Robin Hood Battalion
|7th (Robin Hood) Battalion|
Cap Badge of the Sherwood Foresters
|Part of||139th (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Brigade|
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The Robin Hood Battalion was a unit of the Volunteer Force of the British Army and Territorial Force, later the Territorial Army. The battalion served as infantry on the Western Front during World War I. In World War II it re-roled as an anti-aircraft unit and served North-western Europe from June 1944 to May 1945.
It was formed as the 1st Nottinghamshire (Robin Hood) Rifle Volunteer Corps by Adjutant Jonathan White on 15 November 1859. It was one of many such 'corps' to be formed at a time of increased fear of war with France, which created a flurry of interest in establishing such volunteer corps by the more affluent classes of British society. The unit was, also, simply known as the Robin Hood Rifles; the title's name being in honour of the legendary Robin Hood.
After the culmination of the Cardwell-Childers Reforms on 1 July 1881, the Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regiment) was formed (later the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) and the Robin Hood Rifles became its 3rd Volunteer Battalion.
In 1900, due to the Second Boer War, the Rifles experienced a substantial increase in size. Men of the battalion volunteered for service in the war—which had been raging since 1899—and returned home when it ended in 1902, gaining the Robin Hood Rifles its first Battle Honour "South Africa 1900-02". In 1908, reserve forces of the British Army were reorganised, and the battalion was transferred to the Territorial Force, as the 7th Battalion (TF). In the following year, they were redesignated as the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion. The battalion was assigned to the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Brigade, part of the North Midland Division, alongside the 5th, 6th and 8th battalions of the Sherwood Foresters.
First World War
When the First World War began in August 1914, the Robin Hood Rifles continued to be part of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Brigade (later the 139th (1/1st Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Brigade), North Midland Division (later the 46th (North Midland) Division).
On 19 September, a duplicate battalion of the Robin Hoods was formed, the original becoming the 1/7th. This duplicate joined the 2nd Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Brigade, 2nd North Midland Division, which later became the 178th (2nd Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Brigade and 59th (2nd North Midland) Division respectively. Another duplicate battalion, the 3/7th, was formed in March 1915; this battalion remained in Britain for the duration of the war, became 7th (Reserve) Battalion in April 1916, later absorbing the 8th (Reserve) Battalion in September 1916.
The 1/7th Battalion landed in France in February 1915 with the rest of the 46th Division. The battalion saw heavy fighting at the Battle of Hohenzollern Redoubt — a subsidiary action of the Battle of Loos — which was their first major action of the war. The battalion received its first Victoria Cross (VC) when Temporary Captain Charles Geoffrey Vickers was awarded the VC — the highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy — for his actions at Hohenzollern on 14 October. The battalion was involved in the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 and the brigade they were part of sustained very severe casualties in the attack on the Gommecourt Salient. The day ended as the bloodiest in the British Army's entire history, with over 57,000 casualties being incurred.
In the home front, the 2/7th Robin Hoods had, meanwhile, been sent to Ireland with the rest of the 59th Division to help suppress the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin. The division returned to England in January 1917 and then moved to France in February. The 2/7th Battalion took part in many actions, including the Battle of Passchendaele and Cambrai. The battalion was absorbed by the 1/7th on 31 January 1918 and the Robin Hoods reverted to their original name, the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion. On 7 May, the 7th Robin Hoods were reduced to cadre strength. The First World War ended on 11 November 1918. On 14 June 1919, the Battalion was disbanded.
Between the wars
In 1920 the Territorial Force was reformed as the "Territorial Army" and, on 7 February, the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion (TA) was re-raised.
With the advent of air power, and the reduced need for so much infantry, the Robin Hoods were one of many units to be converted to the anti-aircraft role. The battalion re-roled as a unit of the Royal Engineers on 10 December 1936 and became the 42nd (The Robin Hoods, Sherwood Foresters) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers. It joined the 32nd (Midland) Anti-Aircraft Group, 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division and was based in the West Riding region.
Second World War
In August 1940, the unit became the 42nd (Robin Hoods, Sherwood Foresters) Searchlight Regiment, RA. The regiment was involved in the German Blitz against British cities, the Robin Hoods serving in Derby, East Midlands. After the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the regiment landed in France and undertook similar duties during the North-West Europe campaign. It was awarded the Croix de Guerre by Belgium for their defence of the port of Antwerp against German V1 and V2 rockets. When the war in Europe ended in May 1945 the Robin Hoods were in Germany.
In 1946, the Robin Hoods were placed in 'suspended animation' whilst still in Germany. The following year, they were reconstituted into the TA as the 577th (The Robin Hoods, Sherwood Foresters) Searchlight Regiment, RA. Further name changes took place throughout the 1940s and 1950s. On 10 March 1955, the Robin Hoods amalgamated with the 350th (South Nottinghamshire Hussars Yeomanry) Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery and 528th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (West Nottinghamshire) to form the 350th (The Robin Hood Foresters) Heavy Regiment, RA. The following year Heavy was changed to Light.
In 1961, the regiment converted to engineers and re-titled as the 350 (The Robin Hood Foresters) Field Squadron. In 1967, with reforms of the Armed Forces, it left the RE, returning to the Sherwood Foresters as part of The Robin Hood (Territorial) Battalion, a TAVR III (Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve) unit. In 1969, the Robin Hoods were reduced to cadre strength when they became the Robin Hood (T) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, RE. The Robin Hoods were sponsored by 73 Engineer Regiment, RE. In 1971, with further defence reforms, the Robin Hoods became D (Robin Hood Foresters) Company, 3rd (V) Battalion of the newly formed Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment.
In 1992, the Robin Hood lineage was discontinued upon D Company becoming the HQ Company; the company was disbanded in 1999. The name was previously used by A Company, Nottinghamshire Army Cadet Force of the Army Cadet Force until 2007 when they were re-badge to The Rifles. However the name is currently used by The Robin Hood Rifles Corps of Drums.
- Westlake, p. 194.
- Ian F.W. Beckett, Riflemen Form: A study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859–1908, Aldershot: Ogilby Trusts, 1982, ISBN 0 85936 271 X.
- Ray Westlake, Tracing the Rifle Volunteers, Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2010, ISBN 978 1 84884 211 3.
- The Long, Long Trail - The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
- Robin Hood Battalion at Regiments.org, retrieved 10 August 2014
- Regimental Museum – Robin Hood Rifles
- Corps of Drums - Robin Hood Rifles
- Memorial - Robin Hood Rifles