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 800 men killed in action, with around another 7,000
being wounded or taken prisoner.
The Battalion were engaged in the following major battles throughout
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 70% 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
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 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]