The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
The 7th (Service) Battalion - 'The Shiney Seventh'
The 7th Battalion was formed at Bedford in September 1914, as part of 'K2' - Lord Kitcheners 2nd call to arms for another 100,000 men to leave their civilian lives and enlist into the rapidly expanding British Army. Following the transfer of 1,000 Officers and men from the 6th (Service) Battalion, the newly formed 7th Battalion of the Second New Army were attached to the 15th (Scottish) Division whilst training. On 25th February 1915, the Battalion were moved into the 54th Brigade of the 18th (Eastern) Division, where they remained until merged with the 2nd Battalion in May 1918.
The 7th battalion served entirely in France and Flanders between their arrival in July 1915 and their disbandment in May 1918. The battalion won a well deserved reputation and served with distinction, winning numerous gallantry medals - including two Victoria Crosses - and were involved in major battles every year of their service. There are few examples of them not taking a position when attacking, or allowing enemy attacks to beat them back, as the entire Division won a reputation as one of the British Army's best units.
On the 27th May 1918, in line with a major shake up of the British Army, the men from the 7th battalion were transferred into the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, who moved into the 54th Brigade in their place. A cadre was formed from a selection of 7th battalion Officers and NCO's, who trained American units for two months until August 1918, at which time the 7th battalion was formally disbanded.
The 18th (Eastern) Division was formed from the 53rd, 54th and 55th Infantry Brigades, who were all formed from battalions drawn from East Anglia, the Home Counties, south-east and south-central England. The following battalions formed the 54th Brigade and served together as a tactical unit:
- 7th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment.
- 6th Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment.
- 11th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers.
- 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (until disbanded in February 1918).
The 18th Division's memorial on the southern edge of Trones Wood, the Somme.
During the Great War, the 7th battalion lost around 830 men killed in action, and around 3,500 additional casualties. *
The Battalion were engaged in the following major battles throughout the war:
In 1916, the battalion were heavily engaged during The Battles of the Somme 1916, specifically at the Battle of Albert (including the storming of the Pommiers Redoubt on the 1st July 1916), the Battle of Bazentin (when the Division captured Trones Wood 14th July 1916), the Battle of Thiepval in September (including the storming of the northern section of Thiepval village and the front face of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 28th and 29th September 1916). The battalion were also involved during the Battle of the Ancre in November, albeit in a supporting role.
In 1917 they were again heavily engaged all year. The first operations were during the Operations on the Ancre, including the Actions of Miraumont in February and the Capture or Irles (on the Loupart Line) in March. Next, they were engaged in following up the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March, including the storming of Achiet-le-Grand between the 15th and 20th March 1917. In May they were also engaged in the Battle of Arras, namely at the Third Battle of the Scarpe. The final battle of 1917 was to be the Battles of Ypres 1917 (also called the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele), specifically in the Capture of Westhoek in August, the First Battle of Passchendaele in October.
In 1918 the battalion were heavily engaged yet again, in the First Battles of the Somme 1918 (also called the German Spring Offensives, "Operation Michael" or Kaiserschlacht), namely in the Battle of St Quentin and the actions on the Somme crossings in March, the Battle of the Avre in April, and the action at Villers-Bretonneux on the 24th April 1918.
Commanding Officers of the 7th Battalion
The following officers commanded the battalion between 1914 and 1918:
- Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Martin, between 6th September 1914 and 15th April 1915.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Augustis Heathcote Allenby, between 15th April and 10th June 1915.
- Lieutenant-Colonel George Dominic Price, between 10th June and 18th October 1916.
- Lieutenant-Colonel George Pilkington Mills D.S.O., between 18th October 1916 and 18th January 1918.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Ernest Percival, D.S.O., M.C., between 18th January and 25th May 1918 [who had a long and distinguished career, going on to command the ill fated Singapore garrison in 1941 and 1942, spending the rest of the Second world War as a Japanese POW]
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