Battle of Minden, 1759

Throughout the Seven Years War, 1759 which was heralded as the ‘Year of Victories’; Britain, Prussia and Portugal were allied against France, Austria, Russia, Sweden and Poland.

Following a French victory at Bergen in Germany in April 1759, the French Army of 60,000 troops commanded by Marshal Duc Louis de Contades advanced northwards towards Hannover. In an attempt to block this, the Prussian general, Marshal Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, resolved to hold the town of Minden astride the road to Hannover and across the river Weser. His army included six British regiments of foot, the 12th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 51st and the 37th (later to become The Hampshire Regiment).

As the French pushed on against Ferdinand’s forces, he knew that a battle was inevitable, even with his 45,000 men to the French’s 60,000, and began to move towards Minden. So, he made his way to just below Minden and left 10,000 men under the command of General Wangenheim. The 37th were under the command of General Waldegrave. Ferdinand’s plan was to tempt the French from their strong position, by placing Wangenheim’s Battalions in a place called Todtenhausen, which was half a mile below Minden. The plan worked and in the early hours of August 1 the French began to advance.

Waldegrave’s battalions were in the front line with the 37th in the centre, headed by its Commanding Officer, Lt Col A.D. Oughton.

Facing them was the mass of French cavalry squadrons. The British cavalry had not yet arrived to support the attack and the battalion numbers were low compared to the enemy. However, with the odds stacked against them, an advance was made towards the French, which would have been a great surprise to the French cavalry as they had never witnessed an unsupported infantry advance against squadrons of cavalry. The battalions suffered heavy fire; the two battalions on either flank of the 37th sustained heavier losses and injuries than the 37th who were less exposed. The advance continued, and the French could do nothing but charge them. The enemy swiftly moved towards the infantry, who waited until the horseman were less than ten paces away before firing.

This fire had devastating effect on the French cavalry, who then tried to retreat swiftly, with a few remaining but were driven back by the bayonet. More French horsemen began to hurl themselves at Waldegrave’s damaged forces, but even in their wounded state they managed to stand strong and beat back the French cavalry again. The French infantry were then sent in to attack and Waldegrave’s Battalions stood fast and showed another strong front, as this was a manoeuvre unexpected for troops that were already engaged in combat.

From here the fight lasted around ten minutes, the superiority of British musketry and fire discipline showing through, resulting in many being killed and the rest retreating.

But the British infantry’s troubles were still not over; their next targets were the Grenadiers of France, described as ‘fine and terrible fellows’. The infantry managed to beat them back to a distance, but their fire could not reach them, so another advance was made and the Grenadiers quickly ran away.

At this point more fresh Cavalry were advancing so the Artillery bought out the 12 pounders’

“They remained undiscovered until the enemy came, almost within pistol shot and were going to gallop down sword in hand among the poor mangled regiments; we clapt our matches to the ten guns and gave them such a salute as they little expected: for we mowed them down like standing corn.” A description from the Artillery Officer
The astounding achievements from this battle were down to the highest state of coolness, courage and military discipline ever displayed. For these acts Minden was placed on the Colours of the Regiment, making it a most prized battle honour.

The Minden Rose obtained its title from the Battle of Minden.
As the Regiment’s returned from the battle soldiers picked roses and placed them in their hats in memory of their fellow infantry men who had fallen in battle.  It is now customary for the Regiment to wear a small red rose behind the Cap Badge in the headdress, every year on the 1st August, to commemorate Minden Day.