The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum
BACKGROUND – THE REGULAR ARMY
The Regular Army of today really traces its origins back to the Restoration of Charles II as King of England in 1660. Parliament, remembering previous power struggles with the Monarchy, kept a tight control on the formation of a standing Army. Regiments of Foot – as the infantry were then known – were raised from time to time and although they had a fixed numerical seniority they were known by the names of the colonels currently in command.
Gradually names fell out of use and numerical titles predominated. This was made the official system in 1751. In 1782 regiments of foot were affiliated to counties, in an attempt to help recruiting.
The next major change came with the Cardwell reforms in 1881 when numbers were dropped and county titles formalised. Additionally, regiments of foot which only had one battalion were amalgamated so that all regiments had two battalions, the idea being that one would be serving overseas and the other at home.
Significant expansions took place during both World Wars but the two-battalion regiment essentially remained until the late 1940s when all second battalions were disbanded.
In the late 1950s further cutbacks in the size of the Army occurred, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd East Anglian Regiments were formed in 1959, 1960 and 1958 respectively. Then on 1 September 1964 those three regiments and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment were merged into one ‘large regiment’, the Royal Anglian Regiment, with four regular battalions. Subsequently, in 1970 and 1992, two of those battalions were disbanded leaving the Regiment with only two regular battalions today.
BACKGROUND – THE ARMY RESERVES
Volunteers, originally referred to as ‘trained bands’, and militia have existed for several hundred years, with their strength rising and falling according to the threats facing the country. They were available only for service at home, and originally loosely organised on a county basis under the control of the Lord Lieutenant of each county.
As part of the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the volunteers and militia became formally associated with the Regular Army as ‘volunteer battalions’ of their county regiments. This association was further strengthened by the Haldane reforms of 1908 which created the Territorial Force (TF), later to become the Territorial Army (TA). Again there was much expansion in both World Wars, and much reorganisation after World War 2.
When the three East Anglian Regiments and the Royal Anglian Regiment were formed their TA battalions remained in being, still with their old county titles. Between 1967 and 1971, however, the TA was reorganised and that led to the formation of the 5th, 6th and 7th (Volunteer) Battalions of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Subsequent cutbacks have reduced the strength to just one battalion, now numbered the 3rd Battalion, part of what is now the Army Reserve.
MUSEUMS AND ARCHIVES
The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum at Duxford covers the history of the three East Anglian Regiments from 1958/59/60 and the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1964, including the associated TA battalions. We also hold relevant archives corresponding to those dates.
Each of the forebear regiments has its own museum (archives are sometimes held separately). Click on the appropriate button below to find out more.
Note that Army museums and archives do not hold an individual soldier’s personal records. For those who completed their service before 1920, their documents, if they have survived, are held at The National Archives; they have been digitised and are available on the Ancestry and Findmypast websites. Records of officers and soldiers whose service was later than 1920 are held by the Army Personnel Centre. Click here to find out how to get copies of them.