Unit History: 101st Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers)
The Regiment can trace its history back to 1652 when it was first formed as part of a private army for the East India Company. This British Company was formed in December 1600 in an effort to break the Dutch spice trade monopoly. The Company quickly realized that it needed to secure and protect its trading posts at Surat, Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. Therefore within two centuries The Company had bought land from the Indian rulers, built settlements, raised its own army and navy, built its own ships and effectively ruled India, thus raising the curtain for Britain's Indian Empire. The Regiment was initially involved in guarding factories along the Hugli River in Bengal. The Regiment's Officers were recruited and trained in Britain and commanded a mainly native force.
The ruling Mughal Empire in India was near collapse by the mid-18th century and The East India Company found itself fighting for supremacy against the French and becoming increasingly involved in local power politics. In December 1756 separate companies and detachments were amalgamated into one battalion; The Bengal European Battalion, which was involved in the Battle of Plassey, and also helped to defend Fort William against Prince Suraja Dowlah, where many of the officers and men perished in the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta. In 1758 the Regiment also fought against the French at the Battle of Condore and then in 1759 against the Dutch.
Once The Company had consolidated its position, it focused on the collecting of territorial taxes in northeast India and confirmed British military supremacy in the region making The Company the ruling power in Bengal, India’s richest province. The British government was happy to let the Company rule as long as wealth continued to flow back to London.
The Bengal European Battalion was renamed The Bengal European Light Infantry in 1838 after its distinguished gallantry in the storming of Ghuznee in the first Afghan War. In 1839 a 2nd Battalion was formed as the 2nd Bengal European Regiment. The title Fusiliers was added to the 1st Battalion in 1846 for its gallant conduct in the Sutlej Campaign. The 2nd Battalion also became a Fusilier Corps after the second Sikh War and the Regimental facings were changed from white to dark blue.
However, the Indian population became increasingly discontented with The Company’s interference in local affairs and politics, which eventually lead to the first Indian Rebellion in 1857. The Regiment was involved in various battles and the eventual suppression of the Rebellion. However this spelt the end of The Company’s rule in India as the British government felt it had mismanaged the situation. The Company was formally dissolved in Aug 1858 and the Crown took over control of the administration and its armies in India. The two battalions were incorporated into the British Army as the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers and 104th Bengal Fusiliers. In 1861 the battalions became the 101st Regiment of Foot (Royal Bengal Fusiliers) and 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers).
In 1881 the Childers Reforms restructured the British army infantry Regiments into a network of multi-battalion Regiments each having two regular and two militia battalions. The 101st Regiment of Foot (Royal Bengal Fusiliers) and 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers) were amalgamated with the Militia of Munster and became The Royal Munster Fusiliers, one of only five of the infantry battalions given Irish titles. The Regiment was disbanded in June 1922 following cuts in the British army and the establishment of the new Irish Free State.
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