History

The 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot was a light infantry regiment of the British Army throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries. The regiment first saw active service during the American War of Independence, and were posted to India during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. During the Napoleonic Wars, the 52nd were part of the Light Division, and were present at most major battles of the Peninsula campaign, becoming one of the most celebrated regiments, described by Sir William Napier as “a regiment never surpassed in arms since arms were first borne by men”. They had the largest British battalion at Waterloo, 1815, where they formed part of the final charge against Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. They were also involved in various campaigns in India.

Timeline

1755

54th raised in Coventry (original number of 43rd) by Hedworth Lambton, Letter of Service dated 25th December

1757 - 52nd Regiment of Foot
1765 - Canada
1774 - Boston, Lexington, Bunker Hill

Boston

American troops besieged the town from April 20, 1775, until the British, dominated by enemy artillery from heights, evacuated it on March 17, 1776.

Lexington and Concord

The British commander-in-chief in North America, General Gage, sent 700 troops (Lieutenant-Colonel F. Smith) to destroy an American militia depot at Concord, near Boston. At Lexington, April 19, the British encountered 70 armed minutemen (militia) under Captain John Parker. No official command was given, but the British opened fire, killing eight and wounding ten Americans. This combat started the war. At Concord a British platoon was attacked, suffering 14 casualties. That afternoon the British column was harassed throughout its return march to Boston. Casualties: British, 99 killed, 174 wounded; American, 100 killed, 41 wounded.

Bunker Hill

The Americans were holding Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill on the outskirts of Boston. The 2,000 British finally dislodged the Americans but lost 800 men. The battle polarized the conflict and established "sides." In 'Redcoats and Rebels, The War for America, 1770-1781' by Christopher Hibbert it states on page 53 - "General Howe, leading the main assault in person as he had promised to do and supported by Brigadier Robert Pigot with the 43rd and 52nd foot, found himself on three occasions quite alone, all the staff around him lying dead or wounded."

1776-78 - New York
1778 - England
1782 - 52nd (or Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot
1783 - Bangalore, Arikere

Bangalore

Lord Cornwallis besieged this fortress on March 5 and took it on March 21, despite several attacks by Tippu Sahib who was trying to relieve it. Tippu's last desperate attempt to recapture his capital was beaten off with heavy loss. British casualties were few.

Arikera (or Carigat)

After a night march, the British force (Cornwallis) attacked the Mysore army (Tippoo Sahib), but heavy rain made the attack abortive. A frontal assault followed by a flanking movement succeeded and the Mysore soldiers were crushed. Casualties: Mysore, 2,000; British, 500.

1792 - Seringapatam

The city was besieged by 22,000 British and native troops with 86 guns (Lord Cornwallis) and defended by a Mysori garrison (Tippu Sahib). On February 6 redoubts commanding the city were captured, and on the approach of British reinforcements (Abercromby), February 16, Tippu agreed to peace terms.

1795 - Ceylon, Tanjore
1798 - England
1799 - 2nd Battalion formed
1800 - 1st & 2nd Quiberon and Ferrol then Gibraltar, Lisbon and England
1803

2nd Battalion became 96th Foot, 1st joined 52nd and 95th Rifles at Shorncliffe, Kent in Light Brigade - 52nd (Oxfordshire Light Infantry) Regiment.

1804 - 2nd Battalion reformed
1806-7 - 1st at Sicily
1807 - Copenhagen

The Danes, under a secret clause in the Treaty of Tilsit, planned to put their fleet at Napoleon's disposal. The British navy bombarded the city for four days, after which Lord Cathcart--with 20,000 troops--easily captured the place. The Danish fleet of eighteen ships surrendered.

1808 - 2nd Bn. at Vimiera, 1st & 2nd Bn. at Corunna

Vimiero (21 August 1808)

Wellesley (Wellington), having landed with his expeditionary force the previous month, was marching towards Lisbon. At Vimeiro, 32 miles northwest of the city, he ran into 14,000 French (Junot) who had marched out to stop him. The French lost 1,800 men and thirteen guns in the attempt and were thrown back. British casualties, 720. The French agreed to evacuate Portugal if transported back to France in British ships. This remarkable and short-sighted arrangement gave Napoleon 26,000 veteran troops to use again against the British.

Corunna (December 1808 - January 1809)

Soult's 20,000 French tried to prevent the 14,000-strong British army, after a long and hazardous winter retreat, from embarking at the Spanish port of Corunna. The French were held off and lost 2,000 men; the British lost 800 and their commander, Sir John Moore.

1809 - 2nd Bn. to Walcheren, 1st in Peninsula

Walcheren (28 July - 30 September 1809)

The British sent an expedition of thirty-four warships and 200 transports to capture Antwerp from the French and based the 40,000 troops on malaria-infested Walcheren Island. Under an incapable naval commander (Richard Strachan) and an equally incapable general (Lord Chatham), the campaign never got properly started. In eight weeks the British commanders lost 217 men in action, 7,000 dead from illness and another 14,000 seriously ill.

1809 - 1st Bn. just missed battle of Talavera de la Reina (27-28 July 1809)
1810 - 1st Bn. at Coa, Busaco

Busaco (27 September 1810)

A notable British victory in Spain. The 25,000 British (with 25,000 Portuguese) occupied the heights of Busaco in the face of 40,000 French (Massena). The corps led by Ney and Reynier assaulted the British lines and after a particularly bloody and stubborn battle were beaten off. Casualties: French, 4,500; British, 1,500.

1811 - Sabugal, 1st Bn. at Fuentes de Onoro

Sabugal (3 April 1811)

General Reynier held positions on the Coa River where he was attacked by three divisions under Lord Wellington. The British swiftly forced back the French, who lost about 1,500 men to the British 200.

Fuentes dOnoro (3 - 5 May 1811)

Wellington, with 34,000 men, held a position behind Fuentes dOnoro, which Massena attacked in an attempt to relieve the besieged town of Almeida. He had an equal number of troops and guns, and though he could not take Wellington's lines he retired in good order. Each side lost about 1,500 men.

1812 - 1st Bn. at siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz

Ciudad Rodrigo (8 - 9 January 1812) Second Siege

On January 8 Wellington surrounded this walled town, which barred his way to Madrid, and carried it by storm 12 days later. The fighting was fierce and bloody, the garrison of 2,000 inflicting heavy casualties on the British. 1,290 British were killed or wounded, 710 of whom died in the storming (including Generals Craufurd and Mackinnon); French, 300 killed or wounded, 1,500 prisoners and 150 guns.

Badajoz (16 March - 6 April 1812) - Third Siege

On March 17 Wellington surrounded this formidable fortress, garrisoned by 5,000 French, Hessians and Spaniards (Phillipon). With great difficulty breaches were made in the walls and the assault was ordered on April 6. The British lost 3,500 men capturing the town-fortress--they had already lost 1,500 during the siege--and for two days they were completely out of hand, committing terrible atrocities against the inhabitants, who were in fact their allies.

1812 - Salamanca

Salamanca (22 July 1812)

Wellington had captured the French-held fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz and was now moving in northern Spain, manoeuvring for an advantage over the French army (Marshal Marmont), also 40,000-strong. Marmont himself brought on the clash at Salamanca, but he was seriously wounded, and Clausel assumed command. The French were mauled, suffering 12,000 casualties before Clausel could withdraw his army. Wellington, who lost 5,000 men, marched for Madrid, but French pressure pushed him back to the Portuguese frontier.

1813 - Vittoria, San Sebastian, Vera, Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse

Vittoria (21 June 1813)

Napoleon's brother Joseph, King of Spain, had evacuated Madrid and fled north, covered by an army of 66,000 under Jordan. Wellington, with 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops, outflanked Jordan by crossing the Ebro and routed the French with powerful assaults at three different points. The French lost 8,000 men and nearly all their artillery (151 guns, 450 wagons of ammunition) and transport. Allied casualties, 5,000. Napoleon's Spanish adventure was now nearly over, as Wellington prepared to push the French from Spain.

San Sebastian (20 July - 8 September 1813)

The town was besieged by the British (Graham) and defended by a French garrison (Rey). An assault on July 25 was repulsed. Graham sent to England for heavy guns, and the siege turned into a blockade. Operations resumed, and on July 31 the town was taken by storm. Rey still held out in the citadel but, after bombardment, surrendered on September 9. The British lost 2,500 killed or wounded.

Nivelle (10 November 1813)

The French (Soult) were driven from a strong position by the British (Wellington) and retired behind the Nivelle. The French lost 4,265, including about 1,200 prisoners, 51 guns, and all their field magazines. British losses, 2,694, killed and wounded.

Orthez (37 February 1814)

In an amphibious operation, Wellington first besieged Bayonne and then drove the French (Soult) out of Orthez and across the Luy de Bearn. French casualties: 4,000 killed or wounded; Wellington lost 2,000 men.

Toulouse (10 April 1814)

Having forced the French out of Spain, the Duke of Wellington, with 25,000 British and Spanish troops, brought Soult's army of 30,000 to bay at Toulouse. The French easily repulsed a premature Spanish assault, but the British, led by Beresford, drove the French out of the city. Casualties: French, 3,000; British, 2,600; Spanish, 2,000. This was the last battle of the Peninsular War. Napoleon had already surrendered in Paris, and on April 11 he accepted exile on Elba.

1813 - 2nd Bn. Holland, Belgium
1815 half of 2nd Bn. joined 1st Bn. remainder to England, disbanded in 1816 1st Bn. at Waterloo
1818 - last British battalion to leave France

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