3rd (MILITIA) BATTALION (ROYAL BUCKS KINGS OWN MILITIA)
1925 REGIMENTAL CHRONICLE MILITIA AND VOLUNTEER BATTALIONS OF THE REGIMENT. By Brig.-General A. J. F. Eden, C.M.G., D.S.O.
The Royal Bucks (King's Own) Militia.
This well-known County Regiment was raised by G. H. Bulstrode, of Hedgerley, on October 21, 1642. Colonel Bulstrode commanded it at the battle of Edge Hill, in which action it took a prominent part when fighting was hardest.
A hundred years later, in 1742, the Regiment, which had been freshly raised at Aylesbury, was present at the battle of Holman's Bridge, just outside Aylesbury, on the Buckingham Road, and here many of them were killed and buried close to the bridge. Some forty years ago the skeletons were removed to Hardwick churchyard.
In 1762 Sir J. Dashwood was Colonel of the Royal Bucks, but resigned on his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In 1778 the Militia was sworn in at Aylesbury for five years, or for the duration of the war, and the men obeyed the summons with great alacrity.
In 1794 they were encamped near Weymouth during the visit of King George III, who specially selected them to form his personal guard, and, for this distinguished service, conferred upon the Regiment the title of "Royal Bucks, King's Own Militia."
In 1798 this old and honoured corps was the first English Regiment of Militia to volunteer for service and to land in Ireland, which was then in a state of rebellion. Here it served for a year under its Colonel, the Marquess of Buckingham. On the return of the Regiment to England, volunteers for the Line were called for and no less than 400 men came forward to take their places in readiness to fight with the Army. The Regiment afterwards furnished its full number of men yearly to serve in the war.
In 1808 the whole of the Royal Bucks, under Earl Temple, volunteered for service in Spain, and received the highest praise from the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of York, for this display of patriotic zeal.
In 1812, while quartered at Manchester, the Regiment received a most complimentary address, and a present of money from the townspeople in recognition of their excellent conduct and to enable them to participate in the festivities occasioned by the glorious victories in the Peninsula.
In 1813, under the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, they embarked for Bordeaux and served in France under the Duke of Wellington. On leaving, each officer was decorated by King Louis XVIII with the fleur-de-lis.
On the death of their Colonel, the Duke of Buckingham, the command of the Regiment was taken over by the Right Hon. Lord Carrington, who worked heart and soul for the corps and brought it to a high pitch of excellence, the men being remarked wherever they were seen for their especial smartness and neatness in uniform, their perfect discipline and their good behaviour.
On January 18, 1846, the Permanent Staff, with Colours, formed a Guard of Honour at Wolverton to Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the occasion of her visit to Stowe. They were quartered at Gayhurst, and again formed a Guard of Honour on Her Majesty's return.
In 1854 the Royal Bucks marched to Windsor and furnished Guards of Honour to Her Majesty. They were complimented on two occasions by H.R.H. the late Prince Consort upon their very soldierlike appearance, the excellence of their Band, the manner in which they drilled, and their smartness upon Castle Guards.
In April of the following year they furnished a Guard of Honour, Band, and Colours (under Captains Young and Peete, Lieuts. Hall, Scobell, the Hon. F. G. Irby, Tyrwhitt Drake and Adjutant Hewett) to receive the Emperor of the French at Dover. Though the Regiment was quartered at Canterbury, this Guard of Honour was chosen from it as being the most efficient corps in the district.
In 1856, on the Regiment being disembodied, the Lord Lieutenant of Bucks received Her Majesty's commands "to communicate to the officers, non-commissioned officers, drummers and private men of the Royal Bucks (King's Own) Militia the high sense she entertains of their conduct and of the zeal and spirit which they have manifested since they have been embodied." In addition to the above they received the thanks and approbation of the House of Commons to the "distinguished corps of Royal Bucks Militia."
In Lord Carrington's Orders the following appears:-- "To the honour of the County it should be recorded that 1,723 volunteers have been attested, some hundreds of whom have volunteered into Her Majesty's Forces, and the anxiety of officers commanding the smartest regiments to secure these men as recruits sufficiently attests the sense entertained by the most competent judges of the character of the men, the discipline of the Regiment, and its knowledge of its duties. A letter has also reached him from the Bishop of Oxford, of whose diocese Bucks forms a part, expressive of his sense of the moral and religious conduct of the Regiment, as justified by the report received by him of their good attendance and behaviour at places of worship. Lord Carrington entertains no doubt that the strong and general feeling throughout the County in favour of the Militia Force, as that upon which experience shows its military efficiency mainly to rest, will prompt the Government to call it out for training every year. When summoned, he is confident that every man of the Royal Bucks will be at his post."
There are numberless letters and addresses, complimentary to the old Regiment, too long to quote here.
On March 17, 1868, to the deep regret of all ranks, Lord Carrington, who had endeared himself to officers and men alike by his devotion to the Regiment, died. He was succeeded by Colonel Walter Caulfield Pratt, whose name as a smart soldier and a popular commanding officer will ever live in the history of the Royal Bucks. Under him the discipline and efficiency of the Regiment was kept up to the highest pitch.
On May 14, 1869, new Colours were presented by Her Grace the Duchess of Buckingham, who, in handing over these Colours, said: "They are now the Colours of the Royal Bucks (King's Own) Militia, a Regiment which has ever borne a high character. Let that character be maintained by steadiness and discipline when embodied, and good conduct at all times. Good men make good soldiers. If called upon for service, think upon the history of your Regiment—the readiness with which 500 men stood forth from its ranks and rallied round its Colonel to support the British Army in France. And let these Colours, which I now deliver to you, wave over your hearts fired by the same spirit of loyalty, obedience, and bravery which animated your predecessors."
The old Colours are in the possession of the Marquess of Lincolnshire, K.G., who commanded the Royal Bucks from 1881 to 1886.
In 1880 the Regiment was at Aldershot, and, on being called on for volunteers to the Line, at once sent a large number of men to the 52nd Light Infantry, whose then Commanding Officer said that he had rarely seen such a fine lot of men.
In 1881 Lord Carrington became Colonel. On July 1 the Regiment became the 3rd Battalion Oxfordshire Light Infantry.
In 1882 H.R.H. the Prince of Wales inspected the Royal Bucks and complimented them on their smart appearance and proficiency in drill and field manoeuvres. In the evening a telegram was dispatched to the 43rd in India and to the 52nd at home, to say that His Royal Highness drank to the health of the sister Battalions.
In 1886, Lord Carrington having gone to Australia, Lieut.-Colonel E. D. Lee took over the command.
In 1891 H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, inspected the Royal Bucks and expressed himself in most complimentary terms upon its appearance.
For the next fifteen years, except in 1886 when smallpox was rife in the County, and in 1900, when the Regiment was embodied, the annual trainings of 27 days were held at Aylesbury, High Wycombe, or Buckingham, with periodical visits to Aldershot or Salisbury Plain. The last training (in 1907) before disbandment was held at Browndown, near Gosport.
In April, 1897, Colonel H. Burney succeeded Colonel Lee in command, but in a little over a year he handed over to Colonel the Earl of Orkney. In 1903 he was followed by Lieut.-Colonel W. Terry, who, remaining till 1908, was thus the last Commanding Officer.
Up to the early 'nineties the Adjutant was usually a Regular Officer who had recently retired. Major F. Powell was the last of these. On February 27, 1892, he was succeeded by Captain (now Major-General Sir) J. Hanbury-Williams. For the future these appointments were to be held for five years, the next two in succession being Captain C. Fairclough and Major C. H. Cobb. Major A. J. F. Eden was the last Adjutant, holding the appointment until March 31, 1908.
During the period of the South African War the Regiment was embodied. Arriving at Buttevant in Ireland, on January 18, 1900, it remained there till May, the summer being spent in Kilworth Camp. On October 4 a severe gale wrecked the camp, and the next day the Regiment proceeded by march route to Buttevant, remaining here till October 31, when it returned to High Wycombe to be disembodied.
During this period of embodiment the details of the 43rd were attached and all officers on first appointment also. Several drafts for the 43rd in South Africa were furnished, not only of recovered invalids but of many men from the Battalion itself.
Up to 1905 the systems in all Militia Battalions was to assemble all recruits for two months' drill for the period immediately preceding the annual training of the Battalion. In this year six Battalions were selected to take recruits all the year round and train them at their headquarters. The Royal Bucks was one of these, and consequently the little barracks at High Wycombe then became a busy place. The training of these recruits was carried out under the supervision of a captain and two or more subalterns, together with the adjutant and the permanent staff of the Battalion.
In 1907 Lord Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, commenced a complete reorganization of the Army, including the Militia and the Volunteers.
Certain Militia Regiments were declared to be redundant, and, in December, an order was published notifying that twenty-one Battalions would be disbanded the following spring. The Royal Bucks, though of a strength of nearly 600 men, was one of these. From April 1, 1908, it ceased to exist, after 266 years of honourable service.
Many officers and men volunteered to transfer to the 4th (Oxford) Militia, which now became the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Regiment.
The Colours were placed in the parish church, High Wycombe, and the historical portion of the Officers' Mess Regimental Plate in the Museum at Aylesbury for safe keeping, but at present it is on loan to the Bucks Territorial Battalion.
Note.—The writer is indebted to the author of "A Short History of the Royal Bucks (King's Own) Militia" (1892) for the greater part of this article.