The French Revolutionary War


France’s support to the American colonists helped create the economic crises which led to the French Revolution. The deposed king, Louis XVI, was supported by Prussia and Austria, who formed an alliance with Britain, Holland and Spain to restore the French monarchy, but without success.

In the summer of 1793, the Queen’s were serving with the fleet commanded by Admiral ‘Black Dick’ Howe. The Fleet was sailing off Ushant in May 1794, with regimental detachments distributed to Lord Howe’s flagship Queen Charlotte and His Majesty’s Ships The Royal George, Defence, Majestic and Russell. The enemy was sighted, but no attack was possible until the 1st June. The British fleet formed line abreast to assault the French who were in line ahead on the port tack and at 0900 hours both fleets opened fire. The battle continued until the early afternoon, by which time seven enemy ships had been captured and 3,000 casualties inflicted against 1,148 British casualties. Among those killed was Lieutenant Neville of The Queen’s. The battle was a tactical success and became the Regimental Day of The Queen’s Royal Regiment; though at the strategic level an important French grain convoy had managed to reach France.

The Queen’s were awarded the Naval Crown on their Regimental Colour, as a result of their rôle in the Battle. The honour remains on the new Regimental Colour and the Regiment continues to retain its relationship with the Royal Navy through its close links with HMS Excellent at Portsmouth and its affiliation with current warships.

The Buffs, 37th (North Hampshire) and the 57th (West Middlesex) served in Flanders during the Duke of York’s disastrous expedition in 1794, whilst the 37th helped defeat the French at Tournay and the 50th (West Kent) joined Nelson driving the French out of Corsica. The Queen’s, The Buffs, 35th and 57th (West Middlesex) were all to take part in campaigns against French possessions in the West Indies, however, heavy casualties were sustained from yellow fever, dysentery and other tropical diseases. In 1798 The Queen’s were heavily involved in the French supported Irish rebellion, and in the following year joined the 31st (Huntingdonshire) and 35th (Dorsetshire) in the Helder campaign in Holland, during which the French were defeated in every engagement. In addition, in 1800 the 35th, two battalions strong, recovered Malta from the French. The Union Flag flew over Malta from that date until the Island’s independence in 1964, when, by coincidence, the flag was lowered for the last time by The Royal Sussex Regiment, the successors to the 35th, who were the last British Army Regiment to serve there.

The Queen’s and the 50th (West Kent) took part in the successful landing at Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria, Egypt in 1801. This was part of a joint operation in Egypt against Napoleon’s Army of the East; Cairo was occupied and the French expelled. The badge of the Sphinx was awarded as a Distinction to both regiments and the Sphinx remains on the current Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR) Regimental Colour.

Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore and ally of Napoleon had plans for his army to drive the British out of those areas of India administered by the Honourable East India Company. In October 1787, four new regiments were raised, in the name of the King, but in the pay of the Company, to provide greater protection for British interests in India. They included the 77th (East Middlesex), which was raised in 1787, arrived in Bombay in 1788 and fought its first battle at Perripatam in March 1789. This forced Tippoo Sahib to withdraw to his capital, Seringapatam. Volunteers from the Regiment made up the ‘Forlorn Hope’, the pessimistic name given to an assault party of picked troops, which led the attack on the city. Seringapatam fell and the body of Tippoo Sahib was found under a mound of corpses in the north gateway. Subsequently, the 77th served in the first independent command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Lord Wellington, in his campaign against the Mahrattas in 1802. The French Revolutionary War was brought to an end by The Treaty of Amiens, 1802.