HM Regiment
de Meuron

The Swiss DeMeuron Regiment 
This page contains excerpts from a research report by Donna Brinkworth, 1982, 
filed with the Old Fort William Library. Additional research has been provided by current Corps members.


The DeMeurons From 1781 to 1795
Under the Dutch and their French Allies.

In the year 1781 French authorities helped to raise a new regiment in the Swiss canton, soliciting recruits in and around Neuchatel. The regiment was called the deMeuron Regiment, taking it's name from the commander, Comte Charles de Meuron, born in Neuchatel in1738 and who served in the French regiment D'Erlach. The DeMeuron Regiment consisted of 1020 men, 10 companies of 102 men each, fully armed and equipped.

This regiment was to serve the Dutch East India Company protecting the Dutch colonies, the Cape of Good Hope in particular. A Dutch base was established there in 1652, to act as a supply depot for the provisioning of ships on the long voyage from Europe to India. By the 1700's, Dutch settlers, the Boers, were well established there.

On January 7, 1782, the regiment landed in Capetown, only to re-embark shortly on the Hermione to Ceylon where they were to reinforce the Suffrens. Ceylon had been under Dutch rule since 1665, yet in the latter part of the 18th century, the British began to move eastward from India. In Ceylon, the DeMeuron Regiment took part in the expulsion of the British from Cuddalore, which was "sorely beset by the English under General Stuart."

After peace, the DeMeuron Regiment shared garrison duty with the French Regiment de Pondicherry, in Capetown. Many duels were fought between the men of the two regiments. Tensions were developing between the Swiss and their French `Allies', and between the English and Dutch settlers on the Cape of Good Hope. Many of the De Meurons deserted at this time, enticed by the Dutch Boers to become farmhands. The DeMeurons were eventually relieved by the Regiment de Wurtenburg, in time to prevent complete disintegration.

In 1786 the DeMeuron Regiment was sent back to Ceylon, leaving in Capetown a depot of 33 men. Ceylon was governed at this time by Governor Van Angelbeek, in Colombo. While in Ceylon, the regiment answered to him and to Colonel Pierre de Meuron, brother of Comte Charles de Meuron, who had returned to Switzerland. Some time during these period the regiment was "borrowed" from the Dutch by the French. the DeMeurons served as marines on board a fleet operation against the British.

On August 26, 1795, two companies of the DeMeuron Regiment were taken prisoner, by the British at Trincomalee, when the British stormed Ceylon. After a weak attempt at defence, Holland surrendered Ceylon to the British. The Dutch East India Company went bankrupt, and could not pay its troops. In the tradition of the time, the DeMeuron Regiment entered into British service. 



 

British Regular Army Service, 1795 to 1816

His Majesties Regiment de Meuron
The transfer took place under the guidance of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, Secretary of War for Britain, and Hugh Cleghorn, a professor at St. Andrews University and a friend of Comte Charles de Meuron. The settled the matter with the Dutch East India Company, and almost all of the remaining 860 DeMeurons registered in the British Army. The rank and file were to be paid arrears due to them and were to be taken into the army at the same rate of pay as the British Soldiers. With news of the transfer, the DeMeuron prisoners at Trincomalee were released. Comte de Meuron was paid 4,000£ and he and his brother Pierre were given the rank of General in the British Army. Following the take-over of Ceylon, Hugh Cleghorn was given 5,000£ by the British government and appointed the Crown Secretary of Ceylon. However, Henry Dundas Viscount Melville and the British government tried to avoid paying the dues owed to the men of DeMeuron Regiment. Most of the DeMeurons were not paid off Dutch service until 1796.

Under the terms of the agreement, finalised in 1798, the DeMeuron Regiment finally entered into full service with the British Army. It consisted of 2 battalions, of 5 companies of infantry each.
 

The Mysore Campaign, 1799.


A Seargeantr's sword. A Seargeant would have carried a sword like this, along with a short pike called a spontoon.
The DeMeuron Regiment performed their most important service to Britain in 1799. They were under the command of Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable Arthur Wellesley (Later, the Duke of Wellington.)

In the west and south of India there were two "vigorous and expansive powers" working against the British, the Maràthàs and Mysore. there had already been three campaigns against the Sultan Tippu-Saib, who led the Mysore power. The third Mysore War, led by Cornwallis, lasted from 1789 to 1792. Cornwallis had thought he had brought Sultan Tippu-Saib to bay.

Wellesley decided first to strike at Mysore, still a formidable military power and avowedly hostile. The British stormed Seringapatam on May 4th, 1799.

The DeMeuron Regiment took no small part in this campaign. The men conducted themselves bravely. They were the first to go "over the top," as the Forlorn Hope. The Sultan Tippu-Saib was isolated and died in the fighting. There were rejoicings among the British over this "unexpectedly complete victory." The DeMeuron suffered 80 casualties.

Wellington reported the good record of the DeMeurons. In spite of this, the Indian natives refused to regard the regiment with the respect they accorded to a British unit. As being foreigners (Swiss,) the natives held the idea that the DeMeurons had been bought as slaves. Wellington also reported that the DeMeuron Regiment was equal to or better than British regiments in good conduct, discipline and military ability.

Comte Charles-Daniel de Meuron returned to the country of his birth shortly after the seizure of Seringapatm, leaving command of his regiment to Pierre-Frederick de Meuron. Charles de Meuron died on April 4, 1806.

The DeMeuron Regiment remained in India until 1806. There, they served in several campaigns.
 

The Mediterranean and Peninsula Campaigns, 1806 to 1812.

In 1806, the regiment was brought to the Mediterranean to garrison Malta. It's strength was greatly reduced by the discharge of time-expired and invalidated men. Owing to this reduced strength, the DeMeuron regiment was primarily assigned to garrison duties in the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean, Malta was a headquarters for the British troops. In 1798, Napoleon captured the island, but the French presence was short-lived. In 1802, the Treaty of Amiens returned the island to the Roman Catholic military movement known as the Knights. Politically the British controlled Malta, and under Britain, Malta went through a number of changes. The economy became a function of British demands for Malta's military facilities.

The DeMeurons were sent from Malta to England, 35 Officers and 132 other ranks. In England, they were stationed on the Isle of Wight, and at Lymington, where their Regimental Depot was established. The DeMeuron companies had been decimated in the Eastern Wars. In England, they were restructured as a line regiment, rebuilt and re-equipped. They did not remain in England for long.

In 1809 they were sent back to the Mediterranean to join two other Swiss regiments, DeRoll and DeWatteville. Based in Gibraltar and later again in Malta, the regiment was swollen by the addition of 500 recruits. They were mostly Swiss and German soldiers, conscripted into Napolean's army, who deserted at the first opportunity to join the British. There is no doubt that there were also some Italians who joined the DeMeuron ranks.

The DeMeuron Regiment fought in the Peninsular War, in Spain. This was also known as the War of Independence, by the Spanish. They were once again under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley. He had been Knighted, given the title Duke of Wellington, and now commanded the British forces in the Mediterranean. Wellesley was to become one of history's few unbeaten generals.

The DeMeuron's were sent to fight where ever Wellesley thought they were needed most. They were in Spain, Sicily, and Italy.

While in Malta, in 1813, a number of new recruits*, fleeing from Napoleon were added to the ranks. Of the more than 2,000 DeMeurons in the British Army, in 1813, about 800 of them were Swiss, at least 500 were German, 300 were Dutch, and 200 were Alsatians. The rest were largely Italians and Poles, but included Austrians, Spanish, and every other nationality from Europe. Most had joined the DeMeuron Regiment to fight against Napoleon, instead of being drafted by conscription to fight for him!

*Recent evidence indicates that almost all of the new recruits were left in Europe, most likely as part of the Kings German Legion. The names of men who came to Canada indicate that almost all of them were Swiss, and the remainder were German.

The Departure, 1813.

On May 4th, 1813, the Garrison Order in Malta contained the following:

Lieutenant-General Oakes cannot suffer the Regiment DeMeuron to quit this garrison where they have so long been stationed under his command, without assuring them of the satisfaction which their good conduct and attention to military discipline have constantly afforded him, and which have been equally conspicuous in every rank. The will embark from hence as fine and well appointed a regiment as any in His Majesty's Service.

The Lieutenant-General has no doubt that by their conduct and gallantry, on the desirable service on which they're are about to be employed, they will confirm the high opinion he has formed of them, and will equally merit the praise and approbation of the General under whose orders they will soon be placed, to whom he shall not fail justly to set forth their merits.

He begs leave to assure the regiment of his warmest wishes for their glory and success and of the sincere interest he shall ever take in their welfare.
 

P. Anderson, Deputy Adjutant-General.

The DeMeuron Regiment departed from Malta in May of 1813.
They were on their way to Canada, to fight in the War of 1812.

Return Main Whistle Signals Regt de Meuron
1781-1813
Regt de Meuron
1813-1816
Photo Gallery War of 1812 Cooke's Mill Laura Secord Musket Amunition Platoon
Exercise & Musketry

Further Reading:
Foreign Regiments in the British Army, 1793-1802, by C.T. Atkinson.
"His Majesty's Regiment De Meuron", Calcutta, 1803, Julian James Cotton
A History of Uniforms of the British Army, vol. V, London Kaye and Ward Ltd, 1967, Cecil P. Lawson
"Who Were the De Meurons?", Beaver Magazine, December 1942, Robie L. Reid
"Officers of the British Forces in Canada, War of 1812", Canadian Military Institute, 1908, L. Homfray Irving
"Two Swiss Regiments in Canada", Gerard Malcholosse
"De Meuron's Swiss Regiment 1814 - 1816", Military Collector and Historian, vol. 9, no 3, Fall 1957, C.P. Lawson and John P. Severin
Statement Respecting the Earl of Selkirk's Settlement Upon the Red River in North America, S.R. Publishers Ltd., Johnson Reprint Corp. 1968