South Staffordshire Regiment

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The South Staffordshire Regiment
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line Infantry
Size

2 Regular Battalions
2 Militia and Special Reserve Battalions
2–3 Territorial and Volunteer Battalions

Up to 12 Hostilities-only Battalions
Part of Mercian Brigade (1948-59)
Garrison/HQ Whittington Barracks, Lichfield
Nickname 1 Bn: The Pump and Tortoise
2 Bn: The Staffordshire Knots
Colors Green, red and gold[1]
March Come, Lasses and Lads
Mascot Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Anniversaries Arnhem, 17 Sep
Ferozeshah, 21 Dec

The South Staffordshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army, which was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot and the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment of Foot. In 1959, the regiment was amalgamated with the North Staffordshire Regiment to form the Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's). The lineage of the South Staffords is continued by the Mercian Regiment.

Formation and antecedents[edit]

The regiment was formed as part of the Childers Reforms on 1 July 1881 by the amalgamation of the 38th and 80th regiments of foot, which became the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions of the regiment. Militia and Rifle Volunteers of south Staffordshire were also incorporated in the new regiment. The battalions formed in 1881 were as follows:

  • 1st Battalion: the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot, raised in Lichfield in 1705 as Colonel Luke Lillingstone's Regiment, numbered as the 38th in 1751, and received the subsidiary title of 1st Staffordshire in 1782.
  • 2nd Battalion: the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment of Foot, raised in 1793 by Lord William Henry Paget from members of the Staffordshire Militia.
  • 3rd (Militia) Battalion: 1st Battalion (The King's Own) 1st Staffordshire Militia
  • 4th (Militia) Battalion: 2nd Battalion (The King's Own) 1st Staffordshire Militia
  • 1st Volunteer Battalion: 1st Staffordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps
  • 2nd Volunteer Battalion: 3rd Staffordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps
  • 3rd Volunteer Battalion: 4th Staffordshire Rifle Volunteer Corps

The reserve battalions of the regiment were reorganised in 1908 by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, with the two militia battalions becoming the 3rd and 4th (Special Reserve) Battalions. The three Volunteer Battalions transferred to the Territorial Force (TF); the 1st Battalion formed the 1st North Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers and, in conjunction with the 2nd Battalion, the 5th Battalion (TF);[2] the 3rd Battalion formed the 6th Battalion (TF).[3]

1881 - 1914[edit]

The 1st Battalion (the former 38th) was sent to Egypt in 1882 as part of the British invasion of the country. On landing in Alexandria, it carried its colours through the city - this was the last occasion on which a British Army unit carried colours on active service. In 1885, the battalion travelled up the River Nile to Sudan in an unsuccessful attempt to lift the Siege of Khartoum. The battalion was subsequently involved in the defeat of Arab forces at Kirbekan. The battle was to be the last time that the South Staffords wore red uniforms in battle.

The 1st Battalion then entered a long period of garrison duty in Gibraltar, Egypt, England and Ireland. With the outbreak of the Second Boer War, it embarked for South Africa, arriving as part of the 8th Division in 1900. The battalion was mostly involved in minor skirmishes with the Boers, but suffered casualties due to disease and poor nutrition.

In 1904, the 1st South Staffords returned to the UK, being stationed in Ireland and England until 1911, when it moved to Gibraltar. While in Gibraltar, new colours were presented to the battalion by King George V on 31 January 1912. The battalion returned to South Africa in 1913.

The 2nd Battalion (the former 80th) was stationed in India in 1881, soon moving to Tralee in Ireland, where it was involved in actions against Irish nationalists. It returned to England in 1883. It was then posted to The Curragh from 1889 to 1891, before travelling to Egypt, via Aldershot, in 1893. The battalion subsequently served in southern India and Burma until 1907, when it started a four-year posting in Pretoria, South Africa. The battalion returned to England in 1911.[4]

Battle honours[edit]

By 1914, the regimental colours displayed the following battle honours, representing the actions of the 38th and 80th Foot to 1881, and the South Staffordshire Regiment after that date:[5]

  • Guadeloupe 1759 (awarded 1909)
  • Martinique 1762 (awarded 1909)
  • Rolica (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • Vimiera (awarded 1821 to 38th Foot)
  • Corunna (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • Busaco (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • Badajos (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • Salamanca (awarded 1817 to 38th Foot)
  • Vittoria (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • St Sebastian (awarded 1817 to 38th Foot)
  • Nive (awarded 1831 to 38th Foot)
  • Peninsula (awarded 1815 to 38th Foot)
  • Ava (awarded 1826 to 38th Foot)
  • Moodkee (awarded 1847 to 80th Foot)
  • Ferozeshah (awarded 1847 to 80th Foot)
  • Sobraon (awarded 1849 to 80th Foot)
  • Pegu (awarded 1853 to 80th Foot)
  • Alma (awarded 1855 to 38th Foot)
  • Inkerman (awarded 1855 to 38th Foot)
  • Sevastopol (awarded 1855 to 38th Foot)
  • Lucknow (awarded 1863 to 38th Foot)
  • Central India (awarded 1863 to 80th Foot)
  • South Africa 1878-79 (awarded 1882)
  • Egypt 1882
  • Kirbekan
  • Nile 1884–85
  • South Africa 1900–02

1914 - 1918[edit]

List of casualties from the Regiment during World War I at Tyne Cot

The regiment was greatly expanded for the duration of the war, with 18 battalions serving on the Western Front, in Italy, Gallipoli and Egypt. Ten representative battle honours were chosen for display on the regiment's colours:[6]

  • Mons
  • Marne, 1914
  • Aisne, 1914, '18
  • Ypres, 1914, '17
  • Loos
  • Somme, 1916, '18
  • Cambrai, 1917, '18
  • St Quentin Canal
  • Vittorio Veneto
  • Suvla

Both the 2/5th and 2/6th Battalions were involved in hostilities in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. Soldiers from the regiment killed a number of civilians in the North King Street area. [7]

1918 - 1939[edit]

From 1919, the 1st Battalion served in various colonial garrisons: Singapore, Burma, India and Sudan. In 1929, it returned home, remaining in the UK until 1938, when it was posted to Palestine.

The 2nd battalion moved to Cork in 1919, and was involved in the Irish War of Independence. It returned to England in 1923, where it remained for five years. After postings in Malta, Palestine and Egypt, the battalion was posted to India in 1932.

The 3rd and 4th (Special Reserve) Battalions were placed in "suspended animation" in 1921, eventually being disbanded in 1953. The Territorial Force was reconstituted as the Territorial Army in 1920, and the 5th and 6th Battalions were reformed. In 1939, the size of the Territorial Army was doubled, with duplicate 2/6th and 7th Battalions being formed.

In 1935, the South Staffords were granted the distinction of a badge backing of buff-coloured Brown Holland material. This commemorated the 57 years of continuous service by the 38th Foot in the West Indies from 1707 to 1764, and recalled the fact that their uniforms became so threadbare during their service in the tropics that they had to be repaired with pieces of sacking.[8] In 1936, the yellow facings formerly worn by the 38th and 80th Foot were restored, replacing the white colour that had been imposed on all non-royal English regiments in 1881.

1939 - 1945[edit]

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion marching on a road between Oosterbeek and Arnhem. 19 September 1944

The regiment was expanded during the Second World War, with the two regular and four territorial battalions being supplemented by the creation of additional battalions. Battalions of the regiment served in the North West Europe Campaign, Allied invasion of Sicily, Italian Campaign, North African Campaign and the Burma Campaign in the Far East.

The regular battalions found themselves fighting in new roles: During the "Chindits" campaign in Burma, the 1st Battalion was part of the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade and were selected for conversion to the Chindits role and fought in Operation Thursday, the second Chindit expedition. During the expedition George Albert Cairns of the regiment was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The battalion took part in jungle fighting against the Japanese forces, and after serving as Chindits, they were converted to the 16th (Staffords) Parachute Battalion attached to the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, part of the 44th Indian Airborne Division.

The 2nd Battalion was initially serving in the 31st Independent Infantry Brigade Group until 1941 when it was converted to a Glider infantry role, serving as part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade in the 1st Airborne Division. As such, they landed in Sicily in 1943 where they, along with the rest of the brigade, which was temporarily down to two battalions, suffered heavy casualties during the disastrous Operation Ladbroke. Because of heavy casualties during Ladbroke the brigade did not participate in the invasion of Italy and were withdrawn to England to prepare for the invasion of France. They took part in Operation Market Garden at Arnhem in 1944. Losses at Arnhem were extremely high - the battalion started the operation with a strength of 867, but only 139 returned to the British lines. The battalion did not see further combat for the rest of the war nor did the 1st Airborne Division. After the war, the South Staffordshire Regiment was awarded an arm badge depicting a glider in recognition of its service as an airborne unit.

The 5th, 1/6th, 2/6th and 7th battalions, all Territorials, all served as part of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division alongside battalions of the North Staffordshire Regiment.[9] The division was sent to France in late June 1944 to fight in the Battle for Caen. The division performed well and was considered by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery as one of the best in the 21st Army Group. However, due to a severe shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at the time, the division was broken up in August 1944 and its units were used as replacements for other British divisions who had suffered heavy casualties and the battalions were broken up and sent to other units.

The regiment raised six other battalions before and during the war but these were used mainly in home defence roles or training units for the battalions overseas.

The regiment selected the ten representative battle honours to appear on the colours:

Major Robert Henry Cain seconded to B Company, 2nd Battalion of the regiment from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was awarded the Victoria Cross for his participation during the Battle of Arnhem. From 17 September to 25 September 1944, Major Cain's company was cut off from the battalion and throughout the whole of this time was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. The Major was everywhere danger threatened, moving among his men and encouraging them to hold out. By the end of the Battle, Cain had reportedly been personally responsible for the destruction or disabling of six tanks, four of which were Tigers, as well as a number of self-propelled guns. By his leadership he not only stopped but demoralized the enemy attacks and although he was suffering from a perforated ear-drum and multiple wounds, he refused medical attention. Major Cain's conduct throughout was highly respected, both in terms of personal actions and leadership ability, and for this he was awarded the Victoria Cross; the only living man to receive this medal at Arnhem.

Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield of 2nd Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 20 September 1944, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the NCO in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. When their battalion was attacked, Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg, and the rest of the crew were either killed or badly wounded. He refused an offer of transport to the Regimental Aid Post, in order to stay at his gun and encourage morale. After a brief respite, Baskeyfield again came under heavy fire; he refused to cower. After crawling under enemy fire to another 6-pounder gun, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield's body was never found, but there is a memorial statue of him at Festival Heights in Stoke-on-Trent, which was erected in the early 1990s.

The award of the Victoria Cross to both men made the 2nd Battalion the only British battalion to receive two VCs during one engagement in the Second World War.[10]

1945 - 1959[edit]

Following the granting of independence of India in 1947, all infantry regiments in the British Army were reduced to a single regular battalion. Accordingly, the 1st and 2nd Battalions amalgamated in Lichfield in 1948. The new 1st Battalion (38th/80th) travelled to Hong Kong in the following year, and thence to Northern Ireland two years later. New colours were presented to the battalion at Lisburn on 22 May 1952. Later that year, they were stationed in Germany. In 1954, the battalion was posted to the Suez Canal zone, before being speedily dispatched to Cyprus where hostilities had broken out between the two communities on the island.

In 1955, a ceremony was held in Lichfield to commemorate the regiment's 250th anniversary. The 1st Battalion moved to its final posting, in Germany, two years later.

In July 1957, a defence review was announced. The South Staffords were to amalgamate with the North Staffordshire Regiment, and to become part of the new administrative Mercian Brigade.

The amalgamation of the 1st Battalions of the two regiments took place on 31 January 1959 at Minden, Germany, to form the 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's).

In 1947, the Territorial Army was reformed, and the 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (TA) was duly raised. Following the 1959 amalgamation of the North and South Staffords, the battalion continued as a territorial unit of the new regiment without a change of title. The battalion was disbanded in 1967 on the creation of the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve in 1967, with its lineage continued by HQ Company of the Mercian Volunteers.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The South Staffordshire Regiment (Stable Belts of the British Army), accessed 10 September 2007
  2. ^ MacDonald, Alan (2008). A Lack of Offensive Spirit?: The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916. Iona Books. p. 3. ISBN 0955811902. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 21821. p. 2159. 20 March 1908.
  4. ^ A Short History of The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's), published by the regiment, 1972
  5. ^ Ian Sumner, British colours and standards 1747 - 1881 (2) - Infantry, Oxford, 2001
  6. ^ Arthur Swinson, A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army, London, 1972
  7. ^ National Library of Ireland http://www.nli.ie/1916/pdfs.html 2006
  8. ^ Colin Churchill, History of the British Army Infantry Collar Badge, Uckfield, 2002
  9. ^ "British Western Command on 3 September 1939". The Patriot Files. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "The MoD: The Staffordshire Regiment". Retrieved 2009-11-05. 

External links[edit]