The Inns of Court Regiment (The Devil's Own)
Lawyers and Prime Ministers
The Inns of Court Regiment has a unique place in history as a result of its ancient and intimate connection with the Law and lawyers. From its very origins until well into the 19th century it was recruited and officered almost exclusively from the legal profession, drawn from the barristers, attorneys, notaries and their clerks and students practising in the area of the Inns of Court comprising Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. The HQ of the present Reserve Squadron and the IC&CY Museum are housed in a magnificent listed George III building in the centre of "Legal London" in Lincoln's Inn, originally erected in 1777 to house the "Office of the Six Clerks of the Writ in Chancery".
Many of the Regiment's soldiers achieved great distinction in politics, public service and the law. These include Pitt the Younger (Prime Minister), Thomas Erskine (the finest advocate of his era and Lord Chancellor), Lord Bruce (Prime Minister of Australia), Viscount Hailsham (Lord Chancellor) and Clement Attlee (Prime Minister), as well as numerous other judges and lawyers over the centuries.
Spanish Armada, Civil War, Riots and Napoleon
Under various designations the Regiment can trace its history back to Elizabethan times. In 1584 lawyers from the Inns formed Associations to defend the country against the threatened Spanish invasion. Gentlemen from the Inns also formed part of the Royalist Army in 1642 (though most of their clerks sided with Parliament!). In 1745 the Chief Justice, Sir John Willes, raised a regiment of lawyers to assist in the defence of London against Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite invasion of England.
In 1780 the Inns were involved in suppressing grave civil insurrection. Anti-Catholic demonstrations in the City led by Lord George Gordon had degenerated into a wild orgy of mass destruction and looting and the death of more than 800 people. The City was ablaze, Newgate Prison destroyed, and Parliament and the Inns were threatened with devastation. In response the Inns raised troops from the students and practising lawyers to help restore order.
One of the barristers, Thomas Erskine, commanded a Company of the Temple Volunteers in defending the Temple. At this time William Pitt was serving in the Lincoln's Inn Company. After six days the rioters were defeated and Lord Gordon was arrested. Around 450 rioters were subsequently sentenced to death and hanged. In a most bizarre twist of history, Thomas Erskine was then retained by Lord Gordon to defend his trial for treason, and against all odds Erskine's supreme advocacy achieved an acquittal!
During the Napoleonic Wars all the Inns raised Companies, the best known of which was the Bloomsbury & Inns of Court Volunteers. In 1803 The Law Association, whose drums (with the Colours of the Temple Association) are still in the Museum, was nicknamed "The Devil's Own" by King George III at a Royal Review in Hyde Park and this name has clung to the Regiment ever since. To this day the Devil's image appears on regimental insignia and badges, an image believed to be unique in the British Army.
Each of these bodies was disbanded on the return of peace, and the continuous history of the Regiment dates from 1859 with the formation of 23 Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps. This date is significant because the country was again gripped by fear of a French invasion by Napoleon III (nephew of the great Emperor).
The Boer War
In the early period of the Boer War the Regular Army suffered so badly that a call went out for assistance and a flood of civilians volunteered to serve in South Africa for a year. Two of the London volunteer units were the City Imperial Volunteers (CIV) and the Imperial Yeomanry (IY), and the Inns provided a contingent of mounted infantry for the CIV during 1900-1901. Starting from Cape Town they entrained, marched and fought all the way to the Mozambique border and the Regiment was awarded its first battle honour "SOUTH AFRICA 1900 – 01".
World War I
It was in the 1914-18 War that the Regiment carried out one of the most important roles in its history: in four years it trained no less than 11,000 officer cadets who were then commissioned into their own regiments, and three of whom won the VC. The Regiment then continued to act as an Officer Training Unit between the wars, during which period it was designated a Cavalry Regiment with one squadron of cavalry and two of mounted infantry.
World War II
At the outbreak of the Second World War the Regiment was providing the Staff for two OCTUs but in 1940 it was re-formed as the armoured car unit of 9 Armoured Division. From 1943 until the invasion of Europe it was under the direct command of 1 Corps, the assault formation of 21 Army Group, and later led the advance of 11 Armoured Division.
On D-Day C Squadron landed in France and went into action; the remainder of the Regiment followed soon afterwards and was continuously in action, from Caumont to the Seine, to Antwerp, and finally from the Rhine to the Kiel Canal. After the German surrender the Regiment occupied a considerable area of Schleswig-Holstein.
1947 - 1961
After the War, in May 1947, the Inns of Court became the Armoured Car Regiment of 56 (London) Armoured Division, but when this became an Infantry Division in 1956 it was converted to the reconnaissance Regiment (RAC) of 56 Division. Also in 1956 the Regiment acquired a squadron from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry as D Squadron.
On 12th March 1957 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was appointed Royal Honorary Colonel of the Inns of Court Regiment. She continued in this role during the subsequent amalgamations and reorganisations, and was a regular visitor to the Lincoln's Inn HQ until her death in 2002.
On 1st May 1961 the Inns of Court Regiment and the City of London Yeomanry amalgamated to form the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry which became the reconnaissance Regiment of 54 (East Anglian) Regiment. As a result of the considerable reorganisation of the TA in that year D (Northamptonshire Yeomanry) Squadron left the Regiment and became an Independent Field Squadron RE.