King's Own Royal Regiment Museum


Museum & Collections
Contact Us

17th Century
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century
First World War
Second World War
Actions & Movements
Battle Honours

Further Reading



Early Days
The King’s Own Royal Regiment was raised in 1680, soon after the creation of the new Regular Army and was formed specifically to help defend Tangier in North Africa, a new part of the growing British Empire.  At that time it was known as the 2nd Tangier Regiment and men were recruited in Plymouth and London.

When the Regiment returned from Africa it saw its first battle action at Sedgemoor in 1685 defending King James II’s throne from the claims of the Duke of Monmouth.   The Regiment later went on to support William of Orange from 1688 and took part in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

From 1703 the Regiment served as Marines and were based on Royal Navy ships but would fight ashore.  From their base on the ship Royal Katherine the Regiment took part on 21st July 1704 in the capture of Gibraltar from the French and defended the colony from October 1704 to May 1705.  Gibraltar was an important prize as it allowed the British to control the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1715 the Regiment received the distinctive title The King’s Own Regiment of Foot.  In 1909 ‘Gibraltar 1704-05’ was awarded as a Battle Honour.

Regimental Governor
Between 1910 and 1913 General Sir Archibald Hunter - a King’s Own officer and later Colonel of the Regiment - became Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar. 

HMS Manchester
In 1941 the 8th Battalion King’s Own Royal Regiment passed through Gibraltar en route to Malta on board HMS Manchester when the ship was attacked by Italian torpedo-bombers on 23rd July. A number of the crew and five officers and seven men of the battalion were killed but the ship, although badly damaged, managed to limp back to Gibraltar.  Most of the dead were buried at sea but 28 year old 2nd Lieutenant John Mitchell Clarkson died of wounds on 28th July and is buried at Gibraltar North Front Cemetery. 

7th Battalion in World War Two
On 21st June 1942 the 7th Battalion King’s Own embarked from Greenock and joined the 2nd Brigade under Brigadier E G Pullan to reinforce the Garrison of Gibraltar.  The battalion spent the summer manning the perimeter defences with mortars and medium machine guns, a special machine gun having been platoon formed. 

Reserve companies in the event of operations were to move under the Rock into elaborate caves which were then being constructed.  A tremendous amount of concrete was put into these defences, and a great deal of work was also entailed shovelling out the loose rock and stones caused by the Royal Engineers blasting.  It was dirty work and the men hated it, but they were constantly congratulated on the excellence of their performance.  As a result, Gibraltar could in an emergency close up like a clam and live its life underground.  It was possible to walk along miles of two-way subterranean roads, and there were hospitals, food dumps, workshops and railways buried beyond the reach of any bomb or shell.  Caves as big as cinema theatres were gouged out along the underground roads, and sometimes stalactites hung weirdly from the ceiling among the shell cases and the guns.  Great reservoirs of icy rainwater lie in the centre of the Rock and it seemed capable of withstanding any attack.  Holes in the face of the precipice enabled a beleaguered garrison to look down into Spain to the north, out into the Mediterranean in the east and into the Atlantic in the west.

Work was not only below ground, and the battalion assisted in rebuilding a bombed Roman Catholic convent, while its  artists were let loose on mural paintings.  Games were as usual the principal pastime, and a good deal of Association football and some cricket and hockey were played.  The only air raid warning during the battalion’s residence was of short duration as the planes turned out to be friendly.  Gibraltar was not even blacked out.  Swiftly the Axis sympathisers across the bay in Spain relayed their information to the German High Command, and great care was taken to ensure that Spaniards coming into Gibraltar were properly searched.  On 9th August this duty was carried out by a NCO and four men of the battalion’s Intelligence Section.

On the 11th August 7th King’s Own carried out the Ceremony of the Keys.  One or other of the units of the garrison was detailed for this every Wednesday night at 6.30pm, a ceremony not unlike that which takes place nightly at the Tower of London.  The escort to the Keys consisted of a sergeant and three men who marched  with the band from the Almedia through the town to the Casemate Square, where the Commanding Officer, the Adjutant and the outpost platoon all awaited the arrival of His Excellency the Governor, who handed over the Keys.  The Governor was received with a Royal Salute; ‘Retreat’ was sounded; then escort and outpost platoon marched past His Excellency, the latter returning to its battle position.  After being challenged at the Waterport Gate, the sergeant in charge of the Keys locked the gate.  Another Royal Salute, the National Anthem and an ‘Eyes left’ to His Excellency as the band and escort returned to Government House to hand back the Keys, and the ceremony was over.

Regimental Colours
On 18th December 1955 the Colours of the 2nd Battalion King’s Own Royal Regiment, presented by Field Marshall Sir Claude Jacob at Rawalpindi, India, on 27th January 1926, were laid up in the King’s Chapel, Gibraltar.

King’s Own Royal Border Regiment
In 1970 when the 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Border Regiment was stationed in Colchester ‘B’ Company group were sent out to Gibraltar for six months to reinforce the Garrison.  ‘A’ Company took over in November 1970.

From The Lion and The Dragon, Spring 1971.
‘B’ Company
As a rule-of-thumb amongst soldiers it is pretty safe to say  that the last station is always the best; so whatever thoughts we may have had at the time we will probably all look back to Gibraltar as an interesting and happy tour.  No one, least of all our superiors, pretended that the job was anything but irksome and yet as a group we found much that was satisfactory in it.  Memories of Gibraltar are kaleidoscopic and quite impossible to condense into these notes.  The border (and it's boredom) beaches, sunshine, sport and Spaniards: Mount Misery, Windmill Flats and Chimney Corner, each have their memories, generally happy ones, but on one point all agreed; six months were sufficient.

Dominating all else was our operational role, a task on the security and surveillance of the frontier.  We lived and breathed this role the whole six months, and it effectively absorbed almost 50% of a rifleman’s tour; a tour which revolved around a week of security duty alternating with a week of normal military activity.  The change each week became a milestone and it wasn’t long before we realised that the milestones were racing past.

© 2005 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum