Essex Regiment

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The Essex Regiment
Active 1881–1958
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Army
Type Infantry
Role Line Infantry
Size

One–two Regular Battalions
Up to two Militia and Special Reserve Battalions
One–five Territorial and Volunteer Battalions

Up to 23 Hostilities-only Battalions
Garrison/HQ Warley Barracks, Brentwood
Nickname The Pompadours
Motto Montis insignia calpe (Badge of the Rock of Gibraltar)
Anniversaries

Arras, 28 March
Gallipoli, 25 April
Salamanca, 22 July

Gaza, 4 November
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Edward Bulfin

The Essex Regiment was an infantry unit of the British Army that saw active service from 1881 to 1958. Members of the regiment were recruited from across the county of Essex. Today, its lineage is continued by the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Origins[edit]

The Essex Regiment was formed in 1881 by the union of the 44th (East Essex) and 56th (West Essex) Regiments of Foot, which became the 1st and 2nd battalions respectively of the new regiment. This merger was part of the Childers Reforms of the British Army, which also saw the East and West Essex Regiments of Militia joining the Essex Regiment as its 3rd and 4th battalions.[1] In addition, the county's four Volunteer battalions became part of the new regiment.[2]

For the history of the regiment's regular army components prior to 1881, see:

Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902)[edit]

The 1st and 2nd Battalions both served in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. Notably, the regiment participated in the Relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeberg.

The Haldane Reforms[edit]

As a result of the Haldane Reforms, the regiment's militia component, which was renamed the Special Reserve, was reduced to one battalion on 1 April 1908. In addition, the four volunteer battalions transferred to the Territorial Force and were redesignated as the 4th to 7th battalions of the Essex Regiment.[3]

In 1910, the Essex and Suffolk Cyclist Battalion, which had been raised in 1908, divided to become the 6th (Cyclist) battalion, Suffolk Regiment and the 8th (Cyclist) battalion, Essex Regiment.[4]

First World War (1914-1918)[edit]

Poster calling on the men of Essex to volunteer for Kitchener's Army

During World War I, the Essex Regiment provided 30 infantry battalions to the British Army. The 3rd (Special Reserve) (formerly Militia) battalion was mobilised to supply drafts to the two Regular battalions. On the outbreak of war, the Territorial battalions (4th-7th, and 8th (Cyclist) Battalions), all formed second line (2/4-2/8th) and eventually third line (3/4th-3/8th) battalions. Three service battalions (9th, 10th and 11th) and one reserve battalion (12th), were formed from volunteers in 1914 as part of Kitchener's Army. A further service battalion (13th (West Ham)), was raised by the Mayor and Borough of West Ham. Reserve battalions were created as the war progressed, including the 14th (from the depot companies of the 13th), the 15th, 16th and 17th (from provisional battalions), the 18th (Home Service) and 1st and 2nd Garrison Battalions.[5] The regiment's battle honours for the First World War include Le Cateau, Ypres, Loos, Somme, Cambrai, Gallipoli and Gaza.

The Thiepval Memorial

Battle of the Somme[edit]

The 1st Battalion took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. The battalion, which comprised W, X, Y, and Z companies, took up position in the British trenches at 3:30 am. At 8:40 am, the battalion received orders to advance and clear the German first-line trenches. It was delayed by heavy enemy fire and congestion in the communication trenches. The Newfoundland Regiment advancing to the left of the Essex battalion was almost entirely wiped out as it advanced towards the German lines. At 10:50 am, the Essex companies were in position and received orders to go "over the top". The companies came under heavy artillery and machine gun fire almost as soon as they appeared over the parapet, causing heavy losses. The attack became bogged down in no man's land. The battalion received orders from 88th Brigade headquarters to recommence the attack at 12:30 pm, but at 12:20 pm the battalion commander advised brigade HQ that "owing to casualties and disorganisation", it was impossible to renew the attack. The survivors of the battalion received orders to hold their position along the line of 'Mary Redan' – 'New Trench' – 'Regent Street'.[6]

Thiepval Memorial[edit]

The names of 949 members of the Essex Regiment are recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, commemorating the officers and men of the regiment who died on the Somme and have no known grave.

Irish War of Independence(1919-1921)[edit]

The 1st Battalion was stationed in Kinsale in County Cork during the Irish War of Independence.

The No.2 Third Tipperary Brigade Flying Column
during the War of Independence

Major Percival[edit]

From 1920, Major Arthur Ernest Percival (later a Lieutenant-General) served first as a company commander, then as the battalion's intelligence officer. Percival later volunteered to serve with the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign for Irish independence. Through him, large numbers of Essex regiment veterans joined the RIC. Percival's First World War experience quickly got him seconded toward intelligence, counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency operations. As such, he and his fellow Essex regimental colleagues were trained in counter-insurgency tactics. Combining both intelligence and rapid response teams in mobile squads, Percival and his Essex veterans staged numerous operations to break the back of the IRA. Consequently, he and his fellow Essex men were regarded by the Royalists as an efficient counter-terrorist force. This opinion of their effectiveness appears to have been seconded by the Republicans, who came to regard Percival and the Essex men as one of its primary foes. As the IRA guerilla war intensified and IRA assassinations were met with death squads, a large bounty was placed on Percival's and the Essex men's death. The IRA eventually increased its bounty on Percival to £1,000, a significant sum of money for the period. Although numerous Essex men were assassinated by the IRA, all attempts to assassinate Percival failed. In July 1920, the Essex Regiment captured Tom Hales, commander of the IRA's 3rd Cork Brigade, and Patrick Harte, quartermaster of the West Cork Brigade. Both men were severely beaten during interrogation - Harte was subsequently sent to Broadmoor.[7]

Crossbarry[edit]

As a result of the intelligence gained by captured IRA leaders, such as Harte and Hales, headquarters at Dublin Castle took over command of the Cork area of operations from Percival, hoping to use a combined Royal Irish Army[clarification needed] and RIC force to smash the IRA. The Castle's general goal was to use a series of interlocking regular military positions to encircle the area and then using reinforced RIC patrols to search and flush the IRA out from within its community. In March 1921, at Crossbarry in County Cork, the Essex regiment encircled the IRA's "West Cork Flying Column" with 1,200 troops and soon managed to expose a company sized element of the IRA.

The IRA flying column, under the command of Tom Barry, numbered 104 'volunteer's'. However, rather than attempting to immediately destroy this IRA element, which had been met in contact, Percival, the RIC and the Essex regiment were ordered to link with the larger regular forces in an attempt to encircle the entire 1,200-strong IRA force[citation needed]. However, the delay in tempo needed to carry out this move and a lack of communications between the RIC mobile teams and the Regulars, resulted in the pressure being taken off Barry's IRA men. This allowed the IRA force to attack and overwhelm a number of isolated army positions, which appeared to create an opening out of the encirclement. Foreseeing a break-out, Percival ordered his Essex and RIC mobile teams to regroup and lay an ambush outside the opening. Simultaneously, the larger regular force misunderstood Percival's objective and thought it saw an opportunity to destroy the entire IRA force in Cork. Consequently, it abandoned most of its encircling positions and regrouped the regulars for a single large attack on the ambush site. Meanwhile, believing his column had little chance of escaping, Barry ordered his IRA men to break out in small groups as best they could through the encirclement. Thus, in a stroke of luck, most of Barry's IRA column simply passed through the abandoned encircling army posts. A small IRA detachment did attempt to break out through the British ambush site. However, as the RIC and Essex group were about to spring their ambush, an Irish regular force racing to the ambush site ran into the IRA detachment and was quickly engaged. In the resulting firefight, the IRA detachment disrupted the Royal[clarification needed] column and then melted away.

In total, the Royal Army[clarification needed] stationed 12,500 troops in County Cork during the conflict, while Barry's men numbered no more than 110 soldiers and a few hundred supporters, suppliers, and armourers. The British Army failed to subdue the IRA flying column, and Barry's tactics made West Cork ungovernable for the British. In Tom Barry's book Guerrilla Days In Ireland written in 1949, he gives a first-hand account on the Essex collision with his flying column.[8]

Turkey (1922)[edit]

At the conclusion of the First World War, Britain maintained a garrison at Constantinople to ensure the free passage of the sea lanes between the Aegean and Black Seas.
The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and its transformation into the Turkish Republic coincided with the rise of Greek nationalism, resulting in the Greco-Turkish War. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George increased the size of the British garrison - which included the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. The garrison was withdrawn in 1923. [2]

Saar Plebiscite (1935)[edit]

As part of the Treaty of Versailles, the Saarland province, on the border of France and Germany, was put under French control. In 1935, by the terms of the treaty, the people of the Saarland were to determine whether to remain as part of France, or to become German. The British government sent the 13th Brigade, which comprised 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment, 1st Battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment, and the 16th/5th Lancers, as a supervisory force to the Saarland. The result of the plebiscite was 90.3% voting to join Germany (then under Nazi government). [3] [4][dead link]

Palestine (1936-1939)[edit]

From Germany, the 1st Battalion moved to Catterick in 1935 and thence to Palestine in 1936 where it took part in putting down an Arab revolt.

India (1922-1935)[edit]

The 2nd Battalion spent the 13-year period from 1922 to 1935 as part of the British garrison in India. During this lengthy time, the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Ambala (1922–1927), Landi Kotal (1927–1929), Nowshera (1929–1931), Nasirabad (1931–1933) and Bombay (1933–1935). The 2nd Battalion spent an additional year overseas in Sudan (1935–1936), before returning to Britain and the regimental depot at Warley near Brentwood in Essex.[5]

Between the Wars[edit]

In 1920, When the Territorial Force reformed (and was renamed the Territorial Army), the Essex Regiment again had five territorial battalions. However, this was short lived, as the 8th (Cyclist) Battalion was soon disbanded.[4]

On 15 December 1935, the 7th battalion was converted into the 59th (The Essex Regiment) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, RA, which was retitled as an AA Regiment on 1 January 1939 and as a HAA Regiment on 1 June 1940.[9][10]

On 1 November 1938, the 6th battalion duplicated, forming the 1/6th and 2/6th battalions, both of which were equipped with searchlights. On 1 August 1940, both battalions were transferred to the Royal Artillery, becoming the 64th and 65th Searchlight Regiments RA.

Second World War (1939-1945)[edit]

Of the Regulars, the 1st Battalion served in British and Indian Infantry Brigades in Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Burma. The battalion served in the 23rd Infantry Brigade for a few months at the beginning of the war. Rejoining in October 1941, it remained with the brigade until mid-1945, when it joined the 29th Infantry Brigade. It served in Tobruk, then in the campaign in Syria, before moving to India with 70 Infantry Division, which became the core of the Special Force. The brigade's role changed to Long Range Penetration in September 1943; the 1st Battalion formed 44 and 56 Columns of the Chindits and operated in the Japanese rear during the battles of Imphal and Kohima. The battalion had the rare achievement of fighting against the Italians, Germans, French and Japanese.

The 2nd Battalion was part of the independent 56th Infantry Brigade. This brigade was landed on Gold Beach on D-Day from roughly 1.00 pm and immediately set off inland. Taking part in the battle of Le Havre, elements of the regiment discovered the German payroll for the Le Havre garrison in the basement of the hospital.

At the onset of war, the two remaining Territorial battalions once again raised duplicate units; all four (1/4th, 2/4th, 1/5th and 2/5th) began the war in the 161st Infantry Brigade, but 2/4th was immediately detached to help form the duplicate 163rd Infantry Brigade. Both brigades were initially part of the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division, but in January 1941, 161 Bde was sent by sea to Sierra Leone in West Africa. In June of that year, it was sent the 'long' way around Africa by sea to join Middle East Command, where it was transferred to the Indian Army. The 1/4th Bn served with the 4th Indian Division; the 1/5th and 2/5th Bns, which merged to form the 5th Battalion, served with the 8th Indian Division. Both units saw service in Palestine, North Africa and Italy; and served with the 4th Indian Division in action at the Second Battle of El Alamein.[11] The 2/4th Bn remained in the UK throughout the war.[12]

The 7th (Home Defence) Battalion was formed on 2 November 1939 from 8 Group National Defence Companies.[13] On 24 December 1941, it was reorganised and redesignated as the 30th Battalion. It remained in the UK until it was disbanded on 31 March 1943.

The 8th Battalion was raised at Warley on 4 July 1940 and served in the 210th and 226th Independent Infantry Brigades.[14] On 1 December 1941, the battalion was converted to armour, becoming the 153rd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps. While the men donned the black beret of the RAC, they continued to wear their Essex cap badge.[15] During the conversion, surplus personnel were formed into 'R' Company, Essex Regiment, which soon afterwards was designated as V Corps HQ Defence Company.[16] On formation, 153 RAC joined 34 Army Tank Brigade, with which it fought in Normandy. The regiment was disbanded in August 1944.

The 9th Battalion was also raised at Warley on 4 July 1940.[17] After serving with various home defence infantry brigades, the battalion was converted to the 11th Medium Regiment RA on 1 December 1942. The regiment served in Normandy.[18] It was disbanded in January 1946.[19]

The 50th (Holding) battalion was formed at Colchester on 28 May 1940.[20] On 9 October, it was reorganised as the 10th battalion and served in the home defence role. On 8 December 1942, it became the 9th Parachute Battalion and joined the 3rd Parachute Brigade, with which it saw action in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and at the Rhine.

The 70th (Young Soldiers) battalion was formed in the UK on 16 September 1940 from the younger personnel of the 7th battalion - although you could officially join the British army at age 18, you couldn't be posted for service overseas until age 19. After serving in a home defence role, the unit was disbanded on 31 March 1943.

A 19th Battalion was also formed; it carried out line of communication duties in the Middle East and Eritrea.[21]

After defending Essex during the Battle of Britain and Blitz, 59 (The Essex Regiment) HAA Regiment landed in North Africa with First Army in November 1942, and later saw service with Eighth Army in Italy.[10][22][23]

Post-1945[edit]

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1948. In 1951-53, the Regiment was stationed in Luneburg, Germany, as part of the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). In mid 1953, the regiment sailed on the Troopship "Asturias" to Korea, where it served for a year. The following year, the battalion joined the Hong Kong Garrison. The 1st Battalion merged with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment in 1958 to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot). In 1964, the regiments of the East Anglian Brigade formed the new Royal Anglian Regiment. The Essex heritage continued in the regiment's 3rd Battalion (also known as 'The Pompadours'). In 1992, the 3rd Battalion was disbanded and the old Essex connection ceased. However, infantry recruits from Essex who wish to serve with others from their county are assigned to companies in the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment. C (Essex) Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment continues the Essex link.

Territorial Army[edit]

The "Essex" tradition also continues in the Territorial Army. The Essex infantry reservists are now represented by E (Essex and Hertford) Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment.

The drums of the former 4th/5th Battalion are still carried by the Corps of Drums of King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford., who also wear the Regiment's full dress of scarlet tunic and Pompadour purple facings. The corps, which is currently led by Drum Major Christopher Nisbett, has approximately 25 members, with the older drummers passing on their skills to the junior drummers and new recruits. The Corps plays to the Regiment's veterans at the annual reunion held at Warley Barracks, Brentwood.

Battle Honours[edit]

The regiment earned the following Battle Honours:[24]

  • From 44th Regiment of Foot: Egypt, Badajoz, Salamanca, Peninsula, Bladensburg, Waterloo, Ava, Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol, Taku Forts
  • From 56th Regiment of Foot: Moro, Gibraltar 1779–83, Sevastopol
  • Havannah, Nile 1884-85, Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, South Africa 1899–1902
  • Great War (31 battalions): Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, Messines 1914, Armentières 1914, Ypres 1915, '17, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916 '18, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916 '18, Bapaume 1917 '18, Arras 1917 '18, Scarpe 1917 '18, Arleux, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, St. Quentin, Avre, Villers Bretonneux, Lys, Hazebrouck, Béthune, Amiens, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Épéhy, St. Quentin Canal, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Helles, Landing at Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915-16, Rumani, Egypt 1915-17, Gaza, Jaffa, Megiddo, Sharon, Palestine 1917-18
  • Second World War: St. Omer-La Bassée, Tilly sur Seulles, Le Havre, Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, Scheldt, Zetten, Arnhem 1945, North-West Europe 1940 '44-45, Abyssinia 1940, Falluja, Baghdad 1941, Iraq 1941, Palmyra, Syria 1941, Tobruk 1941, Belhamed, Mersa Matruh, Defence of Alamein Line, Deir el Shein, Ruweisat, Ruweisat Ridge, El Alamein, Matmata Hills, Akarit, Enfidaville, Djebel Garci, Tunis, Ragoubet Souissi, North Africa 1941-43, Trigno, Sangro, Villa Grande, Cassino I, Castle Hill, Hangman's Hill, Italy 1943-44, Athens, Greece 1944-45, Kohima, Chindits 1944, Burma 1943–45

Recipients of the Victoria Cross[edit]

Victoria Cross, medal, ribbon, and bar

The following members of the Essex Regiment have been awarded the Victoria Cross according to The Essex Regiment Museum:

Essex Regiment Chapel[edit]

Essex Regiment Chapel, Warley, Essex

The Essex Regiment Chapel is located in Eagle Way, Warley (51°35′57″N 0°17′52″E / 51.5991°N 0.2977°E / 51.5991; 0.2977 (Essex Regiment Chapel)). The chapel was built in 1857 and is a Grade II listed building. It was originally constructed for the British East India Company, but with the establishment of the Essex Regiment Depot at Warley, the chapel became the regiment's "home" church. The chapel's interior contains displays of regimental history, memorials, heraldry, and old regimental colours. The chapel is open by appointment, and on regimental heritage days.

The chapel is near to the Warley (Brentwood) Territorial Army drill hall, which is the headquarters of 124 Petroleum Squadron, part of the Royal Logistics Corps' 151 (London) Transport Regiment.[25]

The site of the old regimental depot and barracks at Warley is now the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company in the UK. Most of the barracks have been demolished and only the chapel, the officer's mess (now the Marillac Nursing Home) and one of the regimental gyms (Keys Hall), remain.[26]

Essex Regiment Museum[edit]

The Essex Regiment Museum is part of the Chelmsford Museums and is located in Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford (51°43′22″N 0°27′48″E / 51.7227°N 0.4632°E / 51.7227; 0.4632 (Essex Regiment Museum)). After redevelopment, it re-opened in early 2010.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ T F Mills (9 June 2006). "The Essex Regiment". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. 
  2. ^ London Gazette 20 April 2008
  3. ^ T F Mills (4 July 2006). "English & Channel Islands Counties Index of the British Militia and Volunteers". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. 
  4. ^ a b T F Mills (28 March 2006). "8th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Essex Regiment". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. 
  5. ^ The Essex Regiment in 1914-1918
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ The mental toll of revolution
  8. ^ Tom Barry Leads West Cork Flying Column To Victory at Crossbarry
  9. ^ T F Mills (16 January 2005). "7th Battalion, The Essex Regiment". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. 
  10. ^ a b RA 1939-45 59 HAA Rgt
  11. ^ Joslen, pp. 349, 533–4.
  12. ^ Joslen, pp. 235, 286, 351, 369.
  13. ^ Ordersofbattle.com 7th Battalion Essex Regiment
  14. ^ Ordersofbattle.com 8th Battalion Essex Regiment
  15. ^ Forty, pp. 50–1.
  16. ^ 153 RAC War Diary, December 1941, The National Archives, Kew, file WO 166/1438.
  17. ^ Ordersofbattle.com 9th Battalion Essex Regiment
  18. ^ "RA 1939-45 11 Med Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  19. ^ Nigel F Evans (2010-09-19). "British Artillery Regiments". Nigelef.tripod.com. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  20. ^ Ordersofbattle.com 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment
  21. ^ Joslen, pp. 446, 484–5.
  22. ^ Seax Archeaology - Unlocking Essex's Past
  23. ^ Joslen, pp. 465, 467.
  24. ^ 8 / Essex
  25. ^ http://www.reserve-forces-london.org.uk/1079/about.htm
  26. ^ "Royal Anglian Regiment Association". Royalanglianassociation.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 

References[edit]

  • George Forty, British Army Handbook 1939–1945, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0 7509 1403 3.
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, Volume I, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1843424746.

External links[edit]