Regiments of the Malta Garrison
The 39th (Dorsetshire)

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The 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment


The 39th Regiment of Foot was raised in 1701, in the reign of William III. Colonel Richard Coote was appointed to command it on 13 February 1702. The first service of the regiment was in an expedition from Ireland to Portugal in 1704.

In 1727 the 39th Foot was stationed in Gibraltar where the fortress was besieged by the Spanish.

In 1744 the regiment proceeded from Ireland to Britain, and served on board the Fleet, as marines, for two years.

In 1751 the regiment was numbered 39th, to which East Middlesex was added in 1782. In 1754, it embarked for the East Indies. Primus in Indis was granted to the 39th Foot in recognition of it being the first Crown Regiment to serve in India. On 23 June 1757, it fought with the East India Company at the Battle of Plassey, Bengal, under Robert Clive. The 39th remained in India until 1758, when it returned to Ireland.

In 1769, the 39th Foot proceeded to Gibraltar, and was present during its protracted siege to 13 September 1782 by the combined Franco-Spanish forces. It remained a part of the garrison until 1784 and returned to Ireland in 1789.

In 1800, the 39th embarked for the Dutch settlement of Suriname, in South America, where it remained until 1802, when it proceeded to Barbados and Antigua.

In 1807, the regiment's affiliation with the county of East Middlesex was transferred to the 77th Foot. The 39th took over the Dorsetshire affiliation previously held by the 35th Foot which became the Sussex Regiment.

The Sphinx and Fort Marabout date to the First Egyptian Campaign under Sir Ralph Abercrombie. Fort Marabout was held by the French and was captured by the 54th Foot, later the 2nd battalion.

In June 1824, approval was given for the Colours to bear the battle honours: Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive and Orthes.

In December 1836, the regiment was permitted to bear the word Gibraltar on its Colours in commemoration of its distinguished service in the defence of Gibraltar, and to bear the Castle and Key, being part of the armorial bearings of that fortress, together with the motto Montis Insignia Calpe.

On 1 July 1881, the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment amalgamated with the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment to form the 1st Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment.

On 17th July 1958, the Devonshire Regiment amalgamated with the Dorsetshire Regiment to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.

Service Record — The 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment

1805 1st/39th (East Middlesex) (Balfour's Regiment)

Malta 1 July 1805 In 1804, the 1st Battalion had been guarding the coast of Sussex against a threatened French invasion. In July 1805, it arrived at Malta under the command of Lt Col The Hon Robert William O'Callaghan, as part of Sir James Craig's Expedition. It remained in Malta, where it formed part of the garrison.

Strength: 27 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 56 NCOs, 927 rank and file fit for duty, 89 rank and file sick, 1119 total officers and men, 853 establishment.

Malta 14 Aug 1805 The 39th occupied Fort Manoel.

Malta 14 Oct 1805 General Court Martial held in Valletta of Lt Col the Hon Robert William O'Callaghan commanding the 39th Foot in Malta. O'Callaghan was tried on five charges brought against him by the regimental paymaster Mr Roderick Mackenzie. Lt Col O'Callaghan was acquitted of all charges, and later commanded the regiment in the Peninsula and became a Major General and a Knight Commander of the Bath. The regimental paymaster, Mr R Mackenzie, committed suicide shortly after the verdict was made public.

The paymaster had alleged that (i) the bounties meant to be paid to two recruits who had enlisted in April 1804, were misappropriated by the commanding officer; (ii) that in August 1804, he had intentionally delayed to forward the resignation of the commission of Lt Fry 39th Regiment, who had wished to sell his Ensigncy which he had purchased, for the payment of his debts, and by which criminal neglect, the debts of Lt Fry, pledged on the security of his commission had remained unpaid; (iii) that in April 1805 he had embezzled £20 8s 6d from the Board of Ordnance as the alleged expense of engraving and marking 817 stand of arms, which had been previously paid for by the soldiers of the regiment; (iv) that in September 1805, while in command of the 39th Foot, he had signed a false requisition for forage for his horse, but which he delivered to another officer of the regiment, who was not entitled to receive forage from the public stores; (v) that in June 1805, he had ordered the paymaster to continue Pte James Cotterill of Captain Waddell's Company, in the rank of sergeant in the pay list and muster roll, knowing that Pte Cotterill had been reduced to the rank of private by the sentence of a Regimental Court Martial.

Malta 22 Nov 1805 The Flank Companies 1st/39th were detached to Naples.

1806 1st/39th (East Middlesex) (Balfour's Regiment)

Malta Jan 1806 The Flank Companies of the 1st/39th embarked from Naples to Sicily. They returned to Malta in February 1806.

Malta 1 July 1806 Strength: 29 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 66 NCOs, 678 rank and file fit for duty, 30 rank and file sick, 815 total officers and men, 907 establishment.

4 July 1806 The Grenadier Companies commanded by Lt Col the Hon R W O'Callaghan fought at the Battle of Maida.

Malta 18 July 1806 Three men of the 39th were killed in the explosion of a gun powder magazine at Vittoriosa.

Malta 16 July 1806 On 16 July Lt Col Bentham commanding the Royal Artillery in Malta, ordered Capt Gamble, officer in charge of the artillery in the Cottonera District, through Mr Rutter, the Ordnance Commissary, to unload shells from the magazine in Vittoriosa, in order that they might be sent to Sicily. Capt Gamble passed the order to Bdr Anderson, Garrison Gunner. Sgt Robert Anson the laboratory Sgt had been ordered to show Bdr Anderson how to draw the powder from live shells. Anderson was told to carry the shells as far as possible from the magazine previous to unloading them. The cause of the explosion was disobedience of orders by Bdr Anderson, but Capt Gamble was relieved of his command for failing to provide adequate supervision by a more senior officer.

At the Court of Enquiry held in Valletta on 21 July 1806, Gnr Robert Cresey, one of the working party on the evening of 16 July in the magazine of Vittoriosa, where he assisted in the unloading of several shells, stated that the boxes containing the shells were opened with an iron chisel. That seeing much danger in carrying on such work in the magazine he remonstrated with Bdr Anderson who desired him to mind his own business. The magazine blew up on the 18th July killing the working party consisting of an NCO and 12 gunners.

1807 1st/39th (Dorsetshire) (Balfour's Regiment)

Malta 1 July 1807 Strength: 34 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 76 NCOs, 863 rank and file fit for duty, 38 rank and file sick, 1017 total officers and men, 1116 establishment.

Malta 1 Oct 1807 Strength: 33 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 76 NCOs, 840 rank and file fit for duty, 44 rank and file sick, 1010 total officers and men, 1116 establishment.

Malta 1 Nov 1807 Strength: 32 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 76 NCOs, 832 rank and file fit for duty, 45 rank and file sick, 1003 total officers and men, 1126 establishment.

1808 39th (Dorsetshire) (Balfour's Regiment)

Malta 1 Feb 1808 Strength: 32 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 76 NCOs, 832 rank and file fit for duty, 45 rank and file sick, 1003 total officers and men, 1126 establishment.

Malta May 1808 The Flank Companies 1st/39th were detached to Sicily, and formed part of the flank battalions. The Grenadier Companies, commanded by Lt Col The Hon R W O'Callaghan, were employed at Naples, on the coast of Calabria, and at the taking of the islands of Ischia and Procida.

Malta 1 Aug 1808 Strength 8 Coys: 29 commissioned and Warrant Officers, 54 NCOs, 705 rank and file fit for duty, 48 rank and file sick, 842 total officers and men, 1116 establishment.

Malta 1 Sept 1808 Strength 8 Coys: 30 commissioned and Warrant Officers, 54 NCOs, 699 rank and file fit for duty, 50 rank and file sick, 833 total officers and men.

Malta 1 Dec 1808 Strength 8 Coys: 21 commissioned and Warrant Officers, 54 NCOs, 705 rank and file fit for duty, 38 rank and file sick, 832 total officers and men.

1809 39th (Dorsetshire)

1810 39th (Dorsetshire)

Malta 23 June 1810 The 39th Foot commanded by Brevet Lt Col Cavendish Sturt reinforced Lt Gen Sir John Stuart's Army in Sicily, against an invasion across the Strait's of Messina by Murat, then King of Naples. The French invasion of Sicily started on 17 Sept 1810, but was aborted as it received little support.

1811 39th (Dorsetshire)

In 1811, the Battalion was replaced in Malta by the 2nd/14th Regiment of Foot. The whole battalion commanded by Lt Col the Hon R W O'Callaghan, embarked for the Peninsula. It arrived at Lisbon in October 1811. It took part in the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June 1813, and served in the Pyrenees during July and August 1813, at Nivelle on 10 November 1813, in the passage of the Nive on 9 December 1813 and at Orthes on 27 February 1814.

1856 39th (Dorsetshire)

In 1854 the regiment joined the Crimean War (1854-56), where it served in the trenches before Sevastopol.

1881 1st/39th (Dorsetshire)

On 1 July 1881, the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot and the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment amalgamated to become the Dorsetshire Regiment.