Happy Minden Day – 1st August

Happy Minden Day everyone!

Minden Day has been celebrated throughout the years by the regiment, and is still celebrated by the PWRR today with parades, dinners and the wearing of roses in their headgear. It is the major Battle Honour of the 37th Regiment of Foot, later the Hampshire, Royal Hampshire and now PWRR regiments.

The Battle of Minden was fought on 1st August 1759, during the Seven Years’ War. Minden is in Northern Germany, 6 British Infantry Regiments were sent to Germany, where the French were trying to take Hanover to recompense for their losses in Canada. The British, Hanoverians, Hessians and Prussians, numbering some 41,000 men with 170 guns were fighting the larger French and Saxon armies of 51,000 men.

The British Regiments of the 37th, together with the 20th, 23rd, 25th, 51st all marched up to Coesfeld, near Münster to become part of the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick. Horses were used to carry the tents and the regimental medicine chest, carriages were hired locally to transport blankets and 2 days’ bread, with all men carrying another 2 days’ worth. As the troops advanced forwards, new waggons and horses were requisitioned and the old ones sent back. There were few reports of the British troops looting along the way, bullocks were provided for their meat supplies.

The British troops were encamped to the north west of Minden Heath. The French forces had started moving into position very early, but this news was not passed on swiftly, so it was some time before Ferdinand’s troops were ready to move at 5am. By 7am they were already occupying various areas of ground, while the ‘indisciplined French troops’ and their conflicting orders caused confusion and delayed their advance, allowing the German and British forces to drive them out of some strongholds.

There was supposed to be British Cavalry supporting the Infantry, but due to delays, they had not yet reached Minden. There were nine battalions facing the French Cavalry, and the advance of the infantry completely surprised the cavalry, who could do nothing except charge at them. 12 cavalry squadrons swept down towards the infantry, who held their fire until the horses were within ten paces, and then let fly, with devastating effect. The remaining cavalry withdrew, and successive cavalry charges met the same fate. The French Cavalry were driven back three times completely, before deciding to send in their infantry.

17 French Infantry Battalions now advanced on the British Infantry, who wheeled around to attack again; the superior British weaponry and training killed a great many, and others ran away. The battle continued with further attacks, and a large scale onslaught from British guns caused Contades’ French force to beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind 40 guns, and nearly 20 colours and standards, as well as losing nearly 11,000 men by some accounts.

The 37th Regiment of Foot suffered heavy losses too – 4 officers and 69 men were killed, and another 12 officers and 188 men were wounded, (another 33 subsequently died of their wounds). This was nearly 54% of the 37th Men.

The soldiers picked wild roses from the battlefield to wear in their hats and uniforms, a tradition that continues to today.

The museum shop sells copies of the Battle of Minden Print by Dawn Waring: