In our 175 years our church family has had an interesting characters as members. What you may not know is that way back in the mid-1800s four families had a regimental connection: the 95th Regiment of Foot.
Five regiments raised and then disbanded, renumbered or renamed between 1760 and 1818 were given the numeral 95. A sixth came into existence on December 1st 1823 at Winchester. It was posted to Malta, where it received its first colours and its association with Derbyshire. The regiment moved to the British protectorate of Corfu and Cephalonia off the western coast of Greece. (It may have been the 95th which brought cricket to Corfu where cricket is still played.) Time in the Mediterranean was followed by a return to the British Isles to garrison Cork, yes it was then part of the British Isles, before deployment to Ceylon and then Hong Kong.
In 1854 the regiment was sent to the Crimea where war had broken out between the French, Turkish and British forces against Russia. The regiment saw action in some of the most heavy fighting of that war. It was in the forefront of the attack across the Alma River and on to the heights beyond. The regiment lost 62% of its officers and almost 30% of its non-commissioned officers and other ranks. Due to those heavy casualties suffered in this attack the Regimental colours, normally carried by officers, was handed to Private James Keenan, who planted it triumphantly on the earthwork of the Great Redoubt. (Shortly after the carrying of colours into battle was stopped) This action meant that the 95th was the last British regiment to carry their colours in a major battle. Further, despite the deaths and casualties less than a hundred officers and men continued to serve in the trenches. Their service led to their nickname HARD AS NAILS from the observation that “there may be few of the 95th left but those are as hard of nails.”
Service in helping to quell the Indian mutiny, in which it won its first Victoria Cross, also resulted in adopting as its mascot a fighting ram. The ram was found tethered in a temple courtyard, and gave the 95th a tradition continued by its successor regiments. The regiment returned to England with battle honours gained at Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol and Central India. And the return to England is where our connection with the 95th comes in.
Our church records show that the church family was added to in 1865 by Barrackmaster John Guthrie of the 95th and his wife Maria. The Guthries had two children John Alexander (1865) and James Richard (1869) who were baptised here in Fleetwood. The Guthries were followed by Lt Alexander Henry Haldane and his wife Anne Neale. Their son, Alexander Sydney was born on December 12th 1866. Private Jonathan Haigh was added to the church roll in 1874 and Private George Henthorn in 1875. (Private Haigh is recorded as moving to Newport. It’s not known whether he moved with the regiment or not.)
The families mentioned lived in the barracks the boundaries of which were Beach Road, Poulton Road, Borrowdale Avenue and Shakespeare Road. There was a substantial building and out buildings. Until quite recently the last building standing was on the corner of Borrowdale Avenue and Poulton Road. It was rumoured that it was the armoury set at some distance from the other buildings.
If you want to see signs of the barracks have a look at the ‘rubble’ wall at the junction of Beach Road and Poulton Road and spot the stone marked with a Ministry of Defence arrow. And have look up the roads off Poulton Road and see the remains of the barrack walls complete with rifle ports. (The walls are slowly being replaced in red brick.) Further, visit Fleetwood Gold Club and notice the rifle butts under the sea wall. Soldiers would shoot at the targets along the line of West Gate to the sea-wall. Finally, if they haven’t been tidied up, relics of the army’s presence can be found at The North Euston Hotel. The hotel was requisitioned by the military. Hoping they have not been lost, soldiers billeted there carved regimental badges and their initials/names in the window frames and ledges.
The 95th regiment had a long period of home service. In 1881 they were merged with the 45th (Nottinghamshire) (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment of Foot to form the 2nd Battalion The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). Subsequently it was re-titled The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment (29th/45th Foot) and then 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters).
Whenever you hear on radio or tv, or read in your newspapers, of The Mercian Regiment then just remember that our church has a connection with the young men and women serving Queen and Country in our name.