The Royal Leicestershire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army, with a history going back to 1688. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into The Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964.
===1688 – 1881===
On 27 September 1688 a commission was issued to Colonel Solomon Richards to raise a regiment of foot. From 1688 to 1751 the regiment was known by the name of its various colonels. The regiment saw service in the Flanders from 1694 to 1697, before moving to Ireland. In 1701 the regiment moved to the continent of Europe, and took part in the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1709 the unit returned to England, moving to Minorca in 1725.
In 1751 a royal warrant assigned numbers to the regiments of the line, and the unit became the 17th Regiment of Foot. It saw service during the French and Indian War at Louisbourg in 1758, Ticonderoga in 1759, and in Caribbean engagements in 1761 and 1762. Following that war it also saw duty during Pontiac’s Rebellion before eventually returning to England in 1767. The 17th were again in service during the American War of Independence, landing in Boston on New Year’s Day 1776. The regiment’s performance at the Battle of Princeton was commemorated in the addition of an unbroken laurel wreath to its insignia. Several companies were captured at the Battle of Stony Point by a daring night-time bayonet charge by “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The regiment moved to Nova Scotia before returning to England in 1786.
A royal warrant dated 31 August 1782 bestowed county titles on all regiments of foot that did not already have a special designation “to cultivate a connection with the County which might at all times be useful towards recruiting”. The regiment became the 17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot.
The regiment was increased to two battalions in 1799 and both battalions served in the Netherlands before the second was disbanded in 1802. In 1804 the 17th moved to India, and remained there until 1823. In 1825 the regiment was granted the badge of a “royal tiger” to recall their long service in the sub-continent. The Regiment was posted to New South Wales from 1830-1836.
The regiment returned to India in 1837, and then took part in the First Afghan War from 1838 to 1842. The 17th next came under fire in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856.
In 1858 a second battalion was raised. The battalions served in Afghanistan, Burma, Canada.
===1881 – 1914===
The Childers reforms of 1881 created multi-battalion regiments. Each regiment had a designated regimental district and also incorporated the local militia and rifle volunteers. Regiments of foot were no longer to have numbers, but were to bear a territorial title.
The Leicestershire Regiment was accordingly formed on 1 July 1881. The regimental depot was at Glen Parva, and the regiment consisted of:
The 1st and 3rd battalions fought in the Second Boer War 1899 – 1902. The 2nd Battalion was stationed as a garrison regiment at Gibraltar from early 1900.
In 1908, with the creation of the Territorial Force, the 1st Volunteer Battalion formed the 4th and 5th Battalions (TF). There was a minor controversy in the same year, when new colours were issued to the 1st Battalion to replace those of the 17th foot. A green tiger had been shown on the old colours and the regiment refused to take the new issue into use. The issue was resolved when the regiment received permission for the royal tiger emblazoned on the regimental colours to be coloured green with gold stripes.
===1914 – 1918===
In the First World War, the regiment increased from five to nineteen battalions which served in France and Flanders, Mesopotamia and Palestine. The regiment lost approximately 6,000 dead in the four years of war.
===1918 – 1939===
The regiment reverted to its pre-war establishment in 1919. The 1st Battalion was involved in the Irish War of Independence 1920 – 1922, before moving to various overseas garrisons including Cyprus, Egypt and India. The 2nd Battalion was in India, Sudan, Germany and Palestine.
In 1931 the regimental facing colour was changed from white to pearl grey. Previous to 1881 the 17th foot had “greyish white” facings.
The 3rd (Militia) Battalion was placed in “suspended animation” in 1921, eventually being formally disbanded in 1953. In 1936 the 4th Battalion was converted to an anti-aircraft unit of the Royal Engineers, later part of the Royal Artillery. The size of the Territorial Army was doubled in 1939, and consequently the 1/5th and 2/5th Battalions were formed from the existing 5th.
===1939 – 1945===
Battalions of the regiment served in many theatres of the war, including Burma, Greece, Italy, North Africa, North West Europe and Norway.
===1945 – 1964===
In 1946 the regiment was granted “royal” status, becoming the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. In 1948, in common with all other infantry regiments, the 2nd Battalion was abolished. The 5th Battalion (TA) had been reformed in 1947.
In 1948 the regiment became part of the Forester Brigade, sharing a depot with at Warwick with The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment and The Sherwood Foresters. Glen Parva was downgraded to regimental headquarters.
The 1st Battalion served in the Korean War from 1951 to 1952. They subsequently moved to England (exercising the freedom of the City of Leicester in 1952), Germany, Sudan, where they operated with the Sudan Defence Force and departed on 16 August 1955, Cyprus, Brunei and Aden.
In 1961 the territorial 5th Battalion absorbed the anti-aircraft successor to the former 4th Battalion to become the 4th/5th Battalion.
In 1963 the Forester Brigade was dissolved, with the Royal Leicesters and Royal Lincolns moving to the East Anglian Brigade where they joined the 1st, 2nd and 3rd East Anglian Regiments.
===Amalgamation as a battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment===
On 1 September 1964 the regiments of the East Anglian Brigade became The Royal Anglian Regiment. The 1st Battalion, Royal Leicestershire Regiment became the 4th (Leicestershire) Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment. The “Leicestershire” subtitle was removed on 1 July 1968 and the battalion was disbanded in 1975. The Royal Leicestershire heritage was included in the new regiment’s button design, which features the royal tiger within an unbroken wreath.
The 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Leicestershire Regiment continued to exist as a territorial unit of the Royal Anglians until its disbandment in 1967.