The “Iron Duke” was born Arthur Wellesley in Dublin in 1769. He studied at the French Military Academy and purchased a commission in the 73rd Regiment at the age of 18. In 1793 he transferred into the 33rd Regiment and soon purchased the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. This made him the Regiment’s commanding officer at the age of only 24. This began Wellesley’s long relationship with the West Riding, which had been the designated recruiting area for the 33rd since 1782.
1793 marked the beginning of the long series of wars against France that resulted from the upheavals of the French Revolution. The 33rd was soon in action as part of the Duke of York’s disastrous campaign in the Netherlands. In 1796 the Regiment transferred to India, itself in the midst of numerous wars as the British East India Company expanded its control over the subcontinent. It was during these campaign that Wellesley developed his exceptional military qualities. By 1802 he had been promoted to Major General.
In April 1809 Wellesley was back in Europe in command of British forces in the Iberian Peninsula, which had been invaded by the French Emperor Napoleon. Over the next five years he won a series of resounding victories which drove French forces back onto their own soil. Following Napoleon’s defeat and abdication, Wellesley was promoted to Field Marshal and awarded the title of Duke of Wellington. He had also maintained his relationship with he 33rd during much of this period, serving as Colonel of the Regiment 1806 – 1812.
In 1815 Napoleon escaped from captivity and resumed control of France. Wellington was placed in command of the British forces, including the 33rd, sent to confront him. On 18th June 1815 Napoleon was decisively beaten by an Allied coalition at the Battle of Waterloo. This finally ended the wars with France. Wellington was now a national hero, and on leaving the army, entered politics, and twice served as Prime Minister. The Duke died in 1852 and a year later, Queen Victoria decreed that as a living memorial his old regiment should be titled The 33rd (or Duke of Wellington’s Regiment). In 1881 the 33rd amalgamated with the 76th Regiment and was renamed the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. It was the only British Regiment named after a person not of Royal blood