Royal Norfolk Regiment

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Royal Norfolk 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
1–2 Militia and Special Reserve Battalions
Up to 4 Territorial and Volunteer Battalions

Up to 12 Hostilities-only Battalions
Garrison/HQ Norwich
Nickname "The Holy Boys", "The Fighting Ninth", "The Norfolk Howards"
Motto Firm
Facings Yellow
March Rule Britannia
Anniversaries Almanza, 25 April
Battle honours see below
Insignia
Shoulder titles "Royal Norfolk"

The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881 as the county regiment of Norfolk. It was formed from the 9th (the East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot[note 1] and covered the local militia and rifle volunteers.

Battalions of the Norfolks fought in the First World War on the Western Front and in the Middle East.

It became the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935. In the Second World War, the regiment's battalions were in action in the Battle of France, the Far East, and then in the invasion of, and subsequent operations in, north-west Europe.

The Royal Norfolks were amalgamated in 1959 with their neighbours, the Suffolk Regiment, to become part of the 1st East Anglian Regiment; this in turn became part of the Royal Anglian Regiment, of which "A" Company of the first battalion is known as the "Royal Norfolk".

Service[edit]

1st Bn Royal Norfolk Regiment on parade being inspected by Sir John Anderson, the Governor General of Bengal; Dacca, British India, 1933

First World War[edit]

The Norfolk Regiment entered the First World War with two regular, one reserve and three Territorial Force battalions (one of cyclists), with the regiment expanding to nineteen battalions.

The total number of men raised during the war amounted to 32,375 of whom 5,576 were killed

In the East[edit]

The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolks fought in the Mesopotamian Campaign. The treatment of prisoners after the fall of Kut al Amara mirrors that that would later befall the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War.

The two territorial battalions served in Gallipoli. The 1/5th included the "Sandringham Company" which recruited from the Royal estate at Sandringham. On 12 August 1915, the Sandringham company suffered heavy losses at Gallipoli when it became isolated during an attack. A myth grew up after the War that they had advanced into a mist and simply disappeared.[1] A BBC TV drama, All the King's Men (1999), starring David Jason as Captain Frank Beck, was based upon their story.

In the Second Battle of Gaza, the 4th and 5th Territorial battalions suffered 75% casualties, about 1,100 men.[2]

France[edit]

The 8th Battalion as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division was present on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. They got beyond their initial target and had by 5.00pm reached the German trenches known as "Montauban Alley". Over one hundred men and three officers had been killed.

During the war, Lt.Col. Jack Sherwood Kelly, a Norfolk regiment officer, won a Victoria Cross leading a trench assault by Irish troops during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

Second World War[edit]

John Niel Randle VC

The regiment was renamed to the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935 to celebrate 250 years since the regiment was first raised.[citation needed] In 1940, the first decorations for gallantry awarded to the British Expeditionary Force in France were gained by men of the 2nd Battalion. Captain Frank Peter Barclay, was awarded the Military Cross, and Lance-Corporal Davis the Military Medal. Captain F.P. Barclay would later lead the 1st Battalion in the North-West Europe Campaign towards the end of the war. Five members of the Royal Norfolks, the highest number of any British regiment during the Second World War, were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Le Paradis Incident[edit]

Main article: Le Paradis massacre
Men of the Royal Norfolk Regiment receive their rum ration before going out on patrol in France, 26 January 1940

During the Battle of France in 1940 George Gristock of the 2nd Royal Norfolks was awarded the Victoria Cross. During the battle, members of the Royal Norfolks were victims of a German war crime at Le Paradis in the Pas-de-Calais on 26 May.

The 2nd Royal Norfolks were in the 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which was holding the line of the La Bassée Canal and covering the retreat to Dunkirk. Units became separated from each other and HQ Company had formed a defensive position based at the Duriez farmhouse. They carried on their defence until the afternoon, by which point many were injured and the enemy were shelling the farm. Making a last stand in the open they were outnumbered and surrendered to a unit of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the SS 'Totenkopf' (Death's Head) Division, under SS Obersturmfuhrer Fritz Knoechlein. The 99 prisoners were marched to some farm buildings on another farm where they were lined up alongside a barn wall. They were then fired upon by two machine guns; 97 were killed and the bodies buried in a shallow pit. Privates Albert Pooley and William O'Callaghan had hidden in a pigsty and were discovered later by the farm's owner, Mme Creton, and her son. The two soldiers were later captured by a Wehrmacht unit and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war. Fewer than 140 men of the 2nd Royal Norfolks managed to return to Britain.

The bodies of the murdered soldiers were exhumed in 1942 by the French and reburied in the local churchyard which now forms part of the Le Paradis War Cemetery. The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and Knoechlein was traced and arrested. Tried in a court in Hamburg, he was found guilty and hanged on 28 January 1949. A memorial plaque was placed on the barn wall in 1970.

Far East[edit]

The Territorial 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions served in the Far East, as part of the 18th Infantry Division, in the defence of Singapore and Malaya against the Japanese advance. The men of these battalions, and other East Anglian battalions, ended up as prisoners of war when Singapore fell in February 1942. They would remain so until August 1945 during which time they were used as forced labour on projects such as the Death Railway through Burma.

The 2nd Battalion, still as part of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, also served in the Far East in the Burma Campaign participating in battles such as the Battle of Kohima until the end of the war against Japan in 1945. They were a member of the British 14th Army, commanded by William Slim, known as the 'Forgotten Army' as their actions were generally over-looked and the main focus was in the European War. Both John Niel Randle and George Arthur Knowland were awarded the Victoria Cross whilst serving in the Far East.

Normandy 1944[edit]

Monument at Biéville-Beuville, Normandy, in memory of 116 comrades who fell between D-Day 6 June and 9 July 1944

The 1st Battalion was a regular army unit that was stationed in India at the outbreak of war and was recalled to Britain in the summer of 1940. They were part of the 185th Infantry Brigade originally assigned to the 79th Armoured Division but the brigade (including the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry) transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division, with which it would remain with for the rest of the war. The battalion landed on Red Queen Beach, the left flank of Sword Beach, at 07:25 on 6 June 1944, D-Day, and fought through the Normandy Campaign and throughout the North-West Europe Campaign. On 6 August 1944 at Sourdeval, Corporal Sidney Bates of B Company was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for extraordinary heroism in the Battle of Sourdevallee against the crack 10th SS Panzer Division. Miles Dempsey, British 2nd Army Commander, stated that by holding their ground in the battle the battalion made the subsequent breakthrough in August possible. By the end of the war in Europe, the 1st Battalion had gained a remarkable reputation and was claimed by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery as 'second to none' of all the battalions in the 21st Army Group. The 1st Royal Norfolks had suffered 20 officers and 260 other ranks killed with well over 1,000 wounded or missing in 11 months of almost continuous combat.[3]

The 7th Battalion of the Royal Norfolks was a 2nd Line Territorial Army unit formed, along with the 6th Battalion, at the outbreak of war and originally a part of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, serving with them as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940. The battalion suffered heavy casualties during the Battle of France when the 51st Division had no choice but to surrender, on 12 June 1940, with only 31 members of the battalion managing to return to Britain. Re-formed in 1941, the battalion was transferred to the 176th Infantry Brigade of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division, one of the follow-up units after D-Day. On the night of 7/8 August 1944, Captain David Auldjo Jamieson of D Company was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic leadership which greatly helped to fend off several enemy counter-attacks in a 36-hour period. Due to an acute shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at the time, the battalion and division were disbanded in late August 1944 and its men used as replacements for other British divisions in the 21st Army Group who had suffered heavy casualties in Normandy. Many of the men of the 7th Royal Norfolks would go on to serve with the 1st Battalion for the rest of the war.

Other battalions[edit]

Monument on Royal Norfolkplein, Helmond, Netherlands, recording the liberation of the town on 25 September 1944 by the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment

The 8th Battalion was raised in 1939 alongside the 9th Battalion with many veterans of the Great War. Both battalions were used mainly to supply other battalions of the regiment with reinforcements. A 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was raised at the same time for those who were not yet 18 and therefore had not reached the compulsory age for conscription. A 30th Battalion was used for garrison duties in Italy during which the 43rd Infantry Brigade including 30th Somerset Light Infantry and 30th Dorset Regiment, was made to appear as a full division for deception purposes.

Post World War II[edit]

The regiment served in Korea in 1951–52 during the Korean War, and in Cyprus in the fight against EOKA in 1955–56.

In 1959 the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated as part of the reorganisation of the British Army resulting from the 1957 Defence White Paper becoming part of a new formation, the 1st East Anglian Regiment, part of the East Anglian Brigade.

Uniform and insignia[edit]

The dress worn by the Regiment's predecessor units in the late 17th and early 18th centuries included orange and subsequently green facings. In 1733, official permission was given to change from bright green back to light orange facings. By 1747, this unusual shade had evolved into yellow which was retained until 1881 when, in common with all English and Welsh regiments, the newly renamed Norfolk Regiment was given white distinctions on its scarlet tunics.[4] In 1905, the traditional yellow facings were restored for full dress and mess uniforms.[5] Another distinction of the Norfolk Regiment was the inclusion of a black line in the gold braid of officers' uniforms from 1881 onwards.[4] When the regiment was redesignated as the "Royal Norfolk Regiment" in 1935 it was specially permitted to retain the yellow facings instead of changing to blue.[6]

The figure of Britannia was officially recognised in 1799 as part of the insignia of the 9th Regiment of Foot.[7][8] Regimental tradition claimed that it was granted to the regiment by Queen Anne in 1707 in recognition of its service at the Battle of Almanza. However there is no evidence that it was used before the 1770s, and it was not listed as an authorised device in the royal warrants of 1747, 1751 or 1768.[8][9] It subsequently became a central part of the badge of the Norfolk Regiment.[9] This led to the joke within the Army that the regiment was the only one to be allowed to have a woman (Britannia) in barracks.[citation needed]

Traditions[edit]

The Royal Norfolk Regiment held an anniversary on 25 April for the Battle of Almanza which they inherited along with the regimental nickname of the "Holy Boys" from the 9th Regiment of Foot. They gained the "Holy Boys" nickname during the Peninsular War from the misidentification by a Spanish soldier of Britannia on their cap badge as the Virgin Mary.

Battle honours[edit]

The following honours were inherited from the 9th Regiment of Foot:

18th Century

19th Century

On top of these, the (Royal) Norfolk regiment gained the following battle honours before amalgamation:

20th Century

Victoria Cross[edit]

In total six members of the Norfolk or Royal Norfolk Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum[edit]

The history of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and its predecessors and successors is recorded at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. The museum moved from the Britannia Barracks, now part of Norwich prison, to the Shirehall and then to the Norwich Castle Museum. Although archives and the reserve collections are still held in the Shirehall, the principal museum display there closed in September 2011, and relocated to the main Norwich Castle Museum, reopening fully in 2013.[10] Its exhibits illustrate the history of the Regiment from its 17th-century origins to its incorporation into the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964, along with many aspects of military life in the Regiment. There is an extensive and representative display of medals awarded to soldiers of the Regiment, including two of the six Victoria Crosses won.[11] [12]

Other regimental artefacts are on display at the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum based at the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The other regiment linked with Norfolk, the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, became part of the Dorsetshire Regiment.
  1. ^ The Vanished Battalion
  2. ^ Eastern Daily Press Sunday section, 5 May 2007
  3. ^ Further information on this unit can be found in Thank God and the Infantry - From D-Day to VE-Day with the 1st Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment, by John Lincoln who himself served as a young 20-year-old officer in D Company, 17 Platoon, in the battalion in 1944 and being awarded the Military Cross.
  4. ^ a b Carman, W Y; Simkin, Richard; Douglas-Morris, K J (1985). Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry Regiments. Webb & Bower. ISBN 0-86350-031-5. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Eric (1968). "Colours of the Regular Army Infantry of the Line 1st July 1881 to 1958". The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society (Special Issue No.1): 5, 14. 
  6. ^ "Honours for the Army". The Times. 3 June 1935. p. 21. "His Majesty has further approved that the following regiments be permitted to retain their present facings:- ...The Royal Norfolk Regiment (yellow)" 
  7. ^ Horse Guards Letter dated 30 July 1799: "His Majesty has been pleased to confirm to the 9th Regiment of Foot the distinction and privilege of bearing the figure of Britannia as the badge of the Regiment."
  8. ^ a b Sumner, Ian (2001). British Colours & Standards 1747–1881 (2) Infantry. Oxford: Osprey. p. 5. ISBN 1-84176-201-6. 
  9. ^ a b Edwards, T J (1953). Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Commonwealth Forces. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. p. 204. 
  10. ^ BBC Norfolk News 26 July 2011 "-Royal Norfolk Museum Moves to Norwich Castle"
  11. ^ Norfolk Museums - Royal Norfolk Regiment museum"- Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum at Norwich Castle
  12. ^ Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum website – Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

External links[edit]

Preceded by
9th Regiment of Foot
(Royal) Norfolk Regiment
1881–1959
Succeeded by
1st East Anglian Regiment