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44th Regiment of Foot
44th Foot Colours.png
Colours of the 44th Regiment of Foot
Active 1741–1881
Country  Kingdom of Great Britain (1741–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1881)
Branch  British Army
Role Infantry
Size One battalion (two battalions 1803–1816)
Garrison/HQ Warley Barracks, Brentwood
Nickname(s) The Fighting Fours
Colours Old colours of the 44th are laid up at Essex Regiment Chapel.
Engagements Jacobite rising
French and Indian War
American Revolutionary War
French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
First Anglo-Burmese War
First Anglo-Afghan War
Crimean War
Second Opium War
James Long
Charles Staveley

The 44th Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment in the British Army, raised in 1741. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot to form the Essex Regiment in 1881.


Early history

Soldier of 44th regiment, 1742

Colonel Sir Peter Halkett, killed while commanding the regiment at the Battle of the Monongahela in July 1755, by Hans Hysing

The regiment was raised by Colonel James Long as James Long's Regiment of Foot in 1741.[1] The regiment saw active service at the Battle of Prestonpans in September 1745 during the Jacobite rising.[2] Ranked as the 55th Regiment of the Line in 1747, the regiment was renamed the 44th Regiment of Foot in 1751.[1] It embarked for North America in January 1755 for service in the French and Indian War[3] and took part in the Battle of the Monongahela[4] where Colonel Sir Peter Halkett was killed while commanding the regiment.[5] The regiment went on to fight at the Battle of Carillon in July 1758[6] and the Battle of Fort Niagara in July 1759[7] before returning home in 1765.[8]

The regiment returned to North America landing in Boston in 1775 for service in the American Revolutionary War.[9] It saw action at the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776,[10] the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777[11] and the Battle of Germantown in October 1777[12] as well as the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778.[13] In May 1780 the regiment moved to Canada[14] returning home in September 1786.[15] In 1782, most British regiments of foot were given county designations, and the regiment became the 44th (the East Essex) Regiment of Foot.[1]

Napoleonic Wars

A French Imperial Eagle similar to that captured at the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812

The regiment was sent to the West Indies in 1795 for service in the French Revolutionary Wars and took part in the recapture Martinique and Saint Lucia which, following the peace treaty of 1763, had been returned to France, and the attack on Guadeloupe.[16] After returning to England, it took part in the expedition to Egypt in 1800 and fought at the Battle of Alexandria in March 1801[17] the Siege of Cairo in May 1801[17] and the Siege of Alexandria in September 1801.[18] It returned home at the end of the year.[19] The regiment was increased in strength to two battalions in 1803.[1]

The 1st battalion embarked for North America in 1814 for service in the War of 1812[20] and saw action at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814,[21] the Battle of North Point in September 1814[22] and the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.[23]

Meanwhile the 2nd battalion landed in Portugal in September 1810[24] and took part in the Battle of Sabugal in April 1811,[25] the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro in May 1811[26] and the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812.[27] The battalion went on to fight at the Siege of Badajoz in March 1812.[28] At the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812 Lieutenant William Pearce of the 2nd battalion captured the French Imperial Eagle of the French 62nd Regiment.[29] The battalion also took part in the Siege of Burgos in September 1812 and then returned home in June 1813.[30] The battalion embarked for Holland later in the year and saw action at the Battle of Quatre Bras[31] and the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.[32]

First Anglo-Burmese War

A view of the City of Arakan, captured by the regiment in March 1825

The regiment embarked for India in 1822[33] and was deployed to Burma for service in the First Anglo-Burmese War in early 1825. It formed part of an army which advanced up the River Irrawaddy to the Kingdom of Ava[34] and then, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Shelton, captured the city of Arakan in March 1825.[35] After suffering many casualties from fever the regiment was withdrawn and returned to India in 1826.[36]

First Anglo-Afghan War

Last stand of the 44th at Gandamak, painted by William Barnes Wollen

Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler, Remnants of an Army, 1879, Tate Gallery.

The regiment proceeded to Kabul in 1840 for service in the First Anglo-Afghan War.[37] Major-General William Elphinstone decided to order a retreat from the city. The regiment, which formed the rearguard for the retreat, became engaged in a continuous running battle in thick snow, with Ghilji forces. On 13 January 1842, matters came to a head when the Ghilji forces surrounded the remaining British troops on a rocky hill near the village of Gandamak. The only person to actually complete the journey was Surgeon William Brydon who reached the British garrison at Jalalabad on the afternoon of the same day.[38] The Ghilji forces announced that a surrender could be arranged but the men of the 44th did not trust them and, making a last stand against the Ghilji forces, were massacred by them.[39] The only other survivor was Captain Thomas Souter, who had wrapped himself in the regimental colours and was taken prisoner, the Ghilji forces thinking he was a high ranking military official.[40]

Crimean War

The 44th Foot was reconstituted and landed at Varna in summer 1854 for service in the Crimean War.[41] It served under General Sir Richard England in the 3rd Division and saw action at the Battle of the Alma in September 1854,[42] the Battle of Inkerman in November 1854[43] and the Siege of Sevastopol in winter 1854. At Sevastopol it took part in the capture of the cemetery.[44][45]

Second Opium War

Interior of Angle of North Fort Immediately after Its Capture, 21 August 1860

The regiment embarked for China in 1860 for service in the Second Opium War.[46] It took in the capture of the Taku Forts on 21 August 1860 as part of the Anglo-French forces under command of General Sir James Hope Grant.[47] The regiment was in the vanguard of the assault on the North Taku entrenchments. The attacking force crossed a series of ditches and bamboo-stake palisades under heavy Chinese musketry, and tried to force entrance by the main gate. When this effort was unsuccessful, an assault party climbed the wall to an embrasure and forced entry to the fort. The first British officer to enter the fort was Lieutenant Robert Montresor Rogers who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery. He was closely followed by Private John McDougall who was also awarded the VC.[48] The regiment left China in October 1861 and returned to India.[49]


As part of the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, where single-battalion regiments were linked together to share a single depot and recruiting district in the United Kingdom, the 44th was linked with the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot, and assigned to district no. 44 at Warley Barracks near Brentwood.[50] On 1 July 1881 the Childers Reforms came into effect and the regiment amalgamated with the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot to form the Essex Regiment.[1]

Following the release of the 1957 Defence White Paper which saw the British Army undergo restructuring yet again, the Essex Regiment was merged with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment.[51] This regiment existed for only a small number of years as the 1966 Defence White Paper was released and saw the British Army undergo even more transitions, resulting in the 1st East Anglian Regiment, 2nd East Anglian Regiment, 3rd East Anglian Regiment and The Royal Leicestershire Regiment being merged together to create one larger regiment - the Royal Anglian Regiment.[52] The Royal Anglian Regiment still exists now and is composed of three battalions - two regular and one reserve. The legacy of the 44th Regiment of Foot is upheld to this day as the 3rd East Anglian Regiment became the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment.[53]

In fiction

The capture of a French Imperial Eagle by the fictional South Essex Regiment at the Battle of Talavera in Bernard Cornwell's novel Sharpe's Eagle is based upon the action by the 44th Regiment. The primary historical difference, as admitted in Cornwell's historical postscript, is that no Eagle was captured during the battle.[54]

Battle Honours

The battle honours of the regiment were:[1]

Victoria Crosses

Victoria Crosses were awarded to the following men of the regimant.

Colonels of the Regiment

Colonels of the regiment were:[1]

  • 1741–1743: Col. James Long
  • 1743–1751: Col. John Lee

The 44th Regiment of Foot - (1751)

The 44th (East Essex) Regiment - (1782)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "44th (the East Essex) Regiment of Foot [UK]". Retrieved 2016-12-25. 
  2. Carter, p. 6
  3. Carter, p. 9
  4. Carter, p. 10
  5. Carter, p. 12
  6. Carter, p. 16
  7. Carter, p. 20
  8. Carter, p. 23
  9. Carter, p. 24
  10. Carter, p. 25
  11. Carter, p. 27
  12. Carter, p. 29
  13. Carter, p. 30
  14. Carter, p. 31
  15. Carter, p. 32
  16. Carter, p. 33
  17. 17.0 17.1 Carter, p. 43
  18. Carter, p. 44
  19. Carter, p. 45
  20. Carter, p. 52
  21. Carter, p. 54
  22. Carter, p. 57
  23. Carter, p. 60
  24. Carter, p. 67
  25. Carter, p. 68
  26. Carter, p. 69
  27. Carter, p. 71
  28. Carter, p. 72
  29. Carter, p. 77
  30. Carter, p. 81
  31. Carter, p. 93
  32. Carter, p. 101
  33. Carter, p. 114
  34. Carter, p. 116
  35. Carter, p. 120
  36. Carter, p. 126
  37. Carter, p. 127
  38. Carter, p. 150
  39. Carter, p. 151
  40. Carter, p. 154
  41. Carter, p. 171
  42. Carter, p. 173
  43. Carter, p. 181
  44. "The Siege of Sevastopol". British Battles. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  45. "Sir Charles William Dunbar Staveley". Staveley Genealogy. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  46. Carter, p. 205
  47. Carter, p. 209
  48. Carter, p. 210
  49. Carter, p. 215
  50. "Training Depots". Retrieved 16 October 2016. 
  51. Merged regiments and new brigading — many famous units to lose separate identity, The Times, July 25, 1957.
  52. Swinson, Arthur (1972). A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London: The Archive Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-85591-000-3. 
  53. "Royal Anglian Regiment". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  54. Cornwell, p. 327–8


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