Thursday 1 August 2013

Minden Day and the Minden Roses

We Gilflurts have always found our day brightened by a gent in uniform and there's nothing brighter than the Minden Roses. On 1st August you might see these colourful flowers worn by members of those British Army regiments whose predecessors faced seemingly insurmountable odds at the Battle of Minden.

Minden roses worn by George Lummis of the 4th (TA) Battalion on Minden Day, 1944, while a Far East Prisoner of War.
Minden roses worn by George Lummis of the 4th (TA) Battalion on Minden Day, 1944 (from

Fought during the Seven Years War, the Battle of Minden took place on 1st August 1759 in Germany between troops of an Anglo-German alliance and the French. As the British regiments approached the gruelling battle, they plucked roses in various hues which which to adorn their uniforms. 

The Battle of Minden was an unexpected victory and was just one element of the Annus Mirabilis (Year of Victories) that was 1759. To all intents and purposes, it appeared as though a French triumph was inevitable, as the alliance was outnumbered and outgunned, French troops occupying a prime raised position.

Commanded by Louis, Marquis de Contades, the French forces seemed entrenched in perfect defensive positions. To deal with this apparently immovable force, a number of British regiments were sent to serve in Munster alongside the troops of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and on 1st August, battle commenced. As the French cavalry began their advance the outnumbered British troops stood against them, advancing in turn. Firing on the British, the French charged their opponents only to be faced with a barrage of gunfire from short range.

A lithograph showing the Battle of Minden
The effect of this tactic on the French was catastrophic. They retreated, regrouped and charged again, only for the British to inflict yet more damage on their cavalry units, causing the French to bring their infantry to the fore. Despite the damage they had already suffered and the fact that they were heavily outnumbered, the British held their position; focussed and disciplined they returned fire again and again, driving the French advance further back. They even held their ground against the almighty Grenadiers of France, securing the final victory at Minden.

Minden Day is celebrated by the following regiments (or their successors, also shown here):
  • The Suffolk Regiment (now The Royal Anglian Regiment) 
  • The Royal Hampshire Regiment (now The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment)
  • The Lancashire Fusiliers (now The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers)
  • The Royal Welch Fusiliers (now The Royal Welsh)
  • The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (now The Rifles),
  • The King's Own Scottish Borderers (now The Royal Regiment of Scotland)

Every year since 1st August 1967, six red roses are anonymously delivered to the British Consulate-General in Chicago. The roses are accompanied by a card marked In Memorium and lists the six British regiments that fought in the battle. Inside the card, the following message is printed:

"They advanced through rose gardens to the battleground and decorated their tricorne hats and grenadier caps with the emblem of England. These regiments celebrate Minden Day still, and all wear roses in their caps on this anniversary in memory of their ancestors."

Whoever is responsible for these annual deliveries remains a mystery, but long may they continue!

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