The Green Howards trace their direct descent from 1688 when Colonel Francis Luttrell of Dunster Castle, Somerset, raised a regiment of foot soldiers, mostly from his estate, to support Prince William of Orange against King James II during ‘The Glorious Revolution’. The Regiment then fought in Ireland, the Spanish and later the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium) – predominantly against the French – under a number of colonels, and until 1751 the Regiment was named after them. The Green Howards gained their unique nickname from the green colour of the facings on their scarlet uniforms and from one of these colonels, the Honourable Charles Howard.
In 1751 numbers were formally introduced and Howard’s Regiment became the 19th Regiment of Foot in accordance with their seniority by date of raising. The Green Howards were not connected to the North Riding of Yorkshire until 1782, when all infantry regiments were given an area of the country from which to recruit their soldiers.
Some twelve years after serving in South Carolina, during the American War of Independence, the 19th Foot fought in the French Revolutionary Wars. This was followed by a 24-year posting to India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) during the Napoleonic Wars which caused the Regiment to miss the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
It was not until the Crimean War (1854-56) that The Green Howards received their first Battle Honour. They had been loyally serving the Crown for 166 years, but were not officially recognised for their valour and services until the Battle of Alma on 20th September 1854. This day has been commemorated by the Regiment ever since, and the Russian drums captured in the battle paraded as a reminder to young soldiers of the gallantry of their regimental forebears.
During the remainder of the 19th century, The Green Howards served in the Indian Mutiny and in many of Queen Victoria’s ‘small wars’ on the north-west and north-east frontiers of Imperial India, Egypt and Sudan. Finally, at the end of her reign, regular, militia and volunteer battalions fought in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa.
The Green Howards raised 24 battalions in World War One (1914-1918) and fought in France, Flanders, Gallipoli, Italy and Russia. In World War Two (1939-1945) there were 12 battalions raised, predominantly with men from the north-east of England. They fought in almost all the theatres of war; Norway, north-west Europe, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Burma. It was during this last campaign that the 18th Victoria Cross was awarded to a member of the Regiment, Lieutenant Basil Weston, of the 2nd Battalion, The Green Howards.
In the postwar years, leading up to the amalgamation with The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 2006, the Regiment has been on active service in Malaya (1949-1952), Suez (1954), Cyprus (1955), Northern Ireland (1970-2003), Bosnia (1996-97), Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2004).
The term ‘Green Howards’ was a nickname used by the Regiment from 1744 until it was made official in December 1920. From 1751 to 1881 it was called the ‘19th Regiment of Foot’, from 1882 to 1903 it was ‘The Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment)’, from 1903 to 1920 it was ‘Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment’, and finally from 1921 to 2006 it was ‘The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment)’.
THE GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM WEBSITE
[With thanks to Major Roger Chapman MBE (retired) for permission to quote from his exellent Regimental photohistory, published in 2006 and available from the Museum shop and Museum on-line shop.]