86th Regiment of Foot Marine Detachment - HMS Boyne, Spithead, 1795

A marine of the 86th Regiment of Foot
A marine of the 86th Regiment of Foot - watercolour by Dan Green

The 86th Regiment of Foot's first active service was at sea, acting as Marines. There was a Corps of Royal Marines at the time but it was unable to provide all the sea-going detachments required to provide the guards and security duties in ships of war. These duties were necessary, because the Royal Navy seamen were mostly pressed men and too often prone to ill discipline, occasionally to the point of mutiny. It was for that reason that the Marines' quarters on the ships' decks were between the ratings and the officers.

The 86th found detachments in seven ships of the line amounting to 15 officers and 680 non-commissioned officers, drummers and privates, which was most of the Regiment. To this day, provided there are no 'strangers' attending, the Officers Mess in our Regiment remember this service by remaining seated when offering and performing the loyal toast during a Regimental Dinner Night. Royal Navy officers on board ships remained seated for a variety of reasons, the most practical being an avoidance of standing and challenging the sea state, especially after imbibing quantities of wine and port.

While performing this service, the 86th was allegedly the cause of the loss by fire of the battleship HMS Boyne. The Grenadier Company was the Marine detachment on board and was carrying out musketry exercises on 1 May 1795. This required the lighting of fuses in order to ignite the powder and as the party was on the windward side of the ship, it was thought that some of this wadding must have blown into the Admiral's cabin and set fire to the papers on his desk. The King's navy lost a capital ship and the Grenadier Company of the 86th lost all its arms, equipment and baggage. While at sea, the detachments of the 86th went into action with the Fleet against the French Navy.

Watercolour by kind permission of Dan Green of Novus Art.

Artist's note: The Grenadier cap was worn by all grenadier companies of all regiments and by the Fusilier regiments at the time until the adoption of the shako in 1800, though by the end of the period it was increasingly being replaced by the bicorne on campaign given that it wasn't very robust. The item on the left shoulder was by this time purely decorative and would only stop being used with the uniform changes around 1797 - 1800. It is a match case in brass, which was used when grenadiers at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century were actually armed with grenades; it was used to contain the slow match used to light the fuses of the grenades.

More in the series:

Lieutenant Jacob Brunt, Adjutant, 83rd Regiment of Foot - Jamaica, Maroon War, 1795.
Corporal William Hall, 86th (Leinster) Regiment of Foot, Isle of Bourbon, 1810.
Sergeant Thomas Hazlehurst, 2nd/83rd Regiment of Foot, Picurina Fort, Badajoz, 1812.
Lieutenant William Stratford Johnson, 83rd Regiment of Foot, Battle of the Windmill, Upper Canada, 1838.
Private James Byrne VC, 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Jhansi, Central India, 1858.
Lieutenant George Ernest Emes Blunt, Adjutant, 83rd Regiment of Foot, Gibraltar, 1867.
Captain Vincent Joseph Kelly, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Pretoria, South Africa, 1900.
Captain John Colthurst Bowen-Colthurst, 5th Royal Irish Rifles, Downpatrick, 1909.
4069 Colour-Sergeant John Harte and Billy the Bull Terrier, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Tidworth, 1913.
3/8826 Rifleman Edward Donnelly, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, Albert, Somme, 1916.
7303 Rifleman Patrick McAteer, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Ypres, 1917.
7010920 Sergeant William John Sharky DCM, 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles, Normandy, 1944.
Major Frederick Robert Armstrong Hynde MC, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Normandy, 1944.
Captain William Robert Hunter Charley, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Uijongbu, Korea, 1950.
Lieutenant Colonel Corran William Brooke Purdon MC, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Borneo, 1964.