The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
A brief history of the Regiment between 1688 and 2009
The formation of Douglas' Regiment of Foot
The regiment that would become the 16th Regiment of Foot and later the Bedfordshire Regiment was initially raised during a period of turmoil in Europe. In the late Seventeenth century, Europe was in the grip of religious, military and political upheaval, with several major powers vying for supremacy and the emerging American continent about to rear its head. Not four decades earlier the English Civil War had been fought, the Thirty Years War in Europe had finished as had an eighty year war between the Netherlands and Spain. The Ming Dynasty had come to an end in China, war, famine and plague swept Europe and the New Worlds of America, killing huge numbers of people. Only two decades earlier the Bubonic plague swept London, killing an estimated 100,000 people, closely followed by the Great Fire of London one short year later.
Until the English Civil War, no standing army existed in England, with armies being raised on an ad-hoc basis when needed. Parlaiment's 'New Model Army' was effectively the first permanent army but was disbanded when King Charles II reclaimed the throne. 1661 saw the first permanent Regiment of Foot raised by Royal Warrant, and several more followed in the next few years, which would form the foundation for the growth of the English, and later the British Army. 1685 saw ten new Regiments of Foot raised in England, which would later become the 5th to 15th Foot inclusive.
Despite many achievements and much progress being made, including Isaac Newton's "Mathematical Principles" being published, the 1680's saw numerous wars, sieges, plots to overthrow and assassinate various royalty and heads of state. By 1688 King Louis XIV of France had the Grand Alliance of England, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Savoy and the Holy Roman Empire arrayed against him and was at war with almost every European power.
During the autumn of 1688 and following his "Declaration of Indulgence" towards Catholics and nonconformists, King James II was facing the threat of the Dutch William, Prince of Orange who had brought an army to England on the behest of seven English Lords. The King was in a precarious position and, in response he authorised the raising of more new battalions of Pikemen and Musketeers. The first of these was raised by the distinguished veteran Scottish soldier Archibald Douglas and, although initially named after the Colonels who commanded them, this regiment would in time become the 16th Regiment of Foot.
A cadre of officers and professional soldiers who had served with him in what would become The Royal Scots followed Douglas and formed the nucleus of the new regiment. With the first men being enlisted from Uxbridge in Middlesex, they were moved to Reading and completed the raising of the new regiment. In November they moved to Southwark but religious and political manoeuvring against King James II caused the army to choose where their allegiance lay. Sir Archibald Douglas remained loyal to the catholic King James II, whereas the rest of the regiment chose to side with the protestant Prince of Orange, thus splitting the man who had raised them from the men he had enlisted. The 2nd in command, Robert Hodges, became the new Colonel, being officially commissioned as such on the last day of 1688 by the new King of England, William III (the Prince of Orange). Within months the newly formed regiment was in action on the European continent and would be engaged on European battlefields almost continuously until 1712.
Archibald Douglas' Regiment of Foot
- 1688. The Regiment is formed on 9 October and is initially known by the Colonel's names until 1751. It is the last in the batch referred to as the 'senior' regiments who are raised during the last year of King James II's reign, which saw the organisation of a more permanent army. Having been raised around Uxbridge and Reading they are initially quartered at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire. When the Prince of Orange takes over the throne from James II, Douglas refuses to serve under the new King and Robert Hodges is given command of the regiment. Just six other officers take the oath with Hodges, including Hans Hamilton who would rise to command the regiment from 1713
Robert Hodges' Regiment of Foot
- 1688. Hodges took over the regiment within weeks of its formation and set to training them in readiness for the inevitable fighting they would see, given the instability throughout Europe.
- 1689 to 1695. The War of the League of Augsburg.
- 1689. Embarked for Holland where they help the Dutch fight the French. They are engaged at the Battle of Walcourt and later march to Bruges that October.
- 1690. March to Brussels in June.
- 1691. Joined the army at South Brabant in March.
- 1692. Engaged at the Battle of Steenkirk when Colonel Robert Hodges is killed at the head of his regiment's advance by a cannon ball.
The Earl of Derby's Regiment of Foot
- 1693. Engaged at the Battle of Landen in July. Quartered at Dendermond later that year.
- 1694. Join the army in the field in May and return to garrison Dendermond after the year's campaign.
- 1695. Engaged at the Siege and capture of Namur.
- 1696. Join the army at Brabant.
- 1697. Embark to Ireland after the Treaty of Ryswick ceases hostilities.
- 1701-1712. The War of the Spanish Succession.
- 1701. Leave Carrickfergus 7th June and embark for Holland to help the Dutch fight the French. Reviewed by King William III 21st September.
- 1702. Moved to Rosendael and encamp at Cranenburg. Engaged at the Seige of Kayserswerth and later marched to Nimeguen. War declared against France. Engaged at the sieges of Venloo, Ruremonde and Stevenswaert. as well as the capture of the Citadel at Liege on 23rd October. Return to Holland later that year to winter quarters.
- 1703. March towards Maestricht at the end of April. Engaged at the siege and capture of Huy and Limburg on the 28th September. Return to Holland again for the winter.
- 1704. Moved to Germany. Engaged at the battle of Schellenburg, the Danube crossing and the Battle of Blenheim. The remnants of the battalion return to Holland after Blenheim.
Francis Godfrey's Regiment of Foot
- 1705. Engaged during the assaults on Helixum and Neer-Hespen.
- 1706. Engaged at the Battle of Ramilies and the surrender of the principle towns of Brabant, after which they are quartered at Ghent.
- 1707. In the year that the English and Scottish Army's merged to form the modern British Army as a result of the 'Acts of Union 1707' (which saw the creation of the 'Kingdom of Great Britain'), the Regiment are in the field all year but their French opponents avoid any engagements.
- 1708. Moved to England to repel a French invasion in support of "The Pretender", arriving at Tynemouth 21st March. The Navy had already done the job for them so they are returned to Flanders and march to Ghent, after which they are engaged at the Battle of Oudenarde and the siege and capture of Lille and it's Citadel on the 9th December. On arrival at Lille, Sergeant Littler swims a defended moat armed just with just a hatchet and releases the drawbridge, thus allowing the army to move onwards. For his gallantry he is given the rare honour of being commissioned from the ranks into what would become the 3rd Foot (the Buffs).
- 1709. Engaged at the siege and capture of Tournay (which finally fell in September), and the bloodiest battle of that century - the Battle of Malplaquet on the 11th September. They were later engaged at the siege and surrender of Mons, after which they are quartered at Ghent.
- 1710. Engaged in forcing the French lines at Pont a Vendin, the siege and surrender of Douay (which fell on the 27th June), Bethune (fell in August), Aire and St. Venant. They are quartered again at Ghent that winter.
Henry Durrell's Regiment of Foot
- 1711. Engaged in the forcing of the French lines at Arleux on the 5th August and the siege of Bouchain, where they garrison for the winter.
- 1712. Moved to Tournay in April and encamp at Cateau-Cambresis. Involved in the capture of Quesnoy (which fell on the 4th July) before the end of hostilities, when they are moved to defend Dunkirk.
Hans Hamilton's Regiment of Foot
- 1714. Moved to Scotland in April, landing at Leith. Stationed at Stirling from September.
Richard Irving's Regiment of Foot
- 1715-1716. Suppression of the Scottish Rebellions.
- 1715. Garrisoned at Fort William and did not take the field during the hostilities that autumn.
John Cholmeley's Regiment of Foot
- 1717. Served entirely on home service throughout this period, in England, Scotland and Ireland.
The Earl of Deloraine's Regiment of Foot
- 1724. Served entirely on home service throughout this period, in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Roger Handasyde's Regiment of Foot
- 1730. On home service until mobilised in 1740. Colonel Handasyde commanded the regiment until his death in 1763.
- 1739-41. The War of Jenkin's Ear against Spain.
- 1740. Initially encamped at Newbury. Spend some months as Marines and return to Portsmouth when their task is complete. A detachment embark on an expedition to the West Indies at the year's end.
- 1741. Land on Jamaica in January and a detachment is later involved in the unsuccessful expedition and Battle of Carthagena against the Spanish in modern day Columbia, where almost the entire detachment is annihilated by disease.
- 1742. The War of the Austrian Succession commences but the Regiment are held at home being rebuilt.
- 1745. Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) arrives in Scotland and the suppression of the Scottish rebellions starts again but the regiment were held on the south coast to repel the threat of French invasion.
- 1746. In March the Regiment leaves Gravesend for Edinburgh following the Scottish victory at the Battle of Falkirk (Falkirk Muir). They wait on ships whilst the Battle of Culloden is fought and are sent north to Nairn, landing on the 1st May. Garrisoned at Elgin until moved to Fort Augustus (on the south-west bank of Loch Ness) the following summer.
- 1747. The regiment is ranked as the 16th Regiment of Foot.
- 1749. The regiment is moved to Ireland and reduced to the levels of a peacetime unit, where it remained for almost 20 years.
The 16th Regiment of Foot
- 1751. On the 1st July the regiment is officially named the '16th Regiment of Foot' and standardisation of 'Line Regiments' within the army, including the 16th Foot, takes place. An order of presedence is established with each regiment no longer bearing the name of its Colonel, but carrying a numerical title according to seniority based on when it was originally raised. Their uniform becomes almost completely scarlet with yellow facings and trim, and two battle flags are carried; the Kings colour (the Union Flag, or Union Jack) and the Regimental Colour (a yellow flag with the Union Flag in one corner and the golden Romanised numerals for the 16th Regiment in the middle). The regimental nickname 'The Old Sixteenth' also surfaces, reflecting the regiments long service and position within the 'senior' regiments of the army.
- 1755. War restarts with France. Several expeditions involving the 16th Foot are cancelled and they remain in Ireland.
- 1767. Moved to Florida and enjoyed a comfortable period of service for 13 years. HQ based at Pensacola with several small detachments spread over the countryside.
- 1775-1782. War of American Independence.
- 1776. Withdrawn from Florida and moved to New York briefly but returned to Florida soon after, due to their familiarity with the locals who called for their return!
- 1789. War with France, Spain and Holland.
- 1779. Withdrew to Baton Rouge and a detachment (including some 16th Foot men) are made POW's in September by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana. Engaged with French and American forces at Savannah and repel a siege in Georgia in October.
- 1781. Defended Pensacola against an overwhelming Spanish force.
The 16th (the Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot
- 1782. Their losses in America force their return to England from South America, arriving in March. On the 31st August the Regiment is authorised to use the title 'The 16th (the Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot' to encourage enlistment from that region and create a county identity. The American War finished. It is about now that the nickname 'The Old Bucks' is initially used, reflecting the regiment's long service.
- 1784. Moved to Ireland as a small peacetime regiment.
- 1790. Embarked for Nova Scotia 18th August.
- 1791. Removed to Jamaica as a result of the unrest caused by the French Revolution, where they serve for 5 years.
- 1793. A detachment leaves Jamaica for St. Domingo following the island's plantation owners agreeing to become part oof the British Empire following several slave rebellions.
- 1794. An entire detachment at St. Domingo perish from fever, apart from 1 Officer and 1 Sergeant who rejoin at Jamaica.
- 1795. Engaged in the Maroon Wars on Jamaica.
- 1796. The Maroons submit. The remnants of the regiment lave for England at the end of the year, landing at Greenwich the next year.
- 1797. Moved to Scotland.
- 1798. Quartered in Fifeshire and Fort George.
- 1799 Moved back to England, arriving at Margate, later billeting at Horsham in Sussex.
- 1800. Sailed to Cork in Ireland.
- 1803-1815. Wars with France.
- 1804. 7th January; embarked to the West Indies, landing at Barbados on 26th March, 573 strong. 7th April; sail from Barbados and are engaged at the battle of Surinam. The regiment would waste away here until 1811. 27 Officers and over 500 men died of disease with more being invalided home with Yellow Fever.
- 1806. Attacked at Surinam, losing 75% of the command yet winning the small scale battle.
The 16th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot
- 1809. In May the Regiment exchanges county titles with 'The 14th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot' and becomes known as 'The 16th (the Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot'. This was on request of the Colonel of the 14th (Bedfordshire) Regiment - Colonel and Adjutant General Sir Harry Calvert - who owned large estates in Buckinghamshire.
- 1810. Detachments start to return to England from Barbados and Surinam, leaving in 1810 and 1811.
- 1812. The last detachment leaves the West Indies. The very last group are ship wrecked off the Irish Coast with the loss of a few men, 1 wife and several children, along with all regimental documentation, equipment and property being lost. After rebuilding with English and Irish volunteers they march to quarters at Sunderland in July. 1813. Moved to Perth in Scotland that March and to Ireland in July.
- War with the United States
- 1814. Embarked from Monkstown in Ireland in the spring for Canada as an advanced guard to the army being sent there. Landed in Quebec on the 29th May before moving to Chambly, later Montreal and finally to Fort Wellington.
- 1815. Rushed back to England in response to Napoleon's revival, leaving Quebec in July and arriving at Portsmouth in August before being moved to join Wellington's army at Ostend. Moved into the army of occupation in Paris and finally sent back to England. They miss the battle of Waterloo due to their transport from Canada being late and, once the treaty was concluded, march back to Calais and arrive at Dover very late in December.
- 1816. Moved to Ireland. Land at Monkstown 3rd February and stationed at Fermoy, Limerick and Cashel in turn.
- 1817. Moved to Kilkenny.
- 1819. Moved to Athlone in Ireland. Starting out on what would become a long period of colonial service around the British Empire, the regiment embarked from Cork 25th August, bound for Ceylon. Having spent a month in Cape Town they finally land at Columbo on February 20th 1820.
- 1821. In August they march to Kandy, returning to Columbo in 1824.
- 1826. Left Columbo for Pont de Galle in July.
- 1828. Moved to Bengal, leaving Ceylon in 4 detachments starting November and the final group landing at Calcutta by January 1829, where they are stationed for several years.
- 1831. Moved to Chinsura by steam boats.
- 1833. March to Ghazepore but orders are altered en route and the regiment moves to Cawnpore, arriving 28th February 1834.
- 1840. Moved to Dinapore, arriving January and moving to the Presidency in November.
- 1841. Return to England after 21 years of foreign service and are stationed at Dover on their return. Issued with the new type "Percussion" arms in August and move to Winchester in December.
- 1842. Left Winchester in April for Gosport, then to Portsmouth in August. New colours are presented to the regiment on the 22nd September.
- 1843. Moved to Manchester in May then to Ireland in July. Stationed at Newbridge and later Burr.
- 1844. March to Naas in February and onto Dublin where they remain between April and December, after which they move to Cork.
- 1845. Moved to Buttevant in June and back to Cork in October to prepare for foreign service again.
- 1846. 6 Companies (the foreign service element of the peacetime regiment) move to Gibraltar, leaving on 17th and 19th January and arriving 11th February. The Depot Companies remain in Ireland.
- 1847. The 6 Companies on foreign service are moved to Corfu, leaving 9th March and landing 27th March.
- 1848. The 4 Depot Companies leave Cork to join the rest of the regiment who are at Guernsey. The depot arrive on 4th May.
- 1850. Moved back to Jamaica, spending the next 7 years there and missing the Crimean War as a result.
- 1855. The Beds and Herts Militia battalions are amongst the first to train at the newly acquired training grounds at Aldershot.
- 1857. The battalion leave the West Indies and return to England in June.
- 1858. The 2nd battalion of the 16th Foot are raised in Ireland. All line regiments up to the 25th are expanded to include a 2nd battalion following reforms resulting in the glaring deficiencies shown up in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutinies.
- 1859. The 2nd battalion is stationed in Ireland.
- 1861. The 1st battalion sent to Montreal, later to defend the border with America against Fenian raiders. The 2nd are sent to Halifax in Canada on their first foreign service and spend their time in Nova Scotia. Both battalions remain in Canada in response to tensions between America and the British Empire, following the American Civil War.
- 1866. The 1st battalion are involved in several small engagements along the borders around Niagara against the attempted invasion by American Fenian's.
- 1866. 2nd battalion are sent to the West Indies.
- 1869. 2nd battalion return home and are posted to Curragh in Ireland.
- 1870. 1st battalion join the 2nd in Curragh. The British Army is reorganised including the abolishment of purchasing commissions and the raising of a Reserve army amongst other things.
- 1873. Further reforms divide the country into 'Brigade Districts', usually consisting of one or more county, the 16th Foot being allocated the 33rd Brigade District comprised of Bedfordshire. Each dsitrict had a permament depot, with the barracks at Kempston being assigned as the Brigade District base. The depots became the base for paired' battalions, with one being held on home service whilst the other was assigned a post on 'foreign service'.
- 1876. The Regimental Barracks and Depot are completed on the Kempston Road, about 1 mile west of Bedford town centre. The building cost around £50,000 at the time and stood on a 23 acre site, 13 of which were used for encampments, drill and recreation grounds. The main building was formed into three sides of a quadrangle, housing the entire stores, powder magazines, Officers and men's quarters, including some married person's quarters, canteens, Mess Halls and other such areas. The 1st battalion remained stationed in Ireland whilst the 2nd battalion were sent to Madras in India.
The Bedfordshire Regiment
- 1881. The 2nd battalion move to Burma. On 1 July, the Regiment is renamed 'The Bedfordshire Regiment' as a part of the Childers reforms, although the title the 16th Foot is still used for many years afterwards, even during the Great War. Bedford becomes the official centre for the regiment. The Bedfordshire Light Infantry Militia and Hertfordshire Militia form the 3rd and 4th Regimental battalions and the Rifle Volunteer Corps (RVC) units from both counties are also folded into the county Regiment. As a result, the 1st and 2nd battalions remain the regular units, the 3rd and 4th battalions become the Militia units, with the three RVC battalions becoming the 1st and 2nd Hertfordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps and the 1st Bedfordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps. The regimental recruiting district is also expanded to incoroprate Hertfordshire. In a strange twist, when Battle Honours are introduced to the new regimental flags that year, the regiment are the only one to have none of the recognised honours, despite having served through many wars and for over 200 years! A committee is formed and several of their past battles are recognised, rectifying the embarrassing situation.
- 1885. The 2nd battalion move to Bellary, India.
- 1887. The three Volunteer Rifle Corps units in the regiment are renamed the 1st (Hertfordshire) Volunteer battalion, the 2nd (Hertfordshire) Volunteer battalion and the 3rd Volunteer battalion.
- 1889. The 2nd battalion move to Secunderabad.
- 1890. 1st battalion move to Malta between February and December, thereafter to India, arriving on the 20th December.
- 1891. The 2nd battalion return to England, arriving at Devonport.
- 1895. The Chitral Expedition.
- 1895. On 3rd April, the 1st battalion are engaged at Malakand Pass, naming the steep hill they took that day Bedfordshire Hill. The 1st and 2nd in command are mentioned in despatches as a result.
- 1896. The 2nd battalion move to Litchfield.
- 1898. The 2nd battalion move to Dublin.
- 1899. The 1st battalion move to Mooltan, India.
- 1899 to 1902, the South African (Boer) Wars.
- 1900. The 2nd battalion land in South Africa on 2nd January, with elements from the 4th Militia battalion arriving on the 21st March. Many of the men from the 2nd Volunteer battalion offered themselves for service and a Company was formed who served between 1900 and 1902. At home, a further Volunteer battalion is raised, becoming the 4th (Huntingdonshire) Volunteer battalion.
- 1902. The 1st battalion moved to Jhansi.
- 1903. The 2nd battalion return to England and are stationed at Colchester.
- 1904 sees them move to Borden Camp and onto Tidworth in 1906.
- 1907. The 1st battalion moved to Aden and the 2nd are sent to Gibraltar.
- 1908. The 1st battalion returned to England, to be stationed at Aldershot. Under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (a part of Haldene's reforms), the Territorial Army is formed. The regiment's two Militia units are renamed and reorganised into the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Special Reserve) battalions, the 1st and 2nd Volunteer battalions merge to become the Hertfordshire battalion and the 3rd and 4th Volunteer units merge into the 5th battalion (TF).
- 1909. The Hertfordshire battalion leave the regiment, becoming the 1st battalion, the Hertfordshire Regiment (TF) 1910. The 2nd battalion move to Bermuda.
- 1912. Whilst the 2nd battalion were preparing to leave Bermuda for Bloemfontein on the 16th January, the German Cruiser 'Hansa' arrived and docked there for three weeks. Several parties were held and friendships formed between the Bedfordshire Officers and German Naval Officers, who only a couple of years later, would be at war.
- 1913. The 1st battalion is moved to Mullingar in Ireland.
- 1914 to 1918, the First World War (The Great War).
- 1914. The 1st battalion are in Ireland and the 2nd are stationed at Pretoria, South Africa. Both are recalled immediately to fight in the war against Germany and her allies. The 1st battalion land in France with the first wave of the British Expeditionary Force and are heavily engaged at the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the retreat to Paris, the Marne, the Aisne, La Bassee and the First Battle of Ypres. The 2nd battalion arrive in France early in October, within the 7th Division, who were to lose 90% of their number before Christmas stopping the Prussian Guard breaking through at the First Battle of Ypres. The 5th Territorial Army battalion is held in East Anglia and, although expecting to be deployed abroad, are held back until the following summer. The Regiment's pre war Reservists are all committed before Christmas and replacements start to include men who, until August 1914, were civilians. Three 'Service' battalions (the 6th, 7th and 8th) are raised within Lord Kitcheners New Armies, in addition to several additional supporting units. The 9th and 10th Service battalions are raised to guard the British coast and provide replacements for the battalions abroad. A second line Territorial battalion is also raised, being the 2nd/5th battalion, to provide the 1st/5th with reinforcements and take over duties providing home defence once they were mobilised and sent abroad.
- 1915. The 1st battalion endure the atrocious fighting at Hill 60 in April and May, which saw Edward Warner win a posthumous Victoria Cross and sees them take on hundreds of replacement men who had enlisted from civilian life the previous autumn. The 2nd battalion are heavily engaged at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March, which saw Captain Foss win a Victoria Cross, and the battle of Loos in September. Both battalions are also engaged in several more battles that spring, albeit in more minor roles. In July the 6th and 7th battalions arrive in France, followed by the 8th in August. Although the 6th and 7th spend their first eleven months away from any set piece actions, the 8th find themselves thrown headlong into the battle of Loos in September and in the week before Christmas are subjected to a ferocious barrage and raid, losing over 200 men in the process. The Territorial soldiers in the 1st/5th battalion land on the Gallipoli peninsular 11 August and are heavily engaged north of Suvla bay within days. They assault Turkish positions, gaining their objectives despite losing around 300 men and are reduced to around 170 men by the time the British Army withdraws in December. Two garrison battalions are raised and provide the garrisons in India and Burma until disbanded in 1919.
- 1916. All battalions on the Western Front are engaged in the battle of the Somme, with the 7th being one of the few British battalions to not only make it into the German trenches, but also being able to hold their gains despite the best efforts of the German defenders. The 4th Special reserve battalion are mobilised and sent to France in August and all six battalions on that front are engaged in the ferocious battles that year, losing thousands of men between them. In September, Lieutenant Adlam of the 7th battalion wins a Victoria Cross whilst leading his men against the "impregnable" Schwaben redoubt. The 1st/5th battalion are retired to Egypt and spend the first few months being rebuilt around Cairo, before moving east and guarding the Suez Canal for the rest of 1916.
- 1917. Many of the Regiment's battalions in France are engaged in following the German army back to the Hindenburg Line and stretcher-bearer Christopher Cox wins the 7th battalions second Victoria Cross at Achiet le Grand in March. All six battalions on the Western Front are heavily committed to the battle of Arras in April and May, with the 6th coming out of their final assault with just 58 men. The Third Battle of Ypres and the battle of Cambrai later that year sees all battalions engaged again, although two of them find themselves in attacks that are called off again and again, sparing them some of the carnage endured by other units. The 1st battalion are rushed to northern Italy after the disastrous fighting there almost finishes the Italian army. The 1st/5th advance across the Sinai Peninsular with the British and Commonwealth forces and are engaged in all three battles of Gaza. In July, they 'cover themselves in glory' during a raid against positions on Umbrella Hill, opposite Gaza and are the northern flank of the entire assault against Gaza in November. They are also heavily engaged in defensive battles late in November as the Turkish army tries to force the weak section of the Allied lines as Jerusalem falls.
- 1918. In February the 8th battalion are disbanded as the British army reorganises and March sees the German Spring Offensives fall on the southern end of the British lines on the Western Front. The 2nd, 4th and 7th battalions are all engaged from the opening day of the battles, conduct desperate fighting withdrawals over massive tracts of land and find themselves a shadow of their former selves. Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells, in command of the 4th battalion, wins a posthumous Victoria Cross in the process. The 1st and 6th battalions are amongst the units rushed into the area but both arrive after the fighting has fizzled out or moved into other sectors. In May, the 6th and 7th are disbanded as the British army shrinks further, leaving just the 1st, 2nd and 4th on the Western Front. The 1st/5th are engaged in the March offensives in Palestine but, with many Divisions being rushed to France after the German offensives begin, operations in the Middle east pause despite the Turkish forces being close to the end. A patrol almost ends in disaster in September but Samuel Needham saves the situation and wins a Victoria Cross in the process. The battalion are again engaged in the battle of Megiddo and the armistice with Turkey is signed in October. On the Western front, in August 1918 the Allies start their final '100 days' offensives that would lead to the end of hostilities in Europe. All three battalions are engaged in the ferocious fighting and by 11 November 1918, find themselves not far from where the battles of Mons and Le Cateau were fought over four years earlier.
The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
- 1919. By the summer, all remaining battalions have been disbanded and reformed back in England, with 51st and 52nd (Graduated) and 53rd (Young Soldiers) battalions being posted to the "Army of the Rhine" (the British Army of occupation in Germany), between them forming the 2nd Eastern Brigade. On 29 July the Bedfordshire regiment incorporates the title Hertfordshire into its name in recognition of the long standing connection between the two counties. It becomes the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire regiment and is reorganised to its peacetime complement. The 1st and 2nd battalions remain the regiment's Regular units, with the 3rd and 4th being placed in "suspended animation" and never reform again in the real sense. The regiments two Transport Workers battalions were disbanded in August and September and the regiment's three Garrison battalions were all brought home at the end of the year, finally being disbanded completely in January 1920. The 2nd battalion move to India in October, being based in Trimulgherry, Decan until moved onto Secunderabad.
- 1920. The 1st battalion is posted to Ireland from 5 July and spent the next 18 months separated into detachments, policing a large area around Ulster. The Territorial Army is reconstituted and the 5th battalion reforms to become a part time, Territorial Army unit once again.
- 1921. On 11 November, after a remarkable effort raising the funds to do so, the regimental memorial opposite the Keep at Kempston Barracks was unveiled.
- 1922. The 1st battalion return to Colchester, arriving 4 February and are moved to Aldershot in 1923. The 2nd battalion in India are inspected by the Prince of Wales 26 January and move to Kamptee shortly afterwards. At the annual camp in Cardington, the 5th Territorial battalion were given a speech by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General the Earl of Cavan. In it he made the memorable remark; "You men of Bedford, you began the war very little known. You ended the war the best known of the whole of the British line. No Regiment has a finer record than you have". In April the regimental journal "The Wasp" made it first appearance and is still running at the time of writing (May 2009).
- 1924. King George V reviews the 1st battalion at Aldershot and presents them with new colours.
- 1925. The regiment is awarded no less than seventy battle honours from the First World War. The 1st battalion leave Aldershot in November, bound for Malta. The 2nd battalion leave India and arrive at Baghdad, Iraq on 13 January, to assist in training the local army to take over the policing of their country. The 5th Territorial battalion represent the regiment in Regular Army manoeuvres.
- 1926. The 2nd battalion leave Baghdad for Karachi (now in Pakistan) in March, moving back to England after a brief stop. On the way back home, on 14 April, they meet the 1st battalion who are based at Malta - a rare event in the regiment's history. On Sunday 20 June, whilst based at Dover, the 2nd battalion hold a commemoration service, having completed 19 years of foreign service. On 16 November the 2nd battalion moved temporarily to Bedford for two ceremonies that saw them welcomed home to Bedford and, the following day, they were presented with new colours by the Prince of Wales at Luton.
- 1927. In February, the 1st battalion leave Malta for Shanghai, China and form part of the International Defence Force, who had the job of protecting the port from the Chinese Nationalist threat during the Chinese Civil War.
- 1928. By May the 1st battalion are concentrated at Weihai, Shandong, then move to Northern China. They move by sea to Chinwangtao (Qinhuangdao) and finally to Kuyeh by rail, where they were assigned the role of protecting the mining facility there. By November the unrest has settled down and the battalion are moved to Hong Kong.
- 1929. The 1st battalion arrive at Mhow in central India 25 March, where they would remain for the next four years. October saw the 2nd battalion move to Quebec Barracks, Borden Camp, Aldershot.
- 1933. The 1st battalion move to Dehra Run, 230 km north of Delhi, becoming the British element of the Ghurkha Brigade.
- 1936. The 1st battalion move a further 50km north to Chakrata, India, which was a very basic a hill station around 8,000 feet above sea level. In response to Italy's invasion of Abyssinia, British forces are reinforced in the Middle East. February sees the 2nd battalion leave Colchester for Egypt. On 1 June they move to Palestine as tensions build between Arabs and Jews in the area, arriving at their camp just north of Jerusalem the same day. They take part in small scale operations to quell the revolt all over Palestine until leaving for England late November. From 7 December until the outbreak of the Second World War, they are based at Gravesend.
- 1938. The regiment celebrates its 250th anniversary and dozens of occasions are arranged both at home and abroad. In September the 1st battalion are hurriedly moved to Bombay amidst rising tensions in Europe and are embarked with two other battalions, bound for Europe. In the event, they are diverted and disembark at Haifa as the tensions in Europe are resolved, but the Arab / Jewish problems in Palestine are still very active.
- 1939 to 1945, the Second World War.
- 1939. On 3 September, war with Germany is declared. The 1st battalion, who had been posted to Cairo in Egypt that July, would serve the entire war in Eastern theatres and are moved to Palestine in November to prepare for the coming fighting. The 2nd battalion are mobilised into the 10th Brigade, 4th Division, moving to Aldershot 23 September, where the Division is concentrating. They then move to France, landing at Cherbourg 1 October, then to Carvin on the French / Belgian border and 10km south-west of Lille. The battalion are posted to several positions along the Maginot Line during the phase referred to as the Phoney War. The 5th Territorial battalion are mobilised 25 August and C and D Companies from the Luton area are immediately separated to form the nucleus of a new battalion, called the 6th Territorial battalion. Both would be engaged in extensive guard duties in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and have little time for training over the next year.
- 1940. The 2nd battalion are moved into Belgium in response to the German invasion of Holland and Belgium and the beginning of the Battle of France. The battalion line the canal bank around Escanaffles, 30km north-east of Lille, and make first contact with reconnaissance parties of the German army 20 May. After 2 days of resisting German Blitzkreig tactics, skirmishing and counter attacking, the Brigade flanks are overrun and they are ordered to provide the rearguard for the withdrawal late 22 May. They move due west until reaching positions north of Lille and hold between 23rd and 26th May, skirmishing and patrolling. Orders to withdraw overnight on the 27th are issued and the battalion are heavily attacked that evening, withdrawing through Ploegteert to the Wytschaete area once darkness falls. On the 28th they are engaged again and orders to retire north follow the next day, along with instructions to destroy all arms and ammunition as they did so. Moving through the growing chaos, they pass through Furnes and are again engaged in a rearguard action that day, south of Oust Dunkerque. On the 31st they are again engaged as the German army presses forward, trying to capture the remaining army being evacuated from the beaches around Dunkirk. At 2am on 1 June the battalion were ordered to evacuate and moved through La Panne on the coast to the beaches, where they endured the attentions of the Luftwaffe who bomb and strafed the beach and all vessels evacuating troops across the English Channel. At length, the battalion are reformed at Yeovil, having lost just 130 men despite being heavily engaged in several rearguard actions. By 1 July the elements of the 2nd battalion who had made it back to England have been reinforced back up to strength and are in defensive positions around Bognor Regis, Sussex. In October they move to Arlseford in Hampshire, then onto Totton in November. In May the 5th battalion are moved to Norfolk in response to the invasion threat and are inspected by King George VI on 23 August.
- 1941. In March the 1st battalion move to Alexandria in Egypt, where they concentrate and moved onto Athens, Greece. Their isolated post was to be the island of Lemnos, where the 5th battalion spent time in 1915, but they are evacuated before it is possible for the advancing Germans to cut their route back to Egypt off completely. They are returned to Alexandria, Egypt in April to provide anti air defences and then move onto a camp near the Suez Canal in May, where they become part of the 14th Brigade, 6th Division. A further move to Syria in June follows, to provide internal security as part of the Army of Occupation. In October the Division become the 70th and move to Tobruk on the Libyan coast, where it fights during the defence of Tobruk. The 2nd battalion return to Arlesford in February and take part in several big exercises over the summer. That October saw a further move to Barton Stacey in Hampshire and at the end of November they are posted to Fleet. The 5th battalion spend between January and April in Galashiels, Scotland before being moved to Uttoxeter, Staffordshire for a few weeks in April and then onto Atherstone in Warwickshire. In September they move again to Litchfield, Staffordshire before leaving home shores from Liverpool on 29 October. Although initially intended for the Middle East, Japan's entry into the war causes a change of destination. Their route takes them via Nova Scotia, Trinidad, Cape Town and Bombay, before spending a week at Ahmednagar in India.
- 1942. 1st battalion move back to Egypt in February. They leave for Malaya 1 March but are diverted to India as both Singapore and Rangoon had fallen by then. After a pause, they are moved inland to Ranchi, 200 miles west of Calcutta and provide various security detachments. In February the 2nd battalion are moved to Inveraray, Argyllshire and spend almost a year in advanced training. The 5th battalion leave India 19 January as the situation in the Far East deteriorates rapidly and land at Singapore Harbour 29 January, only to be rushed east to Changi. 2 days later the remnants of the Allied forces that had been fighting the Japanese were concentrated on Singapore Island, ready for a last stand. Within 2 weeks Singapore has fallen and the battalion spent the rest of the war in the notoriously brutal Japanese POW camps.
- 1943. In August the 1st battalion move to Bangalore, Southern India, becoming part of the Division's Long Range Penetration Group, also known as Brigadier Wingate's Chindit force, who were engaged in irregular Special Forces operations. The 2nd battalion are moved to Carronbridge in Dumfriesshire in February and leave for foreign service from Glasgow in 11 March. They land at Algiers (El Jazair), Algeria 23 March as part of V Corps in the British First Army and are engaged in the Tunisian Campaign from 7 April. Within a week huge gains are made but the battalion lose around 250 men including their C.O. Between 6 and 13 May the battalion are also engaged in Operation Vulcan and face the elite Hermann Goring Parachute Division in the massive battle to capture Tunis and eliminate the Axis army in North Africa. By the end of operations, almost 240,000 Axis prisoners have been taken with several thousands of them surrendering to the 2nd battalion as they moved ever forward. Their Division is left out of the initial Italian assaults and spends until December resting and training in Algeria. In mid December the battalion embark from Algiers, arriving at Port Said, Egypt on 22 December. They are moved to the Suez Canal, being based at Kubrit (Kubrr), a few km north of Suez (As Suways). The 1st Hertfordshires are posted to Gibraltar in April, having served to that point entirely on the British mainland.
- 1944. The 1st battalion leave India in March for Burma, where they fight in the Chindits until August. They return to Bangalore, India in August and remain there until the end of the war. The 2nd battalion's Division are earmarked to assault Rhodes but the operation is cancelled and mid February sees them move to Italy, landing at Naples (Napoli) 21 February. They are engaged in the long, costly advance, including assaulting Monte Cassino in May. In December they are moved to Greece to help sweep communist guerrillas from the island. On 25 July the 1st Hertfordshires leave Gibraltar and arrived at Naples, Italy on 29 July. They are moved into the 1st Division and are engaged throughout the Italian campaign, losing close to 350 men in the process.
- 1945. The 1st battalion is in India until August remaining in Dehra Dun until the end of hostilities. The 2nd battalion spend the final period of the war in Greece and remain there afterwards whilst general stability returns. The Japanese prisoners of war from the 5th battalion return home in several detachments late that year. Although exact numbers are unknown, around a third of those captured at Singapore died in captivity. The 1st Hertfordshires leave Italy and arrive at Haifa, Palestine on 31 January. In May they move to Beirut, which was to be their final posting as the war ends a week later. The 6th, 9th, 70th and 71st battalions, who were all raised for the war and served exclusively in the UK, are all disbanded as the war closes.
- 1946. On 14 February the regiment provide the Honour Guard for Princess Elizabeth's visit to Bedford. In April, the 1st battalion move back to Chakrata, the hill station at the base of the Himalayas where they had been posted before the war had started. The 1st Hertfordshires remain on internal security detail in Palestine until disbanded and reformed at home in October.
- 1947. The Territorial Army is reformed on 1 January and after hostilities have ceased, the only battalions not disbanded are the 1st, 2nd and 5th (Territorial). However, the 2nd battalion, who are in Egypt, are placed in "suspended animation" from May, with the personnel being transferred to other units and the cadre returning to England in June. The 1st battalion leave Bombay, India in November for the last time following Indian independence and are posted to Tripoli, Libya.
- 1948. In July the 1st battalion leave Tripoli for Greece. After exactly 100 years of service, the 2nd battalion are absorbed by the 1st at a ceremony in Salonika (Thessalonika), Greece that October, being only the third time in their history that both battalions have met. This leaves just one Regular and one Territorial unit in the regiment.
- 1950. In January the 1st battalion are the last British unit to leave Greece and return to Bury St. Edmunds by mid February. Blenheim Day in June saw them visit the Depot at Kempston to mark their return home after 25 years of foreign service. On 11 November the regimental Second World War memorial at Kempston is unveiled in the presence of the Queen, the Colonel of the regiment and an assortment of other dignitaries. Soon after, the battalion moves to Warminster.
- 1951. A draft from the regiment is sent to the Korean War as replacements for British losses suffered during the Chinese offensives but the 1st battalion remain in England until posted to the Guards Brigade in Egypt in response to the Suez Crisis. On 29 November they arrive at Cyprus and wait for orders.
- 1952. In July, the 1st battalion arrives at El Balah (Ballah) in the Suez Canal zone, to guard British military installations amidst the trouble and Egyptian transformation to a Republic.
- 1953. On 25 October the Queen Mother (honorary Colonel in Chief) presents the 5th Territorial battalion with new colours.
- 1954. In December the Guards Brigade in Egypt is broken up and the 1st battalion are shipped home, arriving at Tidworth in Hampshire before Christmas.
- 1955. On 25 April The Queen Mother (honorary Colonel in Chief) inspects the 1st battalion and presents them with new colours at Tidworth.
- 1956. The 1st battalion is posted to Goslar, West Germany, around 80km south-east of Hannover, to guard the "Iron Curtain" for the first time, during what would become known as The Cold War.
- 1957. Eighteen battle honours from the Second World War are granted to the regiment.
The 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot)
- 1958. After 270 years of continuous, loyal service to the country, on 1 June the 1st battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire regiment is merged with the 1st battalion, the Essex regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment and are based in Dortmund, West Germany.
- 1959. The Queen Mother chooses to remain the honorary Colonel in Chief of the new regiment and presents their new colours. Later that year they are moved to Malaya, serving in the 28 Commonwealth Brigade in the operations against Communist Guerrillas.
- 1961. In May the Territorial Army is again reduced and the 5th battalion is merged with the 1st battalion of the Hertfordshire regiment, becoming the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA).
- 1962. The 3rd East Anglian Regiment is posted to help police the troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Royal Anglian Regiment
- 1964. On 1 September the three regiments forming the East Anglian Brigade are merged with the Royal Leicestershire regiment into the first Large Regiment of Infantry unit in the British army and become the Royal Anglian Regiment. The 3rd East Anglian regiment becomes the 3rd battalion (16th/44th Foot) of the Royal Anglian Regiment. The Territorial battalions from all six counties within the regimental region are affiliated to the regiment.
- 1967. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA) is folded into the 5th (Volunteer) battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment.
- 1970. The 4th battalion is reduced to Company strength.
- 1971. The 6th and 7th Territorial battalions of the Royal Anglian regiment are formed.
- 1975. The 4th battalion is disbanded.
- 1992. The 3rd battalion is disbanded on the 5th October, its personnel being folded into the 1st battalion (the "Vikings") and the 2nd battalion (the "Poachers").
- 1996. By this time the territorial battalions within the regiment have been reduced to just the 6th and 7th.
- 1999. The two remaining Territorial units of the regiment are merged and renamed the East of England regiment.
- 2006. On 1 April, the Territorial East of England Regiment is renamed as the 3rd battalion (the "Steelbacks") of the Royal Anglian regiment.
- 2014. At the time of writing, D Company (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) of the 2nd battalion (the "Poachers") carry the direct lineage of Douglas' Regiment of Foot who were originally formed in 1688. Since the formation of the Royal Anglian regiment, in addition to British and West German postings, it has served operationally in Aden, Cyprus, Malta, Northern Ireland, the Persian Gulf, Croatia, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. When exercises are added to the list of countries the Regiment has been present in, there are not many parts of the globe they have not set foot on during the last decade. The documentary "Ross Kemp in Afghanistan" originally shown on television in 2007 featured the 1st battalion in Afghanistan during their tour in 2006 and a well reported "friendly fire" incident in August 2007 killed three men of the 1st battalion as well as injuring two others. The 2nd Battalion concluded its final tour of Afghanistan in June 2014. On the lighter side, the band of the Royal Anglian Regiment played the "Blackadder Goes Forth" theme for the comedy series. The 2nd battalion still celebrate Blenheim Day on 13 August each year, having been the Bedfordshire regiments annual day.
- 2014. Sunday 3 August saw the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment Association amalgamated into the Royal Anglian Regiment Association during their 'March Off' parade. Over 100 veterans gathered, paraded, took inspection and marched off the field on a glorious summer's afternoon, bringing the line stretching back to 1688 to its conclusion.
Regimental Museums and societies
- The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regimental Museum is at Wardown Park, Luton.
- The Royal Anglian Regimental Museum is at the Land Warfare Hall, Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
- The Royal Anglian Regiment has a page on Facebook.
- The Ministry of Defence page about the Royal Anglian Regiment, which also leads onto battalion specific information.
- Incredibly, there is a re-enactment (living history) group in North Carolina who have formed the Recreated 16th Regiment of Foot, to help with their living history meetings and events!
This history has been built by using several sources as a basis (listed below) and adding details from a number of more specific sources as I have come across them.
- The regiment's history up to 1848 was based on a rare book called "Historical Record of the Sixteenth, or Bedfordshire regiment of Foot; containing an account of the formation of the regiment in 1688 and of its subsequent services to 1848", which was compiled by Richard Canon Esq., of the Adjutant General's Office, Horse Guards.
- The period from 1848 to 1914 includes elements from Sir F. Maurice's "16th Foot" published in 1931.
- From 1914 to 1958 is comprised mainly information taken from "The History of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, volume II" compiled by a regimental history committee in 1986, which also provides additional information from the earlier periods (taken from volumes I and II).
- All era's are bolstered up with details collected from various historical sources such as documents held by the National Archives and the Bedford County Records Office, and including other more general items such as the "Dictionary of National Biography", "United Service Magazine", "The Annual Register", The Times newspaper, London Gazettes and many other more focused or specialised sources.
Below are links to other pages of information from before and after the Great War:
Site built by and © Steven Fuller, 2003 to 2014