History of the Light Infantry

The Light Infantry was formed on 10 July 1968 from the four regular Light Infantry Battalions of The Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry (SCLI), The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) and The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and The Light Infantry Volunteers. The Light Infantry Depot at Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury became their regimental home.

The silver Bugle cap badge, drill from the ‘at ease’ position, rapid marching pace and green beret bear testimony to the Regiment’s ancestry. Key distinctions of dress from the forming regiments were also carried forward – Red Backing for the cap badge from the DCLI, sashes tied to the right from the SCLI, The Inkerman chain from the DLI and white roses on Minden Day from the KOYLI. The Regiment also had the distinction  of being excused from drinking a Loyal Toast – a privilege inherited from both the KSLI and the DLI.

The primary Regimental Day was 22 July, the anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca, a battle in which all the former regiments fought. The Light Infantry was intensely proud to have as its first Colonel in Chief Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother who was succeeded on her death by Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra.

The formation of the Regiment, officially marked by its ‘Vesting Day’, was the culmination of changes in the Army that had started in 1934 when The Light Infantry Club was formed to develop a close association between all Light infantry Officers of different regiments. In 1957 the defence White Paper started a process that would significantly reduce Britain’s large conventional forces and end conscription. By 1967  national economic difficulties require a further reduction in the Infantry.  The Council Of Light Infantry Colonels accepted reluctantly that a single large regiment with three battalions should be formed.

The early years of the Light Infantry, 1968-1978, saw a constant draw on all battalions to deploy at short notice on emergency tours of Northern Ireland. The third battalion (3 LI) was the first to be deployed, shortly followed onto the streets by both 1 LI and 2 LI. Elements of all three battalions were involved in The Battle of the Shankill in Belfast in October 1969. Other operational commitments over the period saw 3 LI in Mauritius, 2 LI in the Far East and multiple deployments on UN duties as part of UNFICYP in Cyprus. Residential tours also saw the battalions as part of the British Army of the Rhine training in Kenya, Canada and the United States.

The period of 1979-1989 was known as the Years of Consolidation. Continued Northern Ireland commitment placed a heavy burden on the Light Infantry over the period and dominated operational deployments. That said, deployments to UNFICYP continued complemented by further training in Jamaica, Canada, the United States and Kenya. Other overseas deployments included Hong Kong and the Falkland Islands. Domestic commitments included supporting the Fire Service, the Prison Service and deploying to Greenham Common.

1990-2007 was another period of change and consolidation for the British Army,.  During this period the Light Infantry continued to provide support in Northern Ireland and was deployed to the Balkans – Bosnia and Kosovo – Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. This was alongside continued overseas residential tours in Germany and Cyprus (including Falkland Island garrison commitments) and training worldwide in Kenya, Belize, West Indies, Canada and The United States. The Light infantry joined with The Royal Green Jackets, the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment to form The Rifles on 1st Feb 2007.

Throughout its existence, The Light Infantry served the Nation with distinction across the world in a wide variety of operational deployments and established a reputation that was second to none in the British Army.

Regimental Mottoes:

To find out more about the Light Infantry visit www.lightinfantry.co.uk