History of the 51st

51st Light Infantry

(2nd Yorkshire, West Riding)

1757 - 1821

51st soldier at Minden

Sources vary on the wearing of green or red trousers

The 51st at Minden, Wizard Comics, 1939

(copy held by the group)

General, Sir John Moore

Portrait of Joseph Dyas (Courtesy of Tim Dyas)

Captain Ross and the 51st on the Nivelle Road

- capture of the French Cuirassiers

(National Army Museum)

51st at Waterloo - Brian Palmer

History of the 51st

 

The 51st Regiment was originally raised in 1754 as the 51st (American Provincials) and was disbanded in 1755, to be raised as the 53rd Regiment (Napier's) by the Marquis of Rockingham. In 1757 it was renamed the 51st Regiment (Brudenell's).

 

Raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it has had the strongest possible association with that area ever since, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Regiment in 1782.

 

It was in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) at the Battle of Minden (1759), that the Regiment gained its first, and perhaps most well known battle honour. The victory at Minden is celebrated every year on 1st August when white roses are worn in the headdress of The Rifles, symbolising the roses allegedly plucked by soldiers of the Regiment at Minden. The 1st of August is also celebrated as Yorkshire Day.

 

From 1771 to 1782 the 51st Regiment of Foot was in Minorca and it was there in 1777 that the young Ensign John Moore joined them. After service in Ireland, Gibraltar and Corsica the 51st returned to England for a brief stay before embarking for Spain in 1807.

 

The Regiment distinguished itself at Lugo and Corunna and, in tribute to their former commander General Sir John Moore and recognition of their involvement, the 51st was formed into a Light Infantry Corps in 1809 which was officially confirmed in a letter from Horse Guards on 2nd May 1809:

 

"His Majesty had been pleased to approve of the 51st Regiment being immediately formed into a Light Infantry Corps upon the same plan as the 43rd, 52nd, 68th, 71st and 85th regiments".

 

The 51st fought with distinction in the great battles of the Peninsula War including Fuentes d’Onor, Salamanca, Vittoria and Badajoz and it was at the storming of Badajoz in 1811 that Ensign Joseph Dyas won instant glory for himself and the Regiment by twice leading the storming party on the San Cristobal Fort.

 

'The Stormers' - refers to the gallantry of the 'forlorn hope' led by Ensign Dyas and originally it was the custom to toast 'Ensign Dyas' throughout the Peninsula Army, but in later years the practice has been restricted to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) to toast 'Ensign Dyas and the Stormers' in silence.

 

In 1815 the Regiment was in Portsmouth and sailed to join the allied army near Brussels. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Mitchell, was appointed to command the 4th Brigade in which the 51st was destined to fight at the Battle of Waterloo.

 

The 51st was on the extreme right of the line and was engaged early in the battle when the French attacked Hougoumont Farm. The 51st were being rble for preventing 100 French cuirassiers from escaping the field along the Nivelles Road.

 

They returned to England in January 1816 for a period of 5 years home service and in 1821 became the 51st (2nd Yorkshire West Riding) or "The King's Own" Light Infantry.