Friday, 31 July 2009

The South Essex Regiment and Sharpe

The South Essex Regiment, later the Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers, is a fictional infantry regiment in the British Army that was created by Bernard Cornwell in the Sharpe series of books.
It first appeared in Sharpe's Eagle, commanded by Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson. Sharpe was transferred to the South Essex when his previous regiment, the 95th Rifles, was withdrawn back to England, and made a captain shortly after the battle of Valdelacasa in which the South Essex and the Spanish Regimenta de Santa Maria were badly mauled by French cavalry. In this action, the South Essex lost the King's and the regimental Colours and the Regimenta de Santa Maria lost both of its colours as well. However, Sharpe recaptured the South Essex's regimental Colours and so recovered some honour. Simmerson tried to ruin Sharpe's career (and save himself) by blaming the loss of the Colours on Sharpe.
After Simmerson showed ill judgement and cowardice at the Battle of Talavera (where Sharpe captured a French Imperial Eagle, which then went on to be displayed on the regiment's Colours), Colonel William Lawford, an old friend of Sharpe's, took command. Lawford was wounded soon after and the South Essex went through a string of colonels.

Prince of Wales

In Sharpe's Regiment, the South Essex is renamed the Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers (in reality, the Prince of Wales' Volunteers was (or is) the South Lancashire Regiment). When the regiment returns to Spain it is commanded by Colonel Bartholomew Girdwood, who suffers a breakdown during an attack into French soil. Sharpe leaves the regiment soon after, and Colonel Joseph Ford takes command. The regiment does not appear again until the Battle of Waterloo, where Sharpe and Sergeant Patrick Harper save the regiment from the advance of Napoleon's Old Guard at the end of the battle, where Sharpe is finally given command of the regiment by the Duke of Wellington.

Battle honours
This is a rough list of battle honours that it is likely the regiment would have gained during the Sharpe Series:

Talavera, 1809,
40th foot at Talavera

Busaco, 1810,

Ciudad Rodrigo, 1812,

Siege Badajoz, 1812,

Salamanca, 1812,

Vittoria, 1813,

Pyrenees, 1813,

Toulouse, 1814,

Peninsula, 1808-1814,
Charge of the Mamelucos

Waterloo, 1815. Wellington

The regiment's fate after Waterloo is unknown.
It is likely to have been disbanded due to its high regimental number (this is stated in the Sharpe Companion) but it could have been merged with the 44th Regiment of Foot or the East Essex which lost many men at Quatre Bras. In the latter case it would have become the Essex Regiment under the Cardwell Reforms and the battalion carrying its traditions would have been disbanded and the honours continued. This is of course speculation, but there are several similarities between the East and South Essex - both captured French Imperial Eagles, both have yellow coat facings, and they share a county designation.

Regimental Colonels

General Sir Thomas Picton

This is a rough list of the colonels of the regiment described in the books and the period they served as colonel. There are gaps where colonels are not known in the books. The Prince Regent, later George IV was the colonel in chief and added his patronage in 1813. Sir Henry Simmerson (1809) was the first Colonel, raised the regiment and led it on its first campaign. Relieved from command by the next colonel, William Lawford (1809-1812) who commanded the regiment during the Portugal campaign before being wounded at Ciudad Rodrigo. The regiment would then be commanded by a former staff officer of General Sir Thomas Picton, Colonel Windham from the siege and storming of Badajoz until his death shortly before the Battle of Salamanca (1812). It is then commanded by the American expatriate Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Leroy until his death at the Battle of Vitoria (1813). Lieutenant Colonel Bartholomew Girdwood would then assume command of the now renamed Prince of Wales Own Volunteers until his mental breakdown at the Battle of the Nivelle (1813). Sharpe would be in effective command until the French capitulation at the Battle of Toulouse (1814). The regiment is reformed after Napoleon's escape from Elba and the resumption of hostilities and is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Ford until his mental collapse under fire at Waterloo, where Wellington gives command of the regiment to Sharpe where they assist in defeating the Old Guard.

List of fictional British regiments
The following is a list of British and Empire regiments that have appeared in various works of fiction.
British Regiments
Regiments 3rd Foot and Mouth Regiment
("The Devils in Skirts") (A Highland Regiment mentioned in Carry On up the Khyber 1968 film. 3rd Regular Army Deserters, 3rd Disgusting Fusiliers, 3rd Armoured Thunderboxes, and 3rd Mounted NAAFI are examples of the regiments that Major Bloodnok (played by Peter Sellers of The Goon Show) claimed to have served with. 6th Light Dragoons (A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson) 27th Lancers (The Charge of the Light Brigade 1936 film) - later a real regiment 114th Queen's Own Royal Strathspeys [The James Ogilvie books] by Philip McCutchan aka Duncan MacNeil {Also repeated below} 117th Foot ("The Royal Mallows") (An Irish regiment mentioned in The Adventure of the Crooked Man and The Green Flag by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A real regiment that only existed from 1761 to 1796, sans nickname}.

Named regiments
The Bedford Light Infantry (Red Cap BBC-1 TV series 2001-2004) The Black Boneens A rival Irish regiment mentioned in "The Mutiny of the Mavericks" by Rudyard Kipling. The Black Tyrone An Irish regiment serving in India mentioned in "The Ballad of Boh da Thone" by Rudyard Kipling. Bombardier Guards (The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray; Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh) Caledonian Highlanders (Bonnie Scotland 1935 film {Laurel and Hardy}) The Cumbrians (Duke of Rutland's Own) (Soldier Soldier TV series 1991-1997) The Derbyshire Regiment (Red Cap BBC-1 TV Series 2001-2004) The Dragons (Heathercrest National Service Depot) Regiment (Carry On Sergeant 1958 film {Carry On films}) Duke of Buckingham's Light Infantry ("The Sky Blues") (Gideon's Sword Bearers by John Mackenzie (author)) Duke of Clarence's Own Clanranald Highlanders ("The Inverness-shire Greens") (The Monarch of the Glen by Compton Mackenzie) The Duke of Glendon's Light Infantry (The 'Dogs') (The Way Ahead 1944 Film) The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A ("The Fore and Aft" Regiment) ("Drums of the Fore and Aft" by Rudyard Kipling) King's Own Fusiliers (Soldier Soldier TV series 1991-1997) Lennox Highlanders (Richard Hannay's regiment in the works of John Buchan) Jackboot Guards (The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray) Life Guards Greens (various novels by William Makepeace Thackeray) The nickname of the short-lived Horse-Grenadier Troops of the Life Guards. Light Armoured Brigade (Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde) Loamshire Regiment (Bulldog Drummond by "Sapper") Royal Loamshire Regiment (A fictitious regiment used in British Army texts and manuals as an example.) 1st Battalion, The Loamshire Regiment (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943 film) 5th Battalion, The Loamshire Regiment (Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh) Lord Sempill’s Highland Regiment (A unit that mutinied mentioned in Gideon's Swordbearers by John Mackenzie) The Malvern Regiment (Soldier Soldier TV series 1991-1997) Northdale Rifles (The Mark of Cain 2007 TV film) Queen's Own McKamikaze Highlanders (Monty Python's Flying Circus TV comedy series) 114th Queen's Own Royal Strathspeys [The James Ogilvie books] by Philip McCutchan aka Duncan MacNeil {ALso repeated above} Queen's Own West Mercian Lowlanders (Fairly Secret Army TV comedy series) Royal Cambrian Fusiliers (Red Cap BBC-1 TV Series 2001-2004) Royal Corps of Halberdiers (The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh) Royal Cumbrian Regiment (The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason) The Royal Loyal Musketeers ("The Mavericks") An Irish regiment mentioned in "Kim" and "The Mutiny of the Mavericks" by Rudyard Kipling Royal North Surrey Regiment {The Four Feathers 1939 Film} Royal Wessex Rangers (Spearhead British TV series 1978-1981) South Essex Regiment/Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers (Richard Sharpe's regiment in the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell) Weald Light Infantry (Now God be Thanked trilogy by John Masters). Wessex Guards (Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford) Wessex Fusiliers (Alms for Oblivion - a series of novels by Simon Raven) Wessex Light Tank Armoured Brigade (The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde) The Wessex Regiment (Red Cap BBC-1 TV Series 2001-2004) West Yorkshire Fusiliers (The Wyffies) Various of Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe crime novels. The White Hussars "The Rout of the White Hussars" by Rudyard Kipling.

British Empire Regiments
1st Bangalore Pioneers (Colonel Sebastian Moran's old Indian Army regiment in The Adventure of the Empty House by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) 12th Gurkha Rifles (Colonel Arbuthnot's regiment in Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie) 12th Indian Lancers (Major Duncan Bleek's regiment in Terror by Night 1946 film {Sherlock Holmes}). 19th/45th East African Rifles (Captain Blackadder's old colonial regiment before the war in Blackadder Goes Forth) 34th Bombay Infantry (Major John Sholto's regiment in The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) 77th Bengal Lancers (Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers American TV show 1956-1957).
Special Operations Units
Internal Counter-Intelligence Service UNIT audio dramas by Big Finish set in the (Doctor Who) universe. U.N.I.T. (Doctor Who) Red Troop, 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (Ultimate Force TV series 2002-2006)

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