Suffolk Regiment (Redirected from 12th Regiment of Foot)

Suffolk Regiment
Badge of the Suffolk Regiment
Country Kingdom of England (1685–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1959)
Branch British Army
RoleLine infantry
Size1–2 Regular battalions

1–2 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
1–4 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 15 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQGibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmunds
Nickname(s)"Old Dozen"
EngagementsBattle of Minden
Eureka Rebellion
Battle of Singapore

The Suffolk Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army with a history dating back to 1685. It saw service for three centuries, participating in many wars and conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars, before being amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) in 1959 which, in 1964, was further amalgamated with the 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot) and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment to create the present Royal Anglian Regiment.


Early history

Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, founder of the regiment
Soldier of 12th regiment, 1742
Regimental uniform, 1840s

In 1685, the Duke of Norfolk's Regiment of Foot was recruited in Norfolk and Suffolk by the Duke of Norfolk. Raised to suppress the Monmouth Rebellion, it became part of the Royal Army and its Colonel Lord Lichfield remained loyal to James II after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. He was replaced by Henry Wharton and the regiment fought throughout the 1689 to 1691 Williamite War in Ireland, including the Battle of the Boyne, the Capture of Waterford and the Siege of Limerick in 1690.

After the October 1691 Treaty of Limerick, it returned to England before being transferred to Flanders. When the Nine Years' War ended with the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, the regiment was saved from disbandment by becoming part of the Irish establishment, then spent the War of the Spanish Succession in Jamaica. Returning to Flanders in 1742 during the War of the Austrian Succession, it fought at Dettingen in June 1743 and Fontenoy in May 1745, where it suffered 322 casualties, the largest of any British unit involved.

As a result of the 1751 army reforms, it was renamed the 12th Regiment of Foot and in 1758, the second battalion was detached to form the 65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot. During the 1756 to 1763 Seven Years' War, it fought at the battles of Minden, Villinghausen and Wilhelmsthal, as well as the Siege of Cassel. In 1782, it was given a county association as the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot.

Napoleonic Wars

The regiment embarked for the West Indies in 1793 and took part in the capture of Martinique, Saint Lucia and Guadeloupe in 1794. It returned to England in 1795 and then embarked for India in 1796 where it took part in operations against Tipu Sultan including the Siege of Seringapatam in April 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. It also took part in the Invasion of Île Bonaparte in July 1810 and the Invasion of Isle de France in November 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Victorian era

Regimental colours, 1848

While garrisoning the Australian Colony of Victoria in 1854, detachments from the regiment, the 40th Regiment of Foot and colonial police, suppressed the Eureka Rebellion, by gold prospectors at Ballarat. While still in Australia, elements of the 1st Battalion served in the New Zealand Wars between 1860 and 1867.

The regiment was not fundamentally affected by the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, which gave it a depot at Gibraltar Barracks in Bury St Edmunds from 1873, or by the Childers reforms of 1881 – as it already possessed two battalions, there was no need for it to amalgamate with another regiment. Under the reforms the regiment became the Suffolk Regiment on 1 July 1881. As the county regiment of Suffolk, it also gained the county's militia and rifle volunteer battalions, which were integrated into the regiment as numbered battalions. After these reforms, the regiment now included:


  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion


Volunteer Force

  • [5th] 1st Suffolk Rifle Volunteers based in Woodbridge, renamed 1st Volunteer Battalion in 1888
  • [6th] 6th (West Suffolk) Suffolk Rifle Volunteers based in Sudbury, renamed 2nd Vol Btn in 1881
  • [7th] 1st (Cambridge, Essex and Huntingdonshire) Cambridgeshire Rifle Volunteers based in Cambridge, renamed 3rd (Cambridgeshire) Vol Btn in 1881
  • [8th] 3rd (Cambridge University) Cambridgeshire Rifle Volunteer Corps based in Cambridge, renamed 4th (Cambridge University) Vol Btn in 1881

The 1st Battalion served in the Second Boer War: it assaulted a hill near Colesberg in January 1900 and suffered many casualties including the commanding officer.

By contrast between 1895 and 1914, the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was not involved in hostilities. It was stationed for the majority of the time in India. Garrison postings during this period include; Secunderabad (India) 1895, Rangoon and the Andaman Islands (Burma) 1896 to 1899, Quetta (North West Frontier) 1899 to 1902, Karachi and Hyderabad (Northern India, now Pakistan) 1902 to 1905, Madras (India) 1905 to 1907, Aden 1907, returning to England in 1908.

During its service in India the 2nd Battalion became known as a "well officered battalion that compared favourably with the best battalion in the service having the nicest possible feeling amongst all ranks". The 2nd was also regarded as a good shooting battalion with high level of musketry skills.

The spirit of independence and self-reliance exhibited by officers and non-commissioned officers led to the 2nd Battalion taking first place in the Quetta Division of the British Army of India, from a military effectiveness point of view, in a six-day test. This test saw the men under arms for over 12 hours a day conducting a wide selection of military manoeuvres, including bridge building, retreats under fire, forced marches and defending ground and fixed fortifications.

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve; the regiment now had one Reserve and three Territorial battalions. In 1910 the regiment gained another Territorial unit, the 6th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment, after the breakup of the Essex and Suffolk Cyclist Battalion.

First World War

Regular Army

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 84th Brigade in the 28th Division in January 1915 for service on the Western Front and then transferred to Egypt in 24 October 1915. It suffered some 400 casualties at the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915.

The 2nd Battalion landed at landed at Le Havre as part of the 14th Brigade in the 5th Division in August 1914. The value of the 2nd Battalion's 20 years of peacetime training was exemplified at the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August 1914, a mere 23 days since Britain had declared war on Germany. In this action the 2nd Battalion undertook a fierce rear-guard defence out-manned and out-gunned by superior numbers of enemy. The 2nd Battalion held their defensive position despite losing their commanding officer, Lt. Col. C.A.H. Brett DSO, at the commencement of the action and their second in command, Maj. E.C. Doughty, who was severely wounded after six hours of battle as he went forward to take ammunition to the hard-pressed battalion machine gunners.

Almost totally decimated as a fighting unit after over eight hours of incessant fighting, the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was gradually outflanked but would still not surrender. This was despite the fact that the German Army, knowing the 2nd Battalion had no hope of survival, entreated them to surrender, even ordering the German buglers to sound the British Cease Fire and gesticulating for the men of the 2nd to lay down their arms. At length an overwhelming force rushed the 2nd Battalion from the rear, bringing down all resistance and the 2nd's defence of Le Cateau was at an end. Those remaining alive were taken captive by the Germans, spending the next four years as prisoners of war and not returning home until Christmas Day 1918.

As an example of their valour and the level of training they had been subject to as a peacetime unit, it is noted that 720 men of 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment total roll call of some 1,000, many of whom had been with the battalion since the 1899 posting to Quetta, were killed, wounded or captured. This fight-to-the-last-man defence at Le Cateau was later recognised as a key factor in preventing the German occupation of Paris. The battalion, due to the casualties sustained, was transferred to GHQ Troops before, on 25 October, transferring to the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division and, almost a year later, transferred to 76th Brigade of the same division, where they were to remain for the rest of the year.

Territorial Force

The 1/4th Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the Jullundur Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division in November 1914 for service on the Western Front. The 1/5th Battalion landed at Suvla Bay as part of the 163rd (1/1st Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade in the 54th (East Anglian) Division in August 1915; it was evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 and moved to Egypt and saw action again at First Battle of Gaza in March 1917.

Hostilities-only battalions

Men of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, in the ruins of the church in Tilloy, France, 18 October 1917.
Miniature portrait of the 7th Battalion's Captain Vesey Davoren (1888-1989), in uniform, presented to him on January 15, 1916, by the artist John Morley.

The 7th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division in May 1915 for action on the Western Front. The 9th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of 71st Brigade in the 24th Division in August 1915 also for action on the Western Front: The 11th (Service) Battalion (Cambridgeshire) landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 101st Brigade in the 34th Division in January 1916 also for action on the Western Front.

Inter-war period

The 1st battalion saw action in the campaign against the Moplahs in Malabar in 1922 while the 2nd battalion was deployed to Shanghai in 1927 before moving to India in 1929.

Second World War

Regular Army

Stretcher bearers and infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment pass Churchill tanks of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade near Venray, the Netherlands, 17 October 1944.

The 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a Regular Army unit stationed in Devonport as part of the 8th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and served with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France from late 1939 to May 1940. The division was commanded by Major-General Bernard Montgomery. With the rest of the BEF, it was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. The next four years were spent training in the United Kingdom for the invasion of Normandy in 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. The 1st Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Goodwin, landed on Sword beach and was involved in attacking and taking the Hillman Fortress on D-Day itself. They served with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the entire North West Europe Campaign from D-Day to Victory in Europe Day in 1945. By the end of the war the 1st Battalion had lost 215 men killed in action.

The 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment was serving in India at the outbreak of the Second World War, spending the early years of the war mainly deployed on internal security duties. In 1943 the battalion transferred to the 123rd Indian Infantry Brigade, part of the 5th Indian Infantry Division and served with them in the Burma Campaign. In 1944 the battalion was flown to Imphal to clear Japanese positions.

Territorial Army

Surrendering troops of the Suffolk Regiment held at gunpoint by Japanese infantry in the battle of Singapore.

The 4th/5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a Territorial Army unit and was split to help re-create the 5th Battalion, which had been disbanded in the 1920s, in 1939 due to the Territorial Army being doubled as another conflict had, by this time, seemed inevitable. Both battalions were assigned to the 54th Infantry Brigade, which included the 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment, assigned to the 18th Infantry Division, a 2nd Line duplicate of the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division. Despite being a 2nd Line formation, the 18th Division contained many 1st Line units. The division spent the early years of the war in the defence of England and guarding against a possible German invasion after the bulk of the British Army was evacuated at Dunkirk. In late 1941 the 18th Division, the 4th and 5th Suffolks included, were originally to be sent to Egypt but instead were sent to Singapore to help strengthen the garrison there after Japan entered the war in December 1941. In early 1942, both the 4th and 5th battalions fought briefly in the defence of Singapore against the Japanese, with the 18th Division, before British Commonwealth forces on that island surrendered on 15 February 1942 under the orders of Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival. Men from the two battalions suffered great hardship as POWs and were forced to participate in the construction of the Burma Railway.


Men of the 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment negotiate barbed wire obstacles during training on the beach at Sandbanks near Poole, 22 March 1941.
The King inspects men of the Suffolk Regiment during a tour of Western Command, 23 October 1941.

The 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a war-formed unit raised in June 1940, shortly after Dunkirk, and, on 10 October, was assigned to the 210th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) alongside other hostilities-only battalions. With the brigade, the battalion alternated between home defence duties and training to repel an expected invasion of the United Kingdom. In November 1941, with the threat of invasion reduced due to the oncoming winter, the battalion was converted to a regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, becoming 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (142 RAC) and joined 25th Army Tank Brigade. They continued to wear their Suffolk Regiment cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps as did all infantry units converted this way. Equipped with Churchill tanks the regiment landed at Algiers in 1943, fighting at the Battle of Medjez-el Bab in the Tunisia Campaign in April 1943. After the end of the fighting in North Africa the regiment remained there until April 1944 when, with the rest of the brigade, it landed at Naples, Italy, destined for service in the Italian campaign, where they fought in Operation Diadem, where the Allies finally broke out of the Gustav Line. 142 RAC was present when the Allies overcame the Hitler Line and the Gothic Line in late 1944. However, due to a shortage of manpower, the regiment was disbanded in January 1945 while in northern Italy.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was created in late May 1940, around the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, and was originally intended temporarily to 'hold' men who were medically unfit, awaiting orders, or, as this was at the time of Dunkirk, returning from overseas service. However, in October, the battalion was re-designated as the 8th Battalion. In addition, the 6th, 9th, 30th, 31st and 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalions were also formed, although none of these saw service overseas.

Post war

The regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) in 1959.

Regimental museum

The Suffolk Regiment Museum is based at Gibraltar Barracks in Bury St Edmunds.

Battle honours

12th Regiment at the Great Siege of Gibraltar, 13–14 September 1782
12th Regiment at the storming of Seringapatam, 4 May 1799

The regiment's battle honours were as follows:

Victoria Cross

Victoria Crosses were awarded to the following men of the regiment:


Colonels of the Regiment

Colonels of the regiment were as follows:

12th Regiment of Foot

12th (East Suffolk) Regiment

  • 1811–1823: Gen Sir Charles Hastings, 1st Baronet
  • 1823–1852: Gen Hon. Robert Meade
  • 1852–1857: Lt-Gen Sir Richard Goddard Hare Clarges KCB
  • 1857–1864: Lt-Gen Charles Anthony Ferdinand Bentinck
  • 1864–1875: Gen Henry Colvile
  • 1875–1888: Gen John Patton

The Suffolk Regiment

Preceded by
12th Regiment of Foot
The Suffolk Regiment
Succeeded by

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