The Great War
The Essex 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 88th Brigade, attached to the 29th Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been transferred into the 88th MG Coy. which was was formed on the 21 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.|
As a unit of the 4th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|25 August to 05 September||RETREAT FROM MONS [II. Corps, 26 to 30 August 1914, and III. Corps from 31 August 1914.]|
|26 August||Battle of le Cateau [under II. Corps].|
|06 to 09 September||Battle of the Marne [III. Corps].|
|13 to 20 September||BATTLE OF THE AISNE [III. Corps].|
|13 October to 02 November||Battle of Armentieres [III. Corps].|
|13 October||Capture of Meteren|
|21 October and 30 and 31 October||Battle of Messines (2/Essex, 21 October, and 2/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 30 and 31 October)|
|25 April to 25 May||BATTLES OF YPRES [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|25 April to 04 May||Battle of St. Julien [V. Corps, Second Army, and from 28 April to 07 May in 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].|
The 9th Battalion was part of the 35th 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 10th Battalion was part of the 53rd 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 53rd MG Company, which took place on 13 February 1916, machine gunners may have been absorbed by the 53rd MG Company, or trained on the Lewis Gun, which now equipped the Infantry Battalion.
The Battalion had transferred from the 71st Brigade, on 27 October 1915. This Bde. and Bn. had transferred from the 24th Division on 11 October 1915.
As a unit of the 2nd Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|23 and 24 August||Battle of Mons [I. Corps].|
|24 August to 05 September||RETREAT FROM MONS [I. Corps].|
|01 September||Villers Cotterets.|
|06 to 09 September||Battle of the Marnes [I. Corps].|
|13 to 26 September||BATTLE OF THE AISNES [I. Corps].|
|13 September||Passage of the Aisne.|
|20 September||Actions on the Aisne Heights.|
|19 October to 20 November||BATTLES OF YPRES [I. Corps].|
|21 to 24 October||Battle of Langemarck [I. Corps].|
|29 to 21 October||Battle of Gheluvet [I. Corps].|
|11 November||Battle of Nonne Bosschen [I. Corps].|
|15 to 20 May||Battle of Festubert [I. Corps, First Army].|
|25 September to 04 October||Battle of Loos [I. Corps, First Army].|
|13 to 19 October||Hohenzollern Redoubt [I. Corps, First Army].|
Second World War
This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again when the majority of Battalions had their Machine Gun assets centralised into those Battalions.
The 1st 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
Upon the disbandment of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in the post-WW2 restructure of the British Army, the Vickers Machine Gun assest reverted to individual Battalions as part of the Support Company as a Machine Gun Platoon.