The 1st (Regular) Battalion
[Formerly the 1st/16th Regiment of Foot]
See details of a book on the Great War history of
this battalion here.
The regiment that would later
be known as the 16th Regiment of Foot was raised at Reading in October
1688, and was in action a year later at the Battle of Walcourt.
During the Marlborough campaigns they distinguished themselves as
steady, reliable fighting troops and by the end of the campaign
had won five battle honours. A more detailed history of the battalion's
service between 1688 and 2009 can be seen here.
The regiment was engaged
in numerous of the Empire's 'small wars' throughout the 18th century
and between wars, campaigns and spells on home soil, they served
in many countries including Canada, North America, India, South
Africa, the Far East, the West Indies and Ireland. They were not
involved in the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon's armies, as they
were stationed in the West Indies at the time. On returning home
in 1814 had to be rebuilt as they had been employed on garrison
duty in the 'fever isles' for ten years and were literally a mere
skeleton of their former selves.
Although the regiment was in Canada when Napoleon
marched north out of France in 1815, they were ordered back to Europe,
but by the time their ship arrived and transported them to Europe,
it was all over. This episode led to their nickname 'the Peacemakers'
and regular quarrels with the 30th Foot ensued, as a result of the
30th's taunts and the 16th's irritability at having missed the entire
campaign against Napoleon.
With that, the 16th Foot were once again destined
for a long spell patrolling the Empire. Service in Ceylon (to 1828)
and Bengal, followed by tours in Gibraltar (to 1847) and Corfu were
all uneventful. In 1851 Jamaica beckoned again, followed by another
posting to Canada. Ireland followed as a second battalion were raised
(to become the 2nd Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment when the
County affiliation was introduced in 1881) and the Crimean War came
and went without either battalion being available to the British
forces at the time. Despite their growing annoyance and being unable
to shake the 'Peacemaker' label, the 16th Foot were commended on
their behaviour at every station of their garrison service and known
to be remarkably disciplined, highly trained and always eager.
By the 1890's the 1st Battalion were in India
and took part in the Chitral Expeditions against several revolting
tribes, the most notable action being at the Malakand Pass between
the 2nd and 4th April 1895. They forced the pass despite dreadful
terrain and chased the retiring enemy army some four miles on the
first day, eventually causing them 500 casualties which was no mean
feat given the type of fighting. The Chitral battle honour was 'well
deserved' for their involvement and adorns the regimental standard
to this day.
After Chitral, the 1st Battalion were back
patrolling the Empire and had no involvement in the South African
Wars of 1899 to 1902 as a battalion, although the 2nd Battalion
did, and took drafts of Militia, Reserve and minor 1st Battalion
contingents. Until the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in the
summer of 1914, the 1st Battalion served in India and Ireland on
relatively peaceful policing duties.
The 1st Battalion's service in The Great War
The 1st Battalion was a
Army' battalion, who were
based at Mullingar in Ireland, at the outbreak of war. On mobilisation
they left Ireland as part of 15th Infantry Brigade in the 5th Division
and went down in history as one of the battalions of 'Old
Contemptibles' who fought against the German Kaisers
larger armies in the early engagements of the war.
The original soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions were amongst
the ' Old Contemptibles' - the title proudly
adopted by the men of the original British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.)
who saw active service before 22nd November 1914. They were the
professional soldiers of the British army, almost all of whom were
regular soldiers or reservists. They took their honourable title
from the famous 'Order of the Day' allegedly given by Kaiser Wilhelm
II at his headquarters in Aix-la-Chapelle on the 19th August, 1914:
is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies,
for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that is that
you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to
exterminate first the treacherous English; walk over General French's
contemptible little Army."
evidence appears to have survived verifying the Kaiser's order so
whether the phrase was the result of propaganda or not is open to
Their division landed in
France on 16th August 1914 as a part of Haig's II Corps and fought
in the early engagements of the war. They were engaged at the Battle
of Mons in August and fought during the stand at Le Cateau, where
five Victoria Crosses were won by their division. After service
during the battles of the Marne and the Aisne, they were rushed
north to Flanders and were also involved in the Battle of La Bassee,
followed by the First Battle of Ypres. By the end of November the
division had suffered 5,000 casualties and stayed in a purely defensive
role that winter.
Having moved to the Ypres
salient early in 1915, the division were engaged at the Second Battle
of Ypres, defending Hill 60, where another four Victoria Crosses
were won in one day. In May Private Edward
Warner of the 1st Bedfordshires won the Victoria Cross defending
Hill 60 during the early use of gas as an offensive weapon, but
was awarded the honour posthumously as he died of his wounds the
After spells holding new portions of the Western
Front taken over from the French on the Somme and at Arras, the
battalion were heavily engaged during the Battles of the Somme 1916,
at Arras and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, before moving to
the Italian Front in December 1917. Their division was rushed back
to France in April 1918 in response to the German Spring Offensives
and remained on the Western Front until the end of hostilities in
The 15th Infantry Brigade, which was temporarily
in the 28th Division between 3rd March and 7th April 1915, was comprised:
- 1st Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, the Norfolk Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, the Dorset Regiment (Between
August 1914 and December 1915).
- 1st/6th Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment
(Between December 1914 and March 1915).
- 1st/6th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool)
Regiment ([Between February and November 1915).
- 16th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment
(Between December 1915 and October 1918).
The men of the 1st Battalion served within one
of the British army's consistently reliable Regular divisions throughout
the Great War, earning hundreds of gallantry medals including a
Over 1,600 Officers and men gave their lives for King and Country
serving in the Battalion, and over 13,000 were wounded in combat.
The battalion were engaged in the following
major battles throughout the war:
they were in the original British Expeditionary Force and fought
at the battles of Mons and Le Cateau in August, the battles of the
Marne and the Aisne in September, at the battle of La Bassée
in October and during the Battle of Ypres 1914 (also known as the
First Battle of Ypres) in November
they were heavily engaged during the Battle of Ypres 1915 (also
known as the Second Battle of Ypres) in April and May, where they
fought at Hill 60 during the initial capture and subsequent defence
that saw them lose so heavily that they were effectively rebuilt
twice during the fighting.
they were involved in several phases of the Battle of the Somme,
namely the attacks on High Wood 20th to 25th July, at Longueval
27th to 30th July, the Battle of Guillemont (specifically the capture
of Falfemont Farm 3rd to 6th September) and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette
(specifically the Battle of Morval on 25th September).
they were at the Battle of Arras, specifically at the attack on
La Coulotte in April and the Third Battle of the Scarpe in May.
They were also involved in the capture of Oppy Wood in June. During
the Battles of Ypres 1917 (known as the Third Battle of Ypres or
Passchendaele), the battalion were engaged in the Battles of Broodseinde
and Poelcapelle in October as well as the Second battle of Passchendaele
in October and November, before being moved to help stabilise the
front in Italy following the disastrous battle of Caporetto.
the battalion were rushed back to the Western Front in response
to the German Spring Offensives and fought in the Battle of the
Lys, specifically in the Battle of Hazebrouck, during the defence
of the Nieppe Forest from April onwards. Once the Allied army went
on the final offensives that would become loosely known as the '100
days' they were engaged in several actions - in the Battle of Albert
in August and the Second Battle of Bapaume in September during the
Second battles of the Somme 1918, the Battle of the Canal du Nord
in September during the Battles for the Hindenburg Line, the Battle
of the Selle during the Final Advance in Picardy
Commanding Officers of the 1st Battalion.
The following Lieutenant Colonels commanded
the battalion between 1914 and 1919:
Richard Jebb GRIFFITH, C.M.G., D.S.O., between the 16th
October 1913 and 3rd December 1915, at which time he went to command
the 108th Brigade.
Robert ROCHE between 6th December 1915 and 1st February
1916, after which he returned to England to command Reserve battalions
of the Middlesex and Worcestershire regiments.
Charlton ONSLOW, C.B., C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., from 1st
February to 14th June 1916, when he went on to command the 57th
Wilfred LAWDER from 14th June to 16th July 1916, who was
killed in September that year.
ALLASON, D.S.O. & Bar, between 16th July and 3rd December
1916, when he was severely wounded by an accidental revolver discharge
whilst in the trenches.
Noel BUTLER, between 18th December 1916 and 1st April
1917, when he went to command the 11th Essex.
Reginald WORRALL, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., from 1st April
1917 to 5th February 1918, when he went on to command the 1st
Ivan de Sausmarez THORPE, C.M.G., D.S.O., from 7th February
to 16th April 1918, after which he served as the Brigadier General
of the 152nd Brigade.
Walter HALFORD, M.C., from 16th April to 18th June 1918.
COURTENAY, D.S.O., M.C., between 18th June and 23rd August
1918, when he died of his wounds after the assault against Achiet
le Petit that day.
Stuart CHIRNSIDE, M.C. and Bar, from 23rd August to
14th October 1918.
Edward Gowran SHEARMAN , C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Legion
of Honour, from the 14th October 1918 onwards.