Royal Guernsey Light Infantry

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Royal Guernsey Light Infantry
RGLI Badge.jpg
Badge of the RGLI
Active 1916–1919
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size 1,300 soldiers
Part of British 29th Division 1917–1918
Garrison/HQ Fort George, Guernsey
Motto Diex Aix (God Help Us)
Engagements Battle of Passchendaele
Battle of Cambrai 1917
Battle of the Lys 1918

Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was a regiment in the British Army that was formed from the Royal Guernsey Militia in 1916 to serve in World War I. They fought as part of the British 29th Division. Of the 2280 Guernseymen who fought on the western front with the RGLI, 327 died and 667 were wounded.

Many Guernsey men had already volunteered for regiments in the British Army before the RGLI was formed. The RGLI was created because there was no Guernsey-named regiment to underline the island's devotion to the Crown.

The regimental motto, Diex Aix, derives from the battle cry used by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.

The Regiment lives on in the Guernsey Army Cadet Force (Det.) Light Infantry, who, although they do not wear the RGLI Cap Badge, still keep alive the history of the Regiment within the Detachment.

Brief History of the Regiment[edit]

1916[edit]

17 December

Royal Guernsey Light Infantry established. (Royal Guernsey Militia suspended for the duration of the war)
Most men from the Militia volunteered to join the RGLI, others including a few civilians, were conscripted.

1917[edit]

Training in Guernsey at Fort George, L'Ancresse and Beaucamps

1 June

To England – Bourne Park Camp near Canterbury for advanced infantry training.

July

2nd (Reserve) Battalion formed to receive recruits and train them as replacements for casualties in the 1st Battalion RGLI.

September

Soldiers sent on a final leave

26 September

The RGLI 1st Service Battalion (44 Officers and 964 other ranks) boarded trains to Southampton and onwards to France.

9–14 October

Battle of Poelcappelle (Part of Third Battle of Ypres, or ‘Passchendaele’). After this, rest and training for Cambrai.

20 November – 3 December

Battle of Cambrai, where the RGLI's role was to go through the Hindenburg Line after the first wave and take 'Nine Wood' to the north of Marcoing. This went according to plan, and they then moved into Marcoing and on to the front line at Masnières. The Guernseymen found themselves defending the small town of Les Rues Vertes against a huge and determined German counter-attack for two days. They suffered heavy casualties, with nearly 40% of the regiment either killed or injured during the battle, but only withdrew when ordered to by the high command.
After this, rest, refitting, training.

1918[edit]

18–26 January

RGLI went back into the front line at St Jean (north east of Ypres). After this, work parties, training.

8–29 March

In Battle zone, front line at Poelcappelle. After this, rest and training

3–7 April

In front line, Passchendaele sector.

10–14 April

Battle of the Lys, east of Hazebrouck. German 6th Army under Von Quast smashes 5 miles through allied lines. The RGLI is bussed south to help stem the German advance. Hopelessly outnumbered, but holding the Germans in a fighting retreat from Doulieu to near Merris, the Battalion suffer an appalling 80% casualties rate. The RGLI is relieved by the Australians.

30 April

The RGLI, withdrawn from the 29th Division and 86th Brigade, become GHQ troops well to the rear in Ecuires where they became guard troops for General Haig's H.Q. for the rest of the war and beyond.

1919[edit]

22 May

The RGLI return to Guernsey from France.

Honours and Awards[edit]

The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Regimental Museum is located at Castle Cornet in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey

Order of St. Michael and St. George (Companion)
T. L. de Havilland, Lieutenant Colonel

Royal Victorian Order (5th Class)
N. R. Ingrouille, Lieutenant

Military Cross
E. J. Stone, 2nd Lieutenant
H. E. K. Stranger, 2nd Lieutenant
H. A. Le Bas, Captain
Ambrose Sherwill, Lieutenant
F. de M. Laine, Lieutenant

Distinguished Conduct Medal
W. H. Budden, 569 Acting Sergeant
W. J. Le Poidevin, 590 Sergeant
H. L. James, 586 Sergeant

Military Medal
T. R. Robin, 841 Private
C. H. Yeaghers, 610 Private
J. Sealley, 843 Corporal
W. Gannicott, 335 Corporal
W. T. Gregg, 87 Private

Médaille militaire (France)
J. Sealley, 843 Corporal

Mentioned in Despatches
(Despatch from Sir Douglas Haig to the Secretary of State for War, 7 April 1918)
E. A. Dorey, Lieutenant
H. Jones, Lieutenant
C. C. Machon, 226 Lance Corporal
W. T. Robinson, 1131 Lance Corporal

Poetry[edit]

See ye Masnières canal a'flood
And where yon green graves lay?
There Norman warriors fled to their God
Ne'er more to glimpse the day.
But writ there, first, a name in blood-
Norman Ten Hundred.
At Doulieu, the night birds flit
Across yon blue-grey water.
And at dusk ghost warriors sit-
Wraiths of a fearsome slaughter.
There too in blood the name is writ-
Norman Ten Hundred.
And thus there the battle's flame
Laid men out fast and low,
So young Sarnia died, but Fame
Cast o'er their graves its glow,
And honours wove about the name
Norman Ten Hundred.

(From Blicq, A Stanley, Norman Ten Hundred, Guernsey Press, 1920)

References[edit]

  • Blicq, A Stanley, Norman Ten Hundred, Guernsey Press, 1920
  • Parks, Major Edwin, Diex Aix: God Help Us – The Guernseymen who marched away 1914–1918, States of Guernsey, 1992

External links[edit]

The Channel Islands and the Great War Study Group[edit]

Other Links[edit]