Formation and First Action
The Coldstream Guards came into existence in 1650. This makes them the oldest British Army Regiment in existence. The people knew them as Monck’s Regiment of Foot. Oliver Cromwell created the Regiment as a part of the New Model Army, and Cromwell appointed George Monck to command them. The Regiment took part in the Battle of Dunbar against the Scots in the third English Civil War less than two weeks later. Monck took his regiment in January 1660 and started the journey to march them to London.
The Regiment helped to restore law and order and the return of King Charles II. King Charles II rewarded Monck and announced him as a Knight of the Garter. The Regiment still uses the Garter Star as it’s capbadge to this day.
After their creation, the Regiment was busy in the coming decades dishing out treatment to the enemy. They helped to defeat the Fifth Monarchists in 1661 and five weeks later they placed down their arms, then picked them up again under the title of The Lord General’s Regiment of Foot Guards. The men were now a part of the Household Troops.
The Regiment started their service after the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards had already been named, so they became the second. The Regiment, therefore, chose to adopt the motto Nulli Secundus which translates as “second to none.” They’re the oldest regiment so want something to keep this information alive. You can’t knock the originals off of their spot.
The regiment saw action in many places in the coming years, including:
- The Monmouth Rebellion
- Battle of Landen
- Siege of Namur
- The Battle of Walcourt
It was 1762 when the Regiment fought in the Battle of Wilhelmsthalm, part of the Seven Years War. They fought under the leadership of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick as they defeated the French in their attempts to occupy Hanover.
After yet another victory they sent 307 men to America under the command of Colonel Edward Mathew to fight in the American Revolutionary War where they fought in Harlem during 1776 and also captured New York for the second time. In the French Revolution, the Guards featured heavily.
During the Napoleonic wars, the Guards fought extensively. In 1801, under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby, the men defeated the French once again, this time in Egypt. Abercromby was injured by the enemy during the fighting and died a week later from his wounds.
On the outskirts of the Battle of Waterloo, the 2nd Guards Brigade with the Coldstream Guards fought heroically against Napoleon’s Army. The Regiments were tasked with defending Hougoumont. The soldiers defended the chateau, with Sgt James Graham, assisted by his brother, four Coldstream Officers and four soldiers from the Third Guards in shutting the North Gate after the French had attacked. This is one of the regiments greatest victories. An annual ceremony still takes place in the Sergeants’ Mess called “Hanging the Brick” to commemorate their actions.
The Duke of Wellington said of the battle:
The success of the battle turned upon closing the gates at Hougoumont
The regiment stayed with other British troops as a part of the occupation force in Paris until 1916.
The Coldstreamers were heavily involved in the Crimean War, with four soldiers winning the newly established Victoria Cross for their actions. They fought battles at Sevastopol, Alma and Inkerman. These were real men, with hoofing great beards, true warriors.
Heading towards the end of the 19th century the regiment headed out to Egypt and fought in the Suakin campaign and were also reinforced with a 3rd battalion in 1887, you can never have too many awesome soldiers. The first two battalions were sent to South Africa when the Second Boer War kicked off in 1899.
20th Century to the Present Day
The Coldstream Guards were one of the first regiments to get into France after we declared war on Germany during World War One. Large numbers of battles were fought and large numbers of men were lost, especially at the first Battle of Ypres where the 1st battalion was almost completely wiped out. The Regiment had just 150 men left by November.
The regiment also saw action at:
- The Somme
- 3rd Battle of Ypres
With such a large number of men dying and even higher numbers of casualties, the country needed more men to continue the fight. Although we look back now and think what a waste of life, a waste of great men, at the time these heroes were ready and willing to step and fight for their country. That cannot be respected enough. To run toward almost certain death at times. The Coldstream Guards were full of such heroes after a 4th battalion was formed.
They were disbanded in 1919 when the war was over.
The Coldstream Guards were a part of the British Expeditionary Force during World War Two. Both the 1st and 2nd battalions were involved. The 3rd Battalion was fighting in the Middle East. Two further battalions were formed during the war; the 4th and 5th battalions forming part of the Guards Armoured Division, fought in North Africa and Europe as dismounted infantry.
In 1940 the 4th battalion became a motorised battalion and then an armoured battalion three years later. At the end of the war the new battalions were disbanded, they lost their tanks and the remaining troops were spread among the 1st and 2nd Guard Training Battalions.
After the World Wars
Heading into the decades after the war the Coldstream Guards served in the Malayan Emergency getting their jungle skills into action and in Palestine. Other troops served during the Mau Mau rebellion and also in Aden and Mauritius during the 1960’s but they also saw the 3rd Battalion be placed into suspended animation in 1959.
The 1970’s saw Cyprus (the Cyprus Emergency) and Northern Ireland receive a visit from the Regiment.
When the first Gulf War kicked off the Coldstreamers were sent and were involved in the prisoner of war handling. Also during the 1990’s the 1st battalion was based in Germany. This was part of the 4th Armoured Brigade in the Armoured Infantry Role. The 2nd Battalion was placed in suspended animation in 1993.
In the early 1990’s the battalion also saw service in Bosnia where they performed peacekeeping duties.
2001 saw the battalion spend two years in Londonderry before heading to Iraq in 2005 as part of 12th Mechanised Brigade. They spent their time in the south of the country. They went to Afghanistan in 2007 and while on patrol discovered a Taliban torture chamber that they duly destroyed. The regiment was sent back to Afghanistan in 2009 and played a part in Operation Moshtarak where 15,000 allied troops came together to destroy the Taliban in their stronghold of Marjah in Central Helmand Province. 2014 saw them arrive in Afghanistan for yet another tour.
The Coldstream Guards have earned 113 battle honours in their history from Tangier in 1680 to the Gulf War in 1991. The Victoria Cross has been awarded to thirteen Coldstreamers and a George Cross has also been awarded. Top Regiment, top soldiers. They have a long and proud history sitting as the longest serving regiment in the British Army.