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The Royal Green Jackets

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (43rd & 52nd),  The Kings Royal Rifle Corps (60th) and The Rifle Brigade (95th) were amalgamated in 1966 to form The Royal Green Jackets.

These three British Infantry regiments share a history and tradition as pioneers and innovators. They began in the eighteenth century to improve tactics and training, mobility and marksmanship, equipment, personnel-management and individual initiative. They were the first to fire a more accurate rifle than a musket and to react more quickly to bugle calls for the open order tactics that replaced rigid squares. Their motto is 'Swift and Bold'.

The regiment was classed as a 'rifle' regiment, having its lineage in the regiments of foot that were equipped with the first Baker rifles. Traditionally, rifle regiments wore rifle green tunics, an early form of camouflage, instead of the red jackets worn by line infantry. Hence the regimental name. As they were used as shock troops and marksmen, they had to get to the front of the battle as fast as possible. Therefore the RGJ marches at 140 paces per minute whereas other regiments march at just 120. The RGJ's lowest rank (after 'recruit') is Rifleman (Rfn), rather than Private (Pte), as in other regiments.

The regiment carried no colours. As skirmishers and sharpshooters, they did not need to identify their fellows on the battlefield. The battle honours of the Royal Green Jackets were therefore worn on the regimental cap badge. Green Jackets were issued with short swords instead of bayonets as the Baker rifles were shorter than the traditional musket. With the sword fitted to the rifle, the overall weapon was the same length as a musket with bayonet attached. The RGJ still refer to their bayonets as 'swords'. The Royal Green Jackets have won 56 Victoria Crosses, more than any other unit.

The Royal Green Jackets joined the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, The Light Infantry and The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry in 2007 to form The Rifles - The British Army's Rifle Regiment. The Maltese Cross cap badge of the RGJ was adopted as the belt badge of The Rifles and carries the battle honours. 

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (43rd & 52nd)

Great Britain was often at war with France during the 18th century, both on the Continent and throughout the colonies. The British Army was expanded and reduced to suit the needs of the moment. In 1741, the 54th Regiment of infantry was raised, with its headquarters at Winchester. Many regiments were disbanded in 1748, but the 54th, garrisoned at Minorca, was just renumbered and became the 43rd. In 1755 another 54th Regiment was raised and based at Coventry. It was renumbered the 52nd a year later. In 1757, the 43rd moved to North America as part of Wolfe's force that captured Quebec. The 52nd joined them during the American War of Independence.

Infantry battalions began to include a light company of men chosen for tasks needing rapid reactions. In 1803, the 43rd and 52nd were chosen to form the first Corps of Light Infantry and joined with the 95th Rifles (later The Rifle Brigade) to constitute the Light Brigade under the command of Sir John Moore. Moore has been described as 'the very best trainer of troops that England has ever possessed'. His insistence on absolute professionalism and mutual respect between officers and men was to create a formation whose contribution was crucial to Wellington's victories in the Peninsular War and whose traditions survive in The Royal Green Jackets today. 

The Peninsular War 

When Napoleon's armies invaded Spain and threatened Lisbon in 1808, the 43rd and 52nd were in Wellesley's force sent to oppose them. All four future Green Jacket regiments fought at Vimeiro, the victory which forced the French to evacuate Portugal. When Sir John Moore succeeded to the command and advanced into Spain, two battalions of each regiment were in his army and, with the 95th, played a distinguished part in forming the rearguard when the army was forced to retreat in mid-winter to Corunna. Moore was killed in the final battle but his army was able to embark and return to England. The following year the reconstituted Light Brigade returned to the Peninsula under Robert Craufurd, landing at Lisbon. Hearing that their support was urgently needed in Spain, they set out on a forced march of 250 miles to join Wellington's army at Talavera. With the addition of two battalions of Portuguese light infantry, the Brigade grew into the Light Division and for the next four years was the cutting edge of Wellington's force until the French were driven out of Spain. The 43rd (Monmouthshire Light Infantry) and the 52nd (Oxfordshire Light Infantry) fought at the Siege of Badajoz.  After the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo, Lieutenant Gurwood of the 52nd received the French Governor's sword in surrender. 

The Cardwell reorganisation of the Army in 1881 recognised the historical links between the 43rd and 52nd and decreed that they should become the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Oxfordshire Light Infantry.  In 1908 'Buckinghamshire' was added to the title. in 1958, the battalion joined the new Green Jacket Brigade with the title 1st Green Jackets (The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry).

The King's Royal Rifle Corps (60th)

On 8th July 1755 a column of British redcoats under General Braddock were ambushed by the French. The General’s last words were: 'we shall learn better how to do it next time’. Parliament agreed and provided for the raising of the 60th Royal American Regiment of four battalions of American colonists. In 1797 a 5th Battalion of the 60th was raised under Baron Francis de Rottenburg, whose treatise on Riflemen and Light Infantry formed the basis of Sir John Moore's training. This was the first British unit to be dressed in a green jacket and armed with a rifle in place of the smoothbore musket.

The Peninsular War 

When the future Duke of Wellington landed in Portugal in 1808, the 5/60th was the first unit ashore at Mondego Bay. It was brigaded with the 95th. These two Riflemen units formed the vanguard when the army moved. The rifle battalions fought in this formation at the opening battles of Óbidos and Roliça but. Shortly afterwards the Light Brigade was re-formed and Wellesley ordered the 60th in the 3rd Division to provide a company to cover each of the other brigades of his force. It was in this role that they fought the remaining battles of the Peninsular campaign, sixteen of whose names appear on the 60th's list of battle honours. Four companies of the 60th fought at the Battle of Albuera 1811. 

The name of the regiment changed first to The Duke of Yorks Own Rifle Corps and, in 1830, to The Kings Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), though it remained known as the 60th Rifles. Finally, in 1958, the battalion joined the new Green Jacket Brigade with the title of the 2nd Green Jackets (The Kings Royal Rifle Corps).

The Rifle Brigade (95th)

By the end of the 18th century European armies often included infantry specialised in the roles of skirmishing and reconnaissance. In 1800, the British created an Experimental Corps of Riflemen, its members being hand-picked from other regiments. They were dressed in green and armed with the Baker rifle. Within six months the Corps had proved its worth and ceased to be ‘experimental’. It was gazetted under the new title of The Rifle Corps. Its first Colonel, Coote Manningham, helped shape the Light Infantry of the Army. 

In 1803 the regiment, now named the 95th or Rifle Regiment, joined the 43rd and 52nd to form the Light Brigade under the command of Sir John Moore. In 1807 the 95th, now two battalions strong, served under Sir Arthur Wellesly, the future Duke of Wellington. 

The Peninsular War

The two battalions of the 95th, grouped with the 5/60th in a brigade of Riflemen, fired the first shots of the campaign at Óbidos.  They then joined their colleagues of the Light Brigade for Moore`s advance into Spain and provided the rearguard when the larger French army forced Moore to retreat to Corunna. 

The 1st Battalion 95th returned to the Iberian Peninsula in the summer of 1809 and took part in the Light Brigade's famous forced march to Talavera. Throughout the rest of the Peninsula War the Light Brigade and later the Light Division was to contribute significantly to Wellington`s victories.  Two battalions of the 95th fought at the Siege of Badajoz (1812). 

1st Lt. Donald McPherson of the 95th was severely wounded during the storming of Badajoz, 6th April 1812. His death a month later was mentioned in many British publications. 
London Gazette: Died of wounds, 7 May 1812.  Return dated 25 May 1812.  
Register of Officers’ effects: Died of Wounds, 7 May 1812, at Elvas.  Single.  
Simmons:  Wounded, storming of Badajoz, 6 Apr 1812. 

Kincaid, Random Shots, pp. 288-9: "On the morning following the storming of Badajoz: Of the doomed, who still survived, was poor Donald McPherson, a gigantic Highlander of about six feet and a half, as good a soul as ever lived; in peace a lamb - in war a lion.  Donald feared for nothing either in this world or the next; he had been true to man and true to his God, and he looked his last hour in the face like a soldier and a Christian!  Donald’s final departure from this life shewed him a worthy specimen of his country, and his methodical arrangements, while they prove what I have stated, may, at the same time, serve as a model for Joe Hume himself, when he comes to cast up his last earthly accounts.  Donald had but an old mare and a portmanteau, with its contents, worth about £15, to leave behind him.  He took a double inventory of the latter, sending one to the regiment by post, and giving the other in charge of his servant - and paying the said worthy his wages up to the probable day of his death; he gave him a conditional order on the paymaster for whatever more might be his due should he survive beyond his time - and if ever man did, he certainly quitted this world with a clear conscience.  Poor Donald!  Peace be to thy manes, for thou werent one whom memory loves to dwell on!’ 

Sixteen Battle Honours were earned by the regiment. The 2nd Battalion led Wellington`s army into Paris in 1815. 


For more information: 

The Royal Green Jackets Museum