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Museum of the Manchester Regiment




96th Regiment of Foot. Later the 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment

1761-1778 | 1779-1783 | 1784-1796 | 1797-1823 | 1824-1841 1842-1913

1761 - 1778

The first regiment to bear the number 96 was raised in January 1761 and was commanded by Colonel the Hon, George Monson. The Regiment was sent immediately to India where it served at Bombay and Madras, taking part in the reduction of Madura. With the end of the 'Seven Years' War' in 1763 the army was reduced in strength and several regiments were disbanded. Amongst these was the 96th. Some 3 officers and 412 non-commissioned officers and men stayed in India, joining the East India Company's service. On 23 October 1764 they took part in the Battle of Buxar in which Lieutenant Spilsbury of the 96th was killed. 24 of the ringleaders were blown from gun muzzles as punishment for their part in a mutiny and massacre at Patna the previous year.

1779 - 1783

The British Army were attempting to subdue the rebellion in the American colonies, the French sided with the rebels and in 1779 Spain declared war against Britain. In great haste 17 infantry battalions and 2 cavalry regiments were raised. Amongst these was a new 96th Regiment raised in 1779 and known during its brief existence as 'the British Musqueteers'. It was stationed in Ireland and in the Channel Islands, and then disbanded in 1783.

1784 - 1796

Another 96th Regiment was raised in November 1793 but lasted no longer than its predecessors, serving first in Ireland and then for the last year of is existence in St Domingo, disappearing from the Army List in 1796.

2nd Lieutenants of the 2nd Battalion the Manchester Regiment, Chakrata, 1893, showing the different orders of dress (MRP/1C/53)1797 - 1823

When in 1803 the 52nd Regiment became Light Infantry its second battalion was taken from it and numbered the 96th Regiment of Foot. Before the year was out a second battalion had been raised to the new 96th.

The 1st Battalion 96th Regiment served for a year in Ireland and was then sent to the West Indies. The General Order Book of the Headquarters Windward and Leeward Islands covering the years 1811 to June 1813 was found a number of years ago in the Jamaica Garrison Library. It contains an outline of the conditions of service at that time. A large number of the orders are promulgations of General Courts Martial. The most common offences were embezzlement of the men's pay, clothing and rations. Quartermasters were prone to issue rations weighed on faulty scales, to their considerable benefit; surgeons made away with wines and spirits issued for the sick. Whilst one surgeon placed all his children on the pay roll as hospital attendants.

Lieutenant William Hunt of the 96th was cashiered 'For conduct unbecoming his situation as an officer. in being extremely drunk when commanding the Castle Guard at Christianstad, Santa Cruz, on the night of 17 December 1811, as to be totally incapable of doing his duty'. Lieutenant Henry Rogers of the 96th was charged with 'Going into Lieutenant Archer of the 96th Regiment's room and there horsewhipping Lieutenant Archer's negro servant and afterwards, on being remonstrated with about the same, using language highly unbecoming and provoking to Lieutenant Archer by telling him that he, Lieutenant Archer, was well-known in England, Ireland and Scotland to be a Murderous or Murdering Villain'. Lieutenant Archer must have disapproved of this because he too is court-martialled for striking Lieutenant Rogers that same night.

Punishments awarded to other ranks were extremely severe. The normal punishment for desertion was death. Private James Henry of the 96th was ordered to be shot to death on 2 February 1811 for desertion and forcing past a sentry. Private James Ferguson to serve His Majesty abroad for life for the manslaughter of his wife Rosanna by violently beating her in one of the Barrack rooms. Private Robert Andry for frequent intoxication and absenting himself without leave was ordered to receive one thousand lashes with the cat-o-nine-tails on the bare back and to be branded with the letter D. Stocks, chains and solitary confinement were the punishments awarded for minor offences.

The battalion was returned to England in 1816 and was stationed in Ireland until disbanded in December 1818. The 2nd Battalion of the 96th served in England and Jersey, disbanding in 1815.

In 1798 Britain occupied Minorca and found there over 1,000 prisoners of war reputedly captured by the French from the Austrians in Italy, whom the French had literally sold to the Spanish at two dollars a head. Although described as a Swiss Regiment it consisted of men of many different nationalities. The battalion was re-formed by General Charles Stuart as The Minorca Regiment in 1800 and in 1801 designated The Queen's German Regiment.

The Regiment fought with distinction at the battle of Alexandria and throughout the Egyptian campaign against the French. Private Antoine Lutz of the Regiment captured a French standard at the battle of Alexandria. In 1802 to England and in 1803 to Ireland. In 1804 they were given the number 97th Regiment but retained the title of Queen's German Regiment.

During 1807/08 the battalion served in England and was then sent to Portugal and the campaign in the Peninsular against the French. Took part in the battles of Vimiera and later at Talavera, Busaco, in the first siege of Badajos and Alburca. By 1811 it had become so reduced in strength that the regiment returned in 1812 to England where it was stationed in Winchester. On 23 April 1812 to Guernsey and re-titled 97th or Queen's Own (Royal) Regiment. On 14 May 1813 to Ireland. On 9 May 1814 the regiment embarked from Cork for America, arriving York, Upper Canada on 10 September. Proceeded to the Niagara frontier with America until returning to UK in July 1815 where it was stationed in Ireland.

On 2 February 1816 the 95th Rifles were taken out of the line of infantry regiments to become the Rifle Brigade and the 97th were then automatically renumbered as the 96th. On 10 December 1818, whilst stationed in Limerick, the battalion was disbanded.

1824 - 1841

A new 96th was raised five years later on 6 February 1824 at Salford Barracks, Manchester. It was allowed to carry the battle honours awarded its predecessor - Peninsular, Egypt and the Sphinx.

The Regiment was very quickly made up to its establishment of 619 non-commissioned officers and men by transfers from the 94th and 95th Regiments already raised and by 124 English, Scots and Irish recruits. No sooner had it reached its full strength than it was ordered on Foreign Service. During June, July and August 1824 it embarked from Liverpool for Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving in August/September. In 1825 to Bermuda. Stayed in West Indies for 3 years then back to Halifax until 1835 when it returned to England.

In 1836 the Regiment landed at Gosport and in October marched to Gravesend where it embarked to Leith and was then stationed in Edinburgh Castle, Greenlaw and Leith. Then in November to Glasgow and a year later to Ireland where it was stationed in Enniskillen and Dublin. Then back to England, Liverpool and Lancaster. In January 1839 headquarters were at Bolton-le-Moor with two companies at Liverpool, three at Wigan and three at Haydock. In December 1839 Regimental Headquarters moved to Salford Barracks and later in the year to Chatham where on 4 July the first detachments for New South Wales had already commenced their journey escorting convicts. This continued until 15 August 1841.


The Regiment remained in Australia with detachments in New Zealand, fighting in the Maori Wars between 1844/47.

The Regiment moved to India in 1849 and in 1855 to England. In the summer of 1856 to Gibraltar, returning to England in rather less than a year. Quartered first in Manchester then for some time in Ireland.

In North America the American Civil War coupled with the menace of a private army of Fenian expatriate Irish in America, necessitated an increase in the size of the British Army garrison in Canada. Accordingly the 96th were warned for embarkation in the steam transports Victoria and Calcutta. The Victoria, with the headquarters of the 96th on board and numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 Companies, sailed on 7 January 1862. On the second night two of the boats on the starboard side were carried away. After several days the Colonel's mare died of exhaustion and was thrown overboard. The chief officer was taken ill a few days after starting and was not able to get on deck. It was a horrendous voyage. The sails were rotten and were carried away as fast as they were put up. Ropes broke. The steam pipes were nearly blown over, the mizzen gaff was broken and the main yard got loose. The men's deck leaked, rifles broke away from their racks and floated about in the water which, when the ship rolled, was at times a foot or more deep. The officer's cabins leaked and all the light baggage got wet.

The ship, having been sent off in a hurry, nothing was in the right place. The crew, composed of men of different nationalities was very inefficient. By the 17th it was thought useless to go on further - they had only made about 600 miles on their true course. That night a boat on the port side had to be cut away, carrying away a large piece of the bulwark. By now three boats had been carried away and two others stove in, including the 'long boat'. At 3pm, all the troops were sent below, hatchways shut, the 'dead lights' put on the saloon windows and the ship began its return home. On the 20th the Major's mare was killed and thrown overboard, being in 'a dreadful state'. On the 21st the ship anchored in Queenstown harbour in the early morning. Three days late everyone disembarked, sailed to Cork by river steamer and marched back to barracks.

The voyage was resumed on 13 February, again in heavy weather. After a succession of severe gales the engines broke down several times and the ship began to make water. After several disastrous days the ship made Fayal in the Azores where they remained for about a week. After being patched up yet again, the Victoria left Fayal on 6 March and, with good winds and weather, arrived in Plymouth Sound on the 12th, disembarking the following day. The half battalion stayed at Plymouth until the 31st, embarked for Portsmouth on 1 April on board HMS Revenge, reached Portsmouth on the 2nd and travelled by train the same day to Shorncliffe.

The 'left wing' of the 96th, under Lieutenant Colonel Cathcart who had sailed in the Calcutta, also experienced heavy weather but reached St John's, New Brunswick on 13 February. However their stay in Canada was cut short and they returned to England in April 1862, the crisis with America having now passed.

After a year at home the 96th sailed for the Cape of Good hope, serving there until the end of 1864 and from there on to India.

During 1891 there were two punitive expeditions against the Pathans of the Oraksai tribe living in the Miranzai Valley on the Afghanistan border. The first had passed through the area, burning the villages and watchtowers of those sections of the tribe, which had been causing trouble. There had been little opposition and the tribesmen had agreed to the establishing of three military posts on the Samana ridge for the protection of the Miranzai frontier. This first Miranzai field force had only just broken up when attacks were made on working parties of the 29th Bengal Infantry. The success of these raids resulted in hundreds of tribesmen moving into the area in order to share the victory.

A second British Miranzai expedition was raised consisting of six cavalry squadrons, fifteen mountain and three heavy batteries of artillery, a company of Bengal Sappers and ten infantry battalions. The force was divided into three columns and totalled about eight thousand men. 2nd Manchesters were instructed to provide three hundred fighting men and on 26 April A, B and G Companies entrained from Sialkote for Rawal Pindi. They left again by train at 4am on the 28th for Khushalgarh.

After a two hour halt at Gumbat they reached Kohat at 5.30pm and remained there until 3 May, moving on to reach the Samana Ridge on the following day. There was now a full expectation of fighting but the tribesmen began to come in asking for peace. The next few weeks were spent marching throughout the mountainous tribal areas showing the flag, which the inhabitants found deeply humiliating. The Field Force was broken up after just less than five weeks and the battalion returned to Sialkote, having marched over 250 miles, mainly over mountains and hills.

During the Boer War t he battalion was constantly employed in mobile columns, in guarding the many blockhouses in course of erection and finally in the 'drives', which gradually wore down the opposition of the enemy.

During the early part of the campaign, away from the railway and in a country where communications were difficult, supplies did not get through with any degree of regularity. For weeks on end rations consisted of just meat that had sometimes marched with the column and was killed and cooked within twelve hours. Cooking was usually done at night and the cooked meat issued after arrival in camp for the night. Companies first piled their rifles, then the Colour Sergeant and Orderly Sergeant stood at the head of the line of men with a partly filled sack of flour. As each man filed past he had a pint mug of flour poured into his mess-tin. He then mixed the flour with water and the resulting dough was flattened and cooked in the mess-tin lid

When the war ended the battalion was holding the blockhouse line from Harrismith to Van Reenan's Pass. On 1 June word was received that peace had been declared. During the war the battalion had marched more than 2,600 miles, had been repeatedly engaged with the enemy and although it had not taken part in any of the great actions of the campaign, casualties had been fairly heavy. Two Distinguished Service Orders and seven Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to members of the battalion for their bravery.

In 1907 the battalion returned to England where it stayed until 1909, then moving to Ireland where King George V presented new Colours on 11 July 1911.

War clouds were gathering in Central Europe and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife led to the declaration of war by Austria against Serbia. Russia announced total mobilisation, which in turn led Germany to mobilise. On 4 August 1914 war was declared and the British Army began its mobilisation for the first great European conflict since 1815.