Manchester Regiment: Wikis

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The Manchester Regiment
WWI Cap Badge

Active 1 July 1881-1 September 1958
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Anniversaries Ladysmith (23 February), Kohima (15 May), Guadeloupe (10 June), Inkerman (5 November)
Commanders
Ceremonial chief HM King George V (1930)
HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (1947)

The Manchester Regiment was a regiment of the British army, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 63rd Regiment of Foot and the 96th Regiment of Foot. The regiment amalgamated with the King's Regiment (Liverpool) in 1958, to form what became the King's Regiment.

Contents

The early years

The Manchester Regiment in the 1880s. Painting by Harry Payne (1858–1927)

The two regular battalions of the Manchester Regiment were formed by the amalgamation of the 63rd (West Suffolk) and 96th Regiments of Foot during the Cardwell-Childers reforms of the British Armed Forces. Militia and volunteers battalions from Lancashire were also incorporated as reserve battalions.

India featured prominently in the early history of the regiment. The 1st Battalion had been based there for a decade before departing for Egypt and thence to Britain in 1883, while the 2nd Battailon arrived in 1882 after service in Malta and Egypt. In the volatile North-West Frontier, the battalion participated in two expeditions against warring tribes in 1891.

In 1897, the 1st and 2nd Manchesters were posted to Gibraltar and Aden respectively, the latter battalion relocating to Manchester a year later.

The Boer War

In 1899 the 1st Manchesters landed in Durban, Natal Colony, just as the Second Boer War broke out. They were soon involved in action, taking part in an engagement in Ladysmith. The 1st Manchesters, along with the Imperial Light Horse which had been raised in Natal Colony the year war began and is still in service with the South African Army, now known as The Light Horse, covered Modderspruit, initially coming under fire from Boer artillery while disembarking from their armoured train, the cavalry then proceeded to attack and capture Elandslaagte railway station, however, it was soon deemed necessary to attack high ground west of the station to be sure of holding onto the position.

The 1st Manchesters, along with a number of other regiments, subsequently took part in the assault. The fighting was heavy, with the Boers pouring accurate fire into the advancing Manchesters, though not as heavy as the later battles, such as at Spion Kop. The regiment at one point halted its advance, due to the increasingly deadly fire from the Boer defenders, who had excellent cover in the rocky hills. The Manchesters soon became the main frontal-assault, having initially been tasked with a left-flank attack on the Boer hills, the enemy soon withdrew to their main position, situated behind barbed-wire, once the Manchesters closed-in further. Further fighting took place on the last hill reached by the British, and the Boers that defended it soon retreated. However, a few dozen Boers soon appeared, counter-attacking the Manchesters, as well as the Gordons. Heavy fighting ensued, however, the British prevailed after some brilliant leadership by a number of officers was displayed.

By 29 October, the Siege of Ladysmith began. The 1st Manchester took part in an engagement the following day, the Manchesters reached only half-way to their first objective, then being involved in other duties, such as coverering, from high-ground, Lieutenant-General John French's cavalry. The action was not going well, and the British forces were soon withdrawn back to the relative safety of Ladysmith.

On the 6 January 1900 during the Ladysmith Siege, the regiment was involved in an action on Wagon Hill, where the British camp, known as Caeser Camp, was situated very close to the front-line. Sixteen soldiers of the 1st Manchesters held a small sector of the Ladysmith perimeter which was under heavy Boer attack. The men defended the position for fifteen hours against determined attacks by a superior number of Boers. Only two survived, Privates Pitts and Scott, and for many hours during the engagement, were the last of the group, though still repulsed the Boer attacks. Both won the Victoria Cross for their astonishing bravery. It was the first two VCs of The Manchester Regiment. By the 28 February, Ladysmith had finally been relieved by forces under the command of General Redvers Buller.

In April of that year, the 2nd Manchesters joined the 1st, when they too deployed to Natal Colony to take part in the Boer War. Both battalions of the Manchesters took part in the offensive that followed the relieving of the besieged towns of Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking. The 1st Manchesters took part in much fighting in the Transvaal, in the Boer South African Republic. The 2nd Manchesters meanwhile, conducted many operations designed to check the Boer commandos in the Orange Free State. Some were rather controversial, such as burning farms that were found to assist the Boer guerillas. Many men, in many regiments, were decidedly uneasy about performing such duties, but did, mostly, understand why they had to do it in such an, at that time, unconventional war. As in all wars, some men enjoyed performing such acts against the populace, though they were largely in the minority, the majority being professional soldiers, due largely to the many reforms that had been implemented in the 1870s and 1880s.

The war was over by the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. Further reforms occurred in the aftermath of the Boer War, which became known as the Haldane Reforms, after Richard Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, of the government of Prime Minister Asquith. The changes included the creation of an expeditionary force, which would prove so vital in World War I, and the Territorial Force, later the Territorial Army, which would prove equally important in the war that was only a few years from beginning.

First World War

The 2nd Manchesters returned to Britain in 1902, where they would remain until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I. The 1st Manchesters departed South Africa for Singapore in 1903. The following year the 1st moved to British India, where, in 1911, the famous Coronation Review at the Delhi Durbar, which included the 1st Manchesters, took place. The 1st Manchesters, upon the outbreak of war, were part of the 3rd (Lahore) Indian Division, while the 2nd Manchesters became part of the 5th Division. One of the last surviving World War I veterans, Netherwood Hughes, served in the 51st Manchesters.[1] Ned Hughes died 4 April 2009 aged 108.[2]

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Western Front

Before the arrival of the 1st Battalion from India, the 2nd Manchesters embarked for France with the 5th Division in August 1914 and contributed to the rearguard actions that supported the British Expeditionary Force's retreat following the Battle of Mons.[3] Engaged in the battles of Marne, the Aisne and "First Ypres", the 2nd Manchesters was the sole representative of the regiment until October and the arrival of the Indian Corps, comprising two infantry divisions and cavalry. Each brigade contained a constituent British battalion, the 1st Manchesters being the Jullundur's.

Having been briefly attached to French cavalry, the 1st Battalion occupied trenches near Festubert on 26 October. Three-days later, a heavy bombardment preceded an attack by a German force directed against the 2nd Manchesters and the Devonshire Regiment. Despite capturing a trench line, the Germans were unable to capitalise due to the actions of a platoon commanded by Second-Lieutenant James Leach. In the process of their methodical retaking of the trench, the party killed eight, wounded two and captured 14 soldiers.[4] For their contribution to the defence of the Manchesters' trenches, Second-Lieutenant Leach and Sergeant John Hogan were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Severe casualties were sustained by the 1st Manchesters and its brigade during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. A succession of intensely fought battles followed, culminating in Second Ypres and Loos.

The 1st Battalion embarked for Mesopotamia in late 1915, accompanying the infantry element of the Indian Corps. Although the departure of the 1st Manchesters reduced the regiment's complement of battalions on the Western Front to The On 1 July 1916, the many battalions of the Manchesters, including the famous Pals battalions, . Many of the Bns of the regiment had a relatively successful day, though some did suffer terrible casualties in reaching their objectives. The battle had been costly, over 57,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded or missing.

Many battalions of the regiment continued to be involved in the Somme offensive, which lasted into November 1916. In late July, the 18th Bn of the Manchesters, a Kitchener battalion, along with the 16th and 17th Manchesters and other regiments, attacked an area known as Guillemont, suffering very heavy casualties during the engagement During the action, Company Sergeant-Major George Evans (18th Battalion) volunteered to take an important message, a duty that had resulted in the death of the five previous messengers. He ran over half a mile and, despite being wounded by enemy wounded, delieved the message, subsequently returning, from shell hole to shell hole, under persistent heavy enemy fire, to his company. He was awarded the VC.

C Company, 2nd Manchesters taking the battery at Francilly Selency. Painting by Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927)

On the 2 April, the 2nd Manchesters attacked Francilly-Selency, in which the battalion captured a number of German machine guns, with the position of Francilly-Selency also being taken. C Company of the battalion captured a battery of 77 mm guns, after hand-to-hand fighting took place. Two paintings were made of this action by the military artist Richard Caton Woodville. Many Manchester battalions took part in the Arras Offensive which began later that month. The battalions took part in a number of battles of the offensive, seeing heavy, and costly, action.

On the 31 July 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres began. As in many of the major battles, a large proportion of the Manchester battalions were involved. During 'Third Ypres', Sergeant Coverdale of the 11th Manchesters, killed three snipers, rushed two machine gun positions, then reorganised his platoon to capture another position, though after advancing some distance was forced back due to bombardment from the British artillery, suffering nine casualties in the advance. He later attacked with a smaller number of men, though when the Germans counter-attacked, he withdrew man-by-man, himself being the last to leave.

During the last major German offensive on 21 March 1918, the 16th Manchesters were positioned on Manchester Hill in the St. Quentin area when the offensive began that day. The Battle of Manchester Hill was to be a truly tragic day for the battalion. A large German force, many thousands strong, attacked the 16th Bn, being repulsed in parts, but completely overwhelming the 16th elsewhere, though most of the positions lost were recaptured in counter-attacks by the 16th Manchesters. The 16th bitterly held their positions, fighting hand-to-hand with the German attackers. Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob performed bravely, fighting with pistol and grenade, indeed at one point repulsing a German grenadier attack single-handedly, encouraging his troops to continue fighting, making a number of journeys, despite very heavy fire, to replenish the dwindling ammunition supplies of the Manchesters. At one point, he sent a message to Brigade that 'The Manchester Regiment will defend Manchester Hill to the last', to his men he had said 'Here we fight, and here we die'. They did so, the battalion was, for the most part, annihilated. Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob was killed in the battle, he won the posthumous VC. The Hill was later counter-attacked by the 17th Manchesters, though by the end of the day they too had lost so many men that they ceased to be an effective fighting force. Two other men won the VC in the last months of the war in 1918.

Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine

Six Territorial battalions of the regiment formed part of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, which, in May 1915, landed at Cape Helles, the first landings to establish the beachheads at Gallipoli having taken place in April. Many of the Manchester battalions took part in the Third Battle of Krithia on the 4 June. The 127th (Manchester) Brigade reached their first objective, as well as managing to advance a further 1000 yards, capturing 217 Turkish soldiers in the process. In all, it was quite a successful attack by the 42nd Division. Just a few hours later, however, the brigade was forced to withdraw on account of a Turkish counter-attack that threatened their flanks. Further fighting took place at the positions the British had withdrawn to and were soon repusled after many days fighting.

Many of the battalions also fought at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard on the 6 August. Many of the Manchester battalions suffered heavily during the battle, an engagement which would last to the 13th. Lieutenant Forshaw of the 1/9th Battalion won the VC during the battle. The evacuation of Cape Helles lasted from December 1915 to January 1916. The Manchester battalions suffered many casualties during the Dardnalles Campaign. At the Helles Memorial, 1,215 names of the Manchesters fill the memorial alone.

In the Mesopotamian Campaign, the 1st Manchesters took part in the Battle of Dujaila in March 1916, which was intended to relieve the British forces in Kut-al-Amara, which was being besieged by Ottoman forces. In the latter battle, the 1st Manchesters suffered rather heavily, though they carried on professionally, reaching the trenches of the Dujaila Redoubt with the 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force), however in an Ottoman counter-attack, they were forced back out of the trenches, withdrawing to their starting lines. During that withdrawal, Private Stringer held his ground single-handedly, using grenades on the Turkish soldiers, in doing this, he secured the flank of the battalion, winning the VC for his actions. The battle was a defeat for the British and Indian forces, who suffered 4,000 casualties. After the five battles, all defeats, that had taken place to relieve Kut, the town surrendered to the Ottoman forces on the 29 April 1916. The 1st Manchesters would take part in further actions in Mesopotamia, but in April 1918 the regiment moved to Egypt.

The battalion was then moved to Palestine, still part of the 3rd (Lahore) Division, to take part in the campaign there against the Ottomans. They took part in the last major offensive there, Megiddo. The infantry assaulted on the 19 September, the 1st Manchesters being involved in much action. Within three hours the Turkish lines, held by the Turkish Eighth Army, had been broken. Open warfare was the order of the day, in complete contradiction to what had, and was, occurring in other theatres. During the Megiddo offensive, the cavalry advanced over 70 miles in just thirty-six hours, performing what was an early form of blitzkrieg. It was a total defeat for the Turkish Forces and the rapidly declining Ottoman Empire. The 1st Manchesters took part in further engagements in September and would remain in Palestine until 1919.

Inter war years

In 1919, the 1st Manchesters returned to the UK, seeing service in Ireland from 1920. In 1922 it garrisoned the Channel Islands before deploying to Germany the following year to join the Army of Occupation. It returned to the UK in 1927 and in 1933 departed for the West Indies. In Egypt in 1936 as a Vickers MG unit, the battalion was rushed to Palestine when the Arab Revolt broke out. In 1937 a company on detachment in Cyprus provided a Guard for the Coronation parade. Between 1936 and 1938 the battalion took many casualties while carrying out the thankless task of peace-keeping. In 1938 the battalion moved to Singapore.

The 2nd Manchesters in 1920 deployed to Iraq. During an action near Hillah, Captain Henderson reorganised his company who were wavering in the face of a large force of tribesmen, then led the company in three attacks against the tribesmen, being severely wounded in the second attack, though carrying on for the third and final counter-attack. He carried on fighting until he succumbed to the loss of blood and fell to the ground. Aided by one of his men who helped him stand, the Captain told his men, "I'm done now, don't let them beat you." He was shot again, killing him. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

The battalion departed for India in 1922, where it would remain until 1932. At the outbreak of World War II, it was stationed in the UK.

Second World War

North West Europe

Upon the beginning of the Battle of France in May 1940, the 2nd, 5th, and 9th Manchesters deployed to the continent, where they saw action against the Germans. Despite inferior equipment, they put up a stubborn defence against the German attackers. Later that month, the BEF made a number of withdrawals, the Manchesters being involved in much bitter fighting along the way, until finally, that same month, the order was given for all units to withdraw to Dunkirk, the scene of what would be the most daring evacuation of troops in the history of warfare. Of the surviving men of the 2nd Manchesters who fought in the Battle of France, more than 300 men were evacuated, and fewer than 200 remained in France, fighting until captured or killed. The other battalions of the regiment were evacuated, suffering light casualties. The evacuation ended on 3 June.

The following day Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave the immortal "We shall fight on the beaches" speech in defiance of the seemingly impossible situation that Britain, her Empire and Commonwealth faced.

In 1944 the 1st Manchesters landed in France on the 27 June, 21 days after the invasion had begun. The battalion took part in a number of engagements in the area around Caen, which was captured by British and Canadian Forces on 9 July. The battalion advanced across Northern France, reaching Antwerp in Belgium in early September. The 1st Manchesters, along with the rest of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, moved to Turnhout, before advancing later that month into the Netherlands where the 1st and 7th Manchesters saw heavy action. The 1st Manchesters, after entering German territory in the face of the Wehrmacht's defences, crossed the Rhine with the 53rd Division in late March. The 7th Manchesters saw its last fighting in Bremen, when that city was captured on 26 April. The 1st Manchesters ended the war in Hamburg when that city surrendered on 3 May.

The 8th and 9th Manchesters took part in the Italian campaign. The former battalion was part of the Indian 10th Infantry Division, with the latter being part of the Indian 4th Infantry Division. The 9th Manchesters saw much action during the Battle for the Gothic Line, including the Battle of Montegridolfo. After service in Greece and a return to Italy for the last weeks of the campaign there, they reached Graz, Austria by the end of the war.

Far East

Vickers machine-gun of the 1st Manchester Regiment, 17 October 1941, Malaya.

Stationed in Singapore from 1938, the 1st Manchesters saw action during the Japanese invasion of the island in February 1942. After bitter fighting, on 15 February, Lieutenant-General Percival signed the surrender of Singapore and all Commonwealth forces on the island. The original 1st Manchesters (the battalion would later be restored by the redesignation of another battalion) spent the rest of the war as POWs. Several hundred died in the camps.

In 1942, the 2nd Manchesters deployed to the sub-continent, being stationed first in India, then in 1944, to Burma. The battalion was involved in the Battle of Kohima in fierce fighting with the Japanese. It fought in subsequent actions in Burma until April 1945, when it returned to India.

Post war

The 1st Manchesters remained in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) until it returned to Britain in 1947, where it was joined by the 2nd Battalion. After its return home, the 2nd Battalion amalgamated with the 1st in 1948.

A deployment to Germany followed, based in Wuppertal. After providing guards for Spandau Prison in Berlin, the battalion proceeded, in 1951, to Malaya aboard the troopship Empire Hallande. In three years of service during the Malayan Emergency, 14 men from the regiment were killed in action.

With the exception of a brief return to Britain, the 1st Manchesters remained part of BAOR until amalgamation in 1958.

See also

References

  1. ^ Bingham, John (2008-11-20). "'New' First World War veteran comes to light through internet". Telegraph Online. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3491093/New-First-World-War-veteran-comes-to-light-through-internet.html. Retrieved 2008-11-25.  
  2. ^ Report on Ned Hughes' death
  3. ^ Mileham (2000), p83
  4. ^ Mileham (2000), p86

External links

Preceded by
63rd Regiment of Foot
96th Regiment of Foot
Manchester Regiment
1881–1958
Succeeded by
King's Regiment

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