125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade
|125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade|
|Active||1908 – 1941|
|Part of||42nd (East Lancashire) Division|
|Anniversaries||Gallipoli: 25 April|
|Brigadier The O'Donovan
Brigadier Philip Bowden-Smith
The 125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade was a formation of the British Army during World War I and World War II. It was assigned to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and served in the Middle East and on the Western Front in WWI. In WWII it was at Dunkirk and was then converted into an armoured brigade.
On the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908, the four battalions attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers were organised into a brigade within the East Lancashire Division. The battalions were drawn from the Lancashire towns of Bury (5th Battalion), Rochdale (6th Bn) and Salford (7th and 8th Bns), with Brigade HQ at Preston.
World War I
On the outbreak of World War I, the East Lancashire Division mobilised and was sent to Egypt to relieve Regular troops of the British Army. Those men who had not volunteered for overseas service were left behind, together with floods of recruits, to form 2nd Line battalions (2/5th–2/8th Lancashire Fusiliers) in a 2nd East Lancashire Division. The 1st Line battalions were then renumbered 1/5th–1/8th. On 26 May 1915 the East Lancashire Division was renamed 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, and the Lancashire Fusilier Brigade was numbered 125th (1st Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade. (In August 1915 the 2nd Line brigade became 197th (2nd/1st Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade in 66th (2nd/East Lancashire) Division.)
Order of Battle
Brigadier-General C.H. Frith
Brigadier-General H. Fargus from 23 June 1917
- 1/5th (Bury) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (left 19 February 1918)
- 1/7th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 125th Brigade Machine Gun Company (formed 4 March 1916; to 42 Battalion Machine Gun Corps 23 February 1918)
- 125th Trench Mortar Battery (joined 26 March 1917)
When British infantry brigades on the Western Front were reduced to three battalions in February 1918, 1/6th Battalion left and joined 197th (2nd/1st Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade, where it merged with 2/6th Battalion.
In early May 1915, 42nd Division embarked from Alexandria for Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where Allied troops had landed a few days earlier. 125th Brigade was the first part of the division to go into action, at the Second Battle of Krithia under the command of 29th Division. It then reverted to 42nd Division, and took part in the Third Battle of Krithia and Battle of Krithia Vineyard. The fighting was 'a singularly brainless and suicidal type of warfare', and virtually nothing was achieved in any of these attacks, at the cost of heavy casualties. Two brigades of 42nd Division attacked on the second day of the Krithia Vineyard battle: 'By nightfall both brigades were back in their old lines, with the exception of some parties of the 6th and 7th Lancashire Fusiliers, who defended the Vineyard against repeated Turkish attacks until, after a bitter and pointless struggle during the following five days, a trench dug across the centre of this worthless tract of scrub became the British front line'. After this failure, the Helles front was shut down and no further attacks were made. Five months later, following repeated failures elsewhere, the whole Gallipoli Campaign ended in evacuation back to Egypt.
42nd Division returned to Egypt in January 1916 with less than half the strength with which it had set out. It was stationed in Egypt for the next year, defending the Suez Canal and taking part in the Battle of Romani (4–5 August).
In February and March 1917, the whole of 42nd Division moved from Egypt to France to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, where it remained for the rest of the war. After re-equipping and training for trench warfare in a 'quiet sector' with Fourth Army, 42nd Division relieved 15th (Scottish) Division in Fifth Army in the Ypres Sector at the end of August. On 6 September 125th Brigade carried out an unsuccessful attack on strongly-held German pillboxes around Iberian, Borry, and Beck House Farms. The small amount of ground they took was given up the next day.
42nd Division was then returned to holding quiet sectors, at Nieuport and then Givenchy. It was now part of IV Corps in Third Army, in which it remained for the rest of the war. During the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael or the First Battles of the Somme 1918), the troops of 42nd Division took part in the Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March), First Battle of Arras (28 March) and the Battle of Ancre (5 April). Then, during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, it participated in the Battle of Albert (21–23 August) and the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August–3 September) during the fighting on the Somme. On the Hindenburg Line it was in the Battle of the Canal du Nord, where the Official History records that 125th Brigade's advance at 07.52 on 27 September 'was met by very heavy fire in front from machine guns which the barrage did not seem to have touched, and from Beaucamp on the right ... It reached an intermediate objective about five hundred yards from the front line and towards noon a little beyond this; but there it had to remain'. However, IV Corps renewed the attack after dark: 'The night was very dark and rainy, but the attack was a complete success; the enemy was surprised; very little opposition was encountered and many prisoners were taken. Under barrages moving a hundred yards in 5 minutes, the front lines of the 125th and 127th Brigades of the 42nd Division ... went forward in succession'. 42nd Division resumed the attack the following afternoon (28 September), 'when the 125th and 126th Brigades (the latter passing through the 127th), after some opposition, reached the top of Welsh Ridge, the objective of the division'.
Third Army's advance in Picardy culminated in the Battle of the Selle from 17 to 23 October. On 23 October 42nd Division was given the task of taking three successive objectives before the New Zealand Division passed through to continue the attack. 125th Brigade led the attack with two battalions in front, but in spite of a defensive smoke barrage they suffered considerably from enemy shelling during assembly. The defenders of Beaurain 'made a stout resistance and there was hard fighting in the early stages of the attack, men on both sides being killed by the bayonet'. The left of 125th Brigade reached its objective by 04.45, but the rest of the line did not do so until 08.00. The New Zealanders passed through and successfully reached their objectives.
The division was then withdrawn into reserve and halted around Beauvois-en-Cambrésis from 24 October until the advance was resumed on 3 November. On 7 November the 42nd Division was tasked to take the high ground west of Hautmont and if possible to capture the town. The division was held up by enfilade fire from the right, and 126th Brigade did no more than occupy some of the high ground. 125th Brigade was therefore ordered to pass through it the next morning and advance to the objective. But the 126th, 'in an endeavour to atone for its slowness on the 7th', pushed on and reached Hautmont before 125th could catch up. The 125th was unable to cross the Sambre because the pontoons had not arrived, so it retraced its steps to its overnight billets near Pont sur Sambre and crossed there. The brigade then forced back the enemy rearguards, and after dark its patrols went forward and cleared them off the high ground near Fort d'Hautmont, one of the outer forts of the Fortress of Maubeuge. On 9 November the brigade encountered no resistance in reaching its assigned objective, and by 10 November the most forward troops were on the Maubeuge–Avesnes-sur-Helpe road. This was the end of the fighting, because the Armistice with Germany came into the effect the following day. In December the division moved into quarters in the Charleroi area and by mid-March 1919 most of its troops had gone home for demobilisation.
World War II
The 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division and its components were reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. On the outbreak of World War II the division once again mobilised as a 1st Line formation and once again 125th Infantry Brigade was composed of battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Order of Battle
125 Brigade was constituted as follows during World War II:
- 1/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (to 4th Brigade 4 May 1940)
- 1st Battalion, Border Regiment (from 4th Brigade 4 May 1940; to 31st Independent Infantry Brigade 1 December 1940)
- 9th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (newly raised; joined 1 December 1940)
125 Brigade landed in France on 15 April 1940. There it exchanged the 1/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers with the 1st Battalion, Border Regiment from 4th Brigade, 2nd Division. After the defeat of the Battle of France, the brigade was evacuated from Dunkirk on 30 May 1940.
On 1 November 1941, 42nd Division was converted to 42nd Armoured Division, and 125 Brigade was renamed 10th Armoured Brigade. 1/5th, 1/6th and 9th Lancashire Fusiliers became respectively the 108th, 109th and 143rd regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps. Like all infantry units transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps, they maintained their infantry cap badges on the black beret of the RAC.
When 10th Armoured Brigade was scheduled for disbandment, Members of Parliament for the Lancashire towns complained about the loss of their Territorial battalions. Nevertheless, the disbandment went ahead in November 1943. Of the battalions, only 5th Lancashire Fusiliers was reconstituted after the war.
- Becke, Pt2a, pp. 36–41.
- Becke, Pt2b, pp. 68–74.
- North, p. 144
- Edmonds, p. 44.
- Edmonds, p. 47.
- Edmonds, p. 48.
- Edmonds, p. 365.
- Edmonds, p. 510.
- Edmonds, p. 523.
- Edmonds, p. 530.
- Joslen, p. 311.
- Joslen, p. 234.
- Joslen, p.279.
- Joslen, p. 164.
- 10th Armoured Brigade War Diary, August & November 1943, The National Archives, Kew file WO 166/10742
- Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2a: the Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territoral Force Divisions (42–56), London: HM Stationery Office, 1935/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
- Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: the 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
- Brig-Gen Sir James Edmonds, History of the Great War: Military Operations, France and Belgium 1918, Vol V, 26th September–11th November, The Advance to Victory, London: HM Stationery Office, 1947/Imperial War Museum and Battery Press, 1993, ISBN 1-870423-06-2.
- Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1-84342-474-6.
- John North, Gallipoli: The Fading Vision, London: Faber & Faber, 1936.