The 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, which was raised as a line regiment in 1756 and saw service through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As part of the Haldane Reforms, it was amalgamated with the 99th Duke of Edinburgh’s (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot in 1881, to form the Wiltshire Regiment.
Although originally formed as a line regiment, the 62nd as a regiment was employed, at times, in a light infantry role. This was not the first 62nd Regiment of the British Army. The first unit of the British Army to be the 62nd Regiment was renumbered as the 60th Regiment in 1757, and became better known as the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. The second unit to be designated as the 62nd Regiment was also renumbered in 1757. This second regiment would become the 78th Fraser Highlanders.
During its existence, the 62nd Regiment would earn six battle honours: Louisburg, Nive, Ferozeshah, Sobaron, and Sevastopol. The regiment’s slow march was “May Blossoms” and its quick march was “The Vly be on Turmit”.
== 1756–1758: Formation, Louisbourg, and Carrickfergus ==
The 62nd Regiment was formed on 20 September 1756 as the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Regiment of Foot, and renumbered as a separate regiment in 1758. The regiment’s first action came during the Seven Years’ War. Because of a lack of available marine units, four companies of the 62nd was assigned to Admiral Boscawen’s fleet as marines. As marines, they took part in the Siege of Louisbourg. Following the capture of Louisbourg, the 62nd Regiment participated in Wolfe’s campaign to capture attack on Quebec. The regiment made a diversionary landing at Beauport as a diversion from the main landings.
Although the siege of Louisbourg was the first battle of the 62nd, it would be more than a century before the War Office recognized the part they played. For decades, commanders of the regiment would petitioner the War Office for the Louisbourg honour, which had been granted to the other eleven regiments present during the siege. However, the War Office continually refused, stating that there was no record of the 62nd being present. This was true because the records which showed they were present were not held in the War Office. By acting as marines, they had been on the Royal Navy’s books and thus the records verifying their part in the battle were with the Admiralty.The 62nd finally received the Louisbourg honour in 1910.
The rest of the regiment was assigned to Ireland and eventually assigned as the garrisoned for Castle Carrickfergus. On 23 February 1760, a French force of approximately 600 men conducted an amphibious assault and laid siege to the castle. The castle’s defences were in a state of disrepair, including a 50 foot breach in the wall.
Under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Jennings, the four under-strength companies, approximately 200 men in all, withstood three assaults on the castle. In addition to being outnumbered, the garrison was short of ammunition, having to melt down their buttons to make bullets. By the time the French made their third attack, the defenders had expended all their ammunition and were left with rocks and bayonets. After the third attempt was beaten back, Colonel Jennings was forced to seek terms. After meeting with the French commander, Jennings and his men were allowed to surrender the castle, give their parole, retain their arms and colours. The French, in return, promised not to plunder the town of Carrickfergus.
Although the 62nd surrendered the castle, the François Thurot French squadron which had landed the force was destroyed by the Royal Navy in an action near the Mull of Galloway. An investigation of the defence of Carrickfergus proclaimed that the men “behav’d like Lyons”. The Irish Parliament voted a thanks to the Regiment and Carrickfergus presented the officers with silver cups.
In 1761, part of the regiment was sent to Germany to join the British forces serving on the continent. In 1763, the regiment was reunited and deployed the West Indies where it would remain until it was sent to Canada join General Howe’s forces.
== 1776–1783: North America ==
The 62nd Foot returned to North America in 1776, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Anstruther. Anstruther would command the regiment from 1773 until retirement in 1782.
Initially dispatched to Canada, the 62nd took part in the campaign to expel the colonial forces from Canada. The regiment’s flank companies would be detached and take part in the Battle of Trois-Rivières. The regiment’s companies were reunited to support the British drive to clear the colonials from the rest of Canada, including the Battle of Valcour Island.
Following its participation in the Canadian Campaign of 1776, the 62nd Foot was assigned to serve with Major-General John Burgoyne’s command. The 62nd Foot served under Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. The regiment was brigaded with the 9th, 20th, and 21st regiments under the command of Major-General James Inglis Hamilton. With the rest of Bugoyne’s command, the 62nd was surrendered along with the rest of the force. Most of the 62nd Foot remained imprisoned until 1781 when it was repatriated to England. After repatriation, the 62nd was sent to the West Indies, eventually becoming part of the garrison on the island of Jamaica in 1797. In 1782, now under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Campbell, the 62nd Foot was given, for the first time, the county title “Wiltshire”.
== 1793–1815: service during the Napoleonic Wars ==
The start of the French Revolution found the regiment still garrisoning islands in the West Indies. In 1795, the 62nd was transferred to Jamaica to act as the islands garrison. The 62nd spent the majority of 1796 fighting in what is now Haiti as part of the British expedition there. As with the rest of the British expedition, the regiment suffered heavily from yellow fever. After transferring men out to other unit, the cadre was returned by ship to England in 1797.
In 1799, the 62nd Foot was expanded into a two battalion regiment. However, with the peace of Amiens in 1802, the 2nd battalion was disbanded. When hostilities resumed, a second battalion was once again raised in 1804. Initially, the second battalion was raised for limited service, however the rank and file would eventually volunteer additional. In 1808, the 2nd/62nd was assigned to garrison the isle of Jersey. The 1st/62nd having been dispatched to Sicily.
In 1809, the 1st/62nd Foot was transferred to Sicily to aid in the British defence of the island. The regiment participated in a raid under General Stuart resulting in the destruction of the magazines at Ischia and Procida. In 1811, elements of the 1st/62nd participated in another raid on the Italian mainland. Three companies were landed at Palinure. For three days, they engaged a French force of approximately 1000, and in the process destroyed three batteries and captured a French convoy. Detachments of the 1st/62nd were used on gunboat duty operating out of Messina. These army crewed gunboats managed to capturing a French privateer and retaking two of her prizes. In 1812, the 1st/62nd was transferred to eastern Spain to support Wellington’s forces on the Peninsula.
The 2nd/62nd, along with the 2nd/47th and 84th Regiments of Foot, was attached Major-General Lord Aylmer’s independent brigade during Wellington’s offensive across the Pyrenees beginning in 1813. The 2nd/62nd then moved on in preparation for the investment of Bayonne when the war ended. The 2nd/62nd was then sent to Ireland after a brief period of occupation duties in France.
In 1814, after spending time in Spain, 1st/62nd was assigned again to an expedition to Italy. The battalion landed at Leghorn before marching on Genoa. Like many other units of the British Army, upon Napoleon’s abdication, the 1st/62nd was ordered to North America to fight against the United States. After arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the regiment moved south.
Neither battalions of the regiment were present at Waterloo. The 1st/62nd would be sent to the West Indies, while the 2nd/62 would be sent to France for occupation duties after the conclusion of the Hundred Days. In 1816 the 2nd battalion was disbanded and its officers put on half-pay.
Following the Napoleonic Wars, the 62nd would be returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It would remain there until 1823 when it was rotated to Ireland. The regiment would remain in Ireland until 1830.
== 1830–1847: service with The East India Company and the Battle of Ferozeshah ==
In 1830, the 62nd Foot was deployed to India. Arriving in September 1830, the 62nd Foot was initially garrisoned Bangalore. After two relatively quiet years in India, the 62nd Foot participated in putting down the abortive Bangalore Mutiny. The next twelve years passed relatively quietly for the regiment. At the end of 1844, the 62nd Foot was ordered to Ferozepore. There they joined the British East India Company forces gathering there.
From March until December 1845, the 62nd Foot garrisoned the area as tensions between British-controlled India and Sikhs escalated. In December 1845, hostilities began. On 21–22 December 1845, the 62nd Foot fought in the Battle of Ferozeshah. There the British-Company forces, under the command of General Gough, were successful in a hard fought battle where the 62nd Foot suffered heavy casualties, including 18 out of 23 officers and 281 out of 560 other ranks. The regiment had been part of an attack on the strongest part of the Sikh lines. However, they were unable to carry the position at bayonet point and were forced to retreat with the rest of their division. By the end of the first day of battle, no officers were left to take charge of the regiment. Command of the regiment devolved to its sergeants and non-commissioned officers. In honor of their leadership, 21 December became a regimental anniversary.
Ironically, although the honor for Ferozeshah would be considered one of the regiment’s crowning moments, it did not come without controversy. In his report of the battle, the 62nd’s division commander reported that the regiment was “panic-struck” during the fighting and that was the cause of its losses. This was contradicted by the commanding general, Gough’s report. In end, Gough’s version was supported by Parliament, Duke of Wellington, and Horse Guards.
The regiment, although diminished by its losses at Ferozeshah, also fought at the Sobaron. There they served in Dick’s Division, participating in the main bayonet assault against the Sikh defences once Gough’s forces ran out of artillery ammunition.
Despite the regiment’s exploits at Ferozeshah and Sobaron being among the regiment’s proudest honors, the campaign was also the sight of one its greatest embarrassments. On two separate occasions, the regiment lost its colors. At first, they were lost when the boat carrying them sank in the Ganges. The second time, after they were recovered, they burned when the same boat caught fire.
The regiment remained in India for another two years. In that time, the 62nd was cycled through various stations in India, in addition to performing ceremonial duties for visiting dignitaries. In 1847, the regiment returned to England before being sent to Ireland.
== 1848–1856: Ireland and Crimean War service ==
For the next few years served in Ireland, assigned to the garrison at Fermoy. In January 1854, with war brewing in the Black Sea, the regiment was put on notice for service in Crimea.
The 62nd Foot would see action in the Crimean War as part of the Second Division. The regiment participated in the Siege of Sevastopol. On 8 September 1855, the 62nd Foot was among the battalions which took part in the failed assault of the Redan bastion. Once again, the 62nd Foot suffered heavy casualties, including half of its officers and senior non-commissioned officers.
== 1856–1881: Canada, Ireland, India, Aden and Amalgamation ==
Following the Crimean War, the 62nd once again returned to Canada. They would remain in Canada there until 1865 when they were rotated through Aldershot. A year later, the 62nd would be back in Ireland. 1867 would see the 62nd engage Fenians in an action at Kilmallock defending the police barracks on 6 March 1867. Two years later, the regiment would once again find itself in India, and in July 1879 was in transit in the Punjab. . In 1880, the 62nd was transferred to Aden. While in Aden, as part of the Childers Reforms, the regiment was amalgamated with 99th Duke of Edinburgh’s (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot. The new regiment would be known as The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment).