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Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire , which ruled the majority of Greek-speaking areas at the time, participated in on-again, off-again alliances with France under Napoleon. Many Greeks fleeing Ottoman persecution or local disputes on the mainland ended up in the Ionian Islands, which were beyond the reach of Ottoman authorities. When Britain became the enemy of the Ottoman Empire, it provided, if not an actual chance to fight for national liberation , at least a possibility of harming a foreign power that was increasingly viewed as hostile to the Modern Greek Enlightenment and under stress due to the rise of nationalism in the empire.
When Britain took over the Ionian Islands, it initially relied on small numbers of British and British-foreign troops along with the local volunteer militias, the largest of which was on Zakynthos Zante , numbering some 2, men, with another approximately 2, dispersed over the other islands. These were armed at their own expense, and unpaid. They were drawn from the population of the islands and from mainland Greece and Albania, from men with varying levels of experience. A decision was taken to form an elite, paid unit from among the experienced troops, and to give them additional training.
The regiment was raised in the Ionian Islands in March by then-Captain Richard Church who already had experience managing foreign i. At the outset, its authorized strength was one battalion of men, its actual strength was officers and men when it took part in its first action, the successful capture of Lefkada then called Santa Maura due to still-lingering Venetian influence from the French , but suffered high casualties. Later, it was moved to Zante Zakynthos which served as its base and reached its full authorized strength.
The regiment was put on British establishment in , becoming an official regiment of the British Army , and increased to an authorized strength of 1, men of all ranks. It was sent to suppress an insurrection in Montenegro in June of that year, but baulked at being sent to Sicily in On 22 May the unit was reviewed and found to be in a "very indifferent state, with no field officer present and company officers at a loss to discipline the men"; Church was badly wounded in the arm in the attack on Lefkada and did not return to the regiment after recuperating.
Instead, he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel went on to become colonel commandant the 2nd Greek Light Infantry , and his second-in-command went with him. At least one replacement major was cashiered for an unspecified offence, and another transferred out. This led to the gazetting of Lt. Henry Cuyler of the 85th Foot as colonel commandant of the regiment on February 2, The Boxer Rebellion.
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