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95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot - A Brief History

 

In 1800, an "Experimental Corps of Riflemen" was established under Colonel Coote Manningham and in 1803 this Rifle Corps became 95th Regiment of Foot or Rifle Regiment. Their role was to act as skirmishers against Napoleon's French armies.  The purpose of the regiment was to have the riflemen working in open order and be able to think for themselves, a method completely unheard of.  Riflemen were provided with dark green uniforms, again unheard of when the standard for British line infantry was bright red!  The premise being that they would make best use of natural cover, operating in pairs, to harass the enemy with accurately aimed shots as opposed to releasing a mass volley, which was the orthodox of the day.

'

Since our advance from Santarem on 6 March, seven of our officers have laid down their lives.  And a great number have been wounded.  I soon expect to have my lieutenancy.  If I live, I shall get a company sooner in this regiment than any other.  In six months we see as much service as half the army can boast in ten years...'

George Simmons, 2nd Lieutenant

in a letter home, June 1811

 

The unit's operation was markedly different to that of the line infantry by being 'taught' instead of flogged.  It was not uncommon for riflemen to take part in regular shooting and sporting competitions, to which they would be rewarded for their achievements.  As such, their marksmanship was superior to that of any other regiment, picking off French officers, NCOs, drummers and artillery crew.  As their namesake depicts, the 95th Rifles wwa the first regiment to be equipped with a rifled weapon - the Baker Rifle, which was named after its creator, the gunsmith Eziekiel Baker - accurate to 300 yards or more.

"Hurrah for the first in the field and the last out of it"

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