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Regimental Anniversaries & Customs

 

On amalgamation it was considered that the following anniversaries and Customs be worthy of permanent commemoration:-

Sobraon Day (10th February 1846)

This was essentially a Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ day in the 31st and East Surrey Regiment. It commemorates the gallant action of Sgt Bernard McCabe who, when the officer carrying the Regimental Colour at the Battle of Sobraon fell mortally wounded, at once snatched it up and, rushing forward, planted it on the highest part of the Sikh ramparts.

Each Sobraon Day the Regimental Colour was entrusted to the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess and in the evening a Regimental Dinner was held. This tradition was carried forward on the forming of The Large Regiment, The Queen’s, and continues to this day in The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Ypres Day (23rd April 1915)

This commemorated the fact that both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The East Surrey Regiment fought in the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915 and that the Regiment won three Victoria Crosses in that battle. Ypres was also a battle honour of The Queen’s Royal Regiment, both of whose regular battalions fought there, though only the 2nd battalion was engaged in the Second Battle. Ypres Day was celebrated by a holiday and/or a parade and/or a major sporting event at the discretion of the Commanding Officer according to the circumstances at the time.

The customary exchange of telegrams on 23rd April with the Royal Marines, whose Regimental Day (Zeebrugge) it was, continued.

The Glorious First of June 1794

This commemorated the part played by detachments of The Queen’s Royal Regiment on board certain of His Majesty’s Ships in the battle on 1st June 1794. Not only was the direct link preserved with HMS Excellent, the lineal descendant of Lord Howe’s flagship, but also The Queen’s Royal Regiment always joined forces with the Royal Navy on the 1st June wherever they found themselves together all over the world. In England the celebration normally took the form of the traditional cricket match on or about 1st June against HMS Excellent.

It was considered fitting that The East Surrey Regiment’s celebrations with the Royal Marines, who succoured them after the sinking of the Troopship Kent in 1825, and their commemoration of their previous fighting history as Marines, should take place about the same time. This also took the form of a cricket match against the Royal Marines, and both matches could be included in a “Cricket Week”. Thus the sea-going traditions of both Regiments and their respective liaisons with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines were preserved. The customary exchange of telegrams with HMS Excellent on 1st June was continued.

Salerno Day (9th September 1943)

Two Queen’s Brigades comprising six territorial battalions of the Regiment fought at Salerno. The unique historical significance of this event, coupled with the fact that the Territorials remained an integral part of the Regiment, demanded that this battle should be commemorated by a regimental anniversary.

This anniversary continued to be celebrated throughout the life of The Queen’s Regiment. When the amalgamation with The Royal Hampshire Regiment took place in 1992, it was agreed that Salerno Day would be the Regimental Day of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. This was because in addition to the six territorial battalions of the Queen’s there was a Hampshire Brigade fighting side by side.

The British Battalion (20th December 1941)

During the operations in Malaya in 1941/42, the 2nd Battalion The East Surrey Regiment became so reduced in number that they were combined with the similarly depleted Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment. The single unit this formed was called the British Battalion, doing valiant service during the latter part of the campaign. The companionship which lasted through the years of captivity became permanent and the Officers, Warrant Officers and Sergeants, of the two Battalions were Honorary Members of each others Messes. The toast to "The British Battalion" was drunk standing, on 20th December annually. It commemorated the amalgamation in 1941, before the fall of Singapore, of the battle-worn 2nd Bn The East Surrey Regiment and 1st Bn The Royal Leicestershire Regiment into what became known as The British Battalion.

A framed list of the members of the British Battalion hangs in the Regimental Museum.

It is worthy of note that the 2nd Bn The Queen’s Royal Regiment and 2nd Bn The Royal Leicestershire Regiment also fought side-by-side in the same brigade for the greater part of World War II.

Telegrams were exchanged annually with The Royal Leicestershire Regiment, later with The Royal Anglian Regiment.

The Loyal Toast

The Loyal Toast in both Officers’ and Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess was drunk seated, a custom inherited from the 1st Bn The East Surrey Regiment. This custom served to emphasise the sea-going traditions of both The Queen’s and The Surreys.

The XXXI Huntingdonshire Salt

The XXXI Huntingdonshire Salt and Salt Book, inherited from the 1st Bn The East Surrey Regiment, continued in use. Every officer on being dined into the Mess of the 1st Battalion took salt from a special cellar. The Mess Colour Sergeant offered the salt with the words “Will you take salt with the Regiment, Sir?” The officer later signed the Salt Book. This custom was continued in 1st Bn The Queen’s and is still in use by The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Grace before Dinner

This was said standing, if a chaplain was present he would be invited to say Grace, otherwise the President would say it using the words “For what we are going to receive, thank God”.

The gavel used in the 1st Battalion officers’ mess was the gavel made from the timbers of HMS Defence.

The Huntingdonshire Regiment

In 1782 most Infantry Regiments were directed to assume a County title in addition to their Numerical Title. The 31st were designated The Huntingdonshire Regiment. This joint title remained in being until the Cardwell Reforms in 1881.

At the 250th Anniversary Celebrations on 28th June 1952, the Chairman of the Huntingdon County Council, on behalf of the County, presented a Shield to the Colonel of the Regiment. This is now in the Regimental Museum.

The Glasgow Greys

The 70th were formed in 1758 from the 2nd Battalion the 31st, its facings being grey. As it was stationed in the North, it contained in its ranks many men who were natives of Glasgow, and they were, therefore, commonly called the Glasgow Greys.

The Surrey Regiment

In 1782 the 70th were directed to assume the additional title of Surrey Regiment in the same way that the 31st had become Huntingdonshire. Between 1812 and 1825, they were authorised to call themselves the Glasgow Lowland Regiment but at this latter date, reverted to their former title of Surrey Regiment.