The 37th Foot Regiment (later the 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment) was raised on February 13, 1702 by Colonel Thomas Meredith. It was one of more than a dozen raised by order of Parliament in 1701-2 at the start of the War of the Spanish Succession. Meredith, an Irishman from Dollardstown, County Meath, had been commissioned as a Captain in the Duke of Leinster’s Horse in 1691, serving in Flanders before winning a brevet as Colonel. He was appointed Adjutant General in June 1701.
‘Meredith’s’ was raised in Ireland, with an original establishment of 12 Companies, each with a captain, a lieutenant and an ensign plus two sergeants, three corporals, two drummers and 50 privates. A chaplain, an adjutant a quartermaster and a surgeon completed the regimental establishment. Nearly all the officers had previous military experience. Likewise, for his sergeants and corporals, Meredith was able to tap into the large numbers of discharged soldiers who had been cast adrift when Parliament drastically cut the size of the Army in 1697.
Meredith raised his regiment round Dublin, issuing stringent orders against enlisting ‘Papists’ whose loyalty he believed to be suspect. All ranks carried swords, officers also carrying a half pike, sergeants halberds and the rank and file the flint-lock musket. Troops wore long, loose-fitting coats, large skirts (usually looped back) plus waistcoat and breeches, generally the same colour as the coat. The facings were usually a different colour. Their three-cornered hats, looped up at the sides, were made of black felt or beaver. Rates of pay ranged from 6d a day for privates to 1/6 for sergeants, 4s for lieutenants and 12s for the Colonel.
After a year undergoing training, the regiment was sent out to the Netherlands just as the Duke of Marlborough was beginning his second campaign against the French. Although records are sketchy, ‘Meredith’s’ probably saw action at the sieges of Huy and Limburg. During the winter of 1703-4 the regiment’s establishment was increased by a 13th Company and also by ten men per Company, with another sergeant and another corporal. This meant raising nearly 200 men in addition to those required to fill the gaps left by the dead and wounded.