The Second Opium War 1856-1860 and the Period up Until 1899


The 2nd Opium War is worth a special mention, as The Queen’s, The Buffs, the 31st (Huntingdonshire) and the 67th (South Hampshire) all participated in this conflict. It involved an Anglo-French Expeditionary Force, which compelled the Chinese to observe trading treaties. The most significant battle was the taking of the Taku Forts. When, in 1860, the Chinese emperor declined to reply to a note demanding an apology for firing on British ships and his government's failure to act on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, a combined Anglo-French task force was sent to enforce compliance. The aim of the expedition was to force the Chinese from the Taku Forts positioned at the mouth of the Pei-ho river. In overall command of the assault was Major General Sir Robert Napier whose task was to expel the Chinese from the well defended Small North Fort.

At 06:00 on 21 August 1860, Napier gave the signal for the assault to begin. The attackers surged forward crossing a dry ditch and pouring through the abates that had been smashed by the artillery. Two wet ditches were then crossed with great difficulty and upon reaching the fort's wall the French erected ladders only to have them thrown down by the defenders. The troops, whose units had inevitably become intermingled, were crowded together at the base of the wall, being pelted with grenades, cannon shot, jars of quicklime and 'stinkpots' that gave off clouds of smoke. Desperate measures were needed urgently if the assault was to succeed. Close to the gate was Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and an Irishman, Private Thomas Lane, both of the 67th Regiment, who scrambled up to a narrow embrasure which they proceeded to widen, both sustaining serious wounds.

Not far away were Lieutenant Robert Rogers and Private John McDougall of the 44th Regiment who had swum the wet ditches, together with Lieutenant Edmund Lenon and Ensign John Chaplin both of the 67th, the latter carrying the Queen's Colour of the regiment. Lenon pushed his sword deep into the mud wall, supporting the hilt while Rogers used it as a step, fighting his way into the embrasure above. More men pushed their bayonets into the wall, creating a ladder up which Lenon, Chaplin and McDougall and others clambered up to join Rogers. At about the same time Burslem and Lane broke through their embrasure on to the ramparts. Men from both regiments then swarmed through the embrasures fighting their way at the point of the bayonet up the tower's ramp enabling Chaplin to plant his Colour on the summit. The will of the Chinese, who until this point had fought stubbornly, suddenly collapsed and it was estimated that of the fort's 500-strong garrison, 400 were either killed or wounded. The 67th won four out of the five VCs awarded for the action.

During the campaign, Private Moyse of The Buffs won immortality by choosing to be beheaded, rather than ‘kowtow’ to the Mandarin into whose hands he had fallen. The War ended following the allied occupation of Peking.

In 1857, the 31st (Huntingdonshire), 35th (Royal Sussex), 37th (North Hampshire) and 50th (Queen’s Own) coped effectively with the Indian Mutiny, whilst in 1860, the 50th, 57th and 70th were fighting the Maoris in New Zealand. The 67th played a full part in the 2nd Afghan War of 1878–1880, and The Buffs and 57th fought the Zulus in 1879. The East Surreys and The Royal Sussex fought the Dervishes in the Sudan, whilst The Queen’s and The 67th were in Burma.