Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

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Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Active 1881–1958
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Light Infantry
Garrison/HQ Oxford
Nickname The Ox and Bucks, The Light Bobs
March Nachtlager in Granada
Anniversaries Waterloo (18 June)
Commanders
Ceremonial chief HM Carlos I of Portugal

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was an infantry regiment of the British Army.

The regiment was formed as a consequence of Childers reforms, a continuation of the Cardwell reforms, by the amalgamation of the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), forming the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Oxfordshire Light Infantry on 1 July 1881.

In 1908, as part of the Haldane Reforms, the regiment's title was altered to become the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, commonly shortened to the 'Ox and Bucks'.

Operations across the Empire (1881–1914)[edit]

1st Battalion
The 43rd Foot was based in Burma when it became the 1st Battalion. In 1882 the unit moved to Bangalore, India. In 1887 the battalion returned home, being based in Parkhurst, England. It moved to Kinsale, Ireland in 1893 and, having been based in other parts of Ireland, returned to England in 1898. In December 1899 the Second Boer War began and the 1st Battalion arrived in Southern Africa to take part in it. It saw extensive service in the conflict, including in the relief of the besieged British garrison at Kimberley and in the defeat of the Boers at Paardeberg in February. The war raged on for a further two years; the regiment saw extensive service for the duration of the conflict. The Oxfordshires returned to the UK in 1902 with the conclusion of the war. It moved to India the following year where it was based until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

2nd Battalion
The 52nd Light Infantry was based in Oxford, England, when it became the 2nd Battalion. This was the 52nd of Waterloo fame who, under the command of Colonel Sir John Colborne, broke a battalion of the Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. In 1884 it arrived in Gibraltar and the following year the battalion took part in active service for the first time as a 2nd battalion when a detachment under the command of Lieutenant Scott was deployed as mounted infantry in the Nile Expedition. In 1886 it was based in India, where it would remain into the 20th century. During its stay the battalion formed part of the Peshawar column in the Tirah Expedition in the volatile North-West Frontier in 1897. In 1903 the battalion returned home and was initially based in Chatham and in 1907 moved to Tidworth, Wiltshire. The battalion was stationed at Albuhera barracks, Aldershot, when World War I commenced.

First World War (1914-18)[edit]

During the war, the Ox and Bucks raised 12 battalions (17 in all), six of which fought on the Western Front, two in Italy, two in Macedonia and one in Mesopotamia. The regiment won 59 battle honours and four theatre honours. Many gallantry honours were awarded to the Ox and Bucks, including two Victoria Crosses—the most prestigious honour for bravery in the face of the enemy—that were awarded to Company Sergeant Major Edward Brooks and Lance-Corporal Alfred Wilcox, both of the 2/4th Battalion.

Western Front[edit]

2nd Ox and Bucks defeating the Prussian Guard at Nonne Bosschen. Painting by William Barnes Wollen (1857–1936)

In August 1914, the 2nd Ox and Bucks arrived on the Western Front, as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, I Corps – the 2nd Division was one of the first divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to arrive in France. The battalion took part in the first British battle of the war, at Mons, where the British defeated the German forces that they had encountered on 23 August. The battalion subsequently took part in the 220 mile retreat, in exceptionally hot weather, that began the following day, not stopping until just on the outskirts of Paris, then halting the German advance at the First Battle of the Marne (5–9 September). The 2nd Ox and Bucks later took part in all the subsidiary battles of the First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November) that saw the heart ripped out of the old Regular Army, with 54,000 casualties being sustained. In the First Battle of Ypres the 2nd Ox and Bucks first engagement with the enemy was on 20 October in an attack on the Passchendaele ridge. The battalion had heavy casualties: 4 officers killed and 5 wounded and 143 other ranks killed or wounded. On 31 October the Germans launched a large scale attack against General Sir Douglas Haig's I Corps in the area of Ypres which commenced with a heavy bombardment followed by a mass infantry attack; 2 companies of the 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the defence and subsequent counter-attack which forced the enemy back to their front line. On 11 November the Germans made another attempt to capture Ypres, sending—on the orders of the German Kaiser—the élite Prussian Guard against the British forces. The 2nd Battalion counter-attacked them at Nonne Bosschen wood, preventing their advance and then routing them; almost one hundred years after the 52nd had defeated Napoleon's Imperial Guard at Waterloo. First Ypres was the last major battle of 1914. The 2nd Ox and Bucks sustained 632 casualties during the first five months of the war and by 1915 it was a very different battalion from that which had arrived on the Western Front at the start of the war.

In 1915 trench warfare commenced with both sides developing impregnable defences; leading to high casualties in return for minimal gains. At the Battle of Festubert (9–16 May) – which was launched in support of the French attack south of Vimy Ridge – the 2nd Ox and Bucks were part of the second wave of the 5th Brigade attack and, during the course of the battle, suffered just under 400 casualties: the largest number the regiment had sustained in a single battle since the Siege of Badajoz (1812) over 100 years earlier. The Battle of Festubert was the first British night action of the war. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were involved in heavy fighting at Richebourg l'Avoue on 15–16 May. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment also saw action at Loos (25 September - 8 October): 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the subsidiary attack at Givenchy with 263 casualties on 25 September. The 2nd Battalion took part in the subsequent attack against the Hohenzollern Redoubt (13–19 October). Following the battle of Loos few pre-1914 2nd Ox and Bucks officers remained, they had either become casualties or promoted to take up positions in other battalions. The gallantry awards made to members of the battalion for bravery during the battle of Loos included the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to CSM Fred Clare.

In January 1916, the 2nd Ox and Bucks were at Cottes St.Hilaire; the 2nd Division was at that time taking its turn in the corps reserve. The battalion later moved to Bethune and then returned to the Festubert trenches. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Crosse took over command of the 2nd Ox and Bucks in June 1916 and was to lead the battalion for the next 3 years. The 1/4th Ox and Bucks took part in the First Day of the Somme on 1 July 1916, in which the British Army suffered over 60,000 casualties – the largest number sustained in a day by the British Army. The battalions of the Ox and Bucks on the Western Front saw extensive service during the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November), suffering heavily, including at Mametz Wood, Pozières and at Ancre, the last major subsidiary battle. On 28 July the 2nd Ox and Bucks moved to front-line trenches near Waterlot farm and sustained heavy casualties at the battle there on 30 July. The 2nd Ox and Bucks fought on the Somme battlefield at Delville Wood, Guillemont and on 13 November in the battle of Beaumont Hamel: a large attack on the Redan Ridge in the battle of the Ancre. The 2nd Ox and Bucks sustained many casualties during the battle of Beaumont Hamel, including Captain RB Kite who within the previous 12 months, had been awarded the Military Cross and twice mentioned in despatches.

The New Year of 1917 brought with it a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme plain which led to an unofficial truce between the two sides. In March 1917, the Germans began the withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line (14 March - 5 April) and at the end of March the 2nd Ox and Bucks moved from the Somme to the back areas of Arras. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment saw much involvement in the Arras Offensive (9 April - 16 May), including at the Battles of Scarpe and Arleux. The 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the battle of Arras from 11 April and had a leading role in the battle of Arleux on 28–29 April: during the battle the battalion protected the right flank of the Canadian 1st Division which was critical to the capture of the village of Arleux and sustained more than 200 casualties. In the summer of 1917, the 2nd Ox and Bucks held the line at Bailleulemont, near Arras. The battalions of the Ox and Bucks saw further service in many of the subsidiary battles during the Battle of Passchendaele (also known as Third Ypres) that took place between 31 July-6 November. Some of the battles that the Ox and Bucks took part in included Menin Road and Polygon Wood in September and early October. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and the 6th (Service) Battalion, Ox and Bucks also took part in the Battle of Cambrai (20 November-3 December) that saw the first large-scale use of tanks by the British and was the last major battle of the year.

In January 1918, the 2nd Ox and Bucks marched to Beaulencourt, later that month they moved to Havrincourt Wood and then on 9 February to Metz-en-Couture. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were at Vallulart Camp, Ytres, when on 21 March 1918 the Germans launched the last-gasp Spring Offensive (Operation Michael). The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment sustained heavy casualties as part of the defence of the Somme during the Battle of St. Quentin (21–23 March), the First Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March) and in subsequent battles that saw the Germans achieve significant gains. After that offensive lost its momentum, the Germans launched Operation Georgette in April which the Ox and Bucks defended against in the Battle of the Lys and subsequent actions. By August the German offensives had failed and the Allies had launched a counter-attack. In August the 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the Battle of Albert (1918) (21–23 August) and the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August - 3 September) while the 2/4th Ox and Bucks and the 2/1st Buckinghamshires took part in the advance into Flanders, with both offensives seeing the Allies advance to the Hindenburg Line by early September. The 2nd Ox and Bucks took part in the offensive against it that saw the Allies break through the defences, taking part in the Battle of Havrincourt (12 September), Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 September - 1 October) and the Second Battle of Cambrai (8–9 October). The regiment then took part in the last actions of the war, taking part in the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of Valenciennes. The 2nd Ox and Bucks last action of the war was the battle for Escarmain on 23 October 1918 during the Battle of the Selle (17–25 October).

The war ended on 11 November 1918 with the signing of the Armistice between the Allies and Germany. Following their leading role in the final British offensive, the 2nd Ox and Bucks were at St.Pol, near Valenciennes, after the Armistice. The 2nd Ox and Bucks crossed the German frontier at Malmedy on 9 December 1918. The battalion was later stationed in Zons, near Cologne, as part of the army of occupation. At the end of the war there were only 66 2nd Ox and Bucks of all ranks still serving with the battalion from those that had left Aldershot, Hampshire, for the Western Front on 13 August 1914: of these 39 served throughout the war. 5,878 members of the regiment lost their lives during the First World War.

Mesopotamia[edit]

The 1st Ox and Bucks, as part of the 17th (Ahmednagar) Brigade, 6th (Poona) Division, left India for Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in November 1914; there, the battalion took part in the campaign against the Ottoman forces that ruled the country.

The battalion took part in the march towards Kut-al-Amara with the intention of capturing it from the Ottomans. The battle for Kut began on 26 September and raged for a number of days until the Ottomans went into retreat and Kut was captured on 28 September. The battalion then took part in the Battle of Ctesiphon (22–24 November) during the pursuit of the Ottoman forces and in the effort to capture the capital Baghdad, which ended in the 6th Poona Division being defeated by the Ottomans. 635 officers and men of the battalion fought in the battle of Ctesiphon and 304 became casualties. The Division subsequently retreated to Kut, reaching it on 3 December, where it was besieged by the Ottomans, beginning on 7 December, with a garrison of 10,000 Britons and Indians. The Ottomans launched numerous attempts to take Kut, all of which were repulsed by the defenders, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The British launched numerous attempts to relieve Kut, all of which failed with heavy losses. On 26 April 1916—supplies had dwindled significantly and many of the garrison's defenders were suffering from sickness—the garrison negotiated a cease-fire with the Ottomans and on 29 April the British-Indian force of 8,000 surrendered to the Ottomans, including 400 men of the 1st Ox and Bucks. Many of the Ox and Bucks taken at Kut, like the rest of the prisoners, suffered mistreatment by the Ottomans; only 71 of all ranks of the 1st Ox and Bucks who had been taken prisoner returned home to the UK. It is estimated that just under 2,000 Britons and up to 3,000 Indians perished in captivity.

A Provisional Battalion had been formed in January 1916 from reinforcements intended for the 1st Ox and Bucks, joining the 28th (Garwhal) Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division. The battalion joined the Lines of Communication (LoC) force and the Provisional Battalion was re-titled the 1st Battalion on 6 July 1917. On 19 October 1917 the battalion transferred to the 50th Brigade, 15th Indian Division. By then, the British had taken Baghdad and were gradually pushing the Ottomans further back. Between 26–27 March 1918 it took part in fighting against the Ottomans at Khan Baghdadi. The Ottomans signed an Armistice with the Allies on 30 October, ending the war in the Middle East.

Italy and Macedonia[edit]

The 1/4th Ox and Bucks and 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion were part of the 145th (South Midland) Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division that left the Western Front for Italy in November 1917—which had been a member of the Allies since May 1915—after she suffered very heavy casualties at the Battle of Caporetto. The regiment and the rest of the British forces did not take part in a major battle until June 1918 when they participated in the Battle of Asiago (15–16 June), that saw the Austro-Hungarians—an ally of Germany—successfully defeated in their offensive against the Allies; it was the last Austro-Hungarian offensive against Italy. On 23 October the Allies launched a successful offensive against Austria-Hungary, with the regiment crossing the Piave River, taking part in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. The Austro-Hungarians signed an Armistice with the Allies on 4 November 1918 and the 1/4th Ox and Bucks and 1/1st Buckinghamshires ended the war in Austria-Hungary.

In October 1915 the British and French landed in Salonika at the request of the Greek Prime Minister. The British 26th Division—including the 7th (Service) and 8th (Service) Battalions, Ox and Bucks—landed between December 1915 and February 1916. The regiment's time in the Balkans was mostly quiet, experiencing sporadic fighting, but it included the repulsing of a Bulgarian invasion of Greece at Lake Doiran in April–May 1917. The regiment saw very heavy fighting against the Bulgarians around Doiran the following September, after the Allies had launched an offensive in July 1918 with the intention of ending the war in the Balkans. The war ended on 30 September 1918 with Bulgaria signing an Armistice with the Allies. The Ox and Bucks, along with the rest of the division, was subsequently employed for a brief period of time on occupation duties in Bulgaria.

Inter-War[edit]

1st Battalion
Major-General Sir John Hanbury-Williams was appointed Colonel Commandant of the regiment in 1918. The 1st Ox and Bucks arrived in Archangel, Northern Russia, in May 1919, as part of the Allied force that intervened in the Russian Civil War to assist the 'White Russians' in their fight against the Bolsheviks. The battalion left later in the year, being based in Limerick, Ireland in 1920 to assist in operations against Sinn Féin and the IRA. It moved to Shorncliffe Army Camp, England, two years later. In 1925 the battalion joined the British Army of Occupation in Germany, remaining there for two-years before heading for Parkhurst, England. The 1st Ox and Bucks remained in England until the outbreak of war in 1939.

2nd Battalion
In May 1919, the 2nd Ox and Bucks left Germany where they had been part of the army of occupation and returned to Cowley Barracks, Oxford, the following month. The battalion then moved to Tipperary, Ireland, to take part in operations against the IRA and Sinn Féin. In March 1922 the battalion arrived in Rawalpindi, India, later moving to Razmak in Waziristan on the North-West Frontier. In 1929 the battalion moved to Maymo in Upper Burma and then to Rangoon. In 1934 the battalion returned to India, initially to Bareilly and then to Mhow where it remained until it left India in June 1940, arriving home the following month.

Second World War (1939-45)[edit]

On 3 September 1939—two days after Germany had invaded Poland—the British Empire, France and their Allies declared war on Germany, beginning the Second World War. During that conflict the regiment raised nine battalions and the 3rd (Special Reserve) Training Battalion. The regiment saw service in France, North Africa, Burma, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

North-West Europe (France and Belgium) 1939-40[edit]

The British rapidly sent the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France in September which included the 1st Ox and Bucks as part of 4th British Infantry Division. They were joined by the Territorial 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and the 4th Ox and Bucks in January 1940, all of which eventually became part of the 48th (South Midland) Division, with the 1st Ox and Bucks part of the 143rd Brigade and the 4th Ox and Bucks and the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion part of the 145th Brigade.

The Germans launched their invasion of the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, shattering a period of the conflict that was known as the Phoney War. The German invasion of northern Belgium—where the BEF was located—was a diversion with the main attack being through the poorly-defended Ardennes forest. The BEF withdrew west towards the Dendre river after the Dutch Army had surrendered, and then withdrew further towards the Scheldt river by 19 May. The British force, having given a good account of themselves in the defence of the Scheldt, eventually withdrew into France, moving towards the Dunkirk area. The evacuation of British forces back to Britain began on 26 May, it was known as Operation Dynamo (26 May-3 June). The 1st Ox and Bucks took part in the Battle of the Ypres-Comines Canal (26–28 May) and were eventually evacuated from Dunkirk, having suffered more than 300 casualties. The other battalions took part in the defence of Cassel, Nord until 29 May where they eventually attempted a breakout, although the 4th Battalion was encircled by German forces near Watou and was finally overwhelmed. The 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion took part in the battle for Hazebrouck which commenced on 27 May where they came under heavy attack from all directions by the German 8th Panzer Division and managed to delay the German advance. The 1st Bucks were eventually ordered to fight their way back to Dunkirk; only 10 officers and approximately 200 men of the battalion reached the UK. More than 330,000 British and French troops were evacuated during the Dunkirk evacuation.

North-West Europe 1944-45[edit]

1st Battalion

Normandy[edit]

The 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion was part of the 6th Beach Group, landing on D-Day on 6 June 1944. Its role was to organise the units on the landing beaches. In July the 1st Bucks supplied companies for the Bridgehead defence. The 1st Ox and Bucks landed later that month as part of the 71st Infantry Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. On 25 June Operation Epsom began what was intended to take the town of Caen—a vital objective for the British that proved to be a formidable town to capture—it was unsuccessful. However, it did divert significant numbers of Germans away from the Americans. The Germans counter-attacked, the 1st Ox and Bucks moved to positions around the Odon bridgehead where it suffered from heavy German artillery fire. The Allies launched further attempts to capture Caen, the first Allied troops entered the city on 9 July; by then, much of it had been destroyed. After holding the line the 1st Battalion's first major engagement with the enemy during the battle for Caen was the successful attack to capture the village of Cahier and a nearby mill. Fighting around Caen continued for much of the month, with the battalion sustaining significant casualties. In August it took part in an advance towards Falaise, known as Operation Totalize. The Allies reached and captured it. The battalion also captured Pierrefitte during the operation to close The Falaise Pocket, encircling two German armies, one of which was effectively destroyed by the Allies. The victory of the Falaise Pocket signified the end of the battle for Normandy. The 1st Ox and Bucks then took part in the advance east, eventually entering Belgium in early September.

Market Garden, the Ardennes offensive and crossing the Rhine[edit]

The invasion of the Netherlands began on 17 September; it was known as Operation Market Garden and was a combined land and airborne operation. The 1st Ox and Bucks took part in the ground operation in support of the airborne corridor to Arnhem. The 1st Ox and Bucks led the advance of 71st Infantry Brigade to the Wilhelmina canal where it encountered strong enemy resistance. The ground operation was intended to cross three bridges that had been taken by airborne troops and on into Germany. It would end at the furthest captured bridge at Arnhem—one end of which was taken by 1st Airborne Division, although the operation had ended in failure by 25 September. The 1st Ox and Bucks subsequently took part in operations around the Lower Maas that took place during October and November, including forcing the enemy from its position holding a bridgehead over the River Maas, west of Roermond. Lieutenant Colonel JH Hare, the Battalion's Commanding Officer, was killed during the battle for Hertogenbosch on 28 October and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Howard of the Royal East Kent Regiment who was to command the 1st Ox and Bucks to the end of the war.

On 16 December 1944 the Germans launched their last-gasp major offensive of the war in the Ardennes that became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 1st Ox and Bucks, along with the rest of its division, was rushed to Belgium shortly afterwards to assist in the defence where it experienced terrible weather conditions, some of the worst Belgium had seen in years. The Allies launched a counter-attack in early January and the German offensive was defeated later that month, by which time the 53rd Welsh Division had been relieved and returned to Holland soon afterwards in preparation for the invasion of Germany.

In February the battalion was involved in the Allied invasion of the German Rhineland, including taking part in the Battle of the Reichswald: the five-division assault on the Reichswald Forest, where the battalion was involved in heavy fighting against German paratroopers and armour at the village of Asperberg. The battalion crossed the Rhine in late March and, attached to 8th Armoured Division, continued its eastwards advance, seeing action at among other places, Ibbenburen in April where it saw heavy fighting against determined German marines; although the British succeeded in capturing the town. The battalion met fierce enemy resistance at Gross Hauslingen before continuing the advance through Dauelsen, Gyhum and Wehldorf and the 1st Ox and Bucks eventually reached the city of Hamburg—captured on 3 May by British forces—where they remained until the end of the war in Europe.

2nd Battalion

Transport moving across the Caen Canal Bridge at Benouville, June 1944. The bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge after the mythical winged horse on the formation sign of British airborne forces

D-Day[edit]

In 1941 the 2nd Battalion which had been part of 31st Independent Infantry Brigade re-roled as an airborne, specifically an Air Landing, unit; joining the 1st Airlanding Brigade, part of the 1st Airborne Division. In 1943 it became part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade in 6th Airborne Division. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were due to take part in the invasion of Sicily; however in April 1943 the battalion was advised that the 1st Airborne Division and not the 6th Airborne Division were to be deployed in the landings. As part of Operation Deadstick just before the landings on D-Day on 6 June 1944, D Company, 2nd Ox and Bucks, commanded by Major John Howard as well as Royal Engineers and men of the Glider Pilot Regiment (a total of 181 men), were to land in six Horsa gliders to capture the vital structure which became known as Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal and the bridge over the Orne River which became known as Horsa Bridge and was east of Pegasus. Their capture was intended to secure the eastern flank to prevent German armour from reaching the British 3rd Infantry Division that was landing on Sword Beach.

The original Pegasus Bridge after the war

The Ox and Bucks landed very close to their objectives at 16 minutes past midnight (the first Allied unit to land in France). The soldiers poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the German defenders, and taking the bridges within 10 minutes, losing two men—Lieutenant Den Brotheridge and Lance-Corporal Greenhalgh—in the process. A further two officers and 14 soldiers were wounded during the battle for the bridges. Lieutenant Dennis Fox led the first platoon to land at Horsa Bridge. One glider assigned to the capture of Horsa Bridge landed at the bridge over the River Dives, some seven miles from where they intended. In spite of this, the occupants of the glider captured the River Dives bridge, advanced through the German lines towards the village of Ranville where they eventually rejoined the British forces. The Ox and Bucks platoons holding the bridges were relieved by 7 Para at 03:00hrs. The Germans attempted to re-capture the bridges, but were repulsed. Later in the day, at about 1:00pm, Lord Lovat and elements of his 1st Special Service Brigade arrived to relieve the exhausted defenders, followed by the British 3rd Infantry Division. The operation was immortalised in the film The Longest Day.

As the first day of the landings closed, more reinforcements arrived as part of Operation Mallard, they included the rest of the 2nd Ox and Bucks. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Darell-Brown DSO, replaced Lieutenant Colonel Michael Roberts who had been injured during the landings and would remain in command of the battalion during the defence of the Ardennes and over the Rhine landing. On 7 June the battalion captured the small village of Herouvillette and then headed for the village of Escoville where it met some extremely determined resistance. Having experienced intense fighting with German troops supported by armour and unable to successfully dig-in and hold the village, the battalion withdrew, moving back to Herouvillette where it took part in its defence.

On 13 June the battalion moved to Chateau St Come, approximately one mile south of Breville, where it remained until 20 June when it moved to Le Mesnil[disambiguation needed]. On 26 June the battalion was ordered to occupy the village of Breville, moving back to Chateau St Come on 8 July. On 23 July the battalion returned to Le Mesnil and a week later to the trenches of Breville. On 7 August the battalion left Breville and apart from moving to Le Mesnil on 13 August for two days continued to hold the line at Chateau St Come on Bréville ridge. The battalion's time there was a period of static warfare. The bocage country of small fields and orchards surrounded by thick hedges was of greater advantage to the German defenders than to the Allied troops and the battalion sustained many casualties from snipers, mortar and shell fire.

The battalion took part in the British breakout and advance to the Seine which began later in August, known as Operation Paddle. It crossed the River Touques and the advance continued through St Philibert, La Correspondance, Pretreville and Malbortie. On 25 August the battalion was ordered to attack and capture the village of Manneville-la-Raoult, where a German garrison was based. After heavy fighting, during which the enemy used mortar and artillery fire, by nightfall the battalion had occupied the village and had captured a number of prisoners and transport. Lieutenant Freddie Scott was awarded a Military Cross for an action which drove the enemy from a position from where his platoon had come under heavy attack by machine-gun fire and grenades. The Battle for Manneville La Raoult was to be the last battle the battalion would fight in France. The following day, it moved to Foulbec. The 2nd Ox and Bucks, along with the rest of the 6th Airborne Division, was withdrawn to the UK in early September to recuperate and reorganise. By then, of the original 181 men that had taken part in the Pegasus and Horsa operation, just 40 remained fit for active duty.

Ardennes offensive[edit]

The 2nd Ox and Bucks and the rest of the 6th Airborne Division were rushed back to Belgium, by sea and land, to take part in the defence of the Ardennes, after the German offensive began in December 1944. The battalion left Tilbury on 23 December and was on the first ship to enter Calais following its liberation. The 2nd Ox and Bucks arrived at Givet at 04.00hrs on 25 December to defend the town and bridgehead. By the time the battalion arrived in the Ardennes, in freezing weather conditions, the German offensive had largely lost its momentum. On 30 December the battalion moved to Drehance and took part in holding the bridgehead at Dinant. On 2 January 1945 the battalion moved to Custinne and then to Resteigne. On 4 January, C Company, commanded by Major Johnny Granville, was involved in heavy fighting, whilst in support of 13 Parachute Battalion in the village of Bure. The battalion moved to Rochefort on 9 January and by this time the battlefront was moving rapidly eastwards. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were based at Fromlennes from 17 January to 24 January when the battalion moved 200 miles north to Holland to Grubbenvorst, near Venlo, on the River Maas, to defend the position there, before returning to Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, on 28 February.

Crossing the Rhine[edit]

The 2nd Ox and Bucks were once again involved in a gliderborne air assault landing, known as Operation Varsity: the largest airborne operation in the history of warfare and the airborne support for Operation Plunder: the Rhine Crossing in March 1945. The Germans were defending their last great natural barrier in the West and Operation Varsity which began on 24 March 1945 was the last major battle on the Western Front during the Second World War. The 2nd Ox and Bucks landed further east than any other British Army unit to capture bridges from the Germans. The battalion, like many others during the assault, suffered heavily as the Germans met the landing gliders with ferocious fire in the air and on the ground; the 2nd Ox and Bucks lost 400 killed or injured out of a total battalion strength of 800 men.

The battalion's objective was to capture the line of the River Issel northwest of Hamminkeln. This included the Hamminkeln-Ringenburg road bridge, the railway bridge, Hamminkeln railway station and the road junction to the west. On 19 March the battalion moved to Birch camp, RAF Birch, near Colchester, Essex. The 2nd Ox and Bucks took off from Birch and Gosfield airfields at 06.30hrs on 24 March and the gliders moved southwards over the North Sea, then east over Brussels and landed in Hamminkeln area at about 10.00hrs. Each company was designated a landing zone in the area of its objective. At Hamminkeln the gliders flew into a barrage of anti-aircraft fire; there were 4 enemy anti-aircraft guns gun-pits positioned near Hamminkeln station. During the landing which took only 10 minutes to complete there was thick smoke and dust from the area of Wesel and many of the battalion's 30 gliders were on fire and there were many casualties.

Bill Alsop, the Quartermaster, was involved in a highly unusual landing. Seeing both the pilot and co-pilot of the glider slump over their joysticks as casualties, he took control of the aircraft and brought it safely down. The Commanding Officer, with tongue firmly in cheek, put him in for a Distinguished Flying Cross. He did not get it.[1]

The 2nd Ox and Bucks casualties included 103 killed during the battle of the landing area. The battalion had lost half its strength, the 4 rifle companies were severely depleted and non-commissioned officers were frequently required to act as platoon commanders. The battalion saw very heavy fighting at Hamminkeln, where its objectives were the railway station and bridges over the River Issel between Hamminkeln and Ringenburg. Lieutenant Hugh Clark led a bayonet charge to take a road bridge for which he was awarded a Military Cross. CSM John Stevenson was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for defeating several enemy attacks with a platoon he led on the east bank of the River Issel. The 2nd Ox and Bucks captured and held all its objectives. The Germans launched a number of counter-attacks, all of which were repelled. At midnight on 25 March the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) relieved the battalion and by 06.00hrs on 26 March the unit was based in a farm on the west side of Hamminkeln. Later that morning the 2nd Ox and Bucks were informed that 6th Airborne Division would lead the advance across Germany.

The 2nd Ox and Bucks took a leading part in the division's 300 mile advance, mostly on foot. The battalion marched to Rhade and then to Coesfeld where they remained until 31 March; they then moved towards Greven and were involved in heavy fighting at the Dortmund-Ems Canal and sustained casualties from enemy artillery fire. The advance continued through Ladbergen and as the unit moved towards Lengerich it was assisted by the tanks of the 4th Armoured Grenadier Guards. One of the 2nd Ox and Bucks companies came under heavy machine gun fire in the hills to the north east of the town. Following the capture of Lengerich the battalion then moved to Hasbergen, west of Osnabruck. On 3 April 2nd Ox and Bucks was the first Allied unit to cross the Weser during which the unit was bombarded by enemy flak artillery. Following the crossing the battalion captured Wietersheim and were involved in house to house fighting to secure the village of Frille.

On 8 April the battalion started on a long march towards Winzlar and moved into the corps reserve, being replaced in front by the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. On 14 April the battalion advanced through Celle and on 15 April whilst moving to the village of Nettelkamp, east of Uelzen, they were bombed by Jet planes. The 2nd Ox and Bucks encountered heavy enemy resistance at Kahlstorf, near Emern, on 16–17 April. The battalion moved through Rosche then Katzien and were at Ebstorf from 23 April to 29 April. The 2nd Ox and Bucks crossed the River Elbe on 30 April and the advance continued through Nostorf, Schwartow and Lutterstorf to Bad Kleinen, on the banks of the Schweriner See. The battalion linked up with the Russians near the Baltic port of Wismar on 3 May 1945.

The 2nd Ox and Bucks was selected to represent the British Army in providing the Guard of Honour which was commanded by Major Sandy Smith for the meeting between British commander Field Marshal Montgomery and his Russian counterpart, Rokossovsky, at Wismar, on 7 May 1945. At Bad Kleinen the battalion was involved in organising the reception of the many German soldiers, including complete divisions, who had surrendered to the British army there and about 12,000 refugees who had fled to the village from the east. Whilst at Bad Kleinen small parties from the battalion visited the Russian army units. On 17 May Gunners from the 5th Infantry Division relieved the battalion which then moved to the former German cavalry barracks at Luneburg before flying home to the UK and returning to Bulford Camp, Wiltshire. 1,408 officers and other ranks of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry lost their lives during the Second World War.

T-Force

Main article: T-Force

During the spring and summer of 1945, two companies of the Buckinghamshire Battalion, along with the 5th Battalion of the King's Regiment, were attached to a secretive unit known as T-Force. Their role was to locate Nazi scientists and military research facilities. The creation of T-Force had been inspired by James Bond author Ian Fleming who had created 30 Assault Unit, which worked alongside T-Force in Germany. They carried out investigations in Hanover, Bremen and Hamburg. Post-war, elements of the Bucks who had been attached to T-Force, were absorbed into No.1 T Force which continued to search for military secrets in the Ruhr.[2]

North Africa and Italy (1942-45)[edit]

The 7th Ox and Bucks, part of the 56th (London) Infantry Division, took part in the final battle in the Tunisian Campaign in 1943. The battalion made a successful attack at Enfidaville following a 3,000-mile road move from Iraq. In the Italian Campaign 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the landings at Salerno and Anzio and sustained heavy casualties. The battalion fought its way up Italy to the Gothic Line near Rimini. 7th Ox and Bucks were dispersed as reinforcements to other regiments in 56 Division in late 1944.

Far East (1944-45)[edit]

The 6th Ox and Bucks served on the Arakan Front during the advance down the west coast of Burma in 1944/45. The battalion fought at Akyab in 1944 and at the main Japanese Base at Tamandu in 1945. The 2nd Ox and Bucks following their return from Germany in May 1945 were due to be deployed to the Far East in S.E. Asia Command. An advance party of 2nd Ox and Bucks, led by Lieutenant Peter Gerahty, was in India in August 1945 preparing for an airborne assault in the Far East when the Japanese army surrendered.

Post-World War II (1945-1966)[edit]

In October 1945, the 2nd Battalion, as part of 6th Airborne Division, arrived in Palestine as Britain's Imperial Strategic Reserve in the Middle East. Palestine was in a highly volatile political state and the battalion was extensively deployed on internal security duties and in assisting the civil authorities to keep the peace between the different communities. The 2nd Ox and Bucks were initially based at Mughazi camp, near Gaza, then at Ras-El-Fin, near Tel Aviv and at Nathanya, near Haifa. In March 1946 the battalion moved to Alamein camp in Jerusalem. On 15 April, 6th Airlanding Brigade, which the battalion was still part of, was renumbered the 31st Independent Infantry Brigade. On 26 April the battalion wore their red berets for the final time, at a farewell to the division parade. The battalion was stationed in Jerusalem when the King David Hotel bombing took place on 22 July. The 2nd Ox and Bucks moved to Athlit, near Haifa, in November, then to Zerca in Transjordan before returning to Jerusalem in January 1947. The battalion formed part of 8th Infantry Brigade in May 1947 and moved to Khassa, near Gaza, in July and left Palestine in September 1947.

The 1st Battalion moved from the Rhineland to Berlin in November 1945. The battalion was based in Seesen in the Harz Mountains from March 1946 to May 1946 when it moved to Luneburg. In August 1946 the 1st Battalion deployed to Trieste—the following year the Free Territory of Trieste—as part of the British-American force there. The battalion left in May 1947.

In 1948, following the independence of India, the British Government implemented substantial defence cuts,[3][4] which involved all second battalions in the Line Infantry being abolished or amalgamated with their first battalions; this included the Ox and Bucks. The last Commanding Officer of the 2nd Ox and Bucks was Lieutenant Colonel CH Styles. Following amalgamation, the regiment was re-titled the 1st Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 43rd and 52nd.

The 1st and 2nd battalions of the regiment had continued unofficially to use their former numerical titles long after the Cardwell reforms had officially replaced them. The regiment, generally known to others as the Ox and Bucks now referred to themselves as the 43rd and 52nd.

In June 1949, the regiment moved to Greece during the civil war in that country. In October 1951, following a short period in Cyprus, the regiment deployed to the British-controlled Suez Canal Zone in Egypt. There, the regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Young, saw active service performing internal security duties. The regiment, following disembarkation, was based for several days at a Transit Camp at Port Said and then moved to Gordon Camp at El Ballah. The regiment moved to Suez the following year. The Colonel Commandant of the regiment General Sir Bernard Paget visited the regiment in November 1952. The regiment left Suez in April 1953.

The regiment was based at Belfast Barracks, Osnabrück, West Germany, from July 1953, as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), where, in October 1955, the regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Antony Read, commemorated the 200th anniversary of the founding of the 52nd Light Infantry.

In August 1956 the regiment took part in operations against EOKA terrorists in Cyprus. The political situation in Cyprus had changed considerably since the regiment was last there in 1951. The regiment was deployed for most of its time in Cyprus in the Limasol area where it had replaced the Norfolk Regiment and utilised its experience gained in Palestine following the Second World War. On 1 April 1958, the regiment transferred from the Light Infantry Brigade to the Green Jackets Brigade and on 7 November 1958 the regiment was re-titled the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) and in May 1959 left Cyprus for home—the first time it had been based in the UK since 1939. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Martin had the distinction of being the last Commanding Officer of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the first Commanding Officer of the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd). The last Colonel Commandant of the regiment was Major General Sir John Winterton who also became the first Colonel Commandant of the renamed regiment the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd).

The Regimental Depot which had been at Cowley Barracks, Oxford, from 1876 to 1957 moved to Peninsula Barracks, Winchester, Hampshire, in 1958. The regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Harbottle, was based at Warminster, Wiltshire, from 1959 to 1962 when it became the first unit to be posted to the Far East without any National Servicemen, following the end of conscription in 1961.

In April 1962, almost two years after the Malayan Emergency was declared over, the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) arrived in the Malayan state of Penang. Peace did not reign for long and on 9 December 1962, the regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Tod Sweeney, was deployed to Brunei on the island of Borneo, after an Indonesian-backed uprising occurred. The regiment returned to Minden Barracks, Penang, on 2 April 1963. The 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) was re-designated as a rifle regiment in June 1963 to conform to the rest of the Green Jackets Brigade. The regiment was later involved in further operations in North Borneo and Sarawak. In January 1964, Lieutenant Colonel David House took over command of the regiment and in March 1965 the regiment moved to West Berlin.

The regiment was stationed in West Berlin during the period known as the Cold War and it was to be the regiment's last overseas deployment. The regiment was stationed at Montgomery Barracks in the district of Kladow; the Berlin Wall bordered the perimeter of the barracks. In Berlin, the regiment's duties included taking its turn in guarding Spandau Prison. On 27 May 1965, Queen Elizabeth II inspected the Berlin Infantry Brigade which included the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd). In September 1965, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Pratt took over command of the regiment and he was to be the last Commanding Officer of the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) and the first Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Royal Green Jackets.

On 1 January 1966, whilst in West Berlin, the regiment amalgamated with the two other regiments of the Green Jackets Brigade to form the three battalion Royal Green Jackets, the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) becoming the 1st Battalion Royal Green Jackets. The battalion was disbanded in 1992 as a consequence of Options for Change and the 2nd Battalion (formerly The King's Royal Rifle Corps) was re-designated as the 1st Battalion. The 3rd Battalion was renumbered as the 2nd. On 1 February 2007, the 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets became the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles and the 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets became the 4th Battalion, The Rifles.

Victoria Cross recipients[edit]

  • Company Sergeant Major Edward Brooks (2/4th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry)
  • Lance-Corporal Alfred Wilcox (2/4th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry)

Other information[edit]

See also[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arthur, Max - Forgotten Voices of The Second World War, 2004, Random House, ISBN 0091897343, p. 407
  2. ^ T Force, The Race for Nazi War Secrets, 1945 by Sean Longden Published by Constable & Robinson September 2009
  3. ^ "Infantry Cut Again Regiments To Have One Battalion, Training Reduced". The Times. 15 October 1947. p. 4. 
  4. ^ "Mr Bellenger's Statement". Hansard 1803-2005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 13 March 1947. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27286. p. 1227. 19 February 1901.
  6. ^ "The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Battle Honours". lightinfantry.org.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 

External links[edit]