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The ROYAL GLOUCESTERSHIRE, BERKSHIRE and WILTSHIRE REGIMENT

PEKIN 1860

18th September - 13th October 1860

Unit awarded Battle Honour Subsequent designation
99th (Lanarkshire ) Regiment 2nd Bn Wiltshire Regiment
  Merged 1st Wiltshire Regiment 1948
  1st Wiltshire Regiment
  1st Bn D.E.R.R.
  Now, 1st Bn R.G.B.W.

 

British Troops enter Pekin 1860

British Troops Enter Pekin

 

GENERAL BACKGROUND TO CAMPAIGN
In 1856 the British, seeking to extend their trading rights in China, found an excuse to renew hostilities when some Chinese officials boarded the ship Arrow and lowered the British flag. The French joined the British in this war, using as their excuse the murder of a French missionary in the interior of China.

The allies began military operations in late 1857 and quickly forced the Chinese to sign the treaties of Tientsin (1858), which provided residence in Peking for foreign envoys, the opening of several new ports to Western trade and residence, the right of foreign travel in the interior of China, and freedom of movement for Christian missionaries. In further negotiations in Shanghai later in the year, the importation of opium was legalized. The Chinese, however, refused to ratify the treaties, and the allies resumed hostilities, captured Peking, and burned the emperor's summer palace. PEKIN was divided into three distinct cities, namely, The CHINESE, TARTER, and the IMPERIAL CITY, with the FORBIDDEN CITY, in the centre of the latter. In 1860 the Chinese signed the Peking Convention, in which they agreed to observe the treaties of Tientsin.

  

THE 99th ARRIVE IN CHINA
Early in February 1860 the 99th sailed from Calcutta under the command of Lt Col DAY, where they had been stationed for fourteen months, to join an expedition going to North China. In March 1860 the 99th arrived at Hong Kong and went North to the island of Chusan, where they were billeted in the capital, Tingaae.The Army was under the command of Lt General Sir Hope GRANT, which was to act in conjunction with a French Force

In early June they left and sailed North with a convoy to the South Manchurian coast. By the end of June 100 ships had gathered and they then sailed together for the Chinese coast. In early August, the British, together with 4,000 French, marched South. By mid-September the forces were at the town of Hosiwoo only 20 miles from Peking, but on 18th September the advance was halted by a large force of Tartar cavalry and Infantry.

The allies moved forward with the 99th forming part of the British centre and came under heavy but inaccurate fire, including gingal balls. The 99th advanced companies returned fire, and their Colours were under fire for the first time. The Tartars then retreated to avoid being outflanked, and the 99th. Concentrated and pressed on behind the cavalry. Most of the Tartar camps were ablaze but the 99th formed part of the outpost picquets sent to the three farther-most ones, which were still intact.

Before dawn on 21st September the advance was continued with the 99th forming part of the left wing. Two miles on masses of Tartar cavalry appeared and galloped forward, but withdrew when the 99th advanced in column and fired a volley. They then deployed as thousands of Tartar cavalry appeared on their left flank. Suddenly the Kings Dragoon Guards, charged out, and together with Fane's Horse, completely routed the Tartars with much slaughter.

 

Gate into Tarter City, Pekin 1860

Gate into Tartar City, Pekin 1860

 

The allied advance went on with artillery opening up and the enemy attempting a stand, finally being defeated by the 99th advancing in skirmishing order. Pekin now lay only 6 miles ahead On 5th October a move forward was made with the 99th covering the British left. The famous Summer Palace stood outside the walls of Peking, full of immense riches, which were eventually all stripped in retaliation for the torture and murder of prisoners. The looting of the Palace must not be confused with its final destruction, which occurred later under the direct orders of the allied chiefs. There appears to be very little doubt about the commencement of this wholesale looting, for when Sir Hope Grant arrived at the palace to see things himself, between the hours of 8am and 9am, the whole palace was in a state of hopeless confusion, and the French troopers were taking anything of value they could lay their hands on. Sir HOPE had previously dispatched a squadron of British cavalry to the palace to see if the French cavalry were still there. It was clear that to allow the troops of one of the allied armies to loot and restrain those of the other allied army would cause discontent, so the collection by British troops of what remained was sanctioned, the treasures thus collected were sold by auction among the officers and men of the force by a specially selected committee of officers. The money realized at this auction was divided among the members of the British force at the ratio of one third to the officers and two thirds to the men, each private soldier receiving about 4 as his share.

 

The summer Palace, Pekin, 1860 after the sacking

The Summer Palace, Pekin, 1860 after the 'sacking'

The work of destruction of this great palace was carried out by british troops, and we were told that "For two days the smoke of the burning palaces, hung like a pall in the skies, proclaming the vengeance of the men of the seas"

 

Some of the choicest pieces were collected under a guard from the 99th and sent as a gift to Queen Victoria. The 99th's officers acquired a number of magnificent vases which are still in the Regiment's possession in the Regimental Museum at Salisbury 

Silk Robe from Pekin

A Silk Robe 'Liberated' from Pekin by the 99th (On display at the Regimental Museum 'The Wardrobe' Salisbury, Wiltshire, England)

 

On the termination of the war in North China, the 99th returned to Canton, and later to Hong Kong, from whence a detachment under Capt BURTON was sent to Shanghai, where it took the rebel camp at Tserpoo on April 17th 1862.

On February 28th 1865 the Regiment completed its tour in China and sailed for South Africa in SS TAMAR, with the exception of No 1 Company, which had left for TAKU Forts, under command Capt COATES, in October of the previous year, and rejoined the Regiment in Africa seven months later.

Whilst the Regiment was in HONG KONG they received a letter from Horse Guards dated February 16th 1862, it reads :-

I am directed by his Royal Highness, The General Commanding in Chief, to acquaint you that her Majesty has graciously pleased to approve of the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment, bearing on the Regimental Colour the word 'PEKIN' in commemoration of their services in China in 1860

 

Uniform worn by the 99th during the 1860 Campaign

Uniform worn in 1860 by the 99th of foot

The uniform worn by the infantryman shown here is the undress shell jacket and white linen "hot station" trousers. Over his Kilmarnock or "pork-pie" headdress he wears a white linen cover and neck-flap. The model is on display at the Regimental Museum at Salisbury

 

Other Units entitled to the Battle Honour

Kings Dragoon Guards

11th K.E.O. Lancers (Probyns horse)

Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment

20th Brownlows Punjabis

Hampshire Regiment

19th Lancers (Fanes Horse)

Royal Scots

2nd Queens own Sappers and Miners

Kings Royal Rifles

23rd Pioneers

 
 
                             
 
                        
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                            Revised: 19 July 2006.