Prior to the start of the Great War, Lieutenant W Duncan of the 1st Battalion was one of the first members of the British Army to attend, and qualify from, a Vickers Gun course run – the 53rd Qualifying Machine Gun Course – by the School of Musketry at Hythe between 29 January and 20 February 1914.
The Great War
During the Great War, the dispositions of Battalions were distributed as follows:
The 1st Battalion was part of the 3rd Brigade, attached to the 1st Division.
On the outbreak of War the 1st Division was quartered at Aldershot, and it mobilized there. The division crossed to France between the 11th and 15th August, concentrated around le Nouvion, and began to move forward on the 21st August.Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 1st 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 5 September||RETREAT FROM MONS [I Corps]|
|27 August||Etreux (1st Guards Bde)|
|6 to 9 September||Battle of the Marne [I Corps]|
|13 to 26 September||BATTLE OF THE AISNE [I Corps]|
|13 September||Passage of the Aisne|
|20 September||Actions on the Aisne Heights|
|26 September||Action of Chivy|
|19 October to 15 November||BATTLE OF YPRES [I Corps]|
|21 to 24 October||Battle of Langemark [I Corps]|
|29 to 31 October||Battle of Gheluvelt [I Corps]|
|11 November||Battle of Nonne Bosschen [I Corps]|
|20 to 21 December||Defence of Givenchy|
|9 May||BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE [I Corps, First Army]|
|Attack at Rue du Bois|
|25 September to 1 October||Battle of Loos [IV Corps, First Army]|
|5 to 8 October|
|13 October||Hohenzollern Redoubt [IV Corps, First Army]|
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 81st Brigade, attached to the 27th Division.
The division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War. The division assembled and mobilized at Magdalen Hill Camp (2 miles east of Winchester) during November and December, 1914. The 13 infantry battalions of which was composed came from India (10 from ten different stations), Hong Kong, Tientsin and Canada (P.P.C.L.I.); the infantry 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: I. was originally at Edinburgh, whilst XIX. and XX. came from India; but all three were extensively reorganized and re-formed at Winchester. The field companies, signal company, field ambulances, and train came from territorial force divisions.The 27th Division embarked at Southampton on the 19th – 21st December, disembarked at le Havre between the 20th – 23rd December, and concentrated between Aire and Arques by the evening of the 25th December.
The 17th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium until November, 1915. In the following month it embarked for the Macedonian Front, on which it served for the remainder of the War.Becke, 1934
|14 and 15 March||St. Eloi [V. Corps, Second Army].|
|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 April; 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].|
|On the 1st November the division was warned to be ready to entrain for Marseille on the 10th November. Entrainment began on the 15th, and embarkation for the Macedonian Front on the 17th; but it was not until the 13th February, 1916, that the last of the division disembarked at Salonika.|
As a reserve battalion of the 1st Division, it was one of the first units to receive the Vickers machine gun in 1914; however, it was only one gun per battalion at this point, the rest being Maxims.
337. Issue of Vickers Machine Guns to Reserve Cavalry and Infantry.
Ref. L* 104/Gen. No./3592 (M.T. 2) of 5th Oct., 1914, and also regarding the forthcoming issue of Vickers Machine Guns to reserve units of cavalry and reserve battalions of the 1st Infantry Division, G.Os.C.-in-C. are informed that, if possible, those officers who are at present undergoing a Vickers machine gun course at the School of Musketry, Hythe, should not be drafted to the front until they have given at least one month’s instruction to selected personnel of their unit.
2. One Vickers machine gun will be issued to the above-mentioned regiments and battalions immediately.
3. Attention is invited to the advisability of withholding from drafts all officers and N.C.Os. who undergo courses until sufficient time has elapsed for them to impart their knowledge to the necessary personnel.
(L. 104/Gen. No./3595, M.T. 2)Army Council Instruction 337, 31st October 1914.
The 7th Battalion was part of the 39th Brigade, attached to the 13th (Western) 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 13th (Western) Division began to assemble.
The infantry brigades first assembled on Salisbury Plain. In September and October the 40th Brigade moved to Chisledon and Cirencester; and in January 1915 the 39th Brigade moved to Basingstoke. By the end of February the 13th Division concentrated for its final intensive training at Blackdown, near Farnborough; equipment and arms were now practically complete and the artillery and engineers had joined the division. Divisional field manoeuvres were undertaken.
On the 7th June, 1915 the Division received orders to prepare to move to the Mediterranean theatre of war. The motor bicycles and all mechanical transport (except 4 motor cars) were withdrawn; and, except in the artillery, engineers, and signal company, first reinforcements were not to proceed with the Division. On the 10th June embarkation orders were received and the first transports sailed on the 13th. Immediately before embarkation a third machine gun was issued to each infantry battalion). On the 16th June a message to the 13th Division was received from H.M. the King, and on the 18th Divisional Headquarters sailed from Avonmouth. Alexandria was reached on the 28th and headquarters landed at Mudros on the 4th July. Between the 6th and 16th July the infantry of the Division crossed to Helles and relieved the 29th Division on the left of the line. The infantry returned to Mudros at the end of the month, and between 3rd to 5th August the 13th Division landed at Anzac. Thereafter, and for the remainder of the Great War, the 13th (Western) Division served in Gallipoli, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, and was engaged in the following operations:Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 13th (Western) Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|BATTLES OF SUVLA|
|06 to 10 August||Battle of Sari Bair [Godley’s Force].|
|07 August||Russell’s Top (8/Ches. and 8/R.W.F.).|
|27 and 28 August||Hill 60, Anzac (4/S.W.B.) [Cox’s Force].|
|After the evacuation of Suvla the 13th Division concentrated at Mudros, and between 27 and 31 December Divisional Headquarters and the infantry of the Division (less 38th Inf. Bde.) moved from Mudros to Helles and took over the Left Section of VIII Corps Front Line.|
|07 January||Last Turkish Attacks at Helles [VIII Corps].|
|Night, 08/09 January||Evacuation of Helles [VIII Corps].|
|After leaving Helles the 13th Division went to Mudros until 18 January 1916′ on this day the Division began to embark for Egypt, and by 31 January 1916 the whole Division concentrated at Port Said. The Division then held posts on the Suez Canal. On 08 February 1916 orders were received for the 13th Division to move to Mesopotamia, and on 12 February 1916 the Suez Canal posts were handed over to the Ayrshire Yeomanry and Lanarkshire Yeomanry. On the same day the first troops of 13th Division left Port Said by rail for Suez, embarked at Suez on the 13th, sailed on the 14th, and disembarked at Basra on the 27th February. On the 2nd March the Division began to move by river up the Tigris, on the 13th March divisional headquarters reached Shaikh Saad, and by the 27th March the whole Division had arrived at Shaikh Saad (less 7/Glouc., of 39th Bde. segregated for fever at Basra; 7/Glouc. rejoined 13th Division on 19 April 1916). On 02 April 1916, 13th Division took over a portion of Tigris Corps Front and became engaged in the third attempt to relieve Kut al Imara. From this time until the end of the Great War the 13th Division served in Mesopotamia and was engaged in the following operations:|
|THIRD ATTEMPT TO RELIEVE KUT AL IMARA|
|05 April||Capture of Hanna and Fallahiya [Tigris Corps].|
|09 April||Second Attack on Sanniyat [Tigris Corps].|
|17 and 18 April||Bait ‘Isa [Tigris Corps].|
|22 April||Third Attack on Sanniyat [Tigris Corps].|
It’s MG Section was amalgamated with those of the other Battalions in the Brigade to form a Provisional Brigade MG Company. This was then amalgamated with into the 39th MG Coy. which was formed on 26 October 1916 at Amara.
The 8th Battalion was part of the 57th Brigade, attached to the 19th (Western) Division.
This New Army Division has no existence before the outbreak of the Great War.Army Order No. 285 of the 11th September 1914 authorized the further addition of six divisions (15th to 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army. This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 19th (Western) Division began to assemble near Bulford.
At first the infantry brigades were camped at Tidworth, Ludgershall, and Grately. In December, the brigades went into comfortable billets at Andover and Whitchurch, Basingstoke, and Weston-Super-Mare. The early discomforts and difficulties were similar to those which were experienced by all the divisions of the New Armies, consequently a few D.P. rifles were received with enthusiasm.
By March 1915 the Division was clothed in khaki and a great advance had been made in training. During March the Division concentrated around Tidworth to begin its final preparation for the field, and regimental training was completed by mid-May. On the 7th June the 19th Division first operated together as a complete division, and between the 12th and 18th June the 19th Division Artillery carried out its first gun-practice. On Wednesday, the 23rd June, the 19th Division was inspected by H.M. The King; and, at the end of the parade, His Majesty said to the General-Officer-Commanding: “Your Division is as good as anything I have seen in the New Army.”
On the 11th July the advanced party of the 19th Division left for France, on the 16th the Division began to move, and by the 21st July it had crossed to France and completed its concentration near St. Omer. For the remainder of the Great War the 19th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:-Becke, 1934
As a unit of the 19th (Western) Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|25 September to 02 October||Battle of Loos [Indian Corps, First Army].|
|25 September||Action of Pietre|
It’s MG Section was likely to have been sent to Grantham for retraining and subsequently transferred into the 57th Bde. MG Coy. which disembarked at le Havre on 09 February 1816 and joined the Division on 14 February 1916.
The 10th Battalion joined the 1st Brigade, attached to the 1st Division, on 17 August, 1915.
As a unit of the 1st Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|25 September to 1 October||Battle of Loos [IV Corps, First Army]|
|5 to 8 October|
|13 October||Hohenzollern Redoubt [IV Corps, First Army]|
In 1937, the 2nd Battalion converted to a Machine Gun Battalion and was mechanised. During this time, it was armed with Vickers MGs and Anti-Tank Guns – possibly 2-pdr or 25-mm. Hotchkiss. This was short-lived as they became a regular Infantry Battalion again in June 1939 prior to the commencement of the Second World War. As shown in the photograph below, they were mechanised with 15-cwt lorries and Machine Gun Carriers.
Second World War
This remained the case of all Battalions with the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again and regular Infantry Battalions did not have any Medium Machine Gun assets.
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.
The 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment was part of the 29th Independent Infantry Brigade that arrived in Korea in December 1950. During the Chinese Spring Offensive in April 1951, it was part of the Battle of the Imjin River and was surrounded and only remnants of D Company successfully escaped.
At the time of battle – 22 April 1951 – the Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J P Carne. The Officer Commanding Support Company was Major P W Weller and the Company Sergeant Major was Warrant Officer Class II N V Baker. The Machine Gun Platoon was commanded by Captain T R Littlewood with Lieutenant R J Martin and Sergeants T F Clayden (commanding the Flame Section), D J Hoper, B J Murphy, and A B Sykes. Sergeant H Courtney was part of the MMG Platoon in the Rear Battalion Headquarters.
The action is described in the novelised account ‘Now Thrive the Armourers’ written in 1952.
Three of the battalion’s Vickers machine-guns remained in action, having fired almost continuously for two days. Once a company of Chinese emerged round a bend in the track, mounted on bicycles, pedalling furiously into the centre of the Vickers’ field of fire, and two of the guns had opened up simultaneously with a sustained burst.
The cranking-handles flew backward and forward as the belts snaked through the feed-blocks and the steam from the water-jackets poured through the condenser-tubes into the water-cans as the barrels became very hot.
The result was almost comical.
The company of cyclists piled up on the roadsides in a writhing chaos of flailing limbs entwined with wheels and handle-bars under the devastating crossfire of the Vickers. At that crucial moment the 25-pounders picked up the bearing and a hail of shells straddled the road.
One of the Vickers, virtually exposed on a high pinnacle of rock, pumped belt after belt into the enemy positions until spent cartridge-cases, falling off like dead leaves, formed a thick carpet covering the surrounding area. The Chinese directed a storm of fire on the gun position, but miraculously the gunners survived, holding up all attacks on their flank and killing hundreds of the enemy troops who thronged the opposite slopes, until, eventually, in the closing stages of the battle, the barrel seized in its bearings through lack of water.Holles, 1952, pp.161-162.
The known nominal roll of the MMG Platoon is below. It includes their type of engagement to show the diversity of the battalion during the War.
- 6205011 Lance Corporal W A Aylward (Regular Reserve, discharged 1963, died 1973)
- 324410 Corporal J W Bateman (Regular Reserve)
- 5252070 Private R A Bennett (Regular Reserve)
- 21015246 Corporal L J Bishop (Regular, killed in action 23 April 1951)
- 22194052 Private F W D Bostock (National Service)
- 19047665 Private G A Brookes – in A Echelon (Regular, evacuated wounded from the forward area on 23/24 April)
- 22341307 Private A D Carter (National Service, wounded 24 or 25 April 1951, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 22184305 Private J Chambers (Regular)
- 21015222 Sergeant T F Clayden (Regular, awarded Military Medal, retired as a Staff Sergeant 1968)
- 22332701 Private F M Clutterbuck (National Service, killed in action 25 April 1951)
- 19043263 Private A R Cole (Regular, left out of battle)
- 2040280 Sergeant H Courtney – in A Echelon (Regular, retired as Warrant Officer Class II in 1959)
- 64661308 Private R L English – a Driver (Regular Reserve)
- 22248671 Private S J Farnell (Regular)
- 4872796 Private T Fishwick (Regular, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 21126437 Private N Fry (Regular, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 22289532 Private B G Gallop (K, wounded and taken prisoner)
- 22341856 Lance Corporal C D Gordge (Regular Reserve, wounded, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 22332705 Private B R Hamblett (K)
- 22139146 Lance Corporal J A Hartigan (Regular, awarded British Empire Medal whilst a prisoner of war, transferred to Royal Hampshire Regiment)
- 22174977 Private A L Hawley – in A Echelon (National Service)
- 22530134 Private R Headland (K)
- 14489227 Sergeant D J Hoper (Regular, wounded and taken prisoner, awarded Mention in Despatches whilst a prisoner of war)
- 22315898 Private S Howe (National Service, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 5336948 Private F Kent (Regular, escaped from Forward Area 25 April)
- 6205079 Lance Corporal W W Lealand (Regular Reserve, wounded 25 April and taken prisoner)
- 336995 Captain T R Littlewood (Regular, promoted to Major in 1957)
- 5773471 Private D Lucas (Regular Reserve)
- 393213 Lieutenant R J Martin (Regular, , escaped from Forward Area 25 April, awarded Military Cross, retired as Major in 1968)
- 14172135 Private M Morgan – in A Echelon (Regular)
- 14466999 Sergeant B J Murphy (Regular, awarded Mention in Despatches, retired as a Warrant Officer Class II in 1974)
- 6462823 Private T P Nugent (Regular Reserve)
- 5619449 Private E W Partridge (Regular Reserve, wounded 24 April 1951, died as a prisoner of war on 4 January 1951)
- 22307477 Private H C Remnant (Regular, retired as a Sergeant in 1967)
- 6203560 Sergeant A B Sykes (Regular Reserve, awarded British Empire Medal)
- 14186568 Corporal J Vaughan (Regular, retired as a Colour Sergeant in 1969)
- 22536128 Corporal G A Wiltshire (Regular, escaped from Forward Area 25 April, promoted Sergeant in June 1951)
- Becke, 1934
- Harding, E D (2011) The Imjin Roll (4th Edition), Rushden: Forces & Corporate Publishing Ltd. Information provided by Nick Wise of the UK Military History/Military Genealogy and military photography Facebook Group on 26 April 2019.
- Holles, Robert O (1952) Now Thrive The Armourers, London: White Lion Publishers Limited.
- Newbould, 1992
- School of Musketry, Register of the School of Musketry 1911 to 1924 (Hythe: Corps of Small Arms and Machine Gun Schools; 1924).
- The National Archives, WO 293/1, Army Council Instructions 1914.