The Great War
During the Great War, the Battalions were distributed as follows:
The 1st Battalion was part of the 87th Brigade, attached to the 29th Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been transferred into the 87th MG Coy. which was was formed on the 16 February 1916, at Suez.
As a unit of the 29th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|The division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War. Between January and March, 1915, the division assembled and mobilized in the Midlands, in the area Nuneaton-Rugby-Banbury-Stratford, with headquarters at Leamington. The 12 infantry battalions of which the division was composed were collected from Asia (10), Africa (1), and Europe (1). Of these 12 battalions, one came from China, three from different stations in Burma, six from six different stations in India, one from Mauritius, and the remaining battalion was an existing T.F. battalion from Edinburgh. The brigades were formed in the mobilization area. The mounted troops included a cavalry squadron from an existing yeomanry unit, and a cyclist company which was formed in the mobilization area. Of the artillery brigades, XV. R.H.A. was formed at Leamington, in January, 1915, two of its batteries came from India, and it was completed by a battery which had returned to England from the Western Front to be re-formed; XVII. R.F.A. was in India in August, 1914, and CXLVII. R.F.A. was formed at Leamington, in January, 1915. During mobilization, both field artillery brigades were extensively reorganised. The Highland Mountain Bde. was an existing T.F. formation, the 90th Heavy Bty. came from Nowgong (C.I.); and 14 Siege Battery and 460 (H.) Battery were new formations. The field companies, signal company, field ambulances, and train, were territorial force units.The division embarked at Avonmouth on the 16th-22nd March, and proceeded via Malta (22nd March) to Alexandria, where the first transport arrived on the 28th March. The division disembarked at Alexandria, and on the 7th April re-embarkation began for Mudros (actually before the disembarkation of the whole division had been completed). On the evening of the 23rd April the ships of the covering force sailed from Lemnos and spent the following day anchored off Tenedos.
The landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula began at about 7 a.m. on the 25th April. For the rest of the year the 29th Division served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and took part in the following operations:-
|THE BATTLES OF HELLES|
|25 and 26 April||The Landing at Cape Helles.|
|26 April||Capture of Sedd el Bahr.|
|28 April||First Battle of Krithia.|
|01 and 02 May||Eski Hissarlik.|
|06 to 08 May||Second Battle of Krithia.|
|12 May||Gurkha Bluff (29th Ind. Inf. Bde.).|
|04 June||Third Battle of Krithia [VIII. Corps].|
|28 June to 02 July||Gully Ravine [VIII. Corps].|
|06 to 13 August||Krithia Vineyard [VIII. Corps].|
|Between 16-21 August, 29th Divisional H.Q.; 86th, 87th, 88th Inf. Bdes.; 2/London, 2/Lowland, 1/W.Riding Fd. Cos.; 1/London Sig. Coy.; 87th, 88th and 89th Fd. Ambces moved to Suvla and came under IX. Corps. The 29th Divnl. Artillery remained at Helles under VIII. Corps.|
|THE BATTLES OF SUVLA|
|21 August||Battle of Scimitar Hill [IX. Corps].|
|Night 19/20 December||Evacuation of Suvla (88th Inf. Bde.) [IX. Corps].|
|The 87th Inf. Bde. returned to Helles on 01 October, 1915, and 2/Lond. Fd. Coy. on 02 November, 1915. After the Evacuation of Suvla, Divnl. H.Q., with 86th and 88th Inf. Bdes., and the two Fd. Cos. returned to Helles between 16-22 December, and came again under VIII. Corps. (The three field ambulances were left at Mudros and Imbros).|
|Night of 07/08 January||Evacuation of Helles [VIII. Corps].|
|After the Evacuation of Helles, the 29th Division moved to Egypt and was concentrated at Suez. On 25th February orders were received for the early move of the division to France. Embarking in March, the division disembarked at Marseille, and between 15-29 March it effected its concentration on the Somme, east of Pont Remy. For the rest of the Great War the 29th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium.|
|The division had no existence before the outbreak of War; it was gradually assembled at Lyndhurst between the 31st August and the 4th October, 1914. The 12 infantry battalions included the three remaining unallotted regular battalions left in England, as well as nine battalions brought back from various overseas stations, viz. – Guernsey (1), Gibralter (2), Malta (2), Cairo (1), Natal (1), and the Transvaal (2). The mounted troops included an existing yeomanry regiment as well as a cyclist company, formed on mobilization. The Field Artillery was made up by one R.H.A. Brigade (XIV., of two batteries), and one R.F.A. Brigade (XXXV.) still left at home, together with one R.F.A. Brigade (XXII.) from the Transvaal. The two heavy batteries were new units formed at Woolwich after the outbreak of War, and the field companies came from Chatham and Pretoria. Three of the A.S.C. companies (30, 40 and 42) came from Gibralter, Malta, and Pretoria, but the remaining company (86) was a new formation.
The 7th Division embarked at Southampton on the 4th and 5th October, and began disembarkation at Zeebrugge on the 6th October. The division moved to Bruges on the 7th October, and reached Ghent on the 9th October. During the night of 11/12 October, a retirement on Ypres was begun and the place was reached on the 14th. The 7th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium until the 17th November, 1917, when it began entraining for the Italian Front, on which it served for the remainder of the War. The 7th Division was engaged in the following operations:-
|09 and 10 October||Antwerp Operations [IV. Corps].|
|19 October to 05 November||BATTLES OF YPRES|
|21 to 24 October||Battle of Langemarck [IV. Corps].|
|29 to 31 October||Battle of Gheluvelt [I. Corps].|
|18 December||Rouges Banes – Well Farm Attack [IV. Corps].|
|10 to 13 March||Battle of Neuve Chappelle [IV. Corps, First Army].|
|09 May||Battle of Aubers Ridge [In reserve, IV. Corps, First Army].|
|15 to 19 May||Battle of Festubert [I. Corps, First Army].|
|15 and 16 June||Givenchy [IV. Corps].|
|25 September and 08 October||Battle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army].|
The 6th Battalion started the Great War as a member of the 33rd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Infantry Division.
|This New Army Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War.A proclamation was issued on the 11th August, 1914 asking for an immediate addition of 100,000 men to the Regular Army (see Appendix). Army Order No. 324 of the 21st August (amended by Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September) authorized the addition of six divisions (9th to 14th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army. This augmentation formed the First New Army, and late in August, 1914 the 11th (Northern) Division began to assemble around Grantham.
On the 22nd August when the G.O.C. reached Grantham he found that only the A.-A.&Q.-M.-G. of the division had arrived. On the 27th the first batch of 1,000 infantry (with a small proportion of regular officers and non-commissioned-officers, from depot staffs) reached Grantham. Other parties followed and by the 21st September the strength of the infantry had risen to 13,000. At first the infantry of the 11th Division consisted entirely of north country battalions; later on, however, when the 6/East Yorkshire became the pioneer battalion its place was taken by a Wessex battalion – 5/Dorsetshire.
At first there was the usual shortage of clothing, equipment, and arms, leading to some discomfort and to considerable delay in training for war. Nevertheless, on the 18th October Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener visited Grantham and inspected the infantry in Belton Park. Until the following April the Division remained scattered: infantry at Grantham, artillery at Leeds, Sheffield, Norwich, and Weedon; engineers at Newark; field ambulances at Sheffield; train at Lichfield. Then on the 4th April the 11th Division began to move to its concentration area at Witley and Frensham, and final training was carried out and divisional operations undertaken.
On the 31st May H.M. the King inspected the 11th Division on Hankley Common, and on the 12th June orders were received that the Division was to be ready to leave at short notice for the Dardanelles. On the 20th June embarkation began at Liverpool, and the bulk of the Division sailed in the Aquitania and the Empress of Britain. On the 10th July the Aquitania with divisional headquarters and the 32nd Infantry Brigade reached Mudros. On the 23rd all headquarters and troops at Mudros left Lemnos and moved to Imbros, and the 11th Division completed concentration at Imbros on the 28th July.
At 8.30pm on the 6th August the Division left Imbros for Suvla Bay; the troops embarked in torpedo boat destroyers and motor lighters (about 500 in each vessel) each man carrying on him 220 rounds of ammunition and 2 days’ iron rations. At 11.30pm the flotilla anchored off Suvla, and shortly after m/n. 6th/7th August disembarkation began near Lala Baba.
During the Great War the 11th (Northern) Division served in Gallipoli and in Egypt, and on the Western Front (in France and Belgium), and was engaged in the following operations:
BATTLES OF SUVLA
|06 to 15 August||The Landing at Suvla [IX Corps].|
|07 August||Capture of Karakol Dagh (34th Bde.) [IX Corps].|
|21 August||Battle of Scimitar Hill [IX Corps].|
|21 August||Attack on “W” Hills [IX Corps].|
|Night, 19/20 December||Evacuation of Suvla [IX Corps].|
|On the last night every gun, trench mortar, cart, and animal was withdrawn, and the 11th Division suffered no casualties to its personnel during the final evacuation of Suvla. On leaving Suvla the Division concentrated at Imbros.|
The 7th Battalion started the Great War as a member of the 51st Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division.
|This New Army Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War.Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September 1914 authorized the further addition of six divisions (15th – 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army (see Appendix I). This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 17th (Northern) Division began to assemble around Wareham.
By the end of September 1914 all the surplus stores of arms, equipment, and uniforms had been issued, and for some time no uniforms were available for the rank and file of the 17th Division. Even blankets were scarce in the improvised billets and later on in the crowded camps. For months the infantry had only a few old drill-pattern rifles; and machine guns had to be represented by home-made dummy guns. In October a varied assortment of peace-time uniforms arrived; the infantry then paraded in red coats, combined with civilian head-dresses and overcoats. At the same time a supply of tents was issued to the Division, and the men were placed under canvas until the unsettled November weather compelled the abandonment of tents; the units were then moved into recently erected huts. Before the end of 1914 the infantry received a large supply of Lee-Enfield magazine rifles and a generous supply of ammunition; elementary musketry instruction became possible. Then, in March 1915 a limited issue of service rifles and new leather equipment was made to the infantry.
In the Artillery most of the officers had everything to learn, and it was soon found that 20 per cent of the recruits, who had been accepted in the rush, were unfit for military service and had to be replaced, also very few of the recruits had ever ridden of had any previous experience with horses. At the outset the only available artillery materiel was a few limbers and wagons, together with some ancient and obsolete guns and two old French 90-mm. guns, dating from the war of 1870 – pieces which were more suitable for museums than for a training centre. Even so the guns were without sights, and naturally no dial sights, directors, range tables, or telephones were available. But ingenuity, assisted by the local carpenters, provided rough and ready imitations of the missing stores, and allowed the recruits to be given some training during the early months. The first horses for the artillery arrived in February 1915, the 18-pdrs. were issues in April, and the first howitzers reached Swanage in the middle of May.
During this time the artillery had been in empty houses in Swanage and the infantry brigades had shifted their quarters more than once. Originally the three infantry brigades were around Wareham; but in October 1914 the brigades were at Wareham (50th), West Lulworth (51st), and Bovington Camp, Wool (52nd). In December the 51st moved to Wool, and the 52nd to Wimborne. In March 1915 the 51st returned to West Lulworth, and the 52nd moved back to Wool. These stations were maintained until May. Between the 27th May and the 1st June the Division marched to Winchester, Romsey, Hursley, Pitt Corner, and Flowerdown, and final intensive training for the field was undertaken.
On the 5th July the Division was informed that it would be retained in England for some time and be employed on Home Defence. At midnight this arrangement was cancelled and the 17th Division was ordered to embark for France between the 12th and 15th July. On the 6th the advanced party left, and on the same day the Division completed its mobilization – but the three field ambulances only joined the Division at Southampton during embarkation. On the 12th July embarkation began. By the 17th the Division concentrated to the southward of St. Omer, and on the 19th July it moved forward and came under V Corps, Second Army. For the remainder of the Great War the 17th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:-
|09 August||Hooge [V Corps, Second Army].|
It’s MG Section will have been disbanded on the attachment of 51st MG Company, which took place on 12 February 1916, Machine Gunners may have been absorbed by the 51st MG Company, or trained on the Lewis Gun, which now equipped the Infantry Battalion.
This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.
Second World War
However, during the Second World War, the 1st (Airborne) Battalion of the Border Regiment became Airlanding Battalion of the 1st Airlanding Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division. This Battalion therefore retained an Machine Gun Platoon within its support company. These guns were transport using ‘Man Carry’ and with Jeeps.
The 1st Airborne Division was formed in November 1941. It saw action at the following battles:
- North Africa (1943)
- Sicily (1943)
- Italy (1943)
- Arnhem (17th – 27th September 1944)
The Officer Commanding the MMG Group at the time of Operation Market Garden (September 1944) was Capt. T.W.I. Cleasby.
The 4th Battalion was a ‘Chindits‘ Battalion, where it was formed into Columns each having an MG Section of two guns, the Battalion’s MG Platoon being spread across the Columns and supplemented with additional guns and machine gunners where required.
Post-Second World War
After the Second World War, the MG assets reverted to MG Platoons within support companies of Infantry Battalions.