The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) originated from The Trained Bands of London that were reviewed by Queen Elizabeth I in Greenwich Park in 1572. Captain Thomas Morgan selected 300 men to form a company that he took to the Netherlands where it fought against the Spanish. In 1655, the Dutch ordered the English units in Holland to renounce their allegiance to the King of England. The British Ambassador at his own expense arranged for them to be returned to England.
In 1665 King Charles II instructed the units to be formed into a new regiment, The Holland Regiment. He appointed Lt Col Robert Sydney, a man from Kent, to be its first colonel. This regiment became the fourth in the order of precedence behind The Royal Scots (1st), Queen’s (2nd) and Lord High Admiral’s Regiment (3rd). Their uniform consisted of a red tunic with buff lining. The breeches, waistcoat and stockings were also buff.
In 1672, the regiment was given a Royal Warrant allowing it to raise volunteers by beat of drum in the City of London. In those days recruiting parties carried a colour. This is the origin of the privilege that allowed The Buffs to march through the City of London with drums beating, bayonets fixed and colours flying. In 1689 the Lord High Admiral’s Regiment was disbanded and the Holland Regiment took its place as 3rd Regiment of Foot with Prince George of Denmark as its honorary colonel.
The regiment discarded the name of the Holland Regiment and became known as Prince George of Denmark’s Regiment. In 1708 Prince George died and the regiment became known as Argyle’s Regiment after its colonel. The regiment still wore buff facings to their uniforms with buff breeches, waistcoats and stockings and were officially named the Buffs. In 1782 the title East Kent Regiment was added. The regiment was ordered to recruit in the county of Kent, the beginning of the official connection of the regiment with the county.
Over the centuries the regiment has fought in many countries but it was at the Battle of Albuera, during the Peninsular War, where they earned fame and honour. On 16 May 1811 the Buffs were ordered to capture a hill at Albuera from the French. Unable to shake off the enemy by fire, they advanced with the bayonet but were suddenly attacked in the rear by no less than four regiments of French Hussars and Polish Lancers. A dreadful massacre followed. The Buffs fought bravely but the ranks were soon broken by the charging cavalry. Ensign Thomas, who carried the Regimental colour, was called on to surrender after his escort was cut down.
Crying “Only with my life” he was mortally wounded and the colour was captured. Ensign Walsh, carrying the King’s colour, was wounded and captured but Lieutenant Latham rushed forward and seized the colour. A French Hussar seized the flag-staff and struck at Latham with his sabre severing one side of his face and nose. Latham still continued to struggle to protect the colour. A second stroke severed his left arm.
Dropping his sword, he seized the staff and refused to yield, continuing to fight until he was thrown down, trampled on and pierced with lances. At this moment the British cavalry arrived and the French fled. Latham was later found, so badly wounded that he was unrecognisable, with the colour he had torn from the staff inside his tunic. In spite of the severity of his wounds Lieutenant Latham recovered and was presented with a gold medal by his brother officers.
In 1961 The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) amalgamated with The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment to form The Queen’s Own Buffs. In 1966 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment was renamed: The 2nd Battalion The Queen’s Regiment.
It was amalgamated with The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, The Royal Sussex Regiment and The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) to form The Queen's Regiment. In 1992 a new regiment was formed from The Queen’s Regiment and The Royal Hampshire Regiment (37th and 67th) to become The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR)