This is a short resume of the history of The Regiment from its formation through to the year 1814.
On 22nd April 1758, the 2nd battalion of the 23rd Regiment of Fusiliers was formed into a separate Corps as the 68th Regiment of Foot.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Lambton from the Coldstream Guards, who later became General John Lambton, and was, for many years, M.P. for Durham and grandfather of the 1st Earl of Durham, was promoted to be their Colonel. He retained the colonelcy until his death in 1794.
The coloured collars and cuffs worn by the 23rd of Foot, or 'facings' as they are known were blue. The 68th of Foot adopted a similar pattern but replaced the blue with green. The early actions of the battalion were raids (or descents) made on the French coast during the Seven Years War.
WEST INDIES (1764-1806)
In 1764 and following years, it was on active service in the West Indies engaged in the capture on one or other of those islands from the French or Spaniards.
Between 1764 and 1806 the regiment endured 4 postings to the West Indies where the battalion earned a high reputation and was granted the motto "Faithful" for its conduct in the campaign against the natives of St. Vincent.
Nevertheless, like the French troops they opposed, the greatest killer was disease and the armies were destroyed by yellow fever. In fact, over 700 had died in less than one year, plus 32 Officers (25 being from the Irish Militia). West Indian guidebooks still remark on the"Phantom Troops".
THE 68th FOOT OR DURHAM LIGHT INFANTERY (1808-1814)
In September 1808 the 68th - 436 rank and file - were ordered to convert to Light Infantry, after the fashion of the 43rd and 52nd. Marched to Brabourne Lees, Ashford, Kent to train with the 85th under the master of light infantry training himself, Lt. Col. Franz Von Rothenburg!
Why were they chosen?
Probably because of the simple reason that over the previous 2 years the ranks had slowly been filled by new recruits and Militia Volunteers (168 from the Durham Militia).
It seems logical to assume that it was easier to train new recruits as Light Infantry than to attempt the impossible task of retraining established Line Battalions full of long-service veterans of Foot.
July 1809 embarked on the Walcheren Expedition - 733 strong, and fought at Flushing for the first time as Light Infantry. Once again the 68th performed well but soon, along with all the other Regiments, became infected with the 'Walcheren Fever' (malaria). In 1810 the remnants returned to Brabourne Lees, 89 rank and file (Offical 'death to fever' 384).