The 39th Regiment of Foot 1818 - 1832


Regimental colours

Regimental colours of the 39th Regiment

Extract from the "Historical Record of the Thirty-Ninth, or Dorsetshire Regiment of Foot" by Richard Cannon, published in London in 1853

(pp 65-72)

On the 30th of October 1818, the regiment embarked at Calais, disembarked at Dover on the 31st, and marched to Portsmouth, where it arrived on the 11th of November. The Thirty-Ninth regiment embarked for Ireland on the 17th of December following, arrived at Cork on the 24th, and disembarked on the 26th of that month.

The regiment proceeded on its route for Castlebar in the county of Mayo, where it arrived on the 7th of January 1819.

The Thirty-Ninth marched from Castlebar to Dublin in August 1820, and arrived at its destination on the 17th of that month . In March 1821, the regiment was removed from Dublin to Cork.

On the 24th of August 1821, the establishment of the regiment was reduced from ten to eight companies, of three serjeants and seventy-two rank and file each; and on the 26th of November it marched from Cork to Tralee.

In January 1822, some detachments of the regiment were employed in suppressing a partial insurrection of the Whiteboys.  Brevet-Major George D'Arcy was attacked at Millstreet, in the county of Cork, and beat off considerable bodies of the insurgents.  Brevet-Major Charles Carthew was also engaged with a large body of them near Bantry, when one private of the regiment was killed.

The regiment marched, on the 1st of October 1823, from Tralee to Limerick.

Lieut-General Sir George Airey, K.C.H., was appointed colonel of the Thirty-Ninth regiment on the 28th of October 1823, in succession to General Nisbett Balfour, deceased.

On the 12th of August 1824, Brevet Lieut-Colonel Patrick Lindesay, C.B., was appointed Lieut-Colonel of the Thirty-Ninth regiment, in consequence of the retirement of Colonel Cavendish Sturt;  Brevet-Major Donald McPherson succeeded to the vacant majority.

The regiment marched to Buttevant, in the county of Cork, in the beginning of October 1824, and in this place was at length brought together, having been continually broken into small detachments during the whole of its service in Ireland, with the exception of a few months while stationed in Dublin.

On the 25th of March 1825, the regiment, in common with the rest of the infantry, received an augmentation of two companies, raising its establishment to forty-two serjeants, fourteen drummers, and seven hundred and forty rank and file.  These companies were given to the two senior subalterns, Lieutenants Simon Newport and Francis Henry Hart, whose commissions as captains were dated 7th and 8th of April 1825.  At this period it was directed that each battalion of infantry in the United Kingdom, as well as those on foreign stations (the East Indies excepted), should consist of six service companies of eighty-six rank and file each, and four depot companies of fifty-six rank and file each, making seven hundred and forty in all.  The depots of such regiments as were serving at home, continued united with their respective corps.

An order was received on the 10th of July 1825, intimating that the regiment was destined to proceed to New South Wales, and ultimately to India.  On the 19th of July, it marched to Cork to be embarked for Chatham, from whence it was ordered to proceed to New South Wales, as guards over convicts.  The first division left Cork on the 19th, and the head-quarters on the 30th of September.

A detachment, consisting of one captain, one subaltern, one serjeant, and twenty rank and file, embarked in the "Woodman" convict ship on the 4th of November 1825, and proceed to Van Diemen's Land and Sydney.

The last division of the regiment arrived at Chatham from Cork, on the 25th of November 1825.

Several detachments of the regiment proceeded to New South Wales during the year 1826.

In the latter part of 1826, Captain Joseph Wakefield proceeded to assist in establishing a settlement at King George's Sound on the southern coast of New Holland;  and in the beginning of the following year, Captain Henry Smyth was despatched to effect a similar purpose on the northern coast, and succeeded in forming a settlement named Fort Wellington, in Raffles' Bay.

The head-quarters under the command of Colonel Lindesay, were embarked for New South Wales in the ship "Cambridge" on the 26th of April 1827, and arrived at their destination on the 17th September following.

From the 4th of November 1825, to the 5th of May 1827, the whole of the men of the service companies, together with two officers and fifty-nine men drawn from the dépôt, were embarked for New South Wales.

In consequence of the breaking-up of the reserve or dépôt companies of the regiment in the beginning of 1828, the officers and men composing those companies proceeded by detachments to the head-quarters in New South Wales, leaving a dépôt company in England, on the 24th August 1830, of two captains, two lieutenants, one ensign, five serjeants, six corporals, four drummers, and thirteen privates.  The first detachment embarked for New South Wales on the 1st of February 1828, and the last sailed on the 30th of August 1830.

During the period the regiment was employed in New South Wales, detachments were stationed at Van Diemen's Land, at King George's Sound, and on the northern coast, which were distant six hundred, fifteen hundred, and two thousand miles from the head-quarters.

The attention of Lieut-General Ralph Darling, governor of the colony, having for some time been drawn to the importance and advantages which would result from a greater knowledge of the interior of the country, yielded to the entreaties of Captain Charles Sturt of the THIRTY-NINTH. and permitted him to proceed for the purpose of prosecuting the discoveries already commenced by other travellers.  This officer departed from Sydney on his first expedition, on the 6th of November 1828, proceeding in a westerly direction, and remained absent until the 2nd of April 1829, when he rejoined the regiment, having performed the task allotted to him in a manner highly satisfactory to the government;  so much so, that having again most particularly requested permission to proceed once more for the purpose of exploring the country in another direction, his request was readily acceded to by the governor, and he accordingly departed from Sydney on the 3rd of November 1829.  Proceeding southerly, he had the good fortune to make the coast at Spencer's Gulf, having traced a large and important river through a vast tract of country, until it discharged its waters into the ocean, on the point of which he emerged.  Captain Sturt returned from this expedition on the 26th of May 1830, and was subsequently detached to Norfolk Island;  but his health having received a severe shock from the fatigue incident to his labours, he received permission to return to England in 1832.

Serious disturbances having arisen amongst the convicts in the Bathurst district in August 1830, large detachments of the regiment were ordered to proceed thither, where Major Donald McPherson was stationed in command, and Captain Horatio Walpole was directed to pursue a body of those deluded men, who had fled from their employment, and furnishing themselves by plunder with arms and horses, bade defiance to all law and authority.  He succeeded in ascertaining the direction which they had taken, and following them for several days over a large tract of country, finally succeeded in capturing the whole gang without any loss on the part of his detachment.

In the month of October of the same year, Lieut.-General Ralph Darling addressed a letter to Colonel Lindesay, to ascertain if the immediate services of Captain John Douglas Forbes could be dispensed with by the regiment, as it was his wish to place him in command of the mounted police;  to which a reply was sent by Colonel Lindesay, stating his consent to Captain Forbes being withdrawn from his regimental duties;  "for that, although he could ill be spared, yet he did not wish to deprive the colonial government of the services of an officer who, he had every reason to believe, would prove both valuable and efficient".  The result fully realized his anticipations;  and on the 16th of October, Captain Forbes was by a general order placed in command of this corps;  a body of men drawn in equal numbers from the regiments in garrison, and mounted by government, by dispersing them over the various settled parts of the colony.  They had, at the time of Captain Forbes's appointment, no recognized commanding-officer, but were nominally under the superintendence of the Major of Brigade, whose various avocations rarely allowed him to examine into their interior economy; consequently, their discipline had become relaxed, and their duties were but too often performed with carelessness.

Soon after Captain Forbes assumed the command, a manifest change took place;  the mounted police rapidly became an efficient and highly disciplined body of men, and their utility and zeal in the discharge of their duty were universally acknowledged.

New colours were presented to the THIRTY-NINTH by Lieut.-General Ralph Darling, in the Barrack Square of Sydney, on the 16th of May 1831, being the anniversary of the battle of Albuhera, in which engagement the second battalion of the regiment had twenty years before distinguished itself.  On this occasion the following speech was delivered by the Lieut.-General, the ceremony of consecration having been first performed by the Venerable Archdeacon Broughton:—

THIRTY-NINTH!  It is highly gratifying to me to present you, on the part of your Colonel, with these colours, henceforth the proud record of your general and distinguished services.

It is unnecessary for me, THIRTY-NINTH, to emblazon your achievements;  your friends will ever remember, and your enemies can never forget, that during the Peninsular War, which in its results was as glorious to the British Army as it was important to the general interests of Europe, you, led on by your present gallant Commander, fought at Albuhera, of which battle this is the twentieth anniversary; that you were also engaged with, and defeated, the enemy at Vittoria, at the Pyrenees, the Nivelle, the Nive, and at Orthes.  You have indeed, THIRTY-NINTH, nobly redeemed the pledge which your predecessors in arms first gave at the battle of Almanza, now one hundred and twenty-four years ago, which was as admirably seconded in the glorious field of Plassey, as it was successfully followed up at the memorable defence of Gibraltar!

Soldiers  It is not necessary to the fame of your corps, that you should augment the honors which it has so gallantly acquired;  but I am sure, whenever your King and country shall require your services, you will add fresh laurels to the noble wreath which now so proudly adorns your banners.

Gentlemen!  In addressing you more particularly to whom this sacred trust, the immediate charge of these colours is especially confided, I need only point out, that they will be the objects to which the eyes of your corps will be directed.  You will protect them with your lives; and may the Almighty, who alone can shield you in the day of battle, guide and preserve you in the faithful discharge of this sacred duty!

Colonel Lindesay having made a suitable reply to the foregoing address, the ceremony was concluded in the usual manner.

The festivity consequent on the presentation of colours was dampened by the melancholy intelligence of the death of Captain Collett Barker, who was barbarously murdered on the 30th of April 1831, by the native tribes on the southern coast of New Holland, near the spot at which Captain Sturt had made the coast on his second expedition.  Captain Barker had served in the THIRTY-NINTH regiment for a period of twenty-five years, and was highly esteemed.  At the time of his death he was returning from King George's Sound, where he had been for some time commandant, but which settlement he had been ordered to deliver over to the government of Western Australia, and had landed for scientific purposes near the spot where he was murdered.  Captain Barker had also for a considerable period been commandant at the settlement of Fort Wellington, in Raffles' Bay, on the northern coast of New Holland, where his services were highly estimated by the Colonial Government.

On the 30th of May 1831, a general order was issued, acquainting the regiment that it was destined to proceed to India, upon the arrival of the Fourth foot in New South Wales.

Lieut.-General Darling embarked for England on the 22nd of October 1831, leaving the administration of the government of the colony in the hands of Colonel Lindesay, who continued to act as governor until the arrival of Major-General Richard Bourke, C.B., on the 2nd of December.  During this period the command of the regiment devolved upon Major McPherson, who was withdrawn from the Bathurst district for that purpose.

On the 5th of July 1832, a general order was issued, directing the head-quarters of the regiment to embark for Madras;  upon which occasion an address was unanimously voted by the civil officers of the colony to Colonel Lindesay on his departure, as a mark of sincere esteem and respect;  and he, together with the officers of the THIRTY-NINTH, received an invitation to a dinner, immediately after which the address, most numerously signed, and highly complimentary to the Colonel and to the regiment, was read by Chief-Justice Forbes.  Colonel Lindesay, in reply, expressed his thanks for the honor conferred upon him and upon the THIRTY-NINTH regiment.

Six companies of the regiment embarked at Sydney on the 21st of July 1832, in three divisions, and disembarked at Madras on the 22nd of September, 10th and 14th of October.  The remaining four companies embarked at Sydney on the 3rd of December, and arrived at Madras on the 21st of February of the following year.

Cholera broke out among the European troops at Bangalore about the 22nd of March 1833;  and in the course of five weeks the regiment lost Captain Thomas Meyrick, four serjeants, forty-two rank and file, two women, and eleven children.  Captain Meyrick had served twenty-two years in the THIRTY-NINTH, fourteen of which he had been adjutant of the regiment.


© 2006 Patricia Downes

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