Freedom of The City

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Jul 262020

The Rifle Brigade Memorial

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Jul 262020

The Rifle Brigade Memorial

The Rifle Brigade War Memorial in London commemorates the service of the Rifle Brigade in the First and Second World Wars. It stands at the junction of Grosvenor Gardens and Hobart Place near Victoria Station in the City of Westminster, on land donated by the 2nd Duke of Westminster.

The design of the memorial was inspired by Colonel Willoughby Verner. Construction was funded by the Rifleman’s Aid Society.

The memorial has a curved screen and central pylon of Portland stone, with three bronze statues by the Scottish artist John Tweed: on the pylon, a helmeted rifleman in First World War uniform marching with slung rifle (modelled on Rifleman Ephraim Alfred Dudley); and at ground level, in front of the screen to the left, a rifleman in 1806 pattern uniform with a Baker rifle, and, to the right, an officer with sword from 1800, when the Experimental Corps of Riflemen was formed.

An inscription on the memorial commemorates the 11,575 men from the Rifle Brigade who fell in the First World War; a later inscription mentions the 1,329 men who fell in the Second World War. All are listed on a Roll of Honour held at Winchester Cathedral.

The memorial was unveiled on 25 July 1925 by the Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifle Brigade, Field Marshal Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and dedicated by the Chaplain-General to the Forces, Reverend Alfred Jarvis. The unveiling ceremony was accompanied by an honour guard from the 2nd Battalion, and another of veteran riflemen.

In 1970 the memorial was listed at Grade II; it was upgraded to Grade II* in 2016.

Sourced From Wikipedia

Photo Credits to RGJ Museum and Alamy Stock photo

Hampshires Waterloo

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Jul 212020

Mustering troops in Hampshire before the French Wars

The person with the greatest responsibility for a county’s defence was the lord lieutenant. The lieutenancy was a Tudor creation, at the time, the latest stage in the development of the defence system of England and Wales. Every county was to have its lord lieutenant in much the same the way as a sheriff and the quarter sessions. The lieutenancy was no easy job. It entailed military and civil duties, but the military duties were the more extensive. The lieutenant had to muster the county’s militia. Every fit male from 16 to 60 years old was liable to be mustered, but only a small part of the muster was actually trained to use arms. Those selected were to be sorted into bands, trained and exercised.

All soldiers, even these part-time trained bands, cost money. Therefore lieutenants had always to weigh the threat of danger against the expense of providing a force to meet it: they must not train more men than necessary, or charge the landholders and other inhabitants of their county with more rates than they could easily bear.

The Crown held the lieutenant responsible for fixing the overall rate on the county and the quota to be paid by each Hundred (division) within their county, and for seeing that each gentleman below the rank of baron contributed his fair share of money, horses, arms and armour. He always needed a full purse of money, as costs were high. His officers required expenses and the men required wages. Ordinary soldiers were usually fed, clothed, and even armed at public expense. In addition the lieutenant had responsibility for keeping the county signal beacons in good order and ready for emergency use (these were placed on the top of hills around the county to warn of invasion).

The lord lieutenant relied upon a number of people to help him in his tasks, including two or more deputy lieutenants, the county’s sheriff, the justices of the peace, and the county’s constables. When he required a muster, he informed the High Constable. He in turn informed the parish constables, who each saw to it that at the Sunday service in their parish, that the priest announced the date and place of the

Social rank went a long way to determine military rank. Just as the lord lieutenant was almost always an earl or a baron, so the deputy lieutenants tended to be knights or substantial esquires, and the captains esquires or gentlemen. Hampshire’s lord lieutenants during the French Wars were Charles Ingleby Paulet, Earl of Wiltshire, Thomas Orde Paulet 1st Baron Bolton (see letters patent of George III appointing Thomas Lord Bolton, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, HRO 11M49/F/O34), JamesHarris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury. In practice, the captains of each Hundred were the officers who paid the wages of the trained bands. Another of the captain’s tasks was
“to sort his men’s armour and weapons according to the stature of their bodies.

The lists of men serving with the militia, known as Muster rolls, are more frequent in the pre and post English Civil War period (see 44M69 Jervoise of Heriard collection, for example). A few stray Muster rolls survive in family papers, such as the Muster roll of `Captain Lord Porchester’s (2nd Earl of Carnarvon’s) Company’, Wiltshire Militia, Seaford Camp, October 1794 (HRO 75M91/B21/4).

Correspondence between the lord lieutenant and Justices of the Peace (JPs) about musters also survive within some family papers. An example from the beginning of the wars with France in 1796, include a bundle of letters to Captain George Purefoy Jervoise from members of the North Hants Militia; three of those from Captain Harris informing him of a muster soon to take place and where the winter quarters are to be (HRO 44M69/G6/2/1/2). Other letters to Jervoise from R Firth, mention a deserter.

James Eades from Mapledurwell, and someone called Taylor another deserter.

Perhaps one of the more interesting documents is a Memorandum book of the Loyal City of Winchester Volunteers which was formed 1803 (HRO 182M84W/1). The volume contains a variety of information about the Corps including rules and regulations, muster rolls (giving age, marital status and other details about the volunteers), returns of ammunition and men, minutes of the Volunteers committee, copy correspondence and accounts. Interesting entries concern the relationship between Winchester College boys and the volunteers, 1804.

On a larger scale, the Quarter Sessions records contain a volume with a tabulated account of the state of the various local corps of Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry in the Hants Volunteer Force in the period 1794-1825 (HRO Q30/5/50). The volume lists the officers of each corps in the Hampshire Volunteer Force with the date they were accepted, date of commission, date gazetted, date promoted and date resigned as well as other pertinent remarks.

Muster rolls continued to be used in practice up to the two world wars in the 20th century.

Background to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

The French Revolution of 1789 and establishment of a new French Republic had a huge impact on wider Europe, which led to a series of wars against France by coalitions of foreign powers. The first attempt to crush the French Republic came in 1793 when Austria, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples, Prussia, Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain formed the First Coalition. The war ended when
General Napoleon Bonaparte forced the Austrians to accept his terms in the Treaty of Campo Formio. At this point in time only Great Britain remained opposed to the French Republic.

A Second Coalition was formed in 1798 by Austria, Great Britain, the Kingdom of Naples, the Ottoman Empire, the Papal States, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and other states. During the War of the Second Coalition, the French Republic suffered from corruption and internal division. The Austrians were defeated at Hohenlinden in 1800 and left the conflict after the Treaty of Lunéville (9 February 1801), forcing Britain to sign the “peace of Amiens” with France.

The British Army during the wars with France

After the English Civil War (1642-1651), the raising of a militia was suspended until the Militia Act of 1757. Following this Militia Act, the militia remained a standalone county force until the Cardwell Reforms of 1872, which saw the militia attached to the regular county regiments of the army. The county based Lord Lieutenant had responsibility for raising the local militia (see Introduction above). Petty Magistrates and Parish Constables distributed Household Forms which were given to each household and completed with details about each adult male (a form of census). From the forms, the Militia Ballot List was drawn up showing all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 (lowered to age 42 in 1762). For a printed book ‘A Digest of the New Militia Law which received the Royal Assent’ endorsed ‘Thomas
Hall, 1762’, see (HRO 44M69/G6/3/3/4).

Some parishes reacted negatively to the changes in the Militia arrangements as thisoften meant having to support financially or in-kind the families of serving militiamen. For example, a resolution was taken at a meeting of the Odiham parish vestry for the removal of persons who were liable for the militia ballot and whose families might thereby become chargeable to the parish The vestry was also critical at the lack of a poor relief committee (HRO 47M81/PV5).

The issue of entitlement to legal settlement within a parish, and therefore poor relief as needed, became a vexed one, with parishes eager to rid themselves of potential unwanted expenditure as above. This can be seen in two settlement examinations Elizabeth Grant faced in 1761. At her first settlement examination she stated that she was born at Little St Swithun Winchester; at Michaelmas 1755 she hired herself to John Robinson of Little St Swithun for a year, which she duly served and then she went on to serve him another 5 months (HRO 74M81W/PO19/2). At a subsequent ‘voluntary examination’ of Elizabeth Grant, described as singlewoman, in connection with a bastardy case, it was said that she was expecting a child or children likely to be chargeable on the parish of Little St Swithun, Winchester. Elizabeth Grant had told the Vestry that the father was Robert Haynes, a private in the Warwickshire Militia (HRO 74M81W/PO19/11). This was not uncommon and vexed the parish authorities.

Not all families were lucky enough to be spared a removal order from the parish they were living in if their husband was serving in the militia. For example, a removal order issued by East Woodhay parish concerning Martha, wife of William Yalden, a private soldier in the West Kent Militia, shows she was removed to East Woodhay from Kentbury, Berks in 1782 (HRO 27M77/PO1/85)

Another settlement examination, of John Batt, a private soldier in His Majesty’s Regiment of Militia, for Dorset, taken 24th January 1782 at Fordingbridge, recorded that at 9 years old he was apprenticed to John Weeks of Fordingbridge, a butcher, for 6 years and served him for 4 years; he has a wife Sarah (HRO 24M82/PO8/13). A few months later on 24th September 1782 an order was issued for the removal of his wife, Sarah Batt, from Standford Dingley, Berkshire to Fordingbridge. Sarah was being sent to the parish where her husband had spent time living as an apprentice (HRO 24M82/PO10/67).

However, some Justices of the Peace (JPs) took their responsibilities towards the maintenance of militiamen’s families seriously. A printed letter from the Clerk of the Peace, G Durnford, was sent to the churchwardens and overseers of Hampshire parishes, with an order from JPs re the care and provision for families of militia substitutes and volunteers (HRO 202M85/4/10/3). Orders for payments to the families of a militia volunteers were also issued, as at Breamore, where Elizabeth, wife of James Brothers and her children Harriott (7), James (4), Elizabeth (2) and Sarah (6 weeks), were to be supported in October 1794 (HRO 20M83/PO35/2).

Despite the social upheaval affecting families there was a need for volunteer militiamen and therefore a need for the government to maintain supplies for musters and, in the event of a siege of British ports by the French, to know whether England could subsist. This led to renewed organisation of the militia and a survey of counties to establish the strength, and weaknesses, that existed countrywide.

The defence of the realm

The Posse Comitatus, or civil power, was a survey of all men taken in 1798 capable of acting in a military capacity who were not Quakers, clergymen or already serving in a military unit. Men between the ages of 15 and 60 were included. The first such survey appears to have been conducted by the lord lieutenant of Dorset in 1797. The publicity that followed caused several other counties to conduct similar surveys. The survey was conducted against the background of war with revolutionary France, and the risk of invasion by French forces. By February 1798, Britain had been at war with France for five years.

Complete returns for the Posse Comitatus of 1798 survive for no county in England and Wales other than Buckinghamshire. However, summaries or partial lists exist for some counties, including Hampshire (Returns from parishes made under the Defence of the Realm Act, 1798 HRO Q22/1/2/5). These returns (Posse Comitatus lists), which provided authority to a law officer to conscript any able-bodied males to assist him, are a chance survival among Land Tax Assessments. Only a relatively few hundreds and parishes in Hampshire are represented.

The returns comprise of several forms A-F as follows for inhabitants of each hundred, tithing or parish:

A. Schedule No. 1: giving total numbers of men between 15 and 60 years; numbers of infirm or incapable; numbers serving in Volunteer Corps and armed associations; aliens (foreigners); Quakers; numbers incapable of removing themselves (disabled

B Schedule No. 2: giving statement of live and dead stock, waggons, carts, corn mills and the amount of corn they can grind in a week, flour, meal, malt and local produce.

C Schedule No. 3: giving numbers of persons willing to serve, whether on foot or on horseback, how armed and whether willing to act as servants with cattle, servants with teams or guides.

D Form No. 1: return by nobility, gentry and yeomanry giving subscribers names and the numbers of waggons, carts, horses, drivers and conductors they can provide. 

E Form No. 1: return by millers giving subscribers names, the names and situations of water and wind mills, how many sacks of flour can be produced by each mill in 24 hours and whether the wheat is provided by subscribers (landowners, villagers etc).

F Form No. 2: return by bakers giving subscribers names, the number of loaves that can be baked in 24 hours by the usual number of hands and with extra help, the quantity which would keep each oven working constantly, the fuel used and whether in plentiful supply.

The aim of the forms was to give the authorities a clear idea of the likely strength of a local militia and how prepared their county and districts were for invasion or a blockade of ports
Notices were sent out to men eligible to serve in the militia, such as that to John Philip of Blendworth, a house servant, who was to attend at Petersfield to take the oath and be enrolled to serve in the Augmented Hampshire Militia ‘during the present 1 NB Returns D to F described above exist only for Portsdown Hundred.

Returns A to C exist for other hundreds/parishes/tithing.

War’ 18th February 1797, Signed by T Dotterill, constable (HRO 50M72/O1). Similarly, at Basingstoke a notice was served on John Hobgood and John Wheelwright that they have been chosen by lot to serve in the militia, 27 Apr 1798 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/3). Orders were subsequently issued to cover payment of men who acted as substitutes for those nominated to serve in the militia. Such an order
was made at Brockenhurst in the New Forest on 4th August 1781 to pay Stephen Earley, labourer, £3. 13s. 6d for volunteering as a substitute (HRO 4M81/PO34/28).

Details of what the militiaman could expect when called up to join a militia unit can be found in a printed notice of Pay, Privileges and Duty of a Militia Man in Hampshire (HRO 44M69/G6/3/1/31). Similarly, the requirements for officers can be found in a booklet entitled ‘warrant for Increasing and regulating the pay and allowance of noncommissioned Officers and Private men of Corps of Infantry serving at home’, dated 25 May 1797 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/3).

The Jervoise family had been associated with the county’s militia since before the English Civil Wars, and their family papers contain a wealth of information, including much printed material, on the workings of the militia system at the time of the French Wars, including: printed instructions relative to the mode of substituting the volunteers from the militia and to the payment of their bounty, 1807; copy of ‘Act for completing the militia of Great Britain’ 27 May 1809; minutes of meeting of gents resident in North Hants desirous of forming a regiment of Yeomanry held at Odiham, 27th November 1830; printed minutes of the Lieutenancy of the County of Southampton and the town of Southampton held 20th September 1803 (HRO 44M69/G6/2/4/15).

A number of families bought commissions for their sons at the time of the French Wars, which could be lucrative if the ‘boy’ was willing and able. An example of this is the Commission of Charles Dodd as a 1st Lieutenant in the Lymington Fuzileers (Fusiliers) in 1798 (HRO 22M75/F40). Not all families were successful, however, as Hans Sloane found out when seeking a commission for his son William with the Prince of Wales Regiment. In a letter dated May 1806, he complains with great indignation on his own and on his son’s behalf at the shabby treatment he has received over William’s commission. Three months earlier Colonel Cartwright had reported the Prince of Wales’ pleasure at hearing of William’s wish to join his regiment and said that he should have a commission without purchase. A Mr Greenwood had just written to him however saying that only two commissions without purchase are being made to persons Recommended by the Prince and the Duke of York, but that William, if he waits some months, might then be given one. Sir Hans felt that William should think carefully before pursuing this commission as he might meet with more disappointment and virtual breach of promise. “I do assure you that I am extremely hurt at the manner in which your just pretensions have now been set aside…” (HRO 28M57/67/3)

The wars with France

The fate of French emigres in Hampshire

A number of letters written mainly by French noblemen (emigres) addressed to officials, ministers and other public figures at various places in England and France survive at Hampshire Archives and have been bound into two volumes (HRO 109A02). A number of the letters are endorsed to William Wickham who was Undersecretary of State and Superintendent of Aliens. Examples from the letters show that many of the French emigres were anxious to return to their home country for counter revolutionary purposes, sometimes making or offering deals to obtain passports, travel, money etc.

In a letter (in French) from L Cordier, at Bishops Waltham to an unknown recipient (possibly local agent Mr Dundas) dated 29th October 1793, the writer describes himself as ‘an unfortunate who has no other hope but your kindness’. He wrote to the same recipient on September 23rd explaining that he was a passenger on the SS ‘Non-Pareil’ which left the Ile de France on April 11th 1793. Mr Dundas acknowledged receipt of Monsieur Cordier’s letter of the 23rd of the month and gave the order for his repatriation providing that ‘he will send back an Englishman of the same rank who is a prisoner in France’ . In his letter Monsieur Cordier now gives his word of honour that on his arrival in France he will do his best to send back in exchange an English prisoner of the same rank. All his ‘comrades in misfortune’ who were on the same vessel have received their passports to travel and Monsieur Cordier fears that the order from Mr Dundas regarding his (Cordier’s) has been lost in the administration offices.

In another letter (in French) from an unknown emigre to the Rt Hon Richard Ryder in London, 11th October 1811, the writer begs permission to explain a plan which will benefit the British Crown as well as all the British people. ‘What would it cost to grant him a passport? Why are they so incredulous? Why will they not see him and let him explain his actions? Can they not punish him if he fails and if he abuses the precious time they have left in which to oppose the criminal storm which is spreading from day to day?’ He begs pardon for writing by post and for being unable (for the first time in his life) to sign his name, but he knows that his handwriting will be recognised.

A further letter (in French), from an unknown Frenchman in a London prison, to an unknown recipient, (no date, post 1793) gives details of his travels since leaving France. He and his wife arrived at Bristol in December 1791 and left on November 19th 1792. His wife had the financial means to buy their freedom but all had been taken from them and they have had nothing since December 5th 1793. They almost lost their lives many times in prison. They were given a choice to return to France or stay in prison. He tried to get passports for himself and his wife but was passed from one official to another and eventually sent to a London prison where they are now and are very wretched. He gives details of ill treatment in prison and begs for help.

In a letter (in French) dated 5th Mar 1794, Captain de Guienne, wrote from Ostend concerning false accusations about himself and requested a passport. 

‘Sir, I am overcome by ills of all kinds since you judged it necessary to have me arrested in Dover and subsequently brought here without any passport. Allow me, I beg you, to explain that in the matter of crime and especially of spying, of which someone unjustly accused me, there is nothing between death and freedom and I have neither one nor the other. If I had been granted a trial in England, I would have been able to prove incontrovertibly that the papers which were judged incriminating because the key to understanding them was missing, were in fact the necessary disguise for a counter revolutionary plan whose success would have forwarded the interests of the court in London regarding the coast of Normandy – my homeland’.

Some noblemen even wrote to the King, George lll, begging for help:

‘Sire, Among the royal virtues which your Majesty possesses, and which make him a model among kings, his kindness and generosity embolden me to take the liberty of addressing him with the deepest respect due to his elevated person, from the last and only survivor of the House of Bailleu ?

Two of my ancestors, Sire, nearly six centuries ago, bore in turn one of the three crowns which now, for the glory and happiness of the British Empire and the whole world, adorn in glory the revered head of Your Majesty. Left the last of three brothers, of whom two perished – weapons in hand – in the present conflict, I have for five years enjoyed the shelter which the powerful protection of your Gracious Majesty has extended to my unfortunate compatriots.But in this time, stripped of all my goods, I have only been able to survive by the labour of my own hands, not having dared ask anything of Your Majesty’s kindness without my being able to supply authentic proof of the titles which could support my claim.’

That emigres openly discussed counter revolutionary plans in their letters, suggests that Hampshire’s potential role in supporting and supplying some emigres with the means to fight the revolutionaries, could be seen as key to the situation in France.

Amongst the letters is a detailed list (in French) of a proposed cavalry force (note on reverse marked confidential and sent to Lord Elgin), dated 14th January with no year given, but likely 1790s. The writer makes a proposal for the formation of a cavalry force about 600 strong. He states that the emigres are not asking for money or equipment or formal recognition, they merely want permission and use of a building
near the Belgian frontier for lodging. Their military aim would be to harass the enemies on the frontier, pillage convoys, burn provisions etc. (i.e. guerilla warfare not a military operation).

He wrote that they would also attempt to destroy revolutionary societies, encourage troops to desert and townspeople to revolt against revolutionary rule so as to increase the numbers opposed to the present French government (their political aim). Their personal aim would be to provide a means of subsistence for emigres by taking back what was stolen from them and selling goods to raise money for the
future. All members of such a force would be equal and without rank with only one leader whom they would obey without question. That leader would choose a ‘lieutenant’ for each particular sortie. Each volunteer would have a horse, shotgun, sword, 2 pistols, a dagger and body armour but no cannon. They would take the uniform of the French cavalry which is not tricolour. They would not be subject to Austrian or English commands. The only help they would request would be to withdraw to a foreign army in case of retreat.

The writer concluded by stating that if it seems surprising that Frenchmen wish to wage a war of destruction on other Frenchmen, it can be explained by ‘revenge, reciprocity and necessity.’ 

Other stories contained in these letters tell of daring escapes from France. Writing from Portsmouth on 17th October 1792, Thomas Trigge, sent a letter to Messrs W T and W Raites in London, stating that he has been occupied helping French emigres who had arrived in Portsmouth. He gives details of the adventures of a French Countess who stayed in Paris as long as she could. When her coach and horses
were taken, with one servant killed and herself in danger – as her husband was away in the Emigrant army – she fled to Le Havre, and disguised as a sailor boarded an English ship. Trigge asks Messrs Raikes to assist her. He states that she is a charming woman of about thirty and lively when she can forget her circumstances. She was staying in Portsmouth until her luggage arrived as it was being forwarded by an Englishman in Le Havre.

Trigge also noted that in Portsmouth there are over 500 priests – ‘who behave as well as possible!’ The plight of French clergy is often overlooked when considering the impact of the French Revolution, with the emphasis on nobility, but letters in the collection show their determination to return to a secure France one day.

French priests in Hampshire

In addition to military personnel there were many Priests held in confinement, including several hundred in the King’s House, Winchester. These were not so much prisoners of war as unfortunates who had been exiled from France where religious persecution was rife. As with the military POWs the Priests movements were restricted and they had to apply for passports to move between towns or out of the country.

In the summer of 1790 the French revolutionary government introduced its Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Papal influence was to be minimised and clergy were to become salaried civil servants, bound to the state by an oath of loyalty. Most French bishops and many priests rejected the new legislation. In the following spring so did the Pope. By the time of the 1791 Catholic Relief Act a few French priests had already sought refuge in England. These were mainly clergy from aristocratic backgrounds and therefore most at risk.

Letter (in French) from clergymen of St Malo written from Southampton, 25th November 1793.

‘Sir, It was only from the purest motives of honour and religion that we made the sacrifice of leaving our country and the same motives will make us return as soon as we are allowed to do so safely. If, therefore, Sir, any circumstances should arise whereby the clergy of St. Malo, now resident in Southampton, could be in any way useful to the English government in contributing – by means of their ministry and the confidence that their compatriots have always had in them – to the restoration of peace and order in the town of St. Malo, they are ready to devote themselves to this worthy aim, even at the expense of their well being, their freedom and even their lives. You can, Sir, count on us being always ready to respond with all discretion and prudence to whatever your wisdom decrees. 

With respect, your humble and obedient servants, Launay, Morier, Le Joliff, clergy of St Malo in Britain, at 116, High Street Southampton’.

Note on reverse ‘The curates and vicars of St. Malo.’ (HRO 109A02/2/21)

Meanwhile the French revolutionary government retaliated to the Church’s rejection of the Civil Constitution; after August 1792 a priest not taking the oath faceddeportation. A mass exodus of clergy followed. They went to the Low Countries, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Protestant Britain. By September 1792 there were 1,500 French priests in England and in little more than a year the number
rose to about 5,000.

Initially the British Government used the King’s House at Winchester (see below) as a hostel for some of these priests. It could house more than 600 at a time, although conditions were fairly poor. When in 1796 the government feared a French invasion, it converted the King’s House into a barracks, dispersing many of the priests.

The impact of the wars with France on French POWs

No consensus exists as to when the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1799) ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. However, the traditional view is that the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were seen as a series of continuing wars between Napoleon’s French Empire and opposing coalitions. Unlike its many coalition partners, Britain remained at war throughout the period of the Napoleonic Wars.

On March 12, 1780, a table of exchange of prisoners of war, with the equivalent ransom rates, had been agreed to between European powers, ranging from 60 men for an admiral or field-marshal to one man for a common sailor or soldier in the regular services, and from four men for a captain to one man of privateers and merchantmen. In 1793 the French Government ordained a sweeping change by abolishing all equivalents in men or money to officers, and decreed that henceforth the exchange should be strictly of grade for grade, and man for man, and that no non-combatants or surgeons should be retained as prisoners of war.

In 1798 an arrangement about the exchange of prisoners was agreed between England and France. France was to send a vessel with British prisoners, 5 per cent of whom were to be officers, and England was to do the same.

The agents on each side were to select the prisoners. It was also ruled that the prisoners in each country were to be supported by their own country, and that those who were sick, wounded, incapacitated, or boys, should be surrendered without equivalent. But in 1799 the
French Republican Government refused to clothe or support its prisoners in Britain, so that all exchanges of prisoners ceased. Pending the interchange of correspondence which followed the declaration of this inhuman policy, the French prisoners suffered terribly, especially as it was winter, so that in January 1801, on account of the fearful mortality among them, it was resolved that they should be supplied with warm clothing at the public expense, and this was done, the cost being very largely defrayed by voluntary subscriptions in all parts of the Kingdom.

The foreign prisoner of war (POW) in Britain, if an ordinary sailor or soldier, was  confined either on board a prison ship or in prison ashore. Officers of certain defined ranks were allowed to be upon ‘parole’ if they chose, in specified towns.

Some officers refused to be bound by the parole requirements, and preferred the hulk or the prison with the chance of being able to escape. There were many rotten prison hulks on the rivers around the UK (several were moored at Portsmouth).

During the Napoleonic wars there were up to 122,000 enemy sailors and soldiers held in captivity. The officers were held in 50 parole towns, including Bishops Waltham in Hampshire..

2 Basingstoke, Alresford, Andover, Whitchurch and Odiham were also parole towns during the Seven
Years War with France (1756-63)

Life in a Parole Town

There were between 200-300 prisoners per town, and before any officer was allowed to reside in a parole town he was required to sign a document promising to observe certain rules. Having done this he was said to be “on parole”.

This took the following form:

“whereas the commissioners for conducting His Majesty’s transport service and for the care and custody of French officers and Sailors detained in England have been pleased to grant…[name]…leave to reside in…[town]…upon condition that he gives his parole of honour not to withdraw one mile from the boundaries prescribed there without leave for that purpose from the said Commissioners, that he will behave himself decently and with due regard to the laws of the kingdom, and that he will not directly or indirectly hold any correspondence with France during his continuance in England, but by such letter or letters as shall be shown to the agent of the said commissioners under whose care he is or may be in order to their being read and approved by the superiors, he does hereby declare that having given his
parole we will keep it inviolably.”

In all parole towns, including Alresford and Bishops Waltham, the following notice was posted in prominent positions. 

“Notice is hereby given: That all such prisoners of war are permitted to walk or ride on the great turnpike road within the distance of one mile from the extreme parts of the town (not beyond the bounds of the parish) and if they shall exceed such limits or go into any field or cross-road they may be taken up and sent to prison, and a reward of ten shillings will be paid by the agent for the apprehending them.

And further that such prisoners are to be in their lodgings by 5 o’clock in the winter and 8 in the summer months, and if they stay out later they are liable to be taken up and sent to the agent for such misconduct”.

The above limits are still defined in one part of Bishops Waltham, at ‘Frenchmen’s Bridge’, which marked the 1 mile limit of the town.

During 1810-1812 some 462 French officers across the country broke their parole and escaped to France, and of these, 310 escaped in one year (1812). French prisoners (Officers mainly) were held in ‘open prisons’ whereas British prisoners were held mainly in fortresses and secure castles. The French authorities did not contribute to the keeping of their prisoners, whilst the British gave each French officer half a guinea per week for sustenance. Also being on parole, they were free to find employment locally if they could. French POWs imprisoned at Portchester Castle on Hampshire’s coast were able to buy supplies from a temporary market.

Avove: a plan of Portchester Castle (HRO 51A05/1) showing the layout of the castle during its time as a prison for French POWs. The outline foundations of the stone castle can be seen bottom left and the church top right. Elsewhere can be seen wooden barrack blocks for the POWs with water pumps nearby.

By 1810 the authorities were concerned about mass escapes and decided to move all prisoners inland to Wales, Scotland and Shropshire away from the coast. The Agent at Bishops Waltham, John Penny, was informed in December 1811 that all French prisoners would be moved from the town and by June 1812 this move was complete.

France between the wars

In 1802, the British and French signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending war between the two countries. The treaty is generally considered to be the most appropriate point to mark the transition between the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, although Napoleon was not crowned emperor until 1804. Peace was to last barely a year before the countries were at war again, however. In the interim period some British citizens took advantage of being able to travel to France from England and take in the sights, their letters can prove enlightening.

In 1802 John Bonham (he changed his name to Bonham-Carter in 1827 to inherit his cousin’s estates) wrote to his friend Thomas Holt White from France describing the country and its people (HRO 16M97/4/74).

Boulogne sur Mer, 4th July 1802.

My Dear Friend. We found the voyage from Gravesend to Calais extremely pleasant. We went on board after dinner and got to Calais in time for dinner the next day. To us it was quite a party of pleasure. Perhaps it might be a little more serious to you. But from Dover or any watering place on the coast, you may come with ease between breakfast & dinner and we hope to see you arrive in a short time as I think you may pass part of your Summer here comfortably enough. If sea bathing would be good for Mrs White we have now machines established as good as those at Margate and this is preferable to any Bathing Place I have seen in England, considering the cleanliness of the sands and altogether the beauty of the situation.

France is not so bad as many ardent imaginations would picture it in the crisis of their disappointment, nor is it so good, as I expected and as it ought to be. But it is very well considering the failings, above all the fickleness of its inhabitants. We propose to remain here till the end of September and then to Winter in Paris.

By the end of October 1802 John Bonham’s letters reflected a growing sense that the French, by which he meant Napoleon, had ambitions beyond their reach. 

We have now been five weeks in this Capital of the World, as its gay inhabitants love to style it; and they have brought themselves to think that it is in reality. What little opinions I have ventured to form with respect to this country are strengthened every day. We are now very comfortably settled for the Winter, I hope, that is to say if no interruption should take place to the good understanding betwixt these Nations; which I doubt will have a very long continuance. The French views with respect to us are now in general formed upon the old system of rivalship heightened to a degree of intoxication by their successes and increase in territory; so that all descriptions and parties are unanimous on one point, namely that in a short time (in general they say about 3 years) Britain must fall a certain prey to France. No idea of general Liberty but simply that of Conquest and extent of Empire.

With Wellington’s army to Waterloo 

‘There were times that day – as the cannon thundered in the thick smoke and soldiers, their faces blackened by powder, were mown down in their hundreds – when defeat seemed as likely as victory’. From Wellington: a personal history, Christopher Hibbert, 1997.

An example of Britain’s continuing opposition to France’s domination of Europe, was the British Army’s provision of long-term support to the Spanish rebellion in the Peninsular War of 1808–1814. Anglo-Portuguese forces under Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, supported the Spanish, which campaigned successfully against the French armies, eventually driving them from Spain, thus allowing Britain to
invade southern France. By 1815, the British Army played the central role in the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

One of the Generals who fought in Wellington’s army was Sir William Thomas Knollys KCB (1 August 1797 – 23 June 1883). He was educated at Harrow School and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Knollys was commissioned into the 3rd Guards in 1813 and fought in the Peninsular War later that year. Below is a Letter from William Knollys, at the time a young Ensign, to his father from Staines, 28th
February 1814 (HRO 21M69/12/3)

“My Dear Father. We left Birdcage Walk this morning at half past eight and marched to Bedfont without stopping where we breakfasted, remained half an hour and afterwards proceeded to Staines, which altogether is a march of 18 miles. I am rather tired as you may suppose but I have not rode a step of the way. I will write you further particulars another day but I thought you would like to hear I expect Captain Harvey tonight & he means to write to you. I will call at the post office for a letter from you if receive this letter in time.

Prince goes on very well and has done me much service. Tomorrow we go to Bagshot which is a short march. They say there are many troops at Portsmouth and the Kingston Road is full so we came by Staines. I believe nearly 5000 men are ordered to join Lord Wellington’s army. Love to Mama and all at home and excuse this short letter from the tired hand of your affectionate and dutiful son W Knollys”.

He left for France via Portsmouth at the beginning of March 1814 and wrote several letters to his father during his time there.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought thirteen kilometres south of Brussels between the French, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and General Blücher from Prussia. The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war between Britain and France.

The Allied army under the Duke of Wellington was a coalition of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers. Napoleon’s battle plan was to mount an offensive attack on the Allied troops gathering in Belgium and to destroy them. In order to do this he wanted to divide the armies before defeating them separately.

In order to separate Wellington and Blücher’s troops, Napoleon ordered Marshal Ney to advance on Quatre-Bras, a crossroads on the roads between Brussels and Charleroi and Nivelles and Namur. Allied Dutch-Belgium troops under Prince William of Orange were already positioned around the area and succeeded in holding off the French attack until reinforcements arrived.

At Ligny, the Prussian army occupied strongholds of walled gardens, stone houses and farmhouses and lined up on the forward slope of the Ligny Brook with the right guarding the villages of St Armand and St Armand Haye. Although the French were victorious, they failed to totally destroy the Prussian army. They were able to retreat, albeit with numerous injured and dead, north to Wavre (about 18 kilometres east of Waterloo).

Above: one of several maps from an atlas of the Battle of Waterloo (HRO 64M76) 

Wellington was short of well-trained infantry and the cavalry were inexperienced. Seeing that his troops were outnumbered by the French, Wellington decided that his best plan was to stand firm until the Prussians could come to his aid. Napoleon hadbuilt up his army from veterans, disenchanted peasants and conscripts, all hastily trained having been assembled at short notice. His strength lay in his artillery and cavalry, which were greater than Wellington’s.

An account of the Battle of Waterloo was written by Sergeant William Clarke Clapham of the Scotch Greys in a letter to his parents dated 8th July 1815 (HR38M49/1/56/19)

He begins his letter with “My Dearest Parents” followed by a long apology for not being able to write to them and keep them informed of the safety and whereabouts of himself and his brother, Mark, both in the Army. The letter was sent from Camp at Natain outside Paris on 8th July 1815. After this preamble he goes on to describe events “on this ground, which is called the Plains of Waterloo”.

“I term this an awful scene, because it is awful to the thoughts of those who hear of it, and even to myself it is so now; but when a man is in the field of slaughter he has none of those feelings. He is endowed with feelings suitable to the task he has in hand. He sees no honour now he has any time allowed for reflection. Dear Brother Mark and myself lay within two hundred yards of each other that night and could not speak to one another. However I learnt that he was safe, and sent him the pleasing news of my safety.

Day at last began to brighten the eastern skies, and no sooner could the two determined armies distinguish each other, then the ensuing thunder of the guns sounded through the distant woods and plains. Every inch of ground was disputed with firmness on both sides until 10 O’clock A.M. when the French again retired into the Forest of Ardinas. Our noble Duke saw the necessity of drawing the French Army from this forest, which was a secure resource for them. He therefore ordered the British Infantry to be drawn off, and the two Brigades of Heavy Cavalry, together with a Brigade of Horse Artillery and a Troop of Rocketeers to cover their retreat.

They commenced their retreat by the Brussels road, and before the infantry were one mile (which the French thought to be completely beaten) on the road he sent his Curassiers (which are the choice troops of France and clad in armour) to attack the British Cavalry. The attack was furious on both sides, but the French were cut down wherever they came, and forced to retire with great loss. They advanced to attack the Light Cavalry several times on the several hills we passed over, but would not face the heavy (cavalry) that day.

The British Cavalry lost a number of men and horses on this occasion chiefly by a brigade of French artillery which they brought to bear upon our lines. We retreated in this manner skirmishing together about 5 miles; and at last the Duke gained the ground, and advantageous position for which he had been working the whole time. He formed his line with great skill and expedition, and placed his canon ready for their approach; the Rocketeers were placed on the road, and the canon on a hill just over them. The moment the French Army came within their reach they opened a most dreadful fire of canon and rockets upon them. The French were stagnated at our sudden stand, as they thought we were completely put to the route but the British Boys gave it so hot that they were forced to retire out of the reach of our shot.”

Sergeant Clapham continued his letter: “This morning for the first time I saw my Brother Mark. He was permitted by the Colonel to come down the hill to our lines. He found me and we had just time to take a dram out of each others flask (as other warriors do) when the word was given to Arms. We shaked hands and took a more than common farewell with each other – adding at the same time if we were both spared we must be seen to send word to each other as soon as possible after the Battle, which we knew well was to be a serious one.” His brother, Mark, was shot through the arm with a musket ball but survived.

Above (HRO 38M49/1/56/19) Sergeant William Clarke Clapham’s letter to his parents with an account of Waterloo.

Another account of the Battle at Waterloo, by Lieutenant-Colonel Leach of the 95th Rifles, recalls the close fighting that took place (HRO 170A12W/D/0725).

“The fierce onset of the French with overwhelming numbers forced back my two Companies on the main body of the 95th Regiment, and this hillock was also instantly assailed in such a manner as to render it impossible for one weak Battalion, consisting of only six Companies, to stem the torrent for any length of time. We were consequently constrained to fall back on the 32nd Regiment, which was in line near the thorn hedge which runs from the Genape road to the left, and along the front of Picton’s Division.

We were closely pressed and hotly engaged during the retrograde movement, and very soon after reaching the spot where the 32nd was in position, a volley and a charge of bayonets caused the French to recoil in disorder and with a heavy loss; and it was at this moment of fire, smoke and excitement that the Heavy Cavalry of our Army suddenly appeared amongst us, and instantly charged that Infantry which the fire and charge of bayonets from Picton’s Division had previously shattered and broken.”

The recollections of Corporal Aldridge, 2nd Battalion 95th Rifles, written down by a superior officer, Colonel Cawler of the 52nd Regiment, also recounts the excitement of the event (HRO 170A12W/D/0723)

“This Battalion brigaded with the 52nd, 71st and 3rd Battalion 95th; was in reserve during the first part of the action, but suffered
considerably, principally from Artillery. It was afterwards moved up into the front line and relieved Brunswickers in squares. It formed a square and moved to the front of the position. A square of the 52nd was the nearest to it and to the right. Saw no friendly troops to the left; the French were in that direction, and annoyed his Battalion very much. French Cavalry charged close at them, and the left face of the square suffered particularly from grape[shot]. After some time retired behind the position, then one wing behind the other and so formed a four-deep line. 

The French came up in three columns. Their left was obliquely to his left. They rushed forward three times, and came very close to the
Artillery. The Artillerymen left their guns, except two or three who lay down under them. [He] Saw the 52nd move forward to the right of the
2nd 95th and charge those columns. About the same moment Lord Wellington rode up to the 95th and called out ‘Who commands the
95th?’. Colonel Norcott and Major Wilkins had just been wounded, and at first no Officer answered. Then Lieutenant Dixon who commanded
the second company from the right stepped forward. Lord Wellington said ‘Order the 95th to charge’. Lieutenant Dixon then saw that Captain Logan, who commanded the right Company of the line, was in command and gave the order to him. Captain Logan gave the word
‘Forward’ to the Battalion. The Enemy gave way. One Artilleryman who was lying under the Guns jumped up with a match in his hand and let
off two or three that were loaded. His comrades afterwards used to call him Lord Waterloo.”

Wellington described his victory at Waterloo as a ‘damned near-run thing’. The battle was closely fought and either side could have won, but mistakes in communication, leadership and judgement led, ultimately, to French defeat. This defeat ended Napoleon’s hundred days reign, he was exiled to the island of St Helena where he died in 1821.

Post Waterloo I

In Britain and throughout the Commonwealth, Waterloo and Wellington have been commemorated in the names of streets, railways stations, bridges, public houses and parks. The name ‘Waterloo’ itself has entered the English vocabulary; one who has been defeated after a run of success is said to have ‘met their Waterloo’. The pop group Abba’s winning entry in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest was based on this phrase.

In the immediate aftermath of Waterloo there was much celebration throughout the country. Songs, prayers and plays were written and performed in public places, firework displays were organised and an attempt at providing succour to the wounded and maimed through alms giving and public collections.

A ‘form of prayer and proclamation for the victory over the French at Waterloo, 18th June 1815’ was available at 8s 3d for copies (see HRO26M69/PW1). Collections were made in churches for the relief and benefit of the families of those killed in the Battle of Waterloo, 1815 (6 items in HRO21M65/J2/1/9), plus a letter was sent out from the bishop of Winchester to his clergy asking them to read a letter from the King to their parishioners to encourage donations.

Tichborne parish register of baptisms (HRO139M82/PR2) includes a memoranda of collections made for the relief of families of Waterloo soldiers in 1815, with individual contributions by the likes of Robert Tichborne, Reverends Charles Peters and Samuel Strutt along with Mrs Strutt and three children. The parish raised a total of £8.16.2d, which would be the present-day equivalent of £552.00 using the retail price

Above: Poster for a display of fireworks in the yard of the Swan and Castle Inn, Buckingham, by William Cross (HRO 44M69/K3/84).

Families, as well as individual soldiers, were affected by the conflict. A printed appeal for the relief of sufferers at Battle of Waterloo, with a list of donations made inhouse to house collections at Penton Mewsey, in 1815 was distributed. The total collected amounted to £15.13.2d, the equivalent today of £982.00 using the retail price index. (see HRO 114M82/PW4).

At a personal level, a settlement examination of Elizabeth Harriet Marsh, aged 25, of Ringwood, widow, was taken 1st November 1815 (see below). In which she recounts her travels in Hampshire and Dorset looking for work, beginning as an apprentice in Bridport and finally living in Portsea. On 19th December 1814 she married William Marsh, a private in His Majesty’s Twelfth Regiment of Dragoons, but he was killed at the Battle of Waterloo; she believed his mother was living in the city of Leicester. Herexamination shows that she had one child, a daughter called Harriet aged 6 weeks old. Because of her husband’s untimely death she was now chargeable for poor relief to the parish of Ringwood (HRO 22M84/PO113A/20).

The Irish Rebellion and links to France

The revolution in France and Britain’s preoccupation with defeating Napoleon meant that those opposed to British rule in Ireland saw an opportunity to rid themselves of the English in Ireland. On 12th February 1796 Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, who had been exiled in America arrived in Paris, carrying with him a plan to intimidate Britain and reclaim Irish soil. Wolfe Tone sailed from France to invade Ireland with a force of 14,000 French veteran troops under General Hoche, which arrived off the coast of Ireland at Bantry Bay in December 1796. However, due to bad weather and indecisive leadership the invasion failed and the French fleet was forced to return home. Wolfe Tone was convicted of treason for his failed invasion, but took his own life rather than face the British gallows.

The British government responded to the threat of Irish insurrection and widespread disorders by launching a counter-campaign of martial law from 2 March 1798. On May 23rd, 1798, the Irish Rebellion broke out. Undaunted by their initial attempt at invasion alongside Wolf Tone and buoyed by the Irish unrest, a French expeditionary force was sent to County Mayo to assist in the rebellion against Britain in the
summer of 1798. It had some success against British forces, most notably at Castlebar, but was ultimately routed while trying to reach Dublin. French ships sent to assist them were captured by the Royal Navy off County Donegal.

A document marked ‘Secret’ (HRO 19M61/4394), was sent by the Commissioners at the Admiralty Office, alerting naval officers of an impending threat by French armed forces to support the Irish cause.

Whereas we have ordered Vice Admiral Sir Charles Thompson to receive on board the ships named in the margin such troops as may be at Portsmouth destined for Ireland, and to proceed with them as expeditiously as possible off Waterford, and having disembarked them at that place to repair with the ships of the line above mentioned and cruise off Cape Clear for the purpose of intercepting any supplies of men, arms and ammunition which the Enemy may attempt to convey to Ireland for the use of the Rebels…In case however the Enemy’s squadron should be accompanied by transports, you are to direct the Vice Admiral to use every means in his power to destroy or disable the vessels of that description, before he attacks the Ships of War.

The threat of French assistance to the Irish rebels continued throughout the year and another circular letter (HRO 19M61/4394) was sent, in triplicate, from the Admiralty Office on 24th September 1798, to Captain Faulkner of the ship HMS Diana at Belfast stating that:

Accounts having been received that a squadron consisting either of two ships of the line & seven frigates, or of one ship of the line and eight frigates, had sailed from Brest on the 17th destined, as supposed, for the coast of Ireland. I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you therewith, and to signify their direction to you to proceed without a moments delay with the ship you command and those now with you off Killala Bay, where you may expect to be reinforced by the ships on the northern coast, and others which may be sent to you by Vice Admiral Kingsmill, and use your best endeavours to take or destroy the Enemy’s ships if they should appear upon that part of the coast.

The above was subsequently updated with intelligence to show that ‘The squadron consisted of one Ship of the Line, eight frigates and an armed schooner and appeared to be full of troops’.

Broadsheets like the one above (HRO 21M57/A43/69) are evidence of France’s continuing allegiance to the Irish cause during the revolutionary period.

The range of printed ephemera available within the Archives to illustrate the Irish Rebellion and show links with France is extensive, including “Rebellion Laws to be considered in Parliament Session 1802” (HRO 38M49/5/2), and not least in the collected papers of Charles Agar, 1st Earl of Normanton (1736-1809), which includes orders, reports, broadsheets etc (printed) about the rebellion and its aftermath (HRO21M57/A42-43).

Charles Agar, 1st Earl of Normanton, was an Anglo-Irish Protestant clergyman. Agar had a distinguished career in the Chruch in Ireland, he served as Dean of Kilmore (1765–1768) and Bishop of Cloyne (1768–1779). In 1779 he was admitted to the Irish Privy Council and appointed Archbishop of Cashel, an office he held until 1801, and was then Archbishop of Dublin from 1801 to 1809.

Agar witnessed the uprisings and rebellion of the 1790s. He created personal papers about the Irish army, mostly as manuscript notes. Subjects include augmentation of the army c1768-9; sending troops to America; and the Mutiny Bill 1780 (HRO21M57/A3). His papers also cover the French Revolution and Revolutionary Wars, including news of the French invasion 25th August 1796.

Above: example of a printed ‘news’ notice issued from Dublin Castle about the French forces that landed in Ireland in 1796, from the collection of records associated with Charles Agar (HRO 21M57/A3).

Sourced and Credits to Hants.Gov

The Fovant Badges

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Jul 132020

The Fovant Badges

Fovant Badges High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

“My Badge”

When the rag was a flag, and the staff was a Pole, As a youth I would think of when they were whole.

But now I’m a man and old I might be. But my BADGE is still here for all to see.

By fellow Rifleman

P. Pickford

The Fovant Badges are a set of regimental badges cut into a chalk hill, Fovant Down, near Fovant, in southwest Wiltshire, England. They are located between Salisbury and Shaftesbury on the A30 road in the Nadder valley; or approximately 1⁄2 mile (800 m) southeast of Fovant. They were created by soldiers garrisoned nearby, and waiting to go to France, during the First World War; the first in 1916. They are clearly visible from the A30 road which runs through the village. Nine of the original twenty remain, and are scheduled ancient monuments and recognised by the Imperial War Museum as war memorials.

Further badges have been added more recently.

The Fovant Badge Society holds an annual Drumhead Service which is attended by the Australian High Commissioner, local mayors and members of parliament. These services fund the upkeep of the badges.

After the outlines were cut into the grass-covered hillsides, they were refilled with chalk brought from a nearby slope, up to 50 tons per badge. The badges took an average fifty men six months to complete.

Current badges

Reading left to right (north-east to south-west), the badges at Fovant are:

Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (only central part remaining)

YMCA, restored in 2018.

6th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (City of London Rifles) (claimed to be the first of the badges cut here).

Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (the largest, 51m×32m)

Royal Corps of Signals (cut in 1970 to commemorate the Corps’ 50th anniversary)

Wiltshire Regiment (added in 1950)

5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade)

8th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)

Devonshire Regiment

Centenary badge

To commemorate the centenary of the first badge, created in 1916, a badge in the shape of a poppy, to represent the poppies that grew in “Flanders Fields” has been created.

Lost badges

Several of the lost badges were short lived, small and crudely constructed.

Royal Army Service Corps

Royal Army Medical Corps, possibly on the site of where Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry is now.

Machine Gun Corps

Queen Victoria’s Rifles

35th Training Battalion


Post Office Rifles ‘POR’ letters, possibly there prior to the current Post Office Rifles figure.

7th Battalion of the City of London Regiment (there is also a figure for this Regiment in Sutton Mandeville)

9th Royal Berkshire Regiment

37th Training Battalion

Voluntary Aid Detachment

The previously unrestored military badge at Sutton Down of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was restored during 2017 and spring 2018 by volunteers of the Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust. It was supported by a grant from the National Lottery and the restored badge was inaugurated on 3 May 2018 by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the successor to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. (51.042847°N 2.024854°W)

The nearby badge of 7th Battalion, The London Regiment remains un-restored. (51.042226°N 2.022386°W)

After more than twenty years of neglect the outline map of Australia on Compton Down was restored during 2018/19 by a local voluntary group called the Map of Australia Trust (MOAT). This unique hill figure was created by Australian troops garrisoned in Hurdcott Camp in the fields below the map training and awaiting transport to the battlefields.

The map is a Scheduled Monument. (51.061816°N 1.939990°W)

On 25 April 2019, Anzac Day, a remembrance service was held on the Map of Australia to serve as a commissioning of the recent restoration of the map and to honour the Australian troops who had been accommodated locally. The service was attended by over 100 people including the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton, the deputy Australian High Commissioner, Matt Anderson, and travelling from Australia, the daughter of a soldier who was at the Hurdcott Camp recovering from war wounds.

On Lamb Down, on the north side of the A36 between Codford and the Deptford interchange and about 9 miles north by west of Fovant, is a cutting of the Australian Commonwealth Military Force badge, it is less detailed than the one at Fovant. ? It was cut in 1916–1917. (51.064944°N 1.79738°W)

Near Barford St Martin, at the eastern end of the Fovant Encampment, was formerly the Finsbury Rifles badge. Little is known of this figure.
About 20 miles from the Fovant Badges, at Bulford Camp, is the Bulford Kiwi, another military hill figure (though not a badge).

Sourced from Wikipedia 

Picture by By Alamy Sock Photo

The Royal Marines

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Jul 102020

The Royal Marines

The Corps of Royal Marines (RM) is an amphibious light infantry and also one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. The marines can trace their origins back to the formation of the English Army’s “Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of Foot” at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company on 28 October 1664.

As a highly specialised and adaptable light infantry force, the Royal Marines are trained for rapid deployment worldwide and capable of dealing with a wide range of threats. The Royal Marines are organised into a light infantry brigade (3 Commando Brigade) and a number of separate units, including 47 Commando (Raiding Group) Royal Marines, and a company strength commitment to the Special Forces Support Group. The Corps operates in all environments and climates, though particular expertise and training is spent on amphibious warfare, arctic warfare, mountain warfare, expeditionary warfare, and its commitment to the UK’s Rapid Reaction Forces.

Throughout its history, the Royal Marines have seen action in a number of major wars often fighting beside the British Army – including the Seven Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, World War I and World War II. In recent times the Corps has been largely deployed in expeditionary warfare roles such as the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the Kosovo War, the Sierra Leone Civil War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The Royal Marines have close international ties with allied marine forces, particularly the United States Marine Corps and the Netherlands Marine Corps (Dutch: Korps Mariniers). Today, the Royal Marines are an elite fighting force within the British Armed forces, having undergone many substantial changes over time.

History of the Royal Marines

The Royal Marines traces its origins back to 28 October 1664 when at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company “the Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of foot” was first formed.

Early British Empire

On 5 April 1755, His Majesty’s Marine Forces, fifty Companies in three Divisions, headquartered at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, were formed by Order of Council under Admiralty control.

Initially all field officers were Royal Navy officers as the Royal Navy felt that the ranks of Marine field officers were largely honorary. This meant that the furthest a Marine officer could advance was to lieutenant colonel. It was not until 1771 that the first Marine was promoted to colonel. This attitude persisted well into the 1800s. During the rest of the 18th century, they served in numerous landings all over the world, the most famous being the landing at Belle Île on the Brittany coast in 1761.

They also served in the American War of Independence, notably in the Battle of Bunker Hill led by Major John Pitcairn.

In 1788 a detachment of four companies of marines, under Major Robert Ross, accompanied the First Fleet to protect a new colony at Botany Bay (New South Wales). Due to an error the Fleet left Portsmouth without its main supply of ammunition, and were not resupplied until the Fleet docked in Rio de Janeiro midway through the voyage. Scholars such as Christopher Warren and Seth Carus argue that the Marines deliberately spread smallpox among Australia’s indigenous population in order to protect the settlement and respond to an overwhelming strategic threat. This incident does not appear in contemporaneous Marine or government records. Major Ross lost his papers during the shipwreck of HMS Sirius. Some researchers associate the indigenous smallpox outbreak with other causes.

In 1802, largely at the instigation of Admiral the Earl St Vincent, they were titled the Royal Marines by King George III. The Royal Marines Artillery (RMA) was formed as a separate unit in 1804 to man the artillery in bomb ketches. These had been manned by the Army’s Royal Regiment of Artillery, but a lawsuit by a Royal Artillery officer resulted in a court decision that Army officers were not subject to Naval orders. As RMA uniforms were the blue of the Royal Regiment of Artillery they were nicknamed the “Blue Marines” and the infantry element, who wore the scarlet uniforms of the British infantry, became known as the “Red Marines”, often given the semi-derogatory nickname “Lobsters” by sailors.A fourth division of the Royal Marines, headquartered at Woolwich, was formed in 1805.

During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Marines participated in every notable naval battle on board the Royal Navy’s ships and also took part in multiple amphibious actions. Marines had a dual function aboard ships of the Royal Navy in this period; routinely, they ensured the security of the ship’s officers and supported their maintenance of discipline in the ship’s crew, and in battle, they engaged the enemy’s crews, whether firing from positions on their own ship, or fighting in boarding actions. In the Caribbean theatre volunteers from freed French slaves on Marie-Galante were used to form Sir Alexander Cochrane’s first Corps of Colonial Marines. These men bolstered the ranks, helping the British to hold the island until reinforcements arrived. This practice was repeated during the War of 1812, where escaped American slaves were formed into Cochrane’s second Corps of Colonial Marines. These men were commanded by Royal Marines officers and fought alongside their regular Royal Marines counterparts at the Battle of Bladensburg. Throughout the war Royal Marines units raided up and down the east coast of America including up the Penobscot River and in the Chesapeake Bay. They fought in the Battle of New Orleans and later helped capture Fort Bowyer in Mobile Bay in what was the last action of the war.

In 1855 the infantry forces were renamed the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI). During the Crimean War in 1854 and 1855, three Royal Marines earned the Victoria Cross, two in the Crimea and one in the Baltic. In 1862 the name was slightly altered to Royal Marine Light Infantry. The Royal Navy did not fight any other ships after 1850 and became interested in landings by Naval Brigades. In these Naval Brigades, the function of the Royal Marines was to land first and act as skirmishers ahead of the sailor infantry and artillery. This skirmishing was the traditional function of light infantry. For most of their history, British Marines had been organised as fusiliers. In the rest of the 19th Century the Royal Marines served in many landings especially in the First and Second Opium Wars (1839–1842 and 1856–1860) against the Chinese. These were all successful except for the landing at the Mouth of the Peiho in 1859, where Admiral Sir James Hope ordered a landing across extensive mud flats.

The Royal Marines also played a prominent role in the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900), where a Royal Marine earned a Victoria Cross.

Status and roles

Through much of the 18th and 19th centuries Marine officers had a lower standing status than their counterparts in the Royal Navy. A short-lived effort was made in 1907, through the common entry or “Selborne scheme”, to reduce the professional differences between RN and RM officers through a system of common entry that provided for an initial period of shared training.

By the early twentieth century the Royal Marines had achieved a high professional status, although there was a serious shortage of junior officers. Numbering about 15,000 during the Edwardian era, enlistment for other ranks was for at least 12 years, with entitlement to a pension after 21 years of service. After basic training new recruits were assigned to one of three land-based divisions and from there to warships as vacancies arose.

From 1908 onwards one gun turret on each battleship was manned by RMA gunners. The RMLI continued their traditional role of providing landing parties and shore-based detachments. Specialist positions on board ship, such as postmen, barbers, lamp trimmers and butchers, were reserved for Royal Marines. After 1903 the Royal Marines provided bands for service on board battleships and other large vessels.

First World War

During the First World War, in addition to their usual stations aboard ship, Royal Marines were part of the Royal Naval Division which landed in Belgium in 1914 to help defend Antwerp and later took part in the amphibious landing at Gallipoli in 1915. It also served on the Western Front. The Division’s first two commanders were Royal Marine Artillery Generals. Other Royal Marines acted as landing parties in the Naval campaign against the Turkish fortifications in the Dardanelles before the Gallipoli landing. They were sent ashore to assess damage to Turkish fortifications after bombardment by British and French ships and, if necessary, to complete their destruction. The Royal Marines were the last to leave Gallipoli, replacing both British and French troops in a neatly planned and executed withdrawal from the beaches.

The Royal Marines also took part in the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. Five Royal Marines earned the Victoria Cross in the First World War, two at Zeebrugge, one at Gallipoli, one at Jutland and one on the Western Front.

Between the wars

After the war Royal Marines took part in the allied intervention in Russia. In 1919, the 6th Battalion RMLI mutinied and was disbanded at Murmansk. The Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) and Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) were amalgamated on 22 June 1923. Post-war demobilisation had seen the Royal Marines reduced from 55,000 (1918) to 15,000 in 1922 and there was Treasury pressure for a further reduction to 6,000 or even the entire disbandment of the Corps. As a compromise an establishment of 9,500 was settled upon but this meant that two separate branches could no longer be maintained. The abandonment of the Marine’s artillery role meant that the Corps would subsequently have to rely on Royal Artillery support when ashore, that the title of Royal Marines would apply to the entire Corps and that only a few specialists would now receive gunnery training. As a form of consolation the dark blue and red uniform of the Royal Marine Artillery now became the full dress of the entire Corps. Royal Marine officers and SNCO’s however continue to wear the historic scarlet in mess dress to the present day. The ranks of private, used by the RMLI, and gunner, used by the RMA, were abolished and replaced by the rank of Marine.

Second World War 

During the Second World War, a small party of Royal Marines were first ashore at Namsos in April 1940, seizing the approaches to the Norwegian town preparatory to a landing by the British Army two days later. The Royal Marines formed the Royal Marine Division as an amphibiously trained division, parts of which served at Dakar and in the capture of Madagascar. After the assault on the French naval base at Antsirane in Madagascar was held up, fifty Sea Service Royal Marines from HMS Ramilles commanded by Captain Martin Price were landed on the quay of the base by the British destroyer HMS Anthony after it ran the gauntlet of French shore batteries defending Diego Suarez Bay. They then captured two of the batteries, which led to a quick surrender by the French.

In addition the Royal Marines formed Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisations (MNBDOs) similar to the United States Marine Corps Defense Battalions. One of these took part in the defence of Crete. Royal Marines also served in Malaya and in Singapore, where due to losses they were joined with remnants of the 2nd Battalion of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Tyersall Park to form the “Plymouth Argylls”.

The Royal Marines formed one Commando (A Commando) which served at Dieppe. One month after Dieppe, most of the 11th Royal Marine Battalion was killed or captured in an ill staged amphibious landing at Tobruk in Operation Agreement. Again, the Marines were involved with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, this time the 1st Battalion. In 1942 the Infantry Battalions of the Royal Marine Division were re-organised as Commandos, joining the British Army Commandos. The Division command structure became a Special Service Brigade command. The support troops became landing craft crew and saw extensive action on D-Day in June 1944.

A total of four Special Service Brigades (redesignated Commando brigades in December 1944 as the “SS” abbreviation was unpopular) were raised during the war, and Royal Marines were represented in all of them. A total of nine RM Commandos (Battalions) were raised during the war, numbered from 40 to 48. 1 Commando Brigade had just one RM Battalion, No 45 Commando. 2 Commando Brigade had two RM battalions, Nos 40 and 43 Commandos. 3 Commando Brigade also had two, Nos 42 and 44 Commandos. 4 Commando Brigade was entirely Royal Marine after March 1944, comprising Nos 41, 46, 47 and 48 Commandos. 1 Commando Brigade took part in first in the Tunisia Campaign and then assaults on Sicily and Normandy, campaigns in the Rhineland and crossing the Rhine. 2 Commando Brigade was involved in the Salerno landings, Anzio, Comacchio, and operations in the Argenta Gap. 3 Commando Brigade served in Sicily and Burma. 4 Commando Brigade served in the Battle of Normandy and in the Battle of the Scheldt on the island of Walcheren during the clearing of Antwerp.

In January 1945, two further RM Brigades were formed, 116th Brigade and 117th Brigade. Both were conventional Infantry, rather than in the Commando role. 116th Brigade saw some action in the Netherlands, but 117th Brigade was hardly used operationally. In addition one Landing Craft Assault (LCA) unit was stationed in Australia late in the war as a training unit. In 1946 the Army Commandos were disbanded, leaving the Royal Marines to continue the Commando role (with supporting Army elements). A number of Royal Marines served as pilots during the Second World War. It was a Royal Marines officer who led the attack by a formation of Blackburn Skuas that sank the Königsberg. Eighteen Royal Marines commanded Fleet Air Arm squadrons during the course of the war, and with the formation of the British Pacific Fleet were well-represented in the final drive on Japan. Captains and Majors generally commanded squadrons, whilst in one case Lt Colonel R.C. Hay on HMS Indefatigable was Air Group Co-ordinator from HMS Victorious of the entire British Pacific Fleet.

Throughout the war Royal Marines continued in their traditional role of providing ships detachments and manning a proportion of the guns on Cruisers and Capital Ships. They also provided the crew for the UK’s Minor Landing craft, and the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group manned Centaur IV tanks on D Day; one of these is still on display at Pegasus Bridge.

Only one Marine (Corporal Thomas Peck Hunter of 43 Commando) was awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War for action at Lake Comacchio in Italy. Hunter was the most recent RM Commando to be awarded the medal. The Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment under Blondie Haslar carried out Operation Frankton and provided the basis for the post-war continuation of the SBS.

Post-colonial era

The Corps underwent a notable change after 1945 however, when the Royal Marines took on the main responsibility for the role and training of the British Commandos. The Royal Marines have an illustrious history, and since their creation in 1942 Royal Marines Commandos have engaged on active operations across the globe, every year, except 1968. Notably they were the first ever military unit to perform an air assault insertion by helicopter, during the Suez Crisis in 1956. They were also part of the land element during the 1982 Falklands War.

Cold War

During the Cold War the Royal Marines were earmarked to reinforce NATO’s northernmost command Allied Forces North Norway. Therefore, 3 Commando Brigade began to train annually in Northern Norway and had large stores of vehicles and supplies pre-positioned there. At the end of the Cold War in 1989 the structure of the Royal Marines was as follows:

Commandant General Royal Marines, London

3 Commando Brigade, Plymouth

40 Commando, Taunton

42 Commando, Bickleigh

45 Commando, Arbroath

29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, Plymouth, one battery in Arbroath, (18× L118 light guns)

4 Assault Squadron, Plymouth (4× LCU Mk.9, 4× LCVP Mk.4, 2× Centurion BARV), served aboard HMS Fearless (L10)

539 Assault Squadron, Plymouth (4× LCU Mk.9, 4× LCVP Mk.4, 2× Centurion BARV), served aboard HMS Intrepid (L11)

59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers, Plymouth, one troop in Arbroath

3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton, (12× Gazelle AH.1, 6× Lynx AH.1)

2 Raiding Squadron, Royal Marines (Reserve), Plymouth

131 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers (V), Plymouth

289 Commando Battery, Royal Artillery (V), Plymouth (6× L118 light guns)

Special Boat Service, Poole, under operational control of United Kingdom Special Forces

Comacchio Group, HMNB Clyde, guarded HMNB Clyde and the UK’s naval nuclear weapons stored at RNAD Coulport

Royal Marines Police, Plymouth

Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone

Royal Marines Band Service RMSoM, Deal

Royal Marines Reserve

RMR Plymouth, Plymouth

RMR Bristol, Bristol

RMR London, Wandsworth

RMR Merseyside, Liverpool

RMR Scotland, Edinburgh

RMR Tyne, Newcastle

“(V)” denotes British Army reserve units.


The Royal Marines are part of the Naval Service and under the full command of Fleet Commander. The rank structure of the corps is similar to that of the British Army with officers and other ranks recruited and initially trained separately from other naval personnel. Since 2017 women have been able to serve in all roles in the Royal Marines. On average, 1,200 recruits attend training courses at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines every year.

At its height in 1944 during the Second World War, more than 70,000 people served in the Royal Marines. Following the Allied victory the Royal Marines were quickly reduced to a post-war strength of 13,000. When National Service finally came to an end in 1960, the Marines were again reduced, but this time to an all Commando-trained force of 9,000 personnel. As of October 2014 the Royal Marines had a strength of 7,760 Regular and 750 Royal Marines Reserve, giving a combined component strength of around 8,510 personnel. The Royal Marines are the only European marine force capable of conducting amphibious operations at brigade level.

List of equipment of the Royal Marines

Infantry The basic infantry weapon of the Royal Marines is the L85A2 assault rifle, sometimes fitted with the L123A3 underslung grenade launcher. Support fire is provided by the L110A1 light machine gun,[the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and the L111A1 heavy machine gun (which is often mounted on an armoured vehicle); indirect fire by the L16A2 81mm mortar. Sniper rifles used include the L115A3, produced by Accuracy International. More recently the L129A1 has come into service as the designated marksman rifle. Other weapons include the Javelin Anti-Tank missile, the L131A1 pistol and the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife. The Royal Marines will replace all their L85 rifles with a variant of the L119, a variant of the C8SFW.

Armour The Royal Marines maintain no heavy armoured units, instead, they operate a fleet of lightly armoured and highly mobile vehicles intended for amphibious landings or rapid deployment. The primary armoured fighting vehicle operated by the Armoured Support Group is the BvS 10 Viking All Terrain Armoured Vehicle. Other, lighter vehicles include the Land Rover Wolf Armoured Patrol Vehicle, the Jackal (MWMIK) Armoured Vehicle and the Pinzgauer High Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle.

Artillery Field artillery support is provided by 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery of the British Army using the L118 Light Gun, a 105 mm towed howitzer. The regiment is Commando-trained.

Aviation The Commando Helicopter Force of the Fleet Air Arm provides transport helicopters in support of the Royal Marines. It currently uses both Merlin HC4/4A medium-lift transport and Wildcat AH1 attack helicopters to provide direct aviation support for the Corps. In addition, the Royal Air Force provides Chinook heavy-lift and Puma HC2 medium-lift transport helicopters.

Vessels The Royal Marines operate a varied fleet of military watercraft designed to transport troops and materiel from ship to shore or conduct river or estuary patrols. These include the 2000TDX Landing Craft Air Cushion, the Mk10 Landing Craft Utility, the Mk5 Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel and the SDV Mk8 Mod 1 Swimmer Delivery Vehicle for special forces. Other smaller amphibious craft such as the Offshore Raiding Craft, Rigid Raider and Inflatable Raiding Craft are in service in much greater numbers.

Formation and Structure

The overall head of the Royal Marines is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in her role as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. The ceremonial head of the Royal Marines is the Captain General Royal Marines (equivalent to the Colonel-in-Chief of a British Army regiment). Full Command of the Royal Marines is vested in the Fleet Commander (FLTCDR) with the Commandant General Royal Marines, a major-general, embedded within the Navy Command Headquarters (NCHQ) as Commander UK Amphibious Force (COMUKAMPHIBFOR).

The operational capability of the corps comprises a number of battalion-plus sized units, of which five are designated as “commandos”:

Commando Infantry

40 Commando, Royal Marines (known as Forty Commando) based at Norton Manor Barracks, Taunton, Somerset, England

42 Commando, Royal Marines (known as Four Two Commando) based at Bickleigh Barracks, Plymouth, Devon, England

45 Commando, Royal Marines (known as Four Five Commando) based at RM Condor, Arbroath, Angus, Scotland

Maritime Security

43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, Royal Marines based at HM Naval Base Clyde, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute (previously Comacchio Group).

Intelligence, Surveillance and Target Acquisition

30 Commando (Information Exploitation) Group, Royal Marines[59] based at Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth

Raiding and Assault

47 Commando (Raiding Group), Royal Marines based at RM Tamar, Devonport (previously 1 Assault Group RM)

Royal Marines Armoured Support Group (RMASG) is an element of the Royal Marines that operates the Viking BvS 10 All Terrain Vehicle. It is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, and is part of 539 Raiding Squadron.

Logistic Support

Commando Logistic Regiment based at RM Chivenor, Devon

Special Forces

Special Boat Service based at RM Poole, Dorset (although Full Command is retained by CINCFLEET, Operational Command of SBS RM is assigned to Director Special Forces).

With the exception of the 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group and Commando Logistic Regiment, which are each commanded by a full colonel, each of these units is commanded by a lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Marines, who may have sub-specialised in a number of ways throughout their career.

3 Commando Brigade

Operational command of the five commandos and the Commando Logistics Regiment is delegated to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, of which they are a part. Based at Stonehouse Barracks, the brigade exercises control as directed by either CINCFLEET or the Permanent Joint Headquarters. As the main combat formation of the Royal Marines, the brigade has its own organic capability to it in the field, 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group, a battalion sized formation providing information operations capabilities, life support and security for the Brigade Headquarters.

43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, responsible for the security of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent and other security-related duties was originally outside the brigade, but was incorporated into it from April 2012. It also provides specialist boarding parties and snipers for the Royal Navy worldwide, for roles such as embargo enforcement, counter-narcotics, counter-piracy and counter-insurgency activities of the Royal Navy. It is the largest unit in the brigade, at 790 strong.

The independent elements of the Royal Marines are:

Commando Training Centre: This is the training unit for the entire corps, and consists of three separate sections:

Commando Training Wing: This is the initial basic commando training section for new recruits to the Royal Marines, and the UK Forces All Arms Commando Course.

Specialist Wing: This provides specialist training in the various trades which Marines may elect to join once qualified and experienced in a Rifle Company.

Command Wing: This provides command training for both officers and NCOs of the Royal Marines.

47 Commando (Raiding Group) Royal Marines: Provides training in the use of landing craft and boats, and also serves as a parent unit for the three assault squadrons permanently embarked on the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships.

4 Assault Squadron—HMS Bulwark

Special Boat Service (SBS) are naval special forces and under operational command of Director Special Forces, UK Special Forces Group. It is commanded by a lieutenant colonel qualified as a swimmer canoeist. SBS responsibilities include water-borne operations, maritime counter-terrorism and other special forces tasks.

Royal Marines Band Service provides regular bands for the Royal Navy and provides expertise to train RN Volunteer Bands. Musicians have an important secondary roles as medics, field hospital orderlies, CBRN specialists and any other roles that may be required of them. Personnel may not be commando trained, usually wearing the dark blue beret instead of green; until 2017, the band service was the only branch of the Royal Marines to admit women.

Commando 21

40 and 45 Commando are each organised into six companies, further organised into platoon-sized troops, as follows:

Command company

Main HQ

Tactical HQ

Reconnaissance Troop with a sniper section

Mortar Troop

Anti-Tank (AT) Troop

Medium Machine Gun Troop

2× Close Combat Companies

Company Headquarters

3× Close Combat Troops

2× Stand Off Companies

Company Headquarters

Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) Troop

AT Troop

Close Combat Troop.

Logistic Company

A Echelon 1

A Echelon 2

FRT (Forward Repair Team)

RAP (Regimental Aid Post)

B Echelon

In general a rifle company Marine will be a member of a four-man fire team, the building block of commando operations. A Royal Marine works with their team in the field and shares accommodation if living in barracks. This structure is a recent development, formerly Commandos were structured similarly to British Army light Infantry Battalions.

Amphibious Task Group

Formerly known as the Amphibious Ready Group, the Amphibious Task Group (or ATG) is a mobile, balanced amphibious warfare force, based on a Commando Group and its supporting assets, that can be kept at high readiness to deploy into an area of operations. The ATG is normally based around specialist amphibious ships, most notably HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the British fleet. Ocean was designed and built to accommodate an embarked commando and its associated stores and equipment. The strategy of the ATG is to wait “beyond the horizon” and then deploy swiftly as directed by HM Government. The whole amphibious force is intended to be self-sustaining and capable of operating without host-nation support. The concept was successfully tested in operations in Sierra Leone.

Commando Helicopter Force

The Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) forms part of the Fleet Air Arm. It comprises three helicopter squadrons and is commanded by the Joint Helicopter Command.[66] It consists of both Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines personnel. RN personnel need not be commando trained. The CHF is neither under the permanent control of 3 Commando Brigade nor that of the Commandant General Royal Marines, but rather is allocated to support Royal Marines units as required. It uses both Merlin HC4/4A medium-lift and Wildcat AH1 light transport/reconnaissance helicopters to provide aviation support for the Royal Marines.

Commando Forces 2030, Maritime Operations Commando & Future Commando Force

On 11 April 2017 the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, announced that the Royal Marines were to be restructured. The Royal Marines will be able to deploy a specialist Maritime Operations Commando from the three combat units as part of the Commando Forces 2030 strategy. A Future Commando Force (FCF) programme has been set up under Navy Command to create the staff and intellectual horsepower for a land littoral strike division programme. An example of the FCF was depicted by young engineering graduates from the UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology forum (UKNEST).

There will be two Littoral Response Groups: One based East of Suez, one based in the High North.
On 27 June 2020, the Royal Marines announced they will adopt a new uniform with the MultiCam camoflauge instead of the MTP camo.

Selection and training

Royal Marines are required to undergo one of the longest and most physically demanding specialist infantry training regimes in the world. Recruit training lasts for 32 weeks for Marines and 60 weeks for officers. Potential recruits must be aged 16 to 32 (18 to 25 for Commissioned Officers) and must undertake a series of interviews, medical tests, an eye/sight test, psychometric tests and a PJFT (Pre-joining fitness test). As of late 2018 there is no restriction on women joining the Royal Marines.

Once a potential recruit passes these, enlisted recruits undertake a 3-day selection course called PRMC (Potential Royal Marine Course) and potential officers undertake POC (Potential Officer Course) – both take place at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) in Lympstone, Devon. Officers must also take the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB). Upon passing the 3-day course, recruits then start basic recruit training (RT) at CTCRM. A large proportion of training is carried out on Dartmoor’s inhospitable terrain and Woodbury Common woodland.

Throughout the recruit training, Royal Marines learn and develop many military skills such as weapons handling, marksmanship and proficiency with different firearms, personal administration, marching and parade ground skills, map reading and navigation, physical fitness and mental toughness development, fieldcraft skills such as camouflage and stalking, basic survival techniques, patrolling and sentry duty development, unarmed and armed close quarters combat (CQC), first aid, underwater escape, chemical biological radiological nuclear (CBRN) training, military communications and signals, teamwork skills, amphibious landings training, and leadership skills for officers to name a few.

The best recruit to finish training is awarded the Kings Badge. King George V directed that his Royal Cypher, surrounded by a laurel wreath, would be known as the King’s Badge, and would be awarded to the best all round recruit in the King’s Squad, provided that he was worthy of the honour. The badge was to be carried on the left shoulder, and worn in every rank. The King’s Badge is not awarded to every squad, and is only presented if a recruit measures up to the very exacting standards required.

Throughout their career, a Marine can specialise in a number of different roles upon completion of their respective courses after spending 1–2 years as a general duties (GD) Marine. Examples of some specialisations and different courses includes the mountain leader (ML), physical training instructor (PTI), Assault Engineer (AE), Royal Marines police (RMP), sniper (S), medical assistant (MA), pilot, reconnaissance operator (RO), drill instructor (DL), driver (D), clerk (C), signaller (SI), combat intelligence (CI), armourer (A), and heavy weapons (HW). Royal Marines can also apply for swimmer canoeist/Special Boat Service selection (SBS) or any other branch of the UKSF. All Royal Marines will also conduct training exercises on differing military skills on a regular basis including development in mountain, arctic, jungle, amphibious and desert warfare. They can also be involved in exchange training programs with other countries’ forces – particularly the United States Marine Corps and the Netherlands Marine Corps/Korps Mariniers.


The Royal Marines Museum (established in October 1958) is an institution dedicated to the history of the Royal Marines. In 2011, it became part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which has since been the executive public body of the museum in the Ministry of Defence. It will soon be moving from Eastney Barracks to Portsmouth Dockyard.

Customs and traditions

The Royal Marines have a proud history and unique traditions. With the exceptions of “Gibraltar” and the laurel wreath for the Battle of Belle Island, their colours (flags) do not carry battle honours in the manner of the regiments of the British Army or of the US Marine Corps, but rather the “globe itself” as a symbol of the Corps.

The heraldic crest of the Royal Marines commemorates the history of the Corps. The Lion and Crown denotes a Royal regiment. King George III conferred this honour in 1802 “in consideration of the very meritorious services of the Marines in the late war.” The “Great Globe itself” was chosen in 1827 by King George IV in place of Battle honours to recognise the Marines’ service and successes in multiple engagements in every quarter of the world. The laurels are believed to honour the gallantry they displayed during the investment and capture of Belle Isle, off Lorient, in April–June 1761. The word Gibraltar refers to the Capture of Gibraltar by a force of Anglo-Dutch Marines in 1704 and the subsequent defence of the strategic fortress throughout a nine-month siege against a numerically superior Franco-Spanish force. Their determination and valour throughout the siege led to a contemporary report published in The Triumphs of Her Majesty’s Arms in 1707 to announce:

Encouraged by the Prince of Hesse, the garrison did more than could humanly be expected, and the English Marines gained an immortal glory

— referred to by Paul Harris Nicolas, Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces

There are no other battle honours displayed on the colours of the four battalion-sized units of the current Corps. The Latin motto “Per Mare Per Terram” translates into English as “By Sea By Land”. Believed to have been first used in 1775, this motto describes the Royal Marines ability in fighting both afloat on-board ships of the Royal Navy as well as ashore in their many land engagements. The fouled anchor, incorporated into the emblem in 1747, is the badge of the Lord High Admiral, and shows that the Corps is part of the Naval Service.

The regimental quick march of the Corps is “A Life on the Ocean Wave”, while the slow march is the march of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, awarded to the Corps by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma on the occasion of the Corps’s tercentenary in 1964. Lord Mountbatten was Life Colonel Commandant of the Royal Marines until his murder by the IRA in 1979.

The Royal Marines are allowed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London to march through the City as a regiment in full array. This dates to the charter of Charles II that allowed recruiting parties of the Admiral’s Regiment of 1664 to enter the City with drums beating and colours flying.


The modern Royal Marines retain a number of distinctive uniform items. These include the green “Lovat” service dress worn with the green beret, the dark blue parade dress worn with either the white Wolseley Pattern Helmet (commonly referred to as “pith helmet”) or white and red peaked cap, the scarlet and blue mess dress for officers and senior non-commissioned officers and the white hot-weather uniform of the Band Service.

Associations with other regiments and marines corps

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Early connections date from Balaclava in the Crimean War and Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, but the main association stems from World War II. In July 1940, after the fall of Dunkirk, the 5th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders served with the Royal Marine Brigade for over a year. When the battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were sunk in December 1941, the Royal Marines survivors joined up with the remnants of the 2nd Battalion, in the defence of Singapore. They formed what became known as ‘The Plymouth Argylls’, after the association football team, since both ships were Plymouth manned. Most of the Highlanders and Marines who survived the bitter fighting were taken prisoner by the Japanese.

The Royal Marines inter-unit rugby football trophy is the ‘Argyll Bowl’, presented to the Corps by the Regiment in 1941.

Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment

The fore-bearer regiments of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot was initially raised as amphibious troops. They served as Marines for a period. To this day one officer from the Royal Marines serves with the PWRR and Vice Versa. Also the Royal Marine Lanyard is worn by all ranks in Service Dress and Number 2 Dress uniform and barrack dress of PWRR.

Barbados Defence Force

Close links have existed between the Royal Marines and the Barbados Defence Force since 1985 when a bond was established following a series of cross-training exercises in the Caribbean. The Alliance was approved by HM the Queen in 1992.

Netherlands Marine Corps

The Royal Marines have close links with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, with whom they conduct NATO exercises throughout the year. Formed during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in 1665, the Dutch Marines distinguished themselves in raids on the English coast, where it is likely they met their future counterparts.

Units of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps work in close co-operation with 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines. Operational units of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps are fully integrated into this brigade. This integration is known as the United Kingdom-Netherlands Landing Force and is a component of the United Kingdom-Netherlands Amphibious Force as a key strike force during the Cold War to strengthen the Nordic area.

French 9th Marine Infantry Brigade (former 9th Light Armoured Marine Brigade)

The 9th Marine Infantry Brigade (9e Brigade d’Infanterie de Marine, 9e BIMa) is a Marine infantry brigade which is one of the two designated amphibious brigades in France. It is unique in being the only ‘All Marine’ Brigade in the French Army; the other amphibious brigade, 6th Light Armoured Brigade (6e Brigade Légère Blindée, 6e BLB), is composed of a mix of cap badges.

9e BIMa is also a light armoured brigade, formed of two Marine infantry regiments (2e RIMa and 3e RIMa — Régiments d’Infanterie de Marine) and a tank battalion.

Sourced from Wikipedia. 

The Hampshire Regiment

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Jul 062020

The Hampshire Regiment

Formation of the North and South Hampshire Militia, 1757

The roots of the militia go back to Anglo Saxon days when all able-bodied freemen were required to take part in the defence of the country – defence of the realm.

A convenient marker point to positively identify the county’s (Southampton) Militia was the Militia Act of Charles II in 1661 which acknowledged emphatically the King’s sole right to control the Militia – this act provided for the levying of the Militia by the Lords Lieutenant and for its organisation by Companies and Regiments.

During the Monmouth Rebellion the Hampshire Militia actually took to the field. During the 7 Years War in August 1757 a bill for the re-organisation of the Militia received Royal Assent for the raising of 60,000 men by ballot for service within Great Britain only.

Hampshire’s contingent was to be two Regiments: North Hants and the South Hants: Headquarters and embodiment taking place at Winchester and Southampton respectively. A Major Gibbon and his son Captain Gibbon were appointed in 1759 to the South Hants Militia – Captain Gibbon later becoming the famous Roman historian of ‘The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire’.

For a Sergeants clothing £2 4s 7d was allocated per annum, for other men £1 0s 5d, fresh clothing being issued every three years in peace. In war time the Militia were liable to permanent embodiment, in peace they were called out annually for one month’s training. During the 7 Years war both Regiments were embodied for the period 1759-1762.

During the Napoleonic Wars the Hampshire Militia were again embodied, this time for nearly 11 years – 1792-1802.

In June 1811 the South Hants became Light Infantry. In 1853 the North and South Hants Militia amalgamated – Winchester becoming their focal point for annual training.
In 1881 the Hampshire Militia was re-designated the 3rd (Militia Battalion the Hampshire Regiment.

The North Hants Militia – 1757

The South Hants Militia – 1757

The Isle of Wight Militia

The South West Hants Militia Regiment 1808-1816

The South East Hants Militia Regiment 1808-1816

The Hampshire Militia – 1853

3rd (Militia) Battalion The Hampshire Regiment – 1881

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion The Hampshire Regiment – 1908-1914-18

The Duke of Connaught’s Own Hampshire and IOW Artillery

The Hampshire Militia Regiment

The Isle of Wight Militia Regiment.

The Hampshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, created as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot and the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot. The regiment existed continuously for 111 years and served in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. In 1946, due to distinguished service in World War II, the regiment was retitled as the Royal Hampshire Regiment.

On 9 September 1992, after over 111 years of service, the Royal Hampshire Regiment was amalgamated with the Queen’s Regiment to form a new large regiment, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, which continues the traditions of the Royal Hampshires.

Formation and antecedents

The Hampshire Regiment was formed on 1 July 1881 under the Childers reforms from the merger of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot and the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot along with the militia and rifle volunteers of the county of Hampshire. As part of the formation of the regiment, the following Volunteer Force and Militia units were placed under command of the regiment:

3rd (Hampshire Militia) Battalion based in Winchester

(4th)1st Volunteer Battalion based in Winchester, former 1st Hampshire Rifle Volunteers

(5th)2nd Volunteer Battalion based in Southampton, former 2nd Hampshire Rifle Volunteers

(6th) 3rd Volunteer Battalion based in Portsmouth, former 3rd Hampshire Rifle Volunteers

(7th) 4th Volunteer Battalion based in Newport, former 1st Isle of Wight Rifle Volunteers

Second Boer War

At the turn of the 20th century, there were two regular battalions of the regiment. The 1st battalion was stationed at Malta from 1884, then transferred to British India where it had various postings. In early 1903 the battalion transferred from Lucknow to Aden. In April 2004 three companies were attached to the Royal Navy and saw service in the Somaliland Campaign. Landing on the Somali coast, they served alongside a naval detachment that stormed and captured the forts at Illig.

The 2nd Battalion was deployed to South Africa as reinforcement for the British Army during the Second Boer War in January 1900, and took part in an action at Karee Siding on 29 March 1900, when one officer and 11 troops died. The battalion served in South Africa throughout the war, which ended in June 1902 with the Peace of Vereeniging. They returned home three months later, arriving in late September 1902, and a few days after their return was entertained to a large celebratory banquet by the Mayor of Portsmouth.

A third militia battalion was formed from the former Hampshire Militia, with headquarters in Winchester. The battalion was embodied in January 1900 for service in South Africa, and disembodied in December the same year. A Volunteer battalion was also formed to serve in South Africa. Men from this battalion were involved in the worst train accident during the war, near Barberton, on 30 March 1902. Following the accident, the battalion returned to the United Kingdom, arriving at Southampton in May 1902.

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve; the regiment now had one Reserve battalion and five Territorial battalions.

First World War

During the First World War, the regiment expanded to 34 battalions. By the end of the First World War, the Hampshire Regiment had lost 7,580 officers and men killed in action.

Regular Army

The 1st Battalion was a Regular Army unit stationed in Colchester on the outbreak of war in August 1914. The battalion was assigned to the 11th Brigade, 4th Division. With the division, the battalion joined the British Expeditionary Force and was sent overseas to France in August 1914, landing at Le Havre on 23 August. The 1st Battalion saw its first combat against the German Army at Le Cateau. The battalion served on the Western Front for the rest of the war, participating in many battles in 1914 alone such as the First Battle of the Marne, the First Battle of the Aisne, and the Battle of Messines. In 1914, on Christmas Day, men of the 1st Battalion participated in the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914 where British and German soldiers fraternised in No man’s land. In 1915, the battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, famous for its use of poison gas. In 1916 it fought at Albert and Le Transloy, which was part of the larger Somme offensive.

The 2nd Battalion was also a Regular Army battalion that was serving in India at the outbreak of war and arrived in England on 22 December 1914. In early 1915, the battalion became part of the 88th Brigade, assigned to the 29th Division. The 2nd Battalion took part in the Battle of Gallipoli when engaged in the fatal Landing at Cape Helles in April 1915 and fought in the Battle of Krithia. In 1916, the 2nd Battalion was evacuated to Alexandria due to a mixture of heavy casualties from combat, disease and the terrible weather conditions. In March 1916, the battalion was sent to France and would serve on the Western Front for the rest of the war, participating in the battle of Albert and Le Transloy rides, alongside the 1st Battalion.

Territorial Force

The 1/4th Battalion landed at Karachi in India in November 1914 as part of the 4th (Rawalpindi) Brigade in the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division before moving to Basra in March 1915: it remained in Mesopotamia and Persia for the rest of the war. The 1/5th Battalion landed at Karachi in India in November 1914: it remained in India for the rest of the war. The 1/6th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Battalion landed at Karachi in India in November 1914: it remained in India for the rest of the war. The 1/7th Battalion landed at Karachi in India in November 1914: it remained in India until January 1918 when it moved to Aden. The 1/8th (Isle of Wight Rifles, Princess Beatrice’s) Battalion landed at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli as part of the 163rd Brigade in the 54th (East Anglian) Division on 9 August 1915 and, having been evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915, moved to Egypt and then to Palestine. The 1/9th (Cyclist) Battalion sailed for India in February 1916 and then to Vladivostok in October 1918. The 2/4th Battalion sailed for India in December 1914 as part of 2/1st Hampshire Brigade in the 2nd Wessex Division and then sailed for Egypt in April 1917 and to France in May 1918. The 2/5th Battalion sailed for India in December 1914 as part of 2/1st Hampshire Brigade in the 2nd Wessex Division and then sailed for Egypt in April 1917 before being disbanded in Palestine in August 1918. The 2/7th Battalion sailed for India in December 1914 as part of 2/1st Hampshire Brigade in the 2nd Wessex Division and then moved to Mesopotamia in September 1917.

New Armies

The 10th (Service) Battalion landed at Gallipoli in August 1915 and was then transferred to Salonika in October 1915. The 11th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) landed at Le Havre in December 1915. The 12th (Service) Battalion landed in France in September 1915, but moved to Salonika in November 1915. The 14th (Service) Battalion (1st Portsmouth) landed at Le Havre in March 1916. The 15th (Service) Battalion (2nd Portsmouth) landed in France in May 1916.

Irish War of Independence

The 2nd Battalion was sent to Ireland to fight the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. On 20 February 1921, soldiers from the Battalion took part in the Clonmult ambush during which the IRA suffered its greatest loss of volunteers in conflict.[18] Regimental historian Scott Daniell commented on the action that “like all the Irish operations, it was hateful to the British troops”. On 31 May 1921, seven soldiers, all with the band of the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment were on their way to the rifle range at Youghal County Cork when a road mine exploded under the truck they were travelling in. Three soldiers were killed outright, while a further four died later from their wounds.

Second World War

In the Second World War, the Hampshire Regiment had six battalions that fought abroad (the 1st, 2nd, 1/4th, 2/4th, 5th and 7th), whilst more battalions stayed at home. By the end of the Second World War, 2,094 officers and men of the Hampshire Regiment had lost their lives.

The 1st Battalion

The 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment was a Regular Army unit that was deployed on Garrison duties in El Daba, Egypt at the beginning of the war. It moved to Palestine on peace keeping duties in December 1939 and then moved to Moascar in Egypt, then to Mearsa Matruh in Summer 1940. One of its duties was to look after the large number of Italian prisoners after the fall of Sidi Barrani.

In February 1941, the 1st Battalion arrived in Malta, where it became part of the 1st (Malta) Infantry Brigade (with 1st Dorset Regiment and 2nd Devonshire Regiment). This later became the 231st Infantry Brigade. Duties in Malta included airfield repair and working as stevedores in the docks. Malta was subjected to a prolonged siege and, by July 1942, the food situation had become serious, but the situation eased as the Allies’ fortunes improved in the North African Campaign.

In April 1943, the 231st Brigade, including the 1st Hampshires, was moved to Alexandria, then subsequently to Cairo and Suez, where it trained as an independent assault brigade. Then, in July 1943, the 1st Battalion invaded Sicily as part of the first wave of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. The beach landing went smoothly, but the 1st Battalion ran into resistance at Vizzini on 13 July when it ran into the Herman Goring Parachute Panzer Division. On 22 July, the 1st Battalion was engaged in hard fighting for Agria, which only fell on 29 July. The 1st Battalion was reduced to three companies after the battle. There was further hard fighting to capture the Regalbuto Ridge, which ended the Sicilian Campaign. The 1st Battalion suffered 18 Officers and 286 Other Ranks killed or wounded in action in Sicily.

On 8 September 1943, the 231st Brigade landed in Italy, coming ashore at Potro San Venere near Pizzo. The 1st Battalion was involved in fighting as the Germans withdrew northwards. By October 1943, the 1st Battalion was back in Sicily waiting for transport back to the United Kingdom and, by November, the battalion was back in the United Kingdom for the first time in 22 years.

The battalion was allocated to the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, one of the assault divisions for the invasion of North West Europe, which had an excellent reputation after fighting in the Mediterranean theatre. On 6 June 1944, the 1st Battalion came ashore as part of Operation Overlord without any supporting tanks. Despite facing machine gun fire, the men captured Le Hamel and Arromanches after a hard fight. By the end of D-Day , the 1st Battalion had suffered 182 casualties, 64 of them being killed in action.

The Battalion started a three-week fight for the village of Hottot, against the German Panzer-Lehr-Division, in June 1944. This culminated in a major assault on 11 July. The 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the line the next day, testimony to the hard fighting. The Battalion was in the vanguard of the assault towards Villiers Bocage later in the month. There were stiff fights at St Germain d’Ectot and Launay. Villiers Bocage was taken on 4 August, following which the 50th Division was taken out of the line. In August 1944, a brigade attack was launched towards Conde, and the Battalion attacked St Pierre la Vielle. The fighting was particularly hard and, after the 11-hour battle, three of its Rifle companies were severely reduced – ‘B’ Company had 25 men, ‘C’ Company had 35 men, and ‘D’ Company was down to just 12 men; as ‘A’ Company was only lightly engaged, it was not so depleted. On 12 August, the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the line. The Battalion was motorised and joined with the 11th Armoured Division for the breakout attack later in the month. There was no fighting and, on 31 August, the 1st Battalion crossed the river Seine at Vernon and swept on to Amiens.

The Battalion was then placed under command of the Guards Armoured Division and swept into Brussels on 3 September. The Battalion, still under command of the Guards Armoured, then started the attack towards Eindhoven, which was the attack designed to relieve the British and Polish airborne troops fighting at Arnhem, who had dropped as part of Operation Market Garden, which ended in a failure. The Battalion, as part of 231st Infantry Brigade, was charged with defending the “Corridor” formed by the armoured advance. In October, the 1st Battalion moved up to Nijmegen and moved onto “The Island”, the bridgehead over the river Waal but behind the river Lek.

In October 1944, the Battalion attacked north of Bemmel, and expanded the bridgehead up to the Wettering Canal. The Battalion then went onto the defensive until the end of November. The Battalion then moved back to Ypres in Belgium, and subsequently was moved back to the United Kingdom with the rest of the 50th Division, and the men were mainly used as replacements for other infantry battalions, with the exception of a small training cadre consisting of 12 officers and 100 other ranks. The battalion ended the war in Louth, Lincolnshire. Since D-Day, the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment had suffered over 1,281 casualties, including 231 officers and men killed in action, the rest being either wounded or missing in action.

The 2nd Battalion

The 2nd Battalion was also a Regular Army battalion and started the war in Aldershot, Hampshire, England. In September 1939, the 2nd Battalion moved to Cherbourg, France with the 1st Guards Brigade, alongside the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards and the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, attached to 1st Infantry Division. It then moved to Sille-le-Guillaume, and from there 250 miles north to take its allocated place on the “Gort Line”, which it reached on 3 October. Later that month, the Battalion moved to the Belgian/French border and, in February 1940, the Battalion spent three weeks on the Maginot Line before returning to Metz.

The Battalion crossed into Belgium in response to the German invasion of Belgium and, by 14 May, was digging into a defensive position. While an attack never came, with the retreat of the Dutch and the French Ninth Army, the 1st Division was ordered to retreat on 16 May. A slow retreat then commenced, ending at Dunkirk. The Battalion began to be embarked from Dunkirk for the United Kingdom (some were evacuated on 2 June). The battalion managed to carry away 100% of their small-arms, mortars and anti-tank rifles. It was congratulated by the Minister for War, Mr Anthony Eden. The battalion then spent two years on home defence, training and preparing for a German invasion that never arrived.

In November 1942, the Battalion, Hampshire Regiment sailed for North Africa, taking part in Operation Torch with the 1st Guards Brigade, which was now part of the 78th Infantry Division. They disembarked at Algiers on 21 November and joined the British First Army. Later that month, the Battalion moved to Tebourba. The following day the 2nd Battalion were attacked by heavy shelling and, on 1 December, the Battalion was attacked by a force four times its size, which was able to outflank it and rake it with enfilading fire. This was the start of three days of fierce close combat, fought at close quarters and featuring bayonet charges and counter-charges. The battalion was forced back a mile and a half and, on 3 December, Major Wallace Le Patourel was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in leading counter-attacks against the enemy. After three days, the Battalion retreated through Tebourba, only to find all other troops had been withdrawn and the road behind them was cut. The battalion broke into small groups and attempted to break through to allied lines, reuniting at Medjez-el-Bab; many, including the Commanding Officer, were captured. The Battalion, which had started the battle with 689 men, was down to 194 men. The battalion was withdrawn from the line and in December, nine officers and 260 other ranks joined the 2nd Battalion. After the fall of Tunis on 13 May 1943, the 2nd Battalion joined the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade attached to 46th (West Riding) Infantry Division.

The 128th Infantry Brigade

The Hampshire Regiment had a number of Territorial Army (TA) battalions, whose ranks were swelled throughout 1939 when the TA was ordered to be doubled in size. During 1939, due to the number of new recruits, the 5/7th Battalion was split into the 5th Battalion and the 7th Battalion, and the 4th Battalion was split into the 1/4th Battalion and the 2/4th Battalion. The 1/4th, 2/4th and 5th Battalions were all grouped into the 128th Infantry Brigade (the “Hampshire Brigade”) and the 7th Battalion was part of the 130th Infantry Brigade. Both brigades were part of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.

However, on 6 June 1942, the 128th Brigade was detached from the 43rd Division until 15 August, when it was transferred to the 46th Infantry Division, where it would remain for the rest of the war. In January 1943, the brigade left Britain with the rest of the 46th Infantry Division, for North Africa, as part of Operation Torch. The brigade disembarked at Algiers on 17 January, moving to Bone, where it remained until the end of January, when the brigade moved to Hunts Gap.

Further information: Operation Ochsenkopf

The 5th Battalion was sent 12 miles further ahead to Sidi Nsir. The 5th Battalion at Sidi N’sir was attacked in overwhelming strength in February 1943 as the Germans began Operation “Ox Head”, a Corps level assault by German Paratroopers, elements of 10th Panzer Division and the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion. The 5th Battalion was supported by 155th Battery, Royal Artillery. The Germans had to take the Hampshires’ hilltop positions before they could attack the artillery, knocking out all the guns, whose crews stood and died firing over open sights at the German tanks. Only nine gunners survived. At 5pm, ‘B’ Company of the 5th Battalion, reduced to 30 men, was overrun. At dusk, the battalion considered its position untenable, and it withdrew to a feature known as “Hampshire Farm”. Of the four Rifle Companies, only ‘C’ Company, less a single platoon, and 30 men of ‘D’ Company, remained. The German force was delayed for one critical day.

Later in the month, the Hampshire Brigade was attacked at Hunt’s Gap by the German force that had been delayed at Sidi N’sir. 2/4th was the main Battalion engaged, with 1/4th Battalion in support. The 2/5th Leicesters was attached to the brigade as well. The situation was so precarious that the 2nd Hampshires, still training its new recruits, was put into the line alongside 1/4th Battalion. The brigade was supported by plenty of artillery and the Churchill tanks of the North Irish Horse. Extensive minefields and heavy dive bombing kept the German tanks at bay. On 28 February, a pre-dawn attack penetrated the 2/4th battalion’s ‘B’ Company positions, but heroic resistance and the tanks of the North Irish Horse kept the Germans at bay until dusk, when ‘B’ Company was overrun. ‘C’ Company was overrun by German infantry. On 1 March, the Germans attacked again, and ‘D’ Company was overrun, but 2/4th Battalion hung on to their remaining positions. On 2 March, the Germans withdrew, and on 5 March the 2/4th Battalion was relieved by the 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of 36th Brigade of the 78th Battleaxe Division. The 2/4th Battalion had suffered 243 men killed or missing.

During March, the brigade was engaged on defensive patrolling, under heavy shelling. 1/4th Battalion lost 100 casualties during March, but 5th Battalion received 5 Officers and 150 men as replacements. On 5 April, the brigade handed over its positions and moved 100 miles south to El Ala. The 128th Brigade subsequently captured the Fondouk Gap, allowing the 6th Armoured Division to pass through and debouche onto the Kairouan Plain. In April 1943, the 128th Infantry Brigade attacked Bou Arada. The 16th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was added to the brigade for the attack. Five Field regiments and two Medium regiments of the Royal Artillery supported the 128th Brigade. Early progress was good, but when the mist cleared all four battalions were caught in the open under heavy fire, and losses mounted. The rifle companies of 1/4th Battalion only had 3 Officers and 80 men left between them and the 2/4th Battalion had to reorganise onto a three-company basis.

Tunis fell and the North African Campaign was over in May 1943. The 128th Infantry Brigade was reconstituted to consist of 2nd Battalion, 1/4th Battalion and 5th Battalion. The 2/4th Battalion was split into two to form two Defence Units of two Beach Groups. Their role was to protect the maintenance area of a Beach Group when it made a landing where no port was available.

The 128th Infantry Brigade was one of three British brigades that made an assault landing at Salerno in Italy as part of British X Corps under command of US Fifth Army, led by Mark Clark in September 1943. The landing was opposed by shore batteries firing shrapnel, and the beaches were raked by machine gun fire. 2nd Battalion and 1/4th Battalion made steady progress, but 5th Battalion had been landed in the wrong place and suffered heavily. A German counter-attack overran ‘B’ Company and the Battalion HQ of 5th Battalion. The 5th Battalion lost 40 men killed and over 300 were wounded or taken prisoner.

On 12 September, the Germans started a general assault against the Salerno bridgehead, which made good progress; the US VI Corps were almost driven into the sea. However, the arrival of US paratroops and the British 7th Armoured Division turned the tide. The 128th Brigade was in the hills above Salerno, and the fighting was hard, but on 20 September the Germans began to withdraw northwards, and the pressure eased. All three battalions had suffered – 2nd Battalion suffered 304 casualties, 1/4th Battalion suffered 159 casualties and the 5th Battalion suffered 29 officer and over 400 other rank casualties.

The 128th Brigade, still part of the X Corps, moved up to the River Volturno, behind which the Germans had withdrawn. On 10 October, the 1/4th Battalion captured the town of Castel Volturno, alongside the river, and on 12 October the 1/4th made a night assault across the river, establishing a small bridgehead. The 2nd and 5th battalions moved across the river in support, but the entire 128th Brigade was soon engaged in a stiff fire-fight. The brigade advanced some 2,500 yards, and then dug in behind a canal as the Germans bought up tanks. The brigade remained in the low-lying, swampy, mosquito-ridden land between the river and the canal until the Germans withdrew due to a breakthrough elsewhere. The brigade then advanced along Route 7, meeting little resistance. The 128th Brigade was then taken out of the line for R&R.

In November 1943, the Hampshire Brigade moved up to the River Garigliano. It was relieved on 11 January, and moved back to the River Volturno. They were selected as the Assault Brigade of the 46th Infantry Division, and trained in river crossings. Then, in January 1944, the Hampshire Brigade made a night assault across the swift flowing River Garigliano. The brigade had severe problems getting the boats through the minefields down to the river, and in the darkness confusion reigned. Only a few men managed to get across, and these were withdrawn at daylight. The Hampshire Brigade then assaulted Monte Damiano, a bare, razor-backed feature, already strewn with British dead from 56th (London) Infantry Division. The assault was made by the 1/4th and 2nd battalions in daylight, and immediately came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire. The attack was made with great dash, but it failed, with heavy casualties.

The 5th Battalion was put under the command of the 138th Infantry Brigade, part of the 46th Division, to assault Mounts Ornito and Cerasola in February 1944. The assault met little opposition, although the Germans put in spirited counter-attacks on Mount Ornito, which were all driven off. However, as the days passed, the casualties mounted from heavy shelling; the bare rock made cover difficult. In eight days, the 5th Battalion suffered 200 casualties. Supply was particularly difficult, as supplies had to be carried up by mules and porters for 3 to 4 hours from the nearest road. On 7 February, the 5th Battalion attacked Mount Cerasola, a successful assault. On 10 February, the 5th Battalion was relieved.

The Hampshire Brigade was relieved later in the month. It moved south to Naples and, on 16 March, sailed for Egypt, and subsequently moved to Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and back to Egypt. All battalions were brought up to strength, largely from gunners from disbanded Middle-East Anti-Aircraft units who were retrained as infantrymen. On 27 June, the 128th Brigade sailed from Alexandria, and subsequently landed in Taranto. The move north through Italy was at an easy pace.

In August 1944, the 128th Brigade started its assault on the “Gothic Line”, a line of German defences across the Etruscan Apennines. The Hampshire brigade, with the North Irish Horse under command, led the 46th Division’s assault (along with the 46th Reconnaissance Regiment). The brigade’s first target was to cross the River Metauro and take Monte Bartolo. The assault went to plan against little opposition, and Mount Bartolo was captured by the morning of 29 August. The brigade had marched 25 miles to cover 12 miles as the crow flies, and climbed 1,500 feet. Only the 1/4th Battalion had come across serious opposition, engaging in heavy fighting around Montegaudio. Later in the month the brigade assaulted the Gothic Line proper, crossing the River Foglia and assaulting Monte Gridolfo. This was heavily defended, with all cover cleared from its bare slopes. Nevertheless, the men of the 2nd Battalion assaulted them with great vigour, and by dawn on 31 August they had captured the first crest. The 1/4th Battalion passed through, driving deeper into Gothic Line. During this assault, Lieutenant Gerard Norton was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 1 September, the 5th Battalion took the lead, and by 2 September had captured Meleto. The Gothic Line had been breached. A fighting advance continued northwards. On 5 September the 128th Brigade was relieved, and sent to the rear for rest, but they were back in the line by 11 September.

The 128th Brigade began an assault on Montescudo in September 1944. Montescudo was defended by the German 100th Mountain Regiment, and they put up a desperate resistance. Other elements of the Brigade assaulted Trarivi, which was captured by 16 September. On 18 September, the brigade was relieved. All three battalions were short of men, even after replacements were received from the 1st Battalion, Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). The Hampshire Brigade crossed the River Fiumicino, and then the Rubicon. The weather was atrocious, and movement was slowed by deep mud, and supply was difficult. Fighting continued until 9 October. A steady advance was made, and by 12 November the River Montone was crossed; on 26 November the River Lamone was reached. This was crossed on 3 December in the face of stiff opposition, and by 6 December the Brigade had captured Casa Nova. The Brigade was relieved the following day, and moved well to the rear. From 24 August (when the 128th Brigade moved up to the Gothic Line) to 7 December, when they were relieved, the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade had suffered 1,276 casualties.

In January 1945 the 2nd Battalion and the 5th Battalion embarked from Taranto and disembarked in Piraeus, Greece, two days later. 1/4th Battalion arrived on 22 January. The 128th (Hampshire) Brigade (now known as “Tigerforce”) split its battalions, and set about disarming the E.L.A.S Army. The troops were welcomed everywhere, and there was no fighting. Then, in April 1945, the brigade began to return to Italy for the final offensive. By 1 May, the brigade was back in the line around Forlimpopoli; but the war ended before the brigade was in action again.

The 2/4th Battalion

The 20th Beach Group (“A” and “B” companies) invaded Sicily as part of Operation Husky in July 1943. The role of the Beach Group was to land supplies until a harbour could be captured. On 12 July, 20 Beach Group moved inland, behind the advancing infantry, but by 22 July the half-battalion was in the line, capturing Mount Scalpello. On 4 August, the half-battalion moved to Catania, where it remained on garrison duty.

In September 1943, the 21st Beach Group (“C” and “D” companies) invaded Salerno. The assault went in at dawn against stiff opposition and, rather than take its allotted role, the half-battalion was moved straight into the line. However, there was little action until 13 September, when the half-battalion was attacked by armoured half-tracks. This happened again on 15 September when ‘D’ Company was overrun. However, the half-tracks didn’t assault ‘D’ Company as such, they ran over the slit trenches until picked off by 6pdr anti-tank guns. On 17 September, the half-battalion was moved back into reserve and, by 23 September, it was back on the beaches unloading cargo.

In November 1943, the two halves of the 2/4th Battalion were re-united at Pontecagnano near Salerno. However, there was no immediate employment, and orders were received to send cadres to the three battalions in the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade (this was rescinded after protests). However, six officers and 77 other ranks were posted away to form the “2/4th Hampshire Training Centre”, three officers and 188 other ranks were assigned to ‘porterage duties’ and a detachment of 50 men was assigned to help the Provost Corps with traffic duties.

The Battalion was back in the line in Italy, near Garigliano, as part of 28th Infantry Brigade, in 4th Infantry Division in February 1944. This was the same ground where the Hampshire Brigade had suffered through the Italian winter. The battalion was relieved for short periods on a regular basis before returning to the line. In May 1944, the Battalion assisted the Brigade’s two other battalions (2nd King’s and 2nd Somersets) in crossing the River Rapido as part of the assault on Monte Cassino. The river and bank were under intense enemy fire, and the river so swift that swimmers from 2/4th had to cross with lines to enable the boats to get across. Troops got across the river, but could make little headway against the storm of machine gun fire. The 2/4th could not get across to join their fellow battalions, and so, on 12 May, it came under command of 12th Infantry Brigade and crossed via a bridge on 13 May. Supported by the 17th/21st Lancers’s Sherman tanks, the 2/4th Battalion attacked along the river, taking 200 prisoners. On 14 May, back in ther 28th Brigade, the 2/4th attempted to cross the River Pioppeta. The tank bridge sank in the mud, and the battalion took 100 casualties in two minutes. The 2/4th waded the river and, in spite of heavy casualties and fierce resistance, the advance continued. During this advance, Captain Richard Wakeford was awarded the Victoria Cross. By 6.30pm, all objectives had been captured, and the 2/4th reorganised on a three-company basis. On 16 May, the battalion was relieved. Two days later, Cassino was captured by the Polish II Corps.

In June 1944, the Battalion was back in the line near the village of Villastrada, between Lake Chiusi and Lake Trasimeno to north of Rome. On 24 June, a major attack was launched on that section of the Trasimene Line by 2nd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry supported by the tanks of the 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment. 2/4th Hampshires was to follow on, but its entry into battle was delayed until the next day. Having passed through the village of Vaiano, which was unoccupied, an attack was launched on a ridge being held by the German 1st Parachute Division. Although “C” Company established a foothold on the ridge, occupying a farmhouse, that night a fierce German counter-attack was made by the Germans, who overran the company headquarters. Fighting was close and confused, and the company ran low on ammunition. It was forced back to literally the last ditch, but hung on. At dawn the next day, 26 June, the battalion counter-attacked and managed to recapture its previous positions; the Germans were withdrawing to the Arezzo Line. The 2/4th Battalion followed up, coming into action again on 21 July. Supported by the North Irish Horse, a steady advance was made. The 2/4th Battalion was then taken out of the line again – some platoons were down to ten men each with no officer.

The Battalion then attacked Santa Lucia, which was captured on 30 July 1944 after a small but fierce battle. The enemy then withdrew, and the Battalion moved up to the River Arno. On 10 August, the battalion was withdrawn. In September 1944, the Battalion began its assault on the Gothic Line, attacking across the River Marano and capturing Casa Bagli. All the first day objectives were achieved, and the 2/4th defended them on 16 September against German counter-attacks. On 17 September, the battalion captured Cerasola; it was relieved the following day. The battalion then moved north behind the British Eighth Army’s advance, arriving in time to stand by to support the Hampshire Brigade’s assault on Forli during November. During 22 November, the 2/4th attacked and captured a bridgehead over the River Cosina against heavy shelling; this was the battalion’s last action in Italy.

In December 1944, the Battalion was flown to Greece in the bomb-bays of Wellington and Liberator bombers in response to the outbreak of the Greek Civil War, arriving on 12 December. The E.L.A.S. Army, armed and trained by the British, was trying to overthrow the Greek Government. On arrival, the 2/4th Battalion was split up, primarily defending the airfield, then clearing E.L.A.S. forces from Athens. This did involve some fighting, and the 2/4th Battalion lost three men killed. The 2/4th Battalion then settled down to peace-keeping duties. In May 1945, the Battalion was moved to Crete to take charge of the Germans, who had surrendered, and they ended the war there.

The 7th Battalion

The 7th Battalion was a Territorial Army unit, originally the 5/7th Battalion until it was split into the 5th and 7th battalions when the Territorial Army was doubled in size in the spring and summer of 1939. The 7th Battalion remained in the United Kingdom training long and hard for many years until after the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.

The Battalion was sent to Normandy as reinforcements with the 130th Infantry Brigade attached to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. In June 1944, the Battalion landed near Le Hamel. They were with 130th Brigade (with 4th and 5th Dorsets) and were initially held in reserve. The Battalion attacked Maltot, supported by tanks of 9th Royal Tank Regiment (9th RTR) in July 1944. The village was defended by Waffen-SS troops supported by Tiger tanks. Both the 7th Battalion and 9th RTR suffered severe casualties, and although the 7th Battalion managed to fight its way into the village it was withdrawn. The 7th Battalion suffered 18 officer and 208 other rank casualties, including 4 officers and 12 other ranks killed, but was back in the line two days later.

The Battalion attacked the village of Cahagnes later in the month. This was fought in typical ‘bocage’ countryside, but after the initial attack by the brigade ran into difficulties, 7th Battalion deployed from reserves and captured Cahagnes, beating off several German counter-attacks. On 2 August, the battalion moved up to Jurques, and after a short stiff fight advanced to “Point 132”, close to Mount Pincon. On 6 August, the battalion put in a deceptive attack on Mount Pincon, making a diversion whilst 129th Infantry Brigade made a flank attack. During heavy fighting, ‘C’ Company incurred many casualties, including all the officers. Following the successful flank attack by the 129th Brigade, the 7th Battalion mopped up and concentrated near Mauny by 10 August.

In August 1944, the Battalion captured St Denis de Mere after a bombardment by nine artillery regiments. The Battalion took 74 prisoners and then prepared for “The Breakout”. The Battalion then moved 50 miles north-east to Conches and, by 27 August, the 7th Battalion was across the River Seine. The battalion then participated in the capture of Tilly, and thereafter spent 11 days taking in replacements and resting. In September 1944, the Battalion started to move to Brussels for temporary garrison duty, arriving the next day. This easy duty was welcome; since landing in Normandy in June, the 7th Hampshires had lost (including wounded) 35 officers and 450 other ranks.

The Battalion fought in Operation Market Garden in September 1944. On 20 September, the battalion moved through Eindhoven to Grave. The battalion was tasked with defending the southern end of the two large bridges over the Waal. On 23 September, the 7th was sent into the line, fighting west of the bridges in the Valburg-Elst area. It then moved to the “Island” and stayed there until 4 October, before moving to the Groesbeek-Mook area on the Dutch-German border.

In November 1944, the Battalion was moved to Maastricht, and then moved around as divisional reserve. On 19 December, the German launched their Ardennes offensive, which caused the 7th Battalion to move north of Liege to guard the bridges over the Meuse. On 26 December, the 7th Battalion moved to Aachen, and on 12 January moved again to Teveren. Then, in January 1945, the Battalion captured Putt, then Waldenrath, and on 25 January captured Dremmen and Porselen. The Battalion advanced south-east from Cleves as part of the big Reichwald offensive. Over two days fighting for Berkhofel, the 7th lost 70 casualties. It was relieved on 17 February.

The Battalion crossed the Rhine in assault craft, consolidating on the far bank and then advancing across the IJssel Canal to Milligen, which was captured on 26 March. German resistance was collapsing, and the 7th moved over the Twente Canal on 1 April, liberating Hengelo. In April 1945, the 7th Battalion took part in operation “Forward On”, sweeping through Germany against minimal resistance. However, on 13 April, the Battalion had a hard fight for Cloppenburg, a fight that was as hard as any they had fought, vicious hand-to-hand fighting from street to street. Luckily, they were supported by tanks, sappers of the Royal Engineers and a single Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers, which demolished several buildings with its petard. Cloppenburg was captured the next day. Then, in April, the Battalion embarked on its final advance, moving through Bahlum, Bremen, then Bremerhavan, capturing hundreds then thousands of prisoners. The 7th Battalion reached Gnarrenburg on 3 May, and were still there when the Germans surrendered the following day.

The Home Based Battalions

Although the Hampshire Regiment sent six battalions overseas, many more stayed at home as training units or were converted to other roles. Before the war, the 6th Battalion (Duke of Connaught’s Own), Hampshire Regiment was converted into the 59th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, and upon the Territorial Army being doubled in size in 1939, formed a 2nd Line duplicate. The 59th Anti-Tank Regiment served with the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and went with them to Normandy.

The original 8th Battalion (Isle of Wight Rifles), Hampshire Regiment was transferred to the Royal Artillery and made into an artillery battery in 1937. However, a new 8th Battalion was formed, shortly after the war began, at Southampton in December 1939. It subsequently split into the 1/8th and 2/8th Battalions, before the 2/8th Battalion was renamed the 13th Battalion, and then both battalions were re-formed into the 8th Battalion again, which was subsequently renumbered the 30th Battalion and was disbanded in September 1942.

The 9th Battalion was formed on the Isle of Wight in July 1940 and was later assigned to the 201st Independent Infantry Brigade (Home). In 1942, the battalion was converted to armour as the 157th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and assigned to 36th Army Tank Brigade. Units converted in this way continued to wear their infantry cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps. However, the brigade was disbanded in July 1943 and 157 RAC was broken up in August, without having seen active service.

The 10th Battalion was formed in Aldershot in July 1940; it was assigned to the 201st Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), alongside the 9th Battalion. In 1941, the 10th Hampshire was also transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps, becoming the 147th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, and was assigned to the 34th Army Tank Brigade. Its Churchill tanks were named after Hampshire Regiment battles (the CO’s tank was called “Minden”). The regiment went to serve with distinction with 34th Tank Brigade in the North West Europe Campaign at Normandy, Le Havre, the Reichswald Forest and Operation Plunder from 1944 to 1945.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion, which was formed on the Isle of Wight in June 1940, absorbed the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey. The Jersey Militia subsequently became the 11th Battalion, whilst the rest of the 50th Battalion became the 12th Battalion. The 11th Battalion stayed in the United Kingdom as a training battalion until the war ended, first with the 209th Brigade and later with the 135th Brigade, 45th (Holding) Division. The 12th Battalion also stayed in the United Kingdom, with the 136th Brigade, but was disbanded in September 1944 after sending a large final draft to the 7th Battalion serving in North-west Europe.

In September 1940, the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was formed in Southampton, but soon moved to Basingstoke. It was raised for those soldiers around the age of 18 or 19 who had volunteered for the Army but were not old enough to be conscripted, the age being 20 at the time. However, the battalion was disbanded in July 1943 as the British government lowered the age of conscription for the British Armed Forces from 20 to 18.

The Hampshire Regiment’s Depot had been in Winchester since long before the Second World War. However, in September 1939, it moved to Parkhurst, Isle of Wight, where it stayed for the rest of the war.

Post war and amalgamation

In 1946, the regiment was awarded the title of Royal Hampshire Regiment in recognition of its service during the Second World War. The regiment was in Northern Ireland (Operation Banner) in 1972 and undertook a further eight tours over the next two decades. In 1992, as part of the Options for Change reorganisations, the regiment was merged with the Queen’s Regiment to become the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Regimental museum

The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum is based at Lower Barracks in Winchester. It is one of several regimental museums that comprise Winchester’s Military Museums.

The Regiment was awarded the following battle honours:

From the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot: Minden, Tournay, Peninsula

From the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot: Barrosa, Peninsula, India, Taku Forts, Pekin 1860, Charasiah, Kabul 1879,

Afghanistan 1878-80

Blenheim1, Ramillies1, Oudenarde1, Malplaquet1, Dettingen1, Belleisle2, Burma 1885-87, Paardeberg, South Africa 1900-02
The Great War (32 battalions): Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914 ’18, Aisne 1914, Armentières 1914, Ypres 1915 ’17 ’18, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Somme 1916 ’18, Albert 1916, Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 ’18, Vimy 1917, Scarpe 1917 ’18, Messines 1917, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 ’18, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Lys, Estaires, Hazebrouck, Bailleul, Kemmel, Béthune, Tardenois, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Canal du Nord, Courtrai, Selle, Valenciennes, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Italy 1917-18, Kosturino, Struma, Doiran 1917 ’18, Macedonia 1915-18, Helles, Landing at Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Sari Bair, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915-16, Egypt 1915-17, Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tell ‘Asur, Megiddo, Sharon, Palestine 1917-18, Aden, Shaiba, Kut al Amara 1915 ’17, Tigris 1916, Baghdad, Sharqat, Mesopotamia 1915-18, Persia 1918-19, Archangel 1919, Siberia 1918-19

The Second World War: Dunkirk 1940, Normandy Landing, Tilly sur Seulles, Caen, Hill 112, Mont Pincon, Jurques, St. Pierre La Vielle, Nederrijn, Roer, Rhineland, Goch, Rhine, North-West Europe 1940 ’44-45, Tebourba Gap, Sidi Nsir, Hunt’s Gap, Montagne Farm, Fondouk, Pichon, El Kourzia, Ber Rabal, North Africa 1940-43, Landing in Sicily, Regalbuto, Sicily 1943, Landing at Porto S. Venere, Salerno, Salerno Hills, Battipaglia, Cava di Tirreni, Volturno Crossing, Garigliano Crossing, Damiano, Monte Ornito, Cerasola, Cassino II, Massa Vertecchi, Trasimene Line, Advance to Florence, Gothic Line, Monte Gridolfo, Montegaudio, Coriano, Montilgallo, Capture of Forli, Cosina Canal Crossing, Lamone Crossing, Pideura, Rimini Line, Montescudo, Frisoni, Italy 1943-45, Athens, Greece 1944-45, Malta 1941-42

Recipients of the Victoria Cross

2nd Lieutenant George Raymond Dallas Moor, 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Great War

2nd Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt, 14th (Service) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Great War

2nd Lieutenant Montague Shadworth Seymour Moore, 15th (Service) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Great War

Major Wallace Le Patourel, 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Second World War

Captain Richard Wakeford, 2/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Second World War

Lieutenant Gerard Ross Norton, 1/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Second World War

Regimental Colonels were:

The Hampshire Regiment – (1881)

1881–1888 (1st Bn): Gen. Sir Edmund Haythorne, KCB

1881–1883 (2nd Bn): Lt-Gen. William Mark Wood

1888–1893: Gen. Thomas Edmond Knox, CB

1893–1908: Lt-Gen. Sir John Wellesley Thomas, KCB

1908–1924: Maj-Gen. Sir Charles Benjamin Knowles, KCB

1924–1945: Gen. Sir Richard Cyril Byrne Haking, GBE, KCB, KCMG

1945–1948: Gen. Sir George Darell Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys, KCB, KCVO, CMG, JP

The Royal Hampshire Regiment – (1946)

1948–1954: Brig. Philip Herbert Cadoux-Hudson, MC, DL

1954–1964: Brig. Gerald Dominick Browne, CBE, DL

1964–1971: Maj-Gen. Richard Hutchinson Batten, CB, CBE, DSO, DL

1971–1981: Brig. David John Warren, DSO, OBE, MC, DL

1981–1987: Gen. Sir David Fraser, GCB, OBE, DL

1987–1992: Brig. Robert Long, CBE, MC, DL

Lower Barracks

Lower Barracks was a military installation in Winchester. It was the depot of the Royal Hampshire Regiment from its formation in 1881 until it moved out in 1959. The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum reopened at Serle’s House in 2004. It is one of several independent museums that comprise Winchester’s Military Museums.

The buildings at the Lower Barracks at Winchester date back to 1730 when Serle’s House, which had been designed by Thomas Archer, was built for William Seldon. The house was acquired by James Serle, a lawyer, in 1781 and then sold to the War Office in 1796. Most of the other buildings in the Lower Barracks, including a barrack block and a small parade ground, were built during the Crimean War. In 1873 a system of recruiting areas based on counties was instituted under the Cardwell Reforms and the barracks became the depot for the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot and the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot. Following the Childers Reforms, the 37th and 67th regiments amalgamated to form the Royal Hampshire Regiment with its depot in the barracks in 1881.

The Lower Barracks were demoted to the status of out-station to the Wessex Brigade depot at Topsham Barracks in Exeter in 1959. Serle’s House was retained by the Ministry of Defence but many of the other buildings were converted for private residential use in the late 1990s.

In the 1680s Christopher Wren proposed the site between Winchester Castle and Southgate Street for a Palace at Winchester; intended, initially for Charles II, who was famously fond of the city.

Plans for this project, however, never came to fruition and it was eventually abandoned shortly after Wren’s death in 1723.

The site, which was unusually large for a private house so close to the centre of the city, was purchased by William Sheldon, whose father had been an equerry to King James II, and the great house was built in about 1730.

The entrance to what is now The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, which faces onto the Memorial Garden, was actually originally the rear entrance of the house. The main, or front, entrance once faced onto Bowling Green Lane, which was long ago eradicated to make way for the Barracks.

In 1781 the house was sold to an attorney, James Serle, whose son, Peter Serle, forged a link between the house and the military that was to last in excess of 200 years.

Peter Serle, whose service spanned the Napoleonic Wars, began soldiering as a hobby. He joined a Corps of Hampshire Volunteers and later rose to command them. He was so successful that in 1804 he was transferred from the Volunteers direct to the command of the South Hampshire Militia. Eventually reaching the rank of full Colonel, Peter Serle retained his command until his death in 1826.

Serle’s House was always used as the Headquarters of whatever command Peter was holding, even whilst the family were still in occupation of their home. In 1796 he sold the property to the Government for £3,750.

The house has seen use as Militia Headquarters, married quarters for officers of the garrison, residence of the Barrack Master, the Officers’ Mess and, in about 1859, it was used as the Judges’ Lodgings for the Assizes. By 1881, however, when the Militia had become the 3rd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, Serle’s House was established as its Headquarters, as well as that of the 37th Regimental District. Later it would become the Headquarters of the Depot, The Hampshire Regiment. When the Depot closed in 1958 Serle’s House became Regimental Headquarters, encompassing the Regimental Museum and Memorial Garden.

In 2001 the Ministry of Defence sold the entire Peninsula Barracks site complex, resulting in a risk that Serle’s House was going to become commercial premises and the Royal Hampshire Regiment potentially having to move out. Following discussions with Councillor Ken Thornber, then Leader of Hampshire County Council (HCC), the building was purchased directly from the MOD for County Council use and the Royal Hampshire Regiment was kindly given a lease for the ground floor and the Memorial Garden.

Sourced from Wikipedia

Poems by Derrick W Sole

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Jun 282020

Poems By Derrick W Sole

The Best Of The Best.

Still not sixteen, but I was on my way, how long this train would take, no one did say, I have no memory of being on a train before, yes, I had seen many, but to get on one, I had never opened the door.

A new life was about to begin, the old one had not been that good, but the new look promising, I was about to have a family, something in my life, that had been lacking, siblings I had, but for a decade, together we had not been living.

Back then, we were not hampered, by the fascist left, the liberal morons, who of brain matter and common sense, are so bereft, we were considered mature enough, to choose our life, even if tough.

So off to London, then way out west, to join a regiment, the elite of the elite, just plainly the best, I’m not good at doing as I’m told, but the Royal Green Jackets, allowed free thinking men, into their fold.

I walked through the gates and I felt at home, this is where I belonged, Winchester, a place, to me not known, but Lincoln green was in my blood, and Rifle Green, was full of history, and brotherhood.

First call, the barber’s shop, rear of the Naafi block, top of the stairs, stands a queue, old sweats, and boys like me, all of them new, no short back and sides, all off, including the top.

You had to be fit, just to march at regimental pace, faster than the rest put together, but it was never a race, basic training, tough for all, but your brothers needed to know, you would be there, should they call.

So much to take in, the first day is a blur, slept like a log, shouting and banging, in the morning, you forgot where you were, not for long, there was no time for that, up and at em, first bed pack.

At least this was not Bushfield camp, spider huts, cold and damp, not fit for man nor beast, but strangely felt like home, even if on the eye, it didn’t please, how many beds, in a hut did they squeeze.

Boys became men, a team of brothers, never to be alone again, shoulder to shoulder, forever to stand, your life for theirs, as brother a band, should you be called upon, failure, never an option.

Basic training, together we worked, to be the best there was, nothing did we shirk, passing out was not the end, rifleman yes, off to our battalion, now begins the real hard work.

There is so much that made us who we are, friends lost in places near home, and places far, we are still brothers, we are RGJ, no one can ever take that away, our blood is green, swift and bold, in our soul, for ever it will stay.

Derrick W Sole, 2020, Copyright Protected

Swift and Bold (Celer et Audax)

No musket for such a man, bold and brave, swift as only a Rifleman can, deadly is his aim, his Rifle, his psyche, his game, a chosen man, strong and fit, can march for miles at a pace, and still his target hit.

The best of the best, an elite of force, such a man of strength, not many can last the course, no others march at the same pace, to be swift, but without haste, a Rifleman’s aim, is still a straight ace.

Individuals of men, working as a team, not clockwork soldiers, never forgotten once seen, brave by choice, in battle, they hear histories voice, a Rifleman is a Rifleman, in their blood it runs, like those of the past, chosen ones.

There is a pride, that they can not hide, a Rifleman, best be on your side, history shows how brave they be, regiment and Riflemen in battle, honoured constantly, the bravest of the brave, to them, the VC.

Stoic, where others may fall, a Rifleman obstinacy, his pace and marksmanship shocks all, the action is where he will be, not just a soldier, a Rifleman is he, he serves his country with pride, a Rifleman with rifle, from which you can not hide.

Men of valour, men of strength, men of the Rifle, there is no pretence, skilled with the Rifle of the day, skilled as their forefathers, with their Rifles, they would love to play.

Over the years the Regiments change, a name is a name, but the history is the same, from the 95th to the Rifles of today, Rifle Green worn with pride, in celebration of the Rifleman inside.

Of the Black Mafia, runs the corridors of power, Riflemen have the skills, in rank to climb higher, innovators of thought, new tactics, training, man management sort, the skill of a Rifleman second to naught.

When music you hear fast of pace, men in green marching, proudly determined of face, Riflemen they will be, the elite of the elite, the best of the British Army, to all that have fallen in places afar, your name remembered, for Riflemen you are.

Derrick W Sole, 2018, Copyright Protected

Shot before dawn.

My eyes felt they were about to explode, the pressure in the air through my head did load, the sound wave blow out my eardrums, in my head I felt so numb, showered in dust and falling stone, in a hole on my own.

My hands held my head, I screamed out I’m still here,  not yet dead, then game another one, how much more of this could I take, or do I now begin to run, in bed I find myself, cold sweat bathed in the rays of a warm sun. 

On leave but I don’t want to go back, I’m not a coward, whatever the meaning is of that, I don’t want to but I will, still seeing the faces of those I kill, there are those who depend on me, who I am, I can’t let them see.

On a cold morning tied to a post, a boy not a man, I see his ghost, World war one, a battle not won, too much for such a young man,  shot as a cowed before his life had yet begun.

Still little has changed, staffers in comfort see it as a game, not a hole in the grown, not the smell of death all around, not the never ending noise, someone in no man’s land, crying for help, totally ignored.

To close your eyes, see a screaming face and an out stretched hand, mud waste deep in no man’s land, many dead but not all, not able to help, but clearly you hear their call, the constant rain of falling shell, explosive sounds, a living hell.

The mind shuts down, and no one understands, mess tins together bang, you curl up on the ground, to some just a bit of fun, the final straw, and you run and run, no understanding, just an example out of you, cowardice in the face of the enemy, that won’t do.

Before dawn, you will never see the sun again; a blindfold of rag, over your eyes is drawn, against a wall or tied to a pole, boy or man, you will never get old, the disgrace is not yours, though they say it is so, the officer class, just love a show.

PTSD is nothing new, but still today, many more suffer than a few, you leave the war, but the battle doesn’t leave you, that screaming face you see today, fore ever in your dreams, and won’t go away.

No longer shot a dawn, but can’t find the help that you need, to be rid of those faces, it seems death is the only way to succeed, no long in a corner curled up in a ball, no more screaming, no pain at all, no more tomorrows, high on a building, all you need to do is fall.

Derrick W Sole, copyright protected, 2016.


Eight SAS Missions

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Jun 142020

Eight SAS Missions

(That we know about)

The Special Air Service (SAS) was founded by Colonel David Stirling in 1941 as a regiment of the British Army. They were originally a commando force operating behind Axis lines to sabotage transportation and communications, as well as provide support for Allied troops.
In 1951, they became a special unit for gathering intelligence, engaging in covert operations, combating terrorism, rescuing hostages, and other things that the government would probably never admit to. A secret organization, their existence became public knowledge in 1980 because of the Iranian Embassy. They were so impressive that other countries decided to set up their own versions of the SAS.

1. Egyptian Air Field Raids: 1942

Taken on 18 January 1943, Colonel David Stirling greets a returning SAS jeep patrol

Using American Bantam Jeeps, the SAS attacked five Axis-controlled airfields in Egypt from July 7 to 8, causing the most damage to the one at Bagush. The most successful attacks happened from July 26 to 27, when they hit four more airstrips, including Sidi Haneish and Tamet.
Using the new Lewes bomb (a hand-held explosive and incendiary) over 20 planes at Sidi Haneish were destroyed, with the SAS suffering only one casualty. None of the SAS died at Tamet, but they didn’t have enough bombs to destroy the last plane, so Lieutenant Robert Maynel destroyed the cockpit with his bare hands.

Within 15 months, the SAS destroyed over 250 planes, prompting the Germans to call Stirling the Phantom Major.

2. Malayan Emergency: 1948

A 1950 photo of an Australian Avro Lincoln bomber dropping 500lb bombs on communist insurgents in the Malayan jungle

A 1950 photo of an Australian Avro Lincoln bomber dropping 500lb bombs

on communist insurgents in the Malayan jungle

To rebuild its shattered economy, Britain demanded more of its colonies, forcing many independence movements to become militant. With support from the Soviets, Malayan communist groups fought back. Britain’s response was to call in the army, but that wasn’t enough, so the SAS, disbanded after WWII, was reestablished.

Since much of the fighting took place in the jungles where tin mines and rubber plantations (Malaya’s main source of wealth) were located, small SAS squads were deployed there. Many befriended the locals so they could help engage in search and destroy missions against the insurgents.

They also provided ground support for the Air Force which used Agent Orange (a defoliant) for the first time. Though the insurgency failed, Britain lost Malaya, anyway.

3. Assault on Jebel Akhdar: 1957

A Shackleton belonging to 224 Sqduadron flying in formation near Masirah during the Jebel Akhdar campaign

A Shackleton belonging to 224 Squadron flying in formation

near Masirah during the Jebel Akhdar campaign

Britain created an alliance with Oman in the 18th century, so when rebels took over three forts on Mt. Jebel Akhdar in 1957, Oman called for help.

Since the British were supposed to be leaving Oman, they sent 64 SAS men instead. On January 26, every member of D Squadron walked up 7,000 feet of uphill terrain carrying some 119lbs of equipment, which caused some to faint from exhaustion.

A rebel sniper hit a grenade in one of the SAS men’s pack, killing two and injuring another. The forts of Saiq and Bani Habib were taken. But Jebel Akhdar took longer.

After making feint operations against outlying positions on the north side of the Jebel Akhdar, they scaled the southern face of the Jebel at night, taking the rebels by surprise. Supplies were parachuted to them once they reached the plateau, which may have misled some of the rebels into thinking that this was an assault by paratroops.

There was little further fighting. Talib and his fighters either melted back into the local population or fled to Saudi Arabia. Imam Ghalib went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

4. Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation

Taken in August 1964 during the Indonesian Confrontation, a British soldier is winched aboard a Westland Wessex HAS3 of 845 Naval Air Squadron

Taken in August 1964 during the Indonesian Confrontation,

a British soldier is winched aboard a Westland Wessex HAS3 of 845 Naval Air Squadron

In 1961, the British and Malayan governments agreed to create a federation called Malaysia, which included Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore. Some within the areas to be absorbed weren’t happy about it and a rebellion broke out on 8 December 1962.

Though quickly suppressed, it encouraged Indonesia to send in troops to conduct raids and encourage further insurrections. The SAS were sent to the jungles to befriend the tribes people and get their help in securing the borders.

Indonesia stepped up its invasion, forcing the SAS to cross over and bring the war to them. Aided by the military and air support, the SAS caused havoc, which resulted in a coup that ousted Indonesian President Sukarno. On 3 September 1966, the war ended.

5. Lufthansa Flight 181

The Lufthansa plane on 18 October 1977 after the rescue. Disembarking are the freed hostages and members of the GSG-9 team

The Lufthansa plane on 18 October 1977 after the rescue.

Disembarking are the freed hostages and members of the GSG-9 team

On 13 October 1977, four Palestinian terrorists hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181. They demanded the release of their comrades held in Germany and Turkey, as well as $15 million in ransom. They also ordered the plane to fly to various countries, including Aden, where the captain was shot, forcing the co-pilot to fly on to Mogadishu, Somalia alone.

Following them was an elite German anti-terrorist unit, the GSG-9, and two men from SAS. When the plane landed at Mogadishu, it was stormed by the unit who blew in the emergency doors and opened fire. Three terrorists were killed, one was captured, while four hostages and one GSG-9 man was hurt.

The dramatic rescue operation is also called Operation Feuerzauber, which means Fire Magic.

6. Iranian Embassy Siege

Members of the SAS entering the Iranian embassy 

On 30 April 1980, six Arab-Iranians stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, calling for the independence of Khūzestān Province from Iran. They took 26 people hostage, wanted safe passage out of Britain, and made other demands. By the sixth day, they became more agitated as their requirements were not met, so they shot one hostage and threw his body onto the street.

The SAS stepped in and broke into the embassy, using CS gas and stun grenades to clear their way. They killed five of the terrorists and took the sixth alive. The rescue involved some 30 to 35 SAS members and took only 17 minutes.

Also called Operation Nimrod, this incident would bring the SAS to the spotlight and make them a matter of public knowledge.

7. Pebble Island Raid

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falklands and established an airstrip on Pebble Island for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground attack aircraft and T-34 Mentors. These could compromise British operations to take back the islands, so the SAS were sent to neutralize them.

On May 14, 45 members of the D Squadron were flown by helicopters some 3.7 miles from the airstrip. Armed with L16 81mm Mortar bombs, Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1 Light Anti-tank Weapons, M-16 rifles, and M203 grenade launchers, they attacked the planes, fuel stores, and ammunition dump.

They destroyed six Pucarás, four Turbo Mentors, and a Short SC 7 Skyvan utility transport plane, with only some injuries to themselves and one Argentine casualty. It was over the next day.

8. Sierra Leone Hostage Rescue

On 25 August 2000, 11 members of the 1st Royal Irish Regiment were in Sierra Leone as part of a UN peacekeeping mission when they were taken hostage by The West Side Boys rebel group. Five were released, but when negotiations soured, the rebels threatened to kill the rest.

The SAS and the Special Boat Service (SBS) took inflatable boats to get near the rebel camp and observed the situation. They attacked on September 10 supported by two Chinook helicopters, three Lynx helicopters, and an Mi-24 Hind gunship. Paratroopers from the Parachute Regiment attacked a neighboring camp to keep them from helping their comrades.

Also called Operation Barras, there was only one SAS casualty, but all the hostages were freed.

Sourced from War History on line

HRH Prince Philip

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Jun 102020

HRH Prince Philip

Happy Birthday HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles

Pictured with Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff at the Sounding Retreat 2016.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, inspecting a Company of  the 1st Battalion the Rifle Brigade (1RB) at Kuala Lumpur, 1st November 1956, he also met with a some families of warrant officers and senior NCO`s  in the Battalion. The Rifle Brigade a antecedent Regiment of The Rifles

Picture credited to the Rifles Instagram 

Pictures credited to the RGJ Rifles Museum

Heritage of The Rifles: Bugles in The Rifles

A bugle appears on the cap badge of The Rifles. The Regimental band is the ‘Band and Bugles of The Rifles’. Bugles play an important part in the modern Regiment and the antecedents of the past. But where do bugles come from and why are they so important to The Rifles?

In the 17th and 18th century, most line infantry regiments used drums to send orders on the battlefield. However, for light troops, operating in difficult terrain, such as thick forests, drums were too bulky and impractical. In the early to mid-17th century, various German states established units of light troops, known as jägers (‘hunters’). They were often recruited from among the middle class and minor nobility, as these men were experienced hunters and could afford to buy their own rifles, which were rare and extremely expensive at the time. Jägers would communicate with each other over long distances with hunting horns. These were very simple instruments, often constructed from curved animal horns or tusks. Hunting horns were sometimes known as bugles, coming from the Latin for bullock (‘buculus’), as bull’s horns were often used. Horns of this type had been common across Europe since at least the Middle Ages.

By the early 18th century, as German jäger units were becoming more standardized, hunting horns started to be replaced by large, brass, curved bugles, known as halbmondbläser (‘half-moon bugles’). The British Army first adopted bugles in 1756, during the Seven Years’ War, when British troops were fighting side by side with various German allies in Europe. These took the form of what we would think of today as a bugle – a curled brass tube, without valves, ending in a funnel-shaped mouth.

During the same period, the 60th (Royal American) Regiment had been raised and, along with other irregular ranger units, were operating in the Canadian wilderness. Many of the officers were German and Swiss, who began instructing the 60th in the ways of irregular warfare. The use of hunting horns, easily obtainable, were incorporated into their tactics.

Although a more modern design of the bugle had now been adopted by the British Army, the symbol of the earlier hunting horn became synonymous with light infantry and rifle units. Consequently, with the formation of the Experimental Corps of Riflemen in 1802, they adopted the bugle as their cap badge. Bugles, of various designs, would go on to feature on the cap badges of many of the antecedent regiments of The Rifles. These included the Somerset Light infantry, Durham Light Infantry, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets, to name just a few. Today, of course, it can be seen on the cap badge of The Rifles.

Bugles remained in use in the British Army throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and into 20th century. They were last carried into combat by British troops in the First World War. Although today their battlefield use has been overtaken by more modern technology, they remain a feature of life in The Rifles, for example in the Band and Bugles of The Rifles, on parade and for special ceremonial purposes.

Today the bugle serves as a symbol in The Rifles of a way of warfare that is flexible, forward thinking and quick on its feet – just like the hunters who once carried them!

Examples of cap badges of antecedent regiments of The Rifles, each featuring a bugle. Top left: Durham Light Infantry. Top right: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Bottom left: Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s). Bottom right: Royal Green Jackets. The KOYLI cap badge is highly unusual, as it features a brass French hunting horn/bugle, rather than the older design of horn seen on most others.

An example of an early 18th century German halbmondbläser (‘half-moon bugles’), one of the predecessors of the modern bugle.

A Medieval hunting scene, as depicted in ‘Livre de Chasse’ – a treatise on hunting, written by Gaston III, Count of Foix, in 1387. Note the hunting horns being used by the mounted figures in background and the hunter on foot in the foreground.

Sourced from the Rifles Museum Facebook 

Pictures credited to the rifles Museum 

Secret History The Troubles Episodes 1 to 4

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Jun 082020



The Troubles Episode One

Fifty years after troops were sent onto the streets of Northern Ireland, a leading team of investigative journalists uncover secrets about the decades-long conflict that claimed more than 3,700 lives. Reporter Darragh MacIntyre opens the series, discovering an array of new evidence, including previously classified documents, unseen film and fresh testimony from key new witnesses to the origins of the Troubles. It throws light on the formation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army as well as the parts played by radicals who became elder statesmen like Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

In this episode, the Spotlight team traces how, in the 1960s, suspicion led to unrest between unionists and nationalists, undermining Northern Ireland’s government. The arrival of the British Army in August 1969 brought a respite, and the soldiers were enthusiastically greeted as protectors by many nationalists. That relationship was soured by fatal errors and calculated acts of violence. New information about Martin McGuinness’s role at that time is brought to light, and the episode concludes with the destruction of the Northern Ireland government, a moment when IRA members believed they were about to force the British Army out of Northern Ireland.

Broadcast date: 10th September 2019 Credits to BBC Northern Ireland

The Troubles Episode Two

Reporter Darragh MacIntyre finds the IRA anticipating that 1972 would be their `year of victory’, only to be countered by a massive British military response in the midst of what became the bloodiest period of the conflict.
The programme features previously unseen footage and new discoveries around the secret talks between the government and the IRA about British withdrawal, including interviews with the people who were there. Were the talks a serious offer or a ruse to weaken the IRA by dragging them into protracted negotiations?
One insider’s secret diary provides a fresh insight into a missed opportunity for peace. Then, as sectarian fighting with Protestant loyalists began to increase, a coup inside the IRA sets the stage for what they called ‘the Long War’.

Broadcast date: 17th September 2019 BBC Northern Ireland

The Troubles Episode Three

When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979, she was confronted by an IRA prepared to conduct a long war of attrition against Britain. Jennifer O’Leary discovers arms connections in America and Libya and speaks directly to individuals involved in smuggling weapons for the IRA. She also hears an astonishing admission about the Brighton bomb, which almost killed Mrs Thatcher, and other attacks in Britain.

Out of the IRA hunger strikes, Irish republicans also developed the parallel political strategy that saw their leader, Gerry Adams, elected to parliament. Success at the ballot box began to build tension inside the IRA between those who wanted to build their political path and those who primarily adhered to their long war.

Originally broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland 24th Sep 2019

The Troubles Episode Four

New revelations about how agents of British intelligence infiltrated the Irish Republican Army. By 1979, the British security forces believed the IRA had become so security conscious that they were impossible to penetrate. But reporter Jennifer O’Leary reveals how one weakness in the IRA’s internal security was exploited to unlock many of the group’s secrets. She charts how Britain used informers and combined that advantage in secret intelligence with the use of special forces to take on one of the IRA’s deadliest units – a strategy that culminated with the Loughgall ambush, when the SAS killed eight IRA men attacking a police station. The programme shows that the aftermath of the attack only made the IRA’s informer problem worse.

Originally broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland 1st Oct 2019


Sourced from You Tube Credits to BBC

British Army Press Gangs (WWII)

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May 272020

Britain’s violent conscription of African soldiers is finally coming to light
During World War II, the British army press-ganged African men and stationed them in battlefields far from home. Today, their testimonies are finally being heard.

By Jack Losh

Picture credited to Getty Images

More than seven decades on, Grace Mbithe still remembers the moment when a press gang abducted her husband from a Kenyan village and forced him into Britain’s armed forces at the height of World War Two. “It would just happen suddenly, one morning,” she said. “If you hid, they would just come back another day.”

Grace, now a widow in her mid-90s, described a lorry driving into their highland village before soldiers jumped out and grabbed as many fit and able men as possible—under the supervision of a white officer.

It would be several years before Grace saw her husband, Stanley, again. During this turbulent time, she was socially isolated and tormented by her in-laws who, believing Grace was infertile, tried to force her out of the family. “We cried a lot when we heard (Stanley) had been captured,” she said. “We were crying because we knew he would not come back. He would die. He left us with a lot of problems. I suffered so much.”

Stanley was not the only man to suffer the injustice of enforced recruitment.

After carving up the continent in the late 19th century, European powers recruited African men to provide internal security and protect their colonies from outside attack. During WWII, Britain used these troops—numbering over 600,000—to fight Axis forces in the Horn of Africa, Madagascar and Burma, as well as using them to provide garrison troops in the Middle East.

Page detailing different African regiments from The Infantry of East Africa Command official pamphlet, The Ministry of Information, 1944.

Propaganda was one recruitment tactic; another was highlighting the social status and economic opportunities that military employment could provide. But by far the most controversial and clandestine method was force. The official line was that enlistment would be voluntary. But colonial officials often pressured local chiefs to find them men, and turned a blind eye to how they filled their quotas.

The result was African men put in the firing line against their will, in battlefields far from home. Some are still alive today, their disturbing testimonies corroborated by historical research. “While conscription across Africa was generally avoided, it would be quite wrong to infer that all recruitment was voluntary,” says David Killingray, Emeritus professor of modern history at Goldsmiths University, who described the experience of individuals caught up by this system as “appalling.”

Britain would go on to pay these soldiers an end-of-war bonus according to their rank, length of service and ethnicity, meaning black troops received just a third of the pay of their white counterparts. Many faced beatings by their superiors and public floggings. Such revelations, which recently featured in a documentary for Al Jazeera English, have triggered calls for the government to make an official apology and pay compensation to the last surviving veterans.

“These are men who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. It would seem appropriate that these freedoms now should be used to compensate them for their unjust treatment in the past,” Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, who has senior roles in the cross-party parliamentary groups for the Commonwealth and for Africa, told the New Statesman.

“Putting an actual price on soldiers’ service reveals the deep prejudice at the heart of the services at that time. The government should launch an inquiry and apologise.” In February, following the release of the film, three shadow secretaries of state also called on their Conservative counterparts to acknowledge the systematic discrimination of Britain’s WWII African veterans, to offer them financial compensation and to make an official apology.

One Kenyan veteran called Gershon Fundi, now 93, was not among Britain’s willing recruits; he was effectively tricked into wartime service. “We were not happy being in that war,” he said. “They were treating us as slaves. We were there not because we wanted to be there. But we were forced to go there.”

In 1943, aged just 17, Gershon says a local administrator offered him a job in “communications” but did not specify what this would entail. He took the job, eager for paid work away from impoverished drudgery, and showed up at the given address on his first day. “When I got there that’s when I realised I was in the army,” he said. By then it was too late. He was ordered to sign a contract, banned from leaving, and sent off to Ethiopia and Somaliland as a signalman.

“If you run, even if you go to home, chiefs would arrest you and then you’re going to be brought back,” he said. “But how can you complain? To whom are you going to complain? To whom? Because you had no power. You would not be able to reach those high-ranking officers. We have no voice, we have no voice at all.”

Gershon’s hapless entry into army life came a year after the East African Governors Conference had asked for permission to use full-scale conscription; Britain’s Secretary of State for the Colonies decided to leave the matter in the hands of the individual administrations in each colonial territory, even though a League of Nations mandate prevented the conscription of “protected” peoples, which was the official designation of Africans living under British control.

The cruelty of this policy was compounded by local elders, who were ordered, with minimal oversight, to fill manpower quotas. “Traditional authorities often got rid of men who displeased them,” said Professor Timothy Parsons, a leading authority on Britain’s east African army, based at Washington University in St. Louis. Several of his interviewees “recall being conscripted as a result of disputes over land or women.”

Recruitment was also driven by racist profiling. As one officer of the King’s African Rifles (KAR) wrote in 1940: “The blacker their face, the huskier their voice, the thicker their neck, the darker their skin and the more remote parts of Africa they come from – the better soldier they made.”

Likewise, Britain produced recruitment propaganda that promoted service in the “modern” colonial forces as a means of remaking and advancing “savage tribesmen”. One official pamphlet showed a picture of a Zulu soldier in a traditional outfit captioned with the phrase, “The Raw Material”; the next page shows a picture of African soldiers dressed in British Army fatigues, with the caption, “The Finished Product.” Such prejudiced stereotypes would also help justify the decision to pay these men less and treat them differently.

During their WWII service, Britain’s African soldiers faced corporal punishment, despite the British Army officially outlawing this decades earlier. Such abuse went beyond the occasional clip around the ear. Beatings and public floggings were commonplace.

“Our legs would be swollen—our buttocks too,” said Muchara Ntiba, a 97-year-old Kenyan combat veteran who served in Britain’s campaigns in Burma and East Africa. “We would give them the palms of our hands to be beaten, Afterwards, even an attempt to hold something would be hard.”

Corporal punishment has a long and ugly history in Britain’s African colonies, much of it uncovered by Parsons. His research shows that beatings and floggings were almost banned entirely in WWI because they had got so out of hand. The Director of Military Labour, Colonel O. F. Watkins, wrote a circular in June 1917 warning officers “that if the practice continues an example will be made.” He laid out new rules, including not to inflict corporal punishment before previous lashes had healed; never to flog non-commissioned officers before first reducing them in rank; and never to use it in “hot blood” or to “punish an act of well-intentioned stupidity”.

Corporal punishment was effectively banned in the inter-war years. This was despite objections from the government in Nyasaland (modern-day Malawi), which opposed any limitation of flogging, and from some senior personnel in Kenya where, in 1932, “twenty strokes” could still be used as summary punishment.

Reflecting the era’s views of Africans, one lieutenant colonel wrote in January 1934: “The abolition of corporal punishment in the King’s African Rifles is viewed with deep regret; this form of punishment was one which the native, a true oriental, as opposed to occidental, understood and appreciated; there is not the slightest doubt that he bore no resentment at all at receiving a whipping.”

Despite some protests, corporal punishment returned with a vengeance in WWII. The UK’s East African Force lobbied for its use as a summary disciplinary measure, despite being aware of the controversy around such harsh discipline. “We know how close a watch is being kept by certain organisations, and persons, for any evidence, or alleged evidence, that colour discrimination is still being maintained,” wrote one colonial official in September 1940.

Over the coming year, senior commanders argued about the legitimacy of using corporal punishment. Whitehall delivered the final ruling in February 1941, saying that the “power to award corporal punishment shall be confined to courts-martial,” and refusing to extend such powers to commanding officers. And yet, a circular a few months later warned that commanders were still making illegal use of summary corporal punishment.

The problem would persist for years. In 1943, an English-born missionary made a formal complaint about the public flogging of African soldiers, with threats to go to the press about such “sadism.”

The pro-beating constituency tended to be officers recruited from the white settler communities; those brought in from mainland Britain were less vested in the colour bar and discriminatory hierarchy of the colonial state. “Take cases like Kenya or Rhodesia, where the settlers could be extremely brutal and were could be a law unto themselves,” said Parsons. “There were notorious incidents in Kenya where settlers beat Africans to death and were either not punished or punished by small sentences like manslaughter.”

This abuse was not formally abolished in Kenya until December 1946. A few months before, a Colonial Office report said that the service of Africans “in this war side by side with British soldiers entitles them to be treated in this respect as British soldiers, and not alone among the colonial forces to remain subject to this punishment.” Corporal punishment, however, would still be permitted in military prisons until April 1948.

As for Ntiba, the elderly Kenyan combat veteran, his salvation from such brutal maltreatment came in the form of an officer and a medic. “A captain ordered the whipping to stop,” he said. “And a doctor said no one should hit any soldiers. People were being badly hurt.”

But for some, the end of the war simply marked the start of a new struggle. Grace Mbithe’s husband, Stanley, was finally released from the ranks, having been pressganged years earlier, but would bring the trauma of conflict into the family home. “He came back unwell,” Grace told me in her ramshackle home. “His heart beat so loudly. At night we couldn’t sleep. This happened when he remembered what he had gone through.”

As rain thundered against their corrugated metal roof, storms proved most distressing for this young veteran who never wanted to go to war. “If he heard it while we were sleeping, he would get up, he would go outside and it would rain on him over and over again, while his heart beat faster and faster,” said Grace. “He had a bad heart and that’s what killed him.”

The government refused to comment specifically on any of the allegations. A spokesperson told the New Statesman: “The UK is indebted to all those servicemen and women from Africa who volunteered to serve with Britain during the Second World War. Their bravery and sacrifice significantly contributed to the freedoms that we all enjoy today”.

Sourced from New Statesman