The Regiment was formed at Leicester in 1756 as the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Regiment of Foot, which later became the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The 23rd had just then returned from Minorca. On 22nd April 1758, the 2nd battalion was formed into a separate Corps as the 68th Regiment of Foot. At the time, it is understood that the battalion was at camp on The Isle of Wight, the men were said to have been largely recruited in the County of Durham and the Colonelcy was placed with Lieutenant-Colonel John Lambton from The Coldstream Guards, who later became General John Lambton, and for many years M P for Durham and grandfather of the 1st Earl of Durham. He retained the colonelcy until his death in 1794.

The coloured collars and cuffs worn by the 23rd of Foot or "facings" as they are known were white, red yellow and blue. The 68th of Foot adopted a similar pattern but replaced the blue with black.

For the first fifty years of its life the new 68th Regiment, which at that time had few men from Durham serving in its ranks, saw little active service and fought in no major battles. The Regiment did, however, suffer casualties and, during three tours of duty in the West Indies, thousands of men died of disease.

In 1808, the 68th was chosen to become one of the new light infantry regiments. These regiments were intended to be a fast-moving strike force. The soldiers were given extensive training and equipped with lighter muskets and new clothing. The soldiers now took their orders from the call of the bugle and not from the beat of the drum. From that time the Regiment adopted the bugle as its badge. In 1811 the new 68th Light Infantry was sent to Portugal to join the fight against Napoleon. As part of the Duke of Wellington's army, the 68th Light Infantry took part in the great battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle and Orthes, as well as in numerous skirmishes with the French that proved the value of the new light infantry training. In these battles the Regiment won its first battle honours

In 1814, with the Peninsula War over and the French driven out of Spain, the 68th Light Infantry was sent to Ireland to rebuild its strength. The Regiment did not take part in the campaign that led to Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo and the 68th Light Infantry was not to see active service again until it set sail for the Crimea in 1854.

During those long years of peace, the Regiment served in garrisons in Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, Canada and the West Indies, with only three years in England. Discipline and training in the Regiment were allowed to slip until, in 1842, command was given to Lord William Paulet. He transformed the Regiment, improving the standards of every officer and man, until, in 1848; an inspecting general described the 68th as a 'beautiful regiment'. Lord Paulet later became Colonel of the Regiment (1864-93). In 1893 he was paid a remarkable tribute when the whole of the 1st Battalion attended his funeral.

Between 1854 and 1856, the 68th Light Infantry fought in the Crimean War, taking part in the battles of Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and the siege of Sebastopol. At Inkerman, on 5th November 1854, the Regiment fought off repeated attacks by a Russian force many times its size. During the battle, the 68th were the only British troops to fight in red, having thrown off their grey greatcoats to reach their ammunition pouches. Casualties were heavy but, once again, more soldiers died of disease in the Crimea than in battle. Two soldiers of the 68th who had distinguished themselves in battle - John Byrne and Thomas de Courcey Hamilton - were awarded the newly created Victoria Cross

Many of the Crimean veterans were to see action again in New Zealand when, in 1864, the 68th Light Infantry was sent to assist the European colonists in their war with the Maoris. At Gate Pah in April 1864 the Regiment took part in an unsuccessful attack on a Maori fort. Two months later, the Maoris were defeated at Te Ranga, where John Murray won the Regiment's third Victoria Cross. This was the last action in which the 68th Light Infantry fought. In 1866 the Regiment left New Zealand and returned to garrison duty. In 1881 it became the 1st Battalion DLI.

The second of the regiments which were, in 1881, to become The Durham Light Infantry was formed, as the 2nd Bombay European Infantry, in India in 1839. It was not part of the British Army but part of the East India Company, which effectively ruled India. There was no connection with Durham at this time and the Regiment recruited men from all over Britain and Ireland. The Regiment was reorganised as light infantry in 1840 and in 1856 took part in the invasion of Persia (Iran), winning its only battle honours. When the Regiment returned to India the country was in the grip of mutiny. After peace was restored in 1858, the India Act was passed ending the rule of the East India Company and transferring the Company's soldiers to the British Army. The 2nd Bombay became the 106th Bombay Light Infantry and then, in 1881, the 2nd Battalion DLI


Militia and Volunteers

When the DLI was formed in 1881 it included not only the regular soldiers who made up the 1st and 2nd Battalions but also the Militia and Volunteers of County Durham. The Militia was organised by counties, with the local gentry acting as officers and the soldiers selected by ballot, It was intended for home defence only and, in time of war, the Militia garrisoned towns and coastal forts, releasing regular soldiers for service overseas. The Earl of Darlington formed the Durham Militia in 1759 at Barnard Castle. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Durham Militia spent over twenty years on garrison duty from Portsmouth to Glasgow. After the war, it fell into decay but was revived in 1853 and divided into the 1st South Durham Militia at Barnard Castle and the 2nd North Durham Militia at Durham City. In 1881, these Militia units became the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the newly formed DLI but continued to meet only once a year for training. In the Boer War, 1899-1902, these battalions went on active service overseas for the first and last time. During the First World War, they did garrison duty on the Durham coast but, in 1920, were put into 'suspended animation'. They took no part in the Second World War and were finally disbanded in 1953.

The first Volunteers of County Durham were amateur soldiers who formed local defence units in the County during the Napoleonic Wars. These Volunteers, who bought all their own uniforms and equipment, saw no action and were all disbanded by 1815. In 1859, fear of France led to a revival of the Volunteers. In County Durham, these new Volunteers were organised as rifle clubs with members paying a subscription. Nineteen Rifle Volunteer units were formed in Durham. These part-time soldiers were formed into Volunteer battalions of the DLI in 1881. In 1908 they were renamed Territorials and they played a major role in the First and Second World Wars.


Durham Light Infantry 1881 -1968

In 1885, the 2nd Battalion was the first element of the newly formed DLI to go into action, when they formed part of an army sent to defend Egypt. The invasion from the Sudan was halted at Ginnis, the last battle fought by the British Army in red rather than the new khaki tunics.

The Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902, saw all parts of The Durham Light Infantry in action together for the first time. The 1st Battalion took part in the relief of Ladysmith, fighting at Colenso, Spion Kop and at Vaal Krantz, where the soldiers distinguished themselves in a fierce uphill attack against the Boers. Later the 2nd Battalion sent a Mounted Infantry Unit from India, whilst the 3rd and 4th Battalions, plus Volunteers from Durham, also saw action.

Trench warfare and new weapons led to huge numbers of casualties in the First World War. In September 1914 the 2nd Battalion lost as many men in one day as the entire Regiment had lost in the Boer War. In spring 1915, the Territorials, fighting at Ypres, lost a third of their strength in just a few weeks. The Battle of the Somme in 1916 was, for the new battalions of volunteers, a baptism of fire. On 1st July the "Durham Pals" (18th Battalion DLI) lost over half their strength killed or wounded

The Durham Light Infantry fought in every major battle of the Great War - at Ypres, Arras, Messines, Cambrai, on the Somme and in the mud of Passchendaele. The Regiment was awarded six Victoria Crosses but the cost to the Regiment and County was horrific with nearly 13,000 men dead and thousands more gassed, wounded or taken prisoner.

After the First World War, the DLI was reduced to two Regular and five Territorial battalions. The Regular battalions, which served in the 1920s and 1930s in India, China, Egypt and at home, had few problems with recruitment as a result of the high level of unemployment in County Durham.

During the Second World War, 1939-45, the army needed specialist units rather than infantry and the DLI raised far fewer new battalions. The eight battalions, which saw active service, however, fought with distinction in every major theatre of the War - at Dunkirk, in North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Italy, Burma, and in Europe, from D-Day to the final defeat of Nazi Germany.

Casualties during the Second World War were far lower than in the First World War but in several fierce actions, at Arras, Mareth, Primosole Bridge and Kohima, for example, the Regiment suffered heavy losses.

After the Second World War, the DLI was, once again, reduced in size until only the 1st Battalion remained. The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1948, re-raised in 1952, only to be finally disbanded in 1954. As for the Territorials, the 9th Battalion became part of the Parachute Regiment in 1948 and in 1967 the 6th and 8th Battalions were amalgamated for a short time before being disbanded. Thus, after 1945, only the 1st Battalion saw action overseas. The 1st Battalion DLI fought as part of the United Nations forces in Korea in 1952-53. Conditions were almost like those of the trenches during the Great War. This Battalion later served in Cyprus and was stationed in Berlin in 1961 - the time when the Berlin Wall was built. The last campaign fought by the DLI was in 1966 in the jungles and mountains of Borneo. In 1968, whilst the battalion was serving in Cyprus with the United Nations, it was announced that The Durham Light Infantry would become part of the new Light Infantry and the Regiment would lose its county name

In Durham Cathedral, on 12th December 1968, The Durham Light Infantry paraded its Colours for the last time. After two hundred years of history. County Durham's own Regiment was no more.


Battle Honours of the Durham Light Infantry


1st DLI (68th Light Infantry)

1899-1902 Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Orthes, Peninsula; Alma, Inkerman, Sebastopol; New Zealand; Relief of Ladysmith, South Africa.

1915, 1916-17 N.W.Frontier.

1941 Halfaya Syria, Tobruk,

1942 Relief of Tobruk; Malta,

1952-53 Cos, Cesena, Pergola Ridge,Sillaro Crossing; Korea.

1964 Borneo.


2nd DLI (2nd Bombay Europeans and 106th Light Infantry)

1914 Reshire, Bushire, Koosh-Ab, Persia, Aisne, Armentieres.

1915 Hooge.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy, Hill 70, Somme

1917 Cambrai.

1918 Somme.

1940 Kemmel; Epehy, Selle, Sambre; Dyle, St Omer-La Bassee, Dunkirk, Donbaik, Kohima,

1943-45 Mandalay, Burma,


5th DLI (T.A) (Area: Stockton, Darlington, Castle Eden)

1915 Gravenstafel, St Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Ypres.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Somme.

1917 Scarpe, Arras. Passchendaele, Ypres,

1918 St Quentin,Rosieres, Estaires, Lys; Aisne.


6th DLI (TA) (Area: Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle, Consett, Crook, Spennymoor)

1915 As for 5th DLI.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Somme.

1917 Scarpe, Arras, Passchendaele, Ypres.

1918 St Quentin, Rosieres, Somme, Estaires, Lys; Aisne,

1940 Arras Counter Attack, Dunkirk.

1943 Gazala, Gabr el Fakri, Mersa Matruh, El Alamein, Mareth; Landing in Sicily, Solarino, Primosole Bridge, Sicily.

Villers Bocage, Tilly-sur-Seulles, St Pierre la Vielle; Gheel.


7th DLI (TA) (Area: Sunderland, South Shields. Pioneers)

1915 As for 5th DLI.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Somme,.

1917 Scarpe, Passchendaele, Ypres.

1918 St. Quentin, Rosieres, Somme,; Estaires, Lys, Aisne, Arras, Ypres.

8th DLI (TA) (Area:Durham, Chester-le-Street, Stanley, Washington)

1915 As for 5th DLI.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Le Transloy; Ancre Heights, Somme.

1917 Scarpe, Arras, Passchendaele, Ypres.

1918 St Quentin, Rosieres, Somme, Estaires, Lys; Aisne,

1940 Dunkirk. Arras Counter Attack, St Omer-La Bassee.

1943 Gazala, Gabr el Fakri, Mersa Matruh, El Alame Mareth; Landing in Sicily, Primosole Bridge.

Villers Bocage, St Pierre la Vielle;p Gheel.


9th DLI (TA) (Area: Gateshead, Blaydon, Felling, Chopwell)

1915 As for 5th DLI.

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Somme.

1917 Scarpe, Arras, Passchendaele, Ypres.

1918 Arras, Tardenois, Marne, Bpaume, Havrincourt,

Canal du Nord.

1940 Arras Counter Attack, St Omer-La Bassee, Dunkirk

1943 Zt el Mrassas, Point 174; El Alamein, Mareth; Landing in Sicily,

Primosole Bridge; Villers Bocage, Tilly-sur-Seulles,

St. Pierre la Vielle; Gheel, Roer, Ibbenburen.


10th DLI (Service) 1914-February 1918; TA, 1939-44

1916 Delville Wood, Flers-Courcelette, Somme.

1917 Arras, Scarpe, Menin Road, Passchendaele,Ypre

1940 Dunkirk.

Defence of Rauray.


11th DLI (Service) 1914-November 1918; TA 1939-44

1916 Guillemont, Somme.

1917 Ypres, Cambrai.

1918 St Quentin, Somme.

1940 Dunkirk.

Defence of Rauray.


12th DLI (Seivice) 1914-November 1918; TA (Tyneside Scottish) 1939-44

1916 Albert; Bazentin, Le Transloy, Somme.

1917 Messines,; Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood,Ypres.

1917-18 Piave, Vittorio Veneto, Italy.

1940 Dunkirk.

Defence of Rauray.


13th DLI (Service) 1914-November 1918

1916 Albert; Bazentin, Le Transloy, Somme.

1917 Messines,; Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood; Ypres,

1918 Piave; Beaurevoir; Cambrai,


14th DLI (Service) 1914-February 1918

1916 Loos, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy; Somme

1917 Hill 70, Cambrai.


15th DLI (Service) 1914-November 1918

1916 Loos, Albert, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Somme.

1917 Arras, Scarpe, Broodseinde, Ypres.

1918 St Quentin, Somme, Aisne, Albert.

Hindenburg Line, Beaurevoir, Sambre.


16th DLI (Hostilities Only 1940-45)

1944-45 Sedjenane I, E1 Kourzia, Salerno, Volturno Crossing, Teano, Monte Camino, Monte Tuga,

Gothic Line, Gemmano, Cesena, Cosina Canal, Athens, Greece.


18th DLI (Service) 1915-November 1918
(Area: South Shields, Hartlepool, Sunderland, Darlington)

1915-16 Egypt, Albert, Somme.

1917 Arleux, Scarpe.

1918 Somme, Hazebrouck, Bailleul, Ypres.

19th DLI (Service) 1915-November 1918 (Formed as Bantams, 5ft-5ft 3in)

1916 Bazentin, Somme.

1917 Ypres.

1918 Albert, Somme, Ypres, Courtrai.


20th DLI (Service) 1915-November 1918 (Area: Wearside)

1916 Flers-Courcelette, Ancre Heights, Somme.

1917 Pilckem, Menin Road Ridge, Ypres.

1918 Bapaume, Somme, Ypres.


22nd DLI (Service) 1916-July 1918

1916 Somme.

1917 Pilckem, Langemarck, , Ypres.

1918 St Quentin, Rosieres, Somme, Aisne,


29th DLI (Service) June 1918-November 1918

1918 Ypres.


Second-line Territorial Battalions

1918 2/5th, Macedonia; 2/6th, Ypres, 2/7th, Archangel; 2/8th Macedonia.