33rd Foot was first raised in 1702 as “The Earl of Huntingdon’s Regiment” by order of Queen Anne to fight in the War of the Spanish Succession. It fought with distinction in that war and subsequently in the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence.
In 1782 it was decided to link regiments to a county. The Regiment then became the 33rd (or 1st Yorkshire West Riding). Lord Cornwallis, Colonel at the time, wrote, “…the 33rd Regt. of Infantry has always recruited in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and has a very good interest & the general good will of the people, in that part of the country.” They also acquired the nickname “The Havercake Lads” after a type of oatcake used by recruiting parties to tempt recruits with promises of regular food.
Arthur Wesley (later the Duke of Wellington) took over command of the regiment in 1793. During the Napoleonic Wars the 33rd saw action in the West Indies, Holland, Ile de Bourbon, Mauritius & India, where they took part the defeat of the dreaded “Tiger of Mysore”, Tippoo Sultan.
Returning to England in 1812 after 16 years abroad, the regiment was first based at Hull before being ordered in 1813 to carry out “King’s Duty”: standing guard at Windsor Castle. Six months later it departed again for Holland where it took part in the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom before Napoleon was exiled to Elba.
They were still in Holland when “The Ogre” escaped and returned to France. Forming part of Halkett’s 5th Brigade in Alten’s 3rd Division they saw action at Quatre Bras. Marching back to Waterloo they were formed in the centre of the ridge between Hougomont and La Haye Sainte. Here they withstood the French attacks all day, finally repulsing even Napoleon’s elite Imperial Guard. Between the 16th and 18th June 1815 the 33rd suffered a total of 277 casualties from a strength of 561, almost half their men.
The 33rd survives today as the 3rd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. In 1990 General Sir Charles Huxtable wrote, after vacating the colonelcy:
“We are not a smart, social regiment. We do not seek to be ever in the headlines. We do not pretend to have some special expertise. Indeed perhaps what makes us special is that we do not seek to be any of those things.
“We are ordinary, straightforward folk who stick together. We have in the Duke’s some of the best soldiers in the world. I would back the Duke’s soldier – the good, honest, straight forward, hard working Yorkshireman – against any soldiers in the world.”
Our group represents the 8th company of the 33rd Foot, from their return in 1812 to the final peace in 1816. We portray a standard line company, typical of the redcoats of the time and the backbone of the British Army. Emphasis is placed on the life of the ordinary infantry private during times of peace & war.