The First and the Last
The First Military Sunbather
Lord de Ros was the Quartermaster General at Varna in Bulgaria where the British Army were waiting for orders to land in the Crimea. This appointment made him de facto Chief of Staff to Lord Raglan. Lord de Ros had no military experience but he was able to take advantage of the sunny days in Bulgaria to indulge one of his many eccentricities. He was one of the first ever sunbathers. However, Lord de Ros collapsed of a fever brought on by excessive exposure to the sun and had to be invalided back home just before the army landed at Calamita Bay in the Crimea in 1854.
The First Ever Victoria Cross Awarded, Charles Lucas
On 21 June 1854 (during the Crimean war) in the Baltic, HMS Hecla, with two other ships, was bombarding Bomarsund, a fort in the Aland Islands, off Finland. The fire was returned from the shore, and at the height of the action a live shell landed on Hecla's upper deck, with its fuse still hissing. All hands were ordered to fling themselves flat on the deck, but Mr. Lucas with great presence of mind ran forward and hurled the shell into the sea, where it exploded with a tremendous roar before it hit the water. Thanks to Mr. Lucas's action no one was killed or seriously wounded.
The Last Redcoats at War
from Trevor at Waterloo Battlefield Tours
The last occasion that British infantry wore the traditional scarlet tunic in action was at the Battle of Ginniss on December 31st 1885. In this battle General Stephenson launched a dawn attack on the Dervishes at Ginniss on the banks of the Nile. By ten o'clock it was all over. This marked the end of the First Sudan War and the red coat.
The First Use of Anaesthetics
The first occasion when anaesthetics were used to treat battlefield casualties was at the Battle of Gujerat, India, 22nd February, 1849. A considerable amount of lives were saved.
The Last British King in Battle
George II was the last British King to lead his army in person, during the War of the Austrian Succession, at the Battle of Dettingen, 27th June, 1743. George II led, in person, the charge which drove the French into the River Main.
The Last Charge of Mounted Knights and the Last English King to Die in Battle
Bosworth Field, 22nd August, 1485, saw the last charge of mounted knights in Britain and Richard III was the last English King to die in battle. Richard led a charge of knights when he saw Henry Tudor riding across Bosworth Field. Thinking to end the battle by killing his rival to the throne, he attempted to engage Henry in personal combat. He got so close that he broke his lance, killing Henry's standard bearer, Sir William Brandon. At this point the treacherous Stanley family (who until this point had been holding back from the battle) intervened on Henry's side. This was the turning point of the battle and Richard was killed, whilst fighting bravely, alone and on foot.
The First Submarine Ever to Sink a Warship
The 'Hunley' (see story in the American Civil War section) was the first submarine ever to sink a warship. The 'Hunley', powered by hand, entered Charleston Harbour, 16th February, 1864, at night and rammed a detachable explosive torpedo into the 'USS Housatonic'. Both the 'Housatonic' and the 'Hunley' went to the bottom.
The First Ever British Parachute Raid
On 22nd June 1940 Winston Churchill sent a memo saying 'We should have a corps of at least 5,000 parachute troops.' Two days later Major John Rock of the Royal Engineers was posted to the RAF parachute training school to 'take charge of the military organisation of British Airborne Forces'. He was given no further information as to policy or mission; he had no men, no aircraft and had never seen a parachute in his life.
Within eight months the first British parachute raid took place, carried out by men of X Troop, 11 Special Air Service Battalion. 'Operation Colossus' was the code name given to the attack on the Tragino Aqueduct in Italy. During the night of 10th February, five Whitleys arrived over the target and dropped their parachutists from 400 feet - the sixth plane failed to find the correct place and the men fell into the next valley where they were unable to be of any use in the raid. This unfortunate occurrence also meant a shortfall of explosives and the problem was worsened by the discovery that the aqueduct was made of concrete and not brick as had been expected. Undeterred, 'X' Troop pressed on with its mission and at 12.30am, half the Tragino Aqueduct collapsed under 800lbs of explosive. One hour later the troop split up into three parties to make their way to the coast across difficult terrain and through hostile villages and towns. Eventually they were all discovered and imprisoned, except their Italian interpreter who was questioned and shot as a traitor.
The British Army's First Field Marshal
British Army’s first Field Marshal was George
Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney (1666-1737), who was appointed on 12 January 1736.
Orkney had served as a general during the Nine Years War (1689-97) and the War
of the Spanish Succession (1702-14).
The Last Time a British Regiment Carried It's Colours in Battle
The last occasion on which a British Army regiment carried its colours in action was at the Battle of Laing’s Nek (1881), during the First Boer War (1880-81). In this action, the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot advanced in close order, carrying its colours, against a Boer position, but was eventually forced to withdraw in the face of heavy Boer fire. One of those carrying the colours, Lieutenant Launcelot Baillie, was mortally wounded in the action.
The Last British Army Cavalry Charge
The last British Army cavalry charge was at the Battle of El Mughar, near Jerusalem, on 13 November 1917. The Buckinghamshire Hussars, supported by the Dorset and Berkshire Yeomanry Regiments, overran a Turkish position, taking several hundred prisoners.
The First Air Combat
On the 30th November, 1913, in what must have been the first air-to-air combat, pilots from rival Mexican factions exchange revolver shots in the air over Naco, Mexico. Unsurprisingly, no hits were registered.
The First Airborne Bombing Raid
During the Italo-Turkish War , Italian airman Guilio Gevotti dropped several small spherical bombs on Turkish troops at Ain Zaia in Turkish controlled Libya on the 1st November, 1911. This marked the first offensive military use of an aircraft in war.
First and Last in India
The first regiment to serve in India was the 39th (later the Dorsetshire) Regiment in 1757. The 1st Battalion, The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's) became the last British regiment to leave India on 28th February, 1948.
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