Prior to the start of the Great War, Lieutenant WEC Terry of the 2nd Battalion was one of the first members of the British Army to attend, and qualify from, a Vickers Gun course run by the School of Musketry at Hythe between 25 October and 15 November 1913. He was followed between 29 January and 20 February 1914 by Lieutenant JA Southey of the 2nd Battalion on the 53rd Qualifying Course at Hythe. Their attendance implies this regiment was one of the earliest to receive the Vickers machine gun.
The Great War
During the Great War, the Battalions, including the Buckinghamshire Battalions, were distributed as follows:
As a unit of the 2nd Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
|On the outbreak of War the 2nd Division (less the 4th (Guards) Brigade) in the London District) was quartered at Aldershot, and mobilized there (4th (Guards) Brigade mobilizing at Windsor and in London).The division crossed to France between the 11th and 16th August, concentrated around Wassigny, Etreux, etc., and began to moved forward on the 21st August.|
|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].|
The 5th Battalion was part of the 42nd Brigade, attached to the 14th (Light) Division.
|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 1). Army Order No. 324 of the 21st August, 1914 authorized the addition of six divisions (8th to 13th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army. This augmentation formed the First New Army, and early in September, 1914 the 8th (Light) Division, the senior division of the First New Army, began to assemble in Aldershot. The three infantry brigades of the Division were numbered: 23rd, 24th, and 25th.
It was, however, seen ascertained that the additional regular battalions released from the overseas garrisons would suffice to form another regular division. In consequence of this, Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September, 1914 directed that henceforward the number of the Light Division would be 14, and its infantry brigades would be renumbered 41, 42, and 43. On Monday the 14th September, 1914 this new numbering came into force, and instead of being the senior division, the Light Division became the junior division of the First New Army.
On the 26th September, whilst it was still at Aldershot, H.M. the King inspected the 14th (Light) Division on Queen’s Parade. Late in November, 1914 the Division moved out to billets in the Guildford and Godalming district, and on Friday the 22nd January, 1915 the Division was inspected on Hankley Common by Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener. The Division remained in billets around Guildford until the 18th February, and the troops then returned to Stanhope Lines, Aldershot. Divisional field manoeuvres and the fnal training for war were now undertaken.
On the 11th May a warning was received from the War Office that the 14th Division would proceed overseas on the 14th; this date, however, was altered to the 18th May, and on the 18th entrainment began. The Division then crossed from Southampton to le Havre, and by the 25th May it completed its concentration around Watten (north-west of St. Omer). For the remainder of the Great War the 14th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:
|30 and 31 July||Hooge (German Liquid Fire Attack) [VI Corps, Second Army].|
|25 September||Second Attack on Bellewaarde [VI Corps, Second Army].|
The 6th Battalion was part of the 60th Brigade, attached to the 20th (Light) Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been sent to Grantham for retraining and subsequently transferred into the 60th Bde. MG Coy. which joined the Division on 03 March 1916.
As a unit of the 20th (Light) 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.Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September 1914 authorised 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 20th (Light) Division, the junior division of the Second New Army, began to assemble in the Aldershot area.
At first the infantry brigades formed at Blackdown, Deepcut, and Cowshott Camp; and all units encountered the usual difficulties which were eventually overcome by goodwill and keenness. The divisional artillery was started by sending to Deepcut two officers and two drafts of nearly 2,000 men each. The available artillery accommodation, which had been built for two brigades with a total peace-time strength of 700, was strained to its utmost: rooms originally intended for 20 men had to accommodate about 50. By December, in the Artillery, the men were clothed partly in full dress blue uniforms, partly in canvas suits, and partly in shoddy thin blue suits. By this time a few horses had also arrived, and the available saddlery was made up of civilian-pattern snaffles, regulation bridles, hunting saddles, and colonial saddles. Each artillery brigade also possessed enough harness for one six-horse team, and each brigade also had 4 guns (2 French 90m/m and 2, 15-pdrs.) but no sights. In February 1915 twelve old 18-pdr. Q.F.s arrived from India and each 18-pdr. battery received one gun, henceforward proudly known as “our battery’s gun.”
Later on in February 1915 the Division moved to Witley, Godalming, and Guildford; but part of the divisional artillery had to go by train as there was not enough harness to move all the vehicles. The issue of khaki now began, additional horses and harness arrived, and the divisional ammunition column was completed with mules.
In April 1915 the Division marched to Salisbury Plain, covering the 62 miles in four days. On arrival the artillery drew its remaining harness and modern 18-pdr. Q.F. equipments were received; but it was somewhat later before the 4.5″ howitzer equipments were issued. From the outset the 4.5″ howitzers were equipped with No. 7 dial sights, whereas until July 1916 there were only No. 1 dial sights for the division’s 18-pdrs. In June all the batteries went to gun-practice. The training for war was now nearing its final stage.
On the 24th June H.M. The King inspected the 20th Division on Knighton Down. Embarkation for France began on the 20th July and by the afternoon of the 26th July the Division completed its concentration in the area to the west of St. Omer. For the remainder of the Great War the 20th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:-
|25 September||Attack towards Fromelles [III Corps, First Army].|
The Buckinghamshire Battalions
The Buckinghamshire Battalions formed part of the Territorial Force elements of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
Second World War
This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.
However during the Second World War, the 2nd (Airborne) Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry became an Airlanding Battalion of the 6th Airlanding Brigade of the 6th Airborne Division. This Battalion therefore retained a Machine Gun Platoon within H Company. At the time of Operation OVERLORD, there were two platoons. No. 8 (MMG) Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant William Anthony Bousfield, awarded the MC for actions in Normandy, was equipped with Jeeps. No. 9 (MMG) Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant E.H. Budds, was equipped with handcarts.
Footage of No. 8 Platoon loading their jeeps and trailers is part of the a film clip held by the Imperial War Museum (A70 25-2). The footage clearly shows the equipment being loaded into the trailer, including the gun, and some key items such as the aiming post.
The 6th Airborne Division was formed on 3rd May 1943. It saw action at the following battles:
- Normandy (6th June 1944)
- Rhine Crossing (23rd March – 18th April 1945)
Post-Second World War
After the Second World War, the MG assets reverted to MG Platoons within support companies of Infantry Battalions.
- Becke, 1934
- Bouchery, 1999
- Harris, L W J (1944) The 6th Airborne Division Prepares for D-Day [film]. London: Imperial War Museum. Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060019399. Accessed 4 June 2019.
- Hickman, 2013
- School of Musketry, Register of the School of Musketry 1911 to 1924 (Hythe: Corps of Small Arms and Machine Gun Schools; 1924).