cream, nor it is worn by officers and warrant officers when in No. 1, No. 2 and No. 8 (combat dress).