The blue coated regiment, re-enacted by Lord Saye and Sele’s Blew regiment of Foote, was raised in the summer of 1642, by William Fiennes, First Viscount Saye and Sele, a powerful politician and wealthy landowner, to fight for the cause of Parliament. Drawing mainly from his power base in and around Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire, he appointed experienced and prominent officers, including Captain Lieutenant John Rainsford, the author of “The Young Soldier” drill manual. On 3rd September 500 men drew pay and on 8th September 300 muskets and 200 pikes were issued to the soldiers as recruits continued to join the unit.
Battle of Edgehill 1642 and the First Civil War
In September 1642, Lord Saye and Sele handed over the command of the regiment of Colonel Sir John Meldrum and as part of Meldrum’s brigade the regiment acquitted itself well at the battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642. Legend has it that the 768 men of the regiment spent the night before the battle at Broughton Castle, where the attics are still known as “The Barracks”. Following the battle, a detachment was besieged at Banbury by Royalists on their march to London and Broughton Castle was itself besieged, captured and plundered by troops under the command of Prince Rupert. On the 13th November 1642 the regiment had moved with the Earl of Essex’s army to defend London and was involved in the engagement at Turnham Green.
The regiment remained under Meldrum’s command until July 1643, when it was passed on to Colonel John Aldridge. A further 400 muskets were issued in January 1643 and in June 286 more soldiers joined the regiment, having been recruited in Essex. In March the regiment was involved in fighting around Aylesbury. It remained in the area garrisoning Aylesbury and involved in small engagements until May 1644 when it re-joined Parliament’s field army
Aldridge led the regiment through the 1644 campaigns in the West Country, including the Parliamentarian defeat at Lostwithiel in Cornwall, where the “Blew colours with lions rampant” of the regiment were witness to the Parliamentarian surrender on the 2nd September 1644. Reduced in strength to only 324 men, it took part in the second battle of Newbury on 27th October 1644.
The “New Model Army”
The regiment reformed, re-equipped and re-organised in the Portsmouth area during the winter of 1644-1645 and became part of the red coated “New Model Army”, England’s first professional army. At this time many of the reinforcements came from the Eastern Association counties, particularly the county of Essex. In April 1645 it was reinforced by a draft of troops from Lord Robarte’s regiment.
Under the command of Colonel Walter Lloyd, the “New” regiment campaigned in the West Country. At Taunton it was heavily engaged, resulting in the death of Colonel Lloyd and an 80% casualty rate (killed and wounded) amongst it’s company commanders.
Command now passed to William Herbert, who led it through the battle of Langport, siege of Bridgewater, the storming of Bristol, the siege of Berkley Castle and the fighting at Reading.
In 1646 the regiment took part in the siege of Oxford.
Following the political problems amongst the army in 1647 Colonel Robert Overton was appointed to command the regiment. In November 1647 the regiment was in Kingston.
The regiment spent the winter 1647-8 in Somerset. In May 1648, eight companies were dispatched under the command of Lt. Colonel Thomas Reade, as the only regular New Model Army foot to join Colonel Hortons campaign in South Wales, where the regiment fought bravely at St. Fagans. These elements of the regiment went onto fight at the sieges of Tenby and Pembroke.
Later that summer, 8 companies marched North with Oliver Cromwell under the command of Lt Col Reade. They fought at Preston 17th and 18th August 1648, where Cromwell mentioned them in dispatches to Parliament as “Often coming to push of pike and to close firing”. By October, these troops were garrisoned at Berwick-on-Tweed.
Scotland and beyond
In May 1649 command passed to George Fenwick (an associate of Lord Saye and Sele). The regiment remained part of the Berwick garrison until July 1650. Oliver Cromwell then formed George Monck’s regiment for the invasion of Scotland using five companies of Fenwick’s and five companies of Sir Arthur Hazelrigg’s regiment. Fenwick was ordered to raise a further 5 companies to replace these.
5 companies of Fenwick’s fought at Dunbar on 3 September 1650 along with Monck’s regiment.
The regiment then formed part of the garrison at Edinburgh.
In 1651 it took part in the siege of Hume Castle and on 20th July in the battle of Inverkeithing.
From 1652-1656 the regiment was part of the garrison of Edinburgh and Leith. In October 1652 stoppages of pay led to a mutiny.
In August 1656 Timothy Wilkes replaced Fenwick as Commanding Officer, who commanded it during garrison duties in Leith, Edinburgh, Tomtallant and Bass.
In December 1659 Wilkes was replaced by Thomas Hughes. He commanded the regiment until it was disbanded in Oct 1660.
That is not quite the end of the story, since some officers and no doubt some of the rank and file of Monck’s Regiment formed by half of Fenwick’s command in 1650 continued campaigning throughout the war in Scotland and the subsequent “occupation” and into the restoration period when Monck’s went on to become the Coldstream Guards.