The Star Badge
The Regimental Badge, worn on cap and collar, is an eight-pointed star, oblong of shape. In the middle is the Lion, the Royal Crest, standing over the Regimental motto of FIRM, and round this is the Garter, bearing the motto of the Order of the Garter. The Order of the Garter is our highest and most ancient order of chivalry, and its motto is "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense," translatable as "Shame Be To Him Who Evil Thinks."
The Garter is in gilt metal, and the rest of the badge is in silver. The Star and Garter came to the Worcestershire Regiment through the connection of the 29th Regiment with the Coldstream Guards.
During the 18th century they were worn on the officers' Shoulder Belts, and were replaced by the Lion at the end of that century. The Royal Lion, which was the former device of the 29th Regiment, may have come from the Grenadier Guards, perhaps when the Regiment was at Windsor in 1791 or it may have some connection with the Glorious First of June, 1794.
It is, however, certain that this badge was borne on the Colours of the Regiment presented in 1813, for the centre of that Colour is still in the possession of the 1st Battalion, and bears the Royal Lion badge. The 36th Regiment is represented by the motto FIRM and, by a curious coincidence, the 36th also used to wear an oblong star, in the early part of the 19th century, on the Officers' Cross belt plates.
The badge thus represents the former 29th and 36th Regiments. The Worcestershire Regiment badge is one of the only two elongated star badges in the Army, the other being that of the officers of the Coldstream Guards.
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The earliest record of the Worcestershire Regiment Star Badge (1777)
At sunset of an evening in October, one hundred and fifty-five years ago, a tall young officer, Captain the Viscount Petersham of the 29th Regiment (see Note 1 below), stood gloomily amid a group of his comrades around an open grave. At intervals from the near distance came the sound of intermittent firing and the sharp whine of bullets; otherwise the silence was broken only by the regular firing of a minute gun and by the clear voice of a robed Chaplain intoning the burial service. The occasion was remarkable in every way. The little group of mourners were standing on rising ground among the broken ramparts of an earthwork redoubt and between opposing lines of combatents. Behind them the glint of red-coats showed where the stubborn remnants of a British force still faced their enemies. Close in front, dark uniforms among the trees marked their adversaries, the Americans. All around, the open ground was strewn thickly with prostrate forms, dead and badly wounded, for a desperate struggle had raged around the redoubt. In that struggle the gallant British Commander, General Frazer, had been struck down mortally wounded; and in accordance with his dying wish his companions were interring his body on the position, which he had given his life to hold.
The Burial of General Fraser at Saratoga, 7th October 1777
2. Rt. Honble General Burgoyne .........4. Rev. Mr. Brudenill 6. ......Capt. Viscount Petersham (29th Regt.)
3. Colonel Kingston .....................................5. Colonel Green ........7. Mr. Wood (Surgeon) .......8. Colonel Wilford
1. Major General Philips (R.A.) .................................................................................................... 9. General Reidesell
....................................................................................11. Major Fraser (Rangers) ..................................10. A Hessian Soldier
The redoubt, now abandoned by both sides, lay between the opposing lines, and the burial party moving out, had come under a sharp fire. But the firing had ceased when the enemy realised the purpose of the little group of mourners, and the burial party now stood unharmed in full view of both armies, bareheaded and bowed in stern grief. The dead general had been adored by those whom he had led. Recklessly brave in action, skilful and wary as a leader, he had been a constant inspiration to his brigade. His determined leadership had won two sharp fights, and had brought them near to victory on the previous day, despite the long odds against them. Now he had fallen. The loss to those who survived was bitter indeed; and even more bitter was the aching presentiment of disaster then imminent. For never had British soldiers faced a more desperate situation.
To understand what had occurred we must throw back many years, even centuries. The American Colonies (as they still were at that moment, so far as Great Britain was concerned) had been founded as thirteen independent units, between the reigns of Elizabeth and of Anne. The northern-most Colonies—those of New England—had been settled by dour Puritans, fugitives from the arbitrary tyranny of King Charles and his Bishops, and with no love for the authorities who had driven them out. The most southerly Colonies, from New York to Carolina, had been settled by easier folk, more at one with those at home. Distance and difficulties of communication (it took longer then to reach America than it takes nowadays to reach Shanghai) had led to estrangement between the Colonists and the Mother Country—an estrangement, which, in 1775, developed into, armed revolt. The fighting at first was centred in New England, around Boston. Further south the revolt was but half-hearted; and when a British fleet and Army was sent from England to occupy New York the resistance there speedily collapsed. A small American army, held together by the dominating personality of George Washington, did indeed maintain an intermittent activity south of New York, but everyone realised that New England was the heart of the revolt. Further north, Canada, recently won from the French, had held to its new allegiance, and had repulsed an American invading force. If a British Army advancing from Canada could strike down upon the rear of the revolting Colonists, and could separate New England from the Colonies further south, it was thought that the southern colonies would soon submit, leaving New England to he eventually reduced.
Map to illustrate the operation of 1777
Seen on a small scale map, the plan looked well enough. One British Army, 8000 strong, under General John Burgoyne, was to advance southward from Canada by way of Lake Champlaine, Crown Point, and Ticonderoga to Albany on the Hudson River, while the main British Army at New York, some 27,000 strong, under Lord Howe, was to push up the Hudson River to Albany and there meet Burgoyne's force. The united British forces would much outnumber any American army, and the eventual reduction of New England must follow.
But it is one thing to plan a campaign on small scale maps in England and quite another thing to carry out that plan in the then wild country of America. The task set to Burgoyne's force was to fight their way for more than a hundred miles through difficult and unmapped country. But they tackled the task happily enough. They had no information as to the numbers of their antagonists; and they did not know that Lord Howe at New York had not been informed of the plan at all; so that while Burgoyne's force were winning their way southward to meet him, he was embarking his army for a campaign in another part of the country south to Philadelphia.
For many years it was believed that that disastrous mistake was due to the careless folly of Lord George Germaine, the British Minister for War; but recent research has shown that this was not exactly the case (although little good is known to that gentleman's credit). It is now established that the mistake was due to accident and to the inevitable precariousness of communication in those days, when messages could only be sent by a sailing ship whose date of arrival depended entirely on the fortune of the weather. Howe never knew until long afterwards of the plan on which Burgoyne's operations depended. He went southward, captured Philadelphia, and beat Washington's Americans at the battles of the Brandywine and of Germantown, and then learned that his victorious campaign had left Burgoyne to face disaster.
Nothing of that disaster can be attributed to the British troops whom Burgoyne led. His forces were 4000 British (see Note 2 below), 3000 German mercenaries, 150 Canadians, and some 500 Red Indians—fought their way forward gallantly, capturing Ticonderoga on July 5th, and cutting up the rearguard of the retreating Americans at Hubberton two days later--an action in which General Fraser led the attacking force with brilliant success.
After some further skirmishes, Burgoyne's soldiers pushed on again, and on September 19th they fought a fierce battle against a superior American force on Bemis Heights, within twenty miles of Albany. The fight was indecisive in spite of most gallant deeds by General Fraser and his men, but Burgoyne's troops held their ground and entrenched themselves. The main British army from New York would soon arrive, it was hoped, to aid them.
But that main army, as we know, having no information of Burgoyne's march, had gone off elsewhere. The small British force left at New York made an effort indeed, and fought its way up the Hudson River to Montgomery, but that did not help; and meanwhile the whole countryside of New England had turned out to attack Burgoyne's isolated force. The Americans' numbers rose to about 20,000, while Burgoyne's little army, much reduced by hard fighting, could not muster 5000 of all ranks. On October 7th came another desperate fight on Bemis Heights, indecisive like that before, and marked by the death of the gallant General Fraser. The episode is finely told in Creasy's "Decisive Battles of the World in a passage which deserves reprinting here.
After describing the beginning of the fight, the historian continues:-
"The contest now was fiercely maintained on both sides. The English cannon were repeatedly taken and re-taken; but when the grenadiers near them were forced back by the weight of superior numbers, one of the guns was permanently captured by the Americans, and turned upon the English............................................
On the British side the officers did their duty nobly; but General Fraser was the most eminent of them all, restoring order wherever the line began to waver, and infusing fresh courage into his men by voice and example. Mounted on an iron-gray charger, and dressed in the full uniform of a general officer, he was conspicuous to foes as well as friends. The American, Colonel Morgan, thought that the fate of the battle rested on this gallant man's life, and, calling several of his best marksmen around him, pointed Fraser out, and said: " That officer is General Fraser; I admire him, but he must die. Our victory depends on it. Take your stations in that clump of bushes, and do your duty." Within five minutes General Fraser fell mortally wounded, and was carried to the British camp by two grenadiers. Just previously to his being struck by the fatal bullet, one rifle-ball had cut the crupper of his saddle, and another had passed through his horse's mane close behind the ears. His aide-de-camp had noticed this, and said: "It is evident that you are marked out for particular aim; would it not be prudent for you to retire from this place ?" Fraser replied: "My duty forbids me to fly from danger," and the next moment he fell. (Lossing)
Burgoyne's whole force were now compelled to fall back towards their camp. The left and centre were in disorder, but the light infantry (included the detachment of the 29th Worcestershire) and the 24th (later know as the South Wales Borderers) checked the fury of the assailants, and the remains of the column with great difficulty effected their return to camp, leaving six of their cannons in the possession of the enemy, and great numbers of killed and wounded on the field; and especially a large proportion of the artillerymen, who had stood to their guns until shot down or bayoneted beside them by the advancing Americans.............................
When night fell (on the following day) it became absolutely necessary for Burgoyne to retire again, and, accordingly, the troops were marched through a stormy and rainy night towards Saratoga, abandoning their sick and wounded and the greater part of their baggage to the enemy.
Before the rearguard quitted the camp, the last sad honours were paid to the brave General Fraser, who expired on the day after the action.
He had, almost with his last breath, expressed a wish to be buried in the redoubt which had formed the part of the British lines where he had been stationed, but which had now been abandoned by the English, and was within full range of the cannon which the advancing Americans were rapidly placing in position to bear upon Burgoyne's force. Burgoyne resolved nevertheless, to comply with the dying wish of his comrade; and the interment took place under circumstances the most affecting that have ever marked a soldier's funeral ...........
The American historian, Lossing, has described this touching episode of the campaign in a spirit that does honour to the writer as well as to his subject. After narrating the death of General Fraser on the 8th of October, he says that "it was just at sunset, on that calm October evening, that the corpse of General Fraser was carried up the hill to the place of burial within the 'great redoubt.' It was attended only by the members of his military family (see Note 3 below) and Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain; yet the eyes of hundreds of both armies followed the solemn procession, while the Americans, ignorant of its true character, kept up a constant cannonade upon the redoubt. The chaplain, unawed by the danger to which he was exposed, as the cannon-balls that struck the hill threw soil all over him, pronounced the impressive funeral service of the Church of England with an unfaltering voice. The growing darkness added solemnity to the scene. Suddenly, the irregular firing ceased, and the solemn voice of a single cannon, at measured intervals, boomed along the valley, and awakened the responses of the hills. It was a minute-gun fired by the Americans in honor of the gallant dead. The moment information was given that the gathering at the redoubt was a funeral company, fulfilling, amid imminent perils, the last-breathed wishes of the noble Fraser, orders were issued to withhold the cannonade with balls, and to render military homage to the fallen brave."
It may well be doubted if any other instance is recorded of a military funeral thus watched and saluted by both the opposing sides.
Such was the scene, and such the circumstances, which surrounded the burial of the gallant General Fraser; and the episode was so dramatic as to strike the imagination of the public at home. A painting of the episode was exhibited in the Royal Academy some years later (1791) and aroused general interest. A print was made from that picture; and that print, of which a copy is preserved in the Depot at Norton, is of peculiar interest to our Regiment. For the group of mourners is depicted with careful exactitude; the figure of Captain the Viscount Petersham shows in detail the uniform then worn by officers of the 29th Regiment; and conspicuous on the metal plate of his white shoulder belt is our Regimental Star Badge. This is the earliest known record of Worcestershire Regiment Badge, and the star is depicted in the exact elongated form used by the Worcesters.
It must be explained that at that period there were no precise regulations in printed form as to the dress of the Regiments of our Army. The general style of the uniforms was settled by the equivalent of the present day War Office, but the details were arranged direct between the Colonel of the Regiment and the War Office, in manuscript letters, which have long since disappeared; so that, apart from occasional portraits of individuals or chance finds in tailor's pattern books, there is very little certainty as to the details of uniform before about 1790; after which time definite regulations existed in printed form.
So it happens that this point of the burial of General Fraser is the earliest known record of the dress of officers of our Regiment; and the fact that the Star Badge was worn at that early date makes it one of the oldest badges in our Army.
(Star Badge on shoulder belt)
Some other regiments, of course, can display badges older still. The Britannia badge of the Norfolk's dates traditionally from 1707, the Antelope of the Royal Warwickshires from about the same period, the Lamb of the Queen's dates back to 1662, the Acorn-and-Oak Leaves of the Cheshire is supposed to have originated at the battle of Dettingen in 1743 (although cold facts show that the old 22nd were at that date garrisoning Minorca; but they have an explanation.. ..) But these are exceptions. The great majority of Regimental badges are much younger and mostly are of only 50 year's standing in the Regular Army—for instance the Devon's Castle of Exeter, the Hampshire Rose, or the Staffordshire Knot. And of all the many Star Badges now worn in our Army only two can be shown to originate in the XVIIIth century—the Scottish Star of the Thistle worn by the Scots Guard, the Royal Scots, and the Black Watch, and the English Star of the Garter, worn by the Household Cavalry (on their full-dress helmets, and as officers' rank badges), the Coldstream Guards, and by our own Regiment. And our ancient right to wear the distinctive elongated Garter Start (see Note 4 below) is attested by the portrait of Lord Petersham, among the group of mourners for General Fraser on that sad evening of the 8th October,1777, among the wooded heights of America.
Note 1. - Charles Stanhope as Viscount Petersham later succeeded to the Earldom of Harrington (April 1779) and became the 3rd Earl of Harrington. He was Colonel of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment from 1788 to 1792.
Note 2. - Seven weak regular Battalions—the 9th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 47th, 53rd, and 62nd Regiments, and two composite battalions, one of Grenadiers and one of Light Infantry. Included in these latter were the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment. The rest of our Battalion remained in Canada as part of the force defending the territory.
Note 3. - The contemporary expression for a General's personal staff. The phrase is still used in the French Army, where reference is constantly made to : e.g., Marshall Foch's "famille militaire."
Note 4. - In the XVIII century the Garter Star was worn elongated, and it is still so displayed by the Household Cavalry, The Worcestershire Regiment, and the officers of the Coldstream. Later the star was made circular, and it is worn in this form by the Royal Sussex (the Sussex militia were granted this badge by the Prince Regent and the whole regiment.