Burma Star Association
Burma Star Association

Brief history of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding)

The Regiment has been in existence for 296 years and today is one of the handful that have not been disbanded or amalgamated since the Infantry of the Line was reorganised in 1881. At that time the 33rd and 76th Regiments were amalgamated to form the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding).


The 33rd was raised at the outbreak of the Spanish war of Succession in 1702. It soon established a reputation for excellence and by the 1770's was described as the best trained in the Army. this was due to the influence of Lord Cornwallis who was Colonel of the Regiment from 1766 - 1805. It was under Lord Cornwallis's Colonelcy in 1782 that the Regiment was first formally linked with the West Riding of Yorkshire, in recognition of its then already long established practice of recruiting its soldiers from this part of the country. It became known as the 33rd (or 1st Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment.


In 1793 Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, purchased first his Majority and then six months later his Lieutenant Colonelcy in the Regiment. He was then 24 years old. He remained in command of the Regiment until 1802 taking it first to Holland and then on to India. In 1806 he succeeded Lord Cornwallis as Colonel holding the appointment until he relinquished it, with some reluctance, in1813 to take up the Colonelcy of the Horse Guards. T he 33rd subsequently also fought under him at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was because of this long and particularly close relationship with the Duke that, after his death in 1852, the Regiment was granted the title of "The Duke of Wellington's Regiment", a unique distinction as it is the only regiment in the Army to be named after a commoner.


The 76th was raised in 1787 for service in India where it greatly distinguished itself in the wars against the Maharattas which led to the capture of Delhi and Agra amongst other major Indian cities. For its service in India it was awarded by the East India Company an honorary stand of colours, making the Regiment the only one to carry four Colours on parade, and the badge of an elephant circumscribed by the word "Hindoostan".


It was under the reforms of the Army in 1881, when the 33rd and 76th were linked together to become the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment West Riding, that their home barracks in Halifax were built for them. Though the barracks closed in 1957 the Regiment's headquarters are still in the town.


During the 1st World War twenty one Regular, Territorial and Service battalions of the Regiment were raised with their men drawn almost entirely from the West Riding. Of these, fourteen battalions saw active service on the Western Front, Italy, and at Gallipoli suffering the loss of 8,000 men and officers. In the 2nd World War battalions of the Regiment took part in the campaigns of Dunkirk, North West Europe, North Africa, Italy and Burma.


Since then the 1st Battalion has seen active service in Korea, where at the Battle of the Hook it held the critical approaches to Seoul, Cyprus, Kenya, numerous tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia where, in 1994, it was the first unit into Gorazde and played a critical role in helping to prevent a similar tragedy to that which befell Zepa and Screbrinica.


Within the Army the Regiment is particularly well renowned for its prowess on the Rugby field. The Dukes, besides having had many internationals in its ranks over the years, have won the Army Cup fourteen times - more than any other regiment - and been runners up seven times.


Today the Regiment has two battalions. The 1st Battalion is a Regular Army battalion who have recently moved to Hounslow, London, and the 3rd Battalion which is part of the Territorial Army.The 3rd Battalion has its Headquarters at Endcliffe Hall, Sheffield with Drill Halls across the Regimental recruiting area.


The Regiment continues to recruit nearly all its soldiers from the old West Riding, the recruiting area stretching from Settle in North Yorkshire through Skipton, Keighley, Halifax, West Bradford, Huddersfield, Barnsley and Rotherham to Sheffield. It is based on these long, historical ties to the people of the West Riding and the honest, straight forward, hard working qualities they bring with them that the Regiment's reputation for quiet, but first class professionalism is founded.


Throughout 1998 the 1st Battalion will be carrying out Public Duties in London. Soldiers from the Regiment will be regularly seen performing guard duties outside Buckingham Palace, St.James's Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.


This brief history was provided by the Regimental Secretary, The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding), April 1998.

When you go home

tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow,

we gave our today

Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945 Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945
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