1 August, The Battle of Minden, 1759
The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry formed part of a force, which with the Prussian Army, campaigned against the French on the continent during the Seven Years War. Early in 1759 a large French Army under Marshal Contades had come up from the Rhine, taken Minden and was threatening the Electorate of Hanover, which had about 41,000 British and Hanoverian troops. On 1 August 1759 Ferdinand’s reserve consisted of a column of nine infantry regiments, under the Hanoverian General Sporcken, amongst which was the 51st Foot (later the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry). Ferdinand sent an order to Sporcken through an Aide de Camp that ‘when the advance begins it is to be made with drums beating’, as repeated to the Hanoverian General he took it to be ‘Advance, drums beating with such Regiments as you have and attack anything in your front’. It was this misunderstanding which led to the action that ‘covered the Minden Regiments with immortal honour’, for to the surprise and consternation of the watching staff, the column started advancing by itself. Gallopers were at once sent to stop it. For a few minutes the column halted behind a thin belt of firs, but the battalions were burning to get on and suddenly stepped off like one man. Their march led them directly against the mass of French Cavalry, and soon the column had out-stripped the support of its own guns and was exposed to the fire of 60 powerful French canons. Over a distance of two hundred yards it calmly advanced through a storm of shot, the ranks steadily closing together as men were killed and wounded. Eleven squadrons of French cavalry hurled themselves against ‘that astonishing infantry’, but the column, remaining quiet until the horses were only ten paces off, received them with volley and bayonet. The cavalry were beaten off. On the way to the battle soldiers picked flowers and wore them in their uniforms. The Rifles follows the custom of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry by the wearing of a white rose on Minden Day. It is the custom that the Battalion holds a muster parade, where the adjutant reads the special order of the day; the Field Officers of the Battalion then distribute white roses to the soldiers. These roses are then worn in the beret for the remainder of the day.