Devonshire Regiment

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The Devonshire Regiment
The badge of the Devonshire Regiment
Active 1685–1958
Country  Kingdom of England (1685–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1958)
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Line Infantry
Size 1–2 Regular Battalions
Up to 2 Militia and Reserve Battalions
Up to 5 Territorial battalions
Up to 19 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Topsham Barracks, Exeter
Nickname The Bloody Eleventh
Motto Semper Fidelis (Ever faithful)
Colors Lincoln green facings
March We've Lived and We've Loved Together

The Devonshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army which served under various titles from 1685 to 1958. Its lineage is continued today by The Rifles.

Origin and titles[edit]

In June, 1667, Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester, was granted a commission to raise a regiment of foot, The Marquess of Worcester's Regiment of Foot.[1] The regiment remained in existence for only a few months and was disbanded in the same year. It was re-raised in January 1673 and again disbanded in 1674. In 1682, Henry Somerset was created Duke of Beaufort, and in 1685 he was again commissioned to raise a regiment, The Duke of Beaufort's Regiment of Foot, or Beaufort Musketeers, to defend Bristol against the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion.[2] The regiment served under the name of its various Colonels until it was numbered as the 11th Regiment of Foot when the numerical system of regimental designation was adopted in 1751. It was given the additional county title of 11th (North Devonshire) Regiment of Foot in 1782. In 1881, under the Childers Reforms it became the Devonshire Regiment, at the same time merging with the militia and rifle volunteer units of the county of Devon.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

The Regiment was not required to fight at the time of its formation since the Duke of Monmouth was drawn away from Bristol. Its first action came in Ireland in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne when it fought for William III against the deposed James II. It then joined the armies of the Duke of Marlborough in Holland in the War of Spanish Succession, and also fought in the Iberian Campaign, being captured by the French at Portalegre in 1704 and part of the British army defeated at the Battle of Almansa. Back in Britain, it helped put down the Jacobite Risings of 1715, fighting the rebels at the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir, and 1719, fighting at the Battle of Glen Shiel. In the War of Austrian Succession, it took part in the battles of Dettingen, Fontenoy and Rocoux. In the Seven Years' War, it fought at the battles of Warburg, Kloster Kampen, Villinghausen and Wilhelmstahl and took part in the inconclusive Iberian campaign. After the war, it garrisoned the island of Minorca.

French and Napoleonic Wars[edit]

The 11th Regiment spent the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars serving as detachments in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy. It acted as marines in the naval Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and was part of the force that besieged Malta in 1798 and captured the island in 1800. It also took part in an abortive raid on the port of Ostend in 1798. From 1800 to 1806, it was stationed in the West Indies, returning to Europe to fight in the Peninsular War and earning its nickname, The Bloody Eleventh, at the Battle of Salamanca.[3] A 2nd Battalion was formed in 1809 and took part in the disastrous Walcheren Campaign before being disbanded in 1816.

Pax Britannica[edit]

Following the defeat of Napoleon, the regiment spent most of the 19th Century on garrison duty throughout the Empire. It took part in the Tirah Campaign in 1897-1898 and the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902. The 2nd Battalion was re-formed in 1858 and fought in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the Ashanti Wars and the Second Boer War.

The Great War[edit]

In the Great War, a total of 25 battalions were raised, which fought on the Western Front, in Italy at the battles of the Piave and Vittorio Veneto, Macedonia, Egypt and Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The 9th (Service) Battalion[4] was one of the few British units to reach its initial objectives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, albeit at the cost of 463 dead or wounded of the 775 men who went 'over the top', with only one officer remaining unwounded.[5] The 8th (Service) Battalion, part of 29th Brigade reserve, was committed within 3 hours of the beginning of the attack and suffered 208 casualties.

The 2nd Battalion was awarded the French Croix de guerre for its gallant defence of Bois des Buttes on 27 May 1918, the first day of the Third Battle of the Aisne.[6]

Second World War[edit]

The 1st Battalion was serving in British India when the Second World War broke out, and spent the entire war in India, Ceylon and Burma. In 1942 the battalion joined the 80th Indian Infantry Brigade, attached to the 20th Indian Infantry Division and served with them until 1945 when the battalion was transferred to the 26th British Infantry Brigade. The brigade included the 1st Northamptons and 2nd Buffs and was part of 36th British Infantry Division. Both the brigade and division were previously of the British Indian Army. The battalion remained with them for the rest of the war.

The 2nd Battalion was part of 231st Independent Infantry Brigade Group, originally 1st Malta Brigade, alongside the 1st Royal Hampshires and 1st Dorsets, for the duration of the war, fighting in Malta, Sicily in July 1943, and Italy in September 1943. After Italy the brigade was withdrawn to the UK where it became part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and trained with them in preparation for the Allied invasion of Europe. On D-Day, June 6 1944, it was intended that the battalion should land at Le Hamel, on Gold Beach, behind the 1st Hampshires. However, owing to adverse sea conditions and an unexpectedly high tidal surge, three of the four Companies were carried over a mile to the east before they could make landfall and had to make their way to their assigned assembly point on foot.[7] Of the four Company commanders, two were wounded and one was killed.[8] The battalion continued to fight well throughout the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of North-West Europe. However, in December 1944 the 50th Infantry Division was disbanded due to a shortage of infantrymen and the battalion was transferred to the 131st (Lorried) Infantry Brigade, part of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, and remained with them for the rest of the war, participating in Operation Blackcock in January 1945 followed by Operation Plunder where they crossed the River Rhine. The division advanced on its destination of the city of Hamburg, Germany as part of the invasion of Germany itself.

The Devonshire Regiment raised the 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th Territorial Army battalions, all of which were serving in the 45th (Wessex) Infantry Division on the outbreak of war. However, none of these units, save the 4th Battalion, saw active service outside of the United Kingdom and were used mainly for home defence, training or supplying the other battalions of the regiment with infantry replacements. The 4th Battalion was sent, in May 1940, to Gibraltar to join the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade and returned to the UK on 28 December 1943. The regiment also raised many battalions for hostilities-only but none of these saw action abroad, aside from the 12th Battalion, and were also used for home defence or for training purposes.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was raised in 1940 and renumbered the 12th Battalion the same year and spent most of its time on home defence anticipating a German invasion. In 1943, due to the huge expansion of both the American and British airborne troops, the battalion was transferred to the 6th Airlanding Brigade and were converted into Glider infantry, trained to enter battle by glider. The brigade was assigned to the 6th Airborne Division. The battalion landed in Normandy in the late afternoon of 6 June 1944 in Operation Mallard. The battalion also fought in the Battle of Breville, and served throughout the Battle of Normandy but as normal infantrymen. The battalion remained in Normandy until August 1944 where it participated in the breakout from the beachhead. The battalion, along the rest of 6th Airborne, was withdrawn to the UK in early September where they received new replacements, equipment and continued training. In December 1944 they fought briefly in the Battle of the Bulge but the outcome was already decided before the division arrived. The battalion crossed the River Rhine in Operation Varsity in March 1945 alongside the US 17th Airborne Division. The battalion ended the war by the River Elbe. Throughout its time in 6th Airlanding Brigade, the battalion was allegedly nicknamed the Swedebashers by the men in the other battalions (1st RUR and 2nd OBLI), due to the battalion being commanded by a regular army officer but nearly all the officers and men of the 12th Devons had enlisted for the duration (of the war) only.

Post-war and amalgamation[edit]

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded at Topsham Barracks in Exeter in 1948. The remaining battalion was in Malaya from 1948 to 1951 at the time of the Malayan Emergency and in Kenya from 1953 to 1955, during the Mau Mau Uprising.

In 1958, the regiment was amalgamated with the Dorset Regiment to form The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment. Since 2007 its lineage has been continued by The Rifles.

Battle honours[edit]

The regiment was awarded the following battle honours:

  • Dettingen, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Toulouse, Peninsula, Afghanistan 1879-80, Tirah, Defence of Ladysmith, Relief of Ladysmith, South Africa 1899-1902
  • The Great War (25 battalions): Aisne 1914 '18, La Bassée 1914, Armentières 1914, Neuve Chapelle, Hill 60, Ypres 1915 '17, Gravenstafel, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Aubers, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Arras 1917 '18, Vimy 1917, Scarpe 1917, Bullecourt, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Rosières, Villers Bretonneux, Lys, Hazebrouck, Bois des Buttes, Marne 1918, Tardenois, Bapaume 1918, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Épéhy, Canal du Nord, Beaurevoir, Cambrai 1918, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Piave, Vittorio Veneto, Italy 1917-18, Doiran 1917 '18, Macedonia 1915-18, Egypt 1916-17, Gaza, Nebi Samwil, Jerusalem, Tel Asur, Palestine 1917-18, Tigris 1916, Kut al Amara 1917, Mesopotamia 1916-18
  • The Second World War: Normandy Landing, Port en Bessin, Tilly sur Seulles, Caen, St. Pierre la Vielle, Nederrijn, Roer, Rhine, Ibbenburen, North-West Europe 1944-45, Landing in Sicily, Regalbuto, Sicily 1943, Landing at Porto San Venere, Italy 1943, Malta 1940-42, Imphal, Shenam Pass, Tamu Road, Ukhrul, Myinmu Bridgehead, Kyaukse 1945, Burma 1943-45
  • 4th, 5th, 6th Bns: South Africa 1900-01

Victoria Crosses[edit]

The following members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Devonshire Regiment at the archive of regiments.org". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  2. ^ The Keep Military Museum - Early Days[dead link]
  3. ^ "The Devonshire Regiment". Devon Heritage. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  4. ^ The Service designation indicates that this was a battalion of Kitchener's New Army.
  5. ^ The Keep Military Museum: The Devonshires Held This Trench; The Devonshires Hold It Still
  6. ^ "War I The Keep Military Museum - The Battle of Bois des Buttes". Keepmilitarymuseum.org. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  7. ^ "The Devons on D-Day". Warchronicle.com. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  8. ^ Patrick Elie - Normandie - France. "50th Infantry Division - Order of battle". 6juin1944.com. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]