The Somerset Light Infantry (SomLI) has its roots in the regiment raised by Theophilus, Earl of Huntingdon in 1685 at the request of James II, and first saw action at Killiekrankie (1689), followed by service in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), Cork and Kinsale. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713) the Regiment served under Marlborough in Flanders and earned its first battle honour at the siege of Gibraltar (1704). In 1706 the Regiment became a mounted unit and served in Spain for the next seven years as Pearce's Dragoons. Regiment fought in the decisive battles of Dettingen (1743) and Fontenoy (1745), after which the Regiment moved to Scotland and joined the Duke of Cumberland's army for the battle of Culloden (1746).
In 1751, regiments ceased to be called by the name of their commander, and Pulteney's Regiment, as it then was, became the 13 th Regiment of Foot. In 1782 the Regiment was first associated with the County of Somerset, becoming the 13th Foot or 1 st Somersetshire Regiment. The Regiment took part in Sir Ralph Abercrombie's brilliant victory at Aboukir Bay (1801) and was awarded the Sphinx super-scribed ‘Egypt' on its Colours. From 1838 the Regiment took part with immense distinction in the First Afghan War, distinguishing itself at the assault on Ghuznee and the epic defence of Jellalabad, becoming idolised by the British public as the "Illustrious Garrison" and "Jellalabad Heroes". For these actions Queen Victoria approved the title '13th or Prince Albert's Regiment of Light Infantry'; the Regiment's facings were changed from yellow to blue and a mural crown super scribed ‘Jellalabad' was added to the badge
After a spell in England and Ireland the Regiment returned to Gibraltar (1851-55) whence, under the command of the eccentric Lord Mark Kerr — who later became a General and was Colonel of the Regiment for twenty years — it was sent to the Crimea, taking part in the siege of Sevastopol and later stages of the Crimean War. After a short period in South Africa the Regiment moved to India at the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and remained there until order was restored in 1858. In 1858 the 2 nd Battalion was raised at Winchester and battalions of the Regiment saw service in the Zulu Wars (1878-79), the Third Burmese War (1885-87) and the South African War (1899-1902 ) during which the 2nd Battalion was supported by a Volunteer Company drawn from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Volunteer Battalions and 4 th (Militia) Battalion of the Regiment.
On the introduction of the Territorial Army in 1908, the three volunteer Battalions became the 4th and 5th Battalions and the Militia was disbanded. In the course of the First World War (1914-1918) the Regiment was expanded to 19 battalions. The 1 st Battalion went to France as part of the Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of war with the 4th Division and fought on the continent throughout the war. In all, eleven battalions of the Regiment fought in France, Palestine and Mesopotamia; the 2nd Battalion remained on the Indian frontier throughout, eventually taking part in the Third Afghan War (1919).
The outbreak of the Second World War saw the 2nd Battalion in Gibraltar and the 1st Battalion in India where it was engaged in operations against tribesmen on the North West frontier in 1940 and 1942. Neither battalion saw further action until the 1st Battalion fought the Japanese in the Arakan (1943-44). After five years in Gibraltar, the 2nd Battalion arrived in Italy in March 1944 to fight with 28 Brigade in 4 Division at the final battle of Cassino, followed by the advance up Italy and operations in Greece. The 4th and 7th Battalions were part of 43rd (Wessex) Division and fought with immense gallantry from Normandy to Germany. The 10 th Battalion became 7th (Light Infantry) Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and landed in Normandy in the early hours of D Day with 6th Airborne Division.
Following the war the 2nd Battalion found itself in Austria and the 1 st Battalion in India, the latter becoming the last British regiment to march out through the 'Gateway of India' in Bombay following independence in February 1948. Shortly afterwards the 1st and 2 nd Battalions were amalgamated to form the 1st Battalion. The Territorial battalion of the Regiment was re-formed in 1947 and continued in being until, after amalgamation with the county yeomanry regiments, it was reduced to cadre strength in 1969. In 1952 the Regiment's most distinguished soldier, Field Marshal the Lord Harding of Petherton, became Chief of the Imperial General Staff and was later Governor and Commander-in-Chief Cyprus during the campaign by EOKA terrorists (1955-57).
The 1 st Battalion served in Germany, Malaya and Cyprus until amalgamation with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in 1959.
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