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British Cemetery Elvas

British Cemetery in Elvas

The Royal Fusiliers

Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Myers commanded the British Fusilier Brigade at the Battle of Albuera on 16 May 1811. The brigade was composed of one battalion of the 23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers) and two battalions of the 7th Foot (Royal Fusiliers). "This," said Sir William Myers "will be a proud day for the Fusiliers."

"In the final counter attack by the Fusilier Brigade, Myers was killed, Cole (the Divisional Commander), the three colonels, EllisBlakeney and Hawkeshaw, fell wounded and the fuzileer battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships.  But suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed on their terrible enemies and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights."   William Napier concludes his description of the battle saying "the mighty mass gave way and like a loosened cliff went headlong down the steep.  The rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and fifteen hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill!"

The Royal Welch Fusiliers was founded in 1689 to oppose James II and war with France. The regiment was numbered as the 23rd Regiment of Foot. It was one of the first regiments to be awarded a fusilier title and became known as The Welch Regiment of Fusiliers in 1702. It became the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1713 in honour of its service in the War of the Spanish Succession.

It is one of the oldest regiments in the British army, hence the archaic spelling of the word Welch instead of Welsh. In the Boer War and throughout World War I the army officially called the regiment The Royal Welsh Fusiliers but "Welch" was officially restored to the Regiment's title in 1920. It was one of the few line infantry regiments not to be amalgamated until 2006, when it joined with the Royal Regiment of Wales (RRW) to become 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh. 

Soldiers of the Royal Welch Fusiliers are distinguishable by the flash, consisting of five overlapping black silk ribbons (seven inches long for soldiers and nine inches long for officers) on the back of the uniform jacket at neck level. This is a legacy of the days when it was normal for soldiers to wear pigtails. This practice was discontinued in 1808 but the Royal Welch Fusiliers were serving in America when the order to discontinue the use of the flash was issued. Upon their return they decided to retain the ribbons and were granted this special concession by the King. The Army Board attempted to remove the flash during the Great War saying that it would help the Germans identify the unit. The King refused, stating that "The enemy will never see the backs of the Royal Welch Fusiliers". As a fusilier regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers wears a hackle, a plume of white feathers worn on headdress and mounted behind the cap-badge.

The regiment has traditionally had a goat mascot. The tradition dates from at least 1775 and possibly from the regiment's formation. The goat is given full honours of an officer by all ranks and attended to by the Goat Major.

Lt. Henry Ireson Jones of the 7th Foot was severely wounded at the Battle of Albuera and died of his wounds that summer. He may be buried in the British Cemetery, Elvas. The London Gazette published the news of his death and The Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1812, printed his obituary: Lately … At Elvas, of wounds received  at the battle of Albuera, aged 20, universally beloved and sincerely regretted, Lieut. Henry Ireson Jones, of the 9th Fusileers [sic]; a most promising officer, possessing the highest principles of honour and liberality.  Died Portugal, 7 Aug. 1811.

See also:

The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum

The Fusilier Museum London