The Great War
The East Surrey Regiment consisted of Infantry Battalions that would have had an MG Section as part of its Battalion Headquarters. These weapons would have been brigaded when the Machine Gun Corps was formed in 1915. The guns, and crews, would have been formed into a Machine Gun Company.
During the Great War, the Battalions were distributed as follows:
The 1st Battalion was part of the 14th Brigade (redesignated 95th on 12 January 1916), attached to the 5th Division. It’s MG Section was transferred on 20 December 1915 to form the 14th Bde. MG Coy., later redesignated the 95th.
As a unit of the 5th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|23 and 24 August||Battle of Mons [II. Corps].|
|23 August to 05 September||RETREAT FROM MONS [II. Corps].|
|26 August||Battle of le Cateau [II. Corps].|
|01 September||Crepy en Valois.|
|06 to 09 September||Battle of the Marne [II. Corps]|
|13 to 20 September||BATTLE OF THE AISNE [II. Corps]|
|13 September||Passage of the Aisne.|
|20 September||Actions on the Aisne Heights.|
|10 October to 02 November||Battle of la Bassee [II. Corps].|
|05 to 19 November||BATTLE OF YPRES [I. Corps]|
|17 to 22 April||Capture of Hill 60 [II. Corps, Second Army].|
|23 April to 01 May||BATTLE OF YPRES [V. Corps, Second Army].|
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 85th Brigade, attached to the 28th Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been transferred into the 85th MG Coy. which was provisionally formed on 13 March 1916 and formally established on 18 May 1916.
As a unit of the 28th 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.The Division assembled and mobilized at Hursley, Pitt Hill, and Magdalen Hill Camps (around Winchester) during December, 1914, and January, 1915. The 12 infantry battalions, of which it was composed, came from India (10 from nine different stations), Singapore (1), and Egypt (1); the brigades were formed at Winchester. The mounted troops included a cavalry squadron from an existing yeomanry unit, and a cyclist company, which was formed at Winchester. Of the field artillery brigades: in August, 1914, III. was in India and XXXI. was at Sheffield, whilst CXLVI. was only formed at Winchester. The field companies, signal company, field ambulances, and train, were territorial force units.
The 28th Division embarked at Southampton on the 15th-18th January, 1915, disembarked at Le Havre between the 16th-19th January, and concentrated between Bailleul and Hazebrouck by the 22nd January.
The 28th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium until the middle of October, 1915. It embarked for Egypt in October and November, and, on arrival, it encamped in the neighbourhood of Alexandria. On the 17th November, order were received for the division to embark for Salonika as soon as possiblle. Embarkation began on the 20th November, but it was not until the 4th January, 1916, that all the units had completed disembarkation at Salonika. (The XXXI. and CXLVI. Brigades, R.F.A., proceeded direct from Marseille to Salonika, sailing on the 17th November; these two brigades arrived: XXXI. on 27th November, and CXLVI. on the 2nd December.)
|BATTLES OF YPRES|
|22 and 23 April||Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|24 April to 04 May||Battle of St. Julien [V. Corps, Second Army, until 28/4; then Plumer’s Force].|
|08 to 13 May||Battle of Frezenberg Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|24 and 25 May||Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|27 to 05 October||Battle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army].|
|At noon on the 19th October, the division was ordered to be ready to entrain in 48 hours for an unknown destination. On 21st October, the division beganto entrain for Marseille, and on 24th October the first units sailed from that port. Units began to reach Alexandria on 29th October, and the division (less XXXI. and CXLVI. Bdes., R.F.A.) reached Egypt by 22nd November.The 28th Division was then sent from Alexandria at Salonika on the 4th January, 1916.|
The 7th Battalion was part of the 37th Brigade, attached to the 12th (Eastern) Division.
As a unit of the 12th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|FORMATION, BATTLES AND ENGAGEMENTS|
|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 I). Army Order No. 324 of the 24th 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 forced the First New Army, and late in August, 1914 the 12th (Eastern) Division begain to assemble around Colchester, with the artillery at Shorncliffe.
The 12th Division was chiefly recruited from the Eastern and Home Counties. After enlistment, drill and route marching began at once; but only improvised wooden rifles were available to accustom the recruits in handling arms. As soon as battalions had recruited up to war establishment they moved to the infantry brigade centres and more advanced training was then undertaken. In November, 1914 the three infantry brigades concentrated near Hythe, and in February, 1915 the pioneer battalion joined the Division. Towards the end of February the training had advanced far enough for the whole Division to move and concentrate at Aldershot, to complete its intensive training for war and take part in divisional field manoeuvres. In the early spring of 1915 no fewer than five divisions (10th to 14th) of the six in the First New Army were concentrated at Aldershot for their final training.
On the 24th May Aldershot Training Centre issued orders to the 12th Division to embark for France between 29th May to 1st June. On the 25th May the divisional advanced parties left, and on the 29th the Division began to entrain at Aldershot. The personnel went via Folkestone and Boulogne, and artillery, engineers, horses, and transport moved via Southampton and le Havre. By midnight 1st/2nd June the entrainment at Aldershot was completed. Meanwhile, on the 1st June, the units had begun to arrive to the southward of St. Omer and by the 4th all the units had reached the concentration area. On the 5th June the Division advanced and joined III Corps.
Throughout the remainder of the Great War the 12th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:
|01 to 08 October||Battle of Loos [XI Corps, First Army].|
|13 to 19 October||The Quarries (Hulloch) [XI Corps, First Army].|
The 8th Battalion was part of the 55th Brigade, attached to the 18th (Eastern) Division.
As a unit of the 18th (Eastern) Division, it may have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|FORMATION, BATTLES AND ENGAGEMENTS|
|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 to 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army (see Appendix I). This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 18th (Eastern) Division began to assemble around Colchester.
In the earliest days of the formation, trains brought large bodies of recruits who knew no words of command and were accompanied by no officers or non-commissioned-officers. In consequence the detrainment of a party was apt to resemble the arrival of a football excursion crowd. The officer who met one of these trains could only tell the mob to follow him, and then lead the men to the particular encampment which was to accommodate them. The food was sufficient, but coarse; there were no canteens, the tents were crowded, the nights were chilly, there were never enough blankets to go round. Nevertheless in those tedious early days all ranks made the best of everything. At first the men had to march and drill in the civilian suits and boots which they wore on joining; any men whose boots became soleless had to do slow marching on grass. After some time blue uniforms and forage caps arrived, and later on sufficient khaki uniforms were received to allow at least one suit to be issued to each platoon. But the training was progressive and never slackened; and in April 1915 the Division, in full marching order, covering 62 miles in 48 hours.
It was weeks after the infantry had received their rifles before any guns were issued to the divisional artillery. At first the only armament was limited to one improvised wooden gun per battery, and up to November 1914 no battery had more than a score of horses. Nevertheless the difficulties and deficiences were overcome.
Between the 4th-12th May the Division moved to Salisbury Plain and divisional headquarters opened at Codford. On the 24th June the 18th Division was inspected by H.M. the King; and in July the Division was informed that it was to be prepared to embark for the Western Front. On the 24th July the move to France began, headquarters started on the 25th, and on the 30th July the Division completed its concentration near Flesselles (south of Doullens) in the Third Army area. The Division was placed under X Corps. For the remainder of the Great War the 18th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium.
It’s MG Section will have been disbanded on the attachment of 55th MG Company, which took place on 13 February 1916, machine gunners may have been absorbed by the 55th MG Company, or trained on the Lewis Gun, which now equipped the Infantry Battalion.
Second World War
This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.
Post-Second World War
Upon the disbandment of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in the post-WW2 restructure of the British Army, the Vickers Machine Gun assets reverted to individual Battalions as part of the Support Company as a Machine Gun Platoon.