The Old Belfast Regiment

Extracts from: "A History of The Old Belfast Regiment and The Regiment of Sussex, 1701 - 1953" by G.D.Martineau

Author's Preface

This history of our Regiment falls into two almost equal periods; the first being the period when the Regiment was generally known by the nickname "The Orange Lillies" and the second from the time that we received the title of "The Royal Sussex Regiment".

Though "The Orange Lillies" was a nickname bestowed 58 years after the Regiment's formation, it emphasises the initial Protestant character of the old 35th Foot or The Earl of Donegall's - the only Regiment in the British Army originating exclusively in Belfast - raised by order of King William III. This link with Holland was renewed by the appointment of The Queen of The Netherlands as the Regiment's first Colonel-in-Chief in 1953.

Page 35

Gorges, now a Major-General, ceased to be Colonel of The Regiment in 1717, and the 35th, now Otway's, sailed from Minorca in the following summer.

Something should be said here about the new Colonel, Charles James Otway (ref 668). In 1702, he had joined Lord Mohun's Regiment of Foot, which was disbanded after the Treaty of Utrecht, and he fought in the indecisive Battle of Sherrifmuir, against the Old Pretenders' vacillating General, The Earl of Mar (or "Bobbing John"). He married, in 1730, Lady Bridget Fielding, daughter of the 4th Earl of Denbigh. Promoted Major-General in 1739, he remained Colonel of the 35th for the unparalleled period of fifty years - right up to the time of his death in 1767. He was the Colonel to give his name to the Regiment according to the Official Army List - numbers instead of names being recognised by the Royal Warrant of 1751. Indeed the innate conservatism of professional soldiers proved too strong for Army List and Royal Warrant alike, and the title "Otway's Foot" was retained by the 35th, even in official returns and documents, right up to the end of The Seven Years War. Wolfe, when wounded, gave the order "Send on Otway's".

There is a picture of Charles Otway in the Officers Mess of the 1st Battalion. It shows him wearing the cravat known as "Steinkirk" from William III's unsuccessful battle against Marshal Luxembourg, in which French officers dressed hurriedly for action, thrusting cravats through buttonholes instead of tying bows.

He died at Willesden in Kent, and was buried at Smarden where there is a marble tablet to his memory in the Church; but it is not impossible that he came of the same Sussex family as Thomas Otway, the dramatic poet, who soldiered in Flanders during 1678 and 1679. If so, this would be the Regiment's earliest link with the County. In 1725, the Regiment (565 strong) returned from Minorca to Ireland, and there remained, though moving from station to station in the traditional manner for the next thirty years.

There were two other Otways in the Regiment during this time. One, Eaton Otway, joined as a Lieutenant in 1744, appears in the list of those who were serving at Limerick in the following year, and left the Regiment in 1749. He was subsequently promoted Captain, served with Johnston's Foot afterwards and died in 1764. Stanhope Otway joined as Ensign in 1748 and was placed on half-pay on the reduction of four companies in 1749. Nothing more is heard of him.

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