The Great War

The Cheshire 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:

1st

The 1st Battalion was part of the 15th Brigade, attached to the 5th Division. It’s MG Section was transferred on 27 December 1915 to form the 15th Bde. MG Coy..

As a unit of the 5th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.

1914
23 and 24 August Battle of Mons [II. Corps].
23 August to 05 September RETREAT FROM MONS [II. Corps].
24 August Elouges (1/Norf. and 1/Ches., and 119 R.F.A.).
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]
11 November Battle of Nonne Bosschen (2/K.O.S.B., 2/Duke’s (13th Bde.), and 1/Bedf., 1/Ches. (15th Bde.)) [I. Corps].
1915
17 to 22 April Capture of Hill 60 [II. Corps, Second Army].
23 April to 01 May BATTLE OF YPRES [V. Corps, Second Army].

2nd

The 2nd Battalion was part of the 84th Brigade, attached to the 28th Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been transferred into the 84th MG Coy. which was formed 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.)

1915
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.

8th

The 8th Battalion was part of the 40th Brigade, attached to the 13th (Western) Division.

As a unit of the 13th (Western) Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following 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). 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 enginees had joined the division. Divisional field manoevres 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:

1915
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.
1916
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 on 23 May 1916. This was then amalgamated into the 40th MG Coy. which was formed on 24 October 1916 at Amara.

9th

The 9th Battalion was part of the 58th Brigade, attached to the 19th (Western) Division. It’s MG Section was likely to have been sent to Grantham for retraining and subsequently transferred into the 58th Bde. MG Coy. which disembarked at Le Havre on 09 February 1816 and joined the Division on 14 February 1916.

As a unit of the 19th (Western) Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.

FORMATION, BATTLES, AND ENGAGEMENTS
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:-

1915
25 September to 02 October Battle of Loos [Indian Corps, First Army].
25 September Action of Pietre

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The Inter-War Period

In 1922, the Machine Gun Corps was disbanded and the guns returned to the Infantry Battalion as a Machine Gun Platoon and then formed as a Machine Gun Company in the early 1930s.

In addition, with the reorganisation an opportunity to do so, the Cheshire Regiment changed its cap badge.


The Second World War

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This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again. The Cheshires were one of those Infantry Regiments converted to this new role.

1st

As of 30 September, 1939, the 1st Battalion was in The Sudan, under the command of Major-General Commanding Troops in the Sudan. As of 31 January, 1940, it was in Egypt, in the Delta, in the Suez Canal Area as Command Troops. From 30 June, 1940, it was in Egypt as part of the Mersa Matruh Garrison. It was still here on 31 January, 1941.

The 1st Battalion was in North Africa when Italy declared war in 1940. It fought in the battles of Mersa Matruh, Sidi Barani and Torbruk until February 1941 when it was despatched to Malta to take part in the defence of that island.

From 27 July, 1941, to 22 January, 1943, it was part of 233rd Infantry Brigade, serving under Malta Command, in Malta. From 23 January, 1943, until 05 April, 1943, it was part of 234th Brigade serving under Malta Command, in Malta.

The Battalion remained there until July 1943 when C Company was dispatched to North Africa to join the 7th Armoured Division and it provided the Independent Machine Gun Company to that Division for the invasion of Salerno.

The Battalion re-absorbed C Company when they returned from Italy to the UK and was stationed in the Grimsby area. It was allocated to prepare for operations in NW Europe but the 21st Army Group had no requirement for an additional MG Battalion so it was converted to an Infantry Battalion and joined the British Liberation Army as a regular Infantry Battalion as part of the 115th Independent Infantry Brigade. It embarked for Operations in Holland in February 1945, subsequently joining 159th Infantry Brigade (11th Armoured Division) in April, 1945, until the end of the War.

2nd

The 2nd Battalion was organised as a Divisional MG Battalion but attached to General Headquarters, British Expeditionary Force, available to Corps Troops as required. It took part in the Campaign in France and Belgium, May 1940.

When War broke out the Battalion was mobilised and sent to France where it joined the I Corps and was attached to the 1st Division. It remained this way until withdrawn from Dunkirk in May 1940. February 1941 saw the Battalion leave I Corps and 1st Division and join the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.

The 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division was mobilised in September 1939 as a First Line Territorial Army Infantry Division. Whilst the 2nd Battalion was part of it, it saw action in the following theatres and battles:

Dates Theatre Battles
01 February, 1941, to 22 April, 1941 United Kingdom
23 April, 1941, to 13 June, 1941 At Sea
14 June, 1941, to 24 July, 1941 Egypt
25 July, 1941, to 03 November, 1941 Cyprus
04 November, 1941, to 21 November, 1941 Cyprus to Iraq (By sea and road)
21 November, 1941, to 12 January, 1942 Iraq
13 January, 1942, to 21 January, 1942 Iraq to Syria (By road)
22 January, 1942, to 10 February, 1942 Syria
12 February, 1942, to 21 February, 1942 Egypt
21 February, 1942, to 16 June, 1942 Libya
  • Gazala (26 May to 21 June, 1942)
16 June, 1942, to 05 December, 1942 Egypt
  • Mersa Matruh (26 June to 30 June, 1942)
  • Defence of Alamein Line (01 July to 27 July, 1942)
  • El Alamein (23 October to 04 November, 1942)
06 December, 1942, to 04 March, 1943 Libya
05 March, 1943, to 27 April, 1943 North Africa
  • Mareth (16 March to 23 March, 1943)
  • Akarit (06 April to 07 April, 1943)
  • Enfidaville (19 April to 29 April, 1943)
28 April, 1943, to 09 May, 1943 Libya
09 May, 1943, to 29 June, 1943 Egypt
29 June, 1943, to 10 July, 1943 At Sea
10 July, 1943, to 19 October, 1943 Sicily
  • Landing in Sicily (09 July to 12 July, 1943)
19 October, 1943, to 06 November, 1943 At Sea
06 November, 1943, to 01 June, 1944 United Kingdom
01 June, 1944, to 06 June, 1944 At Sea
06 June, 1944, to 12 December, 1944 North West Europe
  • Normandy Landing (06 June, 1944)
  • The Nederrijn (17 September to 27 September, 1944)
12 December, 1944, to 14 December, 1944 At Sea
14 December, 1944, to 30 June, 1945 United Kingdom

From 01 July, 1945, to 31 August, 1945, the 2nd Battalion was the Machine Gun Battalion to the 61st Infantry Division. It remained in the United Kingdom as part of Eastern Command.

4th

The 4th Battalion was organised as a Divisional MG Battalion but attached to General Headquarters, British Expeditionary Force, available to Corps Troops as required. It took part in the Campaign in France and Belgium, May 1940.

This Battalion was an interesting one as it was never ‘mobilized’ but instead ’embodied’. It was part of the 55th Division initially but soon transferred to the 48th Division for administrative purposes but it was in reality part of the Corps Troops and did not wear divisional insignia. It went to France in January 1940 and took part in several actions there. After serious losses, including two complete companies, it returned to the UK at the end of May – via Bray Dunes.

It remained in the United Kingdom being a breeding ground for MG and Small Arms instructors and these were picked off by other Battalions and Regiments.

From 11 November, 1941, to 01 October, 1942, it was the Divisional Machine Gun Battalion to the 1st Infantry Division, based in the United Kingdom. From 29 October, 1943, to 30 June, 1944, it was the Divisional Support Battalion to the 61st Infantry Division, based in the United Kingdom. From 01 July, 1944, to 20 September, 1944, it was the Divisional Machine Gun Battalion to the 61st Infantry Division, based in the United Kingdom.

5th (Earl of Chester’s)

Formed as part of the expansion of the Territorial Army in early 1939 when the 4th/5th Battalion was split and the 4th and 5th Battalions became separate entities. It became part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. It was then, in November 1939, transferred to the 59th Division and took up duties as a defence battalion in the Liverpool defence zone in April 1940.

It moved to Northern Ireland and took part in the defence of the border between the Northern province and Eire. It then became part of the 53rd Division on 11 November, 1941, until 01 October, 1942.

“A” Company became part of the 148th Independent Brigade on their formation as an Independent Machine Gun Company. They remained in Norther Ireland while the rest of the Battalion returned to the mainland.

Various training locations were used until the Battalion became part of the coastal defences in Dorset in September 1942. On 08 January, 1943, and until 31 August, 1944, the Battalion joined the 80th Reserve Division and became a Continuation Training Battalion in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey and spent the rest of the war training Machine Gunners and Mortarmen in the practical aspects of support warfare. This remained unchanged other than an administrative move from the 80th to the 38th Division on 01 September, 1944, where it remained until the end of the War.

Private John Hinton was a member of the 5th Battalion, as part of 80th Division, during his continuation training.

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6th

The 6th was formed in March 1939 and spent the following 18 months training and providing home defence duties. In October 1940, it joined the 44th (Home Counties) Division as attached Corps Troops, becoming the MG Battalion for that Division on 11 November, 1941, until 24 November, 1942.

Whilst the 6th Battalion was part of it, it saw action in the following theatres and battles:

Dates Theatre Battles
11 November, 1941, to 29 May, 1942 United Kingdom
29 May, 1942, to 23 July, 1942 At Sea
24 July, 1942, to 24 November, 1942 Egypt
  • Alam el Halfa (30 August to 07 September, 1942)
  • El Alamein (23 October to 04 November, 1942)

On 12 January, 1943, the Battalion joined the 56th (London) Infantry Division, which was mobilised in June 1940 as a First Line Territorial Army Infantry Division.

Whilst the 6th Battalion was part of it, it saw action in the following theatres and battles:

Dates Theatre Battles
12 January, 1943, to 24 March, 1943 Iraq
25 March, 1943, to 28 March, 1943 Palestine
29 March, 1943, to 04 April, 1943 Egypt
05 April, 1943, to 19 April, 1943 Libya
19 April, 1943, to 26 May, 1943 North Africa
  • Enfidaville (19 April to 29 April, 1943)
  • Tunis (05 May to 12 May, 1943)
27 May, 1943, to 31 August, 1943 Libya
01 September, 1943, to 09 September, 1943 At Sea
09 September, 1943, to 28 March, 1944 Italy
  • Salerno (09 September to 18 September, 1943)
  • Capture of Naples (22 September to 01 October, 1943)
  • Volturno Crossing (12 October to 15 October, 1943)
  • Monte Camino (05 November to 09 December, 1943)
  • Garigliano Crossing (17 January to 31 January, 1944)
  • Anzio (11 January to 22 May, 1944)
28 March, 1944, to 02 April, 1944 At Sea
03 April, 1944, to 11 July, 1944 Egypt
11 July, 1944, to 17 July, 1944 At Sea
17 July, 1944, to 31 August, 1945 Italy
  • Gothic Line (25 August to 22 September, 1944)
  • Coriano (03 September to 15 September, 1944)
  • Rimini Line (14 September to 21 September, 1944)
  • Lamone Crossing (02 December to 13 December, 1944)
  • Argenta Gap (13 April to 21 April, 1945)

Within its time in the 56th Division, the Battalion expended the following quantities of ammunition:

Machine Gun Ammunition
Western Desert and Tunisia 1942 – 1943 NO RECORD
Italy September 1943 – March 1944 3,683,700
Italy September 1944 – April 1945 2,719,200
5,402,900 rounds
4.2 inch Mortar Bombs
Gothic Line to Venice September 1944 to April 1945 32,757 rounds (or 292.5 tonnes)

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7th

The 7th Battalion was organised as a Divisional MG Battalion but attached to General Headquarters, British Expeditionary Force, available to Corps Troops as required. It took part in the Campaign in France and Belgium, May 1940.

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From 11 November 1941, the Battalion was the Divisional MG Battalion to the 5th (Yorkshire) Infantry Division.

The 5th (Yorkshire) Infantry Division was mobilised in September 1939 as a Regular Army Infantry Division.

During the time the 7th Bn was part of it, the 5th Infantry Division was in the following theatres and battles.

Dates Theatre Battles
01 June, 1940, to 16 March, 1942 United Kingdom
17 March, 1942, to 20 May, 1942 At Sea
21 May, 1942, to 20 August, 1942 India
20 August, 1942, to 28 August, 1942 At Sea
28 August, 1942, to 28 September, 1942 Iraq
28 September, 1942, to 31 January, 1943 Persia
01 February, 1943 to 12 February, 1943 In Transit from Persia
13 February, 1943, to 11 June, 1943 Syria
11 June, 1943, to 13 June, 1943 In Transit
13 June, 1943, to 28 June, 1943 Egypt
29 June, 1943, to 10 July, 1943 At Sea
10 July, 1943, to 03 September, 1943 Sicily
  • Landing in Sicily (09 July to 12 July, 1943)
03 September, 1943, to 03 July, 1944 Italy
  • The Sangro (19 November to 03 December, 1943)
  • Garigliano Crossing (17 January to 31 January, 1944)
  • Anzio (22 January to 22 May, 1944)
  • Rome (22 May to 04 June, 1944)
03 July, 1944, to 09 July, 1944 At Sea
09 July, 1944, to 13 July, 1944 Egypt
14 July, 1944, to 08 February, 1945 Palestine
27 February, 1945, to 02 March, 1945 At Sea
02 March, 1945, to 31 August, 1945 NW Europe

8th (Later the 30th)

Unlike the other units of the Cheshires, this Battalion never seems to have been converted to the Machine Gun or Support role and spent the war as Garrison troops providing base and stores security and guards details in the UK, North Africa and Italy.


Post-Second World War

After the Second World War, the MG assets reverted to MG Platoons within support companies of Infantry Battalions.


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