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History of 20th Regiment of Foot

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For the grouping of profiles of persons affiliated with this unit, see the category 20th Regiment of Foot.


20th Regiment of Foot (East Devonshire)

Peyton's Regiment of Foot; 1668 - 1689

In November 1668, William, Prince of Orange, landed on the English coast, in Devonshire with a Dutch Army in his effort to topple King James II. (VII. - Scotland) - "The Glorious Revolution". He issued writs for the creation of three Regiments of foot and one of these was addressed to Sir Robert Peyton.

The Regiment raised saw little service and after William's success in 1689 was reduced to six companies. However when William decided to invade Ireland orders were given, late 1689, to increase the Regiment to 13 companies. Peyton withdrew his service and was replaced by an ardent Protestant, Colonel Gustavus Hamilton. In his work, "Regiments of Foot", Wicks advises that he had died.[1]

Hamilton's Regiment of Foot (1689 - 1706)

Hamilton, increased the strength of the Regiment to 13 companies and was part of the 2nd Division, under Marshall Duke Schomberg. It arrived in Ireland after the fall of Carrickfergus, 28 August 1689, and was placed in garrison.

The Regiment served under King William at the Battle of the Boyne. As a result of his gallentry at the battle, Hamilton was raised to Viscount Boyne. After the Boyne the Regiment, under Lieutenant General Douglas, marched to the Siege of Athlone (1690). Douglas failed to take Athlone and the Regiment returned to William's main army, at the Siege of Limerick.

Coming out of winter quarters in 1691 the Regiment served under General de Ginckell, later Earl of Athlone) and took Ballymore by siege. The Regiment then passed on to Athlone and was part of the force that stormed the city on 1 July 1691. Hamilton is said to have led the assault.

Following on from Athlone the Regiment served on the right flank of William's army at the Battle of Aughrim forcing the left flank of James' army from the field. In its first notice of casualties the Regiment lost six men killed and nine wounded.

Following the Battle of Aughrim the Regiment participated, successfully, at the Siege of Galway and then the Siege of Limerick. The latter siege resulted in the destruction of James' army and the end of the war. The Regiment remained in service in Ireland until 1702.

In June 1702, in preparation for the War of the Spanish Succession the Regiment was deployed to the Isle of Wight, Hamilton now a Brigadier General.

The Regiment was part of the unsuccessful attempt to force Cadiz and was at the Battle of Cadiz. Following the failure at Cadiz, the Regiment sailed for the West Indies to attack French and Spanish settlements amongst the islands. Disease and sickness took their toll both during the journey to and in the islands and the Regiment lost upwards of 400 men. In an interesting anecdote; one of the "men" of Captain St. Clair's company was found to have been a female, this after two years service.

After service there with no noticeable action the unit was returned to Ireland, arriving in 1704. They remained there until 1707. In 1706 Hamilton was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel John Newton, an officer from the Foot Guards. It is at this point in our history of the Regiment that we will call them the 20th.

The 20th Regiment of Foot (1706-)

in May 1707 the Regiment left Ireland, from Cork, sailing for Lisbon, as part of the force under Marquis de Montandre. The regiment saw through to May 1709 serving as garrison in a number of Portuguese towns and villages on the borders with Spain. On 7 May 1709 the French and Spanish forced the river Caya, and the British force, now under Henri de Massue, Earl of Galway, came into action when the Portuguese army was routed; the Battle of La Gudina. The 20th were part of this force serving under the 2nd Brigade. The defeat at the battle the most severe the Regiment faced to date; 150 men killed or wounded.

The 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment of Foot

Childers Reforms 1881

In 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, the 20th Regiment of Foot (East Devonshire) amalgamated with a number of militia units to create the Lancashire Fusiliers. The Ist and 2nd Battalions of the Regiment being from the 20th along with some local militia units; Two other battalions were sanctioned but not filled and the 5th and 6th Battalion came from the 7th Royal Lancashire Militia.


  1. Regiments of foot : a historical record of all the foot regiments of the British Army; Wicks; page 32.

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Categories: 20th Regiment of Foot