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Frequently Asked Questions

Cymraeg - English

Here are a selection of our most popular frequently asked questions:-

This is the old English way of spelling 'Welsh'. Throughout the years both forms have been used and during the Boer War and the Great War the official spelling was 'Welsh'.

Army Order No. 56 of 1920 finally confirmed that the official spelling should be 'Welch'. 

It is the name given to the 5 black ribbons worn on the back of  the collar.

They are a link with the days when soldiers wore pigtails.

These were powdered, greased and, in order to protect the red coatee, enclosed in what was known as a queue bag.

In July 1808 hair was ordered to be cut close to the neck and the queue was abolished. At the time the 1st Battalion was in Canada.  The officers however decided to retain the ribbons with which the queue had been tied. 

Using an old slang term for a wig these were known as the 'Flash'. 

In 1834, an inspecting General noted "the superfluous decoration on the collar of the coat" and ordered the removal of the Flash. 

When King William IV was told what had happened, the Colonel of the Regiment received a letter from the Horse Guards stating that His Majesty had been pleased to approve the Flash "as a peculiarity whereby to mark the dress of that distinguished Regiment."

Until 1900 it was worn only by Sergeants and Officers

 

The name derives from the fusil - an early form of flintlock musket originally issued to elite troops who guarded the artillery during battle. The Royal Welch Fusiliers was one of the first regiments granted this honour in 1702, and the only one to have continued without change of title or amalgamation with another regiment to this day.

Since 1923 ordinary members of the Regiment ('Privates') have been officially known as Fusiliers. 

No record exists of the origin of the custom by which the Regiment marches with a goat at their head.

The earliest reference occurred in 1777: "The Royal regiment of welch Fuzileers has a privilegeous honor of passing in review preceded by a Goat with gilded horns, and adorned with ringlets of flowers" and that "the corps values itself much on the ancientness of the custom."

In 1844 Queen Victoria presented the first Royal Goat, and since then most goats have been presented by the Sovereign from the royal herd.

Every goat has a silver headplate identifying him as the gift of the Sovereign.

The goat of the 1st Battalion also wears a silver chain and shield around his neck presented by the Mayor and citizens of Lichfield in 1904. 
The Goat is in the care of a soldier with the honorary title of Goat Major.

Before the days of good roads and bridges it was necessary to have men able to prepare the way for Regiment on the march and to provide services in camp.

These were the Pioneers who were all tradesmen and picked soldiers. To protect their uniforms they wore leather aprons and gauntlets.

From their position at the head of the Regiment on active service has developed the tradition of the Pioneers leading it on ceremonial parades, preceded only by the Regimental Goat.

They wear white buckskin aprons and gauntlets, and carry their traditional tools: axes, shovels, pickaxes and mattocks.

This unique distinction was officially sanctioned in 1886.

 

A: Probably nowhere is the patron saint of Wales, Saint David, so ceremoniously and so regularly honoured as on the 1st of March wherever the Royal Welch Fusiliers happen to be. In peace and war, at home or overseas, leeks are worn, and the day observed, as far as possible, as a holiday.
(Click on the photograph to enlarge)
 

The ancient ceremony of eating the leek in the Officers' Mess has remained largely unchanged over the years. It is recorded that "…the officers give a splendid entertainment to all their welch brethren ; and after the cloth is taken away… the band playing the old tune of, "The Noble Race of Shenkin", when a handsome drum-boy, elegantly dressed, mounted on the goat richly caparisoned for the occasion, is led thrice round the table in procession by the drum-major…" Although no longer ridden, the Goat is still led around the table after dinner, followed by a drummer, fifers and drum-major carrying a silver salver on which are raw leeks, and the mess sergeant with a loving-cup filled with champagne. They halt by the latest joined subaltern who stands on his chair and, placing his right foot on the table, eats a leek while the drummer plays a continuous roll until it is completely consumed. He is then handed the loving-cup for the toast 'and Saint David'. All those present who have not 'eaten a leek' with the Regiment, including guests, are expected to do so before the party withdraws.

Similar ceremonial takes place in the Sergeants' Mess, and the other ranks' dining hall, where the latest joined soldier in each Company eats a leek. 

The Royal Welch Fusiliers is the only regiment in the British Army, with the exception of the Gurkhas, to use a language other than English. During the First World War more than one battalion used Welsh on a regular basis. In Burma, in the Second World War, it was used to conceal intentions from the Japanese. In 1995 the 1st Battalion used it in Bosnia.  It is the first language of many members of the regiment.

The Museum is always pleased to accept artefacts relating to the history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. With the exception of campaign medals, which are placed on display, most newly acquired items form part of the reserve collection where they can be studied by researchers or used for future exhibitions.

Please contact the curator for further information.

 

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