Monday, September 14, 2015

British 56th Regiment of Foot - The Pompadours

    This regiment, along with ten others, was first raised in 1755, due to escalating incidents in North America, and expected war with France. It was originally numbered as the 58th Regiment, but was renumbered to the 56th the end of the following year, when 2 other regiments below them were disbanded.  It spent most of the 7 Year's War in garrison in Scotland, but was sent to the Caribbean in late 1761, and stormed the Moro fortress guarding the harbor at Havana, Cuba in January of 1762. It garrisoned the city until the end of the war in 1763, and was awarded the battle honor of "The Moro".

    The regiment was sent to Gibraltar in 1770, where it served for 12 years. This time included the Great siege of Gibraltar during the American Revolutionary War. In 1782, the County designation of  West Essex was added to the title of the Regiment. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Battle Honor of "Gibraltar" was awarded, along with the right to have the castle and keys emblem on its colors.


The 56th or West Essex Regiment of Foot.
When first raised, the unit had deep crimson facings, but these were felt to be unsuitable, so in 1764 the facings were changed to purple, making it unique among British regiments. This was described as a shade of Rose - Purple called Pompadour, after the mistress of King Louis XV of France, Madame  de Pompadour, who called this color her favorite. The men of the regiment liked to claim it was the color of her underwear!  Regardless, it accounts for the regimental nickname, "The Pompadours"


During the French Revolutionary Wars the regiment first was dispatched to the Caribbean, including time on Barbados, followed by participation in the captures of Martinique, St. Lucia, and finally Guadeloupe, before entering garrison duty on Jamaica. It returned to England in 1788, and participated in the unsuccessful campaign in the Low countries in 1799. 


During the Napoleonic Wars, a second battalion was added to the regiment in  1804, and a third in 1813.  The first battalion was sent to India in 1805, and the 2nd battalion joined it there in 1807. The 3rd battalion served in the Low Countries in 1813. In 1810, the first battalion participated in the capture of Ile Bourbon, and then Mauritius, the last remaining French possessions in the Indian Ocean. 


The 56th fought in the Crimean War, earning the battle honor "Sevastopol". In 1881, it was amalgamated with the 44th Foot to form the Essex Regiment. As the 56th's wartime service was almost exclusively outside Europe, it is fitting that it chose "Rule, Britannia" as its regimental march!


While I was outfitting this unit (and the 35th) with colors from Warflag, I added the missing flag to my 2nd (Coldstream) Guards. As usual. the printed enhanced by some paint to deepen the color of the field. 


There are many eccentricities to the flags of the Foot Guard regiments. First, in the Guards regiments, the flags bearing the Union design are the Regimental colors, and the flags with colored fields are King's colors - the reverse of the usual pattern for the Line regiments. Second, the field of these King's Color's was crimson, rather than dark blue, and lacked the Union in the upper staff canton. Finally, there were multiple versions, each with different emblems There was apparently one for each company, it would seem (although usually only one would be taken on campaign). 

28 comments:

  1. A terrific looking unit and a fascinating regimental history, one I'd never encountered before. This was certainly a well-travelled regiment!

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    1. Thanks, Michael. The fact it spent\ very little time fighting in the European Wars probably accounts for uits relative obscurity.

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  2. I think I may have to paint this unit as well. You've inspired me!

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    1. Excellent! It is unique its purple facings. A good choice too for "foreign wars" in the Americas or India, as well as amphibious landings...

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  3. Excellent work and fascinating history....perhaps model a pair of captured French bloomers to hang atop the colour staff.

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    1. I think the men of the Regiment would heartily second that idea, LOL!

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  4. Very interesting regimental history. Three battalions? Is that not quite unusual?
    With all of their service in the Caribbean, perhaps their flag motif ought to include a bottle of rum!

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    1. Yes, that's an unusually large regiment for a British unit; as you might imagine, the 2nd and 3rd battalions were disbanded not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Bottle of Rum, the keys of Gibraltar, and some French lace Panties - could be quite the show-stopper flag, LOL!

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    1. Thanks, Joe. As Ray observes, it was fun to break open the Purple Paint!

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  6. Great looking figures and a great write up on them. I've always fancied painting up this regt myself, you don't very often get to open that bottle of purple paint!

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    1. Thanks, Ray, and I agree - a stray Austrian Line and Grenz unit, the 4th Italian Chasuers, and "Les Pompadours"; not too many other Napoleonic units that I can think of where you need the purple!

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  7. agree with other comments - lovely painted unit and marvelous regimental history notes - well done Pete!

    cheers,

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    1. Thanks Phil. I'm all about the colors! :-)

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  8. I thought I knew a bit about many of the British regiments, but had never heard the nickname "The Pompadours" before. I might have to include a battalion myself when I get around to it.

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    1. For a regiment that goes back as far as this one does, it has been relatively obscure, again, presumably because it's service was largely outside of the famous campaigns in Europe. Perhaps we'll see "British Purple" bnreaking out across the English speaking world! :-)

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  9. Another excellent unit with a history lesson to boot. Thanks Peter!

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  10. Great unit - I love the facing colour. I also love the Old Glory figures. I have a half a dozen British battalions of the same figures (for the most part). Easy to paint, and fit in with my Front Rank, Perry, Victrix units.

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    1. Thanks, and, of course, I agree with you about the Old Glory figures. I think their British sculpts,. on average, are better than their French ones, especially the infantry.

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  11. Very interesting, I did not know there was a rest with purple facings.

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    1. Yes, they were quite unique in that regard. Which, of course, is why I painted them in the first place!

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  12. My only issue with old glory, is they sometimes look like they are looking for Airplanes

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    1. LOL, I can see that. I think the same could be said for Elite as well. Doesn't bother me at all, even up close, but at tabletop distances, insignificant.

      As far as value, at least for US residents, they are, as the Coldtreamers would say, "Second to None".

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  13. Wonderful and some great history there too! :)

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I am happy you found both of interest!

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