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Regimental uniform, 1840s

The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army between 1919 and 1958. It was formed by the merging of the Bedfordshire Regiment (dating back to 1688) and the Hertfordshire Regiment (who's roots date back to the 'Trained Bands' of the Tudor era).[1]

'The Bedfordshire Regiment' was known as such between 1881 and 1919, although the County association dates back to 1809.[1] The origins of the Regiment itself go back to October 1688 when Douglas' Regiment of Foot was authorised by King James II in response to the threat posed to his throne by Prince William of Orange.[1] Until 1751 the Regiment was titled according to its string of ten Colonels, the last being Roger Handasyde. From 1751 the title was altered in accordance with its order of precedence, becoming the '16th Regiment of Foot'. 1782 saw the introduction of a County association to encourage recruitment, at which time the title changed to the '16th (The Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot'. In 1809 titles were exchanged with the '14th (The Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot' at the request of its Colonel who held substantial lands in Buckinghamshire, after which time it became the '16th (The Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot'. 'The Bedfordshire Regiment' was formed under the Childers reforms of 1881 by a merger of the '16th (The Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot' with the militia units and rifle volunteer corps from the counties of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, although reference to the regiment being the '16th Foot' continued to be used until after the First World War.

'The Hertfordshire Regiment' has its roots in the Tudor era and was amongst the County Bands to be called out to repel the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. During the English Civil War they fought on the Parliamentarian side, were called on to help fight the Great Fire of London in 1666 and were raised numerous times throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries in response to threats of invasion and times of unrest. During the South African Wars of 1900-1902 the regiment was mobilised from Dublin and served in several engagements. The Haldene reforms of 1908 saw the two Volunteer Battalions from the Bedfordshire Regiment merged, with the resulting Territorial Army unit being renamed as the '1st Battalion, the Hertfordshire Regiment (TF)' in 1909.[2]

In 1919 'The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment' was formed which was in turn merged with The Essex Regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot) in 1958, later becoming the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1964. The regiment's modern lineage is continued directly by D Company, 2nd Battalion of the The Royal Anglian Regiment.[1]


Battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment


1881 - 1908

When the Bedfordshire Regiment was formed on July 1, 1881 it consisted of two regular, two militia and three volunteer battalions:

  • 1st Battalion (formerly 1st Battalion, 16th (Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot raised in 1688)
  • 2nd Battalion (formerly 2nd Battalion, 16th (Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot raised 1858)
  • 3rd (Militia) Battalion (formerly Bedfordshire Light Infantry Militia)
  • 4th (Militia) battalion (formerly Hertfordshire Militia)
  • 1st Hertfordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps: redesignated 1st (Hertfordshire) Volunteer Battalion in 1887
  • 2nd Hertfordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps: redesignated 2nd (Hertfordshire) Volunteer Battalion in 1887
  • 1st Bedfordshire Rifle volunteer Corps: redesignated 3rd Volunteer Battalion in 1887

In 1900 the 4th (Huntingdonshire) Volunteer Battalion was raised.

1908 - 1914

Under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 the reserve battalions were reorganised in 1908:

  • The two militia battalions were renamed as the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Special Reserve) Battalions.
  • The 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions were merged to form The Hertfordshire Battalion (Territorial Force)
  • The 3rd and 4th VBs became the 5th Battalion (TF)

The following year the Hertfordshire Battalion left the regiment to become the 1st Battalion The Hertfordshire Regiment.

1914 - 1918

The Bedfordshire Regiment was greatly expanded during the First World War and was engaged in Europe and the Middle East, with seven Victoria Crosses being won by men serving in the regiment. In addition to the regular and special reserve battalions the following were formed:

  • The 5th territorial Battalion was redesignated as the 1/5th in August 1914 with the formation of a duplicate 2/5th Battalion. A 3/5th Battalion was raised in 1915.
  • The 6th to 11th (Service) Battalions were raised in 1914
  • The 12th and 13th (Transport Workers) Battalions were raised in 1916 in 1917
  • The 1st to 3rd Garrison Battalions served in India and Burma

The Hertfordshire Regiment raised two further Reserve battalions and its front line 1st/1st battalion served on the Western Front until 1919, with two men winning Victoria Crosses during the war.

1918 - 1939

On July 29, 1919 the two separate regiments merged and were renamed 'The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment' in recognition of the contribution of men from Hertfordshire during the Great War. During 1919 the war-formed battalions were disbanded, and the special reserve battalions were placed in "suspended animation". In 1920 the Territorial Force was reconstituted as the Territorial Army. The inter-war battalions were:

  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion
  • 5th Battalion (TA)

1939 - 1947

The regiment was expanded for the duration of the Second World War:

  • The 5th Battalion (TA) formed a duplicate 6th Battalion in 1939
  • The 7th, 2/7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Battalions were raised

1947 - 1958

Following the disbanding of the war-formed units and the reconstitution of the territorial Army in 1947, the regiment had the following battalions up to amalgamation:

  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion: absorbed by 1st Battalion in 1948
  • 5th Battalion (TA)

Territorial units after amalgamation

Although the regular battalion was merged into the 3rd East Anglian Regiment in 1958, the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment name continued in the Territorial Army for a further fourteen years. On formation of the 3rd East Anglians the territorial battalion was redesignated as the 5th Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment (TA). A reduction in the size of the Territorial Army in May 1961 saw the 5th Bedfords merge with the 1st Battalion, The Hertfordshire Regiment to form The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA). This regiment was disbanded in 1967, with its successor units in the new Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve being the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment and The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (Territorials). The latter unit was a home defence unit, reduced to an eight-man cadre in 1969 and eventually forming part of the 7th (Volunteer) Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment in 1971.

Badges and dress distinctions

When the regiment was formed in 1881 the badges of the 16th Foot and Hertfordshire Militia were combined. The badge for the full dress helmet plate featured a Maltese cross superimposed on an eight-pointed star, in the centre of which was a hart crossing a ford. A similar design was used for the cap badge adopted in 1898, with the addition of a representation of the Garter around the central device, and a scroll with the regiment's title. The collar badge was also the hart in a ford.[3][4]

The regiment wore a black and primrose lanyard on the battle-dress blouse. The lanyard was later worn by territorial units of the Royal Anglian Regiment based in the former regimental area.[5]

Battle honours

When the regiment was formed in 1881, it was unique in having no battle honours to display on its colours, as the 16th Foot had never received such an award in spite of having served for nearly two hundred years and having been engaged almost constantly in Europe during the first few decades of its existence. A committee assembled in 1882 under the chairmanship of Major General Sir Archibald Alison to review the award of honours, and the Bedfordshire Regiment received honours for four battles under the command of the Duke of Marlborough fought at the beginning of the eighteenth century.[6][7] The regiment subsequently received awards for past services in 1897 (for Surinam in 1804) and 1910 (for Namur in 1695). To these were added contemporary honours for fighting in the North West Frontier Province and the Second Boer War.

The regiment was awarded more than seventy honours for service in the Great War in 1925, and eighteen for the Second World War in 1957.[8] In common with other regiments, ten honours from each war were selected to be borne on the queen's colour.

The honours borne on the colours were:

  • On the regimental colours:

Namur 1695, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Surinam, Chitral, South Africa 1900-02

  • On the Queen's colours:

Ten selected honours for The Great War: Mons, Marne 1914, Ypres 1914 '15 '17, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Arras 1917 '18, Cambrai 1917 and 1918, Sambre, Suvla, Gaza.

Ten selected honours for the Second World War: Dunkirk 1940, N W Europe 1940, Tobruk Sortie, Belhamed, Tunis, North Africa 1941 '43, Cassino II, Trasimene Line, Italy 1944-45, Chindits 1944.


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^
  3. ^ A L Kipling and H L King, Head-dress badges of the British Army, Volume I, London, 1979
  4. ^ Colin Churchill History of the British Infantry collar Badge, Uckfield, 2001
  5. ^ Symbols, (The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum)
  6. ^ Naval and Military Intelligence, The Times, June 12, 1882
  7. ^ Ian Sumner, British Colours and Standards 1747 - 1881 (2) Infantry, Oxford, 2001
  8. ^ New list of battle honours, The Times, 23 May 1957


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