The East Surrey Regiment was created in 1881 from the amalgamation of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment, which became the 1st Battalion, and the 70th (Surrey) Regiment, which became the 2nd Battalion. The new regiment's depot was situated in Kingston, where in the previous century a depot company of the 70th had been established, and which had served as a depot for both regiments since 1873.
However, the two amalgamated regiments had earlier connections. The 70th had first been raised in 1756 as the 2nd Battalion of the 31st Regiment (first raised in 1702), becoming a separate regiment two years later. This association was revived in 1873, under the first Cardwell reforms of the army, when it was determined that the 31st and 70th, now linked as the 47 Sub-District Brigade, should alternate home and overseas service between them and share a depot at Kingston. New barracks were constructed in 1874-5. Accounts of the histories to 1881 of the two regiments can be found in the introductions to the 1st and 2nd Battalion series below (ESR/2/- and ESR/3/-).
At the same time as the East Surrey Regiment came into being, units of the county militia and rifle volunteer corps were integrated with the new regiment. In 1881, the 1st Royal Surrey Regiment of Militia became the 3rd (Service) Battalion and the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia became the 4th (Reserve) Battalion. Subsequently, the 1st (South London) Corps of the Surrey Rifle Volunteers became the 1st (South London) Corps of the East Surrey Regiment (1882), being redesignated the 1st Surrey (South London) Corps in 1888; the 3rd, 5th and 7th Corps Corps of the Surrey Rifle Volunteers were linked to the regiment in 1882 and became the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Volunteer Battalions in 1887.
In 1908, with the creation of the Territorial Force, the 2nd Volunteer Battalion became the 5th Battalion and the 3rd Volunteer Battalion became the 6th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. The 1st Surrey (South London) Corps and the 4th Volunteer Battalion were incorporated into the London Regiment as the 21st (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (1st Surrey Rifles) and the 23rd (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment, but retained their links with the East Surrey Regiment.
Following the outbreak of World War I, the number of Territorial Battalions was multiplied by creating 2/5th, 3/5th, 2/6th, 3/6th, 2/21st, 3/21st, 2/23rd and 3/23rd Battalions, in addition to the original units, which were now renumbered 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/21st and 1/23rd. With the influx of volunteers, additional battalions were also raised in the early months of the war as 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th (Service) Battalions, to be followed by 12th (Bermondsey) Battalion, 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion and 14th (Reserve) Battalion. See the introductions to the separate series for each battalion for further information about many of these units.
Following World War I, all Territorial and Service Battalions were disbanded and the 3rd and 4th Special Reserve Battalions were permanently disembodied. However, the Territorial Force was reestablished in 1920 along pre-war lines, and was retitled the Territorial Army in 1921: as a result, the 5th and 6th Battalions of the East Surreys were reformed, as were the 21st and 23rd (County of London) Battalions of the London Regiment (in 1922 renamed the 21st London Regiment (1st Surrey Rifles) and 23rd London Regiment. In 1935 the 21st was converted into an anti-aircraft searchlight unit in the Royal Engineers. In 1937, the 23rd became the 7th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment and in 1938, was converted into the 42nd Battalion of the Royal Tank Corps (TA).
At the outbreak of World War II, the 6th Battalion was doubled as before, becoming the 1/6th and 2/6th Battalions. Additional higher-numbered battalions were also raised, mainly for training or home defence. Following the capture of 2nd Battalion at the fall of Singapore, Feb 1942, the 11th Battalion became the new 2nd Battalion. After the war, the additional Battalions were disbanded.
At the beginning of 1947, the 6th Battalion was reconstituted. In 1948, as a result of army cutbacks, 1st and 2nd Battalions were amalgamated, and the newly formed 1st Battalion was involved in security operations in North Africa and Cyprus in the 1950s. In 1956, the 42nd Royal Tank Regiment reverted to an infantry unit and was redesignated 23rd London Regiment, rejoining The East Surrey Regiment. On 14th October 1959, the regiment amalgamated with the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) to form the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment.
See the series introductions below for further information on the history of the battalions that constituted the regiment.
The main series of records relate to the administration of the Regiment and its constituent battalions, particularly in the late 19th and 20th centuries. These include standing orders, digests of service, copies of orders received, reports, war diaries, and some lists of personnel and casualty lists. In addition there is a large collection of ephemera, including programmes and menus relating to parades, commemorations and other events, a fine collection of photograph albums and other photographs and illustrative material and copies of articles and research into the history of the regiment and individual battalions. The series of private papers of soldiers who served with the regiment, ranging from a single photograph or set of service papers, to diaries, correspondence and memoirs, is still being added to.