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Forebear Regiments

BACKGROUND – THE REGULAR ARMY
The Regular Army of today really traces its origins back to the Restoration of Charles II as King of England in 1660. Parliament, remembering previous power struggles with the Monarchy, kept a tight control on the formation of a standing Army. Regiments of Foot – as infantry units were then called – were raised from time to time and although they had a fixed numerical seniority they were known by the names of the colonels currently in command.

Gradually names fell out of use and numerical titles predominated. This was made the official system in 1751. In 1782 regiments of foot were affiliated to counties, in an attempt to help recruiting.

The next major change came with the Cardwell reforms in 1881 when numbers were dropped and county titles formalised. Additionally, regiments of foot which only had one battalion were amalgamated so that all regiments had two battalions, the idea being that one would be serving overseas and the other at home.

Significant expansions took place during both World Wars but the two-battalion regiment essentially remained until the late 1940s when all second battalions were disbanded.

In the late 1950s further cutbacks in the size of the Army occurred, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd East Anglian Regiments were formed in 1959, 1960 and 1958 respectively. Then on 1 September 1964 those three regiments and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment were merged into one ‘large regiment’, the Royal Anglian Regiment, with four regular battalions. Subsequently, in 1970 and 1992, two of those battalions were disbanded leaving the Regiment with only two regular battalions today.

BACKGROUND – THE ARMY RESERVES
Volunteers, originally referred to as ‘trained bands’, and militia have existed for several hundred years, with their strength rising and falling according to the threats facing the country. They were available only for service at home, and originally loosely organised on a local basis under the control of the Lord Lieutenant of each county.

As part of the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the volunteers and militia became formally associated with the Regular Army as ‘volunteer battalions’ of their county regiments. This association was further strengthened by the Haldane reforms of 1908 which created the Territorial Force (TF), later to become the Territorial Army (TA). Again there was much expansion in both World Wars, and much reorganisation after World War 2.

When the three East Anglian Regiments and the Royal Anglian Regiment were formed their TA battalions remained in being, still with their old county titles. Between 1967 and 1971, however, the TA was reorganised and that led to the formation of the 5th, 6th and 7th (Volunteer) Battalions of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Subsequent cutbacks have reduced the strength to just one battalion, now numbered the 3rd Battalion, part of what is now the Army Reserve.

MUSEUMS AND ARCHIVES
The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum at Duxford covers the history of the three East Anglian Regiments from 1958/59/60 and the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1964, including the associated TA battalions. We also hold relevant archives corresponding to those dates.

Each of the forebear regiments has its own museum (archives are sometimes held separately). Click on the appropriate button below to find out more.

Note that Army museums and archives do not hold an individual soldier’s personal records. Documents of those who completed their service before 1920, if they have survived, are held at The National Archives; they have been digitised and are available on the Ancestry and Findmypast websites. Records of officers and soldiers whose service was later than 1920 are held by the Army Personnel Centre. Click here to find out how to get copies of them.

The Royal Norfolk Regiment

In 1685 Colonel Henry Cornwall raised a regiment which in 1751 formally became the 9th Regiment of Foot reflecting its seniority within the infantry. In 1782 it gained the county title of East Norfolk. A second battalion was raised in 1857. Under the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the regiment became the Norfolk Regiment, and in 1935 it was granted the prefix ‘Royal’.

After expansion to 20 battalions in World War 1 and to 9 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Suffolk Regiment on 29 August 1959 to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment.

The Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum, which includes the relevant archives, covers the history of the Regiment from 1685 and on through the amalgamations to show how the 9th of Foot’s traditions are still maintained within A (Norfolk) Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum are as follows:

Location: 
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Castle Hill, Norwich, NR1 3JU

Website:
www.royalnorfolkregimentalmuseum.org.uk

Point of contact:
Ms Kate Thaxton (kate.thaxton@norfolk.gov.uk) – Curator

Telephone:
01603 493650

The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment

In 1685 the Earl of Bath raised a regiment which in 1751 formally became the 10th Regiment of Foot reflecting its seniority within the infantry. In 1782 it gained the county title of North Lincolnshire. A second battalion was raised in 1857. Under the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the regiment became the Lincolnshire Regiment, and in 1946 it was granted the prefix ‘Royal’.

After expansion to 19 battalions in World War 1 and to 6 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Northamptonshire Regiment on 1 June 1960 to form the 2nd East Anglian Regiment.

The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment Museum covers the history of the Regiment from 1685 up to the amalgamation of 1960, but the 10th of Foot’s traditions are still maintained within A (Lincolnshire) Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment Museum are as follows:

Location: 
Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Burton Road, Lincoln, LN1 3LY

Website: 
https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/history-and-heritage/museum-of-lincolnshire-life/

Point of contact: 
Ms Sara Basquill (sara.basquill@lincolnshire.gov.uk) – Collections Access Officer

Telephone: 
01522 555207

The archives of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment are held by Lincolnshire Archives, details as follows: 

Location: 
St Rumbold Street, Lincoln, LN2 5AB

Website: 
https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-archives/lincolnshire-archives/ 

Point of contact:
Ms Jess Hogg (jess.hogg@lincolnshire.gov.uk) – Archivist

Telephone: 
01522 552028

The Suffolk Regiment

In 1685 Henry, 7th Duke of Norfolk, raised a regiment which in 1751 formally became the 12th Regiment of Foot reflecting its seniority within the infantry. In 1782 it gained the county title of East Suffolk. A second battalion was raised in 1857. Under the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the regiment became the Suffolk Regiment.

After expansion to 22 battalions in World War 1 and to 9 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 29 August 1959 to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment.

The Suffolk Regiment Museum covers the history of the Regiment from 1685 up to the amalgamation of 1959, but the 12th of Foot’s traditions are still maintained within B (Suffolk) Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Suffolk Regiment Museum are as follows:

Location:
The Keep, Gibraltar Barracks, Out Risbygate, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3RN

Website:
www.suffolkregimentmuseum.co.uk

Point of contact:
Mr Paul Evans (research@armymuseums.org.uk) – Curator

Telephone:
01284 752394

The archives of the Suffolk Regiment are held at the Suffolk Record Office, details as follows:

Location:
Suffolk Record Office, 77 Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 2AR

Website:
www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/

Point of contact:
bury.ro@suffolk.gov.uk – General enquiry email

Telephone:
01284 741212

The Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment

In 1688 Colonel Archibald Douglas raised a regiment which in 1751 formally became the 16th Regiment of Foot reflecting its seniority within the infantry. In 1782 it gained the county title of Buckinghamshire, but in 1809 the affiliation of the 16th was changed to Bedfordshire. A second battalion was raised in 1858. Under the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the regiment became the Bedfordshire Regiment. In 1919 the title was changed to the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.

After expansion to 18 battalions in World War 1 and to 8 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Essex Regiment on 2 June 1958 to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment.

The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment Museum covers the history of the Regiment from 1688 and on through the amalgamations to show how the traditions of the 16th of Foot are still maintained within D (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment Museum are as follows:

Location:
Wardown House Museum and Gallery, Old Bedford Road, Luton, LU2 7HA

Website:
https://www.lutonculture.com/wardown-house/galleries-and-exhibitions/hertfordshire-and-bedfordshire-regiment-gallery/

Point of contact:
Mr Nigel Lutt (nigel.lutt2@virginmedia.com) – Trustee

Telephone:
07504 015313

The archives of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment are held by Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service, details as follows:

Location:
Riverside Building Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP

Website:
www.bedford.gov.uk/archive

Point of contact:
Ms Pamela Birch (pamela.birch@bedford.gov.uk) – County Archivist

Telephone:
01234 228908

The Royal Leicestershire Regiment

In 1688 Colonel Solomon Richards raised a regiment which in 1751 formally became the 17th Regiment of Foot reflecting its seniority within the infantry. In 1782 it gained the county title of Leicestershire. A second battalion was raised in 1858. Under the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the regiment became the Leicestershire Regiment, and in 1946 it was granted the prefix ‘Royal’.

After expansion to 19 battalions in World War 1 and to 6 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948. On 1 September 1964 the Regiment became the 4th Battalion of the newly-formed Royal Anglian Regiment.

The Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum covers the history of the Regiment from 1688 and on through the amalgamations to show how the traditions of the 17th of Foot are still maintained within B (Leicestershire) Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum are as follows:

Location:
Newarke Houses Museum, The Newarke, Leicester, LE2 7BY

Website:
https://www.royalleicestershireregiment.org.uk/the-regimental-museum

Point of contact:
Mr Philip French (philip.french@leicester.gov.uk) – Curator Later Leicester History

Telephone:
0116 225 4979

The archives of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment are held by the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, details as follows:

Location:
38 Long Street, Wigston, LE18 2AH

Website:
https://www.leicestershire.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/history-and-heritage/visit-the-record-office/about-the-record-office

Point of contact:
Mr Robin Jenkins (robin.jenkins@leics.gov.uk) – Senior Archivist (Collections)

Telephone:
0116 257 1080

The Essex Regiment

In 1741 Colonel James Long raised a regiment that was the 55th Regiment of Foot in order of seniority. Following changes in the Army, it became the 44th in seniority in 1748 and was formally given that number in 1751. In 1782 it gained the county title of East Essex.

Another regiment was raised by Lord Charles Manners in 1755 as the 58th Regiment of Foot, being renumbered as the 56th Regiment in 1757 again as a result of changes in the Army structure. In 1782 it gained the county title of West Essex.

The Cardwell reforms of 1881 brought the 44th and 56th together as, respectively, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Essex Regiment. After expansion to 31 battalions in World War 1 and to 12 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment on 2 June 1958 to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment.

The Essex Regiment Museum, which includes the relevant archives, covers the history of the Regiment from 1741 and on through the amalgamations to show how the traditions of the 44th and 56th of Foot are still maintained within C (Essex) Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Essex Regiment Museum are as follows:

Location:
Chelmsford Museums Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, CM2 9AQ

Website:
www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums/visit/essex-regiment-museum

Point of contact:
Dr M E Curteis (mark.curteis@chelmsford.gov.uk) – Assistant Museums Manager, Curatorial and Learning

Telephone:
01245 605702

The Northamptonshire Regiment

In 1741 Colonel James Cholmondley raised a regiment that was the 59th Regiment of Foot in order of seniority. Following changes in the Army, it became the 48th in seniority in 1748 and was formally given that number in 1751. In 1782 it gained the county title of Northamptonshire.

Another regiment was raised by Colonel Robert Anstruther in 1755 as the 60th Regiment of Foot, being renumbered as the 58th Regiment in 1757 again as a result of changes in the Army structure. In 1782 it gained the county title of Rutlandshire.

The Cardwell reforms of 1881 brought the 48th and 58th together as, respectively, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment. After expansion to 13 battalions in World War 1 and to 5 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1948, followed by amalgamation with the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment on 1 June 1960 to form the 2nd East Anglian Regiment.

Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, which includes the relevant archives, covers the history of the Regiment from 1741 up to the amalgamation of 1960, but the traditions of the 48th and 58th of Foot are still maintained within C (Northamptonshire and Rutland) Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Northamptonshire Regiment collection at Northampton Museums and Art Gallery are as follows:

Location:
Abingdon Park Museum, Park Avenue South, Northampton, NN1 5LW

Website:
https://www.northampton.gov.uk/museums

Point of contact:
Mr P Robinson (probinson@northampton.gov.uk) – Documentation Assistant

Telephone:
01604 837631

The Cambridgeshire Regiment

Although the regular 30th Regiment of Foot did have a connection with Cambridgeshire, that ceased under the Cardwell reforms of 1881. At the same time the various Volunteer units of the county were formed into a battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. In 1908 on the formation of the Territorial Force the title of that battalion was changed to 1st Battalion The Cambridgeshire Regiment, although it officially remained part of the Suffolk Regiment.

After expansion to 4 battalions in World War 1 and to 2 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the battalion transferred to the Royal Artillery for the period 1947-1956. On return to the infantry role the old title was resurrected, 1st Battalion The Cambridgeshire Regiment becoming one of the three TA battalions of the 1st East Anglian Regiment when it was formed on 29 August 1959.

The Cambridgeshire Regiment Collection, part of the Suffolk Regiment Museum, covers the history of the Regiment up to the TA reorganisations of 1967-1971, but its traditions are still maintained within D (Cambridgeshire) Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Cambridgeshire Regiment Collection are as follows:

Location:
Land Warfare Hall, Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield, Duxford, Cambridge, CB22 4QR

Point of contact:
Mr Paul Evans (research@armymuseums.org.uk) – Curator

Telephone:
01284 752394

The archives of the Cambridgeshire Regiment are held by Cambridgeshire Archives Service, details as follows:

Location:
Cambridgeshire Archives, Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge, CB3 0AP

Website:
www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-&-culture/archives

Point of contact:

cambs.archives@cambridgeshire.gov.uk – General enquiry email

Telephone:

01223 699399

The Hertfordshire Regiment

Although the regular 49th Regiment of Foot did have a connection with Hertfordshire, that ceased under the Cardwell reforms of 1881. In 1887 the various Volunteer units of the county were formed into two battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment. In 1908 on the formation of the Territorial Force the two battalions were reduced to one, with the title of 1st Battalion The Hertfordshire Regiment, although it officially remained part of the Bedfordshire, later Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, Regiment.

After expansion to 4 battalions in World War 1 and to 2 in World War 2, subsequent cutbacks saw the 1st Battalion The Hertfordshire Regiment becoming one of the four TA battalions of the 3rd East Anglian Regiment when it was formed on 2 June 1958. The Hertfordshire title was finally lost in 1961 when further TA reorganisation took place.

The Hertford Museum holds a small collection of items covering the history of the Regiment up to the TA reorganisations of 1967-1971, but its traditions are still maintained within D (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment today.

Details of the Hertford Museum are as follows:

Location:
18 Bull Plain, Hertford, SG14 1DT

Website:
http://www.hertfordmuseum.org

Point of contact:
Ms Sara Taylor (sara.hertfordmuseum@btconnect.com) – Curator

Telephone:
01992 582686

The archives of the Hertfordshire Regiment are held by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, details as follows:

Location:
Register Office Block, CHR 002, County Hall, Pegs Lane, Hertford, SG13 8EJ

Website:
https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives/hertfordshire-archives-and-local-studies/hertfordshire-archives-and-local-studies.aspx

Point of contact:
Mr Chris Bennett (chris.bennett@hertfordshire.gov.uk) – County Archivist

Telephone:
0300 123 4049

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