Formation of the 67th Foot
August 1756 saw the start of the Seven Years War between Britain and France. As a result 2nd Battalions were added to 15 Regiments of the Line which included, besides the 37th, the 20th Foot. This regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Kingsley, but owed its high standards and well-deserved reputation to a far more famous soldier, its second in command, Lieutenant Colonel James Wolfe.
On 21 April 1758 the 2nd Battalions were separated from their original corps and numbered as separate units from the 61st onwards. The 2/20th became the 67th with Wolfe as its first Colonel. The new regiment’s officers all came from the 20th and most had only recently been promoted or commissioned.
The new unit comprised ten companies of four sergeants, four corporals, two drummers and 100 privates with three subalterns. It continued to wear the 20th’s pale yellow facings, its lace being white with purple, yellow and green stripes. Breeches, waistcoats and trimmings were white.
The 67th first saw action in the summer of 1758 in a series of joint naval/army landings on the north-west French coast. The first was at St Malo in June. This was called off after just three days, but not before a large number of enemy ships had been destroyed, including four men of war and several privateer vessels.
Further landings followed at Cherbourg in August and St Cast the following month. The Cherbourg attack stalled after a week and the British withdrew once more, but the assault on St Cast proved a disaster. Here, a dozen French battalions under the Duke of Aiguillon trapped the British force as they attempted to re-embark on their ships following an abortive landing. After a fierce encounter, the French broke though the British rearguard, driving the survivors into the water where they were either shot or drowned.
Several hundred more of the reaguard assembled on the rocky Pointe de la Garde where they held out until their ammunition ran out before surrendering.
British losses at St Cast are hard to estimate. One return put it at 37 officers and 822 men while a French list of officers captured gives 28 names, including Captain Meyer and Lieutenant Rose of the 67th. A return of St Cast oprisoners to be exchanged in March 1759 includes a Captain, a subaltern and 21 men of ‘Wolfe’s’.
James Wolfe was a remarkable soldier. Born on 2 January 1727 the son of a distinguished general, Edward Wolfe, he entered the Army aged 15 as an Ensign in his father’s Marines. He received his commission at a very young age and saw extensive service in Europe, fighting at Dettingen, Fontenoy and Lauffeldt (where he had two horses shot under him) in the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1745 he fought at Culloden. Gazetted to the 20th (then Sackville’s) as Major in January 1749, he became its Lieutenant Colonel in March 1750.
It was in the Scottish Highlands from 1749 to 1753 that Wolfe’s assiduous attention to his duties made his mark on the 20th. Though it was scattered about the region, he was in touch with every detachment, ensuring officers and men were both hard working and disciplined. The work was severe, with much arduous road-making, and conditions of service were hard and provisions often scarce. When the regiment departed Scotland for the South of England in the autumn of 1753, it left with a fine reputation and was specially thanked by the authorities for its good work and exemplary conduct. It also received a highly flattering report when reviewed by the Duke of Cumberland in December 1753.
The outbreak of the Seven Years War provided Wolfe with new opportunities for advancement. In January 1758 he was sent to Canada where he was given the local rank of Brigadier General (he was still only a full Colonel in Europe) and appointed second-in-command of the expedition which captured the fortress of Louisbourg (in Nova Scotia). The following year, as a Major General, Wolfe led the force which sailed up the St Lawrence River to capture Quebec city. After a long siege, Wolfe defeated a French force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, allowing the British to capture the city. Wolfe was killed at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham after being hit three times by musket fire.